Should Saudi Arabia be blamed for the war in Yemen?

We see Iranian officials cheering as the world justifiably assails Saudi Arabia over the killing of Khashoggi, while their history in chasing and assassinating Iranian dissidents all over the world is a rich one.
by Bassem Ajami

29 October 2018 | 17:27

Source: by Annahar

  • by Bassem Ajami
  • Source: Annahar
  • Last update: 29 October 2018 | 17:27

Saudi Arabia and Iran have been battling each other for regional hegemony for years [AP]

BEIRUT: Blaming the kingdom of Saudi Arabia for the killing of Jamal Khashoggi is fully justifiable, but blaming it for the war in Yemen is not.

Khashoggi was the victim of a premeditated gruesome murder the perpetrators of which must be brought to justice. The war in Yemen, on the other hand, is the result of Iranian aggression not only against Saudi Arabia, but also against all the Gulf states and the Arab world.

We see Iranian officials cheering as the world justifiably assails Saudi Arabia over the killing of Khashoggi, while their history in chasing and assassinating Iranian dissidents all over the world is a rich one.

It began shortly after establishing the Islamic Republic in 1979, with the murder in Paris of Shahriar Shafic. The last reported killing of an Iranian dissident was in 2017 in Istanbul. The victim was, yes, a journalist, critical of the ruling mullahs in Tehran. His name was Saeed Karemian. In between, dozens of Iranian dissidents were assassinated in various parts of the globe, including France, the United States, Britain and Japan.

But in Yemen, we have a different story. The war in Yemen is primarily Iran's war. It is part of a determined effort by Iran to project its influence throughout the region. It resembles the bombastic aspiration of the ruling mullahs to revive the ancient pre-Islamic Persian Empire. Saudi Arabia is crucial in such a scheme because of its religious significance, and because it is the most influential Arab country. Defeating Saudi Arabia will inevitably result in the collapse of the Gulf states and Egypt; thus facilitating the fall of the entire region under Tehran's influence.

Still, there is nothing new in the Iranian strategy. During the "Arab Cold War", (1958-70), Egypt's Jamal Abdul Nasser tried it. He sent his troops to Yemen under the pretext of supporting a rebellion against the ruling Imam, who was supported by Saudi Arabia. Nasser received a humiliating defeat and was forced to withdraw from the country in 1967.

The Iranians understood Nasser's lesson. They limited their presence in Yemen to financial support and weaponry accompanied by military instructors. This prompted the Saudis to respond. Inevitably, the war produced a civilian disaster the responsibility of which rests, first and foremost, with Iran.

Saudi Arabia must be held accountable for the murder of Khashoggi. But the killing, grave as it is, should not distort our vision regarding Iran's war in Yemen.

Mr. Ajami is a freelance researcher, writer, and contributor to The Arab Weekly, London. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of Annahar.

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