Saudi and Iranian leaders wage war of words as Yemen burns

BLACKEAGLE

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By Ishaan Tharoor April 13 at 2:12 PM


Saudi troops fire shells towards Houthi positions from the Saudi border with Yemen on April 13, 2015. (Faisal Al Nasser/Reuters)

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has suspended all "umrah," or lesser pilgrimages, to Saudi Arabia, a new mark of the intensifying animosities between Tehran and Riyadh. The move followed reports that two unnamed Iranian teenage pilgrims had been sexually assaulted in Jiddah airport while traveling back last month.

Last week, Iranian leaders, including Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, denounced the Saudi offensive and urged that the airstrikes be stopped.

Every year, about half a million Iranians visit Islam's holy sites in Saudi Arabia, including the city of Mecca, outside the main season of pilgrimage, which is known as the hajj. Iran's ban on these "lesser" pilgrimages takes place at a heated moment: The Saudi-led bombing campaign in Yemen has been framed by the Saudis as an action against Iranian proxies in the region. The enmity between the two countries — an orthodox Sunni Sunni kingdom and a Shiite theocratic state — casts a shadow across the whole Middle East.

Last week, Iranian leaders, including Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, denounced the Saudi offensive and urged that the airstrikes be stopped.

Over the weekend, Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal defended his country's intervention as a move to buttress Yemen's legitimate government, whose president, Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, has taken sanctuary in Riyadh in the face of advances by Shiite rebels.

"How can Iran call for us to stop the fighting in Yemen?" asked the the top Saudi diplomat at a news conference alongside French counterpart Laurent Fabius. "We came to Yemen to help the legitimate authority, and Iran is not in charge of Yemen."

As WorldViews discussed earlier, the Yemeni conflict did not start out as a war between Iranian and Saudi proxies. The Houthi rebels, who have loose Iranian backing, did not depend on Tehran when they launched their uprising more than a decade ago or when they took over the Yemeni capital, Sanaa, last year. Until recently, the only sectarian dimension to the chaos in Yemen involved Houthi clashes with al-Qaeda militants, who are Saudi foes as well.

The Houthis' rise has much more to do with Yemen's complex, fractious politics and the feebleness of Hadi's government, which was installed after a much-criticized Saudi-backed transition in 2012. Military units loyal to Ali Abdullah Saleh, Yemen's long-ruling strongman and Hadi's predecessor, are said to be backing the Houthi takeover. (The fact that Saleh spent years repressing the Houthis when in power is a snapshot of the opportunism of the moment.)

But in an op-ed published Monday in the New York Times, Hadi pinned all the blame on Iran, condemning Tehran's aims for "regional hegemony" and praising Saudi efforts for supposedly pulling Yemen back from "the brink of the abyss":

The Houthi rebels are puppets of the Iranian government, and the government of Iran does not care for the fate of ordinary Yemenis; it only cares about achieving regional hegemony. On behalf of all Yemenis, I call on the agents of chaos to surrender and to stop serving the ambitions of others...

If the Houthis are not stopped, they are destined to become the next Hezbollah, deployed by Iran to threaten the people in the region and beyond.

There are, undoubtedly, constituencies in the Islamic republic that would want Hadi's reading of events to be true, and for the Houthis to be as directly an Iranian proxy as Hezbollah, the influential Lebanese Shiite organization that the United States considers a terrorist group.

But it's been clear for quite some time that Hadi has had little to no genuine support from within Yemen and is, in many ways, a Saudi puppet. Last month, he fled his last redoubt in the southern coastal city of Aden as Houthi forces advanced against the remnants of his tattered army. The Riyadh dateline on Hadi's op-ed speaks volumes.

The Houthis themselves have repeatedly denied suggestions that they are an Iranian front and have condemned the Saudi campaign to restore Hadi — which has involved more than 1,200 airstrikes since it was launched late last month — as an act of aggression against the Yemeni people.

Whatever the case, it's taking a toll on the Yemeni people. On Monday, the humanitarian group Doctors Without Borders reported that its doctors had treated at least 800 Yemenis since the Saudi-led campaign began last month. The World Health Organization claims the airstrikes have killed at least 311 civilians since March 26.

Human Rights Watch issued a stern communique, urging an investigation into reports of war crimes and requesting U.S. help to "facilitate the delivery of humanitarian aid" to what is already one of the Arab world's poorest countries.

"The alarming civilian deaths and humanitarian crisis in Yemen should spur the Saudi-led coalition and the Houthis to get serious about protecting civilians," said Philippe Bolopion, the rights group's U.N. and advocacy crisis director.

Saudi and Iranian leaders wage war of words as Yemen burns - The Washington Post
 

Scorpion

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Iran wants to make itself part of the Yemeni issue. Iran is irrelevant and got the slap it deserved by KSA FM.

No one is buying the sexual assault sotry invented by the mullahs. In fact they were looking for a reason to stop sending pilgrims after noticing large number of pilgrims coming back to the fold of Islam when coming to Saudi Arabia. Desperate mullahs. I hope they stop sending pilgrims for hajj as well.

The military operation won't stop till houthis and ex president Saleh drop thier arms and get down on the ground with hands on thier backs.

Next step would be Syria and once Assad is either killed or brought to justice a peaceful ME will shine again.
 
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Absolutely,Iran is trouble maker.Where it's exist,many troubles are there.There wasn't any civil war in Yemen,but once Iran came to Yemen the war started directly !
 
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Javad Zarif wants sanctions against Iran ended and a peace plan created. Do you think it is possible?

Wochit News said:
Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif has called for a peace plan for war-torn Yemen that includes humanitarian aid, dialogue and the formation of a broad-based Yemeni government after a proposed cease-fire already rejected by Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia has been carrying out airstrikes in Yemen against the Houthi rebels who control the capital, Sanaa. Zarif in a visit to Madrid Tuesday did not address Saudi claims that Tehran has been giving the Houthis military support. He says no preconditions as to who would run Yemen can be imposed before dialogue begins with the country's different factions, because doing so "will prolong the disaster."
 

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Take Syria as an example. Would any peace plan work? Get Assad, the rebels and ISIS to form a unitary government? Would any of the groups fighting lay down arms? Unlikely. Same thing would apply to Yemen. There several terrorist groups fighting for supremacy.

Al Qaeda militants want a safe haven in Yemen, the Houthis seek a foothold for Iran in Yemen. While they certainly can embrace peace as long as they've got what they want, would the Saudis want Iranians [and their affiliates] so close to their borders? Not likely.

Iran/Persia's days of glory are history . . . the Iranian leaders should keep that in mind and maybe they'll stop trying to gain regional supremacy because it's never going to happen.
 
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There are too many opposing groups there and unlike most countries, they don't understand a middle ground. It is either left or right with them, never down the center.
 
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I think instead of having words they should do more since if Yemen is destroyed no one will be able to live there and also, will have to move from there and Iran is not sure what it wants in this conflict. The people will not take it for long and will fight back and hope this stops otherwise there will be civil war like in the Ukraine you have everyone fighitng and some are doing it for themselves and against the government. Iran should leave since the place had peace before they entered and it is costing lives and also violence and no safety at all for the common people who live there.
 
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Take Syria as an example. Would any peace plan work? Get Assad, the rebels and ISIS to form a unitary government? Would any of the groups fighting lay down arms? Unlikely. Same thing would apply to Yemen. There several terrorist groups fighting for supremacy.

Al Qaeda militants want a safe haven in Yemen, the Houthis seek a foothold for Iran in Yemen. While they certainly can embrace peace as long as they've got what they want, would the Saudis want Iranians [and their affiliates] so close to their borders? Not likely.

Iran/Persia's days of glory are history . . . the Iranian leaders should keep that in mind and maybe they'll stop trying to gain regional supremacy because it's never going to happen.
I totally agree that this is merely a competition for power. Different factions vying for supremacy over the Middle East. That's why it's not easy for Iran to let go of their nuclear weapons. This would mean they'd have nothing to threaten their enemies with and ultimately zero influence.
 
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This just needs to stop, already. What's it going to take before the mmo fleas violence is over with?
 

Redheart

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I totally agree that this is merely a competition for power. Different factions vying for supremacy over the Middle East. That's why it's not easy for Iran to let go of their nuclear weapons. This would mean they'd have nothing to threaten their enemies with and ultimately zero influence.
But their "enemies" have made it clear that should they [the Iranians] build or acquire nuclear weapons [from other rogue nations] then they too wouldn't be left behind. So there might be a nuclear arms race in the Middle East. How bad would that be for everyone?
 
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Iran has zero nuclear weapons...if you say so, please lay down your facts.
Look, can you please reread what I just said? That was a categorical sentence. I said having no nuclear weapons would mean zero influence. That sentence does not equate to zero nuclear weapons. Besides, America wouldn't be pestering Iran if they had zero nuclear weapons.
 
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But their "enemies" have made it clear that should they [the Iranians] build or acquire nuclear weapons [from other rogue nations] then they too wouldn't be left behind. So there might be a nuclear arms race in the Middle East. How bad would that be for everyone?
It's already that bad with ordinary weapons so the situation is bound to get worse with Iran's nuclear program. There will be outright nuclear proliferation in the Middle East. Worst case scenario? ISIS and Boko Haram get hold of weapons of mass destruction. I'd immediately book a spaceship to Mars should that happen - heaven forbid.
 

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Seems like the probability of terrorists getting hold of nukes is quite high. Iran has been covertly [and at times openly] arming and funding terrorists. Since they love proxy wars but want to "subdue" or annihilate their enemies they'll use Shia militias like Hezbollah to do their dirty work. For those who think the acquisition of nuclear weapons would "usher in nuclear peace" I think they wrong — there'll be more bloodshed in the ME.