TEHRAN – An assistant research professor of Gulf politics at Qatar University says Saudi Arabia’s ill-informed approach to Yemen has turned the war in Yemen into a nightmare in modern Saudi history.
“The lack of a uniform approach by the GCC, which has prevented the Saudi objective of converting the war in Yemen into a kind of ‘holy war’ waged by Riyadh, has turned the war into the worst nightmare in modern history Saudi, ”said Luciano Zaccara. the Tehran Times.
“The war in Yemen was the first and only military conflict directly triggered and led by Saudi Arabia, and it has not been resolved after six years, inflicting severe economic hardship and internal and external criticism,” laments Zaccara.
Here is the text of the interview:
Q: How do you read the recent changes in Saudi foreign policy, from normalizing ties with Syria to negotiations with Iran?
A: The end of Trump’s unconditional support for the Saudi kingdom and the realization that Saudi Arabia alone could not satisfactorily end its involvement in the Yemen war, confront Iran or maintain it indefinitely. the blockade against Qatar, have led Riyadh to take a more pragmatic approach to its foreign policy since mid-2020. Therefore, the end of the blockade, the opening of negotiations with Iran and the resumption of relations with Syria appear to be the necessary steps to reduce the foreign policy efforts and the commitment to begin to focus on the necessary internal reforms. The Covid pandemic and the impact that global restrictions have had on the market and oil prices have been another element that has helped convince Saudi Arabia of the need for such a change.
Q: Do you think Israel would be able to draw Saudi Arabia into its orbit like the Emirates and Bahrain?
A: The Saudi government is trying to avoid being dragged into the list of Arab states that have normalized relations with Israel. Its people, as well as others in the countries that have already done so, are against establishing diplomatic relations with Israel, and due to the nature of the society and political structure of Saudi Arabia, the king and the current prince cannot afford to promote a foreign policy that would be totally against the will of his people. Moreover, while the Trump administration was determined to have as many Arab states as possible normalize with Israel as a political strategy to secure his re-elections, Biden does not appear too worried about reaching such a milestone, at least during his first years in power. .
Q: How do you see the future of the Persian Gulf Cooperation Council?
A: Even before the blockade against Qatar by other GCC member states (2017-2020), the sustainability and function of the organization was under discussion due to the unbalanced relationship Saudi Arabia had, mainly with the Qatar, Oman and Kuwait. The blockade has just clarified that the main objective of the organization was above all the security of the ruling elites of the six monarchies, considering in the broad sense the internal and external threats. When Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain decided to block Qatar, they demonstrated that they even saw a member state as a security threat to their own security, leaving aside any possible solution for more than three years. . This represented a serious backlash to any future security agreement or even a deeper economic integration possible in the short to medium term due to the deterioration of confidence between member states. If one of the main reasons for the blockade were precisely Qatar’s foreign policy and its ties with Iran and Turkey, it would be difficult to see any convergence in this regard.
Q: Do you think Saudi Arabia is able to get rid of the war it started in Yemen? What is the position of the Arab states in the Persian Gulf on the Saudi-led war on Yemen?
A: GCC members had different approaches to the war in Yemen since the start of 2015, but were drawn into the conflict by pressure from Saudi Arabia, with the exception of Oman. Qatar left the coalition in 2017 and then showed its differences with the Saudi intervention. The only GCC state that plunged into conflict, but with a different agenda than the Saudis, were the Emiratis. Their different agendas were visible throughout the conflict, mainly with regard to the internal groups they supported in Yemen to fight the Houthis and their direct military presence on the ground. The lack of a uniform approach on the part of the GCC, which prevented the Saudi goal of converting the war in Yemen into some kind of “holy war” waged by Riyadh, has turned the war into the country’s worst nightmare. modern Saudi history. The war in Yemen was the first and only military conflict directly sparked and led by Saudi Arabia, and it was not resolved after six years, inflicting severe economic hardship and internal and external criticism. While a military solution has so far seemed difficult to obtain, a political impasse appears to be the only possible way out for the Saudi regime to save face, claiming relative victory and without even risking the stability of the ruling family.
Q: Do you think the Biden administration will put real pressure on Saudi Arabia to become more committed to human rights? What determines the nature of US-Saudi relations?
A: Saudi-US relations have historically been determined by strategic and economic factors. While at certain times the economic aspects were more important, like during the Trump administration, at other times the strategic or political aspects were more determining, like the Bush administrations (father and son). Biden appears to be more inclined to preserve the strategic approach by setting the ground rules for US relations with Saudi Arabia during his presidency, although this is not the way Obama looked at him. This means that even though human rights would be mentioned, mainly in relation to the war in Yemen, for example, it does not appear that the focus would be on the human rights situation inside. of the Kingdom. At least for the first year in the White House, Biden would try to avoid raising any internal issues that would hurt bilateral relations since the start of his tenure.