'New Saudi regime more aggressive, seeks hegemony in Mideast'
RT:Why is Saudi Arabia bombing Yemen, is it an issue of national security?
Danny Makki: Saudi Arabia views the Yemen conflict through a different perspective, one of geopolitical orientation. It sees that it was defeated to an extent in Iraq, in Lebanon and in Syria. So Yemen is an issue for national security. This also reflects a new attitude by the new Saudi government and regime. One which is more aggressive, it’s more potent and it makes bigger decisions on regional matters. But Saudi Arabia is not leading this coalition in a sense that the coalition against ISIS is led by the US. Saudi Arabia has grouped together a number of Arab countries to give it legitimacy, yet it is bombing one of the poorest countries in the Arab world. Yemen is not a military force which is conventional or symmetric or can actually fight Saudi Arabia or defend itself in a legitimate way. Saudi Arabia is attacking a militant group inside of Yemen and not the legitimate Yemeni army. So Saudi Arabia is essentially using its new powers after the new regime came in to attack a country which is essentially defenseless through an Arab microscope with Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and the Gulf Cooperation Council essentially acting as a fundamental backbone to this coalition which Saudi is leading on paper. But in essence this is more of a coalition of Sunni Arab states. And what they’ve perceived is a geopolitical war against an Iranian-backed Houthi movement in Yemen.
RT:What can you say about new Cabinet in Saudi Arabia?
DM: It’s no doubt that Mohammad bin Salman, the new Defense Minister, and the head of the Royal Court is one of the most influential and significant figures within the Saudi Kingdom. At the age of 34 he is a Defense Minister and has unprecedented power for someone of his age. He is also known as a very tough resolute, aggressive individual, someone with big ambitions and who is mastermind of this operation against Yemen. What this does reflect is a new era in Saudi politicians and figures, an era of individuals who want to assert Saudi authority and hegemony in the Middle East in more assertive, in more venomous manner as we are seeing in Yemen. I think the older generation of Saudi Arabian diplomats was far more diplomatic you could argue passive and pacifist. Yet the new generation has understood that events in Iraq, Syria and other regional crises have actually harmed Saudi interests in such a manner as the Saudis were perceived to have not have acted. They were perceived to be unscrupulous leaders of a country which was very rich but over-reliant on Western powers and especially the American power in the Middle East. What we see is a new reflection of a new Saudi Arabia, one which is going to take more direct, stronger role within Middle Eastern affairs. And on issues which are fundamental to its national security, such as Yemen, we see the Saudi defense minister acting in such a way which we probably would not have seen from other diplomats, from other generations. This does essentially reflect the new Saudi Arabia which is taking on a new far more straightforward and assertive role within the region.
RT:Have there been any signs of criticism concerning Saudi Arabia’s actions?
DM: There has been a big criticism of the Saudi attacks on the Houthis. And this is that. It acted without a UN mandate and without international sovereignty which would actually sanction this attack on the Houthi militant group. But it can be to an extent described as a failed approach. Saudi Arabia has not achieved anything through the air strikes. The more they attack the Houthis, the more the Houthis will gain legitimacy and representation within Yemen. Yemen is a very divisive country; it has very big tribal conflicts and especially with the rise of sectarianism within the Middle East Saudi Arabia risks further fueling the flames of sectarianism within the Middle East especially considering other events in Iraq and elsewhere. Saudi Arabia’s approach has been very militarized and weaponized. They have dropped arms to the supporters of what they call the legitimate President of Yemen Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi. And they perceive that this is essentially a usurpation of power within the Yemeni political system. But this approach will not yield results in the long-term, and it risks a larger conflict with Iran who has a very significant interest within Yemen. The approach that Saudi Arabia should have taken is one to have UN-backed peace talks with the rebels, not using military force as an option. However Saudi Arabia used military force as the first option and has left negotiations and a political solution to the end. Russia proposed a draft resolution for immediate cessation of air strikes on Houthi positions. But what Saudi Arabia has done is giving the Houthis more reason to be in power, because the perception of Saudi Arabia within Yemen is a very controversial issue. And Saudi allies within Yemen are running very short considering the fact that al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula is also to an extent opposed to Saudi Arabia. Yet at the current moment of time we see them with joint and mutual interest in ousting the Houthi rebels which do receive arms from Iran and other essential political elite of Yemen as we speak.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.