For Saudi Arabia, the Yemen War is Ground Zero for its Fight Against Iran

With the war in Yemen, led by Saudi Arabia and coalition of Sunni states against the Houthis, Iranian proxy heating up, the Houthi led military fired a balistic missile over Riyadh on Saturday night. This marked a serious turn in the war.

The missile, producd in Iran, would have no doubt only been fired only with Iran’s permission, which seems to be more comfortable displaying its hegemonic aspirations since its victorious battle in Kirkuk. For Saudi Arabia, the missile is a sort of wake up call on just how serious the Iranian threat is. It also proves that the Iranians, true to their word are not about to stop and rest a bit.

Turki al-Maliki, spokesperson for the coalition forces, said: “The missiles Houthis targeted the Saudi Arabia was produced by Iran, they are not involved in the ammunition of Yemen army.”

Maliki continued: “Houthis couldn’t increase the tension without the support by the Iran regime.”

Controlling Yemen is key to the Iranian strategy and equal in value than building a land bridge from Tehran to the Mediterranean Sea; although the latter is usually mentioned far more by pundits. Taking full control of Yemen means that the Bab-el-Mandeb Straight which connects the Red Sea with the Gulf of Aden will fall into Iran’s hand. 3.8 million barrels of oil a day pass through the Bab el-Mandab chokepoint on Yemen’s southwestern coast.

More than that, taking Yemen completely would supplant on Saudi Arabia’s doorstep, giving it the capability to destroy the Kingdom.

This is why the missile over Riyadh that was taken down by an American Patriot Missile is a serious escalation. Given the fact that Iran is on the move under Russian protection across the Middle East, Saudi Arabia views Yemen as the last chance to stop them before the Kingdom has to take them on the Iranian forces directly.

With the rise of Prince Salman and his purging of his competition in the Saudi Kingdom, the Saudi royals may be forced to rally around the Crown Prince despite his controversial moves.  Embroiling the Kingdom in the Yemen war had always been viewed as a misstep by the young prince, but with Iran using it as a spring board to corner the Saudi Kingdom, Salman’s intereference may have been far more cunning than those who doubted it believed.

Can Israel Save the Saudi Royal Family From Itself?

Rumors have been swirling over the past few days about what appears to be a secret visit by the Saudi Crown Prince to Israel.

“A prince from the Royal Court visited the country in secret over the past few days and discussed the idea of pushing regional peace forward with a number of senior Israeli officials,” the IBC reported, citing the Russian Sputnik media outlet.

This rumor was further strengthened by both Arab media and Israeli media claims.  While it is highly doubtful that the Saudi Crown Prince actually made a secret visit to Israel, the idea that the Saudis are busy trying to find a way to strengthen ties with Israel is not beyond the pale of reason.

The Saudi Royal Family is in the middle of a serious transition away from their terrorist backing past. Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman is a far more worldly personality than his predecessors and sees his role as steering the Kingdom away from the wahhabism it has been associated with.

Despite his growing power there are many leaders within the Saudi Kingdom who are opposed to the many changes that the Crown Prince is trying to bring to the Kingdom.  Although the traditional leadership has allowed to back channel covert relations with Israel, these have been for the sole purpose of pushing back on Iran. The Crown Prince seems to be pushing for a far more open relationship.

Trump: Saudi Arabia has a “very positive” feeling toward Israel 

President Donald Trump made history in his foreign trip to Saudi Arabia and Israel, by forcing the Saudis to allow Air Force 1 to fly directly from Riyadh to Israel. The meetings in Riyadh left the President with the impression that the Saudis are now willing to open to the point where he made the now famous line: “Saudi Arabia has a ‘very positive’ feeling toward Israel.”

So the question remains why is the Crown Prince so bullish (at least behind the scenes still) on forging a relationship that goes beyond defense with Israel?

The answer the lies in his realization that not only is Israel not going anyway, but it is the key for the Sunni Arab states to connect in a far more broad way to the wider world.  While the Sunni block has been busy fomenting jihadism and selling oil, Israel has been developed into a global leader in innovation that has growing connections to India, China, Africa, and other developing regions.  Not to mention its reputation as a leader in military technologies.

With jihadism becoming dangerous to its own masters and oil running out, the Crown Prince knows he must pivot and change in order to survive. While peace between Israel and the “Palestinians” remains elusive, peace between Saudi Arabia and Israel may very well reshape the Middle East in a way that can change the nature of Israel’s relationship to the Sunni world.