February 9, 2015 | Quote

The Fall of Yemen’s Government is a Huge Problem for Saudi Arabia

Even so, the Saudis are under little illusion as to what the Houthi dissolution of the Yemini government means in the larger sense. They are likely to view regime change in Yemen as a worrying victory for their opponents in Tehran.

“The Saudis have seen Lebanon fall to Iranian-backed actors, and they've seen Baghdad fall as well,” David Weinberg, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies focusing on the Persian Gulf states, explained to Business Insider of Riyadh's view of the region. “They fear that happening in Manama,” he added, in reference to the capital of Bahrain, the majority-Shi'ite island kingdom where Saudi Arabia sent troops to quash an almost entirely peaceful uprising against the country's Sunni monarchy in 2011, “They basically see it happening in Sanaa now. And they thought they had an opportunity to take back a Middle Eastern capital from the Iranian orbit after the uprising in Syria began, but have basically been let down there.”

As early as April 2009 — before the war in Syria or the uprising in Bahrain — the Saudis shared their concerns with US officials about eventual Iranian encirclement. According to a diplomatic cable published by Wikileaks, current crown prince Muqrin bin Abdulaziz, then the head of Saudi Arabia's intelligence agency, told then-homeland security advisor John Brennan that the “'Shi'a crescent has become a full moon,' implying that the Saudis are surrounded by Iranian intrigues.”

This interpretation of Riyadh's regional predicament has a few serious implications after the fall of Yemen's government.

Saudi Arabia has taken an increasingly security-based approach to its western province, which is home to a Shi'ite community that Riyadh views with intense suspicion.

“The Shi'ite community in Saudi is marginalized and frequently demonized as a slavishly pro-Iranian fifth column, which of course further marginalizes them and validates their grievances,” Weinberg explains.

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