Alwaght- The Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir, who last week took part in a conference of foreign ministers of Western countries as well as some Arab countries in Paris, in an interview with the French daily Le Figaro has said that Al-Qaeda and ISIS were top enemies in the Arab Peninsula and so they had no right to exist neither in Yemen nor in any other part of the world, but Ansarulah movement was part of the Yemeni community and should stay neighbor to Saudi Arabia.
Al-Jubeir repeated the same words in a Twitter post, considering Ansarulah a group from Yemen who had the right to exist.
This Saudi standing on the resistant Yemeni group is seen as unprecedented because earlier the Saudis insisted that Ansarulah must be removed from the Yemeni society.
The remarks represent a new and surprise Saudi stance on the revolutionary group, and are evidence of a shift of Saudi officials’ rhetoric on Yemen which has been brought under Saudi fighter jets’ airstrikes for over a year in Operation Decisive Storm.
There is a question: Is this shift of stance of the Saudis in such circumstances a political game through change in statements or a real shift in Riyadh’s foreign policy?
Claims of change in foreign policy of the kingdom could be supported by a couple of factors:
- Failure to realize declared and undeclared Saudi goals in Yemen. After over a year since the start of Saudi-led Operation Decisive Storm against Yemen none of Saudi Arabian objectives have been actualized. Riyadh also failed to impose its will for restoring to power in Sana'a the ousted Yemeni President Abd Rabbuh Mansour who with the ministers of his government currently lives in the Saudi capital. The kingdom also failed to force Ansarulah out of the Yemeni capital, as Riyadh’s efforts to push the Yemeni group to hand over heavy weapons to the government of Mansour Hadi met with failure.
- Increased US pressures on Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia shifted stance towards the Yemenis after Washington has put strains on Riyadh to strike ISIS and Al-Qaeda positions and make a deal with Ansarulah. The US thinks that even a show war against terrorism could get Saudi Arabia out of Yemen quagmire.
The US pressures on the Saudis saw a pick after Washington threatened that should the kingdom refused negotiations with Ansarulah and did not set high on the agenda fight against terrorism, it would stop operations of coordination, information exchange and target determination with Saudi war command posts.
- The UAE asks US for help. Responding to the UAE’s demands, the US Department of Defense has deployed 200 special forces to Yemen’s south to help fight Al-Qaeda terrorist organization in Yemen. Although this is illegal and would not exempt the US and the UAE from their occupation responsibilities, it could work against Riyadh as the two Arab countries are in rivalry in Yemen.
- Increased ISIS and Al-Qaeda power. The fighter jets belonging to the Arab states of the Saudi-led military coalition have refrained from striking the positions of ISIS and Al-Qaeda in Yemen. On the other side, some countries of the Arab coalition have sent weapons to these two terror groups. All these have bolstered the strength of the terrorists in the war-torn Yemen. The terror groups also lunched effective operations in Hardhramaut and Aden provinces, assassinating some politicians and military commanders, and attacking army bases and pro-Mansour Hadi forces.
Based on what was given, it can be noted that Saudi Arabia has shaken up its priority list in the region though in practice its war on Ansarulah and the Yemeni army is under way. But this Saudi adventure is highly risky because attacks on Al-Qaeda and ISIS which mean opening new fronts, while the kingdom has not concluded the war at the first fronts, could break Saudi Arabia’s efforts and thus result in heavy losses.
Generally, it must be said that Saudi Arabia has launched a full-scale war against Yemen and pounded the country point by point. But now signs of losing the war began to appear to Riyadh. The Syrian crisis has also reached a decisive juncture now and Saudi Arabia is afraid to lose interests in the country. All these factors pushed a decision by the Saudis to seek settlement for Yemen’s crisis. The Saudis see loss in both Syrian and Yemeni fronts a disgrace for Riyadh across the world. But a small success in Syria could save their face and make up for Yemen loss.
It appears that Saudi Arabia’s change is coming with a Western and American advice as they seek mobilization of their whole strength to focus on Syrian fronts, otherwise; the Saudis are those who opposed even a limited participation of Ansarulah in Yemen’s future government and politics.
Consequently, the Saudi stance shift is only tactical in a bid to move from one front to the other in the region to save face.