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Escalating violence in Yemen threatens regional stability

The involvement of Saudi Arabia in the ongoing conflict between Yemeni security forces and al-Houthi rebels in the north could seriously undermine regional instability, according to a recent report. 

The conflict has been running on and off since 2004 between government forces and the al-Houthi rebels, a powerful local clan who claim rights to traditional autonomy under the Shia Zaydi imamate that ruled northern Yemen until 1962. The Zaidis, one of the most socio-economically deprived groups in the impoverished country, accuse the central government of discrimination and oppression.

In addition to the humanitarian emergency created by the conflict, with almost 200,000 people displaced in Saudi Arabia and Yemen, the recent spread of fighting north of the border has raised concerns that the conflict could destabilise the entire region.

Analysts are divided, however, as to whether Saudi involvement will further sour relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran. Although there have been some reports of Iranian support to the al-Houti rebels, these have not been verified. Iran has criticised Saudi intervention in the conflict, while Yemeni and Saudi officials have responded with accusations of Iranian support for the rebels.

Iran’s involvement is likely to have a host of negative ramifications for Saudi Arabia. Its intervention has already brought international criticism, and some suggest there is a potential risk of the conflict spreading to the predominantly Shia Najran province in Saudi Arabia. Although most analysts doubt the likelihood of a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran being fought in Yemen, the humanitarian and security consequences of the escalating conflict remain of grave concern.
© Ecoterra -

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