Comment: Saudi Spies Take Over Yemen Border War
December 18, 2009 4 Comments
By IAN ALLEN* | intelNews.org |
Perceptive Middle East observers have been following the under-reported but escalating conflict along the Yemeni-Saudi border, in which Saudi and Yemeni government forces have joined forces in combating al-Qaeda-linked Yemeni rebels. It now appears that Saudi Arabia’s preeminent intelligence agency, the General Intelligence Presidency (GIP) has assumed direct command of the conflict. What exactly is going on?
The Sa’dah insurgency, of which the latest Saudi military invasion of Yemen intends to combat, has been going on since 2004, when dissident cleric Hussein Badreddin al-Houthi launched an uprising against the Yemeni government. But the crucial moment that led to the latest Saudi invasion was August 27, 2009, when prince Mohammed bin Nayef, son of King Ibn Saud and the Kingdom’s second deputy prime minister and minister of interior, narrowly escaped a brazen attempt on his life by an al-Qaeda-linked Saudi suicide bomber, who infiltrated the prince’s Jeddah palace. The incident shocked the Saudi royal clique, whose members are not used to such actions, and prompted the Saudi security establishment to move decisively against, not only al-Qaeda, but against all Islamist opposition to its rule, which includes armed insurgents on both sides of the Saudi-Yemeni border.
Saudi armed forces crossed into Yemen on November 4, reportedly with Sana’a’s permission, and have been battling against the insurgents ever since. The GIP stepped in after Riyadh’s realization that the negative reaction of local Yemenis to what they see as an invasion of their homeland is actually strengthening the al-Qaeda-linked insurgents. The agency, headed by Prince Muqran bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud, youngest son of King Ibn Saud, has reportedly set up shop in Sana’a, and its operations there are directed by deputy defense minister Khalid bin Sultan.
As the war inside Yemen escalates in intensity and importance, many begin to view it as a critical proxy war between, on the one side, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, the United States and Israel, and on the other side, Saudi Shiites, Iran, Hezbollah, pro-Islamists in Yemen’s security services, as well as Shiite mujahedeen from Somalia, Pakistan, Sudan, and elsewhere.
Last but not least, this escalating proxy war features not only strategic factors (Saudi Arabia being Washington’s single most valuable ally in the Arab world and the Middle East in general), but also psychological and symbolic parameters. It suffices to consider that Yemen is the ancestral home of Osama bin Laden, and that there are rumors that al-Qaeda’s iconic leader is currently hiding there, where he enjoys massive popular support. Further radicalization of Yemen’s population by the Saudi invasion could turn the country into a major regional stronghold of militant anti-Saudi republicanism. It could be that the Saudi establishment is fighting for its very existence in the desolate Yemeni borderlands.
* Ian Allen has spent nearly twenty-five years working in intelligence-related fields, and is now active in intelligence consulting. He has worked in North America, the Middle East and Southeast Asia. He is currently living and working in South Korea. He is co-founder and Editor of intelNews.org. His latest writings for intelNews.org are available here.