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November 29, 2017

On the global stage


November 29, 2017

Over the last few years, tensions in the Middle East have been escalating with each passing day and many factors have contributed to this uncertainty. However, the allegations made by Qatar’s foreign minister last week were that the root of these tensions is the policies adopted by Saudi Arabia. This is an issue that deserves to be put under the spotlight.

Currently, the Saudi regime has come under the radar with respect to its policies in Yemen. It all started towards the end of 2014 when the Yemeni President Mansour Hadi was overthrown by the Houthi rebels, who the Saudis allege are supported by Iran.

Saudi Arabia has intervened militarily in Yemen since 2015. This has resulted in huge casualties and a war that doesn’t seem to end. The situation has just worsened after a missile fired from Yemen into Riyadh escalated Saudi hostilities towards Yemen.

As in any other conflict, the real victims are the civilians within Yemen. There have not only been reports about schools and hospitals being destroyed as a result of the Saudi intervention, but images that depict the suffering of civilians in Yemen have also emerged on social media.

This has led to serious concerns that have only deepened in light of Saudi Arabia’s blockade put on the Yemeni seaports and air spaces to stop the supply of UN humanitarian aid coming into the zone.

The blockade was imposed following Saudi claims that the aid coming in through the ports also consisted of weapons that could be used against Saudi Arabia – a claim which the UN has declared to be unfounded.

In addition, the rhetoric building up between Saudi Arabia and Iran also highlights the rising tensions between both countries with the Saudi crown prince labelling Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khomeini as “the Hitler of the Middle East”.

Similarly, the surprise resignation of Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri has sparked controversies between Iran and Saudi Arabia.

Hariri has attributed his resignation to the worsening situation in Iran stoked by the Iranian-backed militant organisations whereas Iran claims that Hariri was pressurised to resign by the Saudi authorities in order to bring Iran into disrepute.

Adding to these concerns is the Qatari Foreign Minister Al-Thani who had recently declared Saudi Arabia to be at the centre of all the upheaval within the Middle East. Saudi Arabia, along with Bahrain, the UAE and Egypt imposed a boycott on Qatar this summer as they claimed Qatar supported banned, extremist organisations.

However, Al-Thani believes that Saudi Arabia’s politics and tactics are based on aggression and cite the crisis in Yemen and Hariri’s allegedly forced resignation as examples of this.

With regard to its international relations and internal affairs, Saudi Arabia finds itself in an unprecedented controversy owing to the recent crackdowns on the Saudi royalty (including Prince Al-Waleed Bin Talal) and a number of former ministers to hold them accountable for their alleged involvement in corruption.

This is believed to be a part of Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman’s plans to promote the image of a liberal Saudi Arabia where people belonging to the upper echelons of society, including the royalty, are also held accountable for their actions. These reforms seek to elevate Saudi Arabia’s global image.

However, with growing concerns over its blockade on humanitarian aid to Yemen and its worsening relations with Qatar (which even foreign leaders such as French President Emmanuel Macron have tried to resolve) and Iran, there is a great deal of concern regarding Saudi Arabia’s policies on the international stage.

The writer is an advocate of the high court.

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