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Tags: yemen | iraq | saudi arabia | iran | shiites | sunnis | conflict

Yemen Conflict Divides Iraqis and Saudis, With US in Middle

By    |   Thursday, 16 April 2015 07:06 AM EDT

Baghdad and Riyadh are deeply divided about the conflict in Yemen, and each U.S. ally wants the Obama administration to take its side, The New York Times reported.

A key undercurrent is that the Arab Gulf states are concerned the Obama administration is moving closer to Iran. They see as worrisome Washington cooperating with Tehran against the Islamic State and cutting a framework agreement on its nuclear program, according to The Financial Times.

In Yemen, the Iraqis favor the Iranian-backed Houthis. Saudi Arabia, the preeminent Sunni power in the Gulf, views the Houthis as proxies for extending Iranian influence along its southern boundaries.

Iraq is dominated by Shiite Arabs. Its prime minister, Haider al-Abadi, was on Capitol Hill Wednesday seeking additional U.S. military and economic aid. He used his time in Washington to criticize the U.S.-backed Saudi air campaign in Yemen against the Houthis, who are fellow Shiite Arabs.

Washington is supporting the Iraqi government and Iranian-backed Shiite militias as they struggle to push back advancing Islamic State Sunni extremists. The U.S. is simultaneously helping Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Bahrain with intelligence information about targets they are interested in striking in Yemen, the N.Y. Times reported.

Abadi said that Yemen's troubles were mainly internal in nature. "The dangerous thing is we don't know what the Saudis want to do after this. Is Iraq within their radar? That's very, very dangerous."

He added: "The idea that you intervene in another state unprovoked just for regional ambition is wrong. Saddam has done it before. See what it has done to the country."

The Iraqi premier said that the Obama administration agreed with him that Saudi behavior was unhelpful. But the White House promptly denied that President Barack Obama had ever criticized Saudi Arabia or the other Gulf Arab states over Yemen, according to Foreign Policy.

The Saudi ambassador to Washington, Adel al-Jubeir, denied a claim by Abadi that Saudi warplanes were causing numerous civilian casualties in Yemen. He said that the campaign was militarily successful, according to the Times. Iran last week had accused Saudi Arabia of "genocide" against Yemeni civilians, The Financial Times reported.

James Jeffrey, former U.S. ambassador to Baghdad, told the N.Y. Times that the Iraqis are "almost certainly quietly unhappy with the Iranians" because a Sunni-Shiite "cataclysm" would be disastrous for Iraq's stability.

The Saudis were believed to have initially "taken pleasure" in the Islamic State's strength as a way of constraining Shiite influence, but concluded that the group threatened Riyadh's larger interests, according to a Washington Institute analysis.

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Baghdad and Riyadh are deeply divided about the conflict in Yemen, and each U.S. ally wants the Obama administration to take its side, The New York Times reported.
yemen, iraq, saudi arabia, iran, shiites, sunnis, conflict
Thursday, 16 April 2015 07:06 AM
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