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Monday, January 26, 2015

Arabian turmoil: The peninsula must cope with two emergencies

Arabian turmoil: The peninsula must cope with two emergencies 

January 26, 2015 12:00 AM

The Saudi succession is going smoothly, with Crown Prince Salman, 79, the half-brother of Abdullah, who died at 90, assuming the throne. He has named two crown princes, to preclude any thought that the Saudi monarchy might be fizzling out. King Salman is considered more conservative in his religious and social views than Abdullah.

Yemen is a different story, with the resignation of U.S.-backed President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi and his entire government throwing that country into chaos. Contending forces there include the ascendant Shiite Muslim Houthis backed by Iran, al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula and other Sunni Muslim militias, tribal forces and some Yemeni elements that favor the reseparation of South Yemen from the whole. The two were united in 1990.

The United States still attaches importance to stability in Saudi Arabia, although less than it did before America began to reach greater energy independence. The two countries are still military allies in the Middle East, with U.S. air and drone bases in the kingdom. King Abdullah in 2002 made a useful proposal for Israeli-Palestinian peace, offering Arab recognition of Israel in return for Israeli withdrawal from the occupied Palestinian territories. The initiative was rejected by Israel.

The disruption in Yemen is difficult for the United States. Its client, Mr. Hadi’s government, is out. The power vacuum creates an opportunity for terrorist AQAP to use it as a platform for creating trouble outside Yemen. Probably the worst aspect of developments in Yemen from the U.S. point of view, particularly given the presence of U.S. forces there, is that a road out of the swamp is not visible at this point.

Even so, Saudi Arabia has reason to be more worried than the United States by the chaos in Yemen. The kingdom has an 1,100-mile border with it

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