Neil Partrick is the editor and lead contributor to Saudi Arabian Foreign Policy: Conflict and Cooperation (IB Tauris, 2016).
The Saudis’ incoherent approach to Yemen, which reflects a willingness to accept having a weak southern neighbor, is allowing the UAE to stir the pot.
Saudi Arabia’s efforts at reforming its armed forces may be more about politics and PR than substantive change.
Since the death of Ali Abdullah Saleh, Saudi Arabia and the UAE are again trying to find a powerful figure in Yemen around whom they can both unite.
The UAE’s desire to counter Iran and maximize influence over Saudi domestic affairs is keeping it involved in Yemen, where its interests are not always in line with Saudi Arabia’s.
Qatar has some options of its own against Saudi Arabia’s attempt to curtail its independence.
Expanded U.S.–Saudi security cooperation in the region could empower their shared enemies of Iran and militant Sunni Islamists.
As Riyadh faces a dead end in its war against the Houthis, it must also face the hard political reality of a re-divided Yemen.
Saudi Arabia is supporting an ever wider range of Yemeni actors willing to fight the Houthis, but their political ambitions and limited capabilities are at odds with the kingdom’s interest in a unified Yemen.
Saudi Arabia’s lack of clear goals in Yemen is worsening the security vacuum and potentially undermining the kingdom’s national security.
Reform in Saudi Arabia remains the personal whim of King Abdullah and has not yet had an impact on institutions.