TODAY.AZ / Analytics

Saudi Arabia in a panic

30 March 2015 [12:15] - TODAY.AZ

/By AzerNews/

By Laman Sadigova

The latest events in Yemen have shaken the Arab world, forcing the Arab leaders to look at the situation from a different angle. It seems like their patience came to an end.

Speaking at an Arab League summit on March 28, Egypt’s president, Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, has summoned up calls to create a unified Arab force to confront regional security menaces. Sisi also said Arab countries are facing an unprecedented threat to their stability and identity. Egypt takes part in a military operation against Huthis Shia movement in order to preserve the unity of Yemen and to establish peace on its territory, as Sisi claims.

The U.N.'s top adviser on Yemen has warned that the country is moving toward "the edge of civil war."

The dangerous situation in Yemen jeopardizes the safety of transportations from the Middle East, breaking stability in the key oil-producing region in whole.

The roots of Yemen’s current conflict date back more than a decade, to a little-covered series of six brutal wars fought by the government of Yemen’s former president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, in the aim of defeating an insurgent group -- widely referred to as the Houthis -- based in the country’s far north.

Yemen was divided into two mentally different countries before 1990. The South side, being pro-Soviet orientated, has waged a fierce struggle with the other. However, the southern resistance was suppressed and destroyed.

If history is a guide, foreign intervention can only exacerbate the situation in the country. Ironically, centers on a potential Saudi Arabian and Egyptian military intervention in Yemen, a scenario that immediately reminds North Yemen’s 1960s Civil War which saw both sides intervene -- albeit on different sides -- in a matter which only appeared to prolong the conflict.

The Egyptian president claimed that the Arab world faced different threats and accused Iran of meddling in Arab affairs. He also blamed Shia rebels for creating chaos in the country, calling them “stooges of Iran”. Still, neither Iran, nor Houthis recognizes the charges.

Riyadh, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates have already sent their military forces to fight against the rebels.

However, what is the real reason of the Arab countries’ striving to help Yemen to get rid of the rebels? The Arabian countries observe force conflicts almost every year and it still does not mean such an active role of the Arabian League as in Yemen.

Undoubtedly, the motive is Yemen’s great strategic location in the south-western point of the Arabian Peninsula. At the extreme scenario, the risk of escalation of conflict and disruptions in oil production dramatically increases.

Yemen, which now suffers from the military operations, is not a key player in the energy market. Despite the fact that Yemen is located in the oil-rich region, this country cannot be named as a major manufacturer and exporter of oil - it accounts only 0.2 percent of world’s oil producing.

However, the country has a significant strategic location in the Middle Eastern oil export.

Yemeni land is located along the main sea route from Europe to Asia on one side, and next to the Red sea’s trade routes, on the other. There are daily transports of millions of barrels of oil in both directions: from the Mediterranean through the Suez Canal and from Saudi oil refineries to the Asian markets. Also, Aden gulf transports huge amounts of the oil to the market. All the major seaports in Yemen have been closed and blocked already due to the worsening situation in the country.

Now the question is whether the importers can stand the possible cessation of blockage of the Bab el-Mandeb, a strategically important seaport which involves oil tankers from the Persian Gulf. It is fully assumed that escalation of the conflict in Yemen may offer an undesirable scenario, ultimately moving up the world oil prices.

The political crisis in Yemen has already led to an increase in oil prices by almost 4 percent. From the very moment of slowdown in oil quotations experts urge that any fluctuations in energy market may exacerbate the situation in the Middle East. Despite having big oil volumes Arabian producers will find it difficult to reach the consumer markets, which will ultimately decrease supplies of "black gold".

Despite the fact that Iran publicly judges their actions and calls for the peaceful solution to the conflict, Saudi Arabia has reasons to feel anxious about the future strengthening of Shias in the region. Also, their main fear is that civil unrest, strikes and protests can spill over in region's other countries. In particular, in the eastern provinces, the largest oil fields in the peninsula, redominantly populated by Shia population.

How far are the Arab countries ready to go in order to reduce the risk?

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