Saudi envoy: Yemen strikes show Arab resolve to act alone

Prince Mohammed bin Nawaf
Prince Mohammed bin Nawaf

Prince Mohammed bin Nawaf

Kingdom can stand up to Iran, says ambassador

Saudi Arabia’s military intervention in Yemen shows that the Kingdom will stand up to Iran and that Arab states can protect their interests without US leadership, the Saudi ambassador to Britain said.

Prince Mohammed bin Nawaf also said that the Saudi-led coalition that has waged four weeks of air strikes against Houthis in Yemen had met its goals and could be a model for future joint Arab action.

The coalition announced a halt to its aerial campaign on Tuesday, but said it would continue to act as needed against Houthi rebels who control the capital Sanaa and have been fighting to take over the southern port of Aden.

The Kingdom says it launched the air strikes because its regional rival Iran had been training, arming and financing the Houthis, extending Tehran’s influence in the Arab world to Saudi Arabia’s southern border.

“Iran should not have any say in Yemeni affairs. They are not part of the Arab world,” Prince Mohammed told Reuters in an interview in the Saudi embassy in London.

“Their interference has ignited instability, they have created havoc in our part of the world and we’ve seen the events that took place because of their malignant policies.”

“Hence you have the coalition and a new foreign policy for all of us. We want an Arab world free of any outside interference,” the prince said.

“We can deal with our own problems.”

The military campaign put an end to “the perception that we were not capable, not able, that we didn’t have the guts to take such difficult decisions,” he said.

Washington has played a limited support role in the four-week campaign, reflecting President Barack Obama’s wariness over US military commitments in the Middle East, although it has accelerated some arms supplies, bolstered intelligence sharing and offered aerial refueling of Arab coalition jets.

“The Obama doctrine is very clear,” Prince Mohammed said. “This is a friendship which is historical, which will continue, but we have to assert ourselves. Not only Saudi Arabia, but Arab countries. It has to be collective.”


Saudi Arabia has demanded the return of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, who fled the country a month ago, and implementation of a UN resolution calling for the Houthis to withdraw from Aden and Sanaa.

Prince Mohammed said the campaign was now in a new phase.

“This is not a cease-fire, but an operation that shifts from being a strategic bombing campaign to one that will support, monitor and sustain the new political agreement that is currently being negotiated based on the UN resolution,” he said.

Former Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh, an ally of the Houthis, welcomed the declared end of air strikes and called for renewed political dialogue to guide the country out of turmoil.

The Saudi ambassador also said the dispute was about foreign policy differences, not religious sectarianism.

“It is a foreign policy problem. We have a problem with their (Iran’s) foreign policy,” he said.

“When we deal with Israel, for example, we have a problem with their policy. But we don’t have a problem with their religion. Our dealings with Iran is with their foreign policy.”


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