What's Behind Saudi Arabia's New Muscularity

(Christian Science Monitor) Taylor Luck - The Saudi public not only supports Saudi Arabia's new war in Yemen, but also its new role as Middle East "policeman," filling the void left by American reluctance to intervene in the region. Less than five months after it went through a transition of power from King Abdullah to his brother King Salman, a bolder, more assertive Saudi Arabia is trying to expand its geopolitical footprint in the Middle East. Yet Riyadh's mounting cold war with Iran - coupled with the endless conflict in Syria, Islamic State's presence in Iraq, and the escalating violence in Yemen - has enmeshed the country in several simultaneous theaters of war. Since 2005, Riyadh has channeled an estimated $30 billion to tribes and militias in Lebanon, Iraq, and Bahrain, creating a wide network of Sunni movements linked and directed by Saudi intelligence services. In January 2015, Shiite Houthi militias took control of the Yemeni capital, Sanaa, and drove out the Saudi-backed government. In Riyadh's eyes, Iran and its agents for the first time were approaching Saudi soil. "All the great historic Arab powers - Iraq, Syria, and Egypt - are all in chaos," says Jasser al Jasser, managing editor of the Saudi daily Al Jazirah. "There is a need for a great Arab power in the region, and Saudi Arabia under King Salman is now stepping up to become that power."

2015-05-19 00:00:00

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