Paranoia has long been the basis of Saudi policymaking on Yemen. It used to be paranoia about the Yemenis themselves; now it’s about Iranians. Yemen’s Houthi rebels are variously “Iranian-supported,” “Iranian-backed,” or “Iranian-influenced.” Yemen’s civil war concerns Americans because their close but often awkward ally, Saudi Arabia, has persuaded them to take part in it — and, alongside that brutal war, there’s another that the United States initiated and has no intention of ending anytime soon.
How can the United States ensure the former, Saudi Arabia’s war of choice, doesn’t interfere with the latter? The answer could be to follow the 1953 deathbed advice of King Abdul Aziz, known as Ibn Saud, who supposedly said, “Never let Yemen be united.” Yemen is a problem that probably won’t be solved until it is dissolved.