To what extent can Saudi Arabia’s involvement in Yemen be understood in terms of a wider regional conflict with the Islamic Republic of Iran?____________________________________________________________________________ The Middle East is becoming an ever more turbulent area of conflict, where a new quarrels and dispute arise in the region every year either micro or macro in scale. The Middle East is no stranger to strife and conflict. Where conflicts that rise in the region are constantly found in headlines of international news agencies and websites. This only serves as evidence that the ramifications of these quarrels that take place in the Middle East have international implications and consequences, not to mention the effects it has on the regional level when such conflicts develop. Currently we see the eruption of what many call the “Cold War of the Middle East” between the Sunni dominated nation of Saudi Arabia and the Shiite majority of the Islamic Republic of Iran. where the international relations of these two nations has only developed into a conflict in recent years, where prior to the the Iranian Revolution in 1979 that underline major political and social changes in Iran, both national enjoyed a relatively peaceful and cooperative relations. However the aftermath of Iranian Revolution on highlighted a steadily worsened relations specially from the year 2000 onwards.The complications of the relations of these two nations arises in two connotations, first being a continuous political strife, second being in religious identity. Where the leading factor of the conflict being the latter, acting as the main direct and indirect motive for all political disputes that arise in the region. Where the general consensus lays in the argument that Saudi Arabia acts as the forefront of the Islamic Sunni faith whereas the Islamic Republic of Iran follows suit with the Shiite Faith. Because the Middle East is fare from reasoned secular political progress, arab nations are inclined to pursue a more realistic perspective to international relations, by prioritizing there self-interest, by allying themselves with other arab nations depending on their political, social and/or religious preference. Evident of the fact that there is a surfacing of what many consider a “Cold War in the Middle East”. Because of this case, the foreign policy of nations like Saudi Arabia, is focused on the foreign policy priorities of there revelry state/s. When considering this fact, this would, and has led to security -dilemmas between Saudi Arabia and The Islamic Republic of Iran, in which only aid in further escalated the already existing tensions.An example of an existing and already escalating conflict is the Civil War in Yemen. While Yemen is currently considered a failed state, it poses a direct threat to Saudi national security and interest, as Yemen is located on the southern border of Saudi Arabia. The conflict that arose in Yemen and currently still unfolding, while considered to be an isolated conflict, as it is a strife over the legitimate government of Yemen. At first glance it is clear that the crisis progressed to that which is applicable to the regional level, with consequences that affects at an international scale. To understand the possible implications that the Yemeni Civil War can have on the international level, is by considering the American Invasion of Iraq. while the that conflict was fare simpler than the wider implications of the conflict at hand, as the variables where much easier to identify, whereas in the present conflict, it is difficult if not impossible for such identifications. Also when discussing the military capabilities of each party in the American Invasion, it was highly disproportionate whereas when examining the current conflict, the military capabilities of each party are highly proportionate which entails that if a conventional war takes places, it would yield fare more considerable losses in both life and material. While keeping in mind the fact that Iran acquire or in the process of acquiring a nuclear arsenal. By having the possibility of such military capabilities, in a country that has negative political relations with the majority of the world, that can possibly pose a direct nuclear threat, this dramatically elevates the issue to an international level, especially when taking in consideration the liberal school of thought, the world is seeking in limiting and curbing production and use of nuclear weapons.However the tendency towards a war between Saudi Arabia and Iran is unlikely because the highest-level of policymakers of the two countries are rational. They fully realize that if they waged war against each other, the result would be a catastrophe, not only in the region but to the entire world. This is the very reason why Iran and Saudi Arabia uses alternative indirect methodology in contesting one another, using or “creating” ongoing conflicts in the region as a medium. Where Iran is continuously accused for leading a proxy war in the region as a manner to exert influence like in Yemen. That being said, this paper seeks to identify the key aspects of the relations governing Saudi Arabia and Iran in the context that Iran is leading a “proxy war” in Yemen. Firstly, by addressing Saudi-Iranian relations and the manner it developed before and after the Iranian Revolution in 1979 and the origins of conflict between the two states. Secondly, discussing the importance and strategic advantages of Yemen for both states and their relations to Yemen prior to 2011, the wake of conflict in the region. Thirdly, we will be delving in the different manifestations of influence in Yemen from each state, either direct or indirect, legal or illegal, and the repercussions it holds for the region.Iranian-saudi relationsThe early years of Saudi-Iranian relations provide important insight into the roots and causes of the recurring rivalry between the two states. The general consensus of the main reason of conflict is rooted in an intractable conflict characterized by a deep schism and an age-old enmity that exists between the Sunni and Shiite Muslim, where such conflict acts as the long-term indirect cause of the continuous rivalry between the 2 states. Saudi Arabia and Iran established diplomatic relations in 1929 following the signing of a Saudi-Iranian Friendship Treaty. While there was not continuous cooperation between the 2 states then, both enjoyed friendly relations. When discussed the modern relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia we realize that there was not a major incident or conflict until 1979. wherein 1971, we saw that both states operating together to protect US interests in the region under the “twin pillar policy”. The first signs of conflict arose in 1975 after the assassination of King Faisal(A Saudi king that promoted Iranian-Saudi solidarity) both states had different economic plans when dealing with their main exports under OPEC (Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries) where Iran requested to increase oil prices in an attempt to control deficit, the Shah anticipated Saudi compliance, however due to the Saudi large influence over OPEC, acting as the de facto leader of OPEC, Saudi Arabia declared in 1976, that oil prices will be left unchanged. This had a major economic blow for Iran. I assume the reason why Saudi Arabia resisted demands made by Iran, as a manner to control military development in Iran, as the Shah attempted to build an Iranian security architecture in the region, not mention that Saudi Arabia was compliant with Western powers for there oil demands.As mentioned above, it would seem that the reason behind the strained relationship between Saudi Arabia and Iran in the years prior to the Iranian Revolution where purely based on political and economical threat perception, when considering OPEC disagreements and the continuous military enlargement that Iran pursued, where Saudi-Iranian relationships were not tainted initially by religion-styled disputes, or a drive that sought to maximize religious dominance, acting as the main drive behind geographical political supremacy. political tides and relationship between Saudi Arabia and Iran would change dramatically after the Iranian revolution in 1979. This refers to the series of events involving the overthrow of the Shah and the 2,500 years of continuous Persian monarchy or the Pahlavi dynasty under Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. after the revolution in 1979, religion becomes the forefront of Iranian state identity. Where Khomeini claimed broad Islamic support and instantly insulted and criticized the “decadence” of the Wahhabi Saudi monarchy. Where he further claimed that Shiite theocracy would be the authoritative ruling voice of Islam. This type of rhetoric clashes with Saudi assumed religious legitimacy as the guardian of the Islamic holy sites like Mecca and Medina while initially King Khalid( Saudi King at the time) attempted to maintain peace by sending a congratulatory letter to Khomeini stating that “Islamic solidarity” could possibly for better political relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia.. In 1987 public address Khomeini openly stated that “these vile and ungodly Wahhabis, are like daggers which have always pierced the heart of the Muslims from the back,” and announced that Mecca was in the hands of “a band of heretics”. Upon this statement all diplomatic relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia ended officially until 1991, were the only reason why relations were established due to agreed condemnations of Iraq during the Iraq-Kuwait war, initially brought up by the Saudis, they were able to restore diplomatic relations. However at first glance, it appears that Iran acts as the aggressor against Saudi Arabia, where Saudi Arabia has attempted to reconcile multiple times, but Iran continues to resist, however conflict between the two nations only rose after the Iranian revolution in 1979, the main reason why the revolution was successful was due to major dissatisfaction against the Shah because of his failed economic policy as Demonstrations against the Shah commenced in October 1977 by both secular and religious groups. however, the reason why the economic policy failed is simply that OPEC did not allow to increase oil prices, like the Iranians wanted, concluding the fact that Saudi Arabia indirectly caused the negative relations between it and Iran.To further illustrate political strife in the wake of 1979 was firstly at part when the Saudi become the primary ally for the United States in the Arab region. the second major political events that followed suit, was when the Saudis backed and sided with Iraq against Iran unfolded in 1980 until 1988. where Iran started to back different shia militias and movements abroad, an example actings as the influx of shiite propaganda in the west of Iraq through tapes and books, an early example in which Iran attempted to exert religious influence in another country. Subsequently the Saudis began to seek the containment of Iran in the region. as a result the Saudis established what is currently known as the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Another stressing issue for the Saudis is the Iranian Nuclear Program. This was an issue for the Saudis it means that Iran as competing military capabilities by obtaining and producing nuclear weapons. Also the possibility that Iran would use these weapons, and most importantly that Saudi Arabia is at a military disadvantage, as Saudi Arabia lacks any sort of nuclear weaponry, the reason why this is problematic, is because Saudi Arabia fails to take strategic and military advantage of mutually assured destruction. Such notion can is evident when the Saudis declared that they intend to pursue a nuclear program or obtain it and bombs from Pakistan., where we must understand that Saudi Arabia’s foreign policy primary focus after the wake of the “Arab Spring” was and currently is to curb Iranian influence and expansionism weather political, ideological or geographic. Iranian and Saudi Arabia relations prior to the Yemeni Crisis and its Reasoning For Interest in Yemen:-To further understand the growing conflict and the state of the proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia, we must understand the currently developing Yemeni Civil war and how each nation is taking advantage of it, to further their own political agendas. To do so we must understand the political and historical context that lead them to take such sides in the Civil war.When looking over Yemen as a state, it has always maintained a fragile domestic and foreign policy, were hostile foreign actors continuously use Yemen’s weak state to further their own regional ambitions and agendas. The United States and Saudi Arabia have partnered with the legitimate government of Yemen to fight transnational terrorist groups and promote regional stability, ( as least this is the public consensus used to justify continuous foreign intervention. Hostile actors such as Iran, however, have used internal political divisions in the country to destabilize Yemen and use it as a base to threaten Saudi territory, as well as disrupt vital commercial shipping lanes. As Iran realizes that Yemenis political and economic state poses a major threat to domestic Saudi security. Saudi leaders have long advocated a policy of ‘containment and maintenance in the case of Yemen, where enough support is given to whichever regime is in power in Sana’a to prevent state collapse, but a certain level of state dysfunction is viewed as attractive. ‘Keep Yemen weak’, King Abdulaziz is reputed to have said on his deathbed. This can be explained as Saudi Arabia’s attempt to maintain regional hegemony. By allowing Yemen to grow politically can threat that goal and national Saudi security. However even though Saudi Arabia continuously attempts to limit growth in Yemen, Riyadh(capital of Saudi Arabia) is aware of the impact that state collapse in Yemen would have on Saudi Arabia. Saudi policy-makers have long worried that the economic crisis in the Arabian Peninsula’s poorest and second most populous state. As a state of collapse in Yemen. could lead to an influx of Yemeni economic migrants. This is the very reason why Yemen, while on the verge of collapse. A good example of the negative relations that precedes Yemen and Saudi Arabia, Riyadh is currently building a 1,500-km fence that is set along the length of the Saudi–Yemeni border, aimed at stemming and decrease the flow of economic migrants, smugglers, and militant Islamists. Another reason why Saudi Arabia is concerned of the domestic state of Yemen is simply that Yemen acts as an easy target for Iran to increase influence over the Gulf region. Saudi Arabia holds hegemonic power over the Gulf region through extensive control over organizations that the Gulf region is largely dependent on to maintain their political and economic state specifically through OPEC. Iran has a relatively easy path in Yemen as Iran shares a common faith with the Houthi rebels, located in the north of Yemen, The Houthis in Yemen can act as an outlet for Iranian influence of the region, giving Iran sold foothold in the Gulf. By siding up with the rebels and aiding them in any way shape or form based on their common sect of Islam. They potentially hold strategic grounds close to Saudi Arabia and its capital.Yemeni Civil War and Iranian-Saudi intervention: Yemen’s war unfolded over several years, beginning with the Arab Spring in 2011. Pro-democracy protesters took to the streets in a bid to force President Ali Abdullah Saleh to end his dictator-like rule that lasted for 33 years. President Saleh responded with economic concessions granting basic living requirements for the opposition(being made up mostly by people from southern parts of Yemen) but refused to leave his position of authority. However, these “peaceful” protest quickly escalated when the march of 2011 saw the legal Yemeni military shooting protesters, where after one of the most prominent military generals sided with the opposition, the streets of Yemen saw many skirmishes between the military and militia groups. After months of civil unrest the UN brokered a deal which allowed the transfer of power to the vice president Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi in which he became the leader of the new legitimate government of Yemen, however, due to his attempts for social and economic reforms, caused an outcry from the Houthis residing in the north of Yemen, underscoring that major civil struggle only started when there was economic reform, which is important as the Houthis are considered an Islamic terrorist group. Civil conflict continued in the coming years, where both the political and humanitarian crisis( food and medical shortages and rising civilian death toll) in 2015 the Saudi-led coalition started with the bombing of Sana’a(the capital of Yemen) officially mark the start of the Yemeni civil war. While there was growing conflict in Yemen before 2015, Saudi Arabia only intervened once the houthis posed as a threat. Saudi Arabia and other Sunni states have accused the Houthis of being a proxy for Iran, the region’s Shiite superpower. The Houthis themselves deny this. Where they mascaraded there political agenda which is to control and maintain the domestic situation of Yemen as a manner of humanitarian intervention as means to combat the humanitarian crisis that is outgoing in Yemen. This can be legally justified and operated under operation “restoring hope”,where Saudi Defence Ministry declared it was ending the campaign of airstrikes because it had “successfully eliminated the threat” to its security posed by Houthi ballistic and heavy weaponry.after operation that followed suit for Operation Decisive Storm, what makes this argument fall apart is that there has been continuous international humanitarian laws that Saudi Arabia violated. Where the naval blockade and the closure of many of the outlets of Yemen had if any, negative political or economic effects the Houthi forces, but humanitarian officials and advocates warned of the blockade’s effects on Yemeni citizens. In the days and weeks following the November 4 closure, food and fuel supplied in northern Yemen dwindled,(15) and gas and water prices skyrocketed, leading international aid agencies to warn of impending famine. On November 20, the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (Fews Net) issued an alert, warning that “if all ports remain closed, or re-open but are unable to support large-scale imports of essential goods, Famine is likely in many areas of the country within three to four months. In less accessible areas with the most severe current food insecurity, Famine could emerge even more quickly.” During the blockade, aid agencies announced that five cities had run out of clean water (Sa’ada, Taiz, Hodeida, Sana’a and al Bayda). Humanitarian agencies decried the closures, asserting that the Saudi-led coalition was violating international law by using starvation as a weapon. However, the Saudi-led coalition claimed that it was acting legally, citing Paragraph 14 of UNSCR 2216, which calls on states to take measures to prevent the supply of military goods to the Houthis. it does not appear to represent a core security interest of Iran, but Iranian leaders appear to perceive Yemen’s instability as an opportunity to acquire an additional leverage against Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states. Yemen’s elected leaders have long claimed that Iran is trying to take advantage of Yemen’s instability by a Zaydi Shia movement known as the “Houthis” (Ansar Allah) with arms and other aids. Even though there is lesser support for Houthis by Iran than that in Iraq and Syria, a senior Iranian official reportedly told journalists in December 2014 that the IRGC-QF has a “few hundred” personnel in Yemen training Houthi fighters. Iran reportedly has shipped unknown quantities of arms to the Houthis, as has been reported by a panel of U.N. experts assigned to monitor Iran’s compliance with U.N. restrictions on its sales of arms abroad. Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) have provided the Houthis with money, training, and sophisticated weaponry for more than a decade, according to the U.S. State Department. The Revolutionary Guard is believed to have transferred rocket and missile capability as well. “Iran continues to provide arms to the Houthi forces, despite a U.N. Security Council resolution prohibiting such actions,” said Senator Bob Corker to the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations on March 9, 2017. “Houthis have used these weapons to attack U.S. ships off of the Yemeni coast, and they are launching missiles across the border into Saudi Arabia.” Many bring the question how can Iran be able to support the houthis, with extensive security measures implemented by the Saudi-led coalition to Yemeni outlets. As Saudi-led coalition set up a no fly zone with a naval blockade restricting movements through the sea, with a limited number of ports open, with extensive security of border security for all countries bordered with Yemen. However a US official has stated that many of the smuggles that occur comes through the border of Oman, overland taking advantage of porus lands. Where the same official told to reuters:”We have been concerned about the recent t flow of weapons from iran to yemen and have conveyed those concerns to those who maintain relations with the houthis including the Omani government” While Oman denies any weapons smuggling across its border, it does not necessarily mean they are directly involved with the smuggling, but inclined to turn a blind eye to this. In this conflict Oman considers itself a “friend to all” where Oman is the only only Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) country that has not declared its participation in the Arab coalition. And continuously maintained its neutral stance. Instead of intervening in the conflict Oman is said to act as the mediator between the disputing parties. However is is concerning specially that they have deviated out of this policy as sources suggest that Oman has harbored houthi rebels and facilitated crucial communication branches between Yemen and Iran. Also former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, greatly appreciate Oman’s stance. A Houthi-affiliated negotiation convoy and Saleh were welcomed in Oman’s capital the same Year . Its clear to say that Oman unofficially siding with Iran.