Saudi Arabia Joins the Fight Against ISIS and Attacks Rebels in Yemen
In September 2014, Saudi Arabia joined the U.S.-led campaign in Syria against the radical Islamist group
which seeks to establish an Islamic state in the Middle East ruled by strict shariah law.
Houthi rebels gained considerable ground in Yemen in 2014 and 2015. In January 2015, they took over the capital, Sana, placed Yemeni president Abdel Rabbo Mansour Hadi under house arrest. The rebels then moved further south, engaging in battles with government troops. In an attempt to stop the Houthis from advancing further, Saudi Arabia led a coalition of Arab states in an offensive on Houthi targets in Yemen in late March 2015. More than 100 Saudi jets were involved in the airstrikes. A Saudi-led airstrike hit a camp for displaced civilians on March 30, killing as many as 40 people. The operation, called Decisive Storm, continued well into April but failed to stop the Houthis' advance. The fighting claimed hundreds of civilian lives, displaced as many as 150,000, and destroyed neighborhoods. An embargo of food and medicine, which the Saudis enforced, created a humanitarian crisis. On April 21, Saudi Arabia said the campaign, having achieved its goals, was over and the country would focus on a political solution. However, the main goals of the operation, to return President Hadi to office and rout the Houthis, were not achieved. Saudi Arabia resumed airstrikes the next day.
The Houthis are members of a political movement based in northern Yemen that have been challenging the government since 2004. They are backed by Iran and adhere to a branch of Shiite Islam, Zaydism. Saudi Arabia and other nations have accused Iran of arming the Houthis. The involvement of Saudi Arabia in the dispute runs the risk of inflaming tension or creating a broader conflict in the Middle East. Because of their religious beliefs, they are considered heretics by Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), which is also based in Yemen.
King Abdullah died on Jan. 23, 2015. He was believed to be 90. His half-brother, Crown Prince Salman, assumed the throne. Salman said he planned to continue with his predecessor's diplomatic and economic policies. In April 2015, King Salman reordered the of succession, naming Prince Mohammed bin Nayef as Crown Prince. Nayef is the first grandson of Saudi Arabia's founder, King Abdulaziz, to be Crown Prince. Nayef replaced Muqrin bin Abdulaziz, who was a protege of former King Abdullah.
U.S. State Dept. Country Notes:
Central Department of Statistics