Saudi Arabia has suspended most of the aid it sends to its southern neighbor, Yemen, in response to the hold the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels have over the capital city of Sanaa, according to a Reuters report yesterday.
Yemen, which is battling an al Qaeda insurgency, a southern secessionist movement, endemic corruption and poor governance, has often relied on its richer northern neighbor to help finance everything from government salaries to welfare payments.
But soon after Houthi fighters took over the capital Sanaa in September, Sunni Saudi Arabia promptly suspended much of that aid, concerned the rebels will use their military muscle to dominate domestic politics and project Iran’s influence.
A political deal that called for the withdrawal of the Houthis from Sanaa was concluded in September, but the rebels have remained. A Yemeni official told Reuters, “the Saudis have conditioned any aid on the implementation of the (deal). The Houthis have to leave before they pay.”
In recent months, Iran has begun openly expressing its support for the Houthis and has reportedly been sending Hezbollah fighters to Yemen to aid the rebels. This past November, an Iranian official boasted that his nation had captured its fourth Arab capital, Sanaa. The presence of Iranian proxies in Yemen poses a threat to Saudi Arabia as well as to shipping lanes through the Red Sea.
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