Skip to main content

Yemen latest front line in Saudi-Qatari feud

The Gulf dispute between Saudi Arabia and Qatar is further straining Yemen’s already fragile stability, as both states vie for greater influence in the country.
Pro-democracy protesters, some of whom belong to Yemen's Muslim Brotherhood, and are supporters of Egypt's ousted President Mohamed Mursi, shout slogans as they demonstrate to demand that Yemen's former president Ali Abdullah Saleh be put on trial, in Sanaa September 25, 2013. Headbands read,  "Rabaa, We are all Mursi".    REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah (YEMEN - Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST) - RTX13ZD0

A poor and fragile country like Yemen cannot make independent decisions or escape the effects of the many disagreements around it. While Yemen did not withdraw its ambassador from Doha — unlike Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain on March 5 — it should not be read as an endorsement by Yemen of Qatar’s policies. Equally, Yemen did not criticize the Gulf action against Doha and considered it a matter that concerns only the countries in question, but that does not mean that those countries are satisfied with Sanaa, despite their warm relations. The Gulf dispute remains a matter of importance for Yemen, given that the countries have great influence inside it.

For years, Yemen was prey to the differences of its sisterly Arab countries. The matter has worsened since the outbreak of the Arab Spring and the disagreements among Gulf money capitals with strong influence in Yemen, especially Riyadh, Doha and recently Abu Dhabi. Saudi Arabia and Qatar have been fighting a fierce war of influence over Yemen since 2011. The main dispute was over the Muslim Brotherhood, which has widespread activity in Yemen. The Brotherhood’s Yemen branch, Islah, is a prominent political player on the Yemeni scene. Riyadh accused Qatar of supporting this organization, which it recently added to its list of terrorist movements. While Qatar supports the Muslim Brotherhood, the once close relationship between Islah and Saudi Arabia has sharply deteriorated since the Arab Spring. Saudi Arabia also accuses Qatar, along with Iran, of supporting the Houthis with the aim of harming the kingdom. Riyadh fought a brief war with the Houthis in 2009.

Access the Middle East news and analysis you can trust

Join our community of Middle East readers to experience all of Al-Monitor, including 24/7 news, analyses, memos, reports and newsletters.


Only $100 per year.