Saudi Arabia's Yemen Dilemma

How to Manage an Unruly Client State

Courtesy Reuters

Saudi Arabia, perpetually in fear of chaos and instability, is a leading force in the counterrevolution against the Arab Spring. As a self-identified bulwark of stability and conservatism, Riyadh wants no change in the political structures or balance of power in the Middle East and is threatened by the potential emergence of representative forms of government in its neighborhood.

This policy has been strikingly evident in its dealings with Bahrain: in February, the Saudi royal family told the country's al-Khalifa dynasty to brook no compromise with the opposition and to crush the demonstrations. Riyadh sees the possibility of Bahrain's Shiite majority population taking power as a threat that could lead to Iranian dominance -- a prospect that is wholly unacceptable to Saudi Arabia.

Yet in Yemen, Saudi Arabia has gone from supporting the rule of Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh to essentially strong-arming him into coming to Riyadh for medical

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