After launching airstrikes in Yemen last Thursday, the Saudi Arabia-led coalition is reportedly sending 150,000 ground troops to fight the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels. The conflict in Yemen is much deeper than it appears on the surface, and if it continues to escalate, it could lead us to a World War 3. Sunni Saudi Arabia aims to check the growing influence of Shiite Iran in the region. Security experts believe that Riyadh cannot afford to see another Shiite nation in the Middle-East and it will do everything possible to defeat Houthis in Yemen.
Wider Middle-East conflict may escalate into World War 3
Gulf diplomatic sources told Reuters that the Saudi-led airstrikes were planned to last a month, but could extend up to six months. Yemen conflict is pushing the Middle-East to a much bigger conflict. The Saudi versus Iran confrontation has created a lot of confusion and unpredictability. The U.S. is supporting Iran-backed militants in Iraq, but opposing Iran-backed rebels in Yemen.
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The UAE and Egypt are part of the Saudi-led strike in Yemen, but are bombing Libyan factions backed by Qatar and Turkey, who fully support the Saudi offensive in Yemen. The conflict in Syria is mainly the result of competition between regional powers to outmaneuver each other, says Liz Sly of The Washington Post. In short, Middle-East countries are frenemies, depending on which conflict you are talking about.
Saudi Arabia considers itself guardian of the Sunni interest in the Middle-East. But over the past few years, Sunni influence has been shrinking as Shiite Iran expands its influence, said Mustafa Alani of Gulf Research Center. Iranian-backed rebels have played a crucial role in propping up President Bashar al-Assad in Syria. Iran-backed militias control more territory in Iraq than the Iraqi army. In Lebanon, the Iranian-supported Hezbollah movement reigns supreme.
By launching airstrikes in Yemen, Saudi Arabia has sent a clear signal that it will no longer tolerate Iran’s growing influence. So, the Yemen conflict is not just about Yemen, it’s more about changing the power equations. How could it lead to a World War 3? It seems unlikely on the surface. But Iran is not the one to stay silent as Saudi Arabia bombs Iranian-backed Houthis in Yemen.
World War 3: Russia, Iran vs. Saudi Arabia, U.S.?
And Russia may support Iran in its fight against the U.S.-backed Saudi Arabia, triggering a World War 3. Last month, even before Saudi decided to bomb Yemen, Russia warned that it would help Iran attack Saudi Arabia if the U.S. armed Ukraine against Russian-backed rebels. Moscow said that it would “respond asymmetrically against Washington or its allies on other fronts” if the U.S. arms Ukraine. Worse, Putin has already accused the United States of supplying lethal weapons to Ukraine.
The U.S. has also been strengthening its military presence in Europe to reassure its allies. A World War 3 won’t be out of the realm of possibility if Vladimir Putin decides to support Iran against Saudi Arabia. And Putin has already shown that he fears no one, not even the U.S.