Purported emails recently leaked show that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is seeking an exit from the war that Saudi Arabia has been waging against Yemen on his initiative, more than two years into a conflict the Riyadh regime has been unable to win.
The heir to the Saudi throne, who also serves as defense minister, raised the subject in a meeting with ex-US national security adviser Stephen Hadley, and Martin Indyk, a former US ambassador to Israel, the Middle East Eye news portal reported on Monday.
The details of the meeting were revealed in an email exchange between Indyk and Emirati Ambassador to Washington Yousef al-Otaiba in April, which was obtained by the GlobalLeaks campaign group and reported by the Middle East Eye.
Otaiba wrote to Indyk that he thought Prince Salman “is far more pragmatic than what we hear is (sic) Saudi public positions.”
Indyk replied, “I agree on that. He was quite clear with Steve Hadley and me that he wants out of Yemen,” adding that the Saudi prince “is OK with the US engaging Iran as long as it is coordinated in advance and the objectives are clear.”
The report comes days after Iraqi Interior Minister Qasim al-Araji said that bin Salman had officially asked him to mediate between Saudi Arabia and Iran. Riyadh broke off relations with Tehran last year.
Bin Salman is considered the architect of the Saudi war on Yemen, which began in March 2015 and which Saudi authorities at the time reportedly believed would be over in weeks. The military campaign was launched in an attempt to eliminate the Yemeni Houthi Ansarullah movement and reinstall a Riyadh-friendly former president.
But Saudi Arabia has achieved neither of the objectives despite spending billions of dollars on the war and enlisting the cooperation of dozens of its vassal states as well as Western countries.
The Saudi-led bombing campaign, which has been accompanied by a naval and aerial blockade on Yemen, has so far killed over 12,000 people in the impoverished state, left 70 per cent of the country’s 27 million population in desperate need of humanitarian aid, and caused the worst cholera outbreak in the world.
More than half a million Yemenis have been infected with cholera and nearly 2,000 others have died since the epidemic began four months ago, the latest figures provided by the World Health Organization (WHO) show.
Saudi Arabia has come under international criticism over the mounting civilian casualties in Yemen and the massive destruction.
Bin Salman’s purported desire to seek an exit from the war may be a sign that the Saudi regime has realized its failure to impose its will on Yemen militarily, despite its massive military superiority on the Arab world’s poorest country. It may also be an indication that the financial costs of the war have become unbearable for Riyadh.