Saudi Arabia will defend itself 'with all force' but doesn't want war

Saudi Arabia has vowed to try and prevent a Middle East war, but if conflict breaks out it will defend itself "with all force and determination." This comes amid a recent spike in tensions with regional rival Iran.

The Saudi minister of state for foreign affairs said on Sunday that the kingdom does not want war, but it will defend itself if necessary.

Adel al-Jubeir told reporters: "We want peace and stability in the region, but we won't stand with our hands bound."

Saudi King Salman invited Gulf leaders and Arab League member states to two emergency summits in Mecca on May 30 to discuss recent "aggressions and their consequences", the kingdom's official SPA news agency reported late Saturday.

Increasing tension

Al-Jubeir's comments came less than a week after Riyadh claimed that two oil pumping stations — which increase pressure to move oil through a major Saudi pipeline — were hit by armed drones, resulting in a fire at one of the stations and a temporary shutting of the oil line as a precaution.  

Saudi Arabia's East-West pipeline is an alternative export route for the kingdom's crude oil in the event of the strategically important Strait of Hormuz being blocked. Iran has repeatedly threatened to close the strait if a military confrontation with the United States were to break out.

Yemen: An ever-worsening crisis

War: The 'root cause' of Yemen's disasters

The UN has identified conflict as the "root cause" of Yemen's crises. More than 10,000 people have been killed since the conflict erupted in 2014 when Shiite Houthi rebels launched a campaign to capture the capital, Sanaa. In March 2015, a Saudi-led coalition launched a deadly campaign against the rebels, one that has been widely criticized by human rights groups for its high civilian death toll.

Yemen: An ever-worsening crisis

Fighting keeps food from the famished

The conflict has prevented humanitarian aid from reaching large parts of the civilian population, resulting in 60 percent of the country's 28 million people being classified as "food insecure." At least 2.2 million children are acutely malnourished, according to the UN World Food Program. UN chief Antonio Guterres has urged the Security Council to pressure warring parties to allow aid in.

Yemen: An ever-worsening crisis

Displacement: Converging crises

More than 2 million people have been displaced by conflict, including marginalized communities such as the "Muhammasheen," a minority tribe that originally migrated from Africa. Despite the civil war, many flee conflict in Somalia and head to Yemen, marking the convergence of two major migration crises in the Middle East nation. Yemen hosts more than 255,000 Somali refugees, according to UNHCR.

Yemen: An ever-worsening crisis

Cholera: A deadly epidemic

As of October 2017, the number of suspected cholera cases exceeded more than 750,000, and at least 2,135 people had died from the waterborne bacterial infection in Yemen in ten months, said the WHO. Although cholera can be easily treated, it can kill within hours when untreated. By October 2018, over 10,000 cases of cholera were being treated weekly.

Yemen: An ever-worsening crisis

Unsuspecting victims of the'war on terror'

In Yemen, violence goes beyond civil conflict: It is considered a strategic front in the war on terrorism. The country serves as the operational base for al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, dubbed the "most dangerous" terrorist group before the rise of the "Islamic State." The US routinely uses drones to target al-Qaida leadership. However, civilians have often been killed in the operations.

Yemen: An ever-worsening crisis

Children's fate: Future marred by tragedy

In a country paralyzed by conflict, children are one of the most at-risk groups in Yemen. More than 11 million children require humanitarian aid, according to the UN humanitarian coordination agency. The country's education system is "on the brink of collapse," while children are dying of "preventable causes like malnutrition, diarrhea and respiratory tract infections," the agency said in October.

Yemen: An ever-worsening crisis

Peace: An elusive future

Despite several attempts at UN-backed peace talks, the conflict continues to rage on. Saudi Arabia has vowed to continue supporting the internationally recognized government of Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi. On the other hand, Houthi rebels have demanded the formation of a unity government in order to move forward on a political solution. But neither side appears ready to compromise.

Regional rivals

Houthi-run Masirah television said after the May 14 pipeline attack that the Iran-linked group had launched drone attacks on Saudi installations in response to what it called Saudi aggression and a blockade on Yemen, where a Saudi-led alliance has been at war with the Houthis and their allies since 2015. Saudi Arabia and Iran are also on opposite sides of the war in Syria.

Saudi Arabia also said that two of its oil tankers were targeted in a "sabotage attack" off the coast of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on May 12. The UAE is investigating the alleged attack near its waters.   

Tehran denied involvement in either operation.

Read more: US warns airliners flying over Persian Gulf amid Iran tensions 

Iran is not pursuing war, the head of the country's elite Revolutionary Guards said on Sunday, according to a report by the Reuters news agency which cited Iran's Fars news agency.

Related Subjects

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia will host key crude producers in Jeddah later on Sunday to discuss how to stabilize a volatile oil market amid the rising tensions in the Persian Gulf. Ministers from major oil-producing countries plan to meet in the kingdom on Tuesday.  

kw/sms (AP, AFP, Reuters)

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Business | 13.05.2019

Flashpoint: Strait of Hormuz