Saudi Arabia has itself been targeted by IS repeatedly, as IS has carried out suicide bombings in both Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. It promises to overthrow the House of Saud and raise its black flags over Mecca. Hundreds of Saudi citizens are fighting with the terrorist group in Iraq and Syria, while Jordan has been a target of IS, with one of its pilots locked in a cage and burned to death. These states have a stake in this war.
But Riyadh’s attention and resources are focused on Yemen as the war there has come to a stalemate. After some successes over the summer, the Saudi-led coalition had promised to capture Sanaa, Yemen’s capital, this fall. That looks unlikely today. The war is also a humanitarian catastrophe for 25 million Yemenis, as the blockade prevents the supply of food and medicine.
Even worse is that the major beneficiaries of the war so far are al-Qaeda and Iran. Al-Qaeda has seized control of large parts of southeastern Yemen since the war began. Its black flags fly in Aden, the temporary capital of the pro-Saudi government. Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has grown stronger in the months since it attacked Paris in January, not weaker. That is a disturbing portent for those now promising to defeat IS.
Iran is fighting to the last Houthi, laughing at the Saudis and Emiratis as they spend resources in what Tehran hopes will be an endless quagmire. Iran gains in Iraq and Syria from the Sunni forces’ diversion to Yemen.