Stories datelined Sana are flying over the wires. The U.S. Embassy shut down. Then France and Britain closed their offices. Evidence links the suspected airline bomber to Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which is allegedly based out of Yemen and Saudi Arabia. And individuals traveling from those two countries to the U.S. are now among the countries the TSA flags for immediate screening.
I’m currently winding down a trip to the States. But I can’t wait to get back to Riyadh, where my wife and I will be following this story closely.
How long will the average American care? Most likely, the intense scrutiny will only last a few more days. (I’ve seen CNN repeat the same vague story five times in the last couple hours; without fresh news, the eyes of viewers will roam.)
For now and for the newly interested, below is a reposting of a primer piece I posted last month. My points concern the war between Saudi Arabia and rebels in the north of Yemen. No attempt to understand Yemen and the future of western efforts to quell violence there are complete without looking at Saudi foreign policy. How long will your attention last?
1. The war between Saudi Arabia and rebels in north Yemen is not a proxy war with Iran. (Yet.)
2. It’s not evidence that Hezbollah is schooling rebels in Yemen. (Not intentionally, at least.)
3. It shouldn’t be seen as an effort to root out “Al Qaeda.” (Riyadh is not D.C.)
Saudi Arabia is a wonderfully bizarre and surprising place. People drink Starbucks here, kids use iPhones, and the information minister has Facebook friends. Geopolitically, the big guys trade words with Tom Friedman and the military has expensive planes and big bombs. And when Saudi goes to war, just like when anyone does, there are refugees.
But the camps that house Saudi refugees, as my wife Kelly McEvers reports this morning on Morning Edition, aren’t what you’d expect. Check out her NPR story. It turns out a Saudi refugee camp has air-conditioned tents, three hot squares, a freshly laid parking lot for residents’ SUVs, and pens for their goats.
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