03/27/2015, 00.00
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Saudis continue raids against Shiite rebels. A religious war, but also a question of power

by Paul Dakiki
The military operation "Firmness Storm " has already caused 39 civilian deaths. Saudi Arabia (Sunni) along with Sudan, Turkey and Pakistan against Iranian influence in the Middle East. Objectives include: to ensure Bab-el-Mandel Strait; undermine the agreement on the Iranian nuclear question. Inter-Arabian military force launched to fight Islamic State terrorists.

Beirut (AsiaNews) - For the second consecutive day Saudi and Arab/ Shiite coalition aircraft bombed rebel positions near Houthi Sana'a and Aden. According to media estimates, operation "Firmness Storm" has already  caused 39 civilian deaths.

Overnight raids hit the Arhab region, north of Sana'a (see photo); others targeted Taez (in the south) and the Al-Anad air base.

Saudi Arabia has been joined by several Gulf monarchies (Saudi, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, not Oman), various Arab countries (Egypt, Jordan, Morocco), Sudan and Turkey. There is also the offer of support from Pakistan. Most of these countries have benefited from Saudi Arabia and have Shiites mong the population, often crushed by the Sunni ruling power.

The impression is that of a conflict between Sunni and Shiite countries, taking into account that the Houthi Shia tribes are accused of being supported by Tehran.

In reality, the real goal of the coalition seems to be to stop the Iranian influence spreading in the Middle East, to rival the Saudi kingdom. In an interview with a US T.V, Adel al-Jubeir, Riyadh ambassador, said that "the Iranians are those who meddle in the affairs of the Arab countries, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and Yemen ... It is clear that they [the Iranians] want to dominate the region".

Instead the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs describes the "military aggression and air strikes against Yemen and its people" as "dangerous" and says that it threatens to "slow down efforts to resolve the crisis by peaceful means".

The conflict also has economic implications: the struggle of the Houthi is close to Aden threatens to close the Strait of Bab-el-Mandel, between Djibouti and Yemen, the entrance to the Red Sea. About 3 million barrels of crude oil pass through it every day and its closure could affect the oil trade of the Arabian peninsula.

Another goal, but one that is never publically admitted to, is to hinder agreement on the Iranian nuclear issue, particularly the dialogue currently  underway in Lausanne. Saudi Arabia has expressed opposition to an agreement between the US and Tehran. Forcing the US to side with the Arab coalition (as is happening), threatens to undermine the long desired agreement from being reached.

Sunni-Shiite tensions and the Saudi-Iranian confrontation, however, are giving greater breathing space to the radical fundamentalists, present in Yemen, Syria and Iraq.

At present there is a silent partnership between Iran and the United States against the Islamic State in Iraq. With the shift of attention and military resources to Yemen, the Islamic State and al Qaeda are basically been given a free hand in the Arabian Peninsula.

Ironically, for some time the Arab countries have debated a joint military force to counter the threat of Islamic terrorism. Now this force – which was officially launched in Cairo yesterday, at the Arab League meeting  - is being used against Iran and not against the terrorists of the Islamic State.

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