Regional Politics

When the Saudi ambassador in Washington announced the launching of airstrikes and a military intervention in Yemen on Wednesday night, the kingdom surprised everyone - not least Iran.Conventional wisdom was that Riyadh had dithered and left it too late. The Houthis and elements of the army loyal to the ousted autocrat Ali Abdullah Saleh and his son Ahmed had advanced on the southern city of Aden with such speed that its fall, and that of President Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi, was considered only a matter of time.

Russia is working to expand its footprint in the Middle East, pursuing both diplomatic and commercial advantages. What Moscow is also aiming at is the diversification of relations beyond long-standing partners such as Iran and the Syrian regime. Building up its military presence in Syria to prop up Bashar al-Assad, it has also reached out to the Gulf countries. The Middle East is key to Russia’s bid to gain recognition as one of the pillars of a new multi-polar order, balance the US and assert power in its neighborhood. But such ambitions are still a long way from attainment, while risks originating from the region, from the rise of jihadist militancy to collapsing oil prices, are all too real.

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