Tags: saudi | yemen | war | sunni

Saudi Onslaught Heightens Sunni-Shiite Tensions

Sunday, 15 November 2009 09:51 PM

MAZRAQ, YEMEN - Along the jagged, oatmeal-colored mountains of northern Yemen, civil war has transformed the windswept landscape into a canvas of human misery, bolstering al-Qaeda's efforts to create a haven in the Middle East's poorest nation.

It is a war largely hidden from the rest of the world the past five years, and it pits the Hawthi rebels, who are Shiites, against Yemen's government. In recent days, however, it has also drawn in Saudi Arabia. Yemen and Saudi Arabia, both ruled by Sunnis, accuse Shiite Iran of backing the rebels, raising the specter of a proxy war that could elevate sectarian tensions in this oil-rich region.

The fighting could have serious implications for the U.S. anti-terrorism effort in a failing nation where al-Qaeda is gaining strength, Western diplomats and Yemeni analysts say. The war is drawing attention and scarce resources away from efforts to combat poverty, a secessionist movement in the south and piracy along the nation's shores. A prolonged conflict, they say, could further weaken Yemen's government and deepen societal fissures, allowing al-Qaeda militants to thrive.

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Sunday, 15 November 2009 09:51 PM
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