Saudi exit strategy
The Kingdom faces a tough task to extricate itself from the ongoing war in Yemen
Saudi Arabia and the UAE also have another crisis to confront: how to withdraw from the war in Yemen. This bruising conflict began in 2015 with what was supposed to be a brief air campaign to crush an insurrection by the Houthis and their allies. The military miscalculation has led not only to thousands of civilian deaths and injuries, but has left more than 22mn people in need of humanitarian assistance. The war dented Saudi Arabia's international image — even before the fall-out from the killing of the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the kingdom's consulate in Istanbul.
Oman has leveraged its good relations with Iran to attempt to mediate in the conflict — the Houthis enjoy political and material support from the Iranians. But Saudi Arabia has accused Oman of allowing Iranian arms to be smuggled across its border into Yemen, a charge denied by the Omanis. Nevertheless, the Saudis have established a presence in the eastern Yemeni province of al-Mahra, with the declared aim of securing the border area.
Even if current UN-led efforts to end the war in Yemen are successful, the Arab Gulf states — no matter what becomes of the GCC as an institution — will have a major problem on their doorstep. Sorting out the political complexities and competing demands in Yemen, not to mention the long and costly job of reconstruction, are not tasks of which the Gulf countries can easily wash their hands.