Saudi Crown Prince Wants Out Of Yemen War, Leaked Emails Reveal

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By Clayton Swisher and David Hearst; Originally appeared at MiddleEastEye.net

US official says Mohammed bin Salman told him he wants to end conflict, and that he was okay with Washington engaging with arch-foe Iran.

Mohammed bin Salman, the heir to the Saudi throne, confessed to two former US officials he “wants out” of the brutal two-year war he started in Yemen, and added that he was “okay” with Washington engaging with his arch-foe Iran, according to leaked emails obtained by Middle East Eye.

Saudi Crown Prince Wants Out Of Yemen War, Leaked Emails Reveal

FILE PHOTO: Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman attends a graduation ceremony and air show marking the 50th anniversary of the founding of King Faisal Air College in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, January 25, 2017. REUTERS/Faisal Al Nasser/File Photo

The 31-year-old revealed his intentions to Martin Indyk, the former US ambassador to Israel, and Stephen Hadley, a former US national security adviser, at least one month before the kingdom accused Qatar of undermining its campaign in Yemen and colluding with Iran.

More than 10,000 people have been killed and 40,000 injured in the war in Yemen, since bin Salman launched his Decisive Storm campaign to regain the country from Houthi control. Yemen is being ravaged by an outbreak of cholera that has infected 500,000 people.

Two-thirds of its population – more than 18 million people – need humanitarian assistance and more than seven million are suffering from malnutrition.

Details of the meeting were contained in an email thread between Indyk and Yousef Otaiba, the UAE’s ambassador in Washington, which was obtained by the GlobalLeaks campaign group.

Indyk and Otaiba were discussing the Saudi prince’s “pragmatism” and where it deviated from the public positions the kingdom adopts.

At 10.17am on 20 April, Otaiba wrote: “Sometimes foreign ministers have to raise the bar a little higher. And I think MBS is far more pragmatic than what we hear is (sic) Saudi public positions.”

Saudi Crown Prince Wants Out Of Yemen War, Leaked Emails Reveal

By return some 27 minutes later Indyk wrote: “I agree on that. He was quite clear with Steve Hadley and me that he wants out of Yemen and that he is OK with the US engaging Iran as long as it is co-ordinated in advance and the objectives are clear.”

Otaiba replied: “I do not think we will ever see a more pragmatic leader in that country. Which is why engaging with them is so important and will yield the most results we can ever get out of Saudi.”

“We’re doing our best to do that,” said Indyk, who is perhaps better known for a career championing pro-Israel policies rather than Saudi ones.

Emails spanning several years show Otaiba’s apparent high regard for Indyk, who turned to him for a November 2013 meeting with the crown prince of Abu Dhabi, Mohammed bin Zayed, in order to “give him some granularity on the cousins” – a reference to Israel.

Saudi Crown Prince Wants Out Of Yemen War, Leaked Emails Reveal

Newly recruited fighters parade outside the U.S. embassy before they join Houthi rebels in the battles frontline at the border with Saudi Arabia and in other parts of Yemen, in the capital Sanaa, Yemen July 17, 2017. The placards read, “Allah is the greatest. Death to America, death to Israel, a curse on the Jews, victory to Islam”. REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah

Hadi on the ropes

Bin Salman’s doubts about Decisive Storm further undermines the position of the Yemeni president in exile, Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi, in whose name the Saudi-led campaign was launched.

As MEE reported, Hadi has fallen out with bin Zayed, who is backing rival Yemeni forces in control of Aden airport. Hadi accused bin Zayed of acting like an occupier of Yemen. He is currently in Riyadh.

Otaiba’s emails also reveal that as early as April 2015, the Emirates treated the former Yemeni dictator Ali Abdullah Saleh only as a “subversive element” in the Yemen conflict, as opposed to the Houthis, whom they publicly branded a “strategic threat”.

This emerged in a private email exchange with the CIA’s former deputy director, Michael Morell, in which they discussed a recent share of intelligence between the UAE’s foreign minister, Anwar Gargash, and Barbara Leaf, the US ambassador to the UAE.

In a meeting with Leaf, Gargash said their aim was to peel Saleh away from the supporting the Houthis, and encourage divisions within his party, the General People’s Congress (GPC).

According to a summary of the meeting minutes, Gargash “stressed the importance of differentiating between the Houthis as a strategic threat, and Saleh which is basically a ‘subversive element’ that does not impose a strategic threat”.

Gargash highlighted “the importance on working on holding Saleh away from the Houthis as a first step, and eventually supporting divisions in the GPC party and Saleh”.

Leaf, said Saleh, had been “desperately trying to talk to the US and start negotiating”, but the US had no trust in him and thought he was unreliable.

“She further enquired about Saleh’s money in the UAE, noting that in her last meeting with [security official] Ali bin Hamad al-Shamsi she was told that his son was still… in the UAE and not allowed to leave for Yemen.”

Saudi Crown Prince Wants Out Of Yemen War, Leaked Emails Reveal

The UAE wanted to undermine Abdullah Ali Saleh and split him from the Houthi movement (AFP)

Little Sparta’s vaulting ambition

Otaiba is clear in private correspondence about his country’s ambitions to lead the region and the splits emerging within the Gulf Cooperation Council.

In an email exchange with Elliott Abrams, a former US official renowned for neoconservative views on Israel, the ambassador does not demur when Abrams writes: “Jeez, the new hegemon! Emirati imperialism! Well if the US won’t do it, someone has to hold things together for a while.”

Otaiba replies: “Yes, how dare we! In all honesty there was not much of a choice. We stepped up only after your country chose to step down.”

Abrams complains it was “too bad you aren’t getting the help you deserve” from the US, Qatar and Saudi. Otaiba adds: “Or Oman or Turkey.”

Otaiba, however, is brutally clear about who he thinks is in the driving seat, when it comes to the Emirati-Saudi relationship.

To Abrams, Otaiba replies: “I think in the long term we might be a good influence on KSA [Kingdom of Saudi Arabia], at least with certain people there.”

Continuing the exchange Otaiba confides: “Our relationship with them is based on strategic depth, shared interests, and most importantly the hope that we could influence them. Not the other way around.”

Indyk was contacted and presented with the substance of his email exchange with Otaiba. He refused to comment.

Otaiba did not reply to MEE’s request for comment. Hadley said: “I cannot comment on what was a private conversation.”

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  • Richard Noel Hedditch

    The Saudi criminals are now in a war which is gonna lead to the annihilation. No getting out now.

  • Serious

    Why did KSA mlake war against Yemen in first place ?

    Better make allies than ennemies above all if Yemenis are arabs like Saudis.

    Make ally with Iran and get rid of Americans.

    • heydad

      Its not about logic and reasoning that we might enjoy to ponder. It is about pleasing their masters and beneficiaries. The most logical move would be to unite the arab world against foreigners but these Saudis and others sold their people out. The bath party to unite Arabs was undermined from the beginning and has been subverted to become a dying ideology to the westerners benefit. They were able to subdue the east with constant war as to focus on Asia next which has become extremely more powerful since post 9/11. This next theater of war will possibly be the last for humanity, the middle eastern wars will be a cake walk compared to what they have planned next.

  • Serious

    And I don’t khnow what Iran will cooperate with USA now. Iranians have understood that USA is not reliable at all and they will never forget just like Houthis. Shias never forget.

  • I hope this is true.
    Leave Yemen alone. They never did anything to other countries :(
    They only want peace

  • Vtran

    Possible …. But Yemen has NOT DISCUSSED Terms !

    Surely you Rich Saudi’s know YOU just Cannot WALK AWAY … there that small (NOT that Small) in your case of Compensation ,,,,

    And those in Yemen etc DO NOT WANT Worth U$ American Dollars …. but REAL PHYSICAL GOLD !

    I appreciate Saudi that your GOLD may have been Stolen by your “friends” .,,, but Sure you have plenty of Assets / “secrets” that could easily cover the DEBTS for this Year ….

    Next year compensation and subsequent years may be more of a struggle …. but then your “choice” to start a War !!

  • occupybacon

    Who the fuck cares if SAUDIS kill tens of thousands civilians in Yemen, or if behead disabled man for protesting, or don’t allow women to drive or conduct executions over: adultery, treason, gay sex, drug offences, sorcery and witchcraft, and apostasy?? UK&US “Human Rights Activists” will point the fingers ONLY at IRAN.

  • “Two-thirds of its population – more than 18 million people – need humanitarian assistance and more than seven million are suffering from malnutrition.”
    ——————
    And that’s before we mention the DELIBERATE bombing of schools, mosques, hospitals, wedding parties and funerals, and the cholera running rampant through what’s left of the starving population so yes….I’m sure the twot wants to walk away from he’s done and pretend it all has nothing to do with him anymore.

    Why are the emails redacted?

  • “OK with the US engaging Iran”

    What exactly does that mean?
    The US thinks it’s going to tell Iran what it must do – and this it’ll work if the Saudi’s are agredable?

    The US doesn’t negotiate – unless you, like they, consider “you must” is negotiation.

  • Terra Cotta Woolpuller

    This is all a fake communique since there is too much redacted which can change the context in the Emails. One can never trust purposely released Emails with redactions as they are only released for public consumption and lack any real information being conveyed.

  • hvaiallverden

    Few are those that in the late hour, admits His faults, confesses and swears to work for peace, to somehow, thru peace, reconcile with His “enemy’s”, whom after all this years, would be thankful, all tho rightfully angry, peace will turn the table, and everybody wants somewhere to start again.

    Few a they indeed, but any wise one knows that admitting ones fault, ask for forgivnes, is an Mans worth, and I respect that, will hold no groats on whats the past, because if the past isnt removed or dealt with, in respect, it will color the future.
    And to Islam, there is only one Book, based upon and thru the teachings of Muhammad, the last one.
    And please, it was written 1400 years ago, yeah, dont forget that.
    But, for the Arab people, there are again, just one path forward, despite everything, this must prevail and lead and be the future words for the Arabs, United You will stand, divided, we all will fall.

    And again, I give due to those that deserves it, and I know our Lord is merciful and benevolent.
    Blessed be the peace makers, because the shall inherit the earth.

    Its good news, and it opens perspectives where only the sky is the limit.

    Be the light in the world.

    peace

    PS: the last eh..hemmm…. election, where….uh….. there was just One to elect, how, ugh…. practical, just ask the Saudis, where that rat flew, and resides, and the hypocrisy of the west, regarding… “elections” is so far out it hurts, and nobody wants to admit anything.
    My prayers goes to the children of Yemen, an shame, and an slaughter house.