Saudi Arabia recently accused Vladimir Putin of hypocrisy after he sent a letter to the Arab League calling for peaceful “resolution of all problems” in the Middle East.
"We support the Arabs' aspirations for a prosperous future and for the resolution of all the problems the Arab world faces through peaceful means, without any external interference," the Russian president stated in the letter.
However, Putin’ comments triggered outrage from Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal, who said Russia should not advocate peace when it helped Syrian dictator Bashar al Assad bomb his own citizens.
"He speaks about the problems in the Middle East as though Russia is not influencing these problems," the Saudi monarch told the League summit after the letter was read out.
While Prince Saud’s response makes perfect sense, it still cannot be used to justify what his country is currently doing in Yemen. In fact, Saudi Arabia doesn’t have the face to call Putin a hypocrite when it is itself doing what Russia has been doing in Ukraine.
In November 2013, the Moscow-friendly Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych accepted a $15 billion loan from Russia while the opposition wanted to trade and establish closer ties with the European Union. Yanukovych’s decision infuriated all those who wanted to get rid of Russia’s political and financial influence for good.
Though initially peaceful, the anti-Russia protests and demonstrations that followed ultimately led to death and destruction as well as Yanukovych’s ouster – which ultimately gave Putin the opportunity to "intervene."
Initially, Russia moved its troops only into the largely Russian-speaking Ukrainian region of Crimea, where a majority of people reportedly called for Putin to come to their rescue after pro-European protesters forced out pro-Russian president Yanukovych. However, Moscow soon sent its forces into Ukraine where the battle is still ongoing despite a couple of ceasefires.
Coming toward the Middle East, Saudi Arabia despises Shia Islam influence in the same way Russia despises Western influence.
Just like pro-EU Ukrainians wanted to get rid of Moscow’s interference in their country, the Shia Houthi rebels wanted more rights from the Riyadh-friendly Yemeni government and when they failed, they deposed President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi and took over the capital city (sounds similar to Yakunovych’s ouster doesn’t it?)
Saudi Arabia, a monarchy that has a dark history of treating its own Shiite community with hostility, of course couldn’t bear Shia rebels to take control in its neighboring country and so decided to launch a military operation in Yemen at Hadi’s "request" – without any evidence of threat to Saudi sovereignty by the Houthis whatsoever – in the same way Russian troops went into Crimea on the request of Russian-speaking residents.
Although some might find the comparison between the Houthis and Ukrainian protesters a little too extreme, don't forget that the Shia minority was long sidelined by the Sunni government of Yemen.
Through their struggle, the Houthis sought a new constitution that guarantees them a representative political voice, however, Saudi Arabia couldn’t allow that since it cannot have a proxy power of its biggest regional rival Iran near its border.
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The international community has long treated Russia as an aggressor – and perhaps rightly so.
However, the fact that the same international community is comfortable with Saudi Arabia bombing Yemen without solid proof of threat to its soil is just hypocritical on so many levels.