US-Iran thaw spurred Saudi action on Yemen: experts

A Yemeni man stands at his house destroyed by Saudi airstrikes near Sanaa Airport, Yemen, Tuesday, March 31, 2015. (AP Photo/Hani Mohammed)

Wary of a rapprochement between Washington and arch-rival Iran, Saudi Arabia has taken matters into its own hands by leading an air war against Shiite rebels in Yemen, experts say.

The Huthi rebels, who Tehran denies arming, were close to seizing most of Yemen when Saudi Arabia sent warplanes into its southern neighbour, with which it shares a 1,800 kilometre (1,100 mile) border.

“America’s indifference to Saudi concerns and — the other side of that coin, America’s increasing interest in co-opting Iran,” are among the motives behind Riyadh’s action, said Professor Anoush Ehteshami, Iran and Gulf expert at Britain’s Durham University.

The air campaign began last week as marathon talks between Iran and world powers aimed at ensuring Tehran never develops a nuclear bomb entered a crucial phase.

“As the nuclear negotiations proceed, the Saudis become much more nervous about America taking its eye off the Arab world by focusing on Iran,” said Ehteshami…