Saudis, UAE Hold Talks with Muslim Brotherhood-Linked Party in Yemen

Saudi border guards keep watch along the border with Yemen
AFP/File Fayez Nureldine

Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have engaged in discussions with the Muslim Brotherhood (MB)-affiliated Islah party in Yemen as part of its efforts against Iranian-backed Shiite rebels in the war-ravaged country.

The state-controlled Saudi Press Agency (SPA) revealed that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and his Abu Dhabi counterpart Mohammed bin Zayed received Mohammed al-Yadomi, the head of the influential Brotherhood-linked Yemeni party; the party’s chairman; and secretary general in Riyadh late on Wednesday, reports the Agence France-Presse (AFP) news agency.

SPA reportedly described the meeting as an opportunity to “review the situation in Yemen and efforts to restore security and stability for the Yemeni people.”

The meeting with al-Yadomi “seeks to unite efforts to defeat Iran and its Houthi militias,” declared UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash via Twitter on Thursday, notes Bloomberg.

Yemen’s Islah party recently claimed it was distancing itself from the MB. “We have a chance to test intentions,” added the UAE official.

Saudi Arabia and the UAE have both designated the Brotherhood as a terrorist organization making the discussions rare.

The UAE has even backed MB rivals in Yemen, notes AFP, adding:

But after the failure of an attempted uprising early this month against the rebels by their erstwhile ally former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, the two governments have been forced to review strategy in their nearly three-year-old military intervention.

Saudi Arabia has not cut off all contact with parties linked to the Brotherhood, but the UAE had previously pursued a policy of “zero tolerance” toward Al-Islah, considered close to arch rival Qatar.

The Saudi kingdom has been leading a coalition assisted by the United States against Iran-allied Shiite Houthi rebels in Yemen since March 2015.

Referring to the talks between Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and the Brotherhood affiliate, Bloomberg reports:

Little detail has emerged from the discussions. But the fact that they were held at all may signal the beginning of new realignments in Yemen’s nearly three-year war—which has become part of the broader struggle between Saudi Arabia and Iran for regional influence as well as triggering a humanitarian crisis.

The UAE is part of the Saudi alliance focused on restoring the internationally recognized government of Yemeni President Abdurabuh Mansur Hadi to power.

Despite being in control of Congress and the White House, Republicans have failed in their efforts to officially name the Brotherhood a terrorist organization.

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