Saudi Arabia Touched Little by War

Saudi Arabia has close to 20 million citizens and is leading an offensive against Yemen Houthi rebels who are supported by Iran, an archrival of the Saudis.

Yet if it were not for large propaganda posters and the media run by the state no one would know the country was at war, the same way it is in the U.S. at times with the conflicts in Iraq so far away.

Much of the Saudi Kingdom remains as it always does. One of the reasons is that many citizens in Saudi Arabia already live comfortably with the help of the government and the new king, King Salman ordered an additional month’s salary for all civil servants.

For those who live in poverty overshadowed by the gated wealth in Riyadh the war for the most part is just the business of the royal family.

In the capital of Riyadh, there is a sense of pride for a nation that had come into its own. The war has come during a pivotal period for the Kingdom. King Salman only ascended to the Saudi throne four months ago and put his son to be his successor. With this generational change, starting to take shape the country wants a strong image of itself as the backbone for Arab solidarity and leading Arab nations against the Houthi rebels.

It also wants be part of the defense against Iran, which supports Shiite militias across Iraq and the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria.

The offensive showed how far Saudi Arabia has come since the 1990 first Gulf War when the military of the U.S. defended its borders.

Now Saudi has acquired billions of dollars in military equipment. The country has also emerged unscathed from the Arab Spring unlike Egypt the former regional powerhouse and is now helping to prop up Egypt’s ailing economy. In return, the Egyptians have become a key partner in the battle against the Houthis.

The acceptance of war has to do with the way it is portrayed. In Riyadh, which is deeply religious, the top ultraconservative authorities of religion have passed a fatwa that declared the offensive in Yemen a religious duty, the powerful business class jumped in to support it.

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