Analysis - Saudi policy on Yemen and Syria seen floundering

Wed Jul 13, 2011 6:13am GMT

By Andrew Hammond

DUBAI (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia has helped damp down democracy movements sweeping the Arab world but is waiting now to see how events play out in places like Syria and Yemen for fear of overplaying its hand.

After witnessing the sudden collapse of rulers in Egypt and Tunisia this year, the Al Saud family that monopolises power in Saudi Arabia orchestrated Gulf Arab moves to stop the unrest from spreading through the Gulf region.

Saudi, United Arab Emirates and Kuwaiti forces went to Bahrain in March to help crush protests threatening to force the ruling family there to make democratic changes.

They offered money to Oman and Bahrain for more social spending, and Qatar's Al Jazeera TV toned down its hard-hitting Gulf coverage after meetings between Saudi and Qatari officials.

Riyadh was the prime mover behind a Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) proposal to enhance relations with Jordan and Morocco in an apparent effort to boost other Arab dynastic systems. A Saudi official said Jordan was given $400 million (251 million pounds) last month.

In March and April it also brokered a peace deal in Yemen, a republic different in size and social make-up to the GCC countries, that was to see President Ali Abdullah Saleh step down one month after forming a cabinet.

Yet following that flurry of interventions, Saudi diplomacy has largely gone quiet, most notably on two fronts where Riyadh has major interests -- Yemen and Syria. Its response also has been muted in Libya, a more distant concern for Riyadh.

Analysts and diplomats say there are disputes within the ranks of senior princes and officials on whether to take a back seat, intervene more forcefully to stop democratic changes or, in some cases, to back them.   Continued...

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