Saudi King, CIA chief meet amid Yemen fighting

Saudi Arabia's King Abdallah receives the director of the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), as both countries become more involved in the deadly war in Yemen.

The meeting between King Abdallah Bin Abd Al-Aziz Al Saud and CIA Director Leon E. Panetta took place in Riyadh on Sunday, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

Apparently, King Abdallah also held another meeting on the same day with the Head of Russian Federal Commission of Military and Technical Cooperation Michael Dimitriv.

The report, however, did not include any specific details about the topics that were discussed during the two meetings, simply announcing that there was an exchange of greetings between the king and US President Barack Obama through the CIA director.

The meeting between the Saudi leader and the CIA chief came just days after both the US and Saudi Arabia decided to get more involved in the bloody conflict in northern Yemen, which has killed many and displaced over 175,000 Yemeni Shias.
Early this month, the Saudi Arabian government directly entered the military conflict in Yemen by launching an offensive against northern parts of the country based on the allegation that the Houthi fighters had killed two of its soldiers on the border.

Later, on November 10, the United States signed a top military agreement with the Yemeni government promising to help the armed offensive against the Shia fighters in the north by providing intelligence and training to its forces.

Since then Yemeni and Saudi forces have deployed more troops to the mountainous northern region to intensify their military operation.

The conflict between Sana'a and Houthi fighters first began in 2004, but on August 11 the Yemeni military initiated a new wave of violence by launching a major offensive - dubbed Operation Scorched Earth - on the northern province of Sa'adah.

The government says that the fighters, who are named after their leader Abdul Malik al-Houthi, seek to restore the Shia Zaidi imamate system, which was overthrown in a 1962 coup.

The Houthis, however, argue that they are defending their people's rights against government marginalization policies which they believe have been adopted under pressure from Saudi-backed Wahhabi extremists who consider Shias heretics.

While Riyadh insists that it is targeting Houthi positions on 'Saudi territory', the Shia fighters say Yemeni villages are being targeted with deadly phosphorous bombs, which cause massive injuries among the Shia civilian population.

As the Yemeni government does not allow independent media into the conflict zone, there are no clear estimates available as to how many people have been killed since the beginning of the unrest in 2004 or in the recent wave of violence.

This is while an influx of refugees from the war-ridden province of Sa'adah has the UN refugee agency worried.


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