According to a report from The New Arab, the leader of the Yemen-based al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has slammed Saudi Arabia for its normalization deal with Iran.
In a video released earlier this week, AQAP head Khalid Batarfi said Riyadh was conceding defeat in Yemen by normalizing with Iran. Batarfi claimed AQAP is the only force left fighting for Sunnis in Yemen against the Houthis, who are Zaydi Shias.
The US-backed Saudi-led coalition in Yemen has fought on the same side as AQAP against the Houthis, and weapons sold to the Saudis and the UAE have ended up in the hands of the terror group in Yemen.
A report from The Associated Press in 2018 found that the Saudi-UAE coalition hired al-Qaeda members to help fight against the Houthis. The AP report said: “Coalition-backed militias actively recruit al-Qaeda militants, or those who were recently members, because they’re considered exceptional fighters.”
Before the Obama administration backed the coalition against the Houthis in March 2015, the US was cooperating with the Houthis against AQAP. In January 2015, The Wall Street Journal reported that the US had “forged ties” with the Houthis as part of a strategy to “maintain its fight against a key branch of al-Qaeda.”
AQAP’s complaints about the Saudi-Iran normalization deal come as a peace deal between Riyadh and the Houthis seem near. The warring sides have been engaged in Omani-mediated talks and recently exchanged thousands of prisoners.