Veteran Egyptian commentator slams Saudi-led war in Yemen
Mohammad Hassanein Heikal, a veteran Egyptian journalist, has come under fire from several high profile figures in the Gulf for an interview he gave to a Lebanese newspaper on Tuesday, in which he said Saudi Arabia was behaving in "very foolishly" in Yemen.
"Saudi Arabia will sink in the quagmire of Yemen. Yemen will be too much for Saudi Arabia, and it will completely consume it even if it is being very cautious," the 91-year-old told As-Safir.
"Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states are too weak to cause problems over the nuclear deal, they will just complain to America and express disapproval because they consider the deal a stab in the back."
|Saudi Arabia will sink in the quagmire of Yemen. Yemen will be too much for Saudi Arabia, and it will completely consume it even if it is being very cautious
- Mohammad Hassanein Heikal
He also criticised King Salman bin Abd al-Aziz personally, saying that "he is not sufficiently conscious".
The backlash against Heikal came swiftly from several prominent Gulf journalists, political analysts and social media users, who launched the Arabic-language hashtag #HeikalAttacksSaudiArabia.
Emirati professor of political science Abd al-Khaliq Abdallah tweeted: "Heikal can say what he wants about Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states; Saudi Arabia will remain the centre of Arab politics and the UAE a model state in the Arab world."
Abdallah called Heikal a "dinosaur" who still looks down on the Gulf and has a hard time understanding today's reality "that the Gulf is most important part of the Arab world".
Editor-in-chief of the London-based Sharq al-Awsat, Salman al-Dosary, also took to Twitter.
"I wish I hadn't read [Heikal's] books when I was young. He keeps on repeating himself and he hasn't changed his way of thinking," he posted on the microblogging service.
"He is angry because the Gulf states are safe and stable," Dosary added.
Iraqi theologian Sheikh Hussien Muayyid weighed in: "Heikal is well-known for his unfriendliness to Saudi Arabia and his appearance in the media at this time is a failed Iranian attempt to cover up the Houthis' losses."
Saudi Arabia intervened in Yemen's war in March, ostensibly in an effort to stop Houthi rebels from taking Aden, the last city nominally controlled by exiled President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi's government.
Riyadh says it wants to restore Hadi to power in the capital, Sanaa, which the Houthis seized in September.
Almost four months of air raids and civil war have killed at least 3,500 people in Yemen and deepened suffering in the already impoverished nation, especially in Aden which has seen heavy combat.
Heikal was the editor-in-chief of the Egyptian state-run newspaper al-Ahram for 17 years and a former foreign minister of Egypt. It is well known that Heikal is one of the closest journalists and writers to the Egyptian presidency since President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi came to power.
In April, Heikal expressed his anger at Gulf states for launching the military operation in Yemen without waiting for the consent of the Arab League.
"It seems that the urgency of the situation led to forgoing of the plan which included making the intervention a result of the summit, especially that establishing a pan-Arab force was on the top of the meeting agenda," he said.