CrisisWatch is our global conflict tracker, an early warning tool designed to help prevent deadly violence. It keeps decision-makers up-to-date with developments in over 70 conflicts and crises every month, identifying trends and alerting them to risks of escalation and opportunities to advance peace. In addition, CrisisWatch monitors over 50 situations (“standby monitoring”) to offer timely information if developments indicate a drift toward violence or instability. Entries dating back to 2003 provide easily searchable conflict histories.
Saudi Arabia hosted Arab-Islamic diplomatic initiative amid Israel’s onslaught in Gaza, while leaving door open to resume normalisation process with Israel.
Riyadh hosted summit on Gaza, stopping short of concrete steps against Israel. After noticeable absence from humanitarian and diplomatic initiatives, govt 2 Nov launched humanitarian aid campaign for Gaza. Riyadh 11 Nov hosted joint Arab League and Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) summit, which condemned “Israeli aggression” and demanded halting weapons export to Israel; Saudi Arabia reportedly refrained from voting for concrete measures against Israel, including cutting diplomatic and economic ties. Meanwhile, Saudi Minister of Investment Khalid Al-Falih 8 Nov said normalisation with Israel “remains on the table” but depends on peaceful resolution of Palestinian question.
Saudi and Iranian leaders met for first time since restoration of ties in March. In first for Iranian president in eleven years, Iran’s President Raisi 11 Nov met Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman in Riyadh on sidelines of Arab League-OIS summit to discuss bilateral relations and situation in Gaza.
Riyadh criticised Israel following outbreak of war with Hamas, which likely indefinitely postponed Saudi-Israel normalisation process.
Saudi Arabia called for de-escalation in Gaza, condemned Israel. Following outbreak of war between Hamas and Israel on 7 Oct (see Israel-Palestine), Saudi Arabia 7 Oct called for de-escalation and condemned Israel’s “continued occupation, the deprivation of the Palestinian people of their legitimate rights, and the repetition of systematic provocations against its sanctities”. After Israel 13 Oct ordered over 1m Palestinian in northern Gaza to evacuate south, Riyadh 13 Oct affirmed its “categorical rejection of the calls for the forcible displacement”. Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman 15 Oct met U.S. Sec State Antony Blinken in capital Riyadh to discuss conflict; 20 Oct met United Arab Emirates President Mohammed bin Zayed in Riyadh. Meanwhile, sources reported that normalisation efforts with Israel were put on ice, although FM Faisal bin Farhan 24 Oct asserted “the Arabs are serious” about returning to a peace process and U.S. President Biden and Mohammad Bin Salman in call same day agreed to build on “the work that was already under way”.
Saudi and Iranian leaders held phone call. Mohammad Bin Salman 11 Oct spoke directly with Iranian President Raisi for first time since restoration of diplomatic ties in March, stressing kingdom was engaging “with all international and regional parties to halt the ongoing escalation” in Israel-Palestine.
Govt and Israel reportedly inched toward normalisation deal, ambassador to Iran commenced diplomatic duties, and officials hosted Houthi delegation for first time.
Saudi Arabia and Israel signalled progress on possible normalisation deal. First official Israeli delegation 10 Sept arrived in capital Riyadh for UNESCO World Heritage Committee meeting. In first public visit by Israeli cabinet minister, tourism minister 26 Sept arrived in Riyadh to attend UN World Tourism Organization event. In interview with U.S. broadcaster, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman 20 Sept said normalisation with Israel was getting closer “every day”. Israeli FM next day said normalisation deal could be in place “in first quarter of 2024” but U.S. officials cautioned that “there’s some way to travel” before reaching agreement. Amid reported progress, Palestinian delegation 6 and 14 Sept visited Saudi Arabia, requesting measures on Palestinian statehood be included in any deal with Israel. Saudi delegation 26-27 Sept visited occupied West Bank for first time in three decades; first Saudi ambassador to Palestine 26 Sept presented credentials to PA President Abbas (see Israel-Palestine).
Tehran and Riyadh exchanged ambassadors; officials held talks with Houthis. Fulfilling terms of reconciliation deal in March, albeit three months later than planned, Saudi ambassador to Iran and Iranian ambassador to Saudi Arabia 5 Sept commenced official duties in respective capitals. Riyadh 14-19 Sept hosted Houthi delegation and Omani mediators for political talks in first visit by rebels since outbreak of war (see Yemen).
Govt pursued normalisation process with Iran and cracked down on freedom of expression at home.
Iranian-Saudi rapprochement made progress as normalisation with Syria stalled. Iranian FM Hossein Amir-Abdollahian 17 Aug met Saudi counterpart in capital Riyadh, describing relations “on the right track”; Amir-Abdollahian next day met Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) in highest-level talks since March reconciliation. Reports during month indicated Saudi Arabia delayed opening of embassy in Syria, which was reportedly planned for June. Amid talk of U.S. efforts to secure normalisation deal with Israel, Saudi Arabia 12 Aug named its ambassador to Jordan, Nayef al-Sudairi, non-resident envoy to Palestine. Riyadh 5-6 Aug hosted Ukraine “peace summit”. BRICS 24 Aug invited Saudi Arabia alongside other nations, including Iran, United Arab Emirates and Egypt, to join bloc.
Govt continued domestic crackdown. Amid series of arrests of social media personalities, authorities early Aug arrested public health expert and social media influencer, Mohammed Al Hajji, before releasing him on 15 Aug; arrests point to authorities’ attempt to stifle perceived criticism of govt policies. Human Rights Watch 21 Aug alleged Saudi border guards conducted “widespread and systematic” killings of hundreds of Ethiopian migrants between March 2022 and June 2023.
Arabia Tensions with United Arab Emirates (UAE) continued to surface, while govt engaged Iran.
Rising tensions with UAE came to light. The Wall Street Journal 18 July reported that Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman (MBS) during off-record press conference in Dec 2022 said UAE “stabbed us in the back” and that he would “take punitive steps” after sending list of demands to UAE; the news surfaced during period of rising Saudi-UAE economic competition and tensions over key issues, including Yemen and oil policy.
Riyadh continued diplomacy with Iran. Oil minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman 5 July reportedly discussed bilateral relations with Iranian counterpart on sidelines of OPEC conference in Austrian capital Vienna. State media 4 July cited foreign ministry affirming Saudi Arabia and Kuwait’s exclusive claim to Durra gas field in Gulf maritime “Divided Area” and called on Iran to negotiate demarcation of area’s eastern border.
In other important developments. UN human rights experts 7 July called for release of two Saudi women jailed for critical tweets. Saudi Arabia 18 July agreed to purchase Turkish drones in biggest defence contract in Turkish history (see Türkiye).
Reconciliation with Iran continued, while dialogue with Yemen’s Huthis remained stalled and tensions surfaced with United Arab Emirates (UAE).
Iran reopened embassy in Riyadh. Three months after signing China-brokered reconciliation deal, Iran 6 June reopened embassy in Riyadh to end seven-year diplomatic absence. Saudi FM Faisal bin Farhan 17 June visited Iranian capital Tehran and described discussions as “positive and clear”; Saudi embassy in Iran has yet to open. Iranian navy commander 3 June claimed Iran would form naval alliance with India, Pakistan and Gulf states, including Saudi Arabia.
Talks remained deadlocked with Huthis, friction with UAE became visible. Although dialogue with Huthis remained stalled, first direct flight between Yemen and Saudi Arabia since 2016 17 June arrived in Jeddah city and Huthi media 21 June reported Saudi Arabia and Huthis exchanged bodies of fighters (see Yemen). Tensions between Saudi Arabia and UAE behind scenes intensified over differences in approaches to Yemen and Sudan crises, with Riyadh accusing Abu Dhabi of undermining conflict resolution efforts.
In other important developments. Saudi Arabia 4 June announced voluntary unilateral oil production cuts in July. U.S. Sec State Antony Blinken 6-8 June visited Saudi Arabia for meeting with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Riyadh 11-12 June hosted Arab-China business conference.
Kingdom reestablished ties with Syria and welcomed President Assad back into Arab fold, while continuing rapprochement with Iran.
Riyadh resumed relations with Damascus, continued normalisation with Iran. After Arab League 7 May readmitted Syria, Saudi Arabia 9 May announced it would reopen diplomatic mission in Syrian capital Damascus and next day invited Syrian President Assad to Arab League summit in capital Riyadh. Assad 18 May arrived in Jeddah and next day attended Arab League summit after 12-year suspension (see Syria). Meanwhile, Iranian foreign ministry 1 May announced initial diplomatic activities had resumed at Iranian embassy in Riyadh. Iranian FM Hossein Amir-Abdollahian 10 May said Saudi Arabia previous day named new ambas-sador to Tehran and Iran would appoint ambassador to Riyadh “soon”, as 10 May deadline passed without officially reopening embassies and appointing ambassadors. Iranian finance minister 11 May led economic delegation to Jeddah in first visit by Iranian official since March agreement to resume ties. Saudi Arabia and Canada 24 May agreed to restore full diplomatic relations after five years.
In other important developments. Negotiations with Huthis in Yemen stalled (see Yemen). Jeddah hosted joint U.S.-Saudi-led talks beginning 6 May between Sudan’s warring parties (see Sudan). In sign of improving ties, U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan 7 May met Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman in Jeddah to discuss “strategic relations” and “significant progress” in Yemen war. Amnesty International 16 May said number of executions in Saudi Arabia in 2022 was highest recorded in 30 years.
Riyadh continued normalisation process with Iran, intensified engagement with Syria and maintained peace efforts in Yemen.
Saudi-Iranian rapprochement progressed and Riyadh stepped up engagement with Damascus. Following breakthrough deal in March, Saudi and Iranian FMs 6 April met in Chinese capital Beijing for first bilateral meeting in seven years. Saudi Arabia 8 April and Iran 12 April sent delegations to prepare opening of respective embassies by May deadline (see Iran). Meanwhile, Saudi FM Faisal bin Farhan 12 April met Syrian counterpart in Jeddah and next day announced steps toward reopening embassies and resuming flights. Saudi Arabia 15 April hosted Gulf Cooperation Council, Egyptian, Iraqi and Jordanian FMs in Jeddah to discuss potential Syrian attendance at Arab League summit in May, without reaching agreement. In first visit since beginning of Syrian conflict, Saudi FM 18 April met Syrian President Assad in Damascus (see Syria).
Riyadh continued peace efforts in Yemen, U.S.-Saudi ties displayed strains. Riyadh 8 April sent first delegation to Yemen since start of military intervention in 2015 and mid-month participated in prisoner swap, as negotiations appeared to make progress (see Yemen). Saudi Arabia and other OPEC+ members 2 April announced further cuts in oil production, against U.S. wishes; CIA chief William Burns early April travelled to Saudi Arabia to meet Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman and intelligence officials to reportedly express that U.S. was “blindsided” by Saudi decisions to resume ties with Iran and Syria.
In breakthrough China-brokered agreement, Riyadh and Tehran agreed to restore diplomatic relations after seven years of severed ties.
Saudi Arabia and Iran announced deal to reinstate diplomatic relations. After China 6-10 March hosted secret Saudi-Iranian talks in its capital Beijing, parties 10 March issued joint statement outlining plan to resume diplomatic relations and reopening of embassies within two months; while details of agreement remained unclear, it could mark constructive shift in de-escalating regional tensions among Gulf rivals and signals Riyadh’s desire to diversify global relationships as China’s regional clout grows (see Iran). Iranian official 19 March said King Salman invited Iranian President Raisi to country, while Iranian FM Amirabdollahian same day said he would meet Saudi counterpart “in the near future”.
Riyadh signalled openness to normalisation with Syria. FM Prince Faisal bin Farhan 7 March said engagement with Damascus was necessary to address Syria’s humanitarian crisis; United Arab Emirates 19 March hosted Syrian President Assad for second time since March 2022. Saudi media 23 March reported Riyadh was in talks with Damascus to reestablish consular relations.
Riyadh hosted meeting between U.S. and Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), while media spat pointed to tensions with Egypt.
U.S. and GCC held meeting on counter-terrorism and security cooperation. U.S.-GCC working group 13-16 Feb held meeting in capital Riyadh that had been postponed in Oct 2022 following U.S.-Saudi tensions over oil production. Joint statement following meeting focused on threats of Islamic State (ISIS), Iran and Iran-aligned groups, while reaffirming “that diplomacy remains the preferred way to address Iran’s destabilizing policies.” Earlier, FM Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud 2 Feb visited Iraq and discussed Gulf-Iraq electricity connectivity, oil policy and regional security dialogue (see Iraq). FM Al-Saud 18 Feb reaffirmed need for new approach to Syria and dialogue with Syrian President Assad for humanitarian reasons, following deadly earthquake (see Syria).
Saudi-Egyptian media spat broke out. Saudi and Egyptian media pundits engaged in tit-for-tat verbal criticisms over deterioration of Egypt’s economy and Saudi Arabia’s decision to apply stricter conditions on lending money (see Egypt); Egyptian President al-Sisi 9 Feb denied conflict with Saudi Arabia. Spats surfaced after Saudi Arabia’s finance minister in Jan described kingdom’s new approach to providing aid to allies, moving from “direct grants and deposits without strings attached” to “working with multilateral institutions to actually say we need to see reforms”; another source of tension relates to delayed transfer of Sanafir and Tiran islands in Red Sea from Egyptian to Saudi control per 2016 deal.
Saudi Arabia explored return to dialogue with Iran and continued backchannel talks with Yemen’s Huthis.
Saudi and Iranian officials signalled openness for dialogue. After Saudi FM Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud and Iranian FM Amir-Abdollahian met in Dec at Baghdad Conference in Jordan, marking their first meeting for several years, Saudi FM 2 Jan met with Iran’s VP for Parliamentary Affairs Mohammad Hosseini on sidelines of Brazil’s presidential inauguration. Amir-Abdollahian 13 Jan expressed hope for restoration of diplomatic relations with Saudi Arabia and stated both sides had reached agreement at last month’s summit to resume bilateral talks. Saudi FM Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud 17 Jan confirmed Riyadh was exploring avenues for dialogue with Iran.
Riyadh continued backchannel talks with Huthis. Saudi officials continued back-channel talks with Huthis to reinstate truce in Yemen, as tensions arose between Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates over influence in Yemen’s Hadramawt province (see Yemen).
Chinese President Xi visited Riyadh, and high-level Saudi and Iranian officials met on sidelines of regional conference.
Riyadh strengthened ties with Beijing. In his first trip since 2016, Chinese President Xi 7-9 Dec visited capital Riyadh for Saudi-China summit, China-Arab states summit and China-Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) summit; during visit, Saudi and Chinese companies signed agreements in sectors including green energy, technology and manufacturing, reflecting Saudi desire to diversify economic engagement with China. Xi 9 Dec vowed to import more oil and gas urging use of Chinese yuan in oil trade. Saudi-China and GCC-China joint statements highlighted political alignment on regional issues, including Iran’s nuclear program.
Saudi and Iranian FMs met in Jordan. FM Faisal bin Farhan 20 Dec attended second Baghdad Conference in Jordanian capital Amman aimed at enhancing regional dialogue on challenges facing Iraq, which was attended by regional and international officials including from Iran; Iranian FM Hossein Amir Abdolla-hian 21 Dec tweeted that he had met Saudi FM previous day on sidelines of conference, in positive signal for multilateral regional dialogue efforts. In Yemen, govt continued back-channel efforts to restore truce but with little sign of breakthrough (see Yemen).
Tensions surfaced with Iran as Riyadh anticipated potential attacks, while govt and Huthis held back-channel talks.
Riyadh warned of imminent Iranian attacks. Media reports 1 Nov reported that U.S. officials had said Saudi Arabia shared intelligence suggesting imminent Iranian attack on kingdom and Iraq’s Kurdistan region, prompting Saudi and U.S. militaries to go on high alert; Iran’s foreign ministry next day said claims were “baseless”. Iranian intelligence minister 9 Nov warned Tehran’s “strategic patience” could run out and threatened “glass palaces will crumble” if Iran decides to retaliate. U.S. 11 Nov announced two B-52H bombers flew over region to demonstrate “commitment to regional security”, as Israel said two of its fighter jets accompanied bombers on exercise.
Govt held back-channel talks with Huthis, amid sign of improved intra-Gulf ties. Govt and Huthis held back-channel talks following Yemen truce’s expiry in Oct and amid Huthi attacks and threats of escalation (see Yemen). FIFA World Cup in Qatar 20 Nov commenced; alongside other Gulf leaders, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman attended opening ceremony, in sign of slow but steady intra-Gulf reconciliation process after Al-Ula agreement officially ended intra-Gulf rift in Jan 2021. Meanwhile, U.S. govt 17 Nov spoke out in support of Crown Prince and PM Mohammed bin Salman’s claim to sovereign immunity in lawsuit over murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018.
Saudi-U.S. relationship faced strains following decision to cut oil production.
Oil cuts fuelled tensions with U.S. Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and allies (OPEC+) 5 Oct agreed to 2mn barrel cut in daily oil production, sparking heavy criticism from U.S., which perceives higher oil prices as helping Russia mitigate impact of Western sanctions. Chairman of U.S. Foreign Relations Committee 10 Oct called for freezing all cooperation with Riyadh; U.S. President Biden next day vowed “consequences” for U.S.-Saudi relations, as media reported U.S. cancelled U.S.-Gulf Cooperation Council Working Group on Iran meeting scheduled 17 Oct; Riyadh 13 Oct maintained move was based only “on economic considerations”. Meanwhile, Court 3 Oct reportedly sentenced U.S.-Saudi dual citizen Saad Ibrahim Almadi to 16 years in prison for tweets criticising govt.
After Yemen’s truce lapsed, Riyadh continued engagement with Yemen’s govt and met Huthis. As April truce expired without parties committing to extension, Huthis 2 Oct threatened to target oil companies operating in Saudi Arabia; Saudi officials discussed truce renewal with Yemeni officials and potential prisoner swap with Huthis (see Yemen).
Authorities voiced support for efforts to extend Yemen truce; amid global energy crisis, Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and allies (OPEC+) cut oil production.Saudi Arabia welcomed efforts to renew Yemen truce. Ahead of UN-brokered truce in Yemen’s expiry on 2 Oct (see Yemen), FM Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud 24 Sept said: “We think it must be extended, however, the signs are not positive” and accused Huthis of not meeting their obligations under truce.Amid global energy crisis, OPEC+ cut oil production. OPEC+ 5 Sept announced cutting oil production by 100,000 barrels per day, prompting around 3% rise in oil prices; moves follows initial announcement in Aug to increase production following U.S. pressure to do so. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman 13 Sept met European Council President Charles Michel and 24 Sept met German Chancellor Olaf Scholz to discuss deepening energy partnership. FM Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud 4 Sept met Egyptian President al-Sisi in Egyptian capital Cairo, amid wider efforts by Gulf states to bolster Egyptian economy.Riyadh pursued regional and international engagement, notably on security issues. Riyadh 7 Sept hosted Gulf Cooperation Council ministerial meeting on strategic dialogue with Central Asian countries in which ministers outlined plans to enhance security, economic and political ties. In positive sign of ongoing intra-Gulf Cooperation Council reconciliation efforts, army chief of staff of 8 Sept undertook official state visit in Qatar to expand military and defence cooperation.
Govt welcomed truce extension in Yemen. Riyadh 3 Aug welcomed truce extension in Yemen, saying deal “primarily aims to reach a permanent and comprehensive ceasefire” (see Yemen). Terrorism suspect wanted in connection with 2015 bombing of Mosque in Abha city 10 Aug detonated explosive belt in Jeddah city as security forces attempted to arrest him, killing himself and injuring four. U.S. State Dept 2 Aug approved potential sale of Patriot missiles in $3bn arms deal. Saudi and U.S. 9 Aug announced joint military drills “Native Fury 22” in Yanbu and al-Kharj governorates for eighth time beginning mid-month. In effort to quash domestic dissent, court 15 Aug sentenced women’s rights activist Salma al-Shehab to 34 years in prison for tweets critical of govt; U.S. 22 Aug raised “significant concerns” over sentencing. Iranian foreign ministry 5 Aug issued public statement demanding release of Iranian national detained by Saudi Arabia during hajj pilgrimage.
U.S. President Biden attended multilateral summit in Jeddah, while govt announced minor confidence-building measures with Israel. U.S. President Biden 15-16 July visited Saudi Arabia to attend bilateral U.S.-Saudi meeting and Gulf Cooperation Council+3 (Iraq, Egypt and Jordan) summit in Jeddah city; Biden 15 July met King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. In small confidence-building steps, Saudi Arabia 15 July opened airspace to all air carriers, including flights to and from Israel; U.S. same day announced deal to remove multinational peacekeeping mission from disputed Red Sea island Tiran by end of year, indicating Saudi recognition of Israel’s maritime access to Red Sea.
Warring parties extended truce in Yemen and U.S. President Biden announced visit to Jeddah port city in July. Saudi-led coalition and Huthis refrained from cross-border attacks after warring parties in Yemen 2 June renewed April truce for two more months (see Yemen). News 13 June surfaced that Oman facilitated talks in May on border security between govt and Huthis. U.S. White House 14 June confirmed U.S. President Biden will visit Saudi Arabia in July as part of first Middle East trip of his presidency; Biden is expected to meet King Salman and, informally, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. In sign of warming ties with Türkiye, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman 22 June visited Turkish capital Ankara to meet President Erdoğan, in first visit to country since killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018. Iranian foreign ministry 27 June said Riyadh wanted to resume talks with Iran; fifth round of talks were held in April. After months of resisting U.S. and European pressure to increase oil production, OPEC+ 2 June announced it would raise output by 648,000 barrels per day in July and August 2022.
Coalition and Huthis refrained from cross-border attacks as April truce largely held. Cross-border Huthi attacks and coalition airstrikes remained halted after April truce (see Yemen). Vice Minister of Defence Khalid bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud 17 May met U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan during which latter reaffirmed U.S. commitment to help Riyadh defend its territory. U.S. Sec State Antony Blinken 30 May held phone call with Saudi FM Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud to discuss efforts to prolong truce in Yemen. Despite pressure from U.S. and Europe to increase oil production, OPEC+ 5 May decided to maintain planned production levels. Financial Times 22 May quoted Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman, signalling support for Russia as member of OPEC+. Meanwhile, following fifth round of talks in April after seven-month hiatus, Iranian FM 17 May dismissed Iranian lawmakers’ statement that he would soon meet Saudi counterpart saying “no new developments” had occurred since April talks, while FM Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al-Saud 24 May said “some progress but not enough” had been made in talks with Iran.
Saudi-led coalition and Huthis in Yemen halted cross-border attacks, while Riyadh and Iran resumed talks in Iraq. Huthis halted cross-border attacks into kingdom and Saudi-led coalition stopped airstrikes following 1 April truce between warring parties in Yemen (see Yemen). Iranian Foreign Ministry 4 April reportedly said Iran was ready to resume talks with Saudi Arabia after Iran suspended them in March; fifth round of talks was held 21 April in Iraqi capital Baghdad, making it first time dialogue took place since Sept 2021. Iraqi PM al-Khadimi in interview 30 April expressed optimism for Saudi-Iran ties, saying: “We are convinced that reconciliation is near”. Saudi Arabia 7 April announced it would send ambassador back to Lebanon after Oct 2021 diplomatic spat (see Lebanon). Turkey 8 April announced it would move trial for 2018 murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi to Saudi Arabia, effectively ending probe; Turkish President Erdoğan 28 April visited Saudi Arabia to meet Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman.
Huthis launched cross-border attacks targeting oil infrastructure, while Iran suspended talks with Riyadh following mass execution in kingdom. State media throughout month reported alleged Huthi’s cross-border attacks; notably, drone 10 March struck Saudi Aramco refinery in capital Riyadh; Huthis next day claimed attack and said they also targeted southern Jizan and Abha cities. Huthis 19-20 March launched barrage of drone and missile attacks, including on energy and water desalination facilities in Al-Shaqeeq city, Jizan province, Yanbu city, Al Madinah province, Dhahran al-Janub governorate and Khamis Mushait city in ‘Asir province, and Jeddah city in Mecca province. In response to Huthi-launched drone strikes hitting Kingdom’s Aramco facilities in Riyadh and Jeddah among other oil and gas sites, Saudi Arabia 26 March launched string of retaliatory attacks targeting Sanaa and Hodeida cities (see Yemen). In largest mass execution in decades, kingdom 12 March executed 81 people – half of whom were Shias – on number of charges including murder and terrorism; Iran next day condemned executions as “violation of basic human rights principles and international law”. Iraqi Foreign Ministry 12 March announced fifth round of Iran-Saudi Arabia talks due to be hosted in Iraqi capital Baghdad following week; however, Iran next day suspended talks without specifying reasons. Amid global surge in oil prices, Saudi Arabia mid-March refused to break commitment to OPEC+ deal with countries, including Russia, despite U.S. and UK pressure aimed at persuading Riyadh to increase oil production.
Cross-border Huthi attacks injured dozens, while Tehran and Riyadh reaffirmed intention to hold fifth round of direct negotiations. Saudi air defence 10 Feb intercepted explosive-laden Huthi drone targeting Abha airport in ‘Asir province, injuring at least 12 people. Saudi-led coalition 21 Feb destroyed drone allegedly fired from Yemeni capital Sanaa targeting King Abdallah airport in southern Jizan city; shrapnel injured 16 civilians. In response, Saudi-led coalition throughout month carried out airstrikes in Yemen (see Yemen). Meanwhile, Iranian President Raisi 5 Feb reportedly said Tehran was ready for negotiations with Saudi Arabia if Riyadh was willing to maintain “atmosphere of mutual understanding and respect”; FM Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud 19 Feb said kingdom was planning fifth round of direct talks with Iran. During phone call to King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, U.S. President Biden 9 Feb reaffirmed “commitment to support” kingdom against Huthi attacks.
Tit-for-tat cross-border attacks with Huthis continued, while Riyadh eased tensions with Qatar and Iran. Saudi-led coalition throughout month intercepted Huthi drones and ballistic missiles targeting southern kingdom including Najran city, Dhahran Al-Janoub governorate, Uhud Al-Masraha governorate, Khamis Mushait city, Taif city; notably, missile 23 Jan injured two foreign residents in Jazan. Coalition intensified air strikes on Huthi targets in Yemen (see Yemen). Saudi Arabia and Qatar 7 Jan halted dispute at World Trade Organization over Saudi Arabia-based television channel’s alleged theft of sports content broadcast by Qatari state-run channel. Three Iranian diplomats 17 Jan arrived in Saudi Arabia to reopen office at Organisation of Islamic Cooperation in Jeddah port city for first time since 2016; Iranian FM spokesperson same day said Iran was ready to reopen embassy in Saudi Arabia depending on “practical efforts” by latter. Meanwhile, govt critic Princess Basmah bint Saud 6 Jan returned home to Jeddah after being imprisoned in state prison without charges since March 2019.
Tit-for-tat cross-border attacks between Huthis and Saudi-led coalition ran high. Saudi-led coalition throughout month intercepted increased number of Huthi drones and ballistic missiles; notably, 6 Dec caught ballistic missile over capital Riyadh; in response, coalition pledged to “strike with an iron fist” and 7 Dec bombed military targets in Yemeni capital Sanaa. Huthis 7 Dec claimed they fired 25 drones and several ballistic missiles across border, including at Saudi Aramco facilities in Jeddah city; 15 Dec announced firing ballistic missiles targeting King Khalid airbase in ‘Asir province and targets in Jizan province; coalition same day confirmed interception of two ballistic missiles targeting Abha city in ‘Asir province, which Saudi Press Agency said caused damage in Ahad Al-Masariyah indus-trial area in Jizan province. Coalition 19, 20, 23 Dec destroyed drones targeting King Abdullah airport in Jizan province, Abha International Airport and Khamis Mushait in ‘Asir province. Alleged Huthi projectile 24 Dec killed two and injured seven in Jizan city while another missile hit Najran city. Saudi-led coalition throughout month carried out near daily airstrikes on targets in Yemen, including on Yemeni capital Sanaa (see Yemen). Meanwhile, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman 6 Dec began tour of Gulf states and 8 Dec met Qatari leader Sheikh Tamim bin Hamed al-Thani in Qatari capital Doha in first visit since 2017-2021 blockade of Qatar.
Cross-border Huthi drone attacks continued throughout month. Saudi-led coalition announced destruction of alleged Huthi drones and ballistic missiles targeting Khamis Mushait and Abha airport in ‘Asir province, Jazan in Jizan province and Najran airport in Najran province throughout month. Huthis 20 Nov claimed they fired 14 drones at military targets in Riyadh, Jeddah, Abha, Jizan and Najran cities and Saudi Aramco facilities in Jeddah; Saudi-led coalition responded by striking targets in Yemen’s Sanaa, Saada and Marib provinces (see Yemen). U.S. Biden administration 4 Nov announced second arms deal since taking office with govt, specifically $650 mn of air-to-air missiles. U.S. Special Envoy for Yemen Tim Lenderking 16 Nov travelled to capital Riyadh to discuss peace process in Yemen.
Cross-border Huthi attacks injured airport workers in Jazan and ‘Asir provinces. Saudi-led coalition intercepted alleged Huthi drones and ballistic missiles targeting Jazan, ‘Asir and Najran provinces throughout month. Notably, coalition 6 Oct intercepted drone targeting Abha international airport in ‘Asir, with drone debris leaving four workers slightly injured. Drone 8 Oct targeting King Abdullah airport, Jazan, also left ten injured, including three Bangladeshi and one Sudanese nationals. Amid ongoing de-escalatory talks with Tehran, Financial Times 15 Oct reported FM Prince Faisal bin Farhan al-Saud said kingdom was “serious” about Iran talks, describing them as “cordial”; Saudi officials also reportedly said they are considering Iranian request to open consulate in Jeddah town despite Riyadh’s stance that not enough progress has been made to reopen Saudi consulates in Iran. FM al-Saud 14 Oct met U.S. Sec State Antony Blinken in U.S. capital Washington; same day met U.S. Special Envoy for Iran Robert Malley.
Huthis continued cross-border attacks, while minister of interior visited Qatar’s capital Doha and talks continued with Iran. Saudi-led coalition reported interception of Huthi drones and ballistic missiles targeting various provinces, notably on 2, 4, 9, 11, 15, 16, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26 Sept. Notably, Saudi-led coalition 1 Sept intercepted three Huthi drones over Yemeni airspace and 20 Sept announced destruction of two explosive-laden Huthi boats in Red Sea. Saudi air defences 4 Sept intercepted Huthi ballistic missile and eight drones over Dammam city targeting Saudi Aramco facilities at Ras Tanura (Eastern province), leaving two minors injured. In sign of continued improvement of relations, Minister of Interior Prince Abdulaziz bin Saud bin Nayef 4 Sept arrived in Doha on state visit and 6 Sept met Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani to discuss bilateral relations and security cooperation. Meanwhile, Saudi officials 21 Sept reportedly met Iranian FM Amirabdollahian and other Arab and European officials on sidelines of UN General Assembly in New York. King Salman 23 Sept expressed hopes for direct talks with Iran in pre-recorded speech delivered at General Assembly. Media reports citing Iraqi officials 27 Sept indicated that Iranian and Saudi officials had met in Iraq’s capital Baghdad for fourth round of bilateral talks, first since presidential transition in Iran’s capital Tehran. U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan 27 Sept travelled to Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates with U.S. Special Envoy for Yemen Tim Lenderking to meet Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in effort to push for ceasefire in Yemen.
Huthis continued cross-border attacks and anti-corruption authorities arrested hundreds of officials. Saudi-led coalition reported interception of Huthi drones/missiles targeting Khamis Mushait city on 4, 13, 22, 24, 27, 28, 29 and 30 Aug. Notably, authorities said Huthi drone attack 30 Aug targeted Abha airport, injuring at least eight people; coalition same day announced retaliatory attacks in Yemen’s capital Sanaa. Anti-Corruption Commission 9 Aug announced July-Aug arrest of 207 current and former govt officials accused of bribery, abuse of power, and forgery in anti-graft crackdown spearheaded by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia reportedly terminated contracts of hundreds of Yemeni white-collar workers without official justification, raising prospect of potentially severe impact on remittances. Qatar 11 Aug appointed first ambassador to Saudi Arabia since intra-Gulf dispute erupted in 2017.
Huthis continued cross-border attacks and tensions surfaced between Riyadh and United Arab Emirates (UAE) over oil production dispute. On southern border, Saudi-led coalition announced interceptions of Huthi drones and missiles on 2, 3, 24, 25, 27, 28, 30 and 31 July (see Yemen). Saudi Arabia and UAE clashed in public spat over OPEC+ agreement to cut oil production beyond April 2022, with UAE pushing for higher baseline production level; sides 18 July reached compromise and UAE Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed next day visited Saudi counterpart Mohammed bin Salman, ending standoff and cooling tensions. Earlier in month, Riyadh 2 July imposed 3%-15% tax on products produced by Gulf Cooperation Council-based companies whose workforce does not include 10%-25% of nationals from country in which companies are based, in move seen as challenge to UAE’s free trade zones. Riyadh 3 July shuttered flights to and from UAE, citing COVID-19 concerns. Meanwhile, Saudi Deputy Defence Minister Khaled bin Salman 6-7 July visited U.S. capital Washington to meet U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan and U.S. Sec State Anthony Blinken; topics reportedly included U.S.-Saudi partnership, Yemen and Iran.
Huthis continued cross-border attacks. Saudi-led coalition 6, 10, 14, 17, 20 June claimed it intercepted explosive-laden Huthi drones targeting city of Khamis Mushait. Alleged Huthi drone 13 June fell on school in Aseer province, no casualties. Huthis next day said they launched drone at Abha airport. Saudi air defences 19 June intercepted 17 Huthi drones launched toward kingdom. Saudi-led coalition 23 June announced destruction of four Huthi drones targeting Saudi territory. Huthis 25 June claimed to have targeted King Khalid air base in Khamis Mushait with drone. Huthis 27 June announced launch of five ballistic missile and five drones at multiple targets. Meanwhile, U.S. Sec Def Lloyd Austin 2 June reportedly informed Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of U.S. administration’s decision to withdraw anti-missile systems from Saudi Arabia; Saudi officials 21 June said this does not affect kingdom’s capacity to defend itself.
Huthis launched series of cross-border attacks, including on Saudi oil company sites; meanwhile, Saudi-Iran talks on ways to deescalate regional tensions continued. Huthis conducted numerous attacks throughout month. Notably, Saudi-led coalition 9 May said it intercepted explosive-laden drone headed toward Saudi city, Khamis Mushait; next day said it thwarted Huthi boat attack south of Red Sea. Huthis 13 May said they launched from Yemen 12 ballistic missiles and drones at numerous targets, including sites of Saudi oil company Aramco on Saudi territory. Saudi-led coalition 24 May discovered and destroyed marine mine south of Red Sea and same day downed two Huthi drones in northern Yemen. Huthis 31 May claimed they struck air base in Khamis Mushait with drone. Meanwhile, following April talks with Iranian officials in Iraqi capital Baghdad, senior Saudi diplomat 7 May indicated discussions “aim to explore ways to reduce tensions in the region”, but cautioned that “it is too early, and premature, to reach any definitive conclusions”; Iranian foreign ministry 31 May said talks with Saudi Arabia are continuing, aimed at reaching “common understanding”.
While Huthis continued cross-border attacks, Saudi and Iranian officials began dialogue to de-escalate inter-state tensions, raising prospect of deepening talks in coming weeks. In positive step forward, senior Saudi and Iranian officials 9 April held direct diplomatic talks in Iraqi capital Baghdad, facilitated by Iraqi PM Mustafa al-Kadhimi; talks, which showed signs of progress, focused on Huthi cross-border missile and drone attacks on Saudi Arabia, frequency of which has increased in recent months. Meanwhile, Huthis 12 April said they launched drones and ballistic missiles at Aramco facilities in Jubail and Jeddah cities; 15 April launched ballistic missiles and armed drones at Aramco oil facility and Patriot missile batteries in Jizan port city, with debris falling from intercepted drones causing fire on Jizan University campus. Saudi coalition 16 April announced that it intercepted ballistic missile launched by Huthis toward Jizan city. Huthis 17 April also claimed responsibility for explosive drone strike on King Khalid air base, Khamis Mushait city. Saudi-led coalition 18 April announced that it intercepted bomb-laden drone before it crossed into Saudi territory; Huthis same day said they successfully launched drone attack inside King Khalid air base. Saudi-led coalition 20 April destroyed explosive drone fired toward Khamis Mushait. Huthis 23 April claimed attack on King Khalid air base. Saudi defence ministry 27 April said it destroyed remotely controlled explosive-laden boat off Red Sea port city Yanbu, home to Aramco oil refinery.
Huthis continued cross-border attacks on Saudi soil from Yemen. Yemen’s Huthi movement launched series of attacks throughout month. Saudi-led coalition 6 March said it intercepted seven drones launched toward southern town of Khamis Mushayt that hosts major Saudi airbase and one toward Jizan city; 7 March said it intercepted ten drones, including one targeting oil storage yard at Ras Tanura city, and launched airstrikes towards Huthi military targets in Yemen’s capital Sanaa – first strikes on city since beginning of year. Huthis 19 March targeted state-controlled Saudi Aramco oil refinery in capital Riyadh, causing fire. Saudi forces 20 March say they intercepted drone targeting Khamis Mushayt and in response struck Huthi military targets in Sanaa next day. Following Saudi ceasefire proposal 22 March, which Huthis dismissed as “nothing new” (see Yemen), Huthis same day targeted Abha International Airport in south west. Saudi-led coalition 25 March said it intercepted attacks targeting universities in Najran and Jizan cities and destroyed six armed drones; same day announced Huthi projectile had struck fuel tank in Jizan. Huthis 26 March said they targeted Saudi Aramco facilities in Ras al-Tanura, Rabigh, Yanbu and Jizan cities as well as King Abdelaziz military base in Damman and military sites in Najran and Air, vowing to “carry out stronger and harsher military attacks in coming period”. Saudi coalition 28 March claimed it destroyed two explosive-laden boats Huthis allegedly planned to use in “imminent” attack and three drones; 30 March destroyed two additional drones.
Huthis launched cross-border attacks while U.S. sanctioned senior officials for 2018 murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Yemen’s Huthis launched series of attacks throughout Feb. Notably, armed group 10, 13 Feb targeted Abha International Airport in south west and 11 Feb launched drone attack on southern town of Khamis Mushayt that hosts major Saudi airbase. Saudi-led coalition 14 Feb said it intercepted two Huthi drones targeting Abha airport. Huthis next day claimed they struck Jeddah and Abha airports. Saudi forces said they intercepted two Huthi drones targeting Abha airport 16 Feb, and two Huthi drones targeting Khamis Mushait 18 Feb. Huthis 28 Feb announced they targeted capital Riyadh with missiles and drones, while threatening to continue attacks. Reports late Feb indicated 23 Jan drone attack on Yamama Palace in Riyadh was launched from Iraqi territory. Declassified U.S. intelligence report 26 Feb concluded that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman approved operation that led to 2018 murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Turkey; U.S. State and Treasury Departments same day announced sanctions on alleged Saudi perpetrators – sanctions, however, did not include Mohammed bin Salman.
Country signed reconciliation deal to end three-and-a-half-year intra-Gulf dispute. Saudi Arabia along with United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain agreed to reopen their land, air and sea borders with Qatar after all four states and Egypt 5 Jan signed al-Ula Declaration at Gulf Cooperation Council summit in capital Riyadh; agreement ends three-and-a-half-year blockade of Doha by three neighbouring states and Egypt who cut ties with Qatar in July 2017. Huthis 17 Jan reportedly launched projectile into Saudi Arabia that hit village in southern Jazan region, injuring three civilians. Saudi forces 23 Jan reportedly intercepted “hostile air target” over Riyadh that was attributed to Yemen’s Huthi movement but claimed by formerly unknown Iraqi group al-Wa'ada al-Haq Brigades (The Righteous Promise). U.S. 26 Jan announced temporary pause on arms sales to Saudi Arabia and UAE; U.S. Sec State Anthony Blinken same day said administration wanted to ensure proposed sales “advances our strategic objectives”. Italy 29 Jan halted “export of missiles and bombs” to Riyadh and UAE, saying “respect for human rights is an unbreakable commitment.”