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Saudi Arabia

CrisisWatch Saudi Arabia

Unchanged Situation

Tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran eased partly thanks to third-party intervention by Iraq and Pakistan, and Saudi airstrikes against Huthis in Yemen reduced in intensity and scope. With Riyadh’s blessing, Iraq reportedly engaged Iran to reduce Saudi-Iran tensions. Pakistani PM Khan visited Iran and Saudi Arabia, 13 and 15 Oct respectively, in bid to ease tensions. FM Jubeir 21 Oct denied mediation efforts. Following 14 Sept suspected Iranian attacks on Saudi oil facilities, U.S. 11 Oct announced deployment of 3,000 military personnel and two Patriot missile batteries to Saudi Arabia. Govt 13 Oct denied involvement in 11 Oct attack on Iranian tanker in Red Sea off Saudi coast. Iranian official 31 Oct announced Saudi Arabia had released nineteen Iranian fishermen, eleven detained since Dec 2018, eight since Jan. Following Huthis’ 20 Sept unilateral cessation of cross-border attacks into Saudi Arabia, Saudi airstrikes on Huthi-controlled territory reduced in frequency and geographic scope. Govt continued to mediate talks between Yemeni govt and United Arab Emirates-backed southern separatists in Jeddah and Riyadh; both sides closed in on agreement to form new, more inclusive govt and end hostilities in south (see Yemen). Russian President Putin 14 Oct visited Saudi Arabia for first time in twelve years; he discussed regional security with King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman while trade delegates signed economic agreements worth $2bn.

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Reports & Briefings

Saudi Arabia: Back to Baghdad

Also available in العربية
The Shiite Question in Saudi Arabia

The Shiite Question in Saudi Arabia

Also available in العربية
 Saudi Arabia Backgrounder: Who are the Islamists?

Saudi Arabia Backgrounder: Who are the Islamists?

Also available in العربية
Can Saudi Arabia Reform Itself?

Can Saudi Arabia Reform Itself?

Also available in العربية

In The News

19 May 2019
Riyadh may not want war with Iran, but there are risks to this strategy of rhetorical confrontation. The Wall Street Journal

Elizabeth Dickinson

Senior Analyst, Colombia
22 Nov 2018
Les deux partis au Congrès perdent patience face à la campagne menée par l’Arabie Saoudite au Yémen. Il y a des raisons d’espérer que le Congrès interviendra pour contrer MBS, même si Trump ne le fait pas. L'Orient-le-jour

Stephen Pomper

Senior Director for Policy
17 Oct 2018
Secretary Pompeo was put in an almost impossible situation from the outset: traveling to meet with people [in Saudi Arabia] suspected of having ordered a political assassination at the request of a president determined to sweep the affair under the rug. The New York Times

Robert Malley

President & CEO
10 Oct 2018
Although from a distance the U.S.-Saudi relationship appears rock solid, there are cracks in the foundation. The New York Times

Robert Malley

President & CEO
14 Dec 2017
Most people agree at this point that the Saudis are facing a legitimate security threat and that Iran is part of the problem. By continuing down this road, things will just get worse. The Washington Post

April Longley Alley

Deputy Program Director, Middle East and North Africa
14 Dec 2017
Nobody doubts that Iran has been helping the [Yemeni] Houthis. [But], nobody doubts that Saudi Arabia has been conducting activities that are violations of the rules of war either. The New York Times

Robert Malley

President & CEO

Latest Updates

Taking the U.S. and Iran Off Collision Course

A series of escalations in both word and deed have raised fears of U.S.-Iranian military confrontation, either direct or by proxy. It is urgent that cooler heads prevail – in European capitals as in Tehran and Washington – to head off the threat of a disastrous war.

Saudi Arabia: Back to Baghdad

Saudi Arabia has been forging links to Iraq since reopening its Baghdad embassy in 2016. Its adversary Iran has strong Iraqi ties. If Riyadh avoids antagonising Tehran, invests wisely and quiets anti-Shiite rhetoric, Iraq can be a bridge between the rival powers - not a battleground.

Also available in العربية

Iraq Rebuild can Help Abate Sectarian Tension Across the Region

Iran and Saudi Arabia are actively fighting one another in the media, through armed proxies, in cyberspace and with Western lobbyists. But in Iraq they should both see the case for détente.

Originally published in The Hill

Iraq’s Pre-election Optimism Includes a New Partnership with Saudi Arabia

After the defeat of the Islamic State in 2017, normality is returning to Iraq ahead of the 12 May parliamentary elections. In this Q&A, Crisis Group's Senior Analyst for the Arabian Peninsula Elizabeth Dickinson says the country’s cautious optimism includes hopes of a new partnership with Riyadh, balancing Baghdad’s strong ties with Tehran.