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Saudi Arabia

CrisisWatch Saudi Arabia

Unchanged Situation

Resolution Opportunity

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. 

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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

10 Apr 2020
Implementing a cease-fire [between Saudi Arabia and Yemen] is no small matter, and the first test of this is going to be whether the parties show up for this virtual meeting. New York Times

April Longley Alley

Former Deputy Program Director, Middle East and North Africa
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

Interim Chief of 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

Former 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

Former 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

Former Deputy Program Director, Middle East and North Africa

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.