Saudi Concerns: Context and Probable Causes

By Scott Morgan

It has been an interesting last couple of weeks for Saudi Arabia. If you are an analyst the data flow has to be off the charts at this point.


The report published on November 4th that the Houthis in Yemen fired an Iranian-made (and supplied) missile at Riyadh. There were no reports of casualties on the ground as the missile was intercepted before it impacted at King Khalid airport. Just mere hours later the news from Saudi Arabia took an interesting turn.

It was revealed that a purge of Saudi Princes, Businessmen and Government Ministers was launched under the supervision of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. This operation is underway to crack down on corruption, if one happens to believe media accounts. However it must be nice to be taken into custody and be held at the Ritz-Carlton in Riyadh. Are those being under custody able to collect their rewards points from this time of incarceration? This can be seen as the Crown Prince removing any adversaries from the scene that could impede his path to becoming King.

The situation got even more bizarre when Lebanese Prime Minister Harari went to Riyadh on a visit and promptly resigned.There is great concern in Lebanon about this resignation being made under duress. This has in turn stoked tensions between Beirut and Riyadh. The word war has been mentioned as well during this row. Clear heads do need to prevail to prevent any hostilities from actually breaking out.

Probable Causes

At the same time there has been one interesting piece of economic news to come out and surprisingly it does not have anything to deal with Petroleum. Sales data for concrete shows sales were down 6% for the month of October 2017. This can be seen as a sign of an economic slowdown in the country or its evidence that has been used to justify this purge. However, this could be a sign that there could be some potential military action in the planning stage.

On November 13th,  reports came out of Yemen again that the Houthis and their allies launched an attack against Saudi forces and their “mercenary” allies. This can be seen as the Saudi position currently in Yemen may be more precarious than the rest of the world has been led to believe. How this situation is resolved has yet to be seen.

For whatever its ills are, the Saudis have turned to their usual boogeyman to be blamed. That would be Iran. We know that the present phase of the conflicts in Yemen, Syria and Northern Iraq are the current proxy battlefields. It appears there is a concern that Lebanon is on the road of becoming the 4th front if one gauges the current reaction of the Lebanese population.

What is clear is the following: There is a serious issue occurring with Saudi Arabia. The intervention in Yemen has developed into a quagmire. There is an economic slowdown that began with the drop in oil prices that appears to have begun to affect other sectors of the economy. The purge may be an attempt to placate the masses in the country or to clean up its image in the International Community.

How this plays out has yet to be seen. If there is a resolution in Yemen and/or the Economy recovers then this may be forgotten. But what if doesn’t? Could an actual war between Iran and Saudi Arabia actually occur? The pieces may be in place to be moved.

[The views expressed in this publication are solely those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of Dissecting Society]


  1. "Could an actual war between Iran and Saudi Arabia actually occur?" - Is the experience gained in Yemen sufficient to war against Iran, that has far more experience than the Saudis in warfare? I don't think so. Saudi Arabia can't do it alone, otherwise she will be thrashed in a heartbeat.


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