Saudi Arabia will seek Gulf leadership against Iran

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

The ambitious young deputy crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, is radically shifting the country’s foreign policy stance


  • If Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef succeeds King Salman as planned, foreign policy could revert to older patterns.
  • In the longer term, competition for leadership between Riyadh and Abu Dhabi could spark bilateral tensions.
  • Another sharp fall in oil prices might force Saudi Arabia to rein in some regional ambitions.
  • If the 2015 Iran nuclear deal broke down, the Saudi regional bloc would be exposed to intensified Sunni-Shia confrontation.


Mohammed bin Salman will build on the success of US President Trump’s attendance at the Riyadh summit in May, as he aims to become the key US ally in the Arab and Islamic worlds. This relationship will be grounded on common opposition to both Iran and Sunni political Islamist groups, and bolstered by arms sales and infrastructure investment.

However, Washington’s support for Saudi Arabia’s bold initiatives within the region -- including the confrontation with Qatar, a new war of words against Iran and the Yemen intervention -- could be more rhetorical than practical. Without strong US backing, outcomes satisfactory to Riyadh are likely to prove elusive.


See QATAR: Surrender to Riyadh will raise domestic risks - June 7, 2017

© Oxford Analytica 2021. All rights reserved. This content contains general information about geopolitical, macroeconomic and social developments or (where stated) other matters. It does not contain advice or recommendations that may be relied on. Where links to external websites are provided, this does not indicate that Oxford Analytica or Emerald Group agree with, endorse or have checked for accuracy the contents of said sites.

Expert Briefings powered by Oxford Analytica
Stay up to date
Sign up to the Expert Daily Briefings email alert and receive up-to-the-minute analysis of global events as they happen.
*If your university does not have access to Expert Briefings, visit our information page to find out more.