By executing a prominent Shiite leader, the Saudi King and his son the Deputy Crown Prince sent a strong signal to Iran, to the kingdom’s beleaguered Shiite minority, and to the world. To its Iranian Shiite rival, Sunni Riyadh was saying that it would absolutely not tolerate intervention in its internal affairs. It was telling its own Shiites that it would not allow “Arab Spring”-like dissent. And to the world, Salman and Muhammad were signaling that the Saudis were growing into their new role as a defender and leader of the Sunni Muslim countries; especially since the Obama administration appears to be siding with Iran.
Qatar has become the leading backer of Hamas terrorism, and the country’s wings need to be clipped.
There is speculation on collaboration between Saudi Arabia and Israel against Iran. However, given its history and concern for the legitimacy of its rule, the Saudis are more likely to draw closer to Iran.
The process of balancing and satisfying Saudi royal factions depends on patience and conservatism within royal circles. It also requires quiet in the streets of Riyadh and Jedda. Thus far, there are no signs of the so-called "Arab Spring" spreading to Saudi Arabia.
King Abdullah says that women will be appointed to the Consultative Council and be allowed to vote and run for municipal councils. Is this a significant advancement for Saudi women's rights, or just another instance of the kingdom’s "two steps forward, one step back" reform policy?
The Saudis are all bark and no bite. Despite occasional public "outrage" from Saudi officials about US policy regarding the Arab unrest, Israel, Iraq, Iran, or Afghanistan, Riyadh and Washington are still very distant from the parting of ways threatened by some Saudi officials.
For the rulers of Riyadh, the primary result of the "Arab Spring" has been a shaking of the strategic foundation and alignments that have shaped Saudi regional policy since the 1979 Iranian Revolution.