In an unprecedented move, Iran launched 300 projectiles to hit Israeli territory on 13th April. This attack was preceded by an attack on the Iranian consulate in Syria by Israel on the 1st of April, killing two senior generals of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps. Iran had made it clear that it would respond in kind. In an already volatile Middle Eastern region, the swords have been drawn out between Iran and Israel, projecting tumultuous days ahead.

Iran has declared that the issue is closed for them, Israeli officials have unequivocally asserted that they will respond and Iran will not be left “scot-free.”

As the tensions heighten and the region hurtles towards another deadly conflict, Saudi Arabia, the state with prime importance in the area, will face consequences of an ambivalent nature. Israel’s response to Iran’s assault can kick-start a spiral of hostilities as Iran has affirmed that if attacked again, its response will be of a much larger scale.

Saudi Arabia’s geographical proximity to the centre of conflict, its pursuit of an active foreign policy recently, its position in the oil exporting countries, and its border with Yemen will all face the consequences arising out of a conflict between Iran and Israel. Moreover, as Saudi Arabia has a unique importance for Muslims around the world, its choices of foreign policy will also be affected by the burden of a symbolic responsibility towards the Islamic world; it cannot afford to remain on the side opposite to that of sentiments of Muslims around the world.

As it is a widely understood phenomenon, a conflict in the Middle East immediately results in volatility in oil prices. This was observable right after Iran fired missiles and drones on 13th April. Saudi Arabia certainly benefits from an increase in oil prices. The supply chain disruptions in case of an active conflict will mean Saudi Arabia will have the opportunity to sell at higher prices and leverage OPEC’s (Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries) platform with production cuts at its will.

However, this is an oversimplified and one-sided view of the economic effects of such a conflict. Hostilities between two states in the region will also mean economic instability. A region inflicted by war would not be a site for increased investor confidence and would also slow down Saudi Arabia’s development spree.

Under Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman, Saudi Arabia has pursued an active foreign policy and engaged with different power centres.

As history suggests, Saudi Arabia outsourced its security conveniently and imbibed the easy petrodollars. This has changed as Saudi Arabia under Muhammad bin Salman is being weaned off oil money, and a diverse economy is being materialized. As a result, Saudi Arabia has made diplomatic successes in engaging India and China, pushing it away from a transactional relationship with the United States.

This new role of Saudi Arabia as an important global actor means that it must project its role in mediating conflicts in the region and rise out of the situation, at least as the regional leader. This does not seem probable as its relationship with Iran has been bumpy even after the Chinese-mediated rapprochement, and it certainly does not exercise any leverage on the Israeli side.

Saudi Arabia has a direct stake in the civil war in Yemen. The Yemeni Houthis have directly fired rockets on Saudi land and have solicited a brutally strong response from the Saudi side. Being supported by Iran, Houthi rebels have always been a nuisance, and at times a menace, for Saudi Arabia. As Iran and Israel lock horns, it is understood that Iran will use its proxies in Lebanon, Syria, and Yemen to inflict damage on its opponents. A new wave of strength provided to Houthis can also play havoc on Saudi Arabia.

Saudi fears of violence spiralling out of war theatre are not unfounded, as there is no guarantee for where the hostilities will stop.

Israel’s inhuman offensive in Gaza has earned it undisputed loathe from people all across the world, particularly Muslims. Whereas Iran attacked Israel as a response to its attack on the Iranian consulate in Syria, Iran’s act was lauded all across the Islamic world for being a strong response to Israel’s anti-Muslim war. Iran, with a clear objective of symbolizing itself as the leader of the Islamic world, has made considerable gains in terms of its image. Saudi Arabia, nevertheless, cannot forgo its image of being the custodian of not only Holy Islamic sites but the identity of the Islamic world as well. This adds to the pressure on Saudi Arabia’s foreign policymakers. As Saudi Arabia strives to emerge as an important global actor, it needs to maintain its image for Muslims around the world as well.

From an analysis of the repercussions of a probable conflict between Iran and Israel, it is evident that such an eventuality will hurt Saudi Arabia’s fortunes. It aims to push its Vision 2030 and diversify the Saudi economy and society. Thus, Saudi Arabia has a responsibility to engage Iran and Israel and manage a simmering conflict actively. It needs to use its diplomatic and geographical leverage to maintain the status quo and prevent the Middle East from becoming a hotbed of clashing global agendas any further. This would require rigorous diplomacy on Saudi Arabia’s part and be a test for it. It already has a sizable share of power and influence in the future. This merits an influential regional role initially.

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