For many years, Saudi Arabia punched below its weight in the region—struggling, for all its immense wealth, to project power and shape political outcomes beyond its Gulf neighborhood. Iran, by contrast, advanced a low-cost, high-yield strategy to build its influence by exploiting the cracks within the Middle East’s American-led order. But now, as Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman orchestrates a sweeping consolidation of power at home through mass arrests, Saudi Arabia is changing its posture abroad as well, in a move that could have repercussions throughout the region and beyond. And the U.S. appears to be giving the kingdom carte blanche.
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