At the end of January, Iranian-backed Houthi rebels launched a suicide attack against a Saudi frigate in the Red Sea. This was only Iran’s latest provocation against American allies in the Middle East. The Saudis have been one of Tehran’s prime targets—from backing the Houthis in Yemen as a proxy force against Riyadh, to setting fire to two Saudi diplomatic missions last year. The concern in Riyadh is that Washington has not been listening to its regional partners. However, in a marked change from the Obama years, the Trump administration recently sent a stern warning to the Iranians, putting them on notice and imposing a new round of sanctions on the Islamic regime, all the while consulting with senior leadership in Riyadh.
What can American allies in the Middle East expect with the change in administrations: the firm posture of a superpower whose leadership has guided the Persian Gulf for nearly seven decades, or a continuation of the previous administration’s policies that left friends unsure and adversaries emboldened? To address these issues, Hudson Institute hosted a discussion with Middle East experts including Hudson’s Michael Doran, the Atlantic Council’s Mohammed Alyahya, and the Arabia Foundation’s Ali Shihabi. Hudson Senior Fellow Lee Smith moderated the discussion.