The King of Saudi Arabia is dead. His successor is rumoured to be suffering from dementia. Saudi’s oil war is reducing revenue to the Kingdom. ISIS has already begun border attacks and there is rumour of fifth column activity in the Kingdom. Yemen is under Iranian backed Shi’te pressure with its capital overrun. In the Eastern province, where the oil is, there is a pro-Iranian Shi’te majority.
At this point the survival of Saudi Arabia in its current form is in some doubt. Certainly ISIS has no reason not to continue to attack. Running the table from Medina to Mecca looks like a stretch but that takes the loyalty of the Saudi Army and Air Force for granted. Are they loyal? And it is no stretch to note that the non-royal Saudis are not over enthusiastic about their lot in life. Less so when cuts to the Saudi welfare state occasioned by the reduction in oil revenues begin to bite.
ISIS is now in a stalemate in Iraq with the Iranian backed militias and the Iraqi army holding a line West of Baghdad. For ISIS to continue it needs to keep its momentum and wheeling south may be the best way to do that. Hitting the sacred territories of Islam could draw recruits and, weirdly, Saudi money from people who will back the perceived strong horse.
The derisory airstrikes of the anti-ISIS coalition have damaged but not destroyed ISIS. The logic of their strategic position combined with the politics of the Caliphate may make Saudi the right target at the right time. Which could make the entire situation radically more dangerous.
It might be time for the West to think more seriously about how and why it is conducting war in the Middle East. Air war is clean, low casualty and somewhat effective;it is not, however, decisive. Does it make sense to put boots on the ground and, if so, whose? Or are there other strategic options. China has a large Army. And buys a heck of a lot more Middle Eastern oil than the US.