Saudi Arabia is losing influence throughout the Fertile Crescent to its rival Iran. While Riyadh's position versus Tehran has been in decline for some time, the trend is accelerating. Saudi setbacks are partly due to factors outside its control, but also due to inherent weaknesses in Saudi capacities.
The kingdom has not had a friendly regime in Iraq since Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait a quarter century ago and threatened to keep marching into Saudi Arabia's oil-rich Eastern Province. But for most of the 1980s, Saudi Arabia and Iraq were close partners in containing the revolutionary wave from Iran. King Fahd provided Saddam with tens of billions of dollars in aid during the Iran-Iraq War; without Saudi financial help, Iraq would have collapsed. Fahd also rallied the other Gulf states to help Saddam and promoted Saddam as a power to work with in Washington.