As Saudi Arabia confronts the Iran-backed rebels in Yemen and ISIS in Iraq and Syria, it’s also worried about the possibility of domestic blowback from Iranian proxies or Sunni radical groups—or both. The Kingdom’s interior ministry announced Monday that it has put security forces on high alert against a possible attack against soft targets like shopping malls or energy infrastructure. The ministry’s spokesman Mansour Turki vaguely alluded to “terrorist groups” that may be “taking advantage” of the conflict in Yemen. This wouldn’t be a first: al-Qaeda attacked a Saudi Aramco facility in 2006 and, according to leaked U.S. diplomatic cables, came very close to succeeding.
Yemen’s rebels could also carry out an attack. Hizballah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah on Friday predicted that the Houthis would strike back at Saudi Arabia in due time:
If a group in Yemen was really thinking of threatening Saudi Arabia, then [Riyadh’s military campaign] changed this threat from a potential one to a certain one. […] The Yemeni people have not resorted to their real options, they have not done anything that they are capable of. The Yemeni people are calling for this; the Yemeni people are asking about a response.
Both Hizballah and the Houthi rebels are backed by Tehran, which the Saudis see, in the late king’s colorful phrase, as “the head of the snake.” With Saudi Arabia conducting air strikes in Yemen, and with tensions in the wider region heating up, the danger of an attack against the Saudi home front will only grow.