Briefing paper

While Iran poses a threat to other Gulf states, including the United Arab Emirates, this report focuses on Saudi Arabia for several reasons. First, Iran and Saudi Arabia are major competitors for regional influence, a status which has been heightened by the Arab Spring and the wars in countries like Syria, Iraq, and Yemen. Second, Iran is more likely to target U.S. partners like Saudi Arabia than to attack the United States directly. Third, Saudi Arabia is a strategic target because of the Sunni-Shia rivalry and Saudi Arabia’s geographic position on the Red Sea, historic willingness to play a leadership role in regional politics, and oil reserves. Saudi Arabia has the second- largest proven crude oil reserves in the world, behind only Venezuela, at 267 billion barrels and 22.4 percent of global reserves.5 Saudi Arabia is also the world’s largest exporter of oil. Per day, it produces approximately 10.3 million barrels of crude oil and exports around 9.5 million barrels of both crude and refined oil products.

The rest of this report is divided into three sections. The first examines Iran and its partners’ missile, cyber, and other irregular capabilities. The second section analyzes Saudi Arabia’s critical infrastructure vulnerabilities. Lastly, the third section outlines U.S. options to help protect critical infrastructure and deter Iranian escalation.

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