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From Money to Guns: Explaining Saudi Arabia’s Decision-Making in Operation Decisive Storm Open Access Deposited

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This article explores one of the most understudied conflicts in the Middle East currently, the Saudi Arabian-led campaign against Yemen. With the conflagrations in Iraq and Syria occupying news headlines, the few pieces of analysis looking at Operation Restore Hope explains the campaign as simply the extension of a proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia. However, a deeper explanation is much more complex and points to changes in Saudi Arabia, the region, and the international system. This paper specifically seeks to explain how Saudi Arabia’s long-standing, conservatively-oriented foreign policy towards Yemen transformed into an aggressive and militarized policy. Following this goal, I first provide a theoretical understanding of foreign policy making, while highlighting the historical development of Saudi foreign policy in Yemen. Secondly, I elucidate changes at the domestic, regional, and international level that led Saudi policy makers to alter their foreign policy approach. Third, I look at the potential effects the failed Yemen campaign may have on Muhammad bin Salman tenure and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and the changes ushered in with the Trump administration. Finally, I conclude by highlighting the importance of leaders’ perceptions in highly centralized states, and the limits of the sectarian narrative. By doing so, I provide insights for viewing the New Arab Cold War in the Middle East in a more thorough and analytically rigorous manner.

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