By Jacob L. Shapiro
No region has been as active thus far in 2018 as the Middle East. The action has been driven by Iran, which is seeking to fill the vacuum left by the Islamic State’s defeat in Syria and Iraq. Amid the fighting and diplomatic horse-trading, one actor has been conspicuously silent for the past two months, the last major Sunni Arab power still standing in Iran’s way: Saudi Arabia. That silence ended this week. On Feb. 26, Saudi Arabia reshuffled its top military commanders, and on Feb. 28, it hosted Lebanon’s prime minister in Riyadh for a friendly visit. Neither event bodes well for Saudi Arabia’s future, which is looking more uncertain every day.
Saudi Arabia’s occultation was particularly notable because of its suddenness. In November 2017, it seemed like events in Saudi Arabia might be the most important in the region after the Islamic State’s defeat. That was the month when Saudi Arabia removed the economy minister and the head of the Nationa