A lot has changed in the Middle East since the death of Saudi Arabia's former King Abdullah. This offered an opportunity for a new beginning for Saudi regional affair.
Iran-backed rebels ousted the government in Sanaa, Yemen in the same month Abdullah passed away. The new king, Salman, has already launched the first major Saudi military operation of the 21st century, Operation Decisive Storm, to stop the progress of Iran-supported Houthi rebels. Salman also named his nephew, Interior Minister Muhammad bin Nayef, as the crown prince, first in line to the throne, replacing Muqrin bin Abdulaziz, and appointed his son, Mohammad bin Salman, as the deputy crown prince.
As the chairs of the council for political and security affairs, Nayef has been a leading commander of Operation Decisive Storm, while the young prince, being the minister of defense, has been seen as the mastermind behind the Saudi strategy in Yemen.
Meanwhile, Iranian negotiations moved ahead. A preliminary deal was signed between Tehran and the P5+1 on April 2 envisioning a final agreement before mid-summer that will lead to at least a partial lifting of international sanctions against Iran. This caused great concern in Saudi Arabia's new cabinet. They began to change the path Abdullah opened and started to work closely with their allies in the region against Iran's dominance.
With no doubt, the latest developments and the advancing march of Syrian opposition fighters in Syria were also related to this. It may have even helped to break the ice between the two camps of Syrian opposition fighters' supporters, Turkey and Qatar and other Gulf countries under Saudi Arabia's influence. It looks like Salman's priorities are not the same as Abdullah's. The hatred of the Muslim Brotherhood is no longer at the top of the list. Everyone thought that Syrian opposition fighters would not win their war against the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad as they were unable to unite and have been fighting between themselves for the past two years. It is now being understood, however, that a large amount of time has been wasted because of the conflicts between the countries that declared themselves as friends of Syria.
Salman's decisive start, including the major cabinet reshuffle and the shift in regional politics, marks a clear break with the ways of his predecessor. Salman has torn up Abdullah's playbook and is showing there is another way of conducting Saudi politics, and his early moves suggest he sees the need to confront not only a regional challenge from Iran, but also political pressures at home.
All this means that there are many other ways that Saudis can cooperate with their allies to increase pressure on Iran even without U.S. backing and approval. But it seems unlikely as after the countries that support the Syrian opposition have started to work closer, the U.S. and other NATO countries have begun to show their support and raise their voice against the Assad regime once again. This does not mean that the future is clear since everything can change in the instant in the Middle East. But it is obvious that the wind has already changed.