20:27 GMT17 January 2021
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    Saudi Arabia will launch a military offensive to gain momentum in Yemen and Syria before a nuclear deal leads to an economic recovery in Iran, which would enable Tehran to channel funds to its proxy forces in the region.

    Lifting sanctions over the next year could potentially leave Iran flush with more than $100 billion in unfrozen funds and new revenues – resources the Saudis say Tehran will use to expand its proxy wars.

    "An Iran without sanctions will pump billions of dollars to its proxies, which are destabilizing Yemen, Syria, and Iraq," said Jasser al Jasser, managing editor of the pro-government Al Jazeerah daily. "Saudi Arabia will not allow Iran to take advantage of this deal."

    Therefore, the Saudis are scrambling to make as many battlefield gains in neighboring states as possible, according to military officials and analysts who spoke to the Christian Science Monitor (CSM).

    The first priority for Riyadh's new offensive is Yemen, where a Saudi-led coalition has spent months launching airstrikes against Houthi rebels who exiled pro-Saudi president Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi.

    "Yemen is the red line for Saudi Arabia. We will see military escalations in Yemen in the coming days in order to prevent what Saudi sees as an Iranian foothold in the Gulf," Mustafa Alani, a security and defense expert, said in an interview with CSM.

    Riyadh is also set to deploy dozens of special forces to Yemen to take part in a ground fight to capture and secure the southern port city of Aden, military officials say.

    Once the Saudi-led coalition gains ground in Yemen, Riyadh will shift its focus to Syria, where Iran has deployed an estimated 7,000 troops and is providing billions of dollars in annual support to the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, CSM reported.

    "If the coalition is successful in Yemen, we will very likely see it entering Syria," Alani said.

    Moreover, analysts say Riyadh will start to invest substantial resources and efforts into expanding its influence beyond the United States and Europe – particularly with Russia and China.

    "You have heard the word 'diversify' recently in relation to Saudi foreign relations, and the Obama administration has brought home the thought that Saudi must branch out and see the support of other powers," Salman Sheikh, of the Brookings Doha Center, told CSM.

    "With this deal, Saudi by necessity will reach out to other world powers. Now the only question is how Russia and China will respond."

    sanctions, Iran nuclear deal, Houthi rebels, Bashar al-Assad, Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, Russia, China, US, Syria, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Iran
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