An article published on the Business Insider website on Saturday enumerated Saudi Arabia’s efforts to undermine Iran’s regional influence, including Riyadh’s war on Yemen , imposition of a full-scale embargo against Qatar and intervention in Lebanon’s politics.
It, however, said that “Saudi Arabia's ambitions are limited by its military, which is considered an ineffective force even though the kingdom is one of the world's largest spenders on defense.”
Referring to Saudi military threats against Iran, Michael Knights, who specializes in the military and security affairs of Iraq, Iran, and the Persian Gulf at The Washington Institute, said, "There is nobody in the Iranian General Staff that is afraid of Saudi Arabia on the ground," according to the article.
According to figures released by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, Iran’s total defense budget in 2016 was $12.3 billion, compared with Saudi Arabia’s $63.7-billion military budget, which made the kingdom the world’s fourth-largest spender on weaponry after Russia.
Saudi Arabia 's struggle in its war against Yemen , which has no end in sight, reveals its shortcomings, the article said.
Riyadh and its allies have been pounding Yemen since March 2015 in an attempt to crush the popular Houthi Ansarullah movement and reinstate the former Yemeni president, Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, a staunch ally of the Riyadh regime.
Thousands of people have been killed since the onset of the campaign. Much of the Arabian Peninsula country's infrastructure, including hospitals, schools and factories, has been reduced to rubble due to the war. The Saudi-led war has also triggered a deadly cholera epidemic across Yemen .
Almost three years after the start of the Saudi-led war, Houthi fighters are active and continue to control Yemen 's main population centers, including the capital Sana’a.
The Houthis have proved capable of launching high-profile attacks against the Saudis, including multiple cross-border raids into Saudi Arabia , successful attacks on Emirati and Saudi navy ships and the launching of ballistic missiles into the heartland of the kingdom, the article pointed out, in retaliation for the Saudi military aggression.
Contrary to the claims by the Saudi military, a report by The New York Times suggested that a ballistic missile recently fired by the Houthis at an airport in the Saudi capital Riyadh was actually not intercepted.
"We do not know if the Saudi military is able to have a significant impact on the Yemen war, because we have only seen the deployment of Saudi airpower," the report cited Knights as saying.
The military expert argued that while the war on Yemen requires 10,000 to 20,000 troops, the Saudi military has not deployed its ground forces most likely because the Saudi leadership knows that they "suffer from significant weaknesses."
These weaknesses include a lack of logistical equipment and experience needed to carry out such a campaign as Saudi forces have no experience in an expeditionary operation, the report said.
Knights argued that the Saudi forces themselves fail to put any credible military pressure on the Houthis, as local militias and certain tribal groups form the majority of the ground force battling the Houthis while few Saudi soldiers assist them.
The article also cited Bilal Saab, the senior fellow and director of the Defense and Security Program at the Middle East Institute, as saying that Saudi Arabia will not deploy a large number of ground forces to Yemen "because their casualties would be severe and they most probably would cause tremendous collateral damage in Yemen ."