Questions about the aims and temperament of Saudi Arabia’s powerful crown prince came to the fore Monday after his country issued a bellicose warning to Iran, accusing it of carrying out a missile strike on the Saudi capital that may have constituted an “act of war.”

The missile was fired from neighboring Yemen on Saturday by the Houthis, a rebel group with ties to Iran that has been battling a Saudi-led military coalition. The war has spawned countless cross-border attacks — including Houthi ballistic missile launches and thousands of Saudi airstrikes across Yemen — as well as an endless string of recriminations between the Saudi and Iranian governments.

But several factors seemed to make the latest Saudi warning more dire, raising fears of a military escalation between the regional superpowers. Though it caused no casualties, the missile strike was among the deepest yet into Saudi territory during Yemen’s civil war, highlighting the Saudis’ continued vulnerability to such attacks despite an overwhelming military advantage over the rebels.


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