The 1950s and ’60s saw an Arab Cold War between the Arab Nationalist regimes and the conservative monarchs of the Gulf. Jamal Abdel el-Nasser of Egypt, the undisputed leader of the Arab world at the time, lead the attack in decrying the backwards of the House of Saud and the other monarchs.
He criticized the monarchs for their regression, their fundamentalism, and dismissed them as relics of Western colonialism. The Saudis naturally were the focus of such attacks and many Saudis actually embraced Nasser’s revolutionary zeal. The Saudi Prince Talal Bin Abdul ‘Aziz, father of the well-known Saudi billionaire al-Walid Bin Talal, had ditched the royal family at the time and set up a pro-Arab nationalist movement in Cairo on behalf of Saudi dissidents.
And in the 1950s, inspired by Nasser a band of Saudi general failed in their attempt to overthrow the Saudi regime in a manner reminiscent of the Nasser-led revolutionary generals. This Cold War was short lived.
After the humiliating defeat by Arab armies against Israel in the 1967 Six-Day War, Nasser became a broken man and went cap-in-hand to the Saudis and asked them to help him rebuilt the Egyptian army. They compiled in exchange for Nasser to cease his attacks. He, of course, did and died three years later bringing an end to the height of Arab Nationalism and the Cold War.
The monarchs felt secure now and Prince Talal was rehabilitated back into the royal family. His sons were barred from ever being part of the government (and went into business instead, obviously) and in a 2000 interview Prince Talal for the first time spoke about his past nationalist days and claimed without any proof that he was drugged by the Egyptians in a transparent effort to save face.
Although initially worrying about their ability to stay in power, the Saudis were backed the entire time by the United States – which preferred complacent and right-wing monarchs – and we know now by the state of Israel:
Furthermore, according to the Iranians, Saudi Arabia is attacking Yemen as part of an American and Israeli plot. This sounds ridiculous until we recall the story the Israeli Air Force journal published two years ago about the secret military aid Israel gave the pro-Saudi royalists in their war against Nasser. History is repeating itself.
I have written a lot about the recent honeymoon between Saudi Arabia and Israel over the perceived common enemy of Iran. It turns out it started a lot sooner than I thought.