The Saudis have been circumspect in the current standoff, supporting an Arab League resolution opposing the use of force but also allowing the United States to maintain at least 10,000 troops on Saudi soil. Only after the U.S. began pressuring the Saudis did the kingdom give its verdict: no attack on Iraq would be mounted from its soil this time around.
Saudi caution is a dilemma for U.S. commanders. While there are substantial U.S. forces on Saudi soil, the kingdom's posture means that any direct confrontation with Iraq must come from carrier-based naval forces or, possibly, from U.S. warplanes based at Incirlik in Turkey.
All of this points up the fact that Saudi Arabia in 1998 is not the same state that helped spearhead the Gulf War in 1990. Since the Gulf War, for instance, the Saudis have patched up their ties with the region's other giant, Iran.
But most of the concern relates to domestic issues. The Saudis regime, a conservative, Muslim monarchy, is by definition insecure. There is a well-founded fear of domestic unrest from militant Shiite Muslims who have long felt repressed by the ruling elite. Shiite militants have struck against U.S. forces based in Saudi Arabia - most notably at the Khobar Towers barracks in Dhahran in 1996, killing 19 U.S. airmen. That experience and some economic troubles have made Riyadh less enthusiastically anti-Saddam. When Saddam attacked Kurds in September 1996 - also breaking a U.N. resolution - the Saudis also refused to allow their airbases to be used by U.S. forces to mount a response.
Looking to the future, the Saudis don't appear willing to put all their cards in the American basket.
Saudi Arabia involvement in Gulf War 91:
118,000 troops, 550 tanks, 180 airplanes
Ministry of Foreign Affairs - وزارة الخارجية - المملكة العربية السعودية
U.S. State Department report on Saudi terrorism