The diplomatic rupture with Iran triggered by the execution of a Shia cleric was probably a side effect of a decision taken by Saudi Arabia for domestic reasons, rather than the outcome of a deliberate ploy to enrage its regional opponent.
But whether or not they intended to raise the heat in a tense rivalry that already underpins wars across the Middle East, Saudi Arabia's new rulers have shown no sign of regret.
Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is also defence minister, reassured the world on Thursday the crisis would stop short of an all-out war between the Gulf region's main powers.
"A war between Saudi Arabia and Iran is the beginning of a major catastrophe in the region, and it will reflect very strongly on the rest of the world. For sure we will not allow any such thing," he told the Economist.
But in the days since the execution, Riyadh has done nothing to halt an escalation in confrontation, demonstrating a level of comfort with brinkmanship unheard of in the typically cautious kingdom before King Abdullah died a year ago and was replaced by his brother King Salman.
The night after a Saudi executioner put Shia Muslim cleric Nimr al-Nimr to death in a high-security prison, Iranian protesters stormed Riyadh's Tehran embassy and Mashhad consulate, according to Reuters. -Mithun