An interesting post at Juan Cole's Informed Comment.
I recall in the period right after the 1973 Yom Kippur War, when I was in liaison with the Saudis, that the Israeli Air Force used to make frequent very low level runs over the Saudi airbase at Tobuk, in the northern part of the country. As they skimmed the "deck", they would drop empty fuel tanks on the runways, near where the Saudi fighter planes were lined up, just to remind those on the ground that the empty tanks could very easily have been 500-pound bombs. It was nothing more than an arrogant demonstration of contempt for Saudi impotence. It worked. The RSAF never fired a shot, and never scrambled a single interceptor. They would complain to me, and I would duly forward their protests to CIA HQS. We never got even a polite acknowledgement back from the Israelis, who, in their arrogance, were no doubt cynically amused. So I can easily imagine Bashar al-Asad's decision to play this current incident in a very low key! It is not a mark of cowardice, but of realism and prudence.
Similarly, I recall when Prince Fahd bin Abdal Aziz called me to a meeting very late one evening in the early days of the 1973 war and asked me to send an urgent personal message from him to Richard Nixon informing the president that he had felt obliged to contribute a brigade of Saudi troops to the Golan front to support the Syrian offensive there, but that he had personally instructed the commander of the unit not to fire a single shot. That, Fahd told me with considerable emotion and obvious sincerity, was his solemn promise to his American friend. Again, prudence, wisdom, and desire to maintain a traditional and mutually valuable relationship --- motives that were not, I regret to say, received in Washington with the respect and appreciation that they deserved.
Instructed the commander not to fire a shot? These things could never be written about a democratic Saudi Arabia, or a Saudi Arabia whose leadership was selected in a competitive process. It is uncomfortable to say that Saudi Arabia is a terrible reflection of Islam.
Apartheid South Africa had the technological and industrial advantages Israel has over its neighbors, including a regional nuclear monopoly. It also had gold and diamonds. Tanzania, one of South Africa's most active rivals had a main export crop of sisal, which is a fiberous plant that can be used to make rope. But Tanzania, along with almost every other African state, supported the Black South Africans. The ANC and PAC, even as they were labeled terrorists by the West and the US, were trained, funded and supported significantly by the poor countries of Africa. Now there is no European settler state in Africa. A one state solution, no bantustans. Anyone who wants an Afrikaaner state will have to go somewhere that an Afrikaaner majority can be produced without expelling or disenfranchising Black people.
Saudi Arabia has the greatest concentration of natural resource wealth in the world. Tanzania exports sisal, a crop few people have ever heard of. Apartheid is over. Zionism is still here twenty years after Apartheid. There is something defective about the Saudis. They have an ineffective political system, and they are encouraged to maintain that system by the Americans, who do so to protect Israel's interests. But the fact that they have tolerated this situation as long as they have points to a defective belief system. It is not objectively possible that they have the same belief system that traveled west to Spain and East to Indonesia.