Interview: Russia in the Middle East

Preliminary voting results in the Russian presidential election are displayed on a screen at the Central Election Commission in Moscow on March 17, 2024. - Vladimir Putin secured 88 percent of the first votes counted in Russia's presidential election, the head of Russia's election commission said on March 17, 2024. (Photo by STRINGER / AFP)

1. Over two years into Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Russians have just gone to the polls and Ukraine appears set to postpone an election slated for the end of March. In Russia, Putin reportedly spent more than $1 billion on a public relations campaign in the lead-up to the election. What is the significance… Continue reading Interview: Russia in the Middle East

Regional Diplomacy Amid the War in Gaza 

RAFAH, GAZA - FEBRUARY 27: Dozens of Palestinian children and teens, taking refuge in Rafah from Gaza, hold banners as they gather to hold a protest the scarcity of food and water under the ongoing Israeli attacks in Rafah, Gaza on February 27, 2024. The children marched in the streets of Gaza City holding banners with some written on them 'bread becomes my dream' and 'we want food,' among others. Abed Zagout / Anadolu (Photo by Abed Zagout / ANADOLU / Anadolu via AFP)

Over the past four months, Middle Eastern nations have been dismayed by the near-unconditional support from Western governments to Israel as it has bombarded and besieged the Gaza Strip and is now ramping up an assault on Rafah—a sliver of territory where more than a million displaced civilians have gathered. As a result, some have… Continue reading Regional Diplomacy Amid the War in Gaza 

Is a Regional War Inescapable?

SANAA, YEMEN - FEBRUARY 09: Thousands of Houthi supporters, holding Yemen and Palestine flags, gather at the Sebin Square to stage a solidarity demonstration with Palestinians and protest against the Israeli attacks on Gaza on February 09, 2024 in Sanaa, Yemen. Demonstrators, carrying banners, chanted slogans against the USA and Israel during the demonstration. Mohammed Hamoud / Anadolu (Photo by Mohammed Hamoud / ANADOLU / Anadolu via AFP)

Since October, the Middle East has edged ever closer to a regional war unlike any it has experienced before. While there has been plenty of armed hostility over the past 75 years, including between multiple state and non-state actors, the ambit of conflict this time around is so sweeping that it risks engulfing the entire… Continue reading Is a Regional War Inescapable?

Condemning Qatar is Counterproductive 

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (L) meets with Qatari Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani, at the State Department in Washington, DC, on February 10, 2023. (Photo by Kevin Wolf / POOL / AFP)

This article was originally published in The National Interest on February 6, 2024.  The Gulf state of Qatar is again capturing headlines for its role in mediating between Israel and Hamas. While a fresh deal for the release of hostages being held in Gaza is yet to be concluded, these efforts have produced the only… Continue reading Condemning Qatar is Counterproductive 

Can the expanded BRICS pave a new path in global development?

Flags are seen displayed at the opening ceremony of the New Development Bank Eighth Annual Meeting in Shanghai on May 30, 2023. (Photo by AFP) / China OUT / CHINA OUT

At the start of this year, the so-called BRICS group of economies, namely Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa, expanded its membership to five new countries, four of which are from the Middle East and North Africa region. As a global and heterodox bloc comprised of what were once termed “developing nations,” the expanded… Continue reading Can the expanded BRICS pave a new path in global development?

Gaza and its impact three months on – Council Views

A Palestinian man is carrying the body of a child after it was unearthed from the rubble of a building following an Israeli strike on the Zawayda area of the central Gaza Strip on December 30, 2023, amid ongoing battles between Israel and the Hamas movement. (Photo by Majdi Fathi/NurPhoto) (Photo by MAJDI FATHI / NurPhoto / NurPhoto via AFP)

Israel’s military campaign in Gaza is entering its fourth month with no end in sight and with the most devastating consequences imaginable for the 2.2 million Palestinian civilians living there, for which Israel is now facing charges of genocide at the International Court of Justice. The effects of this are also being felt well beyond… Continue reading Gaza and its impact three months on – Council Views

A Ceasefire in Gaza is the only Bridge toward Durable Peace in the Middle East

11 November 2023, Berlin: A participant in a demonstration holds a placard with the words "Ceasefire Now!". The organizers want to demonstrate against the "ongoing violation of human rights". The demonstration is also being called for by pro-Palestinian groups. Photo: Christophe Gateau/dpa (Photo by Christophe Gateau / DPA / dpa Picture-Alliance via AFP)

The shocking and unprecedented attack by Hamas on southern Israel caught the technologically advanced Israeli army and security forces by surprise. Hamas’s initial assault killed more than 1,400 Israelis, and thousands of Palestinians have been killed as Israel has retaliated in Gaza. Israel has said hundreds of hostages are being held in Gaza. In addition… Continue reading A Ceasefire in Gaza is the only Bridge toward Durable Peace in the Middle East

Egypt and the Fear of a “Second Nakba”

Ambulances queue at the Egyptian side of the border with the Gaza Strip in Rafah, on November 1, 2023, before entering to transport wounded to Egyptian field hospitals. - Hundreds of injured residents and foreigners escaped Gaza to Egypt on November 1, the first evacuations from the war-torn Palestinian territory pounded by Israeli warplanes in retaliation for an unprecedented Hamas attack. (Photo by AFP)

As Israel steps up its brutal attack on the Gaza Strip with a ground invasion, a recently leaked concept paper from it’s Ministry of Intelligence adds to the mounting evidence that its ultimate goal is the forcible and permanent displacement of the besieged Gazans into neighboring Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula. In what effectively amounts to a… Continue reading Egypt and the Fear of a “Second Nakba”

Al-Aqsa Flood and the Israel War: Conflict and its Impact | ME Council

Smoke plumes billow during Israeli air strikes in Gaza City on October 12, 2023 as raging battles between Israel and the Hamas movement continue for the sixth consecutive day. - Washington urged Israel to show restraint in its response to Hamas's surprise attack -- the worst in the country's 75-year history -- which Israeli forces said killed more than 1,200 people, mostly civilians. In Gaza, officials have reported more than 1,200 people killed in Israel's uninterrupted campaign of air and artillery strikes, while the UN said more than 338,000 people have been displaced. (Photo by IBRAHIM HAMS / AFP)

On October 7, Hamas shocked the world by carrying out an astonishing raid on Israel that killed around 1,300 people, most of them civilians, and taking an estimated 150 others hostage. The Israeli response has been devastating. For a week, Israel has indiscriminately bombarded Gaza from the sky, destroying residential buildings, hospitals, schools, and other… Continue reading Al-Aqsa Flood and the Israel War: Conflict and its Impact | ME Council

BRICS Summit: Shaping a New Geopolitical Landscape – Council Views

Brazil's President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, China's President Xi Jinping, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov pose for a picture at the BRICS Summit in Johannesburg, South Africa August 23, 2023. REUTERS/Alet Pretorius/Pool - RC2MT2AFMO9M

The Impact of BRICS on the International Order Galip Dalay The 2023 BRICS summit has attracted unprecedented international interest due to the geopolitical context of increasing U.S.-China competition and the Global South’s balancing act regarding the Russia-Ukraine war. As competition between global powers intensifies, Western actors increasingly see this bloc, and others like the Shanghai… Continue reading BRICS Summit: Shaping a New Geopolitical Landscape – Council Views

The Persistent Illusion of Palestinian Reconciliation

EL ALAMEIN, EGYPT - JULY 30: (----EDITORIAL USE ONLY – MANDATORY CREDIT - 'PALESTINIAN PRESIDENCY / HANDOUT' - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS----) Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (C) makes a speech during meeting of Palestinian groups' general secretaries in El Alamein, Egypt on July 30, 2023. Palestinian Presidency / Handout / Anadolu Agency (Photo by Palestinian Presidency / Handout / ANADOLU AGENCY / Anadolu Agency via AFP)

Representatives of 14 Palestinian political factions, including Fatah and Hamas, were invited to the Egyptian coastal city of El-Alamein on July 30, 2023 for reconciliation talks hosted by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. Facing challenges from the recurrent and increasingly violent onslaught by Jewish settlers and Israeli occupation forces throughout the West Bank since the beginning of… Continue reading The Persistent Illusion of Palestinian Reconciliation

Erdogan’s Gulf Visit Heralds New Regional Approach

Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman meets Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, July 17, 2023. Saudi Press Agency/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY - RC2952AAR2Q1

Weeks after winning a new five-year term as president of Türkiye, Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar with a delegation that included nearly 200 business and government officials. The veteran leader’s first visit to the region since his electoral victory in May is the culmination of a rapid reconciliation… Continue reading Erdogan’s Gulf Visit Heralds New Regional Approach

Will Egypt be the next to normalize relations with Iran?

A handout picture provided by the Saudi Royal Palace shows Egypt's President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi attending the second edition of the summit of the Green Middle East Initiative, held on the sidelines of the COP27 climate conference at Egypt's Red Sea resort city of Sharm el-Sheikh on November 7, 2022. - (Photo by BANDAR AL-JALOUD / Saudi Royal Palace / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT "AFP PHOTO / SAUDI ROYAL PALACE / BANDAR AL-JALOUD" - NO MARKETING - NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS - RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT "AFP PHOTO / SAUDI ROYAL PALACE / BANDAR AL-JALOUD" - NO MARKETING - NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS /

Speculation has been growing in recent months that Egypt and Iran could be close to putting decades of mutual antagonism behind them. In early May, Egyptian and Iraqi officials said talks were underway in Baghdad with a view to mending relations between the two major regional powers. Later that month, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei… Continue reading Will Egypt be the next to normalize relations with Iran?

MENA States’ Assertive Approach in the Era of Emerging Multipolarity

CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA - JUNE 02: (----EDITORIAL USE ONLY – MANDATORY CREDIT - 'BRICS / HANDOUT' - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS----) Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhanbir (R) attends the "BRICS Foreign Ministers Meeting" in Cape Town, South Africa on June 2, 2023. Brazilian Foreign Minister Mauro Vieira, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhanbir, United Arab Emirates (UAE) Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan and Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdullahiyan also attend the meeting was hosted by South African Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Naledi Pandor. BRICS / Handout / Anadolu Agency (Photo by BRICS / Handout / ANADOLU AGENCY / Anadolu Agency via AFP)

As American dominance of the Middle East and North Africa wanes and other world powers step up their efforts to win friends and influence there, long-time U.S. allies are becoming more assertive towards Washington and recalibrating their other ties to better secure their own interests.   The growing U.S.-China strategic rivalry will profoundly impact the region… Continue reading MENA States’ Assertive Approach in the Era of Emerging Multipolarity

Sudan Conflict: Regional Implications – Council Views

A man walks while smoke rises above buildings after aerial bombardment, during clashes between the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces and the army in Khartoum North, Sudan, May 1, 2023. REUTERS/Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY - RC2OP0AR0DBV

The eruption of violent conflict in Sudan on April 15 has cast the country into, perhaps, the darkest period yet in its five-year transition toward civilian rule, which began with nationwide protests in 2018 and the toppling of Omar al-Bashir a year later, after three decades in power. The recent outbreak of fighting between the… Continue reading Sudan Conflict: Regional Implications – Council Views

Time to Tackle the Transparency Deficit in the MENA Region

Annual Meetings chairman and governor of the Central Bank of Egypt, Hassan Abdalla, speaks during a Plenary Session of the Annual Meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank in Washington, U.S., October 14, 2022. REUTERS/Elizabeth Frantz - RC211X9UM97J

It is widely known that the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region suffers from a “democratic deficit.”  What is less well-appreciated is that the region also suffers from a chronic deficit in transparency.  The World Bank’s Vice President for MENA, Ferid Belhaj, recently called attention to this problem, stating that Egypt needs to get… Continue reading Time to Tackle the Transparency Deficit in the MENA Region

Egypt’s Economic Crisis Heightens Need for Reforms

People buy dates from a market selling food at discounted prices, after a devaluation of the Egyptian pound led to a sharp increase in prices, in Giza, Egypt, January 28, 2023. REUTERS/Hanaa Habib - RC2RZY94VDKZ

Egyptians are facing a dire economic situation. Since early 2022, the Egyptian pound has lost more than 40 percent of its value against the U.S. dollar and prices of imported goods have soared, as the impact of the war in Ukraine compounds the effects of stringent bailout conditions set by the International Monetary Fund (IMF).… Continue reading Egypt’s Economic Crisis Heightens Need for Reforms

MENA Outlook 2023 – Council Views

Beirut, Lebanon - July 3 2021: Tens of cars line up near the very few open gas stations in Lebanon. Drivers wait for hours due to fuel shortage.

In various ways, 2022 was arguably a positive year in much of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. The COVID-19 pandemic subsided in many states and the intensity of violence ebbed in several conflict zones. Competition between regional powers receded and gave way to an increase in diplomacy and rapprochement. However, with a… Continue reading MENA Outlook 2023 – Council Views

Twenty Years of Governance Reform: What’s Next for the MENA Region?

In 2002, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) produced a remarkable and far-reaching document titled the Arab Human Development Report. Written largely by Arab authors, the report mobilized a wealth of data to argue persuasively that the lack of socio-economic development within the Arab region is the product of three fundamental deficits in freedom, knowledge,… Continue reading Twenty Years of Governance Reform: What’s Next for the MENA Region?