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 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 region,… Continue reading Is a Regional War Inescapable?

Iran’s Strategy in the War on Gaza

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi (Top) speaks in an anti-Israel rally in Tehran, Iran, on October 18, 2023. (Photo by Morteza Nikoubazl/NurPhoto) (Photo by Morteza Nikoubazl / NurPhoto / NurPhoto via AFP)

The recent drone strike on American soldiers stationed near the Jordan-Syria border, and Washington’s retaliatory strikes in Iraq and Syria, underscore the dangerous potential for a major escalation between the United States and Iran that could engulf the wider region. Washington and Tehran have engaged in a tit-for-tat conflict for several months now, which has… Continue reading Iran’s Strategy in the War on Gaza

Necessity Will Drive Gulf States to Cooperate on Climate Change

Pedestrians cross a road amidst a severe dust storm in Kuwait City on May 23, 2022. (Photo by Yasser Al-Zayyat / AFP)

The impacts of climate change are becoming starkly visible in the Gulf. Already one of the driest, hottest parts of the world, the region is heating up at a rate twice as fast as the global average. Accordingly, Gulf governments are beginning to realize that ad hoc or unilateral strategies are not sufficient to tackle… Continue reading Necessity Will Drive Gulf States to Cooperate on Climate Change

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

Syria Is Back, But Normalization Has Its Limits

A handout picture released by Iraq's Prime Minister's Media Office shows Syria's President Bashar al-Assad (R) welcoming Iraq's Prime Minister Mohamed Shia al-Sudani in Damascus on July 16, 2023. (Photo by - / IRAQI PRIME MINISTER'S PRESS OFFICE / AFP) / === RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT "AFP PHOTO / HO / IRAQI PRIME MINISTER'S PRESS OFFICE" - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS === - === RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT "AFP PHOTO / HO / IRAQI PRIME MINISTER'S PRESS OFFICE" - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS === /

The visit of Iraq’s prime minister to Damascus in July was the latest sign that Syria is mending ties with its neighbourhood, more than a decade after the Arab League suspended its membership over its brutal repression of anti-government protests. As the country’s catastrophic civil war settles, the regime of Bashar al-Assad can chalk up… Continue reading Syria Is Back, But Normalization Has Its Limits

The Saudi-Iranian Deal Is Important, but Don’t Expect a Wider Peace

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian and Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud and Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang shake hands during a meeting in Beijing, China, April 6, 2023. Iran's Foreign Ministry/WANA (West Asia News Agency)/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY - RC2U80A5199H

The March 6 announcement that Saudi Arabia and Iran were re-establishing diplomatic ties was an important moment for the Middle East. The Chinese-brokered deal has the potential to end the devastating eight-year conflict in Yemen and address geopolitical tensions elsewhere. From the Saudi perspective, it may end Iranian proxy attacks on Saudi oil facilities, including… Continue reading The Saudi-Iranian Deal Is Important, but Don’t Expect a Wider Peace

The Iraq War 20 Years On – Council Views

A U.S. Marine covers the face of a statue of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein with a U.S. flag in Baghdad April 9, 2003. U.S. troops briefly draped an American flag over the face of a giant statue of President Saddam Hussein in central Baghdad on Wednesday as they prepared to topple it in front of a crowd of Iraqis.The gesture, likely to be highly provocative in much of the Arab world where the U.S. invasion of Iraq has stirred widespread anger, was quickly reversed and an Iraqi flag was tied instead to the statue's neck.Local residents had earlier scaled the 20-foot (six metre) statue and slipped a noose around its neck to drag it down. PP03040026 REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic GOT/AA - RP3DRIGNTWAA

Still No U.S. Accountability Adel Abdel Ghafar The 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq was a terrible calamity, unleashing disastrous consequences that continue to reverberate across the Middle East. First and foremost, the war resulted in the deaths of an estimated 300,000 Iraqis and the displacement of millions. Saddam Hussein’s regime was brutal, and the legacy… Continue reading The Iraq War 20 Years On – Council Views

A Change in Iraqi Leadership Is Giving Militias a New Lease on Life 

Iraqis, and supporters of Hashid Shaabi (Popular Mobilization Forces), gather as they visit the grave of Iraqi militia commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis during the second year anniversary of the killing of him and senior Iranian military commander General Qassem Soleimani in a U.S. attack, at the Wadi al-Salam cemetery, in Najaf, Iraq January 3, 2022. REUTERS/Alaa Al-Marjani - RC2MRR9R2BZH

The appointment of Iraqi Prime Minister Mohamed Shia al-Sudani in October has breathed new life into the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF). A militia network formed in 2014 to fight the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the PMF soon morphed into a political force to be reckoned with, making a strong showing in 2018… Continue reading A Change in Iraqi Leadership Is Giving Militias a New Lease on Life 

Can Iraq’s New PM Chart a Different Relationship with the Gulf?

Iraq's Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani along with French President Emmanuel Macron, Jordan's King Abdullah II, Egypt's President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, Jordan's Crown Prince Hussein, Qatar's Foreign Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani and other Gulf leaders stand for a photograph at the second Baghdad Conference for Cooperation and Partnership, at the Dead Sea, Jordan December 20, 2022. REUTERS/Alaa Al Sukhni

Iraq’s new government is hoping that an influx of investment from its Gulf neighbors can breathe life into its economy and diversify its regional relationships after years of being so close to Iran. But such efforts are likely to face stiff opposition from Tehran and its proxies, who have expanded and consolidated their influence since… Continue reading Can Iraq’s New PM Chart a Different Relationship with the Gulf?

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?

Iraq is Moving Toward Civil War

Supporters of Iraqi Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr react as they protest against corruption inside the parliament building in Baghdad, Iraq July 27, 2022. REUTERS/Ahmed Saad

IRAQ’S POLITICAL SYSTEM IS nearing irreversible collapse after months of escalatory measures by rival Shi’ite factions have brought the country to the brink of civil war. The trajectory of conflict appears irreversible and would imperil not only the rebuilding of Iraq after years of upheaval but hold implications for stability in the broader region, as… Continue reading Iraq is Moving Toward Civil War