Iran-Israel Tensions Emerge from the Shadows – Council Views

TEHRAN, IRAN - APRIL 14: A new wall mural is displayed at Palestine Square picturing Iran's attack on Israel in Tehran, Iran on April 14, 2024. Haydar Sahin / Anadolu (Photo by Haydar Sahin / ANADOLU / Anadolu via AFP)

On April 13, Iran attacked Israel directly for the first time in its history, retaliating for Israel’s killing of three top Iranian commanders in Damascus on April 1. Israel has since responded with a limited strike, and the United States and its allies imposed expanded sanctions on Iran. Middle East Council scholars examine the implications… Continue reading Iran-Israel Tensions Emerge from the Shadows – Council Views

Washington’s Dilemma over Hamas in Qatar

A handout picture released by the Palestinian president's office (PPO) shows Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas (C-L) meeting with Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad al-Thani (C) and Hamas exiled leader Khaled Meshaal (C-R) in the capital Doha on August 21, 2014. AFP PHOTO/ PPO / THAER GHANEM === RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT "AFP PHOTO/ PPO / THAER GHANEM" - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS === (Photo by HO / AFP)

“Tell Hamas that they must deliver on a hostage and ceasefire deal that would halt the war in Gaza or risk getting kicked out of the Qatari capital of Doha.” That was U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s message to Qatar in early March, according to a report by CNN five months into Israel’s war… Continue reading Washington’s Dilemma over Hamas in Qatar

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 

Bridging the Gap: A Call for Inclusive Health Solutions from Doha

In a world where health disparities dictate life outcomes, the need for inclusive and equitable health solutions is more pressing than ever. The first convening of the Doha Global South Health Policy Initiative held this week in Doha as a partnership between the Middle East Council on Global Affairs and the Bill & Melinda Gates… Continue reading Bridging the Gap: A Call for Inclusive Health Solutions from Doha

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 

GCC can emerge as ‘Middle Powers’ in second Cold War

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov leaves with his counterparts of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member states and the GCC secretary general after posing for a family photo prior to their meeting in Moscow on July 10, 2023. (Photo by NATALIA KOLESNIKOVA / POOL / AFP)

We are living in a second Cold War. A multipolar world is evolving as governments adopt policies that are leading to increased economic and financial fragmentation.  Trade, foreign direct investment, and financial flows are increasingly encumbered by regulatory and legal restrictions.   The number of global trade restrictions introduced each year has nearly tripled since… Continue reading GCC can emerge as ‘Middle Powers’ in second Cold War

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

“Global Boiling” is a Grim Reality: MENA Governments Must do More to Prepare

Participants walk past banners at the COP28 United Nations climate summit in Dubai on December 3, 2023. (Photo by Giuseppe CACACE / AFP)

For residents of sweltering parts of the Middle East and North Africa, it will come as little surprise that 2023 could be the hottest year on Earth since records began. July has already set a grim landmark as the hottest month on record, prompting United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres to remark that “the era of… Continue reading “Global Boiling” is a Grim Reality: MENA Governments Must do More to Prepare

Will COP28 Accelerate Climate Action in the Gulf and Beyond?

A woman walks in an empty conference room ahead of the COP28 United Nations climate summit in Dubai on November 28, 2023. - The UN chief urged world leaders to take decisive action to tackle ever-worsening climate change when they gather at the COP28 summit in Dubai starting this week. (Photo by Giuseppe CACACE / AFP)

The states of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) have been pivotal to the global economy for decades, accounting for around 30 percent of confirmed petroleum reserves worldwide and 20 percent of total natural gas reserves. Yet as the effects of climate change intensify and global climate policies impact the bottom line for hydrocarbon exporters, those… Continue reading Will COP28 Accelerate Climate Action in the Gulf and Beyond?

Qatar’s Next Diplomatic Step in Latin America?

GEORGETOWN, GUYANA - SEPTEMBER 13: (----EDITORIAL USE ONLY - MANDATORY CREDIT - 'AMIRI DIWAN OF THE STATE OF QATAR' / HANDOUT' - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS----) Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani (3rd L) meets President of Guyana Mohamed Irfaan Ali (3rd R) in Georgetown, Guyana on September 13, 2023. Amiri Diwan of the State of Qatar / Handout / Anadolu Agency (Photo by Amiri Diwan of the State of Qata / ANADOLU AGENCY / Anadolu via AFP)

Qatar has garnered significant global attention for its role in negotiating the release of hostages held by Hamas after its attack on Israel on October 7. The Gulf state’s recent mediation efforts have also extended beyond the borders of its own region, particularly in Latin America where its economic and diplomatic channels are widening.    On… Continue reading Qatar’s Next Diplomatic Step in Latin America?

Gulf Normalization Under Strain as Israel Pounds Gaza 

MANAMA, BAHRAIN - OCTOBER 13: People attend a rally to express their solidarity with Palestinians and protest Israeli airstrikes on Gaza in the capital Manama, Bahrain on October 13, 2023. Ayman Yaqoob / Anadolu (Photo by Ayman Yaqoob / ANADOLU / Anadolu via AFP)

Since an unprecedented conflict flared between Israel and Hamas on October 7, the Arab Gulf states have been working to de-escalate and prevent the crisis from sparking a catastrophic regional war dragging in Iranian allies such as Hezbollah in Lebanon, armed groups in Syria and Houthi rebels in Yemen.  Yet while the GCC states agree… Continue reading Gulf Normalization Under Strain as Israel Pounds Gaza 

How Acting as Mediator Expands Qatar’s Geopolitical Reach

US citizens Siamak Namazi (C-back), Emad Sharqi (L) and Morad Tahbaz (C) disembark from a Qatari jet upon their arrival at the Doha International Airport in Doha on September 18, 2023. - Five US detainees, three previously identified as Siamak Namazi, Morad Tahbaz and Emad Sharqi and two who wish to remain anonymous, released by Iran landed in Doha in a prisoner swap on September 18 after $6 billion in frozen funds were transferred to Iranian accounts in Qatar. (Photo by Karim JAAFAR / AFP)

Qatar is increasingly flexing its diplomatic muscles. A high-profile prisoner exchange between the United States and Iran earlier this month is the latest in a string of painstaking agreements mediated by the Gulf state, and could lead to further diplomatic efforts as the countries try to jumpstart stalled nuclear talks. The prisoner swap was the… Continue reading How Acting as Mediator Expands Qatar’s Geopolitical Reach

Mediating Multipolarity: Qatar’s Role in U.S.-Venezuela Negotiations

In this handout picture released by the Venezuelan Presidency, Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro (L) is received by the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, at the Royal Palace (Emiri Diwan), in Doha, on June 15, 2022. (Photo by Marcelo GARCIA / Venezuelan Presidency / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT "AFP PHOTO / VENEZUELAN PRESIDENCY / MARCELO GARCIA " - NO MARKETING - NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS - RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT "AFP PHOTO / VENEZUELAN PRESIDENCY / Marcelo GARCIA " - NO MARKETING - NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS /

In June, Qatar hosted secret talks between Venezuela and the United States. Doha has an extensive track record of assisting the United States in sensitive negotiations, including a recent prisoner swap with Iran and U.S.-Taliban backchanneling. Qatar’s emergence as a mediator in Venezuela has filled a void left by the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) and other regional… Continue reading Mediating Multipolarity: Qatar’s Role in U.S.-Venezuela Negotiations

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?

Saudi-Iran Rapprochement Unlikely to Bring Lasting Peace to Yemen

The head of the Houthi Supreme Political Council, Mahdi al-Mashat, shakes hands with Saudi ambassador to Yemen Mohammed Al-Jaber at the Republican Palace in Sanaa, Yemen April 9, 2023. Saba News Agency /Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. - RC26B0AVW8UY

A diplomatic agreement between Saudi Arabia and Iran has raised hopes that it could lead to a peace agreement in Yemen, where war has raged with the help of both parties for over eight years. Over the past week, Houthi officials have been holding peace talks in Sanaa with a delegation led by Saudi Ambassador… Continue reading Saudi-Iran Rapprochement Unlikely to Bring Lasting Peace to Yemen

What Can the Next World Cup Hosts Learn from Qatar 2022?

HE Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani, HE US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, and American and Qatari delegations at the fifth US-Qatar Strategic Dialogue in Doha, Qatar. November 22, 2022. MoFA Qatar.

As 2022 drew to a close, the sporting world relished in a riveting FIFA World Cup full of historical firsts. Going forward, policymakers have a chance to reflect on the lessons learned from the organization of that event, which was the first time it was held in the Middle East. With the United States, Mexico,… Continue reading What Can the Next World Cup Hosts Learn from Qatar 2022?

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

China’s Xi travels to Saudi Arabia as Asia-GCC relations reach new heights 

Chinese President Xi Jinping arrives in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, December 7, 2022. Saudi Press Agency/Handout via REUTERS

The arrival of Chinese President Xi Jinping in Saudi Arabia marks an important moment in the historical relationship between the two countries and their respective regions. While the United States has recently been eager to drive a wedge between its partners in the Persian Gulf and its rival to the East, heads of state from… Continue reading China’s Xi travels to Saudi Arabia as Asia-GCC relations reach new heights 

Council Views – Hosting the FIFA World Cup 2022: Impact on Qatar and the Region

Soccer Football - FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Preview - Lusail, Qatar - November 10, 2022 A man with a replica of the World Cup outside Lusail Stadium ahead of the World Cup REUTERS/Marko Djurica - UP1EIBA1ABW6H

On December 2, 2010, Qatar won the bid for hosting the 2022 Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) World Cup, becoming the first country in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region to host this tournament. Ever since, the country has launched several mega projects, ramping up its infrastructure capacity, amid wide controversy about… Continue reading Council Views – Hosting the FIFA World Cup 2022: Impact on Qatar and the Region