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?

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?

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

“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?

Gaza Crisis puts US’ Unipolarity Push in Doubt

US President Joe Biden (L) speaks as Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu listens on prior to their meeting in Tel Aviv on October 18, 2023, amid the ongoing battles between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas. - US President Joe Biden landed in Tel Aviv on October 18, 2023 as Middle East anger flared after hundreds were killed when a rocket struck a hospital in war-torn Gaza, with Israel and the Palestinians quick to trade blame. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP)

Zhai Jun, China’s Special Envoy on the Middle East affairs, is on a trip to the region to push for a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas. In his remarks at the Cairo Summit for Peace on the Palestinian Question on October 21, Zhai called for support for “the Palestinian people in restoring their lawful national… Continue reading Gaza Crisis puts US’ Unipolarity Push in Doubt

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 

The Hamas Raid and Israel’s Onslaught of Gaza – Council Views

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 The Hamas Raid and Israel’s Onslaught of Gaza – Council Views

Why Japan Should Welcome Saudi Arabia into the GCAP Fighter Jet Alliance

A model of a new fighter jet of the Global Combat Air Programme (GCAP) led by Britain, Japan, and Italy, is seen at the DSEI defence event in London, Britain, September 12, 2023. Reuters/Sarah Young - RC2W63A7ADC4

Saudi Arabia has been intensifying its diplomatic efforts to join the Global Combat Air Programme (GCAP), a joint effort by Japan, the United Kingdom and Italy to build a next-generation combat jet. When Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida visited Saudi Arabia in July, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman directly asked to join the alliance. But… Continue reading Why Japan Should Welcome Saudi Arabia into the GCAP Fighter Jet Alliance

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

Will Yemen’s New Hadramout Council Lead to Federalism or More Fragmentation?

Children walk near damaged cars in the rebel-besieged city of Taez, Yemen's third city, on May 17, 2022. - In Yemen, millions have been forced from their homes in the brutal conflict pitting the Saudi-backed government against Iran-backed Huthi rebels, which has sparked widespread food shortages and ravaged the country's infrastructure. (Photo by Ahmad AL-BASHA / AFP)

The creation of a new governing council for Yemen’s largest province could mark a key moment in the country’s nine-year civil war. The Hadhramout National Council (HNC) was unveiled in late June after meetings between influential actors from across the vast eastern province, as well as Western ambassadors, under Saudi auspices. The council, set to… Continue reading Will Yemen’s New Hadramout Council Lead to Federalism or More Fragmentation?

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?

Can Iran-Saudi Rapprochement overcome Tehran’s anti-Western worldview?

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi gives a speech as Iran presents its first hypersonic ballistic missile 'Fattah' (Conqueror) in an event in Tehran, Iran on June 06, 2023. Sepah News / Handout / Anadolu Agency (Photo by Sepah News / Handout / ANADOLU Agency via AFP)

When Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan visited Iran in June, many viewed the event as further evidence of rapidly warming relations between the two regional rivals, who resumed diplomatic ties in March after years of open hostility. The image of the Saudi prince alongside Iran’s president, Ebrahim Raisi, conveyed the message that the… Continue reading Can Iran-Saudi Rapprochement overcome Tehran’s anti-Western worldview?

Saudi Arabia’s Great Transformation

Saudi woman stand next to the the Saudi pavilion (vision) 2030 pavilion at the Gitex 2018 exhibition at the Dubai World Trade Center in Dubai on October 16, 2018

An unprecedented experiment in economic and social transformation is playing out in Saudi Arabia, and the outcome could have profound implications for the entire Arab world. The main goal of the kingdom’s Vision 2030 plan is to shift the economy away from fossil fuels. It is a timely pivot, given that greenhouse-gas emissions must be… Continue reading Saudi Arabia’s Great Transformation

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

Will the Saudi-Iran Rapprochement change anything for the Palestinians?

Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, is received by Deputy Amir of Makkah, Prince Badr Bin Sultan, as he arrives to attend the Arab League Summit in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, May 18, 2023. Saudi Press Agency/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY - RC2011A4W1G1

Amid the zeitgeist of diplomatic rapprochement and normalization in the Middle East—which has recently seen Saudi Arabia and Iran mend ties and Syria’s Bashar al-Assad welcomed at this month’s Arab League summit—the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas took a step forward to repair its own regional relationships.  In mid-April, a delegation of senior Hamas officials, led… Continue reading Will the Saudi-Iran Rapprochement change anything for the Palestinians?

Saudi Arabia and the UAE on Edge as Generals Battle It Out in Sudan

Aid from King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Centre from Saudi Arabia is unloaded from a Saudi Royal Air Force cargo plane at Port Sudan International Airport, Sudan, May 11, 2023. REUTERS/Ahmed Yosri - RC22W0AIX7M7

As Sudan’s two main armed forces battle for control of Khartoum, hopes for a truce may lie on the other side of the Red Sea. Saudi Arabia has been holding talks in Jeddah reportedly focused on reaching a ceasefire and ensuring aid can reach those affected by the fighting, which has already killed hundreds of… Continue reading Saudi Arabia and the UAE on Edge as Generals Battle It Out in Sudan

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

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

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

Yemen Negotiations: Buying Time or Nearing Peace?

Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia Mohammad bin Salman al-Saud (R) greets Rashad Muhammed al-Alimi, Chairman of the Presidential Council of Yemen (L) during the 43rd Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Summit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia [Royal Court of Saudi Arabia - Anadolu Agency]

Reports of direct talks between Saudi Arabia and Yemen’s Houthi rebels have sparked hopes of a diplomatic breakthrough toward ending the country’s devastating eight-year war. Many observers have drawn optimism from renewed peace efforts and months of relative calm on the ground, which has outlasted a formal truce that expired in October. Yet there are… Continue reading Yemen Negotiations: Buying Time or Nearing Peace?

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 

For Nations Abroad, U.S. Midterm Elections Are of Increasing Importance

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Shutterstock (13056644a) Former US President Donald Trump (L), Saudi businessman Yasir bin Othman Al-Rumayyan (C), and Jared Kushner (R) watch the first round of the LIV Golf Bedminster invitational, part of the new LIV Golf Invitational Series, at the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey, USA, 29 July 2022. The tournament will be held from 29 - 31 July. Former US President Donald Trump at LIV Golf Bedminster invitational Pro-Am, Bedminster, New Jersey, USA - 29 Jul 2022

The elections held in the United States on November 8 were billed as the most crucial midterms in a generation. In a country deeply divided along ideological and party lines, the implications of such polls go well beyond domestic affairs. Polarization at home is seeping into Washington’s policy abroad, meaning that even congressional polls, once… Continue reading For Nations Abroad, U.S. Midterm Elections Are of Increasing Importance

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?