A Succession of Coups Leaves the Sahel Prey to International Rivalries

Protesters react as a man holds up a sign demanding that soldiers from the United States Army leave Niger without negotiation during a demonstration in Niamey, on April 13, 2024. - Thousands of people demonstrated on April 13, 2024 in Niger’s capital Niamey to demand the immediate departure of American soldiers based in northern Niger, after the military regime said it was withdrawing from a 2012 cooperation deal with Washington. (Photo by AFP)

When Niger’s military rulers decided to put an end to the presence of American armed forces on the country’s territory in May, the move was met with dismay in Washington. Niger, in the heart of the Sahel region south of the Sahara Desert, is host to two major bases the United States had long used… Continue reading A Succession of Coups Leaves the Sahel Prey to International Rivalries

Another Catastrophe Hangs Over Darfur

Fighters of the Sudan Liberation Movement, a Sudanese rebel group active in Sudan's Darfur State which supports army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, attend a graduation ceremony in the southeastern Gedaref state on March 28, 2024. - Sudan's war has already killed thousands, including between 10,000 and 15,000 in a single city in the western Darfur region, according to UN experts. The war pits army chief al-Burhan against his former deputy, Mohamed Hamdan Daglo, known as Hemeti, who commands the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF). (Photo by AFP)

Two decades after mass atrocities for which justice has never been served, the capital of North Darfur teeters on the brink once again. El-Fasher is the last of five state capitals in Sudan’s vast Darfur region that has not fallen to the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) in the course of the country’s war. Vulnerable to… Continue reading Another Catastrophe Hangs Over Darfur

The Middle East in the Wake of October 7: Interview with Tarik M. Yousef Marking 100 Afkār Posts

We at Afkār are delighted to announce that we have reached a new milestone, our 100th post! To mark the occasion, we have recorded and transcribed a special interview with the Director of the Middle East Council on Global Affairs, Tarik M. Yousef. The in-depth interview was conducted by our editor, Omar H. Rahman, and… Continue reading The Middle East in the Wake of October 7: Interview with Tarik M. Yousef Marking 100 Afkār Posts

Economic Diversification is the GCC’s Top Priority

An undated handout picture released by KNPC, a subsidiary of the Kuwait Petroleum Corporation on November 11, 2020, shows the Crude Distillation Unit at the Mina Abdullah Refinery in the Fahaheel district some 35 kilometres south of Kuwait City. (Photo by KNPC / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT "AFP PHOTO / KNPC" - NO MARKETING - NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS

It is a paradoxical truth that nations highly dependent on natural resources tend to be poor economic performers.   Such countries are exposed to ongoing adverse shocks, including price jolts, volatile demand and supply, and natural disasters. These factors can stir up macroeconomic instability and higher economic risks – otherwise known as the “natural resource curse”.   … Continue reading Economic Diversification is the GCC’s Top Priority

The Development Road Project – Council Views

(L to R) Turkey's Transport Minister Abdulkadir Uraloglu, UAE's Energy Minister Suhail Mohamed al-Mazrouei, Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Iraq's Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani, Qatar's Minister of Transport Jassim bin Saif bin Ahmed al-Sulaiti, and Iraq's Transport Minister Razzaq Muhaibas al-Saadawi pose for a picture during their meeting for the signing of the "Development Road" framework agreement on security, economy, and development in Baghdad on April 22, 2024. (Photo by Ahmad Al-rubaye / POOL / AFP)

Following a momentous visit to Iraq by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Türkiye, Iraq, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates signed an initial agreement to collaborate on the Development Road project. The $17 billion project envisages region-wide transportation routes and infrastructure that would transform Iraq into a transit hub connecting Asia and Europe over approximately… Continue reading The Development Road Project – Council Views

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

Can BRICS Really Drop the Dollar?

The new year saw four of the largest economies in the Middle East and North Africa join the BRICS economic union. The accession by Egypt, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates represents a strategic step away from the United States and Europe. For the new BRICS members, it could open new opportunities for… Continue reading Can BRICS Really Drop the Dollar?

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

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?

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 

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

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

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

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