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 

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

U.S. Motives in the Red Sea Go Beyond Bringing Stability

Members of the Yemeni Coast Guard affiliated with the Houthi group patrol the sea as demonstrators march through the Red Sea port city of Hodeida in solidarity with the people of Gaza on January 4, 2024, amid the ongoing battles between Israel and the militant Hamas group in Gaza. (Photo by AFP)

The waters of the Red Sea are heating up. In recent weeks, the United States has intensified efforts to clamp down on actions taken by the Houthis, a Yemen-based movement otherwise known as Ansar Allah, to disrupt maritime shipping believed to be connected to Israel as a retaliation for its near-total destruction of the Gaza… Continue reading U.S. Motives in the Red Sea Go Beyond Bringing Stability

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

Algeria at the BRICS’ Doorstep: A Journey of Aspirations and Opportunities

(1st row from L to R) Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa and President of China Xi Jinping attend a meeting during the 2023 BRICS Summit at the Sandton Convention Centre in Johannesburg on August 24, 2023. (Photo by Marco Longari / POOL / AFP)

At the 15th BRICS Summit in South Africa, Algeria’s candidacy was not retained to join the 5-member grouping; six out of 23 candidates were chosen: Argentina, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE. While politically, Algeria is the ideal candidate, its economic standing might not have been attractive enough, at least not yet. The… Continue reading Algeria at the BRICS’ Doorstep: A Journey of Aspirations and Opportunities

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?

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

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

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

The Limits to Iran’s Trade Push in Africa

Iran's President Ebrahim Raisi inspects a guard of honor mounted by the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) at the State House, during his three-country African tour, part of efforts to reduce the Islamic Republic's economic isolation, in Nairobi, Kenya July 12, 2023. REUTERS/Monicah Mwangi - RC2J12A4ZUZ5

In July, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi embarked on a three-country tour in Africa to expand relations on the continent, the first of its kind by an Iranian leader in more than a decade. The trip, to Kenya, Uganda and Zimbabwe, followed a similar visit to Latin America. Both were part of a strategic push by… Continue reading The Limits to Iran’s Trade Push in Africa

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

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?

Is a New Iran Nuclear Deal in the Making?

Iran's Chief nuclear negotiator Ali Bagheri Kani leaves the Palais Coburg, the venue where closed-door nuclear talks take place in Vienna, Austria, August 4,2022. REUTERS/Lisa Leutner - RC2NPV9I2XWB

Discreet talks between Iranian and Western officials have prompted rumors that they are nearing a new deal over Iran’s nuclear program, five years after the United States withdrew from the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). The original, landmark agreement had been a linchpin in global efforts to cap Iran’s nuclear development. But after… Continue reading Is a New Iran Nuclear Deal in the Making?

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

How Does Iran View Syria’s Return to the Arab League?

Syria's President Bashar al-Assad arrives in Jeddah, to attend the Arab League summit the following day, Saudi Arabia, May 18, 2023. SANA/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY - RC2611A8XF20

In May 2023, Syria returned to the Arab League following a near-12-year suspension. The move has far-reaching implications for both the region and the international community. It came after more than a decade of widespread atrocities by Bashar Al-Assad’s regime against its own citizens, abuses that have cast a long shadow over Syria’s relationships with… Continue reading How Does Iran View Syria’s Return to the Arab League?

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

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

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 

Why the U.S. Congressional Effort to Pressure Algeria on Russia Could Backfire

In a letter addressed to United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken on September 29, U.S. Congresswoman Lisa McClain (R-MI) and 26 of her colleagues called for imposing sanctions on Algeria through the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA). The move is ostensibly connected to the war in Ukraine and the intensifying competition between… Continue reading Why the U.S. Congressional Effort to Pressure Algeria on Russia Could Backfire