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

Conflict in the Red Sea Makes Economic Waves

A grab from handout footage released by Yemen's Huthi Ansarullah Media Centre on November 19, 2023, reportedly shows members of the rebel group during the capture of an Israel-linked cargo vessel at an undefined location in the Red Sea. - Israeli ships are a "legitimate target", Yemen's Huthi rebels warned on November 20, a day after their seizure of the Galaxy Leader and its 25 international crew following an earlier threat to target Israeli shipping over the Israel-Hamas war. (Photo by ANSARULLAH MEDIA CENTRE / AFP)

When the Yemen-based Houthi movement began attacking commercial shipping in the Red Sea in response to Israel’s war in Gaza, the impact on global trade was almost immediate. The international counter-response led by the United States, however, has only increased the likelihood of intensifying conflict and economic damage. As tensions build, the confrontation in the… Continue reading Conflict in the Red Sea Makes Economic Waves

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

Reforms in Kuwait: Can the new prime minister achieve them?

Kuwait's new emir Sheikh Meshal al-Ahmad al-Sabah (R) salutes as he swears in before lawmakers as the country's 17th ruler, at the Kuwaiti parliament, on December 20, 2023 in Kuwait City. (Photo by YASSER AL-ZAYYAT / AFP)

There is rumored to have once been a sign in Doha that read, “yesterday Kuwait, today Dubai; tomorrow Qatar.” Although perhaps apocryphal, it captures an important and painful truth for many Kuwaitis. Kuwait initially led the way in the Arabian Gulf and was the first country with its own currency and Constitution of the State… Continue reading Reforms in Kuwait: Can the new prime minister achieve them?

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

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

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

The Persistent Illusion of Palestinian Reconciliation

EL ALAMEIN, EGYPT - JULY 30: (----EDITORIAL USE ONLY – MANDATORY CREDIT - 'PALESTINIAN PRESIDENCY / HANDOUT' - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS----) Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (C) makes a speech during meeting of Palestinian groups' general secretaries in El Alamein, Egypt on July 30, 2023. Palestinian Presidency / Handout / Anadolu Agency (Photo by Palestinian Presidency / Handout / ANADOLU AGENCY / Anadolu Agency via AFP)

Representatives of 14 Palestinian political factions, including Fatah and Hamas, were invited to the Egyptian coastal city of El-Alamein on July 30, 2023 for reconciliation talks hosted by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. Facing challenges from the recurrent and increasingly violent onslaught by Jewish settlers and Israeli occupation forces throughout the West Bank since the beginning of… Continue reading The Persistent Illusion of Palestinian Reconciliation

Libyan Effort to Clean Up State Finances Sidesteps Deeper Issues

TRIPOLI, LIBYA - FEBRUARY 12: Protesters gather in front of Libya's National Oil Company to protest against renegade commander Khalifa Haftar after depriving public of oil revenues by halting production and exporting in oil fields in Tripoli, Libya on February 12, 2020. Hazem Turkia / Anadolu Agency (Photo by Hazem Turkia / Anadolu Agency)

As political tensions in Libya simmer amid fresh uncertainty over elections, the Libyan Presidency Council recently moved to address another issue at the heart of the country’s divisions. Only July 6, the Tripoli-based body announced it was establishing a High Financial Oversight Committee, with sweeping responsibilities to oversee Libya’s vital oil revenues, scrutinize government budgets… Continue reading Libyan Effort to Clean Up State Finances Sidesteps Deeper Issues

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 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

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

Interview: What Lies Ahead for Türkiye After the Elections?

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan greets the audiece after a press conference where he announced the new cabinet, in Ankara, Turkey June 3, 2023. REUTERS/Umit Bektas - RC2WB1AS37AP

1. What accounts for the election results, both in terms of Erdogan’s performance and the opposition alliance’s defeat? What will happen to the alliance now?  The election results illustrate that President Erdogan’s campaign narratives of maintaining continuity in tumultuous times, his quest to make Türkiye a powerhouse in international affairs, and the fight against terrorism,… Continue reading Interview: What Lies Ahead for Türkiye After the Elections?

Time to Tackle the Transparency Deficit in the MENA Region

Annual Meetings chairman and governor of the Central Bank of Egypt, Hassan Abdalla, speaks during a Plenary Session of the Annual Meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank in Washington, U.S., October 14, 2022. REUTERS/Elizabeth Frantz - RC211X9UM97J

It is widely known that the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region suffers from a “democratic deficit.”  What is less well-appreciated is that the region also suffers from a chronic deficit in transparency.  The World Bank’s Vice President for MENA, Ferid Belhaj, recently called attention to this problem, stating that Egypt needs to get… Continue reading Time to Tackle the Transparency Deficit in the MENA Region

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

Racism Row Puts Another Blot on Tunisia’s Post-2011 Gleam

A woman carries a banner, which reads: "Feminist, Tunisian, African. We are all men and women immigrants", during a protest after Tunisian President Kais Saied ordered security forces to stop all illegal migration and expel all undocumented migrants, in Tunis, Tunisia February 25, 2023. REUTERS/Jihed Abidellaoui - RC2EIZ9Z64F7

In late February, Tunisian President Kais Saied made incendiary claims against Sub-Saharan Africans in the country. Asserting that “hordes” of paperless migrants represented a “criminal plot” to change Tunisia’s racial make-up and blur its Arab-Muslim identity, he accused them of causing a wave of “violence, crimes, and unacceptable acts” and called for “urgent measures to… Continue reading Racism Row Puts Another Blot on Tunisia’s Post-2011 Gleam

Egypt’s Economic Crisis Heightens Need for Reforms

People buy dates from a market selling food at discounted prices, after a devaluation of the Egyptian pound led to a sharp increase in prices, in Giza, Egypt, January 28, 2023. REUTERS/Hanaa Habib - RC2RZY94VDKZ

Egyptians are facing a dire economic situation. Since early 2022, the Egyptian pound has lost more than 40 percent of its value against the U.S. dollar and prices of imported goods have soared, as the impact of the war in Ukraine compounds the effects of stringent bailout conditions set by the International Monetary Fund (IMF).… Continue reading Egypt’s Economic Crisis Heightens Need for Reforms

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

Why Do Young Tunisians Trust the Sea over Their Country?

The month of September ended in tragedy for several families in the small coastal city of Zarzis in southern Tunisia. Around 18 young people went missing during an attempt to reach Europe, believing a tiny boat would carry them to a land of more opportunity. Yet, like many before them, they never reached their destination… Continue reading Why Do Young Tunisians Trust the Sea over Their Country?

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?