Are the Stars Aligning for Long-Needed Reforms in Kuwait?

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. Its relatively free… Continue reading Are the Stars Aligning for Long-Needed Reforms in Kuwait?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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?

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?

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