2018 Global Outlook: Four dangerous dynamics in the Middle East
Early 2018 finds the Middle East at a singular moment in its history. It is hard to recall a period when so many fundamental geopolitical shifts have occurred just as societies, states and alliances in the region were all starting to fall apart. Four disruptive trends can be identified, any one of which would have sufficed to produce regional instability in the not-too-distant past. Today, their combination creates a formidable dynamic for armed conflict.
Will El-Sisi bring Egypt back?
At the heart of the Middle East is a surprising absence. Egypt, the most populous nation in the Arab world, with the largest army and a proud 6,000-year history, is no longer a leader. It exerts virtually no influence in the region, a situation that is unlikely to change unless President Abdel-Fattah Eli-Sisi turns his country around.
Addressing migration requires stability in North Africa
German Chancellor Angela Merkel traveled to Egypt earlier this month to lend her support to the government of President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi. She seems to be the only European leader willing to address the problem of migration from Africa. Stability in North Africa is vital to European interests – but it must avoid making the wrong assessments out of naive sentiments again, and instead take a more realistic view.
Global Outlook 2017: The Middle East
The dangerous military situation in the Eastern Mediterranean opens a list of troubling scenarios in the Middle East. Just as grave is the possibility of turmoil in Egypt, which could launch a migrant wave of millions into Europe. Daesh's impending military defeat will pose challenges as the movement disperses and infiltrates Europe. Saudi-Iranian relations will remain tense, and the new U.S. administration's effort to revive an alliance with Sunni Gulf states could be derailed by its pledge to build an embassy in Jerusalem.
Trump’s Middle East blueprint: an Israeli view
Donald Trump took a scattershot approach to the Middle East in his election campaign. At times, he advocated greater involvement, at others he leaned toward isolationism. On balance, however, the new president will have no choice but to jettison Barack Obama’s policy of disengagement. The most probable outcome is active intervention.
Saudi Arabia-Russia partnership takes shape
Saudi Arabia is losing trust in its old ally, the United States, whose posture in the Middle East has markedly changed. This provides an opening for partnership with Russia. Although the two countries stand on opposite sides of several important issues – especially the conflict in Syria and how to manage low oil prices – there are signs that cooperation is increasing.
Sinai’s tangled web
The geopolitical significance of the Sinai Peninsula, which borders several strategic waterways and serves as a buffer between Egypt and Israel, can hardly be understated. Instability there is on the rise, as radical jihadi groups gain a stronger foothold. Egypt will have to overcome mistakes of the past and underwhelming support from its allies to bring law and order back to this critical portion of its territory.
The geopolitics of gas: Qatar, Iran and Russia
Qatar and Russia have little reason to like each other. They are adversaries on several Middle Eastern battlefields and heavyweight rivals on the world gas market. But Doha, for its own reasons, wants to keep the communication lines open with Moscow.