Mohammed Bin Salman
GIS Dossier: Syria, Round 2
As Islamic State and jihadist rebels head for defeat in Syria’s civil war, the conflict is becoming more internationalized. Turkey has intervened military in the north against the Kurds, the U.S. has bombed Russian military contractors, and a rocket-propelled chess game between Israel on one side and Iran and Hezbollah on the other is heating up. If the key players aren’t careful, Round 2 in Syria could be a regional conflagration.
Kadyrov’s Chechnya poses a growing risk for Putin
In Ramzan Kadyrov, Russian President Vladimir Putin has found someone who can both keep Chechnya under control and supply ruthless troops for conflicts in Ukraine and Syria. But the Kremlin's hold over its Chechen warlord is tenuous and risks backfiring in the long term. Acting now could have dire consequences as well.
Saudi Arabia’s hidden power struggle comes into the open
The arrest of 208 high-ranking individuals in November 2017 on suspicion of corruption suggests that the House of Saud faces serious challenges. King Salman’s son, Mohammad bin Salman, has consolidated power in a way that contravenes the traditional rules of succession of the Saudi ruling dynasty. But amid foreign policy setbacks and a mixed record with domestic reforms, it is far from certain that the Crown Prince will succeed his father on the throne.
Opinion: How Kirkuk could trigger a new major war
Iraqi Kurdistan’s disastrous decision to press ahead with an independence referendum has allowed the Iraqi federal government to reassert control over Kirkuk and its vital oil fields. But an even bigger consequence of Baghdad’s resurgence could be a potential conflict with its erstwhile sponsor, Tehran. Any such confrontation would quickly become regional in scope, bringing in Saudi Arabia, the United States and possibly Israel.
The contours of a future Middle East emerge
Events are moving fast in the Middle East. The hoped-for rapprochement between Russia and the U.S. that could bring an end to the war in Syria appears to have collapsed. Growing tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia could spark a war at any moment. But the most explosive issue for this region of minorities is the prospect of independence for Iraqi Kurdistan.
The future of OPEC
OPEC's influence in the global oil market has greatly diminished in recent years, mainly due to the shale revolution in the United States, but also because of diverging interests among its members. It has pledged to cut production, but doing so may prove difficult. There are still some scenarios where OPEC could rise to prominence, but the most likely scenario is for it to be further marginalized.
Essay: Royal families and monarchies in the 21st century
Far from being relics of the past, modern monarchies continue to provide valuable services to 21st century societies. Royal families, for all the occasional foibles of their members, have retained popular affection in part because they help uphold constitutional principles and provide a sense of nationhood and cohesion in times of need.
Saudi Arabia’s economic reform
Saudi Arabia has come up with a new strategy to diversify its oil-dependent economy. It would be easy to dismiss the McKinsey-endorsed plan as another paper scheme that will soon be forgotten. But with climate change and demography working against them, this time the Saudis may be serious.
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.