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.
Hezbollah’s role in Syria
Iran established Hezbollah in Lebanon in the 1980s to fight Israel and subvert Sunni regimes in the Middle East. Now, it is doing Tehran’s bidding in the Syrian civil war, supporting President Bashar al-Assad. The experience has given Hezbollah fighters the military skill necessary to strike again at Israel. The coming conflict could be much worse than the previous round of fighting in 2006.
Iraq: between democracy and failed state
Iraqi democracy has been more or less written off by the West. Combating its political gridlock, sectarianism and corruption will be harder than defeating Daesh. The best way Baghdad can start solving these problems is to strike a deal to retake Mosul.
Understanding Iraq’s Sunni tribes
Iraq’s Sunni tribes form a key part of Iraq’s complicated power structure. The United States found some success in the early 2000s when it allied with them to push back al-Qaeda. Since then, some have been alienated and joined Daesh. Most have not chosen sides. The U.S. will need to bring more into its fold in order to expel Daesh from Iraq.
Syria’s future: the losers and winners
For all the confusion about Syria’s civil war, there’s no doubt about the big loser – the Syrian people. But nearly every regional power that has intervened to advance its own interests has also paid a heavy price, as has the European Union, a not-so-innocent bystander. For now, the most likely winners are the former Cold War antagonists, the United States and Russ...
China steps up engagement in the Middle East
Beijing’s increasing involvement in the Middle East has important economic, diplomatic, and military implications for the region, China and the world. The stakes were highlighted when the Chinese government chose to build its first overseas military base in Djibouti, in the Horn of Africa. President Xi Jinping’s recent visits to Iran and Saudi Arabia drove the poin...
Global trends: players and paths for Islamic State (part 1)
There is little doubt that Islamic State is here to stay as a headache in the Middle East. The only question is how serious a headache for local and foreign powers it will be by mid-2017. Even under the best-case scenario, its clandestine cells will remain active in eastern and northern Syria and in the Sunni areas of Iraq. ...
Regional powers play with fire in Yemen
Islamic militants versus Islamic militants? The inventiveness of extremists when it comes to the wars they are waging in the Middle East and Africa seems inexhaustible. We may have thought that Islamic State was the last threshold of barbarism and the breakdown of traditional state structures. Now, however, even as the group metastasises in Libya, the Sinai Peninsu...
Saudi Arabia considers how to recast foreign policy and rely less on US
Saudi Arabia’s relations with its Arab neighbours have been troubled since the state was founded in 1932. The kingdom’s territorial expansion, border disputes and export of Wahhabi Islam have all fed fears of Saudi political domination. Now that the decades-long alliance with Washington has cooled and the United States’ security umbrella has been at least partially...