Yemen Civil War
Saudi Arabia’s key role in the Middle East
Journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s murder has upset the Middle East’s geopolitical balance in two dimensions: the three-sided rivalry between Iran, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, and the conflict between the Muslim Brotherhood and stable monarchies in the region. For the Saudis, the crisis poses an unexpected opportunity to improve governance. For the West, it presents a choice between triggering chaos and a possible radical takeover, or helping the kingdom make a difficult transition.
Iran and the U.S. play nuclear poker in the Middle East
After President Donald Trump pulled the U.S. out of the Iran nuclear deal, tensions between Tehran and Washington have ratcheted up significantly. A tangled web of conflicts in the region complicates the issue, while the dispute will weigh heavily on Iran’s domestic politics, which are already under their greatest strain in nearly 30 years. Military action would lead to an unpredictable chain reaction throughout the region, but negotiations could end up defusing several conflicts at once.
GIS Dossier: Saudi Arabia’s transforming role
Over the past five years, Saudi Arabia has had to make some big adjustments, as geopolitical shifts have put it in a precarious position. After the oil price slump of 2014 and Iran’s rise to regional prominence in 2015, the kingdom made strategic changes both at home and abroad. It decided to make a stand against Iranian attempts to forge a Shia crescent and moved to diversify its economy. This dossier reviews our analysts’ predictions for how successful these moves will be.
Saudi Arabia and the UAE have diverging goals in Yemen
The United Arab Emirates is part of a Saudi-led coalition against the Houthis in Yemen. But recently, it has become clear that Abu Dhabi’s and Riyadh’s goals are diverging. While both the Emiratis and Saudis want to roll back Iran’s growing influence in the region, the UAE wants to divide Yemen, so it can gain more control around critical access points to the Red Sea. The tensions that will arise will further complicate the Yemen conflict.
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.
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.
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.
Don’t blame Sykes-Picot
May 2016 marked 100 years since the signing of the controversial Sykes-Picot Agreement, which divided up spheres of influence in the Middle East between France and the United Kingdom. Some argue that the colonial powers duped a helpless and naive Arab world, leading to the region’s chronic instability. However, over the past century Arab countries have constantly been torn between nationalism and Islamism – something that has made it difficult for them to become modern democratic states.
Oil prices shape Gulf states’ geopolitical moves
Low oil prices are putting pressure on Gulf states’ budgets, and their efforts to reduce spending will have huge geopolitical implications. Most importantly, they will lose influence in the region as they hold back on foreign aid and military engagement. Domestically, diminished subsidies, welfare and infrastructure expenditures could arouse instability.