Middle East & Arab World March 2023-

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History of ancient Israel and Judah

Reform or Recklessness? Which Path for the Arab Region?
States in the Middle East and North Africa can be divided into three categories, but all of them must adopt a holistic approach toward development in order to succeed.
(Carnegie Endowment) Successive political and economic shocks in the last thirteen years since the start of the Arab uprisings are signaling that political and economic orders across the region are no longer viable.
The uprisings throughout the region signaled that the old Arab political order, grounded in authoritarianism, was seriously contested. But the inadequacies of Arab political and economic systems were also shown by their inability to deal with successive shocks, such as the food crisis in 2007–2008 and later, and most importantly, the decline in oil prices in 2014, which pointed to the fragility of the old Arab economic order based on systems of rentierism.
Notwithstanding the most recent short-term increase in oil prices due to the Russia-Ukraine war, the combination of political and economic shocks is already beginning to transform the Middle East and North Africa in different ways, and will have long-term effects on the region’s political and economic systems. As a result of the diverse consequences of all these crises, as well as the divergent paths adopted by different Arab countries to address them, we can no longer look at the Arab region as monolithic. Rather, Arab countries can be subdivided today into three distinct categories—those countries that are thriving, those that are struggling, and those that have become failing or failed states. In all of these groups, it is apparent that the old Arab order is dead. The main question today is what kind of new order, or orders, will replace it? (30 August 2023)

Middle East crisis — explained
(NPR) The conflict between Israel and Palestinians — and other groups in the Middle East — goes back decades. These stories provide context for current developments and the history that led up to them. (4-11 November 2023)

15 April
The impact of Iran’s attack on Israel
Brookings scholars offer their insights following Iran’s drone and missile attack against Israel on April 13, 2024. Their responses provide [a range of] perspectives on the implications for various actors as well as a range of policy issues.
ex: Itamar Rabinovich
the successful joint effort by the United States, Israel, and several regional actors provides an excellent starting point for expanding and formalizing their cooperation. This could provide a satisfactory exit strategy from the war in Gaza and a response to Iran’s success in building a bloc of radical proxies and dependent states. The main challenge to this strategy remains the need to revive cooperation and dialogue between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
Marsin Alshamary : Iraq’s balancing act amid Iran’s attack
Iran’s efforts to restore deterrence after Israel attacked its consulate in Damascus have reinvigorated its allies and proxies across the Middle East. It has also inadvertently foreshadowed the positions of regional actors, should a larger war unfold. Many countries in the region showed that they were not willing to sacrifice their relationship with the United States. Indeed, despite that most recent analysis has focused on the Gulf and Jordan (given the latter’s active role in shooting down Iranian drones), Iraq’s position is worth noting. The Iraqi security forces did not shoot down any Iranian drones, but they did not prevent the United States from doing so on Iraqi territory.

14 March
Who is Muhammad Mustafa?
(GZERO Media) Mahmoud Abbas, the 88-year-old president of the widely unpopular Palestinian Authority, on Thursday named Muhammad Mustafa as the authority’s prime minister.
Mustafa is a trained economist with a degree from George Washington University in Washington, DC. His current job is head of the Palestine Investment Fund, the Palestinian Territories’ sovereign development fund. He has also served as the PA’s economy minister and deputy prime minister.
More to the point, Mustafa is a longtime PA insider who owes his career and standing to Abbas. For those hoping the aging president would choose a dynamic, independent-minded leader as PM who might lead in a bold new direction, Mustafa is an unpopular choice – one that signals Abbas intends to remain the dominant voice in the PA for as long as he can.

12 March
Red Sea crisis: US carries out six ‘self-defence’ strikes against Houthi targets
Yemeni group earlier warned it would escalate operations during Ramadan in solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza
Yemen’s internationally recognised government, which has been fighting a civil war against the Houthis, told Reuters that US airstrikes hit port cities and small towns in western Yemen, killing at least 11 and injuring 14.
However, no casualties were confirmed by the Houthi military spokesperson, Yahya Sare’e, in a statement released at 3.30am local time (0030 GMT) overnight, which emphasised the group would keep fighting despite repeated US-led attacks since January.

9 March
US, UK, French military shoot down Houthi drones after attack on bulk carrier, destroyers
(Reuters) – U.S., French and British forces downed dozens of drones in the Red Sea area overnight and on Saturday after Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthis targeted bulk carrier Propel Fortune and U.S. destroyers in the region, the U.S. military said in a statement.
The Houthis have been attacking ships in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden since November in what they say is a campaign of solidarity with Palestinians during Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza.
U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) said the U.S. military and coalition forces had downed at least 28 uncrewed aerial vehicles (UAVs) over the Red Sea in the early hours of Saturday.

8 March
Amid the horror in Gaza, it’s easy to miss that the Middle East has changed
By Fareed Zakaria
(WaPo) As we watch the horrors of another war in the Middle East, it is easy to get gloomy and depressed. It seems that the region as a whole continues to be violent and unstable. But that misses an important shift that has taken place in recent times, one that provides some cause for optimism about the future: The Arab states that are now the Middle East’s leaders are playing an important and constructive role in stabilizing the situation and are working for peace. This is a sea change from decades past.
The country that for decades defined the Arab world’s agenda was Egypt, especially under charismatic leader Gamal Abdel Nasser. Nasser’s core ideology was Arab nationalism with a strong anti-Israeli component. The other large Arab states, Syria and Iraq, were equally fiery in their condemnations of Israel. They often embraced a policy of “rejectionism” that opposed any concessions toward Israel. Saudi Arabia, as the custodian of Islam’s two holiest sites, joined in giving the struggle against Israel a religious tone. In 2002, King Fahd of Saudi Arabia authorized a telethon to aid the relatives of Palestinian “martyrs” killed by Israel, including those of terrorists. It raised roughly $100 million.
Today, Iraq and Syria are mired in dysfunction, and the attitude of the other leading Arab states could not be more different. First, there has been a reshuffling of what countries are seen as the region’s leaders. While it used to be that the large Arab countries were dominant — because of history, size, armies, etc. — today it is the incredibly wealthy gulf states that set the agenda. Countries such as Egypt regularly depend on their wealthy Persian Gulf neighbors for bailouts and handouts. Second, there has been a broad shift of attitude — against Arab terrorism and toward some kind of reconciliation with and recognition of Israel.
The gulf states are now so rich that it has redefined their orientation toward the world. On a recent trip to the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, I was struck by how these countries’ elites predominantly worry about war and instability, are constantly looking for economic opportunities, and increasingly see Israel as a potential economic partner.

The Houthis Are Very, Very Pleased
Arab leaders have long seen the Houthis as dangerous proxies for Iran, the group’s main military supplier, but some observers now say the truth may be even worse: that the Houthis are fanatics who answer to no one.
By Robert F. Worth
(The Atlantic) Abdulmalik al-Houthi may now be the most popular public figure in the Middle East. Ever since his soldiers began attacking and boarding commercial ships in the Red Sea in November—ostensibly in defense of Palestine—he has been treated like a latter-day Che Guevara, his portrait and speeches shared on social media across five continents. The Houthis’ bravado may not have done much for Gaza, but it has gouged a hole in the global economy, forcing maritime traffic away from the Suez Canal. It has also made the Houthis into heroes for young Arabs and Muslims who are embracing the Palestinian cause as their own. The Houthis have even made inroads among Western progressives, who helped make a TikTok star of “Tim-Houthi Chalamet,” a handsome young Yemeni who advertises his loyalty to the group.
The consequences of the Houthis’ Red Sea attacks are still hard to fathom. Almost overnight, a militant movement in the remote badlands of Yemen has found a terrifying new relevance: It has choked off the waterway that carries about 15 percent of the world’s trade. The U.S. Navy began firing back at Houthi launch sites in January—its most intense exchange of the 21st century to date—but even then, the Houthis did not back down. …

Red Sea attacks: 3 underwater data cables cut as Yemen’s Houthis hit container ship with missile
Communications companies are re-routing traffic after underwater cables cut in the Red Sea
US says a Houthi missile has damaged a Swiss-owned container vessel in the Gulf of Aden
(SCMP) Three cables under the Red Sea that provide global internet and telecommunications have been cut as the waterway remains a target of Yemen’s Houthi rebels, officials said.
What cut the lines remains unclear. There has been concern about the cables being targeted in the Houthi campaign, which the rebels describe as an effort to pressure Israel to end its war on Hamas in the Gaza Strip. The Houthis have denied attacking the lines, however.
While global shipping has already been disrupted through the Red Sea, a crucial route for cargo and energy shipments from Asia and the Middle East to Europe, the sabotage of telecommunication lines could further escalate the months-long crisis.

5 March
Sinking of Rubymar in Red Sea poses grave environmental risks, experts warn
Leaking fuel and thousands of tonnes of fertiliser could harm marine ecosystems and affect coastal fishing communities
Leaking fuel and the chemical pollutant could harm marine life, including coral reefs, and affect coastal communities that rely on fishing for their livelihoods, they said.
The Belize-flagged, Lebanese-operated Rubymar sank on Saturday with 21,000 metric tonnes of ammonium phosphate sulphate fertiliser on board, according to US Central Command (Centcom).
It had been taking on water since a Houthi missile strike on 18 February damaged its hull, marking the most significant impact on a commercial ship since the rebels started targeting vessels in November.

26 February
Only the Middle East Can Fix the Middle East
The Path to a Post-American Regional Order
By Dalia Dassa Kaye and Sanam Vakil
(Foreign Affairs March/April 2024) … Well before Hamas’s October 7 attacks, successive U.S. administrations had signaled their intent to shift away from the region to devote more attention to a rising China. The Biden administration has also been contending with Russia’s war in Ukraine, further limiting its bandwidth for coping with the Middle East. By 2023, U.S. officials had largely given up on a revived nuclear agreement with Iran, seeking instead to reach informal de-escalation arrangements with their Iranian counterparts. At the same time, the administration was bolstering the military capacity of regional partners such as Saudi Arabia in an effort to transfer some of the security burden from Washington. Despite Biden’s early reluctance to do business with Riyadh—whose leadership U.S. intelligence believes was responsible for the 2018 killing of the Saudi journalist and Washington Post contributor Jamal Khashoggi—the president prioritized a deal to normalize relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel. In pursuing the deal, the United States was willing to offer significant incentives to both sides while mostly ignoring the Palestinian issue.
October 7 upended this approach, underscoring the centrality of the Palestinian issue and forcing the United States into more direct military engagement. Yet remarkably, the war in Gaza has not led to significant shifts in Washington’s underlying policy orientation.
The administration continues to push for Saudi normalization despite Israeli opposition to a separate state for the Palestinians, which the Saudis have made a condition of any such agreement. And U.S. officials seem unlikely to end their effort to disentangle the United States from Middle East conflicts. If anything, the war’s increasingly complicated dynamics may result in even less U.S. appetite for engagement in the region. Doubling down on commitments in the Middle East is also not likely to be a winning strategy for either American political party in a crucial election year.
Why the U.S. and Saudis Want a Two-State Solution, and Israel Doesn’t
How hard is the White House willing to push a resolution of the Palestinian issue?
By Hussein Ibish

24 February
US warns of ‘disaster’ amid oil slick in Red Sea from ship hit by Houthis
US military says Iran-aligned group is being reckless with attacks on shipping in the Red Sea off Yemen’s shore
New Houthi attack risks ‘environmental disaster,’ US says
(Politico Eu) The attacked ship’s cargo of fertilizer could spill into the Red Sea, U.S. defense officials warned.
A cargo ship sailing through the tense waters of the Red Sea was hit in an overnight strike by Yemen-based Houthi militants, defense officials in Washington said, in what could be the most serious incident since the group began harassing commercial shipping last year.
According to U.S. Central Command, the Rubymar, a Belize-flagged, U.K.-owned bulk carrier, was targeted late Friday night while carrying around 22,000 metric tons of fertilizer.
“The unprovoked and reckless attack by Iran-backed Houthi terrorists caused significant damage to the ship, which caused an 18-mile oil slick,” it said in a statement.
The attack has heightened concerns for the Red Sea’s unique coral reefs, which scientists have found to be so far resilient to climate change but at risk from other threats.
“The Houthis continue to demonstrate disregard for the regional impact of their indiscriminate attacks, threatening the fishing industry, coastal communities, and imports of food supplies,” according to the statement.

30 January
The Middle East’s arc of conflict is spiraling
Analysis by Ishaan Tharoor
(WaPo) As much as the White House may be seeking restraint, events on the ground in the Middle East are accelerating in a worrying direction. Israel continues its onslaught in Gaza — a punishing military campaign, launched in the wake of Hamas’s Oct. 7 terrorist strike on southern Israel, that has killed more than 25,000 Palestinians and provoked a ruinous humanitarian crisis. Meanwhile, flash points are erupting elsewhere in the shadow of the ongoing war.
Yemen’s Houthi rebels have paralyzed global shipping moving through the Red Sea and provoked a U.S.-led bombing campaign. Israel has engaged in limited strikes against Hezbollah in Lebanon and Iran-linked targets in Syria, including an attack Monday south of Damascus that killed several people, according to reports.
Then, there’s the most immediate challenge for Washington: An Iraq-based, pro-Iran militia claimed responsibility for a drone attack at the end of the weekend that killed three U.S. troops and wounded at least 34 others at a base along the Jordanian border with Syria. It’s likely the deadliest attack on U.S. troops since October, as militia groups affiliated with Iran in both Iraq and Syria have carried out at least 160 attacks on U.S. military targets. The U.S. has carried out dozens of its own retaliatory strikes. Some 2,500 U.S. military personnel are stationed in Iraq, and about 900 more in Syria.
Leaders in the region warn of a widening arc of violence. “We are seeing that the situation is boiling up here and there, and everyone, unfortunately, is dancing at the edge,” Qatari Prime Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani said at a think tank event on Monday during a visit to Washington. He added that continued spillover from Israel’s Gaza war is bound to undermine regional security and even jeopardize the difficult project of indirect negotiations between Israel and Hamas, which holds dozens of Israeli hostages in captivity, that Qatar is trying to help mediate.

26 January
Yemen’s Houthi rebels escalate Red Sea attacks, hit Trafigura fuel tanker
Houthi rebels hit tanker carrying Russian naphtha for Trafigura
Vitol-chartered tanker does U-turn in Red Sea following attack
(Reuters) – Yemen’s Houthi rebels on Friday stepped up attacks on vessels transiting the Red Sea, including a hit that sparked a fire on a fuel tanker operated on behalf of trading firm Trafigura.
Trafigura said a missile struck the fuel tanker Marlin Luanda as it transited the Red Sea. The tanker was carrying Russian naphtha purchased below the price cap in line with G7 sanctions, a Trafigura spokesperson said.

22 January
Middle East thrust into ‘apocalyptic’ humanitarian crisis by war and turmoil
(The Guardian) For a region that is no stranger to geopolitical turmoil, UN agencies believe the Middle East is experiencing an “apocalyptic” collective humanitarian crisis. Even before Hamas’s October attack on Israel convulsed the region, neighbouring Lebanon and Syria were experiencing profound challenges, while Yemen has been vying for the unenviable title of home to the world’s worst humanitarian calamity.
On Friday, the UN humanitarian agency (OCHA) admitted that the situation in the Middle East had probably “never been worse” since it began collating records in 1991.
Already, tens of millions of people across the region depend on humanitarian aid with most metrics forecasting a deteriorating trajectory.
But it is Gaza, which has been devastated by the continued Israeli military offensive, that experts warn is having a catalysing effect on the region, amplifying historical tensions while conjoining conflicts from the Mediterranean coast to the tip of the Arabian peninsula 2,300km (1,429 miles) away.

There’s a Real Plan for Ending the War in Gaza
But Israel and Hamas actually have to take it.
By Fred Kaplan
(Slate) The U.S., Egypt, and Qatar have devised a multistage plan for ending the Israel-Hamas war. One problem is that neither Israel nor Hamas has agreed to it. In fact, the final stage of the plan—the creation of a Palestinian state—is something that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly and emphatically said he deeply, unalterably opposes.
The diplomatic venture, first reported Sunday by the Wall Street Journal, reflects a deepening fissure between President Joe Biden and Netanyahu’s government as well as a desperate desire—by Biden and the region’s Sunni Arab nations, not just Egypt and Qatar but also Jordan, Bahrain, and most notably Saudi Arabia—to resume “normalized” relations, with one another and with Israel, even if it means somehow working around, and imposing conditions of peace on, the combatants.

21-22 January
U.S., British forces strike new Houthi sites in Yemen
The operation targeted an underground storage facility and sites linked to missiles and aerial surveillance
Red Sea crisis: Can EU warships deter Houthi rebels?

Ella Joyner in Brussels
In response to escalating Houthi attacks, the EU considers deploying warships to safeguard the Red Sea. But the stakes of intervention are high, analysts tell DW, and military action alone won’t work.

18 January
Palestinian factions to meet in Moscow as west rejects Hamas role in ruling Gaza after war
Palestinian Authority ‘ready to engage’, says prime minister ahead of talks on formation of new Gaza government
(The Guardian) Speculation that a weakened Hamas might be willing to form a partnership with the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority, and govern Gaza and the West Bank jointly, have been revived by a Russian invitation for Palestinian factions to meet in Moscow on 26 February.
The news of the meeting was confirmed by the Palestinian Authority prime minister, Mohammad Shtayyeh, at the Munich security conference.

16 January
US-UK airstrikes force aid agencies to suspend operations in Yemen
Charities warns of ‘dire’ outcome for the impoverished country, where two-thirds of the population already relies on aid to survive
A coalition of 23 aid organisations operating within the Gulf state issued a joint statement on Tuesday, warning that military escalation will further compromise their ability to deliver critical services while worsening living conditions for millions of people in Yemen.
Tuesday’s statement, released shortly after reports that another cargo ship had been struck by a missile off the coast of Yemen, read: “Following the US/UK strikes, some humanitarian organisations have been forced to suspend operations over safety and security concerns, while others assess their ability to operate.”
Provisional humanitarian assessments following the US and UK strikes suggest that millions are facing widespread displacement, food insecurity and limited access to basic services. The statement added that impact of the security threat in the Red Sea is “already being felt by humanitarian actors as disruption to trade is pushing up prices and causing delays in shipments of lifesaving goods”.

2023

22 December
A plan for Gaza’s future is taking shape. Obstacles loom.
(CSM) … Backed by Gulf billions and spurred by public pressure, the plan is being advanced by Arab states, the United States, and the European Union. It aims to transform life for the Palestinians and move them closer to statehood, with new support from the Palestinian Authority.
Moves are accelerating after the PA agreed this week to a proposal by the U.S., the EU, Arab Gulf states, Egypt, and Jordan for a “day-after” scenario. The plan seeks to rebuild the coastal strip, unite and overhaul Palestinian governance, and create a Palestinian security force in Gaza to ensure Palestinian and Israeli security.

19 December
Houthi attacks on shipping threaten global consequences
The increasing number of attacks by the Houthis has left global powers scrambling. U.S. and British warships sent to the region to protect commercial ships have already shot down Houthi drones, but Washington is pushing allies to do more.
(WaPo) On Monday, oil giant BP announced it had paused all shipments through the Red Sea after attacks by the Houthi militant group targeting vessels along the route, which leads to and from the Suez Canal. …
Roughly 10 percent of all oil traded at sea goes through the Red Sea, but shipping firms have begun to move to avoid the route due to the Houthi attacks, instead taking a far longer and costlier journey around Africa. Oil prices rose after BP, the first major oil firm to pause shipping through the Red Sea, announced on Monday its plans to avoid the area. Most of the attacks have taken place in the Bab el-Mandeb Strait, a slim waterway near the area controlled by the Iran-linked militant group in Yemen.
The Houthis began their attacks in the Red Sea after Israel began to bombard Gaza. The attacks targeted ships that were linked to Israel, the Houthis claimed, with spokesman Gen. Yahya Saree writing on social media that ships carrying Israeli flags or operated or owned by Israeli companies would be targeted.
In practice, it has appeared far more haphazard. As Houthis fired missiles and drones at ships transiting the Bab el-Mandeb Strait, many had no apparent Israeli connection. On Nov. 20, the Houthis hijacked a Bahamas-flagged Galaxy Leader and took its 25 crew members hostage. Though the ship was affiliated with an Israeli billionaire, no Israeli citizens were on board.
… the Houthis, who seized control of Yemen’s capital in 2014 and sparked a long and bloody civil war, have received military aid from Iran, the most powerful regional rival for Israel. In 2017, Reuters interviewed an unnamed Iranian official who said that the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps was working out ways to “empower” the Houthis against their Saudi-backed rivals in Yemen.
Shippers mask positions, weigh options amid Red Sea attacks
(Reuters) – A number of container ships are anchored in the Red Sea and others have turned off tracking systems as traders adjust routes and prices in response to maritime attacks by Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthis on the world’s main East-West trade route.
US launches Red Sea force as ships reroute to avoid attacks
Crisis is spillover from Israel-Hamas war
Iran-backed Yemeni militants are attacking ships
U.S. announces a multinational task force
Force will protect commercial shipping
Attacks force freights to reroute around Africa
(Reuters) – The United States on Tuesday launched a multinational operation to safeguard commerce in the Red Sea as attacks by Iran-backed Yemeni militants forced major shipping companies to reroute, stoking fears of sustained disruptions to global trade.

27 November
Qatar is the go-to mediator in the Mideast war. Its unprecedented Tel Aviv trip saved a shaky truce
(AP) On Saturday, Nov. 25,  a Qatari jet landed in Israel’s Ben-Gurion International Airport with an urgent task: save the cease-fire deal between Israel and Gaza’s Hamas rulers
The first public visit by Qatari officials to Israel marked an extraordinary moment for the two countries, which have no official diplomatic relations. It also underscored the major role of the tiny emirate in bridging differences between the enemies.

Inside U.S. Efforts to Untangle an A.I. Giant’s Ties to China
American spy agencies have warned about the Emirati firm G42 and its work with large Chinese companies that U.S. officials consider security threats.
When the secretive national security adviser of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Tahnoon bin Zayed, visited the White House in June, his American counterpart, Jake Sullivan, raised a delicate issue: G42, an artificial intelligence firm controlled by the sheikh that American officials believe is hiding the extent of its work with China.
…in classified American intelligence channels, there have been more concerning reports about the company. The C.I.A. and other American spy agencies have issued warnings about G42’s work with large Chinese companies that U.S. officials consider security threats, including Huawei, the telecommunications giant that is under U.S. sanctions.

23-27 November
UAE planned to use climate talks to make oil deals
The United Arab Emirates planned to use its role as the host of UN climate talks as an opportunity to strike oil and gas deals, the BBC has learned.
(BBC) Leaked briefing documents reveal plans to discuss fossil fuel deals with 15 nations.
They included proposed “talking points”, such as one for China which says Adnoc, the UAE’s state oil company, is “willing to jointly evaluate international LNG [liquefied natural gas] opportunities” in Mozambique, Canada and Australia.
The many contrasts of oil-rich UAE, host of the global climate talks
The United Arab Emirates, host of COP28, is building solar projects that could power a small city. It is also producing oil like never before.
By Chico Harlan
(WaPo) Even before visitors leave the baggage claim here, they have a sense of the vision the United Arab Emirates wants to project: A billboard-sized image shows rows of solar panels extending across the desert. The country’s leaders tout a “groundbreaking” transition to a green economy. Even the UAE’s oil company frames itself as a climate-conscious pioneer, with a plan to be net zero by 2045.
But in the nation hosting this year’s global climate talks, which start Thursday in Dubai, the definition of what it means to be green comes with some caveats.
That’s because this Persian Gulf state, in waters miles offshore, is ramping up its oil capacity like never before. It is building artificial islands, with subsidiaries dredging sand and hauling in rock, to use as staging grounds for pumping crude oil from some of the largest petroleum reserves on Earth. Its ambition is to provide the world with oil for as long as there might be demand.
The UAE is a country of just 10 million people, vibrant with ambition, full of paradoxes. It has gleaming cityscapes built by oil wealth and a president who has said the end of oil would be grounds for celebration. It has eco-friendly developments — with chicken coops and vegetable gardens — spreading into the exurbs while also producing one of the world’s highest per capita carbon footprints. It has indoor ski slopes miles away from newly built mega solar grids. It has summers of increasingly dangerous heat, and hosts conferences where panelists discuss sustainability and keep cool with outdoor air conditioning.
Once a harsh outpost for nomadic farmers and pearl divers, it is a country that has changed across seven decades perhaps as much as any on Earth.

How to thrive in a fractured world
Lessons from the ambitious ascent of the United Arab Emirates
(The Economist) Over the next few weeks Dubai will be abuzz. Tens of thousands of diplomats, activists and business folk are due to fly in to join the UN’s annual climate pow-wow. The United Arab Emirates’ skill at wrangling countries and industries with vastly disparate interests, in the hope of making further progress on tackling climate change, will be on full display. But that is not the only reason to pay attention to the uae. It also shows how to thrive in the multipolar age.
The country is home to just over 0.1% of the world’s people and produces only 0.5% of its gdp, but it contains nearly 10% of the world’s oil reserves, and this wealth helps it punch above its weight. Like many emerging countries today, it straddles political and economic divisions. It is a closed autocracy, yet one of the world’s most open economies. It is a close ally of America, but its biggest trading partner is China. Although its gdp per person exceeds that of Britain or France, it is often seen as part of the global south and is a hub for Indian and African businesses, making it the Singapore of the Middle East. And in 2020 it was one of the first Gulf countries to normalise relations with Israel.
Highlights from the latest issue
(newsletter) Our cover in the Middle East and Africa this week…looks at the United Arab Emirates’ ambitious ascent. When I travelled there last month with colleagues, I was struck by how upbeat investors, business folk and officials were, even as war had broken out in Gaza. The country is in the middle of an astonishing boom as Chinese traders, Indian tycoons, Russian billionaires and Western financiers flock to it in search of stability and success. The UAE has become the Singapore of the Middle East, but that is only part of the story. It is also seizing a bigger geopolitical role. Over the next few weeks, as the host of the UN’s climate summit, for instance, it hopes to be a broker between rich and poor countries. But it is also making terrible mistakes. Our leader asks what other countries eager to play on the global stage can learn from its example.

21 November
The post-October 7 US strategy in the Middle East is coming into focus
Daniel E. Mouton, nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Middle East Security Initiative
(Atlantic Council) The most recent window into the administration’s thinking was White House Coordinator for the Middle East Brett McGurk’s address at the Manama Dialogue 2023 in Bahrain on Saturday. The second window was President Joe Biden’s Washington Post editorial, “The US won’t back down from the challenge of Putin and Hamas.” Notably, McGurk’s Manama remarks came as part of the administration’s efforts to secure a temporary ceasefire in Gaza and release a portion of the Hamas-held hostages, in a deal announced Tuesday that will also involve Israel releasing dozens of Palestinian prisoners. (Qatar was the lead mediator in the deal.)
The clarity in what Biden and McGurk presented in recent days came from the consistency of language, which traces a path from Biden’s 2022 meetings in Saudi Arabia with the leadership of the Gulf Cooperation Council. They follow the five guiding principles that McGurk presented as a “Biden doctrine” for the Middle East at the Atlantic Council in February: partnerships, deterrence, diplomacy, integration, and values. In my previous role on the National Security Council working under McGurk, I saw these principles develop firsthand, as they manifested in Biden’s 2022 trip to the region and in the 2022 National Security Strategy’s approach to the Middle East.

20 November
The War That Remade the Middle East
How Washington Can Stabilize a Transformed Region
By Maria Fantappie and Vali Nasr
(Foreign Affairs) … Washington must anchor its new plan for the region in its partnership with Saudi Arabia, which has working relations with Iran, Israel, and the entire Arab world. Riyadh can use its expansive influence to help revive Israeli-Palestinian negotiations and help the United States strike a nuclear agreement with Iran. And together, Riyadh and Washington can create the Middle Eastern economic corridor the United States needs to balance against China.
This new grand bargain will not be as straightforward as the deal the United States was negotiating before October 7. It will not begin with Israeli-Saudi normalization, and it will not end with an Arab-Israeli alliance against Iran. But unlike past agreements, this new framework is achievable. And if done right, it will lower regional tensions and establish lasting peace.
17–19 November
The IISS Manama Dialogue 2023 (19th edition) is a unique forum for government ministers and policymakers, as well as members of the expert, opinion-forming and business communities, to debate the Middle East’s most pressing foreign-policy, defence and security challenges.
Held annually since 2004 in the Kingdom of Bahrain, the Dialogue is a central element of the Middle East’s security architecture. It enables national leaders, ministers and policymakers from the Middle East, North America, Europe, Africa and Asia to gather together to discuss the most pressing regional security issues and to share policy responses.
Arab forces will not go to Gaza, says Jordanian minister in rebuke of Israel
Ayman Safadi says credibility of international law at stake as he clashes with senior US official over terms for humanitarian pause
Ayman Safadi clashed with Joe Biden’s senior Middle East adviser on Saturday, saying a humanitarian pause should not be conditional on the release of hostages held by Hamas. The US envoy, Brett McGurk, said the onus was on Hamas to release hostages as a pathway to humanitarian aid increasing and a pause in the fighting.
Safadi urged Hamas to release the hostages, but said no preconditions should be set for a humanitarian pause, arguing that 2.4 million Palestinians were being held hostage by Israel in Gaza.
The pair were addressing the IISS Manama Dialogue security summit in Bahrain, where Arab anger towards Israel’s refusal to negotiate a two-state solution was repeatedly voiced.
Speaker after speaker advised Israel that it would not find security through force.

Turbulence in the Eastern Mediterranean: Geopolitical, Security and Energy Dynamics assesses the security outlook for the Eastern Mediterranean region, considering potential flashpoints for inter-state conflict and newly developed defence ties, evaluating whether these have the potential to evolve into formal alliances. It also assesses whether certain states’ ambitions to become energy hubs could lay the foundations for deeper regional cooperation or increase the risk of confrontation.

9 November
Fight between US and Iran’s proxies reaches boiling point
John Haltiwanger
(GZERO media) The United States and Iran’s proxy militias are locked in an escalating feud that’s raising fears of a wider conflict in the Middle East amid an already devastating war in Gaza. The situation is precarious, with the potential to spiral out of control.
On Wednesday, the US conducted an airstrike on a weapons storage facility in Syria used by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps and affiliated groups. The strike was in response to a string of attacks against US personnel in the region by Iranian proxies and came the same day a US drone was downed by the Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen. It was the second time the US launched such a strike in a matter of weeks.

7 November
Arab States Intensify Pleas for Gaza Cease-fire as Public Anger Mounts
Citing deepening fears for regional stability, Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries are beseeching the U.S. to push Israel to end its military campaign in Gaza.
Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt have all implored American officials, including Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken, to get Israel to halt its military assault.
“The whole region is sinking in a sea of hatred that will define generations to come,” the Jordanian foreign minister, Ayman Safadi, warned at a news conference this weekend.
As unrest spills into the streets and fear spreads that Iran-backed militias in the region will enter more directly into the conflict, some Arab leaders are worrying for their own security, said Elham Fakhro, an associate fellow at Chatham House’s Middle East and North Africa Program.
“Long-term resentment among the Arab public is fuel for extremist groups,” she said. “The region is already walking a delicate balance,” she added. “This is what drives Arab governments to use their available leverage to call for a cease-fire.”
Iraq is at a crossroads. Will it choose its Shia militias or relations with the US?
By Sarkawt Shamsulddin
(Atlantic Council) In the heart of the tumultuous Middle East, Iraq finds itself at a crossroads, grappling with the complex dynamics of the Hamas-Israel conflict while trying to navigate the intricate relationships between its Shia militias and the United States. As history demonstrates, geopolitics and domestic considerations converge, with Iraq facing a high-stakes balancing act that carries profound implications for its relations with the United States and regional stability.
Iraq stands out as the sole Arab state that has steadfastly refused to sign an armistice agreement with Israel since the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. Technically, Iraq remains in a state of war with Israel—a historical enmity that significantly influences its stance in the present conflict. Iraq not only refuses to recognize Israel as a state but has also passed laws criminalizing any ties with the country. This long-standing antagonism forms the backdrop against which Iraq’s current position on the Hamas-Israel conflict is crafted.
Amid the surprising attack by Hamas on October 7, Iraq faced conflicting positions. The official stance of the Iraqi government is centered on diplomatic efforts to end the conflict, advocating for Palestinian statehood in the long term, and creating open humanitarian corridors for Gazans. Parliament Speaker Mohamed Al-Halbousi called for an Arab parliament summit in Baghdad, highlighting Iraq’s proactive approach to addressing regional conflicts.
… US Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s November 5 visit to Baghdad holds immense significance given that Iraq is and will continue to be impacted by the Gaza war. Iraq stands out as the only country in the region that accommodates thousands of US forces and historically anti-US, pro-Iranian armed groups, underscoring Iraq’s exceptional and precarious role in the broader geopolitical landscape. Consequently, Prime Minister Sudani faces an exceptionally challenging predicament: he must maintain a delicate balance between the interests of the United States and the armed groups that serve as partners within his government while having significant political leverage over it.

The Middle East’s play to rule global sports
How Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar are upending the sports world — and what they want from their newfound power
When the NBA needed a new country to continue its global expansion, it turned to the United Arab Emirates, which was eager to help stage preseason games an ocean away. … When boxing promoters dreamed up a fantasy match between heavyweight champion Tyson Fury and mixed martial arts star Francis Ngannou, they partnered with Saudi Arabia, the oil-rich country that’s doling out impossibly large checks and upending the sporting establishment.
An influx of money from the Middle East is reshaping the global sports power structure and sparking debate over the source of funding — nations buoyed by oil reserves but derided for their treatment of women, workers, the LGBTQ+ community and other marginalized groups. In the case of Saudi Arabia, the discomfort runs deeper, with its connections to the 9/11 attacks and the 2018 assassination of Washington Post contributor Jamal Khashoggi.
Yet leagues, teams and athletes are increasingly finding the money difficult to resist, leading to investment, influence and infrastructure. The result: global realignment of athletic resources and clout that is only poised to accelerate, as detailed in interviews with more than 50 governing bodies, stakeholders and experts in sports, geopolitics and human rights.

2 November
Hezbollah leader set to weigh in on Middle East war
Nasrallah has not given speech since Oct. 7 Hamas attack
Hezbollah has clashed with Israelis at border
Speech anticipated in Lebanon in more widely
(Reuters) – Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah will on Friday make his first public comments since the Palestinian group Hamas and Israel went to war, a speech that will be scrutinised for clues on how the group’s role in the conflict might evolve.
A formidable military force backed by Iran, Hezbollah has been engaging Israeli forces along the border, where 50 of its fighters have been killed in the deadliest escalation since it fought a war with Israel in 2006.

30-31 October
Yemen’s Houthis enter Mideast fray, hardening spillover fears
Houthis are part of Iran-backed ‘Axis of Resistance’
Group says it carried out three attacks on Israel so far
Analyst: attacks so far more of a message than a real threat
Other Iran-backed groups have been attacking across Mideast
(Reuters) – Yemen’s Houthis have waded into the Israel-Hamas war raging more than 1,000 miles from their seat of power in Sanaa, declaring on Tuesday they had fired drones and missiles at Israel in attacks that highlight the regional risks of the conflict.
Part of an “Axis of Resistance” backed by Iran, the Houthis have rallied behind the Palestinians since Hamas attacked Israel on Oct. 7, opening a new front for a movement that has waged war for eight years with a Saudi-led coalition in the Gulf.

The Spreading Risks of the Gaza Ground Invasion
(Bloomberg Balance of Power) Israel has deepened a war with Hamas with a ground invasion of the Gaza Strip that has no end in sight.
Nearly 2,000 kilometers (1,200 miles) away, Qatar has spent weeks trying to negotiate the release of hostages held by Hamas in the besieged Palestinian enclave, placing itself at the center of uncomfortable diplomacy. … Qatar has been trying to help free hostages … Four have been released, but Israel’s decision to send troops and tanks into northern Gaza this weekend will complicate those efforts.
For the small but wealthy and influential Gulf state, casting itself as the Middle East’s indispensable go-between is also a political gamble. It’s been criticized by its neighbors for housing leaders of Hamas, which is designated a terrorist group by the US and European Union, and needs to deliver.

27 October
UN General Assembly set to vote on nonbinding resolution calling for a `humanitarian truce’ in Gaza
Jordan’s U.N. Ambassador Mahmoud Hmoud, speaking on behalf of the U.N.’s 22-nation Arab group, which drafted the resolution, called for an afternoon vote before all 112 speakers get to the assembly’s rostrum, because of the urgency of taking action.
The Arab group is seeking action by the 193-member world body because of the failure of the more powerful 15-member Security Council to agree on a resolution after four attempts.

26 October
U.S., Qatar to revisit Doha’s ties to Hamas after Gaza hostage crisis
The agreement strives to balance the Biden administration’s goal of rescuing as many captives as possible with its desire to isolate the militants after their rampage in Israel
The agreement, which has not been reported previously, was forged during a recent meeting in Doha between Secretary of State Antony Blinken and the emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani. Still undecided is whether the reevaluation will entail an exodus of Hamas leaders from Qatar, where they have long maintained a political office in the capital, or steps that come short of that, these officials said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive matter.

18 October
The Economist briefing: The Arab world thinks differently about this war
But Israel’s evidence about a hospital strike still carries little weight
THE SCENES looped on news channels all night: ambulances, bodies, an explosion lighting the night sky. Hamas blamed Israel for the blast at Gaza’s al-Ahli hospital on October 17th, which killed hundreds of people. Israel later denied that it was carrying out air strikes in the area; the explosion, it said, was caused by a misfired rocket launched by Islamic Jihad, another militant group in Gaza. By the time Israel issued its denial, though, details had ceased to matter. The catastrophe had sparked protests in the West Bank and Jordan, and as far away as Tunisia. That was the maelstrom into which Joe Biden flew when he arrived in Israel on October 18th for a quick visit.
It is hard to generalise about “the Arab world”, a collection of 450m people spread across thousands of kilometres and nearly two dozen countries. But it is safe to say that most Arabs still sympathise with the Palestinian cause. Their dispossession remains a totemic political issue across the Middle East, able to mobilise popular anger and protest like little else.
How tiny Qatar hosts the leaders of Hamas without consequences
While ordinary Palestinians suffer and die in Gaza, Hamas leaders live in comfort 2,000 km away
Evan Dyer
(CBC) On October 7, as Hamas gunmen rampaged across southern Israel, a group of middle-aged men in a luxury suite in Doha, Qatar gathered in front of a camera.
Hamas leaders, led by Ismail Haniyeh, recorded themselves showing surprise about the attacks from the news on a large-screen television, and then kneeling to give thanks to Allah for the success of the operation.
This episode served as a reminder that while innocent civilians in Gaza die in their hundreds from aerial bombing and tens of thousands more are rendered homeless, Hamas’s leaders exist above the fray in air-conditioned comfort 2,000 kilometres away as guests of Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani.
… Just a few minutes drive away from the hotels and villas housing Hamas leaders is Al-Udaid Air Base, home to the U.S. military’s Central Command. Washington’s relationship with Qatar is so close that last year the White House officially designated the tiny emirate a “Major Non-NATO Ally” of the United States.
… Thomas Juneau, an expert in Middle Eastern politics at the University of Ottawa, said that embassy statement actually explains the West’s tolerance of Qatar hosting groups it considers enemies.
“On the surface this looks like a set of contradictions, but there is a very clear common thread that makes all of this coherent,” he said. “Qatar’s entire foreign policy, its brand, its identity, is premised on the idea that it talks to everyone.
“It talks to the Taliban, it talks to Hamas, it talks to Libyan rebels, and so on.

17 October
Biden’s high-risk wartime trip
(Politico Nightly) When President Joe Biden touches down in Israel on Wednesday, he’ll be walking into a crisis that is quickly expanding across the Middle East.
The extraordinary trip, and its timing, is fraught with danger. Just today, an airstrike killed at least 500 people in a Gaza City hospital. According to the Palestinian Health Ministry the strike was launched from Israel, though the IDF and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu deny involvement and blame Palestinian militants. In the wake of the attack, Biden’s planned meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, Egypt President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi and King Abdullah of Jordan in Amman was canceled. Hamas’ military wing also reports that one of its top militant commanders — Ayman Nofal, known by Abu Ahmad — was killed in an Israeli airstrike today.
While the war is concentrated in Gaza, it has rippled through countries across the Middle East. Egypt is not yet budging on opening a border crossing in Rafah that would allow aid to get in and allow Palestinians with foreign citizenship to leave Gaza. Surrounding countries like Jordan are also unwilling to take in Palestinian refugees.
Saudi Arabia and Iran, who recently restored diplomatic ties despite a brutal proxy war in Yemen, have also been in contact in recent days concerning the conflict;
Hamas continues to hold scores of civilian hostages, and today released the first video of a hostage who was taken to Gaza. NBC News reports that Hamas says they are willing to release the hostages if the bombing of Gaza stops.
So far, Biden has indicated support for Israel and will continue to do so during his visit — potentially frustrating other countries in the region. But he’s also going to Israel to attempt to convince authorities to practice restraint and avoid civilian casualties.
More: See edited interview with Politico’s Nahal Toosi, a senior foreign affairs correspondent who has reported extensively on the war across the region.
King Abdullah on Gaza: ‘No refugees in Jordan, no refugees in Egypt’
(Reuters) – Jordan’s King Abdullah on Tuesday warned against trying to push Palestinian refugees into Egypt or Jordan, adding that the humanitarian situation must to be dealt with inside Gaza and the West Bank.
“That is a red line, because I think that is the plan by certain of the usual suspects to try and create de facto issues on the ground. No refugees in Jordan, no refugees in Egypt,” King Abdullah said at a news conference following a meeting with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Berlin.

16 October
Dissed by Saudi Arabia, lectured by Egypt: U.S. diplomacy meets Mideast reality
Secretary of State Antony Blinken says no one wants the Israeli-Hamas conflict to grow, but Arab leaders won’t take sides.
America’s intense war-time diplomacy is so far failing to sway Arab countries in the Middle East — and President Joe Biden’s expected visit to the region may not help.
In recent days, Secretary of State Antony Blinken has been nearly ghosted by Saudi Arabia’s crown prince and given a bizarre history lesson by Egypt’s ruler. U.S. officials have been unable to get most Arab leaders to denounce Hamas for the Palestinian militant group’s brutal attack on Israel or make statements supporting Israel’s military response.

14 October
Arab states say Palestinians must stay on their land as war escalates
Egypt, Jordan both warn against Palestinian exodus
Arabs fear new permanent displacement of Palestinians
Egypt opens border for aid not mass movement of people
For Palestinians, fleeing across borders echoes 1948
Israel says call Gazans to move south was for safety
(Reuters) – Calls for a humanitarian corridor or an escape route for Palestinians from Gaza as a conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas has escalated have drawn a blunt reaction from Arab neighbours.
Egypt, the only Arab state to share a border with Gaza, and Jordan, which is next to the Israeli-occupied West Bank, have both warned against Palestinians being forced off their land.
It reflects deep Arab fears that Israel’s latest war with Hamas in Gaza could spark a new wave of permanent displacement from land where Palestinians want to build a future state.

1 October
‘The next days were hell’: how the Yom Kippur war realigned the Middle East
Fifty years on from the surprise attack Egypt and Syria launched on Israel, what was its legacy for the region – and what was the effect on the soldiers?
… The events of those bloody 19 days, after the launch of a joint surprise offensive by Syrian forces in the Golan and Egyptian forces in the Sinai peninsula, changed Israel, the region, the trajectory of the cold war, and caused a global oil crisis. The reverberations of the Yom Kippur war, or Ramadan war as it is known in Arabic, are still felt today.

24 September
The Economist newsletter …Mr Biden’s administration is conducting a quieter effort to forge an epoch-making deal between Israel and Saudi Arabia, two historical antagonists nonetheless inching towards normalising relations. The prizes on offer are clear, writes our Israel correspondent: Israel would earn the friendship of another former Gulf foe, Mr Biden would enter an election year boasting of having re-engineered the politics of the Middle East (and perhaps lowered oil prices), and the Saudis—they hope—would obtain a formal defence pact with their American ally. Quite the turnaround for the country once dismissed by Mr Biden as a “pariah”. (Just don’t ask the Palestinians.)

22 September
Analysis: Libya and Morocco’s twin tragedies highlight differences
Libya and Morocco experienced tragedies in the same week, but there are clear differences in how they played out.
Their natural causes and geographic proximity may go some way to lending them a veneer of similarity, but the stark differences that separate the two should be enough to separate them.
“…an earthquake in Morocco is easier to grasp than the politics around the floods in Derna, which disrupt any clear narrative.” In Derna, beyond the rain, it was human error, laziness and greed that combined to make a natural disaster far worse.
[19 September
The other culprit in Libya’s floodsThe climate crisis intensified the floods, but it was conflict that rendered Libyans unprepared for them.]
Perception is also pivotal. For a global public struggling to imagine the topography of the stricken areas, Morocco’s High Atlas Mountains are easier to grasp.
Not only has the area been a popular tourist destination for years, the police and army appeared happy to work with journalists and local associations bringing relief.
The reality is that Libya is complicated.
“The overriding issue is one of division,” Riccardo Fabiani, North Africa Project Director for the Crisis Group said. “There are two governments and any number of militias all competing for influence.”
Within that milieu, any report or analysis that may favour one faction over another risks upending a larger tapestry of power networks and delicately poised balances of power.
In Morocco, there is simply one government and one king.

21 September
(Bloomberg) Qatar’s warming ties with Biden’s administration after his predecessor, Donald Trump, favored stronger relations with Saudi Arabia has prompted a popular joke in the Gulf: Doha for Democrats, Riyadh for Republicans. The energy-rich nation’s role in mediating a US-Iran prisoner swap deal was the latest sign of its rising global importance.

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