The lead US envoy on international negotiations with Iran to limit Tehran’s nuclear program will head to the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Saudi Arabia in a few days to discuss backup plans with Washington’s allies should the negotiations fail.
Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin, image via Wikimedia Commons
The Gulf states will closely monitor the way Russia and China handle the perceived security vacuum in the wake of the US withdrawal and abandonment, for all practical purposes, of Central Asia. They wish to determine to what degree those countries might be viable alternatives for a no longer reliable US security umbrella in the Middle East. They are also likely to push to strengthen regional alliances, especially with Israel.
West Asia has an unusual knack of keeping the watchers and analysts on feet most of the times. On the one hand ongoing conflicts and hotspots in Yemen, Libya, Syria and Iraq keep one frustrated. And on the other simmering cinders of the Arab Spring keep the Arab Street charged up from Algeria to Lebanon to Sudan let alone the harbingers of the movement in Tunis and Egypt. Another important dimension was the heft for external intervention by various emerging power centres like UAE and Qatar while Iran, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Israel maintain their pugilistic punches both outside and in undermining one another for ensuring their own pie of the regional and geo-political influence. But intra-GCC divergences and disputes have acquired greater salience in recent past as they began to follow mutually exclusive policies. Qatar’s blockade by Saudi Arabia, UAE, Egypt and Bahrain, even though partially normalised after 4 years, is instructive. The mediatory role of small states like Qatar and Kuwait in regional and extra-regional matters has become more prominent. Of late alleged divergences between Saudi Arabia and UAE have become a cause of concern while efforts for rapprochement between Saudi Arabia and Iran on the one hand and Abraham Accords bringing the Jewish State closer to the Sunni Arab world have generated some hope for further normalisation.
Political and security relations between Greece and Cyprus on the one hand and the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia on the other have taken a major step forward over the past year. Political meetings, security agreements, and joint military exercises hint at the possible emergence of a new regional alignment. Underlying this convergence is an effort to thwart Ankara’s regional ambitions by linking the Gulf to the Eastern Mediterranean, although this step is liable to exacerbate the existing tension in these theaters. It is possible that Israel’s partners in the Gulf would like to see more active involvement from Israel in countering Ankara. Although Israel has an interest in restraining Turkey’s activity in the region, the informal character of the Hellenic-Gulf alignment makes it easy for Jerusalem to keep a low profile and avoid increasing tension with Ankara.
The pandemic has opened opportunities to reinvent our connections on new bases, as we have been doing over several centuries.
There has been a gradual thaw in the relationship between Saudi Arabia and Iraq since 2015, and a number of notable developments have taken place in recent months. Last November, the Arar border crossing — the principle crossing between the two countries — was opened for the first time in 30 years.
Japan’s need for energy security has long driven relations with the Gulf states, but, under the banner of economic diplomacy, Gulf-Japan ties are diversifying.
Baghdad boosting ties with Gulf
Regional aviation sector makes slow recovery