The Afghanistan debacle has shaken many of America’s allies around the world, making them wonder about the US’s reliability as a partner. In the Middle East, it has led some Arab allies to reassess their positions and reduce regional tensions by downplaying their old rivalries with Turkey and Iran. The region is now in the midst of making some subtle strategic shifts that could enhance the prospects for a more stable environment, especially in the Persian Gulf.
In Season 2, Episode 2 of empowerME Conversations podcast, host and Atlantic Council empowerME Director Amjad Ahmad speaks with Facebook Managing Director for the Middle East and North Africa Ramez Shehadi on digitization, the future of e-commerce, supporting SMEs, and changes needed to improve the region’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.
Forty years ago, on October 6, 1981, Egyptian President Anwar Sadat was assassinated by Islamist terrorists in Cairo. I was then the Egypt analyst at the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and had just published an internal paper on the prospects for succession if Sadat was killed, which I judged to be likely given the deep opposition to his unilateral peace deal with Israel. Sadat’s death set in train the disastrous road to the war in Lebanon in 1982, the creation of Hezbollah, and the seeds of al-Qaida.
In Season 2, Episode 1 of empowerME Conversations podcast, host and Atlantic Council empowerME Director Amjad Ahmad speaks with UPS President for Indian Subcontinent, Middle East, and Africa Jean-Francois Condamine about the e-commerce boom in the Middle East, promoting sustainability in the logistics industry, and empowering small and medium enterprises to become regional and global exporters.
Ayear after the Abraham Accords came into effect, what do scholars of the Middle East think about the normalization of relations between Israel and the UAE and several other Arab nations? Is a two-state solution between Israelis and Palestinians still possible? And what’s the latest on Tunisia’s constitutional crisis — do scholars consider it a coup against democracy?
It is one of the ironies often played by history that America’s hasty and humiliating exit from Afghanistan occurred on the eve of the 20th anniversary of September 11. It was this massive attack on two pillars of American government and society that brought the United States and its armed forces into the country. Twenty years, thousands of lives, and trillions of dollars later the Biden administration decided correctly that America’s Afghan venture had to be brought to an end.
Taliban leader Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar and Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh met in Doha, Qatar, in August 2021. (Hamas)
The Taliban’s reconquering of Afghanistan, followed by the ISIS-K terror bombing that killed 13 U.S. military personnel and scores of civilians, underscores the far-reaching implications of the U.S. withdrawal. The mujahideen’s takeover, following a 20-year, post-9/11, U.S. counter-terror campaign against al-Qaeda and other jihadi groups in Afghanistan, has reenergized the global jihad’s slow and determined war against the West.
While both the proliferation and combat use of ballistic missiles in the Middle East have attracted a lot of attention, cruise missiles remain an often-overlooked regional proliferation challenge. Once the exclusive realm of the Middle East’s sole nuclear power, Israel, the proliferation of cruise-missile systems has steadily picked up pace in the last two decades. Iran and Turkey have joined Israel in the club of nations developing and producing their own cruise missiles, with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) appearing to take first steps in this direction. Other countries, such as Algeria, Egypt, Kuwait, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, have already purchased cruise missiles from abroad or appear intent on doing so in the near future. This trend is not limited to state actors, however. With strong technical and material support from Iran, Yemen’s Houthi rebels have employed cruise missiles in their ongoing missile and uninhabited aerial vehicle (UAV) campaign against the Saudi-led coalition.
The Biden administration has already given indications it is willing to look away from Gulf Arab states reviving relations with Syrian president Bashar al-Assad rather than actively prevent them from doing so. This marks a slight but significant shift in US policy, as represented by the 2019 Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act.