While GCC policymakers have responded swiftly to the threat of COVID-19 domestically, some Gulf states deftly used the crisis to advance their foreign policy objectives with states with which they have had adversarial relationships. Only time will tell whether these new diplomatic opportunities will lay groundwork for concerted regional efforts.
Originally published in POMEPS Studies
Huthis intensified attacks against Saudi-backed Yemeni govt forces in northern Yemen as well as cross-border strikes into Saudi Arabia. Huthis mid-June intensified cross-border attacks into Saudi Arabia: Saudi-led coalition 13, 22, 23 June reportedly intercepted Huthi drones and missiles they claimed were aimed at civilian targets in provinces along border; no casualties reported but one attack allegedly left some people injured. Huthi forces 23 June reportedly launched airstrikes on Saudi Defence Ministry, military base in Riyadh and military positions in Jizan and Najran; no casualties reported (see Yemen). In north Yemen, Huthi forces mid-June stepped up attacks in Marib and al-Bayda, pushing toward Marib city while consolidating control over northern territory despite Saudi airstrikes. In Yemen’s south, after Saudi Arabia 18 June reportedly presented new proposal to Hadi govt and Southern Transitional Council (STC) on implementation of Nov 2019 Riyadh Agreement, tensions escalated when STC forces 19 June captured Hadibo, capital of contested Socotra island in Gulf of Aden. Hadi govt and southern separatists 22 June agreed to ceasefire in Abyan province, de-escalation in Socotra and talks on implementation of Nov 2019 Riyadh Agreement in Saudi capital Riyadh. Coinciding with three-year anniversary of Gulf crisis, World Trade Organization (WTO) 16 June issued verdict in dispute between Saudi Arabia and Qatar; WTO said Saudi Arabia had breached obligations to protect intellectual property of Qatari-owned broadcaster by actively supporting Saudi pirate broadcaster. Saudi authorities 25 June reportedly fired warning shots and forced three Iranian vessels from its waters after they did not respond to repeated warnings.
Saudi Arabia has been forging links to Iraq since reopening its Baghdad embassy in 2016. Its adversary Iran has strong Iraqi ties. If Riyadh avoids antagonising Tehran, invests wisely and quiets anti-Shiite rhetoric, Iraq can be a bridge between the rival powers - not a battleground.
From Saudi Arabia's establishment in 1932, its minority Shiite population has been subject to discrimination and sectarian incitement. Beginning in the early 1990s, with then Crown Prince Abdullah's active support, the government took steps to improve inter-sectarian relations.
Saudi Arabia is at a critical stage in both its struggle against terrorism and its on-again, off-again efforts at reform, and Islamism is at the heart of both.
The Saudi regime faces one of the more difficult phases in its history. Fearful of change, accustomed to a system in which it holds enormous power and privileges, the ruling family may consider any serious reform a risk not worth taking.
Implementing a cease-fire [between Saudi Arabia and Yemen] is no small matter, and the first test of this is going to be whether the parties show up for this virtual meeting.
Riyadh may not want war with Iran, but there are risks to this strategy of rhetorical confrontation.
Les deux partis au Congrès perdent patience face à la campagne menée par l’Arabie Saoudite au Yémen. Il y a des raisons d’espérer que le Congrès interviendra pour contrer MBS, même si Trump ne le fait pas.
Secretary Pompeo was put in an almost impossible situation from the outset: traveling to meet with people [in Saudi Arabia] suspected of having ordered a political assassination at the request of a president determined to sweep the affair under the rug.
Although from a distance the U.S.-Saudi relationship appears rock solid, there are cracks in the foundation.
Most people agree at this point that the Saudis are facing a legitimate security threat and that Iran is part of the problem. By continuing down this road, things will just get worse.
A series of escalations in both word and deed have raised fears of U.S.-Iranian military confrontation, either direct or by proxy. It is urgent that cooler heads prevail – in European capitals as in Tehran and Washington – to head off the threat of a disastrous war.
Iran and Saudi Arabia are actively fighting one another in the media, through armed proxies, in cyberspace and with Western lobbyists. But in Iraq they should both see the case for détente.
Originally published in The Hill
After the defeat of the Islamic State in 2017, normality is returning to Iraq ahead of the 12 May parliamentary elections. In this Q&A, Crisis Group's Senior Analyst for the Arabian Peninsula Elizabeth Dickinson says the country’s cautious optimism includes hopes of a new partnership with Riyadh, balancing Baghdad’s strong ties with Tehran.
Originally published in The Washington Post