Saudi Arabia and its ambitious crown prince are looking ahead to a new world in which it will enjoy a more prominent place. Yet unless the kingdom makes further changes on both the diplomatic and domestic fronts, its aspirations are likely to run into roadblocks.
Govt pursued normalisation process with Iran and cracked down on freedom of expression at home.
Iranian-Saudi rapprochement made progress as normalisation with Syria stalled. Iranian FM Hossein Amir-Abdollahian 17 Aug met Saudi counterpart in capital Riyadh, describing relations “on the right track”; Amir-Abdollahian next day met Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) in highest-level talks since March reconciliation. Reports during month indicated Saudi Arabia delayed opening of embassy in Syria, which was reportedly planned for June. Amid talk of U.S. efforts to secure normalisation deal with Israel, Saudi Arabia 12 Aug named its ambassador to Jordan, Nayef al-Sudairi, non-resident envoy to Palestine. Riyadh 5-6 Aug hosted Ukraine “peace summit”. BRICS 24 Aug invited Saudi Arabia alongside other nations, including Iran, United Arab Emirates and Egypt, to join bloc.
Govt continued domestic crackdown. Amid series of arrests of social media personalities, authorities early Aug arrested public health expert and social media influencer, Mohammed Al Hajji, before releasing him on 15 Aug; arrests point to authorities’ attempt to stifle perceived criticism of govt policies. Human Rights Watch 21 Aug alleged Saudi border guards conducted “widespread and systematic” killings of hundreds of Ethiopian migrants between March 2022 and June 2023.
Saudi Arabia is seeking to assert itself more and more on the international stage through mediation and raising its diplomatic profile.
Many experts still assume that whoever is in the White House will guide Saudi policy on Iran, but that simply isn’t true today.
Lowering the temperature with Iran is a smart way to lower tensions across the region and mitigate some of the proxy battles surrounding Saudi Arabia.
We can see a de-escalation in the regional layer of the [Saudi-Iranian] conflict. It is a multi-layered conflict, with domestic and regional causes, not just a proxy war
The Saudi-Iran deal is a clear sign that both countries are ready to turn the page after years of turmoil.
The US-Saudi relationship has gone through periods of intense strain before, but in my view the current low point represents a crack but not a rupture.
The four-year blockade of Qatar by rival Gulf powers is over, but fault lines among these states remain. If the gaps are not bridged, the competition could exacerbate conflicts – and spark new ones – well outside the region.
This week on Hold Your Fire!, Richard talks with Abdulaziz Sager, Crisis Group’s Trustee and Founder and Chairman of the Gulf Research Center, about Riyadh’s foreign policy and diplomatic efforts seemingly aimed at mending ties in the region.
On 10 March, Saudi Arabia and Iran agreed to restore diplomatic relations as part of a Chinese-sponsored initiative that appears aimed at reducing tensions across the Middle East. Crisis Group experts offer a 360-degree view of the implications for the region’s many flashpoints.
Dr. Abdulaziz Sager, Founder of the Gulf Research Center and member of Crisis Group’s Board of Trustees, talks about the revival of diplomatic ties between Iran and Saudi Arabia in a deal brokered by China.
On 10 March, prodded by China, Iran and Saudi Arabia agreed to reestablish diplomatic relations within two months, after seven years of severed ties. In this Q&A, Crisis Group experts Dina Esfandiary and Anna Jacobs look at the emerging rapprochement.
Dialogue efforts in the Gulf have stalled amid rising tensions. In this excerpt from the Watch List 2023, Crisis Group explains how the EU and its member states can help revive Saudi-Iranian and other talks.
This week on Hold Your Fire!, Richard Atwood speaks with Crisis Group’s Middle East experts Joost Hiltermann and Dina Esfandiary about the World Cup in Qatar, regional politics and friction between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia.
Israel would like to forge a military alliance with the Gulf Arab monarchies as part of its strategy for checking Iran’s power projection in the region. For Gulf capitals, however, the Israeli ambitions risk too much and offer too little.
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