ALKHOBAR, Saudi Arabia — It has been 80 years since oil was discovered in Saudi Arabia – a discovery that changed the face of Saudi Arabia and the area forever. What's more, this oil discovery came at a very critical time when the Kingdom was in need of continuous and ...

In an unexpected turn of events, the sequence of dramatically different policies of the Obama and Trump Administrations has exacerbated the problem of nuclear proliferation in the Middle East. President Barack Obama’s major legacy in the nuclear realm was the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which rolled back Iran’s ...

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has won over the American president. He now has a simple message for the American people: we’re the modern Gulf ally you’ve been looking for, to offset the threat of Iran, keep you safe from al Qaeda in Yemen and invest our oil wealth ...

Bottom Line: For more than three years, conflict in Yemen has afforded terrorist groups – namely al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) – lawless territory to exploit and opportunities to recruit from the Yemeni masses afflicted by a humanitarian catastrophe. U.N. efforts to broker a peace deal have failed, ...

For this last week of 2017, we asked our experts to look back on key topics for this year, and predict what they see for the year ahead. CIA veteran and Middle East hand Rob Richer offered his take. On the fate of the Palestinian-Israeli peace process, now that the ...

A missile fired by Yemen’s Iranian-supported Houthi rebels and targeting the Saudi capital Riyadh for the second time in seven weeks suggests such an attack won’t be a one-off. While the Saudis again say they were able to intercept the rocket, this might mark the beginnings of a pattern that ...

The failure of the recent Gulf Cooperation Council 2017 summit to resolve the six-month long crisis that pits Qatar against Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain obscured a little-known outcome of the meeting—that the council at least agreed on several mechanisms to move forward. In the end, the ...

President Donald Trump put Iran on notice in October, declaring that the U.S. would counter the regime’s “destabilizing activity.” Iran isn't listening. Instead, Iran is making gains throughout the region. Since October, Iranian leaders and their forces have used surrogates to launch what Ambassador Haley has just credibly argued are Iranian-made ...

Saudi Arabia’s increasingly assertive moves against Iran and Lebanese Hezbollah have provoked understandable Western concern, particularly over the potential impact of these steps on Lebanon’s fragile political architecture and stability. But such focus on the drama following Riyadh‘s response to the most recent Houthi missile attack, and the unusual resignation ...

Cipher Brief experts and CIA veterans Norman Roule, Emile Nakhleh and Rob Richer, together with former U.S. Amb. to Yemen Steven Seche, weighed in Monday after Yemen’s former president Ali Abdullah Saleh was reported killed by his former allies. Saleh had switched sides over the weekend, in hopes of negotiating an ...

The sudden resignation of Saad Hariri as Lebanon’s prime minister during his trip to Riyadh earlier this month raised suspicions about whether Saudi Arabia facilitated Hariri’s departure as part of its broader strategy to counter Iran’s expanding influence across the Middle East. This event could foment instability inside Lebanon and ...

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman (MbS) took the unprecedented step of ordering the arrest of 11 princes, dozens of former ministers and business officials, and four current ministers, earlier this month. Despite the clucks of disapproval from some in D.C., President Donald Trump tweeted: “I have great confidence in ...

The Swiss Foreign Ministry announced on Oct. 25 that it had reached an agreement with Riyadh and Tehran to represent Iranian consular interests in Saudi Arabia and Saudi consular interests in Iran. The landmark agreement, which was personally negotiated by Swiss Foreign Minister and Federal Councilor Didier Burkhalter, was first ...

There is little doubt that Putin’s foreign policy centers on reviving Russia as a major international power, which seeks to undermine the global American alliance that has underwritten international security since the end of the Cold War. Stretching across Europe, Asia and the Middle East, this alliance has continually thwarted ...

On Saturday, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the arrests of dozens of ministers and other members of Riyadh’s elite, as part of a broader effort to ostensibly crackdown on corruption. Veteran Saudi/Mideast intelligence officer and Cipher Brief expert Norman Roule offered a more positive take than other network ...

Another shakeup atop the Saudi royal family, coupled with an escalation in the war in Yemen, has paved the way for the Saudi heir to the throne to consolidate power but has also stirred nationwide turmoil that could plant the seeds of a future backlash. On Saturday, Saudi Crown Prince ...

Nearly five months on, the “crisis” between Qatar and a coalition of nine countries led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates has reached a relatively stable equilibrium. The countries’ resultant blockade of Qatar - over its alleged support for terrorist groups and ties to Iran – has not ...

Five months have passed since Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain and Egypt severed diplomatic ties with Qatar on June 5 over allegations that Doha is supporting terrorism and that it embraces Iran and its regional agenda. The dispute is not only the most significant of its kind ...

As war in Yemen drags on, the people of Yemen are facing severe humanitarian circumstances, with many starving, succumbing to disease, or unable to receive necessary medical supplies. According to Nasser Arrabyee, a Yemeni journalist based in the country’s capital of Sana’a, many Yemenis feel blame their misfortunes on the ...

Billed the “forgotten child” of the Middle East, Yemen is ensnared in a three-year old civil war with no end in sight. Despite haphazard international attempts to mediate a ceasefire, the prospects for reconciliation remain bleak, and Yemeni citizens continue to face a catastrophic humanitarian crisis. All the while, the ...

Civil war in Yemen has dragged on for approximately three years with no end in sight. Forces loyal to Yemeni president Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi and backed by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have essentially fought the Iranian-backed Houthi opposition to a stalemate, while a catastrophic humanitarian crisis in ...

The dispute between Qatar and its four regional counterparts – Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates – has entered into its fourth month with no end in sight. After severing ties with Qatar, the four Arab countries imposed a blockade on the small Gulf nation and provided ...

The ongoing dispute between Qatar and its neighbors – Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt, and the United Arab Emirates – has thrown the U.S. into a difficult situation. U.S. President Donald Trump has reaffirmed his support for Saudi Arabia’s policies, but at the same time has continued to work with Qatar, ...

Well into its fourth month, the tense standoff between Qatar and the four Arab nations that severed diplomatic ties with Doha – Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) – shows no signs of resolution, as both sides remain reluctant to earnestly negotiate or offer any concessions. ...

The recent flare-up at the Temple Mount, also known Haram Al Sharif, in Jerusalem reminds American foreign policy makers of the sensitivity of the Israeli-Palestinian issue. Israel increased security on the Haram Al Sharif last month after a shooting at the holy site left two Israeli policemen dead, prompting protests ...

Before leaving Saudi Arabia last week for a long holiday in Morocco, King Salman issued a decree officially putting his young son, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, in charge during his absence. Under the Saudi system, that was a routine step because crown princes have often become, in effect, acting ...

Saudi Arabia underwent another dramatic shift in mid-June when Saudi ruler King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud elevated his son, Prince Mohammad Bin Salman (MbS), to the position of Crown Prince in place of his elder cousin Mohammad bin Nayef (MbN). At first, it appeared that Nayef supported the move when ...

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia recently underwent another dynastic shake-up as Deputy Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman supplanted his elder cousin and former Minister of the Interior Mohammed Bin Nayef as Crown prince. The move paves the way for Mohammad bin Salman to further consolidate power and pursue his more ...

More mixed signals have emerged on the rift between Qatar and some of its Arab neighbors, as a new report citing U.S. intelligence officials says the United Arab Emirates orchestrated the hacking of Qatari websites to post false information that spurred the region’s diplomatic crisis. Qatar has said its state ...

The crisis between an Arab coalition led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates on one side, and fellow Gulf Cooperation Council member Qatar on the other, shows no signs of abating. Qatar has responded to the list of 13 demands presented to Doha last month. At a meeting ...

The dispute between Qatar and its Arab neighbors has now entered its fourth week, causing an uptick in tension throughout the Middle East. The Cipher Brief’s Bennett Seftel spoke with Marcelle Wahba, former U.S. Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates, about the reasons behind Qatar’s isolation as well as why ...

The tense standoff between Qatar and a group of Middle East countries that includes Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates is nearing the one-month mark with no resolution in sight. Events began to unfold on June 4 when the Arab nations abruptly severed diplomatic ties with Qatar, ...

Last Friday, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, and Egypt provided Qatar with a list of 13 harsh demands that Qatar must meet within 10 days in order to have sanctions lifted, some of which include shutting down the Al Jazeera network, severing all ties with the Muslim Brotherhood, reducing ties ...

Two weeks have passed since I wrote the column about the Saudi-Qatar split, and as of today the Trump administration seems still unable to get its mixed messages together so Washington can play the traditional U.S. leadership role in keeping its Gulf partners together. While Secretary of State Rex Tillerson ...

The only surprising thing about the leadership shakeup ordered on Wednesday by King Salman of Saudi Arabia was the timing. It has long been apparent that the king, 81, was grooming his favorite son, Mohammed bin Salman, 31, to succeed him. The young prince was already one of the most ...

Saudi-China bilateral relations took a notable upswing this March after Saudi King Salman and Chinese President Xi Jinping signed landmark economic deals worth approximately $65 billion. The Cipher Brief’s Bennett Seftel spoke with Gary Grappo, former U.S. Ambassador to Oman, about Saudi Arabia’s and China’s economic strategies as well as ...

As a major importer of oil from both Saudi Arabia and Iran, and with expanding economic interests in the Middle East, China has a stake in maintaining stability in the volatile region. The Cipher Brief’s Bennett Seftel sat down with Simon Henderson, Director of the Gulf and Energy Policy Program ...

China, for some time, has performed a delicate balancing act in the Middle East. As a major importer of oil from two archrivals, Saudi Arabia and Iran, Beijing has managed to pursue its economic ambitions despite divisive regional politics. However, after Qatar was ostracized by its Gulf neighbors earlier this ...

Today’s diplomatic chaos pitting Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain, Egypt, and other Sunni states against Qatar, can be partly blamed on Trump’s ill thought out utterances and his administration’s resultant mixed messaging in the controversy. Perhaps as important, U.S. response to the Qatar situation also raises questions ...

The terrorist attacks on the Iranian Parliament building and the Mausoleum of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic Republic, marked the first time ISIS has been behind a major attack waged inside Iran and appeared to catch authorities by surprise.  At least 12 people were killed and more ...

The Cipher Brief’s Bennett Seftel sat down with Emad Kiyaei, Policy Advisor at the American Iranian Council to discuss Iran’s recent elections, U.S. President Donald Trump’s trip to the Middle East, and how Iran could react to the establishment of an “Arab NATO.” The Cipher Brief: Leading up to the ...

What’s the outcome of President Trump’s trip last week to the Middle East? I’ll focus mainly on what may be the after effects of the first days of his trip in Saudi Arabia, where he was treated like a visiting potentate. “The House of Saud played Donald Trump like a ...

President Donald Trump heads to The Vatican and Brussels on Wednesday, after wrapping up a trip to the Middle East, which started in Saudi Arabia and ended in Israel. The President delivered a speech on his vision for U.S.-Muslim relations in Riyadh, before heading to Jerusalem. There, he pledged to ...

President Donald Trump’s first trip abroad to Saudi Arabia is aimed at re-ordering America’s approach to the Middle East and reinforcing Saudi Arabia’s centrality to U.S. policy.  The Saudi Arabia that Trump will see is in the midst of a nationwide effort to transform itself economically and socially.  He will ...

For Saudi Arabia, Yemen is a vital security interest. The Saudis have long claimed a dominant role in shaping Yemen’s domestic politics. Yemen’s desert border with Saudi Arabia is a source of anxiety for the Kingdom’s leaders. Yemenis are poor, Yemen’s large population is still growing, and the Yemeni state ...

At a time that several Middle Eastern nations are plagued with civil strife, the Gulf Cooperation Council is a beacon of unity that has contributed to security and stability in the Arabian Gulf and beyond. “Gulf security is our security,” declared UK Prime Minister Theresa May during the GCC’s 37th ...

The Cipher Brief sat down with Marcelle Wahba, President of the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington and former U.S. Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates, to discuss internal dynamics within the Gulf Cooperation Council. According to Wahba, GCC countries view Iran as their “main international security challenge, but pursue ...

Six years after Egyptians rose up against the political authoritarianism and economic incompetence of the Mubarak regime, the potential transfer of two strategic islands to Saudi Arabia serves as a bitter reminder that, since the heady days of 2011, things have only gotten worse. Since Egyptians woke up on 8 ...

Abraham Lincoln, America’s 16th president, subscribed to the philosophy, “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer,” a line attributed to Sun Tzu, the famous sixth-century Chinese military strategist. Mr. Lincoln was also noted for saying, “Do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?” Donald Trump, ...

Saudi Arabia’s decision at the informal gathering of OPEC countries in Algeria on September 28th to reverse course and agree to participate in a production cut took markets by surprise. It immediately had its intended effect. The announcement made it risky for investors to short the market by selling oil ...