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 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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

The relationship between military spending and GDP growth in peacetime seems an easy equation. When a country’s economy is healthy and growing, it can splurge on fancy new equipment and a larger standing army. When growth has slumped and government revenues decline, that country should tighten its belt and focus ...

How steady are the hands on the steering wheel of Saudi Arabia?  That question prompts an immediate follow-on: Whose hands are we talking about?  There seem to be too many. Notionally, the kingdom is being directed by King Salman, but he is 80 years old and suffering from the physical and ...

President Barack Obama maintains Congress made a “mistake” on Wednesday when it voted to override his veto of a bill allowing U.S. families of 9/11 victims to sue Saudi Arabian officials. The bill overwhelmingly passed into law by a vote of 97-1 in the Senate and by 348-77 in the ...

As we draw closer to November 8 and the U.S. presidential race heats up, countries around the world have focused on how the potential election of either Republican nominee Donald Trump or Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton will impact their relations with the United States.  In the eyes of Saudi Arabia, ...

If Donald Trump, the Republican Party nominee for the presidency of the United States, found it convenient to propose a ban of all Muslims from entering the country, his vision on how to go about his deed shocked one of America’s closest allies.  Hundreds of thousands of Saudis who studied ...

Throughout American electoral history, Saudi Arabia’s ruling Al Saud family, particularly the kings, has refrained from commenting on U.S. presidential candidates. But if they could now or even cast a vote, for whom would it be? Long-serving former Saudi Foreign Minister Saud Al-Faisal once referred to U.S. presidential campaigns as ...

On Monday, Saudi Arabia’s Defense Minister and Deputy Crown Prince, Mohammad Bin Salman, arrived in Washington, D.C. to hold high-level talks with top U.S. officials, including U.S. President Barack Obama. This visit comes at a crucial time as friction between the two longtime allies continues to mount. The U.S.-Saudi relationship ...

Despite U.S. President Barack Obama’s trip to Riyadh in April, and Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman’s visit to the U.S. this week, friction in the U.S.-Saudi relationship remains palpable. According to Simon Henderson, a Saudi expert at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, the Saudis have essentially ...

Despite a semblance of rocky ties between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia, bilateral relations between the two countries remains vital to the U.S. and extremely vital to Saudi Arabia. Throughout history, there have been various times in the U.S.-Saudi relationship where we’ve experienced inflection points. The first major inflection point ...

The sixteen months since Salman bin Abdul Aziz became king of Saudi Arabia have been stressful times as the Kingdom has faced economic and strategic challenges as well as strains in its critical partnership with the United States. Plummeting oil prices have forced the Kingdom to postpone construction projects, reorganize ...

Ripple effects have been felt across the Kingdom as the Saudi royal family transitions to a new generation of leaders. According to former U.S. Ambassador to Oman, Gary Grappo, the new economic plan introduced by Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, while ambitious, “will help the country diversify greater and ...

For almost a century, Kool-Aid experts on the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia saw little more than gloom and doom, imminent collapse of the ruling family, social backwardness and economic failure.  Generations of such “watchers” lusted for disaster, even if what occurred was nothing more that “wear-and-tear,” as the conservative monarchy ...

Saudi Arabia is confronting a pivotal moment in its history. While the Kingdom navigates unprecedented regional and economic challenges, the Saudi royal family is orchestrating a power transition between the second and third generation of the Al Saud dynasty, leading many to analyze the direction of the kingdom. The spotlight ...

Saudi Arabia’s foreign policy has taken on a new face. In Syria, Bahrain, Yemen, and elsewhere, Saudi military intervention has signaled a drastic shift from its traditionally cautious foreign policy to one that is increasingly assertive and aggressive. What is driving this transformation of Saudi foreign relations, and how will ...

As dynamics in the Middle East continue to shift, Saudi Arabia has taken on a more aggressive foreign policy approach. According to Perry Cammack, Middle East Associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, these changes in Saudi policy are a reaction by the Saudi royal family to Iran’s strategy ...

Arguably any nation’s foreign policy begins with an understanding of its security concerns.  To understand Saudi Arabia’s current foreign policy, often confusing to many given its current venture into Yemen, one must first assess security considerations as the Saudis see them.  Their view is different than it is in the ...

The Saudis and the Houthis are not talking. Peace talks to end the conflict in Yemen were set to begin on Monday in Kuwait, but Houthi delegates say they will not attend until the Saudis, who support Yemen’s internationally recognized government, stop breaking a UN-backed ceasefire that began at midnight ...

Peace talks between the Saudi Arabians – who support the internationally recognized government of President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi in Yemen – and the Houthis were set to begin Monday, after a UN-backed ceasefire went into effect April 10. But fighting has not ceased and the peace talks have been ...

Peace talks are stalled and a ceasefire between the Saudis and the Houthis in Yemen is not holding. This is exactly what terrorist groups, like al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and the Islamic State, want. The Cipher Brief talked to Wilson Center senior scholar and former Middle East correspondent for ...

The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) summit on Thursday comes at a pivotal time as conflicts roil the region, and the United States faces an increasingly fractious relationship with its Gulf allies. In Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, President Barack Obama will meet with leaders from Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and ...

In an interview with The Cipher Brief last month, former Deputy CIA Director Michael Morell said that one of the things he would tell the next president is that “the health of a nation’s economy is the single most important determinant in its ability to protect itself, the single most ...

In the past five years, the Middle East has suffered from a double collapse.  First, having proven unable to provide capable political institutions or economic opportunity to their citizens, several of the region’s states have effectively collapsed.  Reconstituting them has proven to be a task of immense difficulty, leading to ...

A couple years ago, when the Middle East was in turmoil but considerably less complicated than today, I was at a small gathering of foreign policy specialists, including one eminent Middle East expert who has followed the region for 25 years.  As we speculated about the region's future, this expert ...

The chaos we’re seeing today throughout the Mideast continues to escalate and shows no signs of subsiding. The United States and the West seem unwilling or unable to take the necessary steps to help bring some semblance of order to the region.    The Russians have entered the fray further complicating ...

As threats in the Middle East continue to loom large, Jordan’s successes in battling ISIS on the frontlines and promoting cooperation in the Middle East have proven critical. Jordan, which avoided much of the turmoil introduced by the Arab Spring, has served as an indispensible ally for the United States ...

Jordan’s past experience battling al-Qaeda in Iraq has prepared it for its ongoing offensive against ISIS, explained Dr. Musa Keilani to The Cipher Brief. A former Jordanian Ambassador to Bahrain, Dr. Keilani said that there is popular support in Jordan for airstrikes targeting ISIS and that Jordan has “played a ...

According to Dr. Jamal Al Shalabi, Professor of Political Science at the Hashemite University, turmoil in the Middle East has prompted Jordan to strengthen cooperation with its neighbors. Egypt-Jordan relations are at an all time high, Al Shalabi told The Cipher Brief, and it is “logical” for Jordan to deepen ...

With the Middle East ablaze, new opportunities have emerged for regional cooperation. In fact, partnerships have formed in the most unlikely of places, as Israel and some of its Arab neighbors have joined together to combat common enemies, such as ISIS and Iran. Since its establishment in 1948, Israel has ...

Former head of Israel’s Shin Bet and current Knesset member Yaakov Perry discussed Israel’s cooperation with its neighbors to combat regional threats.  Perry explained that Egypt and Jordan are important partners for Israel in the fight against ISIS, and that Israel and many of the Gulf countries share mutual concerns ...