The European Council on Foreign Relations’ Cinzia Bianco joins Arab Digest editor William Law to talk about the partnership deal that the EU is proposing to the Gulf states. Large in ambition and sweeping in scope, it was released in Brussels in mid-May and titled ‘Joint Communication to the European Parliament and Council: a strategic partnership with the Gulf.’ So is the proposal a gamechanger or is it a dustcatcher? Will the Gulf play ball or are there red lines that will stop the initiative in its tracks? Cinzia weighs up the pros and cons and delivers her verdict.
Summary: as the war in Ukraine enters an ever more dangerous phase, MENA states continue to take a fence-sitting posture that keeps their options open and avoids annoying Putin.
Summary: as President Biden seeks to turn Putin into a global pariah, he has let slip another target, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is increasingly gaining international approval and acceptance despite his ruthless suppression of Saudis at home and attacks on critics abroad.
Summary: what seemed a certainty has now bogged down and the Vienna talks are at risk of stalemate with America’s Gulf allies finding themselves caught between a rock and a hard place, on the one hand worried that either the US will do a deal that gives away too much and leaves them in the lurch or on the other that a no deal scenario will further heighten their regional insecurity fears.
Arab Digest editor William Law welcomes back Andreas Krieg of the Defence Studies Department, King’s College London and their conversation focusses on the battle that liberal democracy now finds itself engaged in as its MENA partners play the neutral card while quietly backing their ideological ally Putin in his war in Ukraine. It is an existential struggle, one encumbered with a stark hypocrisy.
Summary: as the Egyptian president drives the country ever deeper into a massive debt swamp, he is capitalising on Saudi and Emirati fears of another revolution the keep the Gulf money flowing in.
Summary: another prime minister has resigned, another government ends as Kuwait’s political impasse endures.
Arab Digest editor William Law’s guest this week is the author and MENA analyst Christopher Davidson. Their conversation focusses on how Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is proving beneficial for the region’s autocratic leaders and not simply because the price of hydrocarbons has soared. Amongst other windfalls Russia’s oligarchs are finding new homes in the Gulf and bringing their wealth with them.
Summary: Gulf monarchies’ refusal to side with the US and Europe against Russia is not about Russia. It is about a transactional approach to protecting national interests and avoiding the costs of strategic alignment.
Summary: despite concerns that crypto currencies may violate Islamic jurisprudence and conceal criminal activities, several MENA countries are surging forward in the race to establish pre-eminence in a rapidly emerging financial sector with the potential for staggering profits.