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Economy, Geopolitics, Investment

For Middle East watchers, the conflict between Saudi Arabia and Iran seems to manifest itself in nearly every area. From proxy wars and blockades, diplomatic rows and everything else in between, Saudi Arabia and Iran jostling for regional dominance is a familiar topic of conversation.

 

But Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman struck a different tone in a recent interview with Saudi state television. MBS focused on diplomatic possibilities and stated, “we are working now with our partners in the region and the world to find solutions for these problems. At the end of the day, Iran is a neighbouring country. All what we ask for is to have a good and distinguished relationship with Iran.”

 

The news comes as American President Joe Biden is seeking to repair the multilateral nuclear deal with Iran, which his predecessor Donald Trump pulled out of. Analysts have regularly pointed to the election of Biden as a marked changed in American diplomatic relations with Saudi Arabia, which had enjoyed especially close ties with America under Trump.

 

In early April, it was revealed that Saudi Arabia and Iran held secret talks in Baghdad in an attempt to restore official diplomatic relations between the two countries after they were broken five years ago. The talks were not immediately confirmed by either state, but the MBS’s recent interview suggests the two nations may be seeking closer ties.

 

Saudi Arabia and Iran still have plenty to hash out, and the question remains as to how much American foreign policy has changed, but for now, it looks like both sides are at least interested in coming to the diplomatic table.

 

Recalibration

            Iran-Saudi relations have been strained, and they have culminated in various proxy conflicts and a Saudi-led blockade against Qatar, which the Saudi-led coalition argued was becoming too close to Iran.

 

The blockade against Qatar lasted three-and-a-half years, but the Saudi coalition did not get the outcome it was looking for. Qatar became closer with Saudi’s regional rivals Iran and Turkey, and the small country was able to withstand the crushing blockade.

 

Combine the failed Qatari blockade with brutal and seemingly never-ending proxy conflicts in Syria and Yemen, and Saudi Arabia and Iran may see their costly and destructive path as bad for business.

 

Attracting foreign investment to Saudi Arabia has proven difficult. The assassination of Jamal Khashoggi has loomed large in Western media, and the Kingdom is still struggling to recover from it on a diplomatic front.

 

Saudi Arabia’s much-publicized turn from oil-dependency to a more diversified economy relying on tourism and green technology necessitates better relations. Saudi Arabia is looking to become a regional economic hub but has thus far found it difficult to compete with other Gulf states.

 

A diplomatically keen Saudi Arabia is not a surprise considering their continued intervention in the region is racking up high costs while delivering more instability to the region. If a deal can be hashed out with Iran, Saudi Arabia might stand to gain immensely in the short term.

 

However, in Iran, the latest development around leaked tapes from Foreign Minister Javad Zarif has divided the political establishment. On the leaked audio tapes, Zarif complains that the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps has more power than him over military and diplomatic decisions.

 

Iranians are set to head to the polls for a presidential election in June, and the frank statements from Zarif have divided Iranian political parties on how the country should act in regards to the nuclear deal.

 

Vienna has been the host to renewed talks on the Iranian nuclear deal and if reincorporating the United States into the deal and lessening sanctions against Iran is possible. As Trump unilaterally pulled the United States out of the agreement, Zarif and President Hassan Rouhani have been pushed into a corner, especially after Zarif’s comments were leaked. Due to the upcoming elections, and the United States’s assassination of popular General Qasem Soleimani in early 2020, President Rouhani and Zarif may be compelled to resist a renewed deal with the Americans due to political concerns.

 

Saudi Arabia wants to see the nuclear deal strengthened and has expressed a desire to be consulted on the negotiations. With increasing pressure on Iran, it is difficult to imagine a strengthened deal that would also pull in other regional countries like Saudi Arabia.

 

If re-entering the deal may already be a step too far, then providing concessions to Saudi Arabia is unlikely to fly.

 

Relations with America

            When President Biden entered the Oval Office, many believed it would drastically change the country’s relations with Saudi Arabia and Iran. The US would no longer provide Trump’s blank chequebook to Saudi Arabia, and Biden was keen to re-enter the Iran deal thus lifting some sanctions against Iran.

 

While both countries have made adjustments to the new administration, it is unclear whether it will yield different results.

 

MBS has insisted that there only minor differences between Riyadh and Washington. Despite calls from members of his party, Biden has balked on taking action against the Crown Prince for his alleged involvement in the Khashoggi assassination.

 

And while the US House of Representatives voted to limit arms sales to Saudi Arabia, the Biden Administration approved a $23 billion weapons sale to the Kingdom. Biden is allowed to continue sales to Saudi Arabia if he certifies that the country is not involved in killing dissidents.

 

Biden’s half-baked stance on America’s involvement in supporting Saudi Arabia in Yemen, pulling offensive forces while keeping defensive missions in place, has been criticized as murky and continuing to aid Saudi Arabia with its offensive efforts.

 

And while there seems to be interest from the Biden Administration and Democrats for re-entering the Iran nuclear deal, it’s unclear whether that can be achieved under the same agreement. With the United States pulling out of the Iran deal and assassinating the most powerful general in Iran, the Iran nuclear deal was always going to be difficult.

 

Making it shakier are reports of US Coast Guard ships off the Iranian coast being ‘harassed’ by the Revolutionary Guard Corps. Iran undoubtedly views the United States as an aggressor, and if that does not change or political realities in Iran do not allow for improved relations, Biden may not see improved relations with Iran.

 

A slight recalibration may see a better relationship between Saudi Arabia and Iran, but if too many geopolitical factors do not change, it is equally likely that the bloody stand-off continues.

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Corporate citizenship, Economy

At the end of March, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman unveiled the Saudi Green Initiative, a plan that includes a number of ambitious projects to reduce the country’s carbon emissions by 60%. Some headline-grabbing projects include planting 50 billion trees, 10 billion of which in Saudi Arabia, preservation of coral reefs, and a large boost to alternative energy sources.


Saudi Arabia claims the project would be the largest afforestation project in world history. To pair with the Saudi initiative, MBS also announced a Middle East Green Initiative targeting regional collaboration.


The announcement comes ahead of several key climate conferences including the Leader’s Climate Summit on 22-23 April and the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) from 1 to 12 November.


Saudi Arabia and the Middle East region broadly stand to be greatly impacted by the forces of climate change. Warming temperatures will lead to drastic effects on Saudi Arabia’s ecology, deepening water scarcity, endangering biodiversity, and severely damaging the nation’s agricultural industry.


The Saudi Arabian economy has profited immensely from the growth in the fossil fuel industry, putting the nation in an awkward position when it comes to climate change. A significant number of scientists argue mankind needs to keep a majority of fossil fuels in the ground to stave off the worst impacts of climate change.


As one of the world’s largest oil producers in the world, climate activists may be sceptical of Saudi Arabia’s recent announcement, but regional stability and the country’s liveability are on the line. The Kingdom has also been known for its big promises related to infrastructure projects, which some critics have called vanity projects.


Currently, pressure is growing on state institutions to act on climate change, and it will continue to be one of the dominant issues on the global stage. More than just domestic policy, the Saudis likely see climate policy as a way to collaborate with global partners and get back in the good graces of former allies.

 

Green Initiative: What is it?

           

The Saudi Press Agency said the two initiatives are broadly part of the Kingdom’s plan that defines “an ambitious road map that rallies the region and significantly contributes to achieving global targets in confronting climate change.”


The press agency specifically mentioned desertification as a main climate change concern for Saudi Arabia and the region. The initiatives plan to increase cover vegetation, reduce carbon emissions, and preserve marine habitats.


Both initiatives will have smaller initiatives within them to address specific topics including planting trees, land rehabilitation, and more. The Kingdom is targeting a 4% contribution to global targets limiting land degradation and a 1% contribution to the global initiative to plant 1 trillion trees.

 

Another eye-catching goal laid out in the announcement is Saudi Arabia’s plan to convert 50% of its energy consumption to renewable sources by 2030.  The goal is lofty as less than 1% of the Kingdom’s energy currently comes from renewables.

 

The announcement was lighter on details about the Middle East Green Initiative, but it did mention knowledge-sharing, Saudi Arabia’s commitment to plant 40 million trees outside of the Kingdom, and the need to focus on international collaboration on the issue.

 

The ambitious environmental plans are part of Saudi Arabia’s larger Vision 2030, the wide-reaching project to diversify the Kingdom’s economy and attract foreign investment outside of the oil sector.

 

International Reaction

 

The announcement received positive attention from foreign heads of states and regional partners.


UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said, “We welcome Saudi Arabia’s plan to plant 10 billion trees, combat pollution & preserve marine life as an important step in their climate ambition. As COP26 President we’ll work with Saudi Arabia to support their drive to protect the planet ahead of COP26.”


Russia is also set to work with Saudi Arabia on the initiative as The Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) said it is “very impressed” by MBS’s ambitions.


A spokesperson for UN Secretary-General Antonino Guterres said “we’re following with great interest the efforts made by countries like Saudi Arabia to step up their climate ambitions.”


Saudi Arabia and bin Salman have been marred in an international diplomacy snare since the assassination of Jamal Khashoggi and the Kingdom’s heavy-handed role in the Yemeni Civil War and the destabilization of Yemen. As Vision 2030 and Saudi Arabia’s economic diversification plans rely heavily on drawing in foreign investment, the Kingdom is in need of some positive PR.

 

Ahead of COP26 in Glasgow, Saudi Arabia has laid down ambitious plans, ones that mirror its Western partners, such as Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s tree-planting initiative.


While Saudi Arabia desperately needs to counteract the negative impacts of climate change for its own national security and ecology, the planned initiatives also serve as an international PR boon. And that begs the question, are MBS and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia serious about climate change?

 

Economy Built on Oil or Green Paradise?

 

One of the announced initiatives that has received the most international press is the Kingdom’s plan to plant 10 billion trees within their borders. But Saudi Arabia is the third-driest country on Earth, and without details on how the country plans to plant all the trees, sceptics will remain wary of the tree-planting bonanza.

 

Some environmental activists and climate scientists are buoyant about tree-planting’s potential to reverse some impacts of climate change. But other scientists have pointed to overhyped statistics and argued that planting trees is not a catch-all solution that avoids addressing the real problem.


Simply put, planting trees can help the overall environment and help mitigate carbon emissions, but reforestation is a complex endeavour. The bigger problem that faces the world climate is greenhouse gas emissions.

 

The announcement of the Green Initiative does include a promise to increase renewable energy consumption to 50% of the country’s energy, but how the number two oil producer in the world can achieve such a feat seems far-fetched in the short timeframe of nine years.


In recent years, Saudi Arabia has shown little effort in meeting its Paris Agreement goals with other big oil-producing states like Russia and the United States in a similar boat.


Like many other countries, Saudi Arabia has failed to meet their modest climate targets in the past. Ahead of COP26, it means the Kingdom has plenty of room to improve or follow down a familiar path, using ambitious climate projects as bait for foreign investment and improved foreign relations rather than a genuine

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Economy, Geopolitics, Investment

A futuristic, sustainable city to house one million residents without cars, streets, or emissions and all built in a straight 170-kilometre line? It sounds like something out of a science fiction novel, but it’s part of Saudi Arabia’s plan to diversify its economy.

 

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman unveiled his most ambitious project, a 170-kilometer city called The Line, related to the proposed city Neom in January 2021 with a slick promotional video.

 

A diverse megacity with an emphasis on sustainability, contouring urban life to nature, and artificial intelligence-driven public services, the project is not short on ambition. But, international media and independent observers have noted the lack of details thus far.

 

Furthermore, critics question the feasibility of the project considering past Saudi projects to build cities in the desert including the incomplete King Abdullah Economic City.

 

The Line and Neom are also not being built on ‘virgin land’ as some consultants claim, with activists and tribal community members outraged as the Huwaitat tribe is forced off their land. Activist and Huwaitat tribal member Abdul-Rahim al-Howeiti was killed by Saudi police forces in April 2020.

 

So why build a $500 billion speculative city project on desert land partially occupied by tribal members? Is it part of MBS’s plan to modernize the Saudi economy and revolutionize Saudi society or is it a cash grab for Western firms as Saudi Arabia spends its petrodollars?

 

Forward Thinking or Petrodollar Problem?

 

During the Crown Prince’s tenure thus far, Saudi Arabia has aggressively emphasized economic diversification. Saudi’s Public Investment Fund has been routinely injecting cash into tourism projects and paying Western influencers to promote Saudi tourism to American and European travellers.

 

Since the inception of the petrodollar, OPEC nations and other oil-producing nations are paid for oil in US dollars, Saudi Arabia has been a frequent investor in American firms. In 2016, Uber received $3.5 billion from the Public Investment Fund.

 

But as concerns about Saudi Arabia’s dependency on oil grow, or if read more generously, growing worry about climate change and resulting ecological disaster, MBS and Saudi Arabia have looked to depart from their traditional petrodollar economy.

 

As the petrodollar became widely used in the 1970s, Saudi Arabia became awash in US dollars. Since it’s not easy to simply convert the massive amounts of US dollars into local currency, oil-rich nations had to turn to different spending measures.

 

During periods of peak oil prices, a phenomenon known as petrodollar recycling was employed. The Saudi Public Investment Fund was founded in 1971, giving the Saudi state the ability to spend this money abroad on foreign firms that could use American dollars.

 

This economic model has also led to a wide array of ambitious vanity projects as OPEC nations periodically are pumped with more petrodollars than they can efficiently spend in their domestic economy.

 

This economic structure has largely remained intact and the PIF has ratcheted up investments in foreign firms in recent years including a shrewd $7.7 billion purchase of blue-chip American stocks during the COVID-fuelled stock market downturn.

 

But recently, MBS has shown a preference to perhaps turn away from this oil-dependent petrodollar model. Saudi Arabia announced a plan called “Programme HQ” a project to lure multinationals away from Dubai and increase foreign investment in their country.

 

The plan highlights the Kingdom’s struggle to attract large foreign investment outside of the oil industry. Saudi Arabia has always been able to attract foreign companies to throw petrodollars at, but it has long been a one-way street.

 

Even under Programme HQ, Saudi Arabia is offering massive tax breaks, but due to political controversies, foreign money might elect to stay away from investing in Riyadh.

 

Neom and The Line are incredibly ambitious, but they are not completely unprecedented in Saudi or regional history. If it succeeds, the project would be a great shift in the economy of Saudi Arabia, and a potential way out of the petrodollar trap as it would greatly increase foreign investment.

 

However, this is dependent on turning the ambitious plans on paper into reality and convincing the international community that a line city in the middle of the desert is a desirable location to visit, do business in and move to.

 

Can it Succeed

 

As stated before, The Line is scant on details. A promotional video on the official Neom YouTube channel mentions “invisible technology” that will generate “carefree and open urban space” as an animated underground network called “The Spine” displays a metro and high-speed rail.

 

The project is also billed to be zero emissions and powered by “100% clean energy” while preserving 95% of the surrounding nature. Alongside the environmental promises, developers say The Line will create nearly 400,000 jobs and massively increase the country’s GDP.

 

The Line is part of the larger Neom project, a metropolis being built in Tabuk, Saudi Arabia in the northwest of the country.

 

Without getting too far into the weeds on the feasibility of the speculative city based on the limited public information, what we can investigate is what geopolitical ramifications such a project could have.

 

Neom and The Line are set to be built on the Gulf of Aqaba, an area of water that borders Jordan, Israel, and Egypt.

 

Saudi Arabia has been one of the leading Arab nations seeking rapprochement with Israel in recent years. Some of the more ambitious plans for Neom and The Line would require normalized diplomatic relations with Israel, a prospect that would anger Palestinians.

 

Riyadh has also shifted its diplomatic tone in recent months as it prepared for the new Biden Administration in Washington. President Biden said he would be much harsher on Saudi Arabia than his predecessor as the US and Saudi Arabia enjoyed close ties during President Trump’s four years in the Oval Office.

 

But President Biden has refused to sanction Saudi Arabia or the Crown Prince despite American intelligence linking MBS with the 2018 Jamal Khashoggi assassination.

 

The Khashoggi assassination continues to dog bin Salman’s public image, but the West’s reluctance to exact retribution exemplifies Saudi Arabia’s close ties with the West and the pivotal role it plays diplomatically in the region.

 

If Neom and The Line are to even get off the ground, MBS will likely have to regularly pull out the pocketbook and continue splashing the cash in foreign economies. Whether or not they will return the favour to Saudi Arabia is the massive bet the Crown Prince is making with Neom and The Line.

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Economy, Geopolitics, Investment

It’s no secret that Saudi Arabia is making moves to diversify its economy away from a reliance on oil. Riyadh has heavily focused on tourism, but also hinted at ventures in sports, invested large sums in blue-chip Western firms, and is now turning its attention to luring large multinational firms to the nation’s capital.

 

Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is pushing for “Programme HQ”, a plan to draw in multinationals from the regional business hub of Dubai, UAE, according to the Financial Times.

 

The laundry list of incentives includes a 50-year tax holiday, scrapping the tough quotas to hire Saudi nationals for foreign firms, and protections against an array of future regulations. MBS is hoping to attract regional offices of companies like Google.

 

But the Saudis face stiff competition from Dubai, an established business hub with quick flight connections to Europe and a more Western education system for the children of foreign executives.

 

The ambitious project is part of the Kingdom’s even more ambitious Vision 2030, a program led by MBS to diversify and modernize Saudi Arabia’s economy and infrastructure.

 

With strong competition from the UAE and a damaged reputation abroad after the Jamal Khashoggi assassination, Saudi Arabia may face an uphill battle in its quest to meet its lofty goals by 2030.

 

Brewing Rivalry?

In recent regional geopolitical matters, the United Arab Emirates has been cast as a strong Saudi ally. Relations have not always been rosy in the past, but the two Gulf states have found cooperation against Iran as a fruitful venture.

 

The two were the most important players in the blockade of Qatar that spanned three and a half years and attempted to economically strangle their neighbour. The blockade, originally put in place due to the Saudi coalition’s concerns about the growing relationship between Qatar and Iran, was ended at the start of 2021. While the Saudis led the charge for reconciliation, some analysts say to appease the incoming Biden administration, the UAE expressed more reluctance.

 

The allies have also become deeply involved in the Yemeni Civil War, an ongoing conflict that has left Yemen in ruins, over 200,000 Yemenis dead, and over 3 million citizens displaced. The active role of the two states in the death and destruction has also led to concerns on the world stage that have already spilled over into other areas.

 

Both Italy and the United States recently blocked arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the UAE for their active role in Yemen.

 

After years of close relations and an expanding footprint in the region, the Saudi-UAE partnership is being put to the test by its worsening international standing. As Saudi Arabia continues its push for economic diversification it may need to tamper the ratcheting tensions with Iran, a game that might require more diversification in terms of allies and partners.

 

Not only Qatar, but even Israel is looking to benefit from improved relations with the Gulf states as a potential realignment in the Middle East takes place.

 

Biden

Arguably one of the biggest catalysts for Saudi Arabia’s geopolitical realignment in the last months has been the anticipation of the new Biden administration. While Biden’s Secretary of State seems keen on remaining hawkish on Iran, a public reversal on the Trump administration’s cosy relations with the Kingdom has already been established.

 

The Biden campaign team said the Trump administration “wrote Saudi Arabia a blank cheque,” and the Biden presidency is looking to focus more on human rights concerns in Saudi Arabia.

 

Much of the increase in the Saudi’s purchasing of arms sales began under the Obama administration, and the current pause on arms sales to Saudi Arabia was pitched by Secretary of State Antony Blinken as a routine reassessment of the country’s arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

 

While President Biden was Vice President from 2008-2016, he and the administration were not known to have a particularly strong stance on Saudi Arabia.

 

Further than just arms sales, a hardened relationship with the United States could damage Saudi’s chances of attracting foreign business headquarters under their Programme HQ plans.

 

Some businesses like Google, Alibaba, and Western Union have announced increased office space and investment in Saudi Arabia, but Riyadh has yet to convince a major firm to move their regional headquarters to the country. And deals like Google’s cloud service made with Saudi oil company Aramco have led to public dismay among employees.

 

“The biggest challenge MBS has in remaking the Saudi economy is getting foreign companies to invest in Saudi Arabia… Despite all these enticements, it hasn’t happened,” MBS biographer Justin Scheck told The Daily Beast.

 

Before the Khashoggi assassination, Saudi Arabia was already struggling to attract foreign investment, and this already with the “blank cheque” from the Trump administration in full effect. The Kingdom’s most ambitious plans are still hampered by a poor image internationally, and with a new administration, MBS and Saudi Arabia have had to seek a new path internationally.

 

Whether the Kingdom will be able to pull foreign firms away from their allies in Dubai largely depends on how much Saudi Arabia can mend their reputation and how receptive foreign governments and businesses are to the public relations offensive.

 

While Saudi Arabia may struggle to find foreign firms to move to Riyadh, recent history has shown that foreign firms are eager to cover for the potential of heavy investment from the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia. But now the task lies ahead for MBS to reverse the course and convince foreign firms to invest in his country.

 

 

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Economy, Geopolitics

With a historic peace deal announced between the United Arab Emirates and Israel in mid-August, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo embarked on a whirlwind tour of the Middle East in search of more peace deals with Israel.

 

The normalizing of relations between UAE and Israel was met with fanfare from the Trump administration, with President Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner on the first direct flight from Israel to the UAE.

 

The next step for the United States government was to send Pompeo to the UAE, Bahrain, Oman, and Sudan in search of more good news for the administration. But Pompeo was unable to secure any further declarations and the Secretary of State went back to Washington empty-handed.

 

Each state has relations with the United States beyond Israel, and some viewed them as a roadblock to further negotiations. For example, the Sudanese Prime Minister said the issue of normalization of ties with Israel should not be linked with the country’s removal from the US state sponsors of terrorism list.

 

The best news Pompeo received was from Oman, whose leader Sultan Haitham bin Tariq al-Said praised the UAE-Israel deal but did not comment on his own country’s relations with Israel.

 

Ahead of Pompeo’s visit to the region, Israel announced it expected Bahrain and Oman to follow in the UAE’s footsteps, but hopes have been tempered slightly after no new big announcements.

 

Before Pompeo’s visit, Israel said it also expected to normalize relations with several Muslim-majority African countries.

 

With some expectations that the UAE-Israel peace deal might cause some diplomatic issues in the Arab world for the UAE, it has been Palestinians who have voiced the biggest concerns.

 

Palestine

 

The peace deal is a great concern for many Palestinians considering the decades-long agreement between countries in the Arab world to put pressure on Israel to return annexed land. 

 

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said he “rejects and denounces the surprising announcement by Israel, the United States and the UAE,” and called it a “betrayal of Jerusalem, Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Palestinian cause.”

 

Palestinian officials also insist they were not consulted about the UAE deal before it was announced.

 

The UAE has billed the normalization as a measure to stop further annexation in the West Bank. However, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said annexation was “still on the table” after the UAE deal.

 

Furthermore, a discrepancy in the English and Arabic versions peace deal has triggered skepticism among Palestinians. The Arabic version of the deal released by UAE state media, said, “the agreement … has led to Israel’s plans to annex Palestinian lands being stopped.” But in English, the agreement was only said to “led to the suspension of Israel’s plans to extend its sovereignty”.

 

This small detail is of immense importance as Palestinians fear Israel could continue annexation at a later date after a suspension of its plans.

 

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, among other leaders of Arab countries, spoke in support of the deal while calling on Israel to drop plans to further annex portions of the West Bank.

 

The United States, while always an ally of Israel, has become a very vocal and outward supporter of Israel and has sought to shift the state of regional politics in Israel’s favor. The UAE deal was a huge win in this direction, and with other countries supporting the deal, other leaders may follow suit.

 

What has been hailed as a huge win for the Israelis has been met with condemnation and worry from many Palestinians. The New York Times characterized the deal as swapping one nightmare for another, instead of annexation, the Palestinians now have to fight for their struggle to be viewed as relevant with unanimous support faltering. 

 

The Grand Mufti of Jerusalem resigned from a UAE forum promoting peace after he called the UAE’s normalization of relations with Israel, “a stab in the back of Palestinians and Muslims, and a betrayal for Muslim and Christian holy sites in Jerusalem.”

 

However, whether the Trump administration has permanently realigned the geopolitical situation in the region remains to be seen.

 

Pompeo, Trump Use Israel as Foreign Policy Victory

 

Pompeo was not only busy with diplomatic events; the Secretary of State also spoke to the Republican National Convention from Jerusalem to tout the President’s foreign policy credentials.

 

Pompeo called the UAE-Israel peace deal “a deal our grandchildren will read about in their history books.” He also held up the Trump Administration’s decision to move the United States Embassy to Jerusalem.

 

Domestically, there was more concern about potential violation of the Hatch Act, a law that prohibits civil service employees in the federal government from engaging in some forms of political activity, than the contents of the speech. Pompeo has denied any legal wrongdoing, but Democrats in the House have said they intend to pursue an investigation.

 

This episode sheds some light on the limitations of viewing the Trump administration’s policy as a blip.

 

With Trump facing reelection in two months, according to polls his days in the Oval Office may be numbered. Despite this reality, the UAE plowed ahead with the Israel peace deal, and some comments from other Arab states may suggest a more permanent realignment in the region.

 

With that said, Pompeo and Kushner have been yet unsuccessful in securing further public affirmations that point in the direction of similar deals.

 

The reluctance on some states to join in can be chalked up to multiple reasons, including domestic politics, regional relations, American relations, and the uncertainty surrounding the Trump administration.

 

However, Pompeo’s trip to the region and the UAE-Israel peace deal show that Israel is currently able to achieve a deal with an Arab country with favorable terms. Unfortunately for the Palestinians, Arab solidarity is shakier than ever before in modern memory.

 

While current events spell out more potential peace in the region, what it means for peace within Israel is up in the air.

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Economy, Geopolitics, Investment

A Saudi-led consortium’s bid to purchase Newcastle United failed after months of controversy surrounding the planned takeover.

 

The biggest sticking point was the Premier League viewing the Saudi Public Investment Fund (PIF), the group behind the bid, as a proxy for the Saudi state.  Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is the chairman of the Saudi Public Investment Fund.

 

But the group cited “this difficult phase marked by the many real challenges facing us all from Covid-19,” as a chief reason for the deal falling apart.

 

The deal falling through was a surprise to many as the deal was in its final stages. Newcastle’s current owner Mike Ashley, CEO of Sports Direct, will keep the £17 million deposit put down by the Saudi-group. The final deal would have seen the club sold for £300 million.

 

The collapse of the deal is a major setback for Saudi’s sovereign wealth fund, as the purchase of a Premier League club could have been a huge public relations coup. Saudi Arabia has struggled in the public eye of the West after the murder of Jamal Khashoggi in a Saudi consulate in Turkey.

 

Some recent investments from the fund have also decreased massively in valuation. In May, Softbank announced its Vision Fund, in which the Saudi sovereign fund invested $45 billion, lost $17 billion in the last fiscal year after it wrote down the value of WeWork and Uber.

 

Despite the setbacks, the Saudi Public Investment Fund announced it was still keen to continue the takeover if the Premier League gave the deal the green light. Newcastle United fans have also petitioned the Premier League to provide more details as to why the takeover deal was abandoned after four months of negotiations.

 

While the deal might not be completely dead, the prolonged process and massive money put up shows the PIF and the Saudi state are still keen on further diversifying their economy and wealth. However, that process may come at a higher price due to strained diplomatic relations and poor public relations.

 

Economic Diversification

 

The Saudi state and the PIF have long been pushing for more diversification in order to lessen the country’s dependency on oil. The push has been spearheaded by Crown Prince bin Salman, who has deployed a charm offensive on Western companies and politicians.

 

But in the wake of Khashoggi’s murder, the business relations between foreign companies and the Saudi state have become more difficult.

 

Shortly after the incident in 2018, an array of businesses, media companies, politicians, and international organizations pulled out of business deals or refused to attend business forums in Riyadh.

 

The private ventures most supportive of the Saudi state also found themselves in hot water in the wake of the scandal. Uber, who received a $3.5 billion cash injection from the PIF in 2016, stepped into the scandal when its CEO Dara Khosrowshahi dismissed the murder as a “mistake”.

 

Not only has the push for economic diversification come with diplomatic headaches, but some of its most high-profile investments have resulted in massive losses that predate the coronavirus economic crisis. As of late 2019, the PIF had lost $1 billion due to its investment in Uber.

 

Spending Big in the Crisis

 

But big losses and the current economic crisis have not scared off the sovereign wealth fund. The PIF has been pouring money into many ventures as the worldwide economic impact was beginning to hit, attempting to snap up shares in deflating industries.

 

According to the Financial Times, Yasir al-Rumayyan, governor of Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, said at a virtual investment conference in April, “you don’t want to waste a crisis . . . So, for us, definitely we are looking into any opportunities.”

 

The PIF invested in a wide range of industries including the hardest hit, acquiring a 5.7% in Live Nation, an American events promoter, and a 7.3% stake in Carnival, the American cruise line.

The Saudis have also been snapping up shares in blue-chip companies with household names like Disney, Facebook, BP, Boeing, and Citigroup.

 

But critics abroad and domestically are beginning to criticize the tactic of splashing cash in foreign companies as it simultaneously funds proxy wars and potentially ignores economic damage at home.

 

The Footprint of Saudi Wealth Domestically and Abroad

 

The PIF’s expanding international investments and its interest in purchasing an 80% stake in a top-flight English football club have drawn attention to the Saudi’s aggressive strategy during uncertain times.

 

The coronavirus crisis has been a devastating period for the Middle East, at first for economic reasons, and now due to a rise in infections for public health reasons. The world economy was brought to a standstill for several months, and it is still far from reaching its pre-pandemic levels.

 

Oil prices have picked up in recent days and weeks, but they are still far off of pre-pandemic levels.

 

And while oil prices were slowly recovering, the rate of coronavirus infections took off in Saudi Arabia. The number of cases is currently stabilizing at over 1,000 a day after peaks of over 4,000 daily confirmed coronavirus cases.

 

$1 billion was pumped into Saudi businesses to keep them afloat during the crisis, but the near-term, as in many countries, still looks grim.

 

The economic developments may put a damper on some of Saudi Arabia and MBS’s more ambitious goals, including Neom, a $500 billion futuristic city planned to be built in the country’s barren northwest.

 

Saudi Arabia’s international engagements may also serve as a thorn in their side. While the Khashoggi murder has proven to be a much worse diplomatic hit, the Kingdom’s involvement in worsening the humanitarian crisis in Yemen through war still draws harsh criticism from many corners.

 

With an aggressive and risky strategy during an unprecedented economic standstill globally, the PIF and Saudi Arabia may pay for its bet against the house. But with growing economic sway in many Western institutions, MBS and Saudi Arabia could be playing a long game that will see them sheltered from their gravest sins.     

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The coronavirus pandemic and subsequent near worldwide shutdown of international travel has hit every economy, but those countries who rely on tourism dollars have been especially impacted. With the European Union wrestling the virus under control after a debilitating number of months, European countries are beginning to open up their borders to other countries with similar numbers of coronavirus cases.

 

The EU announced the first fifteen countries on June 30 that would be allowed access into the EU, and the list includes three North African countries that draw Europeans for tourism in the summer: Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia. Airlines and the tourism industry will welcome the move, but some countries are still holding off for similar access to the countries, including Spain.

 

Spain is holding out for a reciprocity agreement with Morocco that would allow Spaniards to travel to Morocco. The European Union is also only provisionally open to China on the condition that EU citizens are allowed back into China.

 

Morocco has had one of the strictest responses to the coronavirus with an array of limitations including a complete ban of printing and distributing physical newspapers. Morocco began their lockdown on March 20 when it still had less than 100 cases.

 

An early lockdown prevented Morocco from getting hit with the hardest of the coronavirus and as of July 2, the country of 36 million people has had only 12,854 confirmed cases and 228 deaths. But the Moroccan government has played it very safe and only began lifting the lockdown on June 24, the same day they announced a record 563 coronavirus cases.

 

 

Open for Business?

 

The European Union may have deemed Morocco safe, but the Moroccan government did not immediately open up its borders to European travel. While Moroccans flocked to the beach to celebrate a reopening of public life, the government refused to reciprocate the opening of its border with Europe.

 

Morocco’s coronavirus success story has also come at a high cost with immense restrictions on civil liberty and economic fallout from a stalled economy. Human Rights Watch detailed the case of a woman who was jailed for posting a video online making that poked fun at a strict civil servant enforcing coronavirus rules.

 

The economic fallout from coronavirus has been shared across the globe, but Morocco’s economy comprises heavily on several sources of money that have been heavily impacted by the spread of the virus. Approximately 7% of the country’s GDP comes from remittances from citizens working abroad, a number which is expected to dip in 2020 due to the pandemic.

 

In 2019, the tourism sector accounted for 7% of Morocco’s GDP, and 750,000 people were employed in the industry. Tourism has been brought to a standstill, and the government has tried to encourage domestic tourism to mitigate a predicted $3.4 billion shortfall thanks to coronavirus.

 

The OECD detailed Morocco’s economic woes related to tourism as 2.5 indirect jobs are related to the country’s tourism industry. One industry indirectly related to tourism, gas stations, saw an 80% decrease in revenue in March at the beginning of the lockdown.

 

With an emphasis on domestic tourism, the Moroccan government is acknowledging its reliance on tourism while still remaining cautious about opening its border. While extreme caution has led to concerns in the business world, the Moroccan government’s strong response will help the country build its reputation with coronavirus-fearing travellers.

 

 

Eager to Open

 

One of Morocco’s neighbours reacted more swiftly when the EU began discussing opening up their borders to international travel. Tunisia, another sunny North African nation with a hearty tourism industry, opened its borders to international travel on June 27.

 

Tunisia’s tourism industry is familiar with shocks to its international reputation as it has had to recover from a terrorist attack that killed 38 European tourists in 2015. 2011 Arab Spring protests also reduced international travel from countries with richer tourists.

 

But Tunisia’s touristic draw has proven to be resilient, and the government has shown a greater eagerness to open its borders than Morocco. Tunisia also has a better control over the virus with single-digit case numbers trickling in every day.

 

Tunisia and tourism companies will likely advertise Tunisia’s low level of coronavirus cases and success in suppressing the virus to attract European tourists back to their shores.

 

Rising unemployment numbers have also caused civil unrest in Tunisia with protestors in southern Tunisia demonstrating against the lack of jobs provided by the government. Tunisian police fired tear gas at protestors to disperse a crowd in Tataouine.,

 

Civil unrest due to an economic downturn has not been restricted to Tunisia, Moroccan taxi drivers also demonstrated against coronavirus restrictions. Algeria, another North African country that gained access to the European Union has had sustained protests for over a year. The Algerian movement was able to kick out long-time president Abdelaziz Bouteflika, but they have been less active due to coronavirus restrictions.

 

 

Stability

 

Of Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia, Morocco has been the most stable in recent years, and this confidence may lead them to the decision to hold off on European tourists until further safety precautions are in place.

 

No country reliant on tourist dollars will fare well if an outbreak occurs due to tourism, but with rising unemployment, some governments will be more receptive to opening than others.

 

If countries like Morocco and Tunisia are able to keep coronavirus numbers down while opening up to tourists for the summer season, they will benefit from the harsh coronavirus regime. It may be the big payoff that many citizens are waiting for, a tourism-induced boost to the economy as a reward for patience and a tough suppression of the virus.

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In mid-April, Turkey was in the thick of the coronavirus crisis averaging over 4,000 new cases a day, but three weeks ago President Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared “mission accomplished”, and government spokespeople said the virus has been contained. At the start of June, the country opened up most public places with the government eager to wake the economy out of its lockdown slumber.

 

Europe’s tampering of the coronavirus spread, along with Turkey and other countries’ proclaimed containment, has been viewed positively. However, there are still many questions left to be answered about how society moves forward.

 

Even leaving aside the chequered past of the ‘mission accomplished’ claim, Turkey may have the virus contained, but the world economy is entering a great period of uncertainty. The country has flattened the curve, yet it is still averaging 900 coronavirus cases a day and the next one to two months will be telling for Ankara.

 

Turkey’s response has received plaudits from some circles, including the WHO, for its quick response and high-capacity, quick-turnaround testing. But the Turkish Medical Association has been critical of Erdogan’s response, and chairman Sinan Adiyaman said the June 1 reopening of the economy is “too early”.

 

Erdogan has shown that he is particularly sensitive to the short-term economic impact of sustained coronavirus measures after he scrapped a sudden curfew and weekend lockdown in 15 municipalities. Turkey was seeing a slight uptick in cases heading into the weekend of June 6th, but the president said the measures “would lead to some social and economic consequences.”

 

 

Circuit Breakers

 

The original sudden announcement of new measures less than a week after announcing a large-scale reopening of the economy looked like a less severe version of Singapore’s ‘circuit breaker’ measures. Singapore, a densely populated city-state, originally received widespread praise for their handling of the coronavirus, but in early April they had to introduce and reintroduce various measures to quell a large uptick in cases.

 

Turkey’s original plan to put Ankara, Istanbul, and 13 other municipalities under a weekend lockdown looked like an admission that the virus spread had the potential to once again grow out of control.

 

The WHO said on June 8 that there was “no time to take (the) foot off (the) pedal” considering the high numbers of coronavirus cases around the globe. The United States, Brazil, Mexico, and India are all seeing continued increases in new cases. South Korea, the country with perhaps the best virus response, is still working to stamp out hotspots with economic disruption.

 

Some political commentators have floated the idea of on-off lockdown measures in the event of a new wave of coronavirus measures. Thus far, Erdogan has remained particularly aware of the economic consequences of widespread lockdowns, but this strategy still leaves the country like many other vulnerable to a second wave considering new cases remain high and most of the populations can still catch the virus.

 

As the pandemic continues countries will also have to be prepared to adapt to changes with how the virus acts. Turkey expanded the symptoms list for people to receive a coronavirus test.

 

But while Turkey, one of the most important economies in the region, declared mission accomplished in its fight against coronavirus for publicity reasons, the fight against the virus and economic fallout will continue in the long-term.

 

 

Tourism

 

Turkey has a booming tourism industry that grossed $34.5 billion in 2019, and some estimates have tourism contribution to the country’s GDP at 12%. The opening of the massive Istanbul Airport in 2018 sent a clear message that Turkey has hedged its bet on its growth as a tourism and transportation hub.

 

It has been no secret that tourism has been one of the hardest-hit sectors in the world economy with international travel coming to a near standstill over the last three months. As early as May, the Turkish government began announcing measures in an attempt to assuage travelers’ fears and ensure tourist dollars continue to flow into the country.

 

Even with international travel slowly restarting, it is unclear whether high-dollar tourists will resume international travel en masse over the summer. As European countries incentivize their citizens to take holidays in their own country to boost low tourism numbers, a much slower summer should be expected.

 

This second wave of economic impact could wreak havoc on the tourism sector and adjacent businesses such as shops and restaurants.

 

While some are trying to keep up hope, Erkan Yagci, chairman of the Mediterranean Touristic Hoteliers and Investors Association told Reuters, “We have to be realistic, this will be a slow process. The opening of 50% (of hotels) in July would be a big success in my opinion.” He also added that foreign currency earnings resulting from tourism could drop 60-70% with domestic tourism also decreasing by 50%.

 

 

Foreign Affairs

 

With the tourism industry in store for a difficult summer, Turkey still finds itself involved in several potential conflicts that could pop off at any moment.

 

Turkey’s intervention in Libya received a new wrinkle as Erdogan announced ‘agreements’ with American President Donald Trump who sits on the opposite side of the conflict. The Americans have yet to release exactly what the talks were about, but some sources reported Erdogan linked Kurdish rebels to Antifa, the loosely organized antifascist movement drawing ire from Trump as nationwide protests rock America.

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As the world comes to grips coping with the deadly spread of coronavirus, familiar conflicts and security issues have persisted in the Middle East. While much of the world has been put on hold, Yemen, a country approaching five years in armed conflict, is still racked by internal conflict and foreign proxy war.

 

In early April, the Saudi-backed coalition declared a two-week ceasefire at the peak of coronavirus concern worldwide. But within days fighting resumed and skirmishes between Saudi-backed forces and Iranian-backed Houthi rebels have continued.

 

Now, the conflict has taken a new geopolitical and domestic turn as UAE-back separatists exchanged fire with Saudi-backed forces and declared self-rule over areas it controls in the south of the country. UAE and Saudi Arabia, along with the sides they backed in this conflict, were previously allies in the fight against Houthi rebels, but with that relationship now frayed the conflict has taken on a new and even more uncertain dimension.

 

And amidst war, medical professionals are concerned about the lack of preparation and capability to respond to a coronavirus outbreak. Thus far Yemen has been spared from a widespread coronavirus outbreak with 12 confirmed cases; but with little border control and an already overtaxed health system, the country is acutely at risk.

 

Mohammed Alsamaa of Save the Children told the BBC, “there is still tension everywhere. It is more urgent than ever that the conflict stops. No-one can go to hospital or a clinic if there’s war going on and this outbreak – when it comes – could be unspeakable.”

 

 

State of Conflict

 

In a conflict that has devastated Yemen, leaving over 100,000 dead, millions displaced and the country pushed to the brink of famine, patience wore thin within the Saudi coalition of forces fighting Houthi rebels.

 

The southern separatists have refused overtures from the Saudis for some temporary ceasefire, and in a conflict that looks to have no end, the Saudis have shown wariness themselves.

 

Before declaring the ceasefire in April, Saudi Arabia was in daily talks with the Houthi rebels about a resolution to the conflict. Saudi Arabia wanted to hold peace talks between the rebels and the Saudi-supported, internationally-recognized government of Yemen.

 

But the rebels dampened hopes of a resolution to the conflict by ignoring the Saudis’ attempt at a ceasefire in April, claiming it was an insincere offer.

 

The Saudi-led coalition has been repeatedly accused of war crimes in Yemen and evidence has been brought forward by human rights lawyers of unlawful attacks against civilians. Saudi allies including the United States and the United Kingdom have been accused of turning a blind eye to these crimes and funneling arms to Saudi-backed combatants.

 

The viciousness and immense human loss in Yemen have done little to move the needle on an end to the fighting, but with the coronavirus pandemic wreaking havoc on the world economy and Saudi Arabia putting resources into an oil war with Russia, the international community’s distaste for the Houthi rebels and their own war crimes could precipitate a further retraction of foreign activity in Yemen.

 

 

Humanitarian Disaster

 

The long-standing conflict has thrown Yemen into a horrendous humanitarian disaster. Not only have lives been lost due to the conflict itself, but the fighting has caused immense displacement and a four-year famine.

 

In 2019, the United Nations reported that 70% of Yemenis, 20 million people, are food insecure and 10 million of those only one step away from famine.

 

Before coronavirus, Yemen was already dealing with a massive public health crisis. Since January 2020, the country has recorded 110,000 cholera cases, and according to UNICEF, 5 million Yemeni children are at a heightened risk of contracting cholera. Cholera had already claimed the lives of 3,886 people from October 2016 to November 2019.

 

In April of this year, the north of Yemen has been rocked by flash floods, further adding to the country’s despair and increasing the region’s risk to cholera. The floods have disrupted the nation’s water supply and diminished access to clean drinking water in the country’s north.

 

Since fighting started in 2015, Yemen’s healthcare system has been under immense pressure and reports have warned it is on the brink of collapse. Only half of Yemen’s health facilities have been functional since the war broke out, and many have been destroyed in bombing campaigns.

 

A temporary ceasefire or resolution to the foreign intervention in the conflict will relieve much strain on Yemen, but without adequate investment in health services and a great push to prevent the spread of coronavirus and other health emergencies the country will continue to be a humanitarian disaster.

 

 

Relief?

 

Thus far, no major foreign power in the conflict has made adequate assurances to the health and well-being of Yemen.

 

Crucially, the United States cut tens of millions in aid to Yemen after arguing the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels have been getting their hands on the funds. The United Nations warned 31 of its 41 programs in Yemen could be shut due to the lack of American funding.

 

The World Health Organization also announced it is preparing to cut 80% of its funding to Yemen after the United States announced it would unilaterally pull funding from the health organization.

 

The American strategy of isolationism and anti-Iran antagonism has been a hallmark of the Trump administration, and the White House has doubled down on these efforts despite the spread of coronavirus in Iran and domestically.

 

With President Trump renewing tensions with China and doubling down on Iranian sanctions, the United States has clearly chosen antagonism over collaboration in the face of its own domestic public health crisis.

 

Other important foreign actors in Yemen’s crisis are also looking inward to solve immense crises, so Yemen and other foreign conflicts may fall to the wayside. Without any resolution, that could mean more hunger and health crises for Yemen, while the biggest culprits of the violence escape without punishment.

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With the world struggling to combat the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, G20 countries met virtually to discuss the impacts on the global economy and health. Saudi Arabia is the current chair of the G20, and the country organized the virtual meeting at the end of March ahead of the planned G20 summit this November in Riyadh.

The world economy has been tossed upside down by the lethal spread of COVID-19 which has touched every major economy and brought many regions and industries to a standstill.

It has also thrown foreign diplomacy, with many politicians, ministers, and even world leaders testing positive for the virus. The airline industry is almost entirely shut for business with many countries closing borders or rejecting planes from coronavirus hotspots.

In the Middle East, Iran has been the biggest hotspot for confirmed coronavirus cases and deaths, but it has impacted all nations. According to Johns Hopkins University, Iran has nearly 50,000 cases with 3,000 deaths, Israel and Saudi Arabia also have 6,211 cases and 1,720 cases, respectively (as of 2 April).

In their virtual meeting, trade ministers from the G20 countries agreed to keep their markets open for essential goods and vowed to inject $5 trillion into the world economy.

In a joint press statement, G20 leaders said, “we reiterate our goal to realize a free, fair, non-discriminatory, transparent, predictable and stable trade and investment environment, and to keep our markets open.”

However, with global economic uncertainty and an uneven response to the crisis around the world, many are still left with questions after G20 leaders’ assurances.

 

Will G20 Members Meet Face-to-Face?

Japan waited as long as they possibly could to postpone the 2020 Summer Olympics, and while the G20 does not create the same stream of tourists, it is still a massive event requiring international travel.

There is no consensus on what the world will look like in November, but many governments are already preparing their populations for COVID-19 to come back in the winter months even if the world manages to get it under control.

Cop26, a UN climate conference, was set to take place in November in Glasgow, but it has already been postponed until 2021 by organizers. The UK’s Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Alok Sharma, said “the world is currently facing an unprecedented global challenge and countries are rightly focusing their efforts on saving lives and fighting COVID-19. That is why we have decided to reschedule Cop26.”

Thus far, only preliminary G20 meetings have moved online, and there has been no indication as to whether the November meeting in Riyadh will continue as planned.

Due to the 2012 MERS outbreak, Saudi Arabia was better positioned than many other countries to handle the wave of COVID-19. The Saudi government has put in stringent rules including suspending access to pilgrimage sites, but the region’s response has not gone as smoothly as South Korea, another country prepared due to recent outbreaks.

While Saudi Arabia may be able to take control of COVID-19 faster than Europe or North America, major economies are preparing for a sustained period of economic inactivity and social distancing. From where we sit now it’s hard to imagine many diplomatic meetings between foreign leaders will take place in-person for the rest of 2020.

 

Rippling Effect on Foreign Diplomacy

With governments scrambling to limit damage to public health and pump money into their national economies, much of coronavirus coverage has been focused on domestic politics. But the virus also has a clear and direct impact on foreign relations that extends to all geopolitical calculations.

In some cases countries look to, at least temporarily, mend strained relations to combat the spread of the virus, but others are hardening stances. The US-Iran relationship is perhaps the starkest example of the latter scenario.

The United States has doubled down on sanctions against Iran after calls for sanctions to be relaxed so Iran can respond to its devastating spread of coronavirus. In the midst of COVID-19 ravaging America, President Trump tweeted, “Upon information and belief, Iran or its proxies are planning a sneak attack on U.S. troops and/or assets in Iraq. If this happens, Iran will pay a very heavy price, indeed!”

The Saudi-Iranian proxy war ripping apart Yemen is also continuing unabated by the threat of coronavirus. While a ceasefire has been agreed to, conflicting reports detail continued airstrikes.

The United Nations also called for a complete nationwide ceasefire in Syria. Despite peace talks in the northeast of Syria, the UN is still worried and said, “the current arrangements are far from ideal for the front-line response demanded by the COVID-19 outbreak.”

G20 leaders have asserted that they are committed to fighting the pandemic and helping “especially the most vulnerable.” But, with diplomatic conflicts and war still raging, much more needs to be done to ensure that all people in the Middle East and the world are better protected.

Whatever form the G20 takes in November, whether it be held virtually, with smaller travelling parties or postponed altogether, its focus clearly will shift to coronavirus response. The choices individual leaders make can have a great impact, but more coordination is needed to achieve the best outcomes.

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