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With its mega-city and technology zone project , the Saudis are seeking to consolidate an economic alternative to oil.
NEOM, an acronym for New Future, is the name of the new economic-technological city and area , with an area three times the size of Cyprus, which Saudi Arabia is promoting in the north-west of the country, opposite the Sinai Peninsula. In addition to seeking alternatives to oil, with NEOM the Saudis aim to rival the urban innovations of Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Doha. The project also involves shifting Saudi interest from the Persian Gulf to the Red Sea and closer neighbourhoods with Egypt, Jordan and Israel.
▲ The appearance of the future NEOM megacity, from agreement with the vision of its promoters [NEOM Project].
article / Sebastián Bruzzone Martínez
Middle Eastern states are seeking to diversify their revenues and avoid potential collapse of their economies in order to counteract the end-of-oil crisis expected in the mid-21st century. Arabs' preferred sectors are renewable energy, luxury tourism, modern infrastructure and technology. Governments in the region have found ways to unify these four sectors, and Saudi Arabia, along with the United Arab Emirates, seems to want to position itself at the forefront of the Arab technology degree program .
While the world looks towards Sillicon Valley in California, Shenzhen in China or Bangalore in India, the Saudi government has begun preparations for the creation of its first independent economic and technological zone: NEOM (short for the Arabic term Neo-Mustaqbal, New Future). The project was until recently headed by Klaus Kleinfeld, former CEO of Siemens AG, who has been replaced by Nadhmi Al Nasr as CEO of NEOM since his appointment as an advisor to the Saudi Crown.
On 24 October 2017, at the Future Investment Initiative lecture in Riyadh, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman announced the $500 billionproject , part of the Saudi Vision 2030 policy programme. average The territory where NEOM will be located is in the border area between Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan, on the shores of the Red Sea, through which almost ten percent of world trade flows, has a temperature 10ºC lower than that of the rest of the countries of the Gulf Cooperation committee , and is located less than eight hours' flight from 70% of the world's population, so it could become a major passenger transport hub.
As announced by the Saudi government, NEOM will be a special economic city, with its own civil and tax laws and Western social customs, covering 26,500 square kilometres (the size of Cyprus multiplied by three). The main objectives are to attract foreign investment from multinational companies, diversify the oil-dependent Saudi Economics , create a free market space and home to millionaires, "a land for free and stress-free people; a start-up the size of a country: a blank sheet of paper on which to write the new era of human progress", says a promotional video on project. All this under the slogan: "The world's most ambitious project: an entire new land, purpose-built for a new way of living". According to the website and official accounts of project, the 16 sectors of energy, mobility, water, biotechnology, food, manufacturing, communication, entertainment and fashion, technology, tourism, sport, services, health and wellness, Education, and livability will generate 100 billion dollars a year.
Thanks to a report published by The Wall Street Journal and prepared by the consulting firms Oliver Wyman, Boston Consulting Group and McKinsey & Co., which, according to them, had access to more than 2,300 confidential planning documents, some of the ambitions and luxuries that the futuristic city will have have have have come to light. These include flying cars, holograms, a Jurassic Park-style robot dinosaur theme park and edition Genetics , never-before-seen technologies and infrastructure, luxury hotels, resorts and restaurants, cloud-creating mechanisms to cause rainfall in arid areas, glow-in-the-dark sandy beaches, and even an artificial moon.
Another aim of project is to make NEOM the safest city on the planet, through state-of-the-art surveillance systems including drones, automated cameras, facial and biometric recognition machines and AI capable of reporting crimes without the need for citizens to report them. Similarly, the leaders of the urban development initiative themselves predict that the city will be an ecological centre of great projection, basing its power supply system solely on solar and wind energy obtained from panels and windmills, as they have a whole desert to install them in.
At the moment, NEOM is only a project in its infancy. The land on which the big city will be located is a desert terrain, mountains up to 2,500 metres high and 468 kilometres of pristine coastline of turquoise blue water, with a palace and a small airport. NEOM is being built from scratch, with an initial outlay of $9 billion from the Saudi Arabian sovereign wealth fund Saudi Arabia Monetary Authority (SAMA). Apart from foreign business investment, the Saudi government is looking for workers from all professional sectors to help in their respective fields: Jurists to draft a civil, criminal and tax code; engineers and architects to design a modern, efficient and technological infrastructure and energy plan; diplomats to collaborate in its promotion and cultural coexistence; scientists and doctors to encourage clinical and biotechnological research and welfare; academics to promote Education; economists to make income and expenditure profitable; personalities specialising in tourism, fashion and telecommunications... But, above all, people and families to inhabit and give life to the city.
As reported by the Arabic daily Rai Al Youm, Mohammed bin Salman has C a proposal prepared by a joint Saudi legal committee with the UK, which consists of providing a VIP document that will offer special visas, residency programrights to investors, senior officials and workers in the future city. Contracts business have already been awarded to the US engineering firm Aecom and construction contracts to the UK's Arup Group, Canada's WSP, and the Netherlands' Fugro NV.
However, not everything is as ideal and straightforward as it seems. Despite the strong interest of 400 foreign companies in project, according to the local government, there is uncertainty about its profitability. Problems and scandals related to the Saudi crown, such as the imprisonment of family members and dissidents, corruption, unequal rights, the military intervention in Yemen, the case of the murder of journalist Khashoggi and the possible political crisis following the future death of King Salman bin Abdulaziz, Mohammed's father, have caused investors to tread carefully. Moreover, in the region where the city is to be built there are villages of locals who would be relocated, and "compensated and supported by social programmes", according to the Saudi government, which will be criticised by human rights groups.
In conclusion, NEOM is a unique project and a match for the Arab sheikhs themselves, who have adopted a far-sighted economic vision. It is expected that by 2030 it will be possible to live in the city, even if construction is still underway and not yet fully completed. According to the markets, the project, still far from completion, seems to be on track. It already has a structural financing commitment with BlackStone of 20 billion euros, and a technology financing commitment with SoftBank of 45 billion euros. Because such a project has never been seen before and therefore there are no references, it is difficult to determine whether the visionary plan will be successfully consolidated or whether it will remain just smoke and mirrors and a huge loss of money.
[Richard Nephew, The Art of Sanctions. A View from the Field. Columbia University Press. Chichester. New York, 2018. 216 p.]
review / Emili J. Blasco
International sanctions often arouse a lively discussion between those who defend them as a legitimate instrument of interaction between States and those who consider that their application has hardly been more effective than that of increasing the suffering of entire populations through no fault of their own.
To the question of whether these sanctions, which can be of various kinds but are mainly of an economic nature, are of any use, Richard Nephew replies that it depends. And it is not an evasion, but in the end the defense of his own tools by a mechanic of American diplomacy (Nephew was director for Iran in the committee National Security Agency and Deputy Coordinator for Sanctions of the department "Sanctions do not fail or succeed. Rather, sanctions help or do not help to achieve the desired result the end of a sanctioning state (...) Tools can only perform well when they are used with the right strategy; The saw cannot be blamed if it fails to perform the work of a screwdriver."
Nephew is not a sanctions theorist, but a "practitioner"; the content of his book comes from experience ("A View from the Field" is the subtitle of the work). That experience makes him convinced of the usefulness of such measures provided that they are properly implemented. Basically, he gives the example of two cases: that of Iraq, where sanctions did not achieve the goal sought due to a misguided approach to international pressure, which finally led to war in 2003, and that of Iran, where the regime of punitive measures on the Islamic Republic had its effect and in 2015 a treaty was signed. agreement to curb Iran's nuclear program.
An active participant in the Iran sanctions architecture, Nephew expands especially on the case of the negotiations with Tehran, after first briefly addressing the Iraq chapter. From all this, it draws conclusions and presents its own decalogues on how sanctions must be addressed in order to be effective. In the last pages, he tries to advise on how to conduct a new package of sanctions on Iran, to control its missile program and contain its activity abroad through proxies, but without breaking the agreement achieved (JCPOA) as the Trump Administration has done; how to manage the pressure on Russia in relation to Ukraine, and how to confront North Korea's attitude. It does not address situations other than the discussion on sanctions, such as Trump's harshness towards Cuba, in the framework of a decades-long embargo that has produced no changes on the island, or the siege on Nicolás Maduro in Venezuela.
Rules for Successful Sanctioning
Nephew's main conclusion is that "the knowledge of one's opponent, their tolerances and vulnerabilities, is the most important predictor about the chances of success of a strategy that focuses on sanctions. In fact, for sanctions to work, one really has to know the enemy better than the enemy knows himself."
That's what, in his opinion, went wrong in Iraq. Sanctions were certainly effective, in that they prevented Saddam Hussein from returning to a weapons of mass destruction program, but they did not prevent war. And this is because the psychology of the president, who was ready for anything, was not taken into account subject of suffering – which he passed on to the population, without fear that they could take power away from him – rather than admit that he did not have the powerful arsenal that supposedly elevated him among the regional leaders. The international community did not understand how important it was for him to maintain this pretense, in his pretense of credibility and prestige, above the pressure of any package of sanctions.
In addition, there were other shortcomings in the Iraqi process, according to Nephew: maximum sanctions were applied from the beginning, with no room for an incremental policy, and over time there was a variation in the goal, going from wanting to prevent the rearmament of the regime to proposing a change of the regime itself (even if Saddam Hussein had accepted the conditions put before him, Washington would not have admitted his continuation in power).
Those errors led to a greater understanding of the mechanisms at play, which were refined in the attention with Iran. Mr. Nephew said that in order to get to know the country subject to potential sanctions, one should take into account its political institutions, its macroeconomic and financial system, its trade relations, its cultural values, its recent history, its demographics and the population's access to external sources of information. This will make it possible to identify the vulnerabilities and the pain threshold that the government of the day is willing to absorb. Therefore, both the sanctions and the assumptions themselves must be continuously recalibrated, following a well-defined strategy. It is also important that the State targeted by the sanctions be clearly presented with the conditions necessary for the pressure to be lifted, in the context of the framework of a negotiation of clear terms. Finally, we must be willing to help the state that is pressuring itself to get out of a labyrinth whose way out it may not perceive, or even to accept lower goals if these are a problem. result also reasonable.
The author states that the three most common causes of the failure of a sanctions regime are: falling short, overdoing it, and confusing objectives. These labels can easily be applied to past processes, but it is not so simple to fix the steps of a coercive diplomacy of this one. subject in ongoing conflicts or that may occur in the future.
Thus, Nephew himself would not have full guarantees of success with the sanctions he suggests for a new negotiation with Iran in order to limit its missile program and its action through groups such as Hezbollah. At odds with the Trump Administration, he would have preferred to keep the agreement on the 2015 nuclear program (known by its acronym JCPOA) and the consequent lifting of the previously applied sanctions regime, to move on to other sanctions that seek that other goal. It is true that the usefulness of Trump's move remains to be seen, but it is hard to believe that Tehran will renounce these other actions because of pressure that would in no case be so international (China and Russia only lent themselves to a front against Iran because it was at stake that this country would become a nuclear power).
▲ View of Doha, the capital of Qatar, from its Islamic Museum [Pixabay].
essay / Sebastián Bruzzone Martínez
I. Introduction. Qatar, emirate of the Persian Gulf
In ancient times, the territory was inhabited by the Canaanites. From the 7th century AD onwards, Islam settled in the Qatari peninsula. As in the United Arab Emirates, piracy and attacks on the merchant ships of powers sailing along the Persian Gulf coast were frequent. Qatar was ruled by the Al Khalifa family from Kuwait until 1868, when at the request of the Qatari sheikhs and with financial aid from the British, the Al Thani dynasty was established. In 1871, the Ottoman Empire occupied the country and the Qatari dynasty recognised Turkish authority. In 1913, Qatar gained autonomy; three years later, Amir Abdullah bin Jassim Al Thani signed a treaty with the UK to establish a British military protectorate in the region, while maintaining the amir's absolute monarchy.
In 1968, the UK withdrew its military force, and the Truce States (UAE, Qatar and Bahrain) organised the Federation of the Emirates of the Persian Gulf. Qatar, like Bahrain, gained independence from the Federation in 1971, proclaimed a constitution provisional, signed a treaty of friendship with the UK and joined the Arab League and the UN.
The Constitution provisional was replaced by the 2003 Constitution of 150 articles, submitted to a referendum and supported by 98% of the electorate. It entered into force as the fundamental rule on 9 April 2004. It recognises Islam as the official religion of the state and Sharia law as source of law (art. 1); the provision for adherence to and respect for international treaties, covenants and agreements signed by the Emirate of Qatar (art. 6); hereditary rule by the Al Thani family (art. 8); executive institutions such as the committee of Ministers and legislative-consultative institutions such as the committee Al Shoura or committee of the Ruling Family. Also included are the possibility of regency through the Trustee Council (arts. 13-16), the institution of the prime minister appointed by the emir (art. 72), the emir as head of state and representative of the state in Interior, Foreign Affairs and International Office (arts. 64-66), a sovereign wealth fund (Qatar Investment Company; art. 17), judicial institutions such as local courts and the Supreme Judicial committee , and its control over the unconstitutionality of laws (137-140), among other aspects.
It also recognises rights such as private property (art. 27), equality of rights and duties (art. 34), equality of persons before the law without discrimination on grounds of sex, race, language or religion (art. 35), freedom of expression (art. 47), freedom of the press (art. 48), impartiality of justice and effective judicial protection (134-136), among others.
These rights recognised in the Qatari Constitution must be consistent with Islamic law, and thus their application is different from what is observed in Europe or the United States. For example, although article 1 recognises democracy as the state's political system, political parties do not exist, and trade unions are banned, although the right of association is recognised by the Constitution. Similarly, 80% of the country's population is foreign, with these constitutional rights applying to Qatari citizens, who make up the remaining 20%.
Like the other countries in the region, oil has been a transforming factor in Qatar's Economics . Today, Qatar has a high standard of living and one of the highest per capita GDPs in the world, and is an attractive destination for foreign investors and luxury tourism. However, in recent years Qatar has been experiencing a diplomatic crisis with its Persian Gulf neighbours due to a number of factors that have condemned the Arab country to regional isolation.
II. The instability of the al thani family
The government of the Emirate of Qatar has suffered great instability due to internal disputes within the Al Thani family. Peter Salisbury, Middle East expert at Chatham House, the Royal high school of International Affairs in London, spoke of the Al Thanis in an interview for the BBC: "It's a family that initially (before finding oil) ruled a small, insignificant piece of land, often seen as a small province of Saudi Arabia. But it managed to carve out a position for itself in this region of giants". 
In 1972, in a coup d'état, Ahmed Al Thani was deposed by his cousin Khalifa Al Thani, with whom Qatar pursued an international policy of non-intervention and the search for internal peace, and maintained a good relationship with Saudi Arabia. He remained in power until 1995, when his son Hamad Al Thani dethroned him while he was away on a trip to Switzerland. The Saudi government saw this as a bad example for other countries in the region also ruled by family dynasties. Hamad boosted exports of liquefied natural gas and oil, and dismantled an alleged Saudi plan to reinstate his father Khalifa. The countries of the region began to see the 'little brother' grow economically and internationally very fast under the new emir and his foreign minister Hamam Al Thani.
The family is structured around Hamad and his wife Mozah bint Nasser Al-Missned, who has become an icon of fashion and female prestige among the international nobility, on a par with Rania of Jordan, Kate Middleton and Queen Letizia (the couple is close to the Spanish royal family).
Hamad abdicated to his son Tamim Al Thani in 2013. The latter's ascension was a short-lived breath of hope for the international Arab community. Tamim adopted a very similar international policy stance to his father, strengthening rapprochement and economic cooperation with Iran, and increasing tension with Saudi Arabia, which proceeded to close Qatar's only land border. Similarly, according to a WikiLeaks leak in 2009, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan accused Tamim of belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood. On the other hand, the economic, political, social and even staff rivalry between Qatar's Al Thani and Saudi Arabia's Al Saud goes back decades.
In my view, stability and family hierarchy in dynastic nations is a crucial factor to avoid internal power struggles that consequently have great negative effects on the country's society. Each person has different political, economic and social ideas that take time to implement. Frequent changes without an objective culmination end up being a terribly destabilising factor. Internationally, the country's political credibility and rigidity can be undermined when the emir's son stages a coup while his father is on holiday. Qatar, aware of this, sought legislative security and rigidity in article 148 of its constitution by prohibiting the amendment of any article within ten years of its coming into force entrance .
In 1976, Qatar claimed sovereignty over the Hawar Islands, controlled by the Bahraini royal family, which became a focus of conflict between the two nations. The same happened with the artificial island of Fasht Ad Dibal, which prompted the Qatari military to raid the island in 1986. It was abandoned by Qatar in a peace deal with Bahrain agreement .
III. Alleged support to terrorist groups
This is the main reason why neighbouring states have isolated Qatar. Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Libya and the Maldives, among others, cut diplomatic and trade relations with Qatar in June 2017 over its alleged funding and support for the Muslim Brotherhood, which it considers a terrorist organisation. In 2010, WikiLeaks leaked a diplomatic grade in which the US called Qatar the "worst in the region in subject cooperation to eliminate funding for terrorist groups."
The Muslim Brotherhood, which originated in 1928 with Hassan Al Bana in Egypt, is a political activist and Islamic movement, with principles based on nationalism, social justice and anti-colonialism. However, within the movement there are various strands, some more rigorous than others. The founders of the Muslim Brotherhood see the Education of society as the tool most effective way to achieve state power. For this reason, the movement's indoctrinators or evangelists are the most persecuted by the authorities in countries that condemn membership of group. It has a well-defined internal structure, headed by the supreme guide Murchid, assisted by an executive body, a committee and an assembly.
From 1940 onwards, the paramilitary activity of group began clandestinely with Nizzam Al Khas, whose initial intention was to achieve Egyptian independence and expel the Zionists from Palestine. They carried out attacks such as the assassination of Egyptian Prime Minister Mahmoud An Nukrashi. The creation of this special section sentenced final the reputation and violent character of the Muslim Brotherhood, which continued its expansion around the world in the form of Tanzim Al Dawli, its international structure.
Khaled Mashal, a former leader of the militant organisation Hamas, is in exile in Qatar's capital, Doha, and the Taliban of Afghanistan has a political office. Importantly, most Qatari citizens are followers of Wahhabism, a puritanical version of Islam that seeks the literal interpretation of the Qur'an and Sunnah, founded by Mohammad ibn Abd Al Wahhab.
During the post-Arab Spring political crisis in 2011, Qatar supported the Muslim Brotherhood's electoral efforts in North African countries. The Islamist movement saw the revolution as a useful means to gain access to governments, taking advantage of the power vacuum. In Egypt, Mohamed Mursi, linked to the movement, became president in 2013, although he was overthrown by the military. The United Arab Emirates and Bahrain negatively characterised the support and saw it as a destabilising Islamist element. In those countries where it was unsuccessful, its members were expelled and many took refuge in Qatar. Meanwhile, in neighbouring countries in the region, alarms were raised and every pro-Islamist move by the Qatari government was closely followed.
Similarly, Dutch sources and human rights lawyer Liesbeth Zegveld accused Qatar of financing the Al Nusra Front, the Syrian branch of Al Qaeda involved in the war against Al Assad, declared a terrorist organisation by the United States and the UN. The Dutch lawyer claimed in 2018 to have the necessary evidence to prove the flow of Qatari money to Al Nusra through companies based in the country and to hold Qatar judicially responsible before the court in The Hague for the victims of the war in Syria. It is important to know that, in 2015, Doha obtained the release of 15 Lebanese soldiers, but in exchange for the release of 13 detained terrorists. Other sources claim that Qatar paid 20 million euros for the release of 45 Fijian blue helmets kidnapped by Al-Nusra in the Golan Heights.
According to the BBC, in December 2015, Kataeb Hezbollah or the Islamic Resistance Movement of Iraq, recognised as a terrorist organisation by the United Arab Emirates and the United States, among others, kidnapped a group group of Qataris who went hunting in Iraq.  Among the hunters on the group were two members of the Qatari royal family, the cousin and uncle of Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, Qatar's foreign minister since 2016. After 16 months of negotiations, the hijackers demanded a chilling $1 billion from the Qatari ambassador to Iraq to free the hostages. According to Qatar Airways officials, in April 2017 a Qatar Airways plane flew to Baghdad with the money to be delivered to the Iraqi government, which would act as an intermediary between Hezbollah and Qatar. However, business has never commented on the facts. The official version of the Qatari government is that the terrorists were never paid and the release of the hostages was achieved through a joint diplomatic negotiation between Qatar and Iraq.
Qatar's funding of the armed Hamas group in the Gaza Strip is a fact of life. In November 2018, according to Israeli sources, Qatar paid fifteen million dollars in cash as part of a agreement with Israel negotiated by Egypt and the UN, which would cover a total of ninety million dollars split into several payments, with the intention of seeking peace and reconciliation between the political parties Fatah and Hamas, considered group terrorist by the United States.
IV. Qatar's relationship with Iran
Qatar has good diplomatic and commercial relations with Iran, which is mainly Shiite, and this is not to the liking of the Quartet (Egypt, Saudi Arabia, UAE, and Bahrain), which is mainly Sunni, especially Saudi Arabia, with whom it has an obvious confrontation - subsidiary, not direct - over the predominant political and economic influence in the Persian region. In 2017, in his last visit to Riyadh ( visit ), Donald Trump called on the countries of the region to isolate Iran because of the military and nuclear tension it is experiencing with the United States. Qatar acts as an intermediary and turning point between the US and Iran, trying to open the way for dialogue in relation to the sanctions implemented by the American president.
Doha and Tehran have a strong economic relationship around the oil and gas industry, sharing the world's largest gas field, the South Pars-North Dame, while Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have followed the US lead in their foreign policy agendas towards Iran. One of the Quartet's conditions for Qatar to lift the economic and diplomatic blockade is the cessation of bilateral relations with Iran, which were reinstated in 2016, and the establishment of trade conduct with Iran in accordance with US sanctions.
V. Al Jazeera television network
Founded in 1996 by Hamad Al Thani, Al Jazeera has become the most influential digital media in the Middle East. It positioned itself as a promoter of the Arab Spring and was present in the climates of violence in different countries. As a result, it has been criticised by Qatar's antagonists for its positions close to Islamist movements, for acting as a mouthpiece for the fundamentalist messages of the Muslim Brotherhood and for being a vehicle for Qatari diplomacy. Its closure was one of the requirements requests made by the Quartet to Qatar to lift the economic blockade, the transit of people and the opening of airspace.
The US accuses the network of being the mouthpiece of extremist Islamic groups since the former head of Al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden, began to disseminate his communiqués through it; of being anti-Semitic in nature; and of adopting a position favourable to the armed Hamas group in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
In 2003, Saudi Arabia, after several failed attempts to cause the closure of the Qatari television network, decided to create a competing television station, Al Arabiya TV, initiating a disinformation war and vying over which of the two has the most reliable information.
VI. Washington and London's position
On the one hand, the United States seeks to have a good relationship with Qatar, as it has the large military base of Al-Udeid, which has an excellent strategic position in the Persian Gulf and more than ten thousand troops. In April 2018, the Qatari emir visited Donald Trump at the White House, who said that the relationship between the two countries "works extremely well" and considers Tamim a "great friend" and "a great gentleman". Tamim Al Thani has stressed that Qatar will not tolerate people who finance terrorism and confirmed that Doha will cooperate with Washington to stop the financing of terrorist groups.
The contradiction is clear: Qatar confirms its commitment to fighting the financing of terrorist groups, but its track record does not back it up. So far, the small country has demonstrably helped these groups in one way or another, through political asylum and protection of its members, direct or indirect funding through controversial negotiation techniques, or by promoting political interests that have not been to the liking of its great geopolitical rival, Saudi Arabia.
The United States is the great mediator and impediment to direct confrontation in the tension between Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Both countries are members of the United Nations and allies of the US. Europe and American presidents have been aware that a direct confrontation between the two countries could prove fatal for the region and their commercial interests related to oil and the Strait of Hormuz.
On the other hand, the UK government has remained aloof in taking a position on the Qatar diplomatic crisis. Emir Tamim Al Thani owns 95 per cent of The Shard building, eight per cent of the London Stock Exchange and Barclays bank, as well as flats, stocks and shares in companies in the UK capital. Qatari investments in the UK capital total around $60 billion.
In 2016, former British Prime Minister David Cameron showed his concern about the future when the London mayoralty was occupied by Sadiq Khan, a Muslim who has appeared on more than one occasion alongside Sulaiman Gani, an imam who supports the Islamic State and the Muslim Brotherhood.
VII. Civil war in Yemen
Since foreign military intervention in Yemen's civil war began in 2015, at the request of Yemeni President Rabbu Mansur Al Hadi, Qatar has aligned itself with the states of the committee Cooperation for the Arab States of the Gulf (Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates), backed by the United States, the United Kingdom and France, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates), backed by the US, the UK and France, to create an international coalition to help restore Al Hadi's legitimate power, which has been under siege since the coup d'état by Houthis and forces loyal to former president Ali Abdala Saleh. However, Qatar has been accused of clandestinely supporting the Houthi rebels, and the rest of the committee countries view its actions with great caution.
Today, the Yemeni civil war has become the largest humanitarian crisis since 1945. On 11 August 2019, South Yemeni separatists, backed by the United Arab Emirates, which initially supports al-Hadi's government, seized the port city of Aden, storming the presidential palace and the military instructions . The president, in exile in Riyadh, has described the attack by his allies as a coup against the institutions of the legitimate state, and has received direct support from Saudi Arabia. After days of tension, the Southern Movement separatists left the city.
The Emirates and Saudi Arabia, along with other neighbouring states such as Bahrain and Kuwait, of Sunni belief, seek to halt the advance of the Houthis, who dominate the capital, Sana'a, and a possible expansion of Shi'ism promoted by Iran through the conflict in Yemen. Similarly, there is a strong geopolitical interest in the Strait of Bab el Mandeb, which connects the Red Sea with the Arabian Sea and is a major alternative to the flow of trade in the Strait of Hormuz, off the coast of Iran. This interest is shared by France and the US, which seeks to eliminate the presence of ISIS and Al Qaeda in the region.
The day after the capture of Aden, and in the midst of Eid Al-Adha celebrations, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed met in Mecca with Saudi King Salman bin Abdelaziz and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, in an apparent effort to downplay the significance of the event, call on the warring parties in the city to safeguard Yemen's interests, and reaffirm regional cooperation and unity of interest between the UAE and Saudi Arabia.  The Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi has posted on his official Twitter accounts comments and photographs from meeting in which a positive attitude can be seen on the faces of the leaders.
Conversely, if the partnership and understanding on the Yemen issue between the two countries were complete, as they claimed, there would be no need to create an apparently 'ideal' image through official communications from the Abu Dhabi government and the publication of images on social media.
Although the UAE supports the separatists, the latest developments have caused a sense of mistrust, raising the possibility that the southern militias are disregarding Emirati directives and starting to run a diary of their own to suit their own particular interests. Foreign sources are also beginning to speak of a civil war within a civil war. Meanwhile, Qatar remains close to Iran and cautious about status in the southwest of the Arabian Peninsula.
[Amil Saikal, Iran Rising: The survival and Future of the Islamic Republic. Princeton University Press. Princeton, 2019. 344 p.]
review / Ignacio Urbasos Arbeloa
Since its establishment in 1979, the Islamic Republic of Iran has been a conflictive actor, isolated and misunderstood by the international community and, to a greater extent, by its regional neighbours. Its origin, revolutionary and antagonistic to the model The Shah's pro-Western pro-Western regime completely changed the geopolitics of the Middle East and the role of the United States in the region. Both the Hostage Crisis and Saddam Hussein's bloody war on Iraq left deep wounds in Iran's relations with the outside world. More than 40 years after the Revolution, the country continues in a dynamic that makes it impossible to normalize its international relations, always under the threat of armed conflict or economic sanctions. In this book, Amin Saikal describes in depth the ideological and political nature of the Ayatollahs' regime with the intention of generating a better understanding of the motivations and factors that explain their behavior.
In the first chapters, the concept of governance devised by Ayatollah Imam Khomeini, known as Velayat-E Faqih or Governance of the Guardian of Islam, is developed. One model defended by a non-majority faction of the revolution that managed to impose itself due to the charisma of its leader and the enormous repression on the rest of the political groups. The political system resulting from the 1978 Revolution seeks to bring together the Shiite teachings of Islam and a model It is representative with institutions such as the Majlis (parliament) or the President, which to some extent simulates Western liberal democracy. This model it is unique and has never been imitated despite the Islamic Republic's efforts to export it to the rest of the Muslim world.
In the internship, the system has proven to subject Iranian politics to schizophrenia, with a constant struggle between the power of the clerics – Supreme Leader and the Supreme Leader – the Supreme Leader and the Supreme Leader. committee of Guardians – vis-à-vis the executive and legislative branches elected through elections. This tension, referred to as Jihadi-Itjihadi (conservatism-flexibility ) by Khomeini himself, has led to a result be a resounding failure. The lack of clarity in the roles that religious groups play in the system results in unlimited power to repress and eliminate political opponents, such as the house arrest of Khatami or Moussaoui. This struggle generates duplicities at all levels with the omnipresence of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) in the armed forces, intelligence, social services and public enterprises. The lack of political transparency generates corruption and inefficiencies that hinder the development of a Economics that it does not lack human capital and natural resources to thrive.
Chapters 2 and 3 deal with the evolution of the system after the death of leader Khomeini in 1988 and the end of the war against Iraq. This new context allowed the entrance of new ideas to the discussion Iranian politician. The controversial appointment of the ultra-conservative Ali Khamenei in 1989 as the new Supreme Leader reinforced the authoritarianism and rigidity of religious power, but now without the undisputed leadership that Khomeini exercised. The presidency of Rafsanjani, a pragmatic conservative, marked the beginning of a trend within Iran that advocated normalizing the country's international relations.
However, it was Khatami who, since 1997, has been committed to a reconversion of the system towards a real democracy that respects human rights. Your bet staff The attempt to improve relations with the U.S. failed to meet with inordinate distrust from the Bush administration. Not even Iran's exemplary response to the attacks on the Twin Towers in New York with an official condemnation of the attack and even a minute's silence respected by 60,000 people in Tehran on September 13, 2001 was enough for G.W. Bush to reconsider Iran as part of the famous Axis of Evil that it constituted together with Syria. North Korea and Sudan. Despite achieving an average economic growth of 5% of GDP under his presidency, the lack of reciprocity on the part of the international community generated a total rupture between the reformist president and the conservative faction led by the Supreme Leader.
The period between 2005 and 2013 was marked by the presidency of the ultra-conservative Ahmadinejad, who ended without Khamenei's confidence after failing to win the presidency. subject and bring Iran to the brink of armed conflict. During this period, the IRGC grew to dominate many ministries and 70% of Iran's GDP. His controversial re-election in 2009 with accusations of fraud by the civil service examination It spawned the Green Movement, the largest protests since 1979, which were harshly repressed.
Rouhani's arrival in 2013 could have been a historic occasion by aligning for the first time since 1988 the vision of a moderate president with that of the Supreme Leader. Rouhani, a moderate pragmatist, took office position with the goals of improving the living conditions of Iranians, reconciling relations with the West, increasing the rights of minorities and relaxing control over society. In subject of foreign policy, the Supreme Leader assumed the need to achieve a agreement on the nuclear program knowing that, in its absence, an economic improvement in Iran would be very complicated. The JCPOA, although imperfect, made it possible to bring positions between the West and Iran closer together. The arrival of Donald Trump blew up the agreement and with it the harmony between Supreme Leader Khamenei and Rouhani, who is now facing a growing civil service examination conservative in considering his foreign policy a failure.
For the author, it is essential to understand the battle between elected institutions and religious institutions. Iranian politics functions as a pendulum between the dominance of conservative factions protected by the religious and reformist factions boosted by elections. If you offer benefits to reformist moderates when they are in power, the chances of bringing about political change in Iran are greater than if you treat them with the same harshness as conservatives, Amin Saikal argues in the fourth and fifth chapters. In addition, there is a correlation between those who know the West and those who do not. Khamenei and Ahmadinejad, the main representatives of the hardliners, have never visited Europe or the United States, while Rouhani, Khatami and Sharif are fluent in English and Western culture.
With a population under the age of 30 accounting for 50% of the total and a growing modernization of society in Tehran, demands for reform seem unstoppable. According to Amin Saikal, an intransigent policy towards Iran when there is a desire for openness only generates mistrust and reinforces the most conservative positions. Trump's policy with Iran, he concludes, demonstrates the lack of knowledge and understanding of their society and political system.
▲ Dubai Air Visa [Pixabay]
essay / Sebastián Bruzzone Martínez
I. ORIGIN AND FOUNDATION OF THE UNITED ARAB EMIRATES
In ancient times, the territory was inhabited by Arab tribes, nomadic farmers, artisans and traders, accustomed to plundering merchant ships of European powers that sailed along its coasts. Islam settled into the local culture in the 7th century AD, and Sunni Islam in the 11th century AD. From 1820, United Kingdom signature with the leaders or sheikhs of the area a peace treaty to put an end to piracy. In 1853, both parties signed another agreement whereby the United Kingdom established a military protectorate in the territory. And in 1892, on the pretensions of Russia, France, and Germany, they signed a third agreement which guaranteed a monopoly on trade and exploitation only for the British. The Emirati area was renamed the "Pirate Coast" to the "Trucial States" (the current seven United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Bahrain).
During World War I, the airfields and ports of the Gulf took on an important role in the development of the development of the conflict in favour of the United Kingdom. At the end of World War II in 1945, the League of Arab States (Arab League) was created, formed by those who enjoyed some colonial independence. The organization caught the attention of the Truce States.
In 1960, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) was created, with Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait and Venezuela as its founders and headquartered in Vienna, Austria. The seven emirates, which would later form the United Arab Emirates, were united in 1967.
In 1968, the United Kingdom withdrew its military force from the region, and the Truce States organized the Federation of the Persian Gulf Emirates, but it failed when Qatar and Bahrain became independent. In the years that followed, the exploitation of the huge oil wells discovered years earlier began.
In 1971, six Emirates gained independence from the British Empire: Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman, um al Qaywayn and Fujairah, forming the federation of the United Arab Emirates, with a legal system based on the 1971 constitution. Once consolidated, on June 12 they joined the Arab League. The seventh emirate, Ras Al-Khaimah joined the following year.
Beginning with the 1973 oil crisis, the Emirates began to accumulate enormous wealth, due to the fact that OPEC members decided not to export any more oil to the countries that supported Israel during the Yom Kippur War. Currently, 80-85% of the UAE's population is an immigrant. The United Arab Emirates became the third largest oil producer in the Middle East, after Saudi Arabia and Libya.
II. POLITICAL AND LEGAL SYSTEM
By the constitution of 1971, the United Arab Emirates is constituted as a federal monarchy. Each State is governed by its Emir (degree scroll nobility of the sheikhs, Sheikh). Each emirate has a great deal of political, legislative, economic and judicial autonomy, each having its own executive councils, always in correspondence with the federal government. There are no political parties. Federal authorities are made up of:
committee Supreme of the Federation or Emirs: is the supreme authority of the State. It is composed of the governors of the 7 Emirates, or those who replace them in their absence. Each Emirate has one vote in the deliberations. It lays down the general policy on matters entrusted to the Federation, and studies and establishes the aims and interests of the Federation.
President and Vice-President of the Federation: elected by thecommittee Supreme among its members. The President exercises, under the Constitution, important powers such as the presidency of the committee Supreme; signature of laws, decrees or resolutions ratified and issued by the committee; appointment of the President of the committee of Ministers and the Vice-President and Ministers; acceptance of their resignations or suspension from office proposal of the President of the committee of Ministers. The Vice-President exercises all presidential powers in his absence.
By tradition, not recognized in the Emirati Constitution, the Sheikh of Abu Dhabi is the President of the country, and the Sheikh of Dubai is the Vice President and Prime Minister.
Thus, currently, Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Sheikh of Abu Dhabi, has been the President of the United Arab Emirates since 2004; and Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Sheikh of Dubai, has been the Prime Minister and Vice-President since 2006.
committee of ministers: composed of the President of the committee of Ministers, the Vice-President and the Ministers. It is the executive body of the Federation. Overseen by the President and committee Supreme, his mission statement is to manage internal and external affairs, which are of skill under the Constitution and federal laws. It has certain prerogatives such as monitoring the implementation of the general policy of the Federal State at home and abroad; propose draft federal laws and move them to the committee Supreme Court of the Federation; supervise the implementation of federal laws and resolutions, and the implementation of international treaties and conventions signed by the United Arab Emirates.
Federal National Assembly: what would resemble a congress, but it is a consultative body only. It is composed of 40 members: twenty elected by the voting citizens, by census suffrage, of the United Arab Emirates through general election, and the other half by the rulers of each Emirate. In December 2018, President Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan issued a decree calling for fifty percent of the Federal National Assembly (FNC) to be occupied by women, with the intention of "further empower Emirati women and strengthen their contributions to the development of the country." It is distributed with seats: Abu Dhabi (8); Dubai (8); Sharjah (6); Ras Al Khaimah (6); Ajman (4); um Al Quwayn (4); and Fujairah (4). Federal and financial bills are submitted to it before they are submitted to the President of the Federation for submission to the committee Supreme Court for ratification. It is also the responsibility of the Government to notify the Assembly of international covenants and treaties. The Assembly studies and makes recommendations on matters of a public nature.
The Federal Administration of Justice: The judicial system of the United Arab Emirates is based on Sharia law or Islamic law. Thearticle Article 94 of the Constitution establishes that justice is the basis of the Government and reaffirms the independence of the judiciary, stipulating that there is no authority above the judges, except the law and their own conscience in the exercise of their functions. The federal justice system is made up of first-class courts written request and courts and appeals (civil, criminal, commercial, contentious-administrative, etc.)
There is also a Federal Supreme Court, made up of a president and vocal judges, with powers such as studying the constitutionality of federal laws and unconstitutional acts.
In addition, the local administration of justice will deal with all judicial cases that do not fall within the competence of the federal administration. It has three levels: first written request, appeal and cassation.
The Constitution provides for the existence of an Attorney General, who presides over the Federal Public Prosecutor's Office, which is responsible for submitting lists of documents position offences committed in accordance with the provisions of the Code, and procedure of the Federation.
For promote understanding between federal and local administrations, since 2007 a committee of Judicial Coordination, chaired by the Minister of Justice and composed of presidents and directors of the judicial organs of the State. 
It is important to know that the Constitution of the Federation provides guarantees for the reinforcement and protection of human rights in chapter III on public freedoms, rights and obligations, such as the principle of equality on the basis of extraction, place of birth, religious belief or social position, although it does not mention gender, and social justice (art. 25); freedom of citizens (art. 26); freedom of opinion and the right to express it (art. 30); freedom of movement and freedom of movement residency program (art. 29); freedom of religion (art. 32); right to privacy (arts. 31 and 36); rights of the family (art. 15); the right to social security and social security (art. 16); Right to Education (art. 17); the right to health care (art. 19); Right to work (art. 20); Right to association and the establishment of associations (art. 33); the right to property (art. 21); and the right to complain and the right to litigate before the courts (art. 41). 
At first glance, it seems that these rights and guarantees enshrined in the Emirati Constitution of 1971 are similar to those of a normal European and Western Constitution. However, they are nuanced and not as effective in the internship. On the one hand, because most of them include references to the specific and applicable law, saying "... within the limits set by law; in accordance with the provisions of the law; or in cases where the law so provides." In this way, the legislator will ensure that these rights are consistent and compatible with Sharia or Islamic law, or with political interests, as the case may be.
On the other hand, these rights and guarantees fully protect Emirati citizens, nationals. Taking into account that 80-85% of the population is foreign, 15% of the total population of the State would be protected in an entirely constitutional manner. By Federal Act No. 28/2005 on the Statute of Persons staff, the law applies to all citizens of the State of the United Arab Emirates provided that there are no special provisions specific to their confession or religion for non-Muslims among them. Its provisions also apply to non-nationals when they are not obliged to comply with the laws of their own country.
Legal safeguards include the Federal Penal Code (Act No. 3/1987); the Code ofprocedure Criminal Law (Act No. 35/1992); Federal Act on the Regulation of Penitentiary Reform Institutions (No. 43/1992); Federal Law on the Regulation of Labour Relations (No. 8/1980); Federal Act on Combating Trafficking in Persons (No. 51/2006); Federal Statute Act staff (No. 28/2005); Federal Act on Juvenile Offenders and Homeless Persons (No. 9/1976); Federal Law on Publications and Publishing (No. 15/1980); Federal Law on the Regulation of Human Organs (No. 15/1993); Federal Law on Associations Declared to be of Public Interest (No. 2/2008); Federal Law on Social Security (No. 2/2001); Federal Law on Pensions and Social Insurance (No. 7/1999); Federal Law on the Protection and development the environment (No. 24/1999); and Federal Law on the Rights of Persons with Special Needs (No. 29/2006).
Military service of 9 months is compulsory for university men between the ages of 18 and 30, and two years for those who do not haveprograms of study Upper. For women, it is optional and subject to the agreement of his tutor. Although the country is not a member of NATO, the Emirates has decided to join the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative (ICI) coalition, and provide weapons assistance in the war against the Islamic State.
With regard to international treaty guarantees and international cooperation, the United Arab Emirates has made a great effort to include in its Constitution laws and principles protected by the Charter of the United Nations and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as a member of the UN and by acceding to its treaties: International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (1974); Convention on the Rights of the Child (1997), United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (2007), Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (2004); United Nations Convention against Corruption (2006), among others.
They have also ratified the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, the Arab Charter on Human Rights, and conventions on the organization of the International Criminal Court. work. It is a member of the WHO, ILO, FAO, UNESCO, UNICEF, WIPO, World Bank and IMF. They are also linked by cooperation agreements with more than 28 international organizations of the United Nations, carrying out advisory tasks of a technical and ministerial nature.
They are members of the Arab League and the Organization of the Arts. lecture By strengthening and promoting Arab work in its regional activities and programmes.
The Emirati police maintain public order and state security. The Ministry of the Interior puts human rights at the forefront of its priorities, focusing on justice, equality, impartiality and protection. Members of the police force must commit to 33 rules of conduct before taking office. The Ministry of the Interior provides administrative units to citizens to supervise police activity and take the necessary measures. However, there is a certain distrust of foreigners towards the police. Most of the complaints come from Emirati citizens.
The Ministry of the Interior must provide diplomatic and consular missions with lists that include data on their nationals interned in penitentiary institutions.
III. SOCIAL SYSTEM
The Emirati government has promoted civil societies and national institutions such as the association of the Emirates for Human Rights (under Federal Act No. 6/1974), the General Federation of Women, association of Jurists, association of Sociologists, association of Journalists, General Administration Human Rights Protection Authority attached to the Dubai Police Headquarters, Dubai Charitable Foundation for Women and Children's Care, National Commission to Combat Trafficking in Persons, Social Support Centre of the Dubai Police, General Administration Abu Dhabi Police, Zayed Charitable Institution, average Emirates Red Crescent, Institution of development Familia, and the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Foundation for Charitable and Humanitarian Works, or the Marriage Fund, among many others.
Importantly, the development of political participation is following a progressive process. To date, there are full and general elections to appoint half of the members of the Federal National Assembly, with census suffrage, for Emirati citizens and through the publication of lists.
Also, the importance of women in Emirati society is growing thanks to the legislative and legal measures taken by the government to empower women, through membership of the committee of development Social of the committee Economic and Social Affairs, which provide opportunities for women who actively participate in the development and the integration of women in the government and private-business sectors (22.5% of the Assembly is women, 2006; it is expected that from 2019 it will be 50% by decree), and promoting female literacy to the point of equalizing it with that of men. However, despite being signatories to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, in the internship They are discriminated against in marriage and divorce proceedings. Fortunately, Emirati legislation providing for the ill-treatment of women and minor children by the husband or father was abolished as long as the aggression did not exceed the limits allowed by Islamic law. Also, once married, women must render obedience to their husbands and be authorized by them to take up a job. It is also prohibited, under prison sentences, cohabitation between unmarried men and women, and sexual relations outside marriage. Polygamy is present even in the royal family.
As in the rest of the Arab countries, homosexuality is considered a serious crime and punishable by fines, imprisonment and deportation in the case of foreigners, although its application is very limited.
The media plays an important role in Emirati society. They are supervised by the committee National Media Agency, which acts largely as a censoring body. They have reached a high technical and professional level in the journalistic sector, hosting in the Dubai average City to more than a thousand specialized companies. However, journalism is controlled by the Federal Law on Press and Publications of 1980, and the Charter of Honor and the Morality of the Journalistic Profession, which have been signed by the heads of the essay. For example, some news that may be unfavorable to Islam or the government would never be published in domestic newspapers, but would be published in foreign newspapers (the case of Haya of Jordan). Since 2007, by means of a decree of the committee It was forbidden to imprison journalists if they made mistakes in the course of their professional duties. However, it ceased to apply with the entrance the Cybercrime Act adopted in 2012.
The government is striving to meet an improvement in the Terms and Conditions work, as the United Arab Emirates is convinced that human beings have the right to enjoy adequate living conditions (housing, working hours, means, labour courts, health insurance, protective guarantees in labour disputes at the international cooperative level, etc.). However, the "Sponsor" or " Kafala" system is still in force, whereby a employer exercises the sponsorship of your employees. Thus, there are cases in which the sponsor retains the passports of its employees during the term of the contract, which is illegal, but they have never been investigated and punished by the government (case of the project of Saadiyat Island), despite being a signatory to conventions on work of the UN.
The last report envelope development Human , corresponding to the year 2018, places the United Arab Emirates in 34th place out of a total of 189 countries. Spain is in 26th place. The State has ensured the Education free and quality up to the university stage for all Emirati citizens, and the integration of disabled people. University and Education Universities such as the University of the United Arab Emirates, Zayed University, or New York University in Abu Dhabi have been positively encouraged. Health care has improved considerably with the construction of hospitals and clinics, with lower fees and increasing life expectancy, standing at 77.6 years (2016). The State allocates money from the public treasury to the social care of the most disadvantaged sectors of the Emirati population and the elderly, widows, orphans or the disabled. It has also ensured that citizens have decent housing, through government agencies such as the Ministry of Public Works, the Zayed Housing Programme, which offers interest-free mortgage loans, the Ministry of Public Works, loan Abu Dhabi Mortgage, the Mohammed bin Rashid Housing Institution that provides loans, or the Sharjah Public Works Authority.
In terms of religion, approximately 75% of the population is Muslim. Islam is the official denomination of the United Arab Emirates. The government pursues a tolerant policy towards other religions, and prohibits non-Muslims from interfering in religion. Education islamic. The evangelization of other religions is prohibited, and the internship of the same must be carried out in the places authorized for this purpose.
On 3 February 2019, at the beginning of the Year of Tolerance, Pope Francis was received with the highest honours in Abu Dhabi by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Vice President and Emir of Dubai Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum, and Ahmed al Tayyeb, Grand Imam of Al-Azhar University and leading Islamic theological reference. It was the first time that the head of the Catholic Church set foot in the Arabian Peninsula. Similarly, the Pope celebrated a mass in Zayed Sport City before 150,000 people, saying in his homily: "Let us be an oasis of peace." The event was described by Mike Pompeo, U.S. Secretary of State, as "a historic moment for religious freedom."
Exist Projects for the development of remote regions, which seek to modernize the infrastructures and services of those areas of the State furthest from the population centers. Also, by virtue of Federal Act No. 47/1992, the Marriage Fund was established. goal is to encourage marriage between male and female citizens, and promote The family, which according to the Government is the basic unit and fundamental pillar of society, offering financial subsidies to those citizens with limited resources in order to help them meet wedding expenses and contribute to the family stability of society.
Since 1973, the United Arab Emirates has undergone a huge transformation and modernization thanks to the exploitation of oil, which accounted for 80% of GDP at that time. In recent years, with the knowledge that in less than 40 years oil will run out, the government has diversified its Economics towards financial services, tourism, trade, transport and infrastructure, making oil and gas only 20% of the national GDP.
Abu Dhabi has 90% of the world's oil and gas reserves, followed by Dubai, and in small quantities in Sharjah and Ras Al Khaimah. The country's petroleum policy is carried out through the committee Supreme Petroleum Corporation and the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC). The main foreign oil companies operating in the country are BP, Shell, ExxonMobil, Total, Petrofac and Partex, and Spain's CEPSA, of which the Emirati sovereign wealth fund Mubadala owns 80% of the company. business.
The lending capacity of financial corporations was severely adversely affected during the 2008 economic crisis. The entrance The number of large foreign private capitals came to a standstill, at the same time as investment in the property and construction sectors. Falling property values forced liquidity restriction. In 2009, local companies were seeking moratorium agreements with their creditors on a $26 billion debt. The Abu Dhabi government provided a $5 trillion bailout to reassure international investors.
Tourism and infrastructure is a success for the country, especially in Dubai.  The construction of luxury tourist attractions such as the Palm Islands and the Burj al-Arab, and the good weather for most of the year, has attracted Westerners and people from all over the world. According to the Emirati government, the tourism industry generates more money than oil currently. Large investments are being made in renewable energy, most notably through Masdar, thebusiness government, which has the project Masdar City initiated, creating a city powered solely by renewable energy.
V. DYNASTIES AND ROYAL FAMILIES. THE AL NAHYAN DYNASTY
The United Arab Emirates is made up of seven Emirates and ruled by six families:
Abu Dhabi: by Al Nahyan Family (Al Falahi House)
Dubai: by the Al Maktoum Family (Al Falasi House)
Sharjah and Ras Al Khaimah: by the Al Qassimi family
Ajman: by the Al Nuaimi family
um Al Quwain: by the Al Mualla family
Fujairah: by the Al Sharqi family
It is important to know the terminology used in the family tree of Emirati royal families: " Sheikh" means sheikh , and an emir is degree scroll nobility attributed to the sheikhs. In the composition of the names, in the first place, the proper name of the descendant is placed, followed by the infix " bin " which means "of", plus the proper name of his father, and the surname of the family. The infix is " bint" for women.
For example: Sheikh Sultan bin Zayed Al Nahyan is the father of Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan.
It is common for marriages to take place between the ruling families of the various Emirates, intertwining dynasties, but the rule will always prevail. surname of the husband over that of the wife in the name of the children. Unlike the great European monarchies in which the kingdom is passed down from father to son, in Emirati families power is transmitted first between brothers, by appointment, and as second resource, to the children. These positions of power must be ratified by the committee Supreme.
The Al Nahyan family of Abu Dhabi is an offshoot of the Al Falahi House. This is a royal house that belongs to Bani Yas and is related to Al Falasi House to which the Al Maktoum family of Dubai belongs. Bani Yas is known to be a very ancient tribal confederation of the Liwa Oasis region. There are few data about its exact origin. The Al Nahyan royal family is incredibly large, as each of the brothers has had several children and with different women. The most important and recent governors of Abu Dhabi would be those who have been in power since 1971, when the United Arab Emirates was consolidated as a country, ceasing to be a Truce State and British protectorate. Are:
Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan (1918-2004): was governor of Abu Dhabi from 1966 until his death. He collaborated closely with the British Empire to maintain the integrity of the territory in the face of Saudi Arabia's expansionist pretensions. He is considered the Father of the Nation and founder of the United Arab Emirates, along with his counterpart Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum of Dubai. Both pledged to form a Federation together with other rulers after the British military withdrawal. He was the first president of the United Arab Emirates, and was re-elected four times: 1976, 1981, 1986 and 1991. Zayed was characterized as sympathetic, peaceful and united with neighboring emirates, charitable in terms of donations, relatively liberal and permissive of private means. He was considered one of the richest men in the world by Forbes magazine, with a net worth of twenty billion dollars.
He died at the age of 86 and is buried in Abu Dhabi's Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. He replaced him in the position his first-born son Khalifa as governor and ratified president of the United Arab Emirates by the committee Supreme.
He had six wives: Hassa bint Mohammed bin Khalifa Al Nahyan, Sheikha bint Madhad Al Mashghouni, Fatima bint Mubarak Al Ketbi, Mouza bint Suhail bin Awaidah Al Khaili, Ayesha bint Ali Al Darmaki, Amna bint Salah bin Buduwa Al Darmaki, and Shamsa bint Mohammed bin Khalifa Al Nahyan; and thirty children, some of whom are as follows:
Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan (1948–present): Eldest son of the above, whose mother is Hassa bint Mohammed bin Khalifa Al Nahyan, is the current governor of Abu Dhabi and president of the United Arab Emirates. His wife is Shamsa bint Suhail Al Mazrouei, with whom he has eight children. He also holds other positions: Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, President of the committee Petroleum Authority, and chairman of the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority. He was educated at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst in the United Kingdom. Previously, he was appointed crown prince of Abu Dhabi; Head of the department Abu Dhabi Defence Ministry, which would become the Emirates Armed Forces; Prime Minister, Chief of Staff of Abu Dhabi, Minister of Defence and Finance; Second Deputy Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates and President of the committee Abu Dhabi Executive. Dubai's Burj Khalifa is named after him, as he brought in the money needed to complete its construction. He intervened militarily in Libya by sending the Air Force along with NATO, and pledged support for the democratic uprising in Bahrain in 2011.
According to a WikiLeaks leak, the U.S. ambassador describes him as a "distant and uncharismatic character." It has been criticised for its wasteful nature (purchase of the yacht Azzam, scandal of the construction of the palace and purchase of territories in the Seychelles, the Panama Papers and the revelation of properties in London and shell companies...)
In 2014, according to the official version, Khalifa suffered a stroke and underwent surgery. According to the government, he is in stable condition, but has virtually disappeared from the public eye.
Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan (1961–present): Khalifa's brother, but whose mother is Fatima bint Mubarak Al Ketbi. He is the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, and entrusted with the execution of presidential affairs, receptions of foreign dignitaries and political decisions due to the poor state of health of the President. Also, like Khalifa, he was educated at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst. He has been an officer in the Presidential Guard and a pilot in the Air Force. He is married to Salama bint Hamdan Al Nahyan, and has nine children.
It has been characterized by its activist foreign policy against Islamist extremism, and its charitable character (partnership with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for vaccines in Afghanistan and Pakistan). International governments such as France, Singapore and the United States have invited Mohammed to various bilateral events and dialogues. He has even met with Pope Francis twice (Rome, 2016; Abu Dhabi, 2019), promoting the Year of Tolerance.
In subject He is the chairman of the Mubadala sovereign wealth fund and head of the committee Abu Dhabi for the development Economic. Has C billion-dollar economic stimulation projects for the modernization of the country in the energy sector and infrastructure.
It has also promoted women's empowerment, welcoming a delegation of female officers from the Military and Peacekeeping Programme for Arab Women, who are preparing for United Nations peace operations. It has encouraged the presence of women in public services, and has pledged to meet regularly with female representatives of the country's institutions.
Sultan bin Zayed Al Nahyan (1955–present): Zayed's second son. He has six children. He is the son of Shamsa bint Mohammed bin Khalifa Al Nahyan. He was educated at Millfield School and Sandhurst Military Academy like his two previous brothers. He is the third Deputy Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates, a member of the committee He is a member of the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority.
Hamdan bin Zayed Al Nahyan (1963–present): Zayed's fifth son, whose mother is Fatima bint Mubarak Al Ketbi. He is married to Shamsa bint Hamdan bin Mohammed Al Nahyan. He was educated at the Sandhurst Military Academy. He occupied the position Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of State for Foreign Affairs until 2009. Currently, he is the emir's representative in the western region of Abu Dhabi. Is graduate in Political Science and Business Administration from the University of the United Arab Emirates.
Nahyan bin Mubarak al Nahyan (1951–present): son of Mubarak bin Mohammed Al Nahyan. He is the current head of the UAE's Ministry of Tolerance since 2017. From 2016 to 2017, he was Minister of Culture anddevelopment of the knowledge. He also dedicated years of his life to the creation of Education as the University of the United Arab Emirates (1983-2013), technical school of Technology (1988-2013), and Zayed University (1998-2013). He is also the president of Warid Telecom International, a business of Telecommunications, and the President of the group Abu Dhabi, Union National Bank and United Bank Limited, among other companies.
Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan (1972–present): Zayed's ninth son, whose mother is Fatima bint Mubarak Al Ketbi. He is married to Al Yazia bint Saif bin Mohammed Al Nahyan, with whom he has five children. Occupies the position Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of the United Arab Emirates since 2006. Is graduate in Political Science from the University of the United Arab Emirates. During his tenure, the Emirates have seen a great expansion in its diplomatic relations with countries in South America, the South Pacific, Africa and Asia, and a consolidation with Western countries. He is a member of the committee of the country's National Security, Vice President of the committee Permanent Border Officer, President of the committee National Media Organization, President of the board of Directors of the Emirates Foundation for the development of Youth, Vice-President of the board of Directors of the Abu Dhabi Fund for the development and Member of the board of the high school of National Defense. He was Minister of Information and Culture from 1997 to 2006, and President of Emirates average Incorporated.
Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan (1970–present): Zayed's eighth son, whose mother is Fatima bint Mubarak Al Ketbi. He is married to two women, Alia bint Mohammed bin Butti Al Hamed, and Manal bint Mohammed Al Maktoum, with whom he has six children in total. He has held the positions of Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Presidential Affairs of the United Arab Emirates since 2009. He is president of the committee Ministerial of Services, the Emirates Investment Authority and the Emirates Racing Authority. He is a member of the committee Supreme Court of Petroleum and Petroleum committee Abu Dhabi Investments. He was educated at Santa Barbara Community College in the United States, and received a bachelor's degree in International Affairs from the University of the United Arab Emirates. He presides over the National Documentation and Documentation Centre research and the Abu Dhabi Fund for Humanitarian development. He was president of First Gulf Bank until 2006.
He has a developed business vision. He is the owner of the English soccer team Manchester City, and co-owner of New York City of the MLS, an American professional soccer league. He is a member of the board He is a board member of the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, has a 32% stake in Virgin Galactic, a 9.1% stake in Daimler, and owns Abu Dhabi average Investment Corporation, by which he owns the English newspaper The National.
Saif binZayed Al Nahya (1968–present): Zayed's twelfth son, whose mother is Mouza bint Suhail Al Khaili. occupies the position Deputy Prime Minister since 2009, and Minister of the Interior since 2004. Its role is to ensure the internal protection and national security of the United Arab Emirates. Is graduate in Political Science from the University of the United Arab Emirates. Was Director General of the Abu Dhabi Police in 1995, and Undersecretary of the Ministry of Home Affairs in 1997, until his appointment as Minister.
Hazza bin Zayed Al Nahyan (1965–present): Zayed's fifth son, whose mother is Fatima bint Mubarak Al Ketbi. He is married to Mozah bint Mohammed bin Butti Al Hamed, with whom he has five children. He holds the post of Minister of National Security of the United Arab Emirates, Vice-President of thecommittee Executive of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi and Chairman of the Emirates Identity Authority.
Nasser bin Zayed Al Nahyan (1967-2008): Zayed's son, whose mother is Amna bint Salah Al Badi. He was president of the department Planning & Economics of Abu Dhabi, and was a royal security officer. According to the official version, he died at the age of 41 when the helicopter in which he was traveling with his friends crashed off the coast of Abu Dhabi. He was buried in the Sheikh Sultan bin Zayed Mosque, and three days of mourning were declared throughout the United Arab Emirates.
Issa bin Zayed Al Nahyan (1970–present): Zayed's son, whose mother is Amna bint Salah Al Badi. It is a prestigious real estate developer in the city of Dubai, but it does not occupy any position politician in the government of the Emirates. He was involved in a case in which, in a leaked video, he allegedly tortured two Palestinians who were his business associates. The Emirati court declared Issa innocent because he was the victim of a conspiracy and sentenced the Palestinians to five years in prison for drug use, recording, publication and blackmail. International observers harshly criticized the Emirati judicial system and called for an overhaul of the country's penal code.
From my point of view, and with the experience of having lived in the country, the United Arab Emirates is a very unknown country for Spanish youth and that has incredible professional opportunities due to the demand for work foreign, a very high quality of life at an affordable price, as salaries are quite high, and a strong and modernized administration and institutions. The culture shock is not very great, as the state makes sure to avoid situations of discrimination, unlike other Arab countries. I can say with complete conviction that cultural tolerance is real. However, foreigners should keep in mind that it is not a Western country, and that it is recommended to respect the nation's customs regarding dress, sacred places and public performances, and to know the Emirati Basic Law.
 report National of the committee at the United Nations General Assembly A/HRC/WG.6/3/ARE/1, 16 September 2008.
 Constitution of the United Arab Emirates of 1971.
 The Gulf Courier: 50% of the committee UAE Federal National will be occupied by women.
 The Gulf Courier: more than 8 million tourists visited Dubai in the first semester in 2018.
The management given to a Chinese business prompts US threat not to sell technology to Israel.
The Trump administration's protests over the awarding of management of the port of Haifa to a Chinese business have so far not prompted the Netanyahu government to review the contract, which was dealt with at ministerial level without plenary session of the Executive Council knowledge of its geopolitical implications. China's penetration of Israel - in the wider Middle East context - as well as the US reaction, highlights a complicated triangle of relations: Israel wants Chinese investment, but fears losing US favour.
▲ management of containers in the port of Haifa in northern Israel [Wikipedia].
article / María Martín Andrade
The port of Haifa is one of the main ports in Israel in terms of volume of goods handled. It also has a strategic character: the port, in the north of the country, hosts the US Sixth Fleet in its movements. The latter could be altered following the announcement of Israel's contract with the Chinese business Shanghai International Port Group (SIPG) to operate the port for the next 25 years from 2021, which has not been very well received by Washington. management The company, which has pledged to invest $2 billion to expand the facility into Israel's largest port, describes its functions as including the construction and installation of equipment and the day-to-day running of port activities, classifying this project as part of the One Belt, One Road initiative.
This initiative has its origins in the Silk Road, a trade pathway linking China with various Asian countries all the way to Europe, dating back to the first centuries BC. The new version is based on the early schemes and aims to boost China by creating a network of infrastructure, investment and trade, and by establishing multilateral and bilateral ties with the various states along the Silk Road, as well as with international companies.
All of the above, added to the growing industrial and transport expansion that China is experiencing, also justifies the Asian country's interest in some of the natural resources that the Middle East offers, such as oil, the import of which amounts to 50%, constituting another of the reasons why China wants to gain a presence in different parts of the region and which is manifested in, among other ways, investment in canals and ports such as those of Haifa and Ashdad in Israel, Cherchell in Algeria, Said and Alexandria in Egypt, and Kumport in Turkey. Specifically, its commitment to the port of Haifa is also contributing to the development of what is known as the Israel-Gulf Economic Corridor (IGEC), whose goal is to create a railway line running from the port of Haifa to the Jordanian-Israeli border, linking up with the Jordanian railway system.
However, China's ambitions to gain a greater presence in the Middle East collide with the pretensions of another "robust rival", the United States, which is also driven by economic and security interests and has no intention of sharing it. Thus, after learning of the plans in the port of Haifa, the US response is manifested in threats that it might stop sharing data intelligence with Israel and reconsider holding future long deadline exercises by the US navy in that port.
It is important to note that this is not the first time that the US has intervened to hinder relations between China and Israel. The conditions under which the latter country was established, coupled with the hostile environment surrounding it and the need to possess weapons to maintain and protect it, have contributed to the development of its technology, especially in subject defence, whose broad scope is due in part to the United States, which has been supplying the country with the latest military technology since the 1960s. This has contributed to Israel's exports of subject technology, mainly defence subject technology, becoming the source main source of revenue for its industry.
During the 1970s, China's Economics began to modernise, and the next step was to extend this modernisation to the military domain, and China began importing defence developments from Israel. These relations continued to expand until 2000, when the Middle Eastern country, due to US pressure, decided to cancel the agreement that allowed China to obtain four Phalcon radar systems. The reason given by the US at the time for opposing the agreement was the possibility that China would benefit from the technology in a military conflict in Taiwan. However, China is not the only country with which Israel has had difficulties exporting its technology. In 2008 Washington denied that it could submit Heron drones to Russia.
Despite all this, Sino-Israeli relations have managed to survive, with China becoming Israel's second largest trading partner in 2012, partner and developing new partnership R&D ties, consisting of a series of agreements and collaborations between academic institutions and companies in both countries.
However, considering the US reaction to China's involvement in the port of Haifa, it is not unthinkable to envisage a scenario in which American pressure would be repeated and in this case would succeed in abolishing the existing agreement with the business Shanghai International Port. If this happens, Israel would lose an important part of the investments it receives and trade relations with China would cool, while Beijing could see one of its plans to create its ambitious Silk Road frustrated, although this would not mean its decline in the Middle East.
What is unquestionable is that the United States no longer enjoys hegemony in this part of the world and has to come to terms with the idea that it will have to share influence with other great powers. It may therefore make more sense to engage in new forms of cooperation with China in order to establish mutually favourable terms.
In conclusion, this new Chinese investment affirms what was already known: China's international presence is growing and increasing in volume, and it is wiser to adapt to the new changes than to get involved in love triangles that never have a happy ending for anyone.
Iran Strategic Report (July 2019)
This report will provide an in-depth analysis of Iran's role in the Middle East and its impact on the regional power balance. Studying current political and economic developments will assist in the elaboration of multiple scenarios that aim to help understand the context surrounding our subject.
J. Hodek, M. Panadero.
Report [pdf. 15,5MB] [pdf. 15,5MB
INTRODUCTION: IRAN IN THE MIDDLE EAST
This report will examine Iran's geopolitical presence and interests in the region, economic vulnerability and energy security, social and demographic aspects and internal political dynamics. These directly or indirectly affect the evolution of various international strategic issues such as the future of Iran's Nuclear Deal, United States' relations with Iran and its role in Middle East going forward. Possible power equilibrium shifts, which due to the economic and strategic importance of this particular region, possess high relevance and significant degree of impact even outside the Iranian territory with potential alteration of the regional and international order.
With the aim of presenting a more long-lasting report, several analytical techniques will be used (mainly SWOT analysis and elaboration of simple scenarios), in order to design a strategic analysis of Iran in respect to the regional power balance and the developments of the before mentioned international strategic issues. Key geopolitical data will be collected as of the announcement of the U.S. Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo on the re-imposition of U.S. sanctions on the Islamic Republic of Iran on November 2, 2018 with a projection for the upcoming years, thus avoiding a simple narration of facts, which transpired so far.
First part of this report will be dedicated to a more general analysis of the geopolitical situation in the Middle East, with a closer attention to Iran's interests and influence. Then, after a closer look on the internal dynamics within Iran, several scenarios will be offered out of which some will be categorized and selected as the most probable according to the authors of this report.
From Iranian strategic perspective, the Sunni-Shi'a divide is only part of its larger objective of exporting its revolution.
▲ Military scene from a high relief from ancient Persia [Pixabay]
ESSAY / Helena Pompeii
At a first glance it may seem that the most important factor shaping the dynamics in the region is the Sunni-Shi'a divide materialized in the struggle between Saudi Arabia and Iran over becoming the main hegemonic power in the region. Nonetheless, from the strategic perspective of Iran this divide is only part of its larger objective of exporting its revolution.
This short essay will analyze three paths of action or policies Iran has been relying on in order to exert and expand its influence in the MENA region: i) it's anti-imperialistic foreign policy; (ii) the Sunni-Shi'a divide; and (iii) opportunism. Finally, a study case of Syria will be provided to show how Iran made use of these three courses of action to its benefit within the war.
The Sunni-Shi'a division alone would not be enough to rocket Iran into an advantaged position over Saudi Arabia, being the Shi'ites only a 13% of the total of Muslims over the world (found mainly in Iran, Pakistan, India and Iraq).  Even though religious affiliation can gain support of a fairly big share of the population, Iran is playing its cards along the lines of its revolutionary ideology, which consists on challenging the current international world order and particularly what Iran calls US's imperialism.
Iran does not choose its strategic allies by religious affiliation but by ideological affinity: opposition to the US and Israel. Proof of this is the fact that Iran has provided military and financial support to Hamas and the Islamic Jihad in Palestine, both of them Sunni, in their struggle versus Israel.  Iran's competition against Saudi Arabia could be understood as an elongation of its anti-US foreign policy, the Saudi kingdom being the other great ally of the West in the MENA region along with Israel.
II. SUNNI-SHI'A DIVIDE
Despite the religious divide not being the main reason behind the hegemonic competition among both regional powers Saudi Arabia (Sunni) and Iran (Shi'a), both states are exploiting this narrative to transcend territorial barriers and exert their influence in neighbouring countries. This rivalry materializes itself along two main paths of action: i) development of neopatrimonial and clientelistic networks, as it shows in Lebanon and Bahrain; ii) and in violent proxy wars, namely Yemen and Syria.
Sectarian difference has been an inherent characteristic of Lebanon all throughout its history, finally erupting into a civil war in 1975. The Taif accords, which put an end to the strife attempted to create a power-sharing agreement that gave each group a political voice. These differences were incorporated into the political dynamics and development of blocs which are not necessarily loyal to the Lebanese state alone.
Regional dynamics of the Middle East are characterised by the blurred limits between internal and external, this reflects in the case of Lebanon, whose blocs provide space for other actors to penetrate the Lebanese political sphere. This is the case of Iran through the Shi'ite political and paramilitary organization of Hezbollah. This organization was created in 1982 as a response to Israeli intervention and has been trained, organized and provisioned by Iran ever since. Through the empowerment of Iran and its political support for Shi'a groups across Lebanon, Hezbollah has emerged as a regional power.
Once aware of the increasing Iranian influence in the region, Saudi Arabia stepped into it to counterbalance the Shi'a empowerment by supporting a range of Salafi groups across the country.
Both Riyadh and Tehran have thus established clientelistic networks through political and economic support which feed upon sectarian segmentation, furthering factionalism. Economic inflows in order to influence the region have helped developed the area between Ras Beirut and Ain al Mraiseh through investments by Riyadh, whilst Iranian economic aid has been allocated in the Dahiyeh and southern region of the country. 
Bahrain is also a hot spot in the fight for supremacy over the region, although it seems that Saudi Arabia is the leading power over this island of the Persian Gulf. The state is a constitutional monarchy headed by the King, Shaikh Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, of the Sunni branch of Islam, and it is connected to Saudi Arabia by the King Fahd Causeway, a passage designed and built to prevent Iranian expansionism after the revolution. Albeit being ruled by Sunni elite, the majority of the country's citizens are Shia, and have in many cases complaint about political and economic repression. In 2011 protests erupted in Bahrain led by the Shi'a community, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates stepped in to suppress the revolt. Nonetheless, no links between Iran and the ignition of this manifestation have been found, despite accusations by the previously mentioned Sunni states.
The opposition of both hegemonic powers has ultimately materialized itself in the involvement on proxy wars as are the examples of Syria, Yemen, Iraq and possibly in the future Afghanistan.
Yemen, in the southeast of the Arabian Peninsula, is a failed state in which a proxy war fueled mainly by the interests of Saudi Arabia and Iran is taking place since the 25th of March 2015. On that date, Saudi Arabia leading an Arab coalition against the Houthis bombarded Yemen.
The ignition of the conflict began in November 2011 when President Ali Abdullah Saleh was forced to hand over his power to his deputy and current president Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi (both Sunni) due to the uprisings product of the Arab Spring. 
The turmoil within the nation, including here al-Qaeda attacks, a separatist rising in the south, divided loyalties in the military, corruption, unemployment and lack of food, led to a coup d'état in January 2015 led by Houthi rebels. The Houthis, Shi'ite Muslims backed by Iran, seized control of a large territory in Yemen including here the capital Sana'a. A coalition led by Saudi Arabia and other Sunni-majority nations are supporting the government.
Yemen is a clear representation of dispute over regional sovereignty. This particular conflict puts the Wahhabi kingdom in great distress as it is happening right at its front door. Thus, Saudi interests in the region consist on avoiding a Shi'ite state in the Arabian Peninsula as well as facilitating a kindred government to retrieve its function as state. Controlling Yemen guarantees Saudi Arabia's influence over the Gulf of Aden and the Strait of Baab al Mandeb, thus avoiding Hormuz Strait, which is currently under Iran's reach.
On the other hand, Iran is soon to be freed from intensive intervention in the Syrian war, and thus it could send in more military and economic support into the region. Establishing a Shi'ite government in Yemen would pose an inflexion point in regional dynamics, reinforcing Iran's power and becoming a direct threat to Saudi Arabia right at its frontier. Nonetheless, Hadi's government is internationally recognized and the Sunni struggle is currently gaining support from the UK and the US.
The Golf Cooperation Council (GCC) is a political and economic alliance of six countries in the Arabian Peninsula which fail to have an aligned strategy for the region and could be roughly divided into two main groups in the face of political interests: i) those more aligned to Saudi Arabia, namely Bahrain and UAE; ii) and those who reject the full integration, being these Oman, Kuwait and Qatar.
Fragmentation within the GCC has provided Iran with an opportunity to buffer against calls for its economic and political isolation. Iran's ties to smaller Gulf countries have provided Tehran with limited economic, political and strategic opportunities for diversification that have simultaneously helped to buffer against sanctions and to weaken Riyadh. 
Oman in overall terms has a foreign policy of good relations with all of its neighbours. Furthermore, it has long resisted pressure to align its Iran policies with those of Saudi Arabia. Among its policies, it refused the idea of a GCC union and a single currency for the region introduced by the Saudi kingdom. Furthermore, in 2017 with the Qatar crisis, it opposed the marginalization of Qatar by Saudi Arabia and the UAE and stood as the only State which did not cut relations with Iran.
Furthermore, the war in Yemen is spreading along Oman's border, and it's in its best interest to bring Saudi Arabia and the Houthis into talks, believing that engagement with the later is necessary to put an end to the conflict.  Oman has denied transport of military equipment to Yemeni Houthis through its territory. 
A key aspect of Kuwait's regional policy is its active role in trying to balance and reduce regional sectarian tensions, and has often been a bridge for mediation among countries, leading the mediation effort in January 2017 to promote dialogue and cooperation between Iran and the Gulf states that was well received in Tehran. 
It has always been in both state's interest to maintain a good relationship due to their proximity and shared ownership of the North/South Pars natural gas field. Despite having opposing interests in some areas as are the case of Syria (Qatar supports the opposition), and Qatar's attempts to drive Hamas away from Tehran. In 2017 Qatar suffered a blockade by the GCC countries due to its support for Islamist groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood and militant groups linked to al-Qaeda or ISIS. During this crisis, Iran proved a good ally into which to turn.. Iran offered Qatar to use its airspace and supplied food to prevent any shortages resulting from the blockade.  However as it can be deduced from previous ambitious foreign policies, Qatar seeks to diversify its allies in order to protect its interests, so it would not rely solely on Iran.
Iran is well aware of the intra-Arab tensions among the Gulf States and takes advantage of these convenient openings to bolster its regional position, bringing itself out of its isolationism through the establishment of bilateral relations with smaller GCC states, especially since the outbreak of the Qatar crisis in 2017.
Iran is increasingly standing out as a regional winner in the Syrian conflict. This necessarily creates unrest both for Israel and Saudi Arabia, especially after the withdrawal of US troops from Syria. The drawdown of the US has also originated a vacuum of power which is currently being fought over by the supporters of al-Assad: Iran, Turkey and Russia.
Despite the crisis involving the incident with the Israeli F-16 jets, Jerusalem is attempting to convince the Russian Federation not to leave Syria completely under the sphere of Iranian influence.
Israel initially intervened in the war in face of increasing presence of Hezbollah in the region, especially in its positions near the Golan Heights, Kiswah and Hafa. Anti-Zionism is one of Iran's main objectives in its foreign policy, thus it is likely that tensions between Hezbollah and Israel will escalate leading to open missile conflict. Nonetheless, an open war for territory is unlikely to happen, since this will bring the UyS back in the region in defense for Israel, and Saudi Arabia would make use of this opportunity to wipe off Hezbollah.
On other matters, the axis joining Iran, Russia and Turkey is strengthening, while they gain control over the de-escalation zones.
Both Iran and Russia have economic interests in the region. Before the outbreak of the war, Syria was one of the top exporting countries of phosphates, and in all likelihood, current reserves (estimated on over 2 billion tons) will be spoils of war for al-Assad's allies. 
The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps took control of Palmira in 2015, where the largest production area of phosphates is present. Furthermore, Syria also signed an agreement on phosphates with Russia.
Iran has great plans for Syria as its zone of influence, and is planning to establish a seaport in the Mediterranean through which to export its petroleum by a pipeline crossing through Iraq and Syria, both under its tutelage. This pipeline would secure the Shi'ite bow from Tehran to Beirut, thus weakening Saudi Arabia's position in the region. Furthermore, it would allow direct oil exports to Europe.
In relation to Russia and Turkey, despite starting in opposite bands they are now siding together. Turkey is particularly interested in avoiding a Kurdish independent state in the region, this necessarily positions the former ottoman empire against the U.S a key supporter of the Kurdish people due to their success on debilitating the Islamic State. Russia will make use of this distancing to its own benefits. It is in Russia's interest to have Turkey as an ally in Syria in order to break NATO's Middle East strategy and have a strong army operating in Syrian territory, thus reducing its own engagement and military cost. 
Despite things being in favour of Iran, Saudi Arabia could still take advantage of recent developments of the conflict to damage Iran's internal stability.
Ethnic and sectarian segmentation are also part of Iran's fabric, and the Government's repression against minorities within the territory –namely Kurds, Arabs and Baluchis- have caused insurgencies before. Saudi Arabia and other Gulf States aligned with its foreign policy, such as the UAE are likely to exploit resentment of the minorities in order to destabilized Iran's internal politics.
The problem does not end there for Iran. Although ISIS being wiped off the Syrian territory, after falling its last citadel in Baguz, this is not the end of the terrorist group. Iran's active role in fighting Sunni jihadists through Hezbollah and Shi'ite militias in Syria and Iraq has given Islamist organization a motivation to defy Tehran.
Returning foreign fighters could scatter over the region creating cells and even cooperating with Sunni separatist movements in Ahwaz, Kurdistan or Balochistan. Saudi Arabia is well aware of this and could exploit the Wahhabi narrative and exert Sunni influence in the region through a behind-the-scenes financing of these groups.
 The Collapse of the Status Quo in OM: Iran's Security Strategies and AS, David Poza Cano, January 2017.
 Saudi Arabia, Iran and the Struggle for Supremacy in Lebanon and Bahrain, Simon Mabon, LSE 2018
 Iran and the GCC Hedging, Pragmatism and Opportunism, Sanam Vakil, September 2018
 Reuters 'Yemen's Houthis and Saudi Arabia in secret talks to end war', 15 March, 2018
 Bayoumy, Y. (2016), 'Iran steps up weapons supply to Yemen's Houthis via Oman', Reuters, 30 October.
 Coates Ulrichsen, K., 'Walking the tightrope: Kuwait, Iran relations in the aftermath of the Abdali affair', Gulf States Analytics, 9 August, 2017
 Kamrava, M. 'Iran-Qatar Relations', in Bahgat, Ehteshami and Quilliam (2017), Security and Bilateral Issues Between Iran and Its Neighbours.
 In Syria, the total defeat of the group ISIS terrorist, Clarín Mundo. March 23, 2019
Iran Country Risk Report (June 2019)
After some months of implementation, the re-imposed US sanctions against Iran are seriously affecting Iranian economy and forcing disputed political and even military reactions. The present report attempts to provide an analysis of Iran by addressing: the consequences of sanctions, the current and future state of its energy sector, the internal situation of the country, and the future prospect of the Iran-US relations.
C. Asiáin, M. Morrás, I. Urbasos
Report [pdf. 14,1MB] [pdf. 14,1MB
The US unilateral withdrawal from the JCPOA on May 8, 2018, reshaped the Iranian domestic and international reality. On the one hand, the JCPOA enabled Iran to increase its GDP above 7% in the period of 2016-2018, more than double its oil exports and maintained President Rouhani in office after the 2017 elections. On the other hand, the US reimposition of the previously lifted sanctions demonstrated the deep vulnerabilities of the Iranian economy and its huge diplomatic isolation.
US sanctions will affect the whole of Iran's foreign relations due to its extraterritorial nature. The EU will try to avoid its effect through legal protection of its companies and citizens with mechanisms such as the SPV, whose scope and effectivity is yet to be proved. China, as it is less exposed to the US financial and political influence, will be able to better circumvent sanctions but still far from being totally unaffected. Other countries such as India, Turkey or Russia will find difficulties to handle secondary sanctions, but will be able to maintain a certain degree of trade with the Islamic Republic. Japan or South Korea will have to follow US demands because of its strategic alliance in the Asia-Pacific region and resume energy imports and investments.
The Iranian economy is expected to enter into recession during 2019, GDP growth is expected to be -4.5% and unemployment rate will increase to the 15.4%. This economic hardship will concentrate the political discussion in the 2020 legislative and 2021 presidential elections, whose outcome will determine if a moderate or hardliner political faction seizes power. Social unrest from ethnic minorities and opposition is expected to rise if the economic conditions do not improve, challenging the current political equilibrium of the country.
The energy sector will be deeply affected by US sanctions as it banned all countries from investing and purchasing Iran's energy products. Sanctions are expected to reduce Iran oil exports to 1million barrels a day from the 2017 levels of 2.4 mbdp, decreasing governmental revenues drastically and freezing most foreign investments. The lack of FDI and technology will aggravate the problems of the Iranian energy sector with possible irreversible effects depending on the sanctions duration.
US-Iran relations are expected to worsen at least until the US 2020 Presidential elections, when a more dialoguing candidate could substitute the hawkish Trump administration. The United States is expected to maintain its current strategic alliances with Saudi Arabia and Israel, whose common goal of pressuring Iran can have unexpected consequences for the Middle East. Domestic politics in Iran, US, Israel and Saudi Arabia will play a major role in the evolution of the events.
How Russia, China, India and the Gulf Cooperation Council countries react to the new US sanctions against Iran
▲ Presidents Putin and Rouhani during a meeting in Tehran, in September 2018 [Wikipedia]
ANALYSIS / Alfonso Carvajal
As US-Iranian relations continue to deteriorate, the balance of power and regional alliances will be prone to shifting and changing. Iranians will likely feel increasingly more marginalised as time passes and will seek to remedy their state of international isolation. Here, the main factors to look out for will be the nations seeking to achieve great power status, and how they will try to attract Iran towards them while pushing the Islamic Republic further away from the United States.
China and Russia's response
Russia's relations with Iran have historically been complicated. While at some points, the two countries have faced each other as rivals in war, other times have seen them enjoy peace and cooperation. Russia has been an important actor in Iranian international relations since at least the Sixteenth Century and will most likely retain its importance in the long run. Since the fall of the USSR, Russian-Iranian relations have improved, as many issues that had caused tensions suddenly disappeared. These issues where mainly caused by their ideological incompatibility, as the USSR's atheism was looked upon with suspicion by Khomeini, and its support given to Iraq in the Iran-Iraq war.
Recently, both countries have found themselves facing international, mainly US, economic sanctions. This is a factor that is important to acknowledge, and that will shape their future relations. As Russia and Iran struggle to defuse the effects of sanctions, they will seek trade elsewhere. This means that they have found in each other a way to make for their isolation, and their ties are likely to only grow. Militarily, cooperation has already been cemented by years of sanctions in Iran.
Whereas once the Iranian Armed Forces boasted of having the most advanced Western-built fighter jets and other military material in the region, Iran now often uses Russian and Chinese aircraft and military gear, coupled with its own native military industry that was independently developed as a result of its isolation. Iran is also said to cooperate with Russia in certain industrial sectors close to the military such as drones. However, due to the latest international sanctions, Russia is less keen to continue to cooperate on military sales and technology transfers. For this reason, Russia has shown reluctance towards helping the Iranian nuclear program, although it is in favour of reaching a deal with Iran along with the international community.
A cornerstone in Russian-Iranian relations has always been their mutual distrust towards Turkey. In the age of the Ottoman Empire, relations between Persians and Russians would often consist in an alignment against the Ottoman Turks. Nowadays, their relationship also has this component, as Turkey and Iran are increasingly competing in the Middle East to decide who will lead the reconstruction of the region, whilst Russia and Turkey find themselves at odds in the Black Sea, where Russia's ambition of naval dominance is being challenged.
While it may seem that Russia and Iran should be close allies, there are a series of reasons to explain why cooperation is not likely to see a fully fledged alliance. First of all, there are far too many differences between both regimes, as they have different geopolitical imperatives and ambitions in the Caucasus and the Middle east. The second issue is Israel. As Russia moves further into the Levant, it tries to maintain good relations with Israel, Iran's archenemy, also called little Satan by Iran's first supreme leader, Ayatollah Khomeini. As the conflict in Syria dies down in the following years, Russia will be forced to choose between who to support. This is likely to mean a withdrawal of support towards Iran's position in Syria, as it sees its meddling in the region increasingly unproductive, and would favour its retreat. Iran, however, has said it is there to stay.
Russian-Iranian cooperation has recently been developed in one important country of the region: Afghanistan. As the US seems to lose interest in the Middle East and pivots towards East Asia, Russia and Iran have moved into the war-torn country, as they back different factions aiming to end the decades-long conflict. Russia has previously backed the Taliban, because it wants to ensure that they are a part of the peace negotiations. Iran has backed both the government and the Taliban, as it wants to fight the rising influence of ISIS in Afghanistan, as well as keep good relations with the Taliban to maintain a degree of stability and control over Afghanistan's west, so that the conflict does not spill over. Although Russia and Iran might have different objectives, they are united in wanting to push the US of the region.
The other geopolitical giant that is slowly encroaching on the region is the People's Republic of China, albeit with a different stance altogether. Like Russia, China has welcomed business with Iran and currently supports the nuclear deal, the JCPOA, which the US recently left. Chinese-Iranian ties are more solid than the Russian's, as they don't have as many overlapping hegemonic ambitions. In a certain way, the relations between these two countries arose as a way to contain the USSR's expansive influence during the 1970's after the Sino-Soviet split, and predate the current Iranian regime. Both countries see their relation as part of the past, as great empires of antiquity, the present, and see each other as important partners for future and ongoing projects, such as the One Road One Belt initiative. However, as does Russia, China sometimes tries to play down its support towards Iran so as not to antagonize its relations with the West and the US in particular.
The Chinese have cooperated with the Islamic Republic since its conception in the 80's, as the Iranian isolation led them towards the few markets they could access. The main theme of this cooperation has been undoubtedly based on hydrocarbons. Iran is one of the most important producers of both crude petroleum and natural gas. China is Iran's largest trade partner, as 31% of Iran's exports go to China, whose imports represent 37% of Iran's in 2017. Military cooperation between these two countries has also been very important, a large part of Iran's non-indigenous military material is of Chinese origin. The Chinese have historically been the main providers of arms to the Iranian regime, as can be seen by much of the equipment currently used by the IRGC.
Both regimes feel a certain closeness as some parts of their ideologies are similar. Both share an anti-imperialist worldview and are sceptical of Western attitudes, an attitude best perceived among their unelected leaders. They are countries that are emerging from the misery left behind by Western imperialism, according to their own narrative. Both see each other as the heirs of some of the world's oldest cultures—the Chinese often talk of 20 centuries of cooperation between both states—, and thus feel a historical, civilizational and anti-imperialist connection in this sense. Iranians admire the great leaps that the PRC has taken towards development, and the great successes they have brought to the Chinese people and State. They also value the Chinese mindset of not meddling or criticizing the internal affairs of other States, and treating them all in the same way independent of their government.
On the other hand, the Chinese are happy to work with a Muslim country that doesn't stir the restive North-Western Xinjiang region, where the majority of China's Uighur Muslims live. In fact, Iran is seen by the Chinese as an important factor on the stability of Central Asia. More recently, they also see in Iran a key part of the pharaonic One Belt One Road infrastructure project, as Iran sits in the crossroads between East and West. It is understood that Beijing has high expectations of cooperation with Tehran.
However, not all of it is positive. Iranians and Chinese have different ideological foundations. China has shown that it will not be able to form an all-fledged alliance with Iran, as it fears Western backlash. In 2010 China voted a UNSC resolution in favour of sanctions towards Iran. Even though these were largely ignored by China later, Tehran understood the message. As a result of these sanctions, the only nations willing to trade with Iran where Russia and China. The latter became an increasingly important trade partner as a consequence of the lack of Western competition and began to flood the Iranian market with low-quality goods, which was unpopular among the Iranians. Resentment toward China only grew as the Chinese firms that became established in Iran brought their own workers from China and unemployment remained at high levels despite the increased economic activity. As discontent rose, Iranians of all backgrounds saw the negotiations with the West with great expectations. If successful, negotiations could provide a diversification of providers and a counterbalance against Chinese influence.
As negotiations have broken down under the Trump administration, China's role in Iran is likely to only intensify. While the Europeans fight to save the nuclear deal, Iran is set to count on China as its main trade partner. Chinese firms, although now more vulnerable to pressure from the US than in 2010, still have strong interests in Iran, and are unlikely to leave what will be a competition-free market once most foreign firms are deterred by US sanctions. The Chinese will seek to keep the nuclear provisions of the JCPOA agreement and will cooperate in the development of the Arak Heavy Water Reactor, probably displacing the Russians, which have historically led the Iranian nuclear program. Chinese involvement in the Iranian nuclear industry will likely prevent the development of a bomb, as China does not want to encourage nuclear arms proliferation.
While China moves into South Asia, alarms go off in New Delhi. India sees itself as the dominant power in the region and its traditional enmity towards China is causing a change in its foreign policy. India's PM, Narendra Modi, is following a policy of "Neighbourhood first" in the face of a growing Chinese presence. China has already expanded its reach to countries like Sri Lanka, where it has secured the port of Hambantota for a 99-year lease. In the latest years, Pakistan, India's other arch-enemy, has become one of China's closest partners. The relation between both countries stems from their rivalry towards India, although cooperation has reached new levels. The Chinese- Pakistan Economic Corridor runs from the Chinese city of Kashgar through the entire length of the country of Pakistan and ends in the developing port of Gwadar. The project has caused a rush of much needed capital in the financially unstable Pakistan, with Chinese and Saudi bonds keeping it afloat. In the face of China's new projects and its New Silk Road, New Delhi sees itself more and more surrounded, and has accused China of scheming to isolate it.
To face China's new stance, India has taken a more active role. Its prime minister made many State visits to the neighbouring countries in a bid to weaken Chinese influence. In this effort to impose itself on what it sees as its region, India is developing a deep-sea port in the coast of Iran, past the strait of Hormuz in the Indian ocean. Iran will be an important piece in the designs of the Indian political elite.
The development of the deep-sea port of Chabahar is a joint Indian, Iranian and Afghan project to improve the connectivity of the region and has more than one reason of being. It is effectively a port to connect Central Asia, a growing 65-million people market, through a series of rail and road networks which are also part of the project, to the Indian Ocean. Another reason for this port is the development of war-torn Afghanistan, which also serves the purpose of reducing Pakistan's influence there. Pakistan holds a firm grip in Afghanistan and sees it as its back yard. Pakistan is said to harbour Taliban guerrillas, who use the country to launch attacks against Afghanistan, as it did against the USSR in the 80's. The most important feature of all for India is that the port would allow it to bypass what is an effective land blockade from Pakistan, and will permit it to reach and trade with Afghanistan. The Chabahar port will essentially compete with the Chinese-built Gwadar port in nearby Pakistan, in the two superpowers' race for influence and domination of the ocean's oil-carrying sea lanes.
India's usual approach is to keep a neutral stance around world conflicts in order to be able to talk and deal with all parties. This is part of its non-commitment policy. For example, India has relations with both Israel and Palestine, or Iran and Saudi Arabia. This means that India is very unlikely to make any serious statement in favour of Iran against the United States if Iranian-US relations were to badly break down, as it might be seen as picking sides by some countries. It does not mean, however, that it will abandon Iran. India has already invested greatly in infrastructure projects and is unlikely to simply withdraw them. Far more importantly, India is one of Iran's biggest petroleum purchasers, and losing such an important market and provider is not a choice the Indian government is eager to make.
India calls its relationship with Iran a "strategic partnership", in terms of cooperation in energy and trade activities. The Indian government is likely to take a cautious stance while acting with principles of Realpolitik. They will try to sort out sanctions if they can and will discourage this sort of activity while trying to maintain their interests in the region. As said before, New Delhi will shy away from committing strongly from any project likely to keep its hands tied.
The Syrian War
In 2011, the Middle East and North Africa region was shaken by what would soon be called the Arab Spring. While the citizens of many Arab countries where chanting pro- democratic slogans and protesting outside dictators' palaces and in the squares of Middle Eastern capitals, outside observers began to say that the once dictatorship- riddled region was about to adopt Western liberal democracy in what would become an era of freedom never paralleled in such countries. What came later could hardly be further from that reality. The region was struck by great waves civil unrest, as one by one, from West to East, the waves of revolution spread. The most authoritarian regimes attacked their own citizens with brutal repression, and what seemed like democratic transitions rapidly turned out to fall back into authoritarianism. Such was the case in Egypt, among others. However, some countries where struck harder than others. The more serious cases became civil wars. Some of the countries that had enjoyed relative long-term stability, like Libya and Syria burst into civil war. Yemen too, was struck by sectarian conflict.
The longest of these conflicts, the Syrian Civil War, is on its 8th year already. For a long time, it has drawn many international and regional actors, turning its countryside into a patchwork of pro-government militias, rebel guerrillas, Islamist extremism, transnational nationalist movements and others. The ruling class, the Al-Assad alawite family, under an authoritarian and secularist regime, has held on to power through every means possible, using foreign support as a crucial part of its survival strategy. To his side, Bashar Al-Assad has drawn the support of Vladimir Putin's Russian Federation, as well as the Islamic Republic of Iran and its Lebanese ally, Hezbollah. Each of these players has brought their own forces to the battlefield, as Russia has helped give Syria the necessary aerial capabilities it lacked, while Iran provides it with Shia militias, material, volunteers, and the presence of Hezbollah.
The regime faces many groups, who often fight against each other, and have different international backing, if any. For example, the Free Syrian Army is said to be backed by Turkey and is made from Sunni Arab and Turkmen militias. Other groups such as the Islamic State or Al Qaeda affiliated organizations also fight for survival, or to implement their ideal society. Another important group, perhaps the most important one is the YPG, or People's Protection Unit, largely a Kurdish force, which holds much of Northern Syria, the Kurdish region called Rojava. The YPG and the Syrian government of Al-Assad seem to have come to an understanding and try not to enter into hostilities amongst each other, focusing on the Islamic State, or ISIL. YPG international backing comes mainly from the US, but with President Donald Trump having said that the US will soon leave Syria, their future is uncertain.
With Bashar Al-Assad's position having become dominant in the Syrian battlefield, it is expected that the conflict will enter a new stage. Israel has shown its growing discomfort in what it sees as Iranian expansionism, and has launched aerial offensives against Iranian positions, permitted by Russia, who currently controls much of Syria's aerial defences. This might spell the loosening of Al-Assad's coalition.
As Iranian-backed forces draw closer to the southwest of Syria, Israel becomes more and more nervous. The implication of Israel in the Syrian conflict would most likely be a disaster for all parties involved. If Israel comes to point of fearing for its territorial integrity, or its existence, it has previously shown, in many occasions, that it will not doubt to take action and use all of its military might in the process if needed.
This is why Hezbollah is unlikely to make a serious move towards the Golan Heights. Hezbollah now boasts of the greatest amount of power it has ever had in its domestic scene. It is an influential actor in the Syrian War and at home it has achieved serious political power, forming a coalition with various other Shia and Christian groups. A war with Israel, in which it was identified as the aggressor, would be disastrous to its image as a protector of the Lebanese, as it has always taken a stance of resistance. It would put all of Hezbollah's political achievements in jeopardy. Whatever the case, Israel boasts of significantly more modern and powerful armed forces, which would force Hezbollah to be on the defensive, thus making an offensive into Israel extremely unlikely. Hezbollah must then try to restrain Iran, although, amongst the myriad of Iranian-backed militias, it has lost leverage in its relations with Iran and the IRGC.
For Bashar Al-Assad, war with Israel might prove an existential threat, as it bears the potential to cause a great deal of damage in Syria, undermining any effort to consolidate power and end the war in his favour. If war with Israel broke out, even if it was just against Iranian-backed objectives, Al-Assad would never be able to obtain the reconstruction funds it so badly needs to rebuild the country. Israel's powerful and advanced army would, without a doubt, pose the patchwork of battle-hardened militias a very big challenge. Thus, it is very unlikely for Al-Assad to permit a war might cause his downfall.
Russia, wishing to end the war and keep its military instructions and prestige in the process, would no doubt discourage any sort of posturing against Israel from its allies in Syria. Moscow seeks to maintain good relations with Israel and wouldn't be very upset about an Iranian exit. It is already trying to prevent Iran and Hezbollah from coming too close to the Israeli and Jordanian borders and has opened the Syrian airspace to Israeli aerial attacks towards Iranian targets located in its vicinity. Russia would welcome a quick and impressive end to the war to consolidate its status as a global power and become a power broker in the region.
Reaching a deal with the US to end hostilities in exchange for the recognition of Al-Assad is not outside the realms of possibility, as chances of regime change get slimmer, the US will be forced to recognize that Al-Assad is there to stay. It is necessary to acknowledge that a Russian-US deal will be incomplete, and quite unfruitful. The US is very likely to demand that Iran leave Syria and stops occupying Iraq with is Quds Force. Russia does not possess the leverage to send Iran back home. It would also be unfavourable for Russia as it has chosen to help Assad to regain its status as a great power in the world and has become a major power broker in the Middle East. This means their position relies on their status, which would be compromised, were Iran to openly confront Russia. The Iranians have already said that they would not leave unless Bashar Al-Assad specifically asked them to. Russia could pressure on Al-Assad, but the Iranians are likely to have more leverage, as they have a larger ground force in the region, and where the first to help the Syrian regime.
If the US wants to achieve any sort of meaningful peace negotiations, it must come into dialogue with the Iranians. Any sort of negotiation that does not include Iran would be pointless, as the amount of influence it has acquired in the region these last years makes it a key player. Iran is determined to stay in Syria and the IRGC is committed to force the government to keep its presence abroad.
In any case, the retreat of US troops in Syria would mark a turning point in the war. Currently the US provides air support, has 2,000 ground troops and provides an vital amount of equipment to the YPG Kurdish forces. Its retreat would be a blow to American credibility as an international ally, as it abandons the Kurds in a decisive moment where all tables could turn against them. Turkey has committed forces towards fighting the Kurds, which it sees as a threat to its national integrity, as large numbers of Kurds live inside Turkey and are hostile to it. The main reason for Turkish entry into the Syrian war was to stop the YPG from uniting a long stretch of land along the Turkish
border towards the Mediterranean Sea and to prevent the establishment of a Kurdish state. It is therefore a possibility that, whether through its Syrian proxies, or with its own army, the Turks will ally with Al-Assad against the Kurds, if these two don't reach an agreement and begin hostilities. This alliance is more than likely, as Turkish animosity towards Kurdish forces will cause them to jump at the occasion, if Al-Assad asks for help. Al-Assad might seek in this way to balance Iranian influence by integrating another player, which would cause tensions between Iran and Turkey to rise, as both countries aspire to obtain regional hegemony, and would give Syria more margin to manoeuvre.
Saudi Arabian soldier from the First Airborne Brigade with a UAE soldier, 2016 [Saudi88hawk-Wikipedia]
The struggle for dominance in the region is expected to continue indeterminately. As long as the ideological argument between the Islamic Republic and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) exists, it will take geopolitical dimensions, as both states seek to ensure their legitimacy in the face of the other. The Iran-Iraq War shaped the Islamic Republic's sense of geopolitical isolation, giving the more entrenched sectors of its political elite a fierce will to prevent any further isolation as was done in the past. Chemical weapons, often provided by the US were used against it, without any action taken from the international community. Therefore, the Iranian elites believe that Iran will have to stand by itself, and knows it will have few allies.
For the moment, Iran seems to be winning the confrontation. With a the possibility of a consolidated Syria, Iran's influence would be unparalleled. Iraq, Syria, Lebanon will provide Iran the reach and the potential to expand its influence even in the Mediterranean Sea. The war in Yemen is proving as costly as it is ineffective to Saudi Arabia and its allies, with a minimum cost from Iran. It can be expected that Iran keeps its strong grip over these countries, as its presence has become necessary for the survival of some of these states. It will not be without difficulty, as local forces are likely to reject the imposition of Iranian authority. This has been shown before in the burning of the Iranian consulate in Basra , by local Sunni Arabs who resent the degree of influence its neighbour has in their country. The recently struck commercial deals with Iraq during Rouhani's visit to the country might cause more Iraqis to take a more confrontational stance, as they are seen to benefit Iran more than Iraq. Both counties have pledged to increase their trade up to 20 billion dollars, but it will be hard to determine how they will affect Iraq. With this degree of Iranian involvement, the KSA's influence diminishes.
The Yemeni war is likely to drag on for years, and if the Saudis are to win, the shall have to keep paying a high toll, which will require strong political will to overcome the adversities. The expense of this war is not only material, it has primarily taken a great diplomatic cost, as it loses credibility to its allies, like the US, which see the ineffectiveness of the Saudi military. At home, their western allies struggle to explain their partnership with a country that has proven too much to handle for certain political groups and the civil society in general, with its lack of human rights considerations and sharia-based laws that seem outdated to Westerners. The cruel Yemeni war further alienates the Saudi Kingdom from them.
The conflict for Middle Eastern hegemony might be about to attract a new player. As Pakistan tries to deal with its ongoing crisis, its new president, Imran Khan, has looked to the Gulf States for funding. The Saudis and the UAE have already pledged many billion dollars. For now, the economic woes make Pakistan an unlikely actor, but there is evidence of a change of direction in Islamabad, as Khan seems to part ways from his predecessor's foreign policy regarding its western neighbour. Cooperation with Iran has significantly been reduced, especially in terms of security and anti-terrorism, as in March 2019 Baluchi ethno-nationalists once again attacked Iranian positions from the Pakistani border. Tehran seems alarmed by these developments and has explicitly warned Pakistan that an approach towards Saudi Arabia and participation in the so called Middle Eastern Cold War will have severe consequences for Pakistan. It is right in fearing Pakistan, which has shown that it can play the same game as Iran, making use of foreign militias and having an impressive intelligence service, on top of the nuclear bomb. If Iran where to cause conflict in Pakistan, it might find itself in severe disadvantage, as it would be harder to use subversive activities in the predominantly Sunni country. It might also come to odds with China, who will view any menace to its infrastructure projects with great suspicion. Iran would have difficult time finding a serious counterbalance to Pakistan in India, as India would decline to strike a serious alliance due to its many interests in the Gulf States.
Iran, however, still holds many cards it can use if the conflict were to escalate. Bahrain, whose predominantly Shia population contrast to its powerful Sunni ruling family, which will find itself fighting to maintain control in the case of an Iranian- backed coup similar to the one in 1981, or a pro-democracy uprising with significant Shia elements such as the one of 2011. For the latter, had the Gulf states not intervened in Bahrain in support of its ruling family, Bahrain would now likely be part of the Iranian regional system, which would be extremely troublesome for the KSA, given its proximity. It can also be expected for Iran to influence the oppressed Shia Arabs along Saudi Arabia's Persian Gulf coast. These Shia Arabs lie just above most of KSA's petrol wells and reserves, and if stirred to open rebellion, and properly armed, would cause immense trouble in the Monarchy.
The other option open to Iran will be to exploit the current Gulf crisis between the KSA and UAE against Qatar, whose blockade has lasted almost two years. Iran will seek to build up stronger ties with Qatar, who has found itself isolated by most Arab nations. Currently, Turkey is the key ally to Qatar in the crisis, and their partnership is seen to have strategic importance by both parties.
Qatar has traditionally had better ties to Iran than most other Gulf states, also due to the fact that they share the South-Pars/North Dome natural gas field, the largest in the world, and rely on cooperation to exploit its resources and wealth. This is largely a product of its independent foreign policy. This means that Iran is likely to use the crisis to drive a wedge between the members of the GCC and take advantage of their disunity in favour of Qatar and in detriment to the KSA. It will be difficult for the Iranians and the Qataris form a significant partnership, since there are still too many obstacles to this. First of all, Qatar is a Sunni Arab state, and it is the main exporter of the Muslim Brotherhood's ideas, which would not fit Iran's tendency toward Shia countries. Secondly, a partnership with Iran would make the Gulf Cooperation Council's crisis permanently irreparable, which is not desired by Qatar. Finally, this would turn Qatar into the main objective of the Saudi-led coalition and would unnecessarily put it in harm's way.
One key factor could change everything in a highly unlikely scenario, also known as a 'black swan'. This is the disappearance of ISIS from the Levant, and its relocation to Khorasan, a term used for Central Asia, Northern Iran and Afghanistan. This would change the balance of power in the middle East as it would bring conflict to the very borders of Iran. It would allow for Iran's enemies to arm this extremely anti-Shia group, following a parallel of the Yemen's Houthi rebels for Saudi Arabia. These rebels are banking on the opportunity that, following peace in Afghanistan with the Taliban, the Taliban's followers will become disenchanted by its leadership dealings with the US and would thus join the newly founded group. They would acquire the battle-hardened Taliban troops, which would provide a formidable foe for Iran.