Geopolitics

Abraham Accords Unleashed: The Middle East Will Never Be The Same

The peace accords signed between conservative Arab states and Israel are the start of an inevitable opening for the Middle East, and the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan means a new post-American, post-oil future.

-Editorial-

BOGOTÁ — Days ago, passing through the Ben Gurion airport outside Tel Aviv, I could see prominent signs announcing direct flights between Israel and Casablanca in Morocco, and with Dubai and Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates, Manama the capital of Bahrain, and Cairo. These were in addition to the dozen daily flights linking Tel Aviv and Istanbul, which have been operating for some years.

And to think on top of that, we now see the opening of Saudi airspace to flights to Israel, which would have been unthinkable just a few years back.

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Coronavirus ~ Global Brief: Will Africa Be Spared?

For the coming weeks, Worldcrunch will be delivering daily updates on the coronavirus global pandemic. The rapid and insidious path of COVID-19 across the planet teaches us in a whole new way how small the world has become. Our network of multilingual journalists are busy finding out what's being reported locally — everywhere — to provide as clear a picture as possible of what it means for all of us at home, around the world.

SPOTLIGHT: WILL AFRICA BE SPARED?

Nationwide curfews across Europe, the White House preparing a $1 trillion relief package, Saudi officials banning pilgrimages to Mecca. As the number of people infected by COVID-19 keeps rising — and spreading — the world has turned upside down. That would also seem true when we look at how the global crisis is playing out in Africa, where reported cases are still in the low hundreds across the entire continent. Since the first infection was detected on February 27, in an Italian man traveling through Nigeria, there are still no signs of a serious outbreak in certain countries that have battled in recent years with endemic diseases such as ebola, malaria and tuberculosis. Experts are scratching their heads: Are the low infection statistics a matter of climate, lack of testing, luck, or other factors that set Africa apart from other parts of the world?

While it's too early to say how the COVID-19 reacts to warmer weather, tropical countries aren't immune to virus seasonality, with flu peaking in the dry season in many African countries. Rather, most bets have so far been put on its lower travel exposure. This might seem puzzling at first, particularly as the virus originated in China, which has become Africa's biggest trade partner, with over 10,000 Chinese-owned firms sprinkled across the continent. Still, there are relatively few Chinese posted on the continent for work, compared to those who travel, for example, to Europe for business and pleasure, estimated to be ten times the number who go to Africa.

Pessimists, however, fear that Africa is a ticking coronavirus time bomb. After all, if advanced French and Italian healthcare systems are overwhelmed, how will African countries — with scarce intensive-care beds and low-testing capacity — manage to contain the virus when it eventually starts to spread? On Wednesday, Le Monde reported the first death in sub-Saharan Africa, a 62-year-old woman in Burkina Faso. Fears are not unfounded, but Africa also has a few things going for it: the median age is under 20, which will likely reduce the mortality rate among those infected, and the continent has plenty of hard-earned experience in fighting endemic diseases — an important resource, as proven by the sleepy response of many Western leaders. But for now, we can only hope the world doesn't turn again.​

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Gauging Saudi Stakes On Pakistan And India

NEW DELHI — Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman's visits to India and Pakistan in the immediate aftermath of a deadly suicide attack on Indian security personnel in Kashmir have been a test of Riyadh's policy to keep its relations with the two neighbors in strictly separate silos.

As Mohammed bin Salman"s statements in Pakistan gained wide coverage, his comments on terrorism in the Indian capital were minutely parsed. His travel itinerary for Asia had been decided months ahead but finally took place under the shadow of the car bomb attack on a Central Reserve Police Force convoy which left over 40 dead on February 14th.

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Khashoggi Murder And The Miscalculations Of MBS And Trump

For Westerners, particularly the United States, Mohammed bin Salman had represented the hope of a kingdom finally prepared to open to the world. The murder of Jamal Khashoggi demonstrates the contrary. Donald Trump will not escape this unscathed.

RIYADH — Values or interests, ethics or realpolitik? The murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi by a Saudi commando is the perfect illustration of the dilemma that's at the heart of any reflection on international politics.

Not only is Saudi Arabia a country that the Western world sells arms to and buys oil from — it is also a key to the regional balance of power in the face of Iran. It is also a crucial element for anyone concerned about the evolution of Islam in the world. It is a country that looked to finally be on the path of reform.

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Geopolitics
Karl-Heinz Büschemann

Companies (And Governments) Must Take A Stand On Saudi Arabia

-OpEd-

MUNICH — A business conference will take place next week in Saudi Arabia, dubbed "Davos in the Desert." It comes at a delicate moment to say the least: Nearly two weeks ago, the dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi disappeared from a Saudi consulate in Turkey, and is now feared dead. Many have accused the regime in Riyadh of having a role in his death.

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Saudi Arabia
Laurent Horvath

Saudi Arabia, If Oil Becomes A Curse

-Analysis-

The unlikely rapprochement between the U.S., Israel and Saudi Arabia, orchestrated by Donald Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner, seems to be a response to the rise of the Iran-Russia coalition. In this game of chess, the American decision to choose Jerusalem as the Israeli capital offers an interesting opening.

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Saudi Arabia
Georges Malbrunot

MBS And Millennials, Inside Saudi Prince's Youth Strategy

RIYADH — In the span of a few months, Hind al-Zahid's life has changed for the better. "My dream turned into reality," the 38-year-old Saudi says. She's become the first woman to enter the board of directors of one of the kingdom's airports, in the eastern city of Damman. And soon, like millions of other women, this mother of two, wearing a thin layer of makeup under her embroidered black veil will be allowed to drive a car.

"This means being able to go to work alone, driving the children to school alone, going out with them alone," she says. "It necessarily implies a strengthening of women's role in society."

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Saudi Arabia
Meghan L. O'Sullivan

Why Saudis Swapped Crown Prince: It's The Economy, Stupid

The latest big news out of the Middle East is that Saudi Arabian King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud has ousted the crown prince and installed his 31-year-old son, Mohammed bin Salman, in that position. While the world waits to see more of the reaction from Saudis and others in the region, a few quick thoughts come to my mind.

First, the news feels stunning because of its significance; if MbS (as the new crown prince is known) becomes king, he will be the first monarch who is not a son of King Abdulaziz al Saud, the founder of Saudi Arabia.

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Saudi Arabia
David Fickling

How Will Gulf Crisis Play Out? Watch Asia's Energy Markets

Forget the Strait of Hormuz.

The real place to watch the simmering diplomatic battle between Saudi Arabia and Qatar is 5,500 kilometers to the southeast, in the Strait of Malacca between Malaysia and Indonesia. That's because the petroleum market's center of gravity, along with that of the global economy, is in Asia these days. As recently as the 2003 Iraq War, the U.S. and Europe accounted for more than half of the world's oil imports. The share has now fallen to barely more than one-third, as imports by the north Atlantic countries have stood still while those by China, India, South Korea and the Philippines have surged.

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blog

Bloody Ramadan, China Floods, Final Hu

SPOTLIGHT: A DEADLY END TO A DEADLY RAMADAN

The latest terror news bulletin flashed from one of Islam's holiest sites, the Prophet Muhammad's mosque in the city of Medina. Two days before the end of the holy month of Ramadan, the mosque was struck yesterday by a suicide bomber, killing four security guards and wounding five others. The deadly bombing appeared linked to a series of attacks in Saudi Arabia yesterday, though strikes in the city of Jeddah and Qatif left no casualties.


This series of attacks on the symbolic Saudi territory, just before the Eid al-Fitr holiday, comes at the end of a bloody Ramadan — which is just what the terror group ISIS called for in late May. It is also a reminder that the majority of ISIS" victims are Muslim. The following list is just a portion of those launched in the past month:

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Geopolitics
Hannes Munzinger and Frederik Obermaier

Why Omnipotent Middle East Royalty Hid Oil Wealth In Panama

-Analysis-

RIYADH — The Panama Papers may be the largest data leak regarding offshore companies, but it is not the first. Offshore Leaks and Swiss Leaks were the first in this case. The nature of these revelations was, of course, different. Yet they all have had one common denominator: namely that numerous members of Middle Eastern royal families were mentioned in the previously secret data. Despite the fact that these royal families are not only immensely wealthy, virtually omnipotent and exempted from paying taxes, they are, nonetheless, among the most loyal customers of the industry of offshore accounts. But why?

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Geopolitics
Dominique Moïsi

The Crucial American Role In Calming Saudi-Iran Turmoil

-Op-Ed-

PARIS — In the 1970s, in the aftermath of Richard Nixon's visit to China, commentators talked about the Washington-Moscow-Beijing triangle. These days, in the Middle East, there is another triangle: between Riyadh, Tehran and Washington. The problem for the region's stability is that this triangle is absolutely dysfunctional. Indeed, the only way to understand the dangerous escalation between Saudi Arabia and Iran is to highlight the role — or rather, in this case — the relative timidity of the United States.

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Geopolitics
Fehim TaÅŸtekin

The "Gray ISIS" — What Drives Saudi Obsession With Shia Expansion

-Analysis-

ISTANBUL — Saudi Arabia silenced Ayatollah al-Nimr by executing him. He was an open critic of the Saudi royal dynasty and the cruelty against the Shia, while a longtime advocate for democratic elections. The Saudis lumped Nimr in with 46 al-Qaeda members who were charged with terrorism in order to ruin his reputation.

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Geopolitics
Fehim Tastekin

Twisted Saudi Humor: When A Terror Sponsor Vows To Fight Terrorists

Saudi Arabia, long a direct and indirect financier of religious fanatics, has declared war on Islamist extremism! It has 34 countries on board, some of which aren't even aware that they've joined. The punchline? It's not really abo

RIYADH Saudi Arabia has declared the creation of an Islamic front against terrorism, along with 33 other countries. Defense Minister Prince Muhammad bin Selman, who made the announcement, said the coalition will be called the Islamic Alliance Against Terror, and it fight not only ISIS but also other terror groups. The Riyadh-based coalition will provide intelligence, training and coordination support, and will first target Iraq, Syria, Libya, Egypt and Afghanistan.

Praise be!

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blog

Saudi King Orders Investigation Into Hajj Stampede

Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud ordered a swift investigation, as well as a safety review, after Thursday's stampede at the Hajj pilgrimage site of Mina which left at least 717 people dead and 863 hurt.

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