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HomeBlogClimate and Water Security: Opportunities for Diplomacy and Cooperation in the Middle East

Climate and Water Security: Opportunities for Diplomacy and Cooperation in the Middle East

“Swimming is prohibited, danger of drowning”: written on the billboard near Hajiabad Dam located at South of Khuzestan Province bordered with Iraq. Image credit: Mojtaba Gorgi, Feb 2017, IRNA

By Dr. Mohammed Mahmoud

This article is published as part of IPD’s project and policy paper series, Deconstructing the Changing Middle East Security Architecture.

Abstract

The Middle East and North Africa region experiences water scarcity largely due to a hotter and drier climate that produces low annual rainfall with limited existing surface water and groundwater supplies. The arid climate has inflated water use to meet drinking water needs, cooling requirements, and agricultural food production in the region. Climate change has posed the greatest threat to water security, with current and projected amplifications in drought, extreme heat, extreme weather events, flooding, and sea level rise increasing the risk of constraining water availability further. There is much potential to improve the current water management policies and practices in the region to better meet the scale of the water security challenges caused by climate change. Improving transboundary water relations to mitigate disputes and conflicts, reducing over-reliance on rapidly depleting groundwater supplies, and ramping up regional efforts to adapt to the water-related impacts of climate change are important steps toward enhancing water security for the region. Several detailed actions are recommended to materialize these steps: 1) incentivizing cooperation in transboundary watersheds to develop climate-resilient water-sharing agreements, 2) development of more water augmentation and water conservation projects, and 3) better leveraging of existing funding mechanisms to pursue more water-centric climate adaptation initiatives.

Background

When it comes to water resources, the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region is naturally water-scarce due to its predominant warm desert climate. Surface water systems in the region are few with the two prime examples being the Nile River Basin and the Tigris-Euphrates River System. Both of these major surface watersheds rely on precipitation at their headwaters to produce the streamflow that sustains those rivers. In both river systems, the headwaters are in higher elevations (the Ethiopian highlands for the Nile River and the mountains of Eastern Turkey for the Tigris-Euphrates Rivers) – meaning that precipitation in those areas accumulates as snowpack before contributing water to the river as snowmelt.

The average annual rainfall across the region is well below the global average (approximately 1,000 mm per year). According to the most recent annual data (2017) from the World Bank[1], the average annual rainfall for each country in the MENA ranges from as low as 18 mm per year (Egypt) to as high as 661 mm per year (Lebanon). In fact, for that same year of data, the bottom 11 countries in the world, in terms of the lowest annual average rainfall, are from the MENA region.

While low annual precipitation in MENA directly affects the volume of water generated from the headwaters of the region’s surface water systems, reduced rainfall also has an impact on groundwater resources. Groundwater aquifers in the region can be considered non-renewable because of the constrained volume of water they hold and their limited capacity to be naturally recharged as a result of the low rates of annual precipitation. In countries with no access to surface water supplies, groundwater is the primary natural water supply source, which can accelerate the potential depletion of that water resource in those nations.

The region’s natural aridity also amplifies the water demand for supporting human consumption needs. Beyond the basic need for drinking water to sustain human populations, water is also utilized for industrial and agricultural purposes. When considering MENA’s hotter climate, water (along with energy) are critical resources used to provide adequate residential and commercial cooling (e.g. through air conditioning) for local populations to be able to inhabit the region. When it comes to sustaining local populations, food security is intrinsically linked with water security. It is important to note that, on average globally, 70% of freshwater (including from surface water and groundwater sources) is used for agricultural purposes.[2] The use of agricultural water in MENA is higher than in other regions (80% of average water use[3]) as the warmer climate increases irrigation requirements due to greater evapotranspiration rates.

The Amplifying Effect of Climate Change

MENA, like other regions, is presently facing multiple threats, undermining its water and food security as a result of climate change. Following a record-breaking summer in 2021 where multiple countries and major cities in the region hit annual record-breaking temperatures (including Doha, Khartoum, and Aqaba), 2022’s summer season proved to be equally torrid – with excessive heatwaves, afflicting Europe, the Middle East, and the rest of Asia.[4]

In addition to extreme heat, the region has also undergone varying degrees of extreme weather. Severe tropical cyclones continue to make landfall in and around the Arabian Peninsula to devastating effect, as evidenced by the death and destruction brought about by Cyclone Shaheen in Oman in 2021.[5] While less severe than tropical cyclones, other forms of extreme weather like short-duration and intense thunderstorms may cause flooding and serious damage to infrastructures and human lives.

In recent years, the Nile River Basin has experienced frequent flooding occurrences in Sudan and the monsoon season of 2022 produced heavy rains that have submerged large parts of Pakistan under flood waters[6]. Extreme weather in the region can also manifest due to prolonged and sustained drought. Besides diminishing the region’s already stressed water supplies, drought has the added effect of increasing land surface aridity as well. This enhanced dryness in the topmost layer of the soil has been a major contributing factor to the increase in dust storm events across the region. The summer of 2022 clearly displayed this dire reality with the abnormally high number of dust storms that occurred in Iran, the Arabian Peninsula, Iraq, and Syria.[7]

Climate projections indicate that such environmental conditions will only get worse in the future if countries continue with their current inadequate actions to address the main driver of climate change – increased global warming attributed to higher rates of carbon emissions into the atmosphere. Extreme temperatures up to 56 degrees Celsius could potentially be the new normal in MENA moving forward. Countries like Algeria, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia may experience summer temperatures 8 degrees Celsius warmer than they are today by the end of the century. Moreover, wet and dry weather events are also expected to be more extreme, leading to more severe droughts and floods associated with those events. For example, North African countries along the Mediterranean could witness up to a 20% decrease in rainfall, while the southern Arabian Peninsula could experience up to 50% more rain (under a future projection of 2 degrees Celsius increase in global average temperature).[8]

Last but not least, the rise of sea level is also another consequence of climate change as it encroaches on critical water infrastructure (e.g. desalination and water treatment plants), agricultural lands, and cities. In fact, the coastal parts of North Africa and the Arabian Peninsula may go through significant coastal erosion as a result of sea level rise. What is most alarming for the region is that the cumulative effect of greenhouse gas emissions, based on their current accumulation and future projections, indicates that global sea levels will continue to rise for centuries.[9]

Shortcomings of the Current Status Quo

With these various challenges to water security in MENA posed by climate change, current policies and approaches to enhancing the reliability of the region’s water supplies seem insufficient. While the conflicts over sharing water resources within transboundary watersheds have long persisted in the region, there has been a recent hike in the number of disputes over water-sharing across the MENA because of the added implications of climate change.

For instance, Ethiopia’s construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance dam in the Nile River Basin has raised the ire of downstream Egypt as the scale of that dam’s storage threatens the uninterrupted availability of the required water supply for Egypt. Furthermore, the frequency and intensity of flooding events have also increased in the Nile River, with Sudan suffering the most damage when they occur. Climate change has had negative impacts on the Tigris-Euphrates River System as well. Severe drought in that river system has raised the level of disagreements amongst riparians with accusations of Turkey storing more river water in its reservoirs than it should, much to the chagrin of downstream nations like Iraq and Syria.

A commonality between these two surface water systems is a key issue that has exacerbated all other water management challenges. The real gap is that both of these river systems do not have intra-basin agreements that strongly bind the riparian nations into a cooperative and conjunctive management mechanism for sharing the waters of those rivers. For the Nile River Basin, the original agreements were drafted during a period of colonialism, excluding all other riparian nations with the exception of Egypt and Sudan.

In the case of the Tigris-Euphrates River System, decades of disagreements have only led to recent political agreements that ultimately were not adhered to due to a lack of sufficient technical nuance associated with them that is needed for their implementation. Furthermore, in times of extreme drought when there is insufficient supply to satisfy all the water needs of the riparian countries, as is the case currently, the lack of cooperative water sharing deteriorates transboundary water collaboration into a competitive zero-sum game between upstream and downstream water users. In effect, a situation where upstream nations at the river’s headwaters will likely hoard more water at the expense of downstream nations.

In addition, groundwater supplies are at high risk of depletion due to an overreliance on them, particularly in areas absent any other water resources (e.g. from surface water systems or coastal desalination). The potential depletion of groundwater supplies is further expedited as there is a lack of sufficient natural (from rainfall) or artificial recharge to those groundwater aquifers – creating a state of overdraft, where groundwater pumping greatly exceeds groundwater recharge. On top of that, increased water demands in the region (for cooling, human consumption, and agricultural production) have stressed all sources of water, but none more so than non-renewable groundwater supplies.

Overall, the region has been ill-prepared to handle the intensified impact of climate change on the reliability of local water supplies. While a number of initiatives have recently been developed to directly deal with climate change in the region through climate mitigation (reduction of carbon emissions) or climate adaptation (adapting to the effects of climate change), they are not aggressive or expansive enough to manage the current scope of the climate crisis. In fact, because the response to these extreme climate implications has been delayed, many initiatives to deal with the climate crisis are still very much in conceptual stages – requiring a longer time and more investment to bring them into operation. These types of initiatives are fundamentally necessary to protect the region’s water supplies from further depletion and decline. Examples of these types of initiatives that are still in their early stages include Jordan and Israel’s solar energy for water exchange deal[10] and the Middle East Green Initiative[11].

Opportunities for Improved Water Security

Given the current status quo of how MENA is handling its water scarcity along with the compounding effect of climate change on the region’s water resources, there are plenty of opportunities to improve water security through cooperative actions, amongst the countries of the region and between the region and the Global North.

The international community can certainly play a supporting role in helping resolve some of the active transboundary water disputes across the region. Improving intra-basin water management begins by building better collaborative relationships between upstream and downstream riparian nations. One step towards that goal is for the international community to support and incentivize riparian nations in both the Nile River Basin and the Tigris-Euphrates System to build new cooperation and water-sharing agreements. This can help recognize the current status quo (e.g. the presence of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam in the Nile River Basin and how drought has diminished annual river flow in the Tigris and Euphrates) while also ensuring fair and equitable water rights for each riparian nation.

Another approach for boosting regional water security is to expand investments in water resources projects that help increase the reliability of existing water supplies, particularly in consideration of the implications that climate change imposes on local water supply. These water development schemes can include water augmentation projects that incorporate new water supplies to supplement surface and groundwater sources, such as additional desalination capacity for coastal nations in MENA or expanded rainfall enhancement through cloud seeding programs[12].

Other water development projects can target water conservation applications, of which the opportunities are numerous. Water efficiency projects can reduce water loss in a number of areas: reducing seeping by upgrading older water conveyance infrastructure like water pipe networks and water canals, using less water-intensive approaches in the agricultural sector (e.g. drip irrigation instead of flood irrigation), and expanding water reuse and recycling by treating wastewater not just to non-potable water standards, but to safe drinking water standards – thus maximizing utilization for residential water demand. Water augmentation and conservation can also be used in tandem to protect groundwater supplies from overdraft. Water generated from augmentation projects (such as desalination and cloud seeding) can be used to recharge groundwater aquifers to achieve safe yield.

Funding for water resources development projects in the region is an area where more developed nations outside MENA can provide support. Since water augmentation and conservation projects can be considered climate adaptation initiatives, one potential funding source for these types of projects is the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change’s Green Climate Fund (GCF).[13] The GCF was established to assist developing nations in implementing climate adaptation and mitigation strategies and is primarily funded by more developed nations. Many countries in MENA are currently benefiting from the GCF to implement climate mitigation and adaptation projects. The fund can continue to be leveraged to support water security projects in the region as a form of climate adaptation with the continued influx of financial resources into the GCF from countries in the Global North.

Policy Recommendations

Based on the opportunities discussed for cooperation and collaboration regarding enhanced water security in MENA, several policy actions can be recommended:

• Incentivize nations in the region that share transboundary surface water systems to collaborate on developing equitable water-sharing agreements that consider the effects of climate change (incentives for cooperation can come from international pressure for diplomacy and/or financing for development projects).

• Pursue water development projects in the region to implement more water augmentation and water conservation initiatives in order to maximize the usage of available local water supplies, despite the implications of climate change on those water resources.

• Expand funding mechanisms and sources from more developed nations to support developing nations in the MENA region for the implementation of climate adaptation projects that enhance regional water security.

Conclusion

Even though the MENA region is naturally prone to water scarcity, recent effects of climate change have made managing and relying on the region’s water supplies even more difficult. Just within the last few years, the region has suffered the worst of these impacts globally – torrid heatwaves broke temperature records in multiple countries, drought conditions have declined the flow of surface river systems to new lows; prompting renewed conflict and disputes between riparian nations, and extreme weather events have yielded damaging cyclones and flooding. However, even with the current status quo of numerous and continuous climate challenges coupled with inadequate means for climate response and adaptation, there are still opportunities for countries within the region (and beyond) to utilize cooperative solutions to strengthen regional climate resilience and water security. Improving transboundary riparian relations in surface water systems through diplomacy and cooperation can be the first and critical step towards better and equitable water-sharing agreements that consider the current status quo of river conditions and climate change. International funding mechanisms like the GCF can provide the financial support needed to implement climate adaptation projects that address water security in the region, such as water augmentation and water conservation applications. The outlook of maintaining regional water security in the future seems challenging, especially if the projected impacts of climate change proceed unimpeded. But there are still pathways to adaptive action that can limit such impacts if those actions are taken in the near term, without delay.

About the Author

Dr. Mohammed Mahmoud is the Director of the Climate and Water Program and a Senior Fellow at the Middle East Institute. His areas of expertise include climate change adaptation, water policy analysis, and scenario planning.


Endnotes

[1] Average precipitation in depth (mm per year), World Bank Data Bank, https://data.worldbank.org/

[2] Water in Agriculture, World Bank, https://www.worldbank.org/en/topic/water-in-agriculture

[3] Running Dry: the impact of water scarcity on children in the Middle East and North Africa, UNICEF, https://www.unicef.org/mena/reports/running-dry-impact-water-scarcity-children

[4] The implications of this summer’s scorching heatwaves, Middle East Institute, https://www.mei.edu/publications/implications-summers-scorching-heatwaves

[5] Cyclone Shaheen: A reminder of the Arabian Peninsula’s vulnerability to extreme weather events, Middle East Institute, https://www.mei.edu/publications/cyclone-shaheen-reminder-arabian-peninsulas-vulnerability-extreme-weather-events

[6] Pakistan and Afghanistan at the mercy of an extraordinary summer monsoon season, Middle East Institute, https://www.mei.edu/blog/monday-briefing-how-complex-middle-east-landscape-affects-possible-iran-deal#mahmoud

[7] Dust storm season in the Arabian Peninsula starts early and aggressively in Iraq, Middle East Institute, https://www.mei.edu/blog/monday-briefing-four-key-dynamics-watch-lebanon-heads-polls#mahmoud

[8] Middle East & North Africa Climate Roadmap (2021-2025), World Bank, https://www.worldbank.org/en/region/mena/publication/middle-east-north-africa-climate-roadmap

[9] Sixth Assessment Report on the Physical Science Basis of Climate Change, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), https://www.ipcc.ch/report/ar6/wg1/

[10] Exploring the feasibility of the Jordan-Israel energy and water deal, Middle East Institute, https://www.mei.edu/publications/exploring-feasibility-jordan-israel-energy-and-water-deal

[11] The Middle East Green Initiative, Saudi Green Initiative, https://www.saudigreeninitiative.org/about-middle-east-green-initiative/

[12] The UAE has a robust cloud seeding program operated by the UAE Research Program for Rain Enhancement Science: https://www.uaerep.ae/

[13] Green Climate Fund, https://www.greenclimate.fund/

Panel 4: Pathways to Manage Non-Proliferation in the Middle East (4:30 PM - 5:45 PM ET)

The Western powers have failed to effectively manage the increasing threat of proliferation in the Middle East. While the international community is concerned with Iran’s nuclear program, Saudi Arabia has moved forward with developing its own nuclear program, and independent studies show that Israel has longed possessed dozens of nuclear warheads. The former is a member of the treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), while the latter has refused to sign the international agreement. 

On Middle East policy, the Biden campaign had staunchly criticized the Trump administration’s unilateral withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), more commonly known as the Iran Nuclear Deal and it has begun re-engaging Iran on the nuclear dossier since assuming office in January 2021. However, serious obstacles remain for responsible actors in expanding non-proliferation efforts toward a nuclear-free zone in the Middle East. 

This panel will discuss how Western powers and multilateral institutions, such as the IAEA, can play a more effective role in managing non-proliferation efforts in the Middle East.  

Panelists:

Peggy Mason: Canada’s former Ambassador to the UN for Disarmament

Mark Fitzpatrick: Associate Fellow & Former Executive Director, International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS)

Ali Vaez: Iran Project Director, International Crisis Group

Negar Mortazavi: Journalist and Political Analyst, Host of Iran Podcast

David Albright: Founder and President of the Institute for Science and International Security

 

Closing (5:45 PM – 6:00 PM ET)

Panel 3: Trade and Business Diplomacy in the Middle East (3:00 PM - 4:15 PM ET)

What is the current economic landscape in the Middle East? While global foreign direct investment is expected to fall drastically in the post-COVID era, the World Bank reported a 5% contraction in the economic output of the Middle East and North African (MENA) countries in 2020 due to the pandemic. While oil prices are expected to rebound with normalization in demand, political instability, regional and geopolitical tensions, domestic corruption, and a volatile regulatory and legal environment all threaten economic recovery in the Middle East. What is the prospect for economic growth and development in the region post-pandemic, and how could MENA nations promote sustainable growth and regional trade moving forward?

At the same time, Middle Eastern diaspora communities have become financially successful and can help promote trade between North America and the region. In this respect, the diaspora can become vital intermediaries for advancing U.S. and Canada’s business interests abroad. Promoting business diplomacy can both benefit the MENA region and be an effective and positive way to advance engagement and achieve foreign policy goals of the North Atlantic.

This panel will investigate the trade and investment opportunities in the Middle East, discuss how facilitating economic engagement with the region can benefit Canadian and American national interests, and explore relevant policy prescriptions.

Panelists:

Hon. Sergio Marchi: Canada’s Former Minister of International Trade

Scott Jolliffe: Chairperson, Canada Arab Business Council

Esfandyar Batmanghelidj: Founder and Publisher of Bourse & Bazaar

Nizar Ghanem: Director of Research and Co-founder at Triangle

Nicki Siamaki: Researcher at Control Risks

Panel 2: Arms Race and Terrorism in the Middle East (12:00 PM - 1:15 PM ET)

The Middle East continues to grapple with violence and instability, particularly in Yemen, Syria and Iraq. Fueled by government incompetence and foreign interventions, terrorist insurgencies have imposed severe humanitarian and economic costs on the region. Meanwhile, regional actors have engaged in an unprecedented pursuit of arms accumulation. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have imported billions of both Western and Russian-made weapons and funded militant groups across the region, intending to contain their regional adversaries, particularly Iran. Tehran has also provided sophisticated weaponry to various militia groups across the region to strengthen its geopolitical position against Saudi Arabia, UAE, and Israel. 

On the other hand, with international terrorist networks and intense regional rivalry in the Middle East, it is impractical to discuss peace and security without addressing terrorism and the arms race in the region. This panel will primarily discuss the implications of the ongoing arms race in the region and the role of Western powers and multilateral organizations in facilitating trust-building security arrangements among regional stakeholders to limit the proliferation of arms across the Middle East.

 

Panelists:

Luciano Zaccara: Assistant Professor, Qatar University

Dania Thafer: Executive Director, Gulf International Forum

Kayhan Barzegar: Professor and Chair of the Department of Political Science and International Relations at the Science and Research Branch of Azad University

Barbara Slavin: Director of Iran Initiative, Atlantic Council

Sanam Shantyaei: Senior Journalist at France24 & host of Middle East Matters

Panel 1: Future of Diplomacy and Engagement in the Middle East (10:30 AM-11:45 AM ET)

The emerging regional order in West Asia will have wide-ranging implications for global security. The Biden administration has begun re-engaging Iran on the nuclear dossier, an initiative staunchly opposed by Israel, while also taking a harder line on Saudi Arabia’s intervention in Yemen. Meanwhile, key regional actors, including Qatar, Iraq, and Oman, have engaged in backchannel efforts to bring Iran and Saudi Arabia to the negotiating table. From a broader geopolitical perspective, with the need to secure its energy imports, China is also expected to increase its footprint in the region and influence the mentioned challenges. 

In this evolving landscape, Western powers will be compelled to redefine their strategic priorities and adjust their policies with the new realities in the region. In this panel, we will discuss how the West, including the United States and its allies, can utilize multilateral diplomacy with its adversaries to prevent military escalation in the region. Most importantly, the panel will discuss if a multilateral security dialogue in the Persian Gulf region, proposed by some regional actors, can help reduce tensions among regional foes and produce sustainable peace and development for the region. 

Panelists:

Abdullah Baabood: Academic Researcher and Former Director of the Centre for Gulf Studies, Qatar University

Trita Parsi: Executive Vice-President, Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft

Ebtesam Al-Ketbi: President, Emirates Policy Centre​

Jon Allen: Canada’s Former Ambassador to Israel

Elizabeth Hagedorn: Washington correspondent for Al-Monitor

Panel 4: Humanitarian Diplomacy: An Underused Foreign Policy Tool in the Middle East (4:30 PM - 5:30 PM ET)

Military interventions, political and economic instabilities, and civil unrest in the Middle East have led to a global refugee crisis with an increasing wave of refugees and asylum seekers to Europe and Canada. Moreover, the COVID-19 pandemic has, in myriad ways, exacerbated and contributed to the ongoing security threats and destabilization of the region.

While these challenges pose serious risks to Canadian security, Ottawa will also have the opportunity to limit such risks and prevent a spillover effect vis-à-vis effective humanitarian initiatives in the region. In this panel, we will primarily investigate Canada’s Middle East Strategy’s degree of success in providing humanitarian aid to the region. Secondly, the panel will discuss what programs and initiatives Canada can introduce to further build on the renewed strategy. and more specifically, how Canada can utilize its policy instruments to more effectively deal with the increasing influx of refugees from the Middle East. 

 

Panelists:

Erica Di Ruggiero: Director of Centre for Global Health, University of Toronto

Reyhana Patel: Head of Communications & Government Relations, Islamic Relief Canada

Amir Barmaki: Former Head of UN OCHA in Iran

Catherine Gribbin: Senior Legal Advisor for International and Humanitarian Law, Canadian Red Cross

Panel 3: A Review of Canada’s Middle East Engagement and Defense Strategy (3:00 PM - 4:15 PM ET)

In 2016, Canada launched an ambitious five-year “Middle East Engagement Strategy” (2016-2021), committing to investing CA$3.5 billion over five years to help establish the necessary conditions for security and stability, alleviate human suffering and enable stabilization programs in the region. In the latest development, during the meeting of the Global Coalition against ISIS, Minister of Foreign Affairs Marc Garneau announced more than $43.6 million in Peace and Stabilization Operations Program funding for 11 projects in Syria and Iraq.

With Canada’s Middle East Engagement Strategy expiring this year, it is time to examine and evaluate this massive investment in the Middle East region in the past five years. More importantly, the panel will discuss a principled and strategic roadmap for the future of Canada’s short-term and long-term engagement in the Middle East.

Panelists:

Ferry de Kerckhove: Canada’s Former Ambassador to Egypt

Dennis Horak: Canada’s Former Ambassador to Saudi Arabia

Chris Kilford: Former Canadian Defence Attaché in Turkey, member of the national board of the Canadian International Council (CIC)

David Dewitt: University Professor Emeritus, York University

Panel 2: The Great Power Competition in the Middle East (12:00 PM - 1:15 PM ET)

While the United States continues to pull back from certain regional conflicts, reflected by the Biden administration’s decision to halt American backing for Saudi Arabia’s intervention in Yemen and the expected withdrawal from Afghanistan, US troops continue to be stationed across the region. Meanwhile, Russia and China have significantly maintained and even expanded their regional activities. On one hand, the Kremlin has maintained its military presence in Syria, and on the other hand, China has signed an unprecedented 25-year strategic agreement with Iran.

As the global power structure continues to shift, it is essential to analyze the future of the US regional presence under the Biden administration, explore the emerging global rivalry with Russia and China, and at last, investigate the implications of such competition for peace and security in the Middle East.

Panelists:

Dmitri Trenin: Director of Carnegie Moscow Center

Joost R. Hiltermann: Director of MENA Programme, International Crisis Group

Roxane Farmanfarmaian: Affiliated Lecturer in International Relations of the Middle East and North Africa, University of Cambridge

Andrew A. Michta: Dean of the College of International and Security Studies at Marshall Center

Kelley Vlahos: Senior Advisor, Quincy Institute

Panel 1: A New Middle East Security Architecture in the Making (10:30 AM -11:45 AM ET)

The security architecture of the Middle East has undergone rapid transformations in an exceptionally short period. Notable developments include the United States gradual withdrawal from the region, rapprochement between Israel and some GCC states through the Abraham Accords and the rise of Chinese and Russian regional engagement.

With these new trends in the Middle East, it is timely to investigate the security implications of the Biden administration’s Middle East policy. In this respect, we will discuss the Biden team’s new approach vis-à-vis Iran, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, and Israel. The panel will also discuss the role of other major powers, including China and Russia in shaping this new security environment in the region, and how the Biden administration will respond to these powers’ increasing regional presence.

 

Panelists:

Sanam Vakil: Deputy Director of MENA Programme at Chatham House

Denise Natali: Acting Director, Institute for National Strategic Studies & Director of the Center for Strategic Research, National Defense University

Hassan Ahmadian: Professor of the Middle East and North Africa Studies, University of Tehran

Abdulaziz Sagar: Chairman, Gulf Research Center

Andrew Parasiliti: President, Al-Monitor