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Summertime Sadness?
Recent Shifts in the Gulf

by Nikola Zukalová

For observers of intentional political life, September has come to represent a second New Year’s celebration as it heralds the opening of the United Nations General Assembly while parliaments return to session and armies of students, professors and practitioners return to their desks after summer time periods of rest and relaxation, awash in fresh ideas. For better or worse, few people had the luxury of relaxation during Summer 2021. Global affairs were simply too fluid, too transactional. This is especially true of the pundits and practitioners involved in the wider Middle East. From elections to explosions, secret talks to not so secret policy shifts, Summer 2021 has been a gripping read for some and a heartache for others.

 

But the future may not be so bleak. As this short work argues, Summer 2021 may be the beginning of a cementing process; locking the subsequent decade into a specific rhythm, especially in the Middle East. Politics has its fair share of visionaries, but few of them can read tarot cards or coffee grinds. Instead, politically aware analysts try to unpack trends based on actions—words and deeds. This article revisits the five main events of Summer 2021 in the Middle East: 1. The Eid Al-Fitr conflict, 2. Real diplomatic momentum in the long-simmering Turkey/Qatar-UAE/Saudi/Egypt/Bahrain rivalry, 3. The end of Afghanistan’s democratic experiment, 4. The return of Iran’s hardline executive branch and 5. Lebanon’s final countdown. Weighty issues, to put it mildly. Paradigm altering when contextualised with the perfect storm of super-power conflagrations (between the US and China, Russia and the EU and, most recently, between the US [with the UK and Australia] and the EU), the persistent COVID-19 pandemic and the wildfires of irreversible environmental change.

 

***

 

Bottled-Up: The Eid Al-Fitr Conflict

 

The tranquility of the holy month of Ramadan 2021 was shattered by the eruption of violence between Israel and Hamas — the worst since 2014 — which consumed international attention throughout May. Israeli security personnel stormed the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound with tear gas and stun grenades as armed Palestinians barricaded themselves inside. This quickly escalated and Hamas began launching rockets from civilian neighbourhoods across Gaza’s border into Israel—which retaliated with concentrated air power. As fighting raged-on, foreign affairs personnel from the US, Egypt, Qatar and Saudi Arabia were coordinating efforts to end the conflict. Eleven days, dozens of casualties and many destroyed buildings later, tension between Hamas and Israel was defused with the help of Egypt and Qatar. Following the pledge of another $500 million to Gaza in May, Qatar was, in September, green-lighted to resume payments to Gaza, however under a new mechanism involving the UN and the Palestinian Authority to prevent the money from being misdirected to Hamas’ military arms—as in the past.[i] Cairo stepped-up its involvement on the matter and the subsequent August uptick of cross-border violence was also on top of the agenda during the meeting between Egypt’s President, Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, and Israel’s Prime Minister, Naftali Bennett, in Egypt in September 2021. The visit was significant because it was the first visit by an Israeli Prime Minister since Netanyahu’s meeting with former Egyptian President Mubarak in Cairo in 2011.

 

The Israel-Hamas conflict was also perceived as a litmus test for the Abraham Accords as the UAE and Bahrain’s reactions were measured. Both reiterated their support for the two-state solution and an independent Palestine. They also called on both sides to end the violence, noting that their position was not mutually exclusive with the Accords, which both Gulf countries view as an important step for the future development of their countries and the region. This was an important affirmation that Arab countries can formulate foreign policies based on their national interests and development goals rather than a singular, external issue, no matter how significant. The EU’s lukewarm support for the Accords was duly noted in Israel, Bahrain and the UAE and reinforced the idea that the Brussels is a bystander to the world around it.

 

The Abraham Accords survived the 2021 Israel-Gaza flare-up and, later, the departure of Benjamin Netanyahu because the key rationale behind them remains intact—moving beyond paralysed policies to reshape the region to be modern and economically dynamic, with internal mechanisms to overcome collective challenges. The Accords are widely expected to expand over the next years with other Gulf countries carefully weighing the costs and benefits while others, notably Egypt — the first Arab state to sign peace with Israel (1979) — eyes the Accords as a chance to renew their bonds and move beyond technical peace. Summer 2021 saw Cairo deepen its political, economic and people-to-people ties with Israel. Yet, bottling-up the Palestine-Israel conflict is not the answer. Addressing the underlying causes rather than treating the symptoms is a must, otherwise violence will continue to periodically erupt. Perhaps the recent rapprochement between Qatar, Turkey, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE could positively affect Palestine-Israel friction and trailblaze a final settlement, with the help of Jordan and Morocco, to provide a meaningful agreement and deny fodder to those that use the Palestinian cause to justify violence.

 

Re-Connected: Turkey-Qatar-UAE-Saudi-Egypt-Bahrain

 

Over the past months Turkey/Qatar and the UAE/Saudi Arabia/Egypt undertook significant steps to repair their fraught relations. This process accelerated during summer 2021. Turkey had been increasingly isolated from the US, NATO, EU and the GCC (to varying degrees), it was overstretched in Libya, Yemen, Syria and beyond and its economy suffered. Moscow’s assertiveness in the Black and Mediterranean Sea littorals has preoccupied Turkey’s strategic thinking as has Iran’s engagement in the Caucasus and closer ties to China culminating in its membership to the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO). Doha, which financially supports Turkey, would also benefit from a general rapprochement as it has balanced between Turkey and UAE/Saudi Arabia since the Al-Ula GCC Summit in January 2021. After Ramadan 2021, Turkey and Qatar launched a charm offensive: in May, Turkish and Egyptian officials met in Cairo for the first time since 2013 following a breakdown over the Muslim Brotherhood. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan then held a phone call with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz while Turkish Foreign Minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, was dispatched to Saudi Arabia. Simultaneously, Qatar’s Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani landed in Saudi Arabia for the first time in four years and met with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, while Qatar’s Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani, flew to Cairo for talks with President Abdul Fatah El-Sisi and delivered the Emir’s invitation to visit Doha. The US, Qatar, Egypt and Saudi Arabia were also involved in deescalation talks related to the Israel-Hamas conflict.

 

In June, Egypt took additional steps to restore relations with Qatar as Arab Foreign Ministers convened in Doha to discuss foreign interference in Arab regional security matters and express support for Egypt and Sudan in the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) water dispute with Ethiopia.[ii] The next month, Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry met with Qatar's Emir in Doha and delivered a message from President El-Sisi, who invited the Emir to Egypt—it will be telling who acts on it first. The Egyptian and Qatari leaders’ meeting in Iraq on the sidelines of the Baghdad Summit provided both an opportunity to delay the decision.[iii] Shoukry was also the first high-level Egyptian official to appear on Al Jazeera TV since the disposing of Mohammed Morsi in 2013.[iv] Diplomatic ties were, effectively, restored as Egypt and Qatar appointed their respective Ambassadors and political talks have continued. In August, the UAE’s National Security Advisor, Tahnoon bin Zayed Al-Nayhan, travelled to Ankara and Doha for important meetings with Turkey’s President Erdogan and Qatar’s Emir Tamim bin Hamad, respectively. The efforts culminated on 17 September, when the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad and the Emirati National Security Advisor Tahnoon bin Zayed were pictured in casual clothes, all smiles, enjoying the Red Sea and reestablishing the personal touch to their relations.[v] Bahrain’s rapprochement with Turkey and Qatar has moved slower, with more limited progress to report.[vi] While Manama is clearly warming to Turkey, there are complex, long-standing issues between Doha and Manama and their relationship remains clouted by the past. But, inevitably, the two smallest members of the GCC will likely patch-up their differences as well. There is real momentum in the GCC that needs to be seized and building trust through cooperation in mutually valued areas is fundamentally important.

 

Unplugged: Afghanistan

 

Although Afghanistan is on the geographical fringe of the Middle East, the repercussions of its destabilisation and the return to Taliban rule reverberate throughout the region, with Gulf countries (notably  Qatar) and Turkey deeply engaged in the aftermath of the US/NATO redeployment in August 2021. While the toll in terms of human suffering has already been excruciating — and likely to increase as the Taliban’s stranglehold tightens — it also creates strategic challenges for an assortment of regional actors including China, Iran and Russia. The transfer of responsibility for Afghanistan has the potential to keep Beijing, Moscow and Tehran preoccupied, while freeing up crucial US military and financial resources to focus on other, more strategically important areas in the Indo-Pacific Ocean — most recently manifested in the US, UK and Australian (AUKUS) military alliance to push back against Beijing. Chinese, Turkish, Russian, Iranian and Pakistani officials, are scrambling to fill the vacuum.

 

China and Russia largely agree on Afghanistan and are cooperating in reaching out to, and collaborating with the Taliban—they both abstained from UNSC Resolution 2593 on Afghanistan, and sought to avoid isolating themselves from Afghanistan’s leadership.[vii] Moscow urged its partners to engage with the Taliban, likening it to the Lebanese Hezbollah, with which it maintains official relations.[viii] Iranian propaganda promptly painted the US withdraw as a “military defeat” and a further sign of US decline.[ix] For years, there have been reports about Iran’s working relationship with the Taliban, harbouring Al-Qaeda operatives and recruiting fighters from Afghanistan, which further raises concerns for future Iranian engagement in the country.[x] It is telling that the eight permanent members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) — China, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Pakistan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan — accepted Iran into the organisation after almost two decades just as Afghanistan, an observer in the SCO, crumbles and the US rallies its allies to counter China and Russia. The SCO might be preparing to recognise the Taliban government in a bid to contain the situation within Afghanistan’s borders. Meanwhile, the Taliban promptly established a government and proclaimed Afghanistan an Islamic Emirate in line with their ideology.

 

The GCC countries, notably Saudi Arabia and the UAE, although geographically more distant, remain uneasy about Taliban rule, with whom they severed ties more than two decades ago. Several GCC countries were involved in transferring US and allies’ personnel from Afghanistan and the UAE. Qatar, has for several years, facilitated negotiations between the US and the Taliban, which retained a political office in Doha since 2013. Qatar has leveraged its unique access to the Taliban as a way of improving its international standing but, in light of the recent quagmire, struggles to save face and ensure funding for Afghanistan, carefully navigating between the Taliban and NATO.[xi] During his recent speech at the 76th UN General Assembly, Qatar’s Emir critiqued the external imposition of political change in the region and the shielding away from humanitarian responsibilities urging the international community to engage with the Taliban and provide aid to Afghanistan. This poses a dilemma for the US and Europe since it implies funding religious fundamentalists which are far too comfortable with both Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State. To make matters more concerning, the Gulf states are now forced to reflect on the viability of US commitments to the region—their conclusions may not produce policies that reinforce the US/NATO role but rather strategically hedge with other global actors. Finally, the Afghan impasse offers valuable clues for insurgents across the region that might feel more empowered by the narratives about the mujahids’ victory over the US: patience pays off, it took the Taliban only twenty years to bleed-out the US and reclaim power—a grain of sand in the hourglass of time.

 

Undeterred: Iran

 

Summer 2021 in Iran has been explosive—and not simply due to persistent, mysterious, attacks on its nuclear infrastructure.[xii] Global attention revolved around the: deadlocked Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) talks with the 5+1 group; Iran’s continued breaches of its nuclear commitments (some of which are irreversible); and its June Presidential Elections which propelled the religious leadership’s favoured candidate, Ebrahim Raisi, to the helm. Additionally, reports about secret talks between Iranian and Saudi officials in Iraq emerged in May, with Iran’s Ambassador to Baghdad confirming (in August) that his country plans a fourth round of talks with Saudi Arabia in Iraq after they form the new government.[xiii] The 28 August Baghdad Summit, co-hosted by Iraq and France, gathered leaders from Egypt, Jordan, France, Kuwait, Qatar, the UAE, and Foreign Ministers from Turkey, Iran and Saudi Arabia. The meeting focused on rebuilding Iraq as US President Joe Biden announced, the previous month, that the US would further scale back its military involvement in Iraq, raising concerns of an Afghanistan-like evacuation; but it also provided the opportunity to discuss bilateral issues. On the sidelines, the UAE’s Vice-President and Ruler of Dubai, Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, held talks with Iran’s Foreign Minister, who later claimed that: ‘Working with neighbours is the [Iranian] government’s priority.’[xiv] The dialogue continues also under the new Iranian administration as Saudi Arabia recently confirmed that it held the fourth round of talks with Iran on 21 September.[xv] Engaging Saudi Arabia and the UAE, on regional crises in Lebanon, Iraq, Yemen, and nuclear issues, provided Tehran the opportunity to showcase its willingness to pursue diplomacy, while simultaneously signalling its power position.

 

Despite such episodes of public diplomacy, Iran has not altered its priorities and summer 2021 saw continued attacks on commercial vessels along the Gulf littoral. In late July, two European crew members were killed in an attack on an Israeli-managed oil tanker, the HV Mercer Street, by an armed Iranian drone off the coast of Oman.[xvi] Then the tanker Asphalt Princess was hijacked off the coast of the UAE while six proximate tankers simultaneously, but temporarily, lost control in electronic jamming incidents attributed to Iran.[xvii] Meanwhile, Ansar Allah (a.k.a. Houthi militia), a member of Iran’s so-called “Axis of Resistance,” continued missile and drone attacks on civilian and industrial sites in Saudi Arabia while continuing its military offensive in Yemen. Riyadh is now considering enhancements to its air defence capabilities and is showing interest in acquiring Israel’s Iron Dome system, among others, which would be significant for Saudi-Israeli relations — an unofficial chapter of the Abraham Accords — just as the US removed two Patriot anti-missile batteries from Saudi Arabia, which had been temporarily deployed in 2019 following the attacks on the Aramco oil facilities at Abqaiq.[xviii]

 

Paralysed: Lebanon

 

Meanwhile, Lebanon has slumped further into a double-edged political and economic crisis, with rampant inflation, currency devaluation, record high unemployment, skyrocketing poverty and shortages of basic goods, fuel and power.[xix] Negotiations with the International Monetary Fund stalled, as did the formation of a new government—the governing elite continue to put their disputes ahead of the national interest. The World Bank expects Lebanon to slip into one of the three worst crises globally since the mid-nineteenth century.[xx] France waded into the Lebanon crisis but the lack of progress prompted the EU to threaten targeted sanctions against those responsible for Lebanon’s political quagmire as the country is strategically important for Brussels—it is in its proximate neighbourhood and is expected to contribute to EU energy security.[xxi] Bordering Syria and Israel, the destabilisation (let alone collapse), of Lebanon seriously impairs regional stability, and EU security.

 

Traditional donors from the Gulf countries — re: Saudi Arabia — have grown frustrated with Lebanon’s inability to manage its crises and curb Hezbollah’s saturated influence. They now condition the resumption of economic aid on the implementation of serious reforms and reigning-in the Party of God.[xxii] The episode highlighted a shift in Saudi Arabia’s priorities regarding Lebanon, which has been long dependent on international assistance. This was most recently reinforced by several incidents, such as Saudi Arabia’s interception of a major drug smuggling operation into the Kingdom hidden in a shipment of Lebanese food products. Riyadh then banned fruit and vegetable imports from Lebanon (April) followed by Lebanon’s Foreign Minister blaming the Gulf countries for the rise of Daesh (May).[xxiii] However, as is often the case, the Hezbollah-linked network found another way to smuggle drugs into the Kingdom, most recently, through Nigeria.[xxiv] Simultaneously, amid continued Saudi reluctance, Lebanon sought financial support from Qatar, which eventually pledged to provide the Lebanese armed forces with food.

 

Meanwhile, Russia, which has stepped-up its involvement in Lebanon and Syria’s energy sectors, acquiring stakes in their Eastern Mediterranean energy fields, including a disputed one,[xxv] continued to build on Hezbollah’s March visit to Moscow.[xxvi] The cementing of Moscow’s foothold in the Eastern Mediterranean could complicate regional plans to supply gas to Europe, which is seeking to diversify its energy sources away from Russia. Simultaneously, China has been deepening economic ties in the region, involved in developing multiple ports in the Mediterranean as part of its Belt and Road Initiative and has been interested in gaining stake in the Beirut port after last year’s explosion, as has Russia, Turkey, France and Germany.[xxvii]

 

As France’s influence in Lebanon is limited and its efforts wielded no positive results, Paris sought to enlist its Gulf allies’ support. In July, the French and US Ambassadors to Lebanon travelled to Saudi Arabia to persuade it to get involved in Lebanon in an unusual diplomatic move that further underlined the severity of the situation. However, Lebanon’s governing elite continued to prioritise private gains over the national wellbeing and, Saudi Arabia, and the international community at large, remains reluctant to provide cash to Lebanon in the absence of reforms. As Riyadh embarks on ambitious domestic reforms and development projects, it also began to further ask why and how it provides financial aid to other countries, approaching it more from an interest-driven, transactional, manner. Hezbollah, which consistently pursues an Iran-first policy, leads efforts to import fuel from Tehran via Syria—no-strings-attached-aid.[xxviii] Amid concerns of furthering Iran’s influence in Lebanon, the US supports efforts to supply Lebanon with gas from Egypt and electricity from Jordan via Syria, which is under international sanctions and remains isolated from the international community and most Arab countries.[xxix] In both cases, Damascus gains financially and politically from the crisis.

 

Amid Lebanon’s crises, Hezbollah and Israel forces exchanged fire in late August.[xxx] Simultaneously, the US increased pressure on Hezbollah by sanctioning its facilitators in Lebanon and beyond—most recently in Kuwait and Qatar.[xxxi] And, crucially, the US and Qatar jointly designated a Hezbollah financial network spanning across the Arabian Peninsula, which included individuals in Bahrain, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE.[xxxii] This is very significant in the context of the intra-GCC reconciliation efforts, given past reports of Qatar’s alleged support to Hezbollah.[xxxiii]

 

The recalibration of the Saudi approach to Lebanon, and provision of financial aid in general, and potentially enlisting Doha’s cooperation against Hezbollah are significant developments. Lebanon’s new Prime Minister, Najib Mikati, highlighted the importance of the Gulf countries’ support for the country, which includes curbing Hezbollah’s and Iran’s influence. He vowed to mend relations with the Arab and GCC countries ‘to stop the recession in Lebanon.’[xxxiv] A few weeks later, Mikati received Iran’s Foreign Minister, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, reaffirming that his country welcomes any assistance that does not undermine the Lebanese state and institutions and welcomed the Saudi-Iranian dialogue.[xxxv] On the occasion, Iran offered to build two power plants in Lebanon and help rebuild the Beirut port. As the country prepares for the 2022 parliamentary election, external support will be crucial to get Lebanon out of its dire crises. However, the international community also must remain vigilant in the face of some external actors’ efforts to exploit Lebanon’s crises to further embed themselves in the country. There are no quick fixes, it will require long term vision and will from the ruling elites.

 

***

 

The summer period between May and September brought multiple crises to the forefront and saw the Gulf countries recalibrate their long-term positions against the backdrop of renewed US-China rivalry. Those crises demonstrated the interconnectedness of the region, the influence of the GCC countries and the need for an enhanced Euro-Gulf cooperation mechanism. Unfortunately, until now, the EU has failed to emerge as a reliable security partner for the GCC countries and has only played a marginal role in resolving crises despite the high stakes involved and the direct impact on EU security. Meanwhile Gulf politics has quickly changed. Alliances have shifted and cemented, demonstrating that the countries of the region recognise that they are stronger together. The GCC is back on track and the process of formalising Arab relations to Israel remains on course. The summer of discontent may, in fact, be the storm before the calm so that as global affairs ease back on-line — following the COVID-19 meltdown — the GCC and its many allies can enjoy the fruits of their labour. There is something to be said of the famous, but anonymous, saying that ‘unity is strength, division is weakness.’


 

11 October 2021

References

 

[i] Nidal Al-Mughrabi, ‘Qatar plans to resume Gaza funding with new method involving Abbas, U.N.,’ Reuters, 6 September 2021, https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/qatar-plans-resume-gaza-funding-with-new-method-involving-abbas-un-2021-09-06/.

[ii] ‘All options are on the table to deal with GERD crisis: Egyptian Foreign Minister,’ Ahram Online, 14 June 2021, https://english.ahram.org.eg/NewsContent/1/64/414242/Egypt/Politics-/All-options-are-on-the-table-to-deal-with-GERD-cri.aspx.

[iii] ‘President Sisi, Emir Tamim agree to continue consultations to boost Egyptian-Qatari relations,’ Ahram Online, 28 August 2021, https://english.ahram.org.eg/NewsContent/1/64/421965/Egypt/Politics-/President-Sisi,-Emir-Tamim-agree-to-continue-consu.aspx.

[iv] Al Jazeera, لقاء اليوم- سامح شكري للجزيرة: نسعى لحل دبلوماسي لأزمة سد النهضة وكافة الخيارات مطروحة [Today's meeting - Sameh Shoukry to Al Jazeera: We seek a diplomatic solution to the Renaissance Dam crisis, and all options are on the table], YouTube, 14 June 2021, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4aznUVD71cg.

[v] ‘Saudi Crown Prince, Qatari emir and top UAE security official meet in Red Sea,’ Al Arabiya English, 17 September 2021, https://english.alarabiya.net/News/gulf/2021/09/17/Saudi-Crown-Prince-Qatari-emir-and-top-UAE-security-official-meet-in-Red-Sea.

[vi] ‘Bahrain asks Qatar again for talks after first invitation is overlooked,’ The National, 23 June 2021, https://www.thenationalnews.com/gulf-news/bahrain-asks-qatar-again-for-talks-after-first-invitation-is-overlooked-1.1247199; Allison Lampert and Alexander Cornwell, ‘Bahrain ready to work with estranged Qatar on airspace sovereignty,’ Reuters, 24 June 2021, https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/bahrain-ready-work-with-estranged-qatar-airspace-sovereignty-2021-06-24/; ‘Turkey-Bahrain cooperation is developing: King Al Khalifa,’ Daily Sabah, 6 September 2021, https://www.dailysabah.com/politics/diplomacy/turkey-bahrain-cooperation-is-developing-king-al-khalifa; ‘Foreign Minister meets with Turkish counterpart,’ Bahrain News Agency, 20 September 2021, https://www.bna.bh/en/news?cms=q8FmFJgiscL2fwIzON1%2BDjDiHJNCC8hMIXpRVpSX7iE%3D.

[vii] UN Security Council, Resolution 2593 (2021), S/RES/2593 (2021), Adopted by the Security Council at its 8848th meeting, on 30 August 2021, https://documents-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/N21/238/85/PDF/N2123885.pdf?OpenElement; Security Council resolution 2593 (2021) [on demanding that Afghan territory not be used to threaten or attack any country], S/76 [46] AFGHANISTAN SITUATION, UN Digital Library,  https://digitallibrary.un.org/record/3938182?ln=en.

[viii] Nayanima Basu, ‘Taliban like Hezbollah, not ISIS, says Russia, urges India to engage with it for Afghan peace,’ The Print New Delhi, 14 July 2021, https://theprint.in/diplomacy/taliban-like-hezbollah-not-isis-says-russia-urges-india-to-engage-with-it-for-afghan-peace/696058/.

[ix] ‘Raisi tells UN: Nuclear talks useful only if they lead to lifting all oppressive sanctions on Iran,’ Tehran Times, 21 September 2021, https://www.tehrantimes.com/news/465334/Raisi-tells-UN-Nuclear-talks-useful-only-if-they-lead-to-lifting .

[x] THE 9/11 COMMISSION REPORT, Final Report of the National Commission onTerrorist Attacks Upon the United States, Official Government Edition, p. 61, https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/GPO-911REPORT/pdf/GPO-911REPORT.pdf;

U.S. Department of the Treasury, ‘Treasury Targets Key Al-Qa’ida Funding and Support Network Using Iran as a Critical Transit Point,’ Press Release, 28 July 2011, https://www.treasury.gov/press-center/press-releases/Pages/tg1261.aspx;

Abubakar Siddique, ‘Death Showcases Afghan Taliban Leader’s Iran Connection,’ Gandhara, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 22 May 2016, https://gandhara.rferl.org/a/iran-pakistan-afghanistan-taliban-leader/27750527.html;

Assaf Moghadam, ‘Marriage of Convenience: The Evolution of Iran and al-Qa`ida’s Tactical Cooperation,’ CTC Sentinel, April 2017, Vol. 10, Issue 4, https://ctc.usma.edu/marriage-of-convenience-the-evolution-of-iran-and-al-qaidas-tactical-cooperation/;

Carlotta Gall, ‘In Afghanistan, U.S. Exits, and Iran Comes In,’ The New York Times, 5 August 2017, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/05/world/asia/iran-afghanistan-taliban.html;

Adrian Levy and Cathy Scott-Clark, ‘Al-Qaeda Has Rebuilt Itself—With Iran's Help,’ The Atlantic, 11 November 2017, https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2017/11/al-qaeda-iran-cia/545576/;

UN Security Council, Letter dated 16 July 2018 from the Chair of the Security Council Committee pursuant to resolutions 1267 (1999), 1989 (2011) and 2253 (2015) concerning Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (Da’esh), Al-Qaida and associated individuals, groups, undertakings and entities addressed to the President of the Security Council, S/2018/705, 27 July 2018, https://documents-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/N18/201/01/PDF/N1820101.pdf?OpenElement;

Lucie Švejdová, ‘The Iran-Al Qaeda Nexus: Two Islamisms, One Goal,’ EGIC, 3 September 2018, https://www.egic.info/iran-alqaeda-nexus;

Thomas Joscelyn, ‘State Department: Iran allows al Qaeda to operate its “core facilitation pipeline”,’ Long War Journal, 19 September  2018, https://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2018/09/state-department-iran-allows-al-qaeda-to-operate-its-core-facilitation-pipeline.php;

Masood Saifullah, ‘Iranian support of Afghan Taliban targeted by new US sanctions,’ Deutsche Welle, 25 October 2018, https://www.dw.com/en/iranian-support-of-afghan-taliban-targeted-by-new-us-sanctions/a-46045198.

[xi] AFP, ‘Qatar, EU call Afghanistan abuses “disappointing,”’ France 24, 30 September 2021, https://www.france24.com/en/live-news/20210930-qatar-eu-call-afghanistan-abuses-disappointing

[xii] Judah Ari Gross and AP, ‘Attack on Iranian nuclear site damaged centrifuge production facility – reports,’ The Times of Israel, 23 June 2021, https://www.timesofisrael.com/attack-on-iranian-nuclear-site-damaged-centrifuge-production-facility-reports/.

[xiii] ‘Iran plans new round of talks with Saudi Arabia -Iranian envoy,’ Reuters, 31 August 2021, https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/iran-plans-new-round-talks-with-saudi-arabia-iranian-envoy-2021-08-31/

[xiv] Ibid.

[xv] Tuqa Khalid, 'Saudi Arabia’s FM: Talks with Iran are still in exploratory phase,’ Al Arabiya English, 3 October 2021, https://english.alarabiya.net/News/gulf/2021/10/03/Saudi-Arabia-s-FM-Talks-with-Iran-are-still-in-exploratory-phase.

[xvi] Lolita C Baldor and Frank Jordans, ‘US and G7 blame Iran for deadly attack on tanker off Oman,’ AP News, 6 August 2021, https://apnews.com/article/europe-middle-east-business-iran-persian-gulf-tensions-c1f24a3744785bc0514697edf8f0887f.

[xvii] ‘6 ships in Gulf of Oman lose control, days after vessel attacked by drones,’ The Times of Israel, 3 August 2021, https://www.timesofisrael.com/4-ships-in-gulf-of-oman-lose-control-days-after-drone-strike-on-vessel/.

[xviii] Arie Egozi, ‘Saudi Arabia Considering Israeli-Made Missile Defense Systems,’ Breaking Defense, 14 September 2021, https://breakingdefense.com/2021/09/saudi-arabia-considering-israeli-made-missile-defense-systems/.

[xix] World Bank Group, ‘Lebanon Economic Monitor, Spring 2021: Lebanon Sinking (to the Top 3),’ Spring 2021, https://documents1.worldbank.org/curated/en/394741622469174252/pdf/Lebanon-Economic-Monitor-Lebanon-Sinking-to-the-Top-3.pdf.

[xx] Ibid.

[xxi] ‘EU threatens to slap sanctions on Lebanon politicians,’ Deutsche Welle, 19 June 2021, https://www.dw.com/en/eu-threatens-to-slap-sanctions-on-lebanon-politicians/a-57964625.

[xxii] ‘Saudi FM: Hezbollah’s power is the main cause of Lebanon’s crisis,’ Arab News, 5 August 2021, https://www.arabnews.com/node/1905551/saudi-arabia; Rawad Taha, ‘Saudi Arabia says any support to Lebanon depends on carrying out serious reform,’ Al Arabiya English, https://english.alarabiya.net/News/middle-east/2021/08/11/-Saudi-Arabia-says-any-support-to-Lebanon-depends-on-carrying-out-serious-reform.

[xxiii] Romy Haber, ‘The Gulf, Lebanon and The War on Drugs,’ Euro-Gulf Information Centre, May 2021, https://www.egic.info/the-gulf-lebanon-war-on-drugs.

[xxiv] ‘Saudi Arabia, Nigeria foil Hezbollah drug smuggle attempt into the Kingdom,’ Saudi Gazette, 9 September 2021, https://saudigazette.com.sa/article/610727/SAUDI-ARABIA/Saudi-Arabia-Nigeria-foil-Hezbollah-drug-smuggle-attempt-into-the-Kingdom.

[xxv] ‘Rosneft enters into an agreement for operational management of an oil products terminal in Lebanon,’ Rosneft, 24 January 2019, https://www.rosneft.com/press/releases/item/193617/; ‘Russian East Med ambitions anger the Lebanese, confuse the Turks,’ The Arab Weekly, 2 April 2021, https://thearabweekly.com/russian-east-med-ambitions-anger-lebanese-confuse-turks

[xxvi] ‘Russian FM discusses Middle Eastern affairs with Hezbollah,’ AP News, 15 March 2021, https://apnews.com/article/biden-cabinet-cabinets-moscow-middle-east-lebanon-5df9df3a2d266ea36469074079761da7.

[xxvii] Dale Gavlak, ‘Rebuilding Beirut Port Could Prove Controversial, Analysts Say,’ 13 August 2020, https://www.voanews.com/a/middle-east_rebuilding-beirut-port-could-prove-controversial-analysts-say/6194386.html; Michael Tanchum, ‘The race to reset the Middle East's maritime map,’ Middle East Institute, 18 August 2021, https://www.mei.edu/publications/race-reset-middle-easts-maritime-map; ‘Foreign firms vie to rebuild ravaged Beirut port,’ Bangkok Post, 14 April 2021, https://www.bangkokpost.com/world/2099667/foreign-firms-vie-to-rebuild-ravaged-beirut-port

[xxviii] Maha El Dahan and Laila Bassam, ‘Lebanon’s Hezbollah says Iranian fuel oil to arrive Thursday,’ Reuters, 14 September 2021, https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/lebanons-hezbollah-say-first-iranian-fuel-oil-arrive-thursday-2021-09-13/; ‘Diesel tankers brought by Hezbollah from Iran heading towards Lebanon -Al Mayadeen TV,’ Reuters, 21 September 2021, https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/diesel-tankers-brought-by-hezbollah-iran-heading-towards-lebanon-al-mayadeen-tv-2021-09-21/.

[xxix] ‘Ministers say Egyptian gas to reach crisis-hit Lebanon soon,’ AP News, 8 September 2021, https://apnews.com/article/middle-east-business-syria-lebanon-jordan-e1e10eabe40c0c8a785f5750f327e89c.

[xxx] Aaron Boxerman, ‘Hezbollah chief vows retaliation for future Israeli strikes in Lebanon,’ The Times of Israel, 8 August 2021, https://www.timesofisrael.com/hezbollah-chief-vows-retaliation-for-future-israeli-strikes-in-lebanon/.

[xxxi] US Department of the Treasury, ‘Treasury Targets Hizballah’s Enablers in Lebanon,’ Press Release, 8 September 2021, https://home.treasury.gov/news/press-releases/sm1116; Joyce Karam, ‘US issues fresh sanctions on individuals linked to Hezbollah,’ The National, 17 September 2021, https://www.thenationalnews.com/world/us-news/2021/09/17/us-issues-fresh-sanctions-on-people-linked-to-hezbollah/.

[xxxii] US Department of the Treasury, ‘The United States and Qatar Take Coordinated Action Against Hizballah Financiers,’ Press Release, 29 September 2021, https://home.treasury.gov/news/press-releases/jy0381.   

[xxxiii] Yassin Musharbash and Holger Stark, ‘Finanzieren Katarer die Hisbollah? [Are Qataris Financing Hezbollah?],’ Zeit Online, 17 July 2020, https://www.zeit.de/politik/2020-07/katar-finanzierung-hisbollah-vorwuerfe?

[xxxiv] ‘Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati’s outlines priorities for new government,’ Arab News, 11 September 2021, https://www.arabnews.com/node/1926931/middle-east.

[xxxv] Elias Sakr, ‘Iran ready to help rebuild Beirut port and build power plants, foreign minister says,’ The National, 7 October 2021, https://www.thenationalnews.com/mena/2021/10/07/irans-foreign-minister-amirabdollahian-starts-lebanon-visit-meeting-president-aoun/