The current situation in the Arab-Persian Gulf is promising both the best and the worst.
The worst is to be feared due to the violence prevailing in the region and the tensions intensifying between the different powers that compete for regional leadership. While DAESH seems to be failing, it continues nonetheless to sow terror and fear, like the last spasms of a beast in agony, capable of lethal attacks such the one performed against a mosque in Sinai. Cornered by various coalitions which dramatically reduced its territory, the Islamic State will see its fighters turn into smaller and more scattered groups, which will maintain a residual terrorism, capable of deadly atrocities that continuously dominate the headlines.
It is also feared that a religious war will be declared between the Sunnis and the Shiites, which may notably be the case of Lebanon today. Lebanon indeed appears increasingly as the theater of tensions between the interposed powers. The antagonism between the Muslim world and Israel remains a major risk in the Near and Middle East, where the nuclear danger cannot be ignored.
However, the current context is not devoid of happier promises.
Indeed, a new generation of thirty-year-old political leaders, such as the new Saudi monarch MBS, appear to intend to breathe new life into economic, cultural and social policies.
In that context, the relatively long-term collapse of the oil price leads most producers to think about the « after-oil » period, despite the proven existence of large reserves in the world. The largest producers think about diversifying their investments in the same way as Doha and Abu Dhabi in a knowledge-based economy, or sustainable development with the emergence of smart and sustainable cities like Masdar or NEOM in the UAE and Saudi Arabia respectively.
These young monarchs also act in the cultural field, with the inauguration ten years ago of the « Sorbonne des sables » in Abu Dhabi and more recently with the « Louvre du désert », but also with the future hosting of the World Expo in Dubai in 2020. While such strategy could be reduced to the sole lever of international soft power, it should also be measured in terms of its social and societal effects, that are unsuspected among the indigenous populations.
While the recently granted right of women to drive in the Saudi kingdom, along with the opening of some senior positions in the UAE and the one of Minister for International Cooperation and Development may seem anecdotal, they actually contain the seeds of irreversible opening process.
The major international cultural and sporting events that will bring together hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people from all over the world, will help change the way we look at this region of the world. At the same time, it will certainly impact the lifestyle of this region’s inhabitants, but also the way they perceive themselves.
This is what the Geopolitical Club is going to closely follow by regularly offering time for reflection and dialogue concerning the Gulf situation. More precisely, we will clarify the sensitivities that animate the various actors in the Gulf crisis ; we will also work on understanding the interactions between the major regional or international powers involved in crossed interests. What roles do Turkey, Russia, Pakistan, Europe, Africa or the United States of America play? Our next round tables will help you answer those crucial questions.