Navanti News Regional Forecasts | Arabian Peninsula and the Levant | 2021 |

Navanti News Regional Forecasts | Arabian Peninsula and the Levant | 2021 |

Much of the Arabian Peninsula and the Levant face several challenges ahead, as political, economic, and humanitarian crises continue to exacerbate the plight of millions. What follows are a list of key trends that are worth monitoring closely going into 2021.

Arabian Peninsula

● GCC unity needed: Some tensions in the Gulf remain unresolved despite Saudi Arabia’s leadership in reconciling the Qatar crisis. Though the Qatari emir’s visit to the kingdom for the recent Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) summit proved an encouraging sign, disagreements, particularly with the UAE, continue. Unity among the GCC states is likely becoming more urgent as gray zone conflict with Iran in the region appears to be escalating tensions.

●  Humanitarian crisis in Yemen: While the formation of a unity government between the previously warring Southern Transitional Council (STC) and the Republic of Yemen Government (ROYG) represents progress towards peace, Yemen continues to witness a catastrophic humanitarian crisis. COVID-19 has broken an already overburdened health system, and the designation of the Houthis as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) may create major hurdles for local humanitarian operations and future US diplomacy efforts to deescalate the conflict.


● Northern Syria’s Detainee issue: Al Hol Camp in northeast Syria remains a major unaddressed security concern. The camp’s 65,000 residents are the families of ISIS fighters or suspected ISIS fighters, the majority of whom are children. As the camps’ authorities release residents in batches, the need for robust community reintegration programming is paramount.

●Collapsing Lebanese economy: Economic conditions in Lebanon are rapidly deteriorating amid a surge in COVID-19 cases and increased regional tensions with Israel. Worsening economic and political conditions could destabilize the country further as living standards continue to spiral in a downward trend.

●  Solution for Israel/Palestine: Foreign Ministers in Egypt, Jordan, France, and Germany continue to stress the importance of a two-state solution in Israel-Palestine to attain regional comprehensive peace. The Abraham accords have opened communication channels between Israel and other Arab nations and may reinvigorate negotiations toward a political solution for Israel/Palestine.

●  Security gaps in Iraq create opening for Iran: Following the continued drawdown of US forces in Iraq, Iran-backed Shi’a Paramilitary Forces (PMF) as well as violent extremist organizations may seek to exploit potential security gaps. Meanwhile, amidst sharp criticism from the populace following waves of anti-government and anti-Iran protests, Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi will face pressure to rein in Iranian proxy groups, meet protestor demands, and curb rising economic and energy challenges. Failure to stymie the growing influence of the PMF may undermine Kadhimi’s authority and allow for Iran to cement its foothold in Iraq’s political and security structures, though a lack of viable alternatives or meaningful US support could incentive the Prime Minister’s continued cooperation with Iran.

●  Strains in US-Turkey relationship: Strain in the US-Turkey relationship will continue in the aftermath of US sanctions imposed in December for Turkey’s acquisition of the Russian S400 anti-aircraft system. However, this event is just the latest notable development causing strain between the allied nations. Efforts towards a breakthrough in these bilateral relations could help prevent Turkey from acting as a spoiler for US interests in the region.