“If I can generalise and group the buildings into three categories, the overwhelming majority aim to maximise area with very low construction cost and no allowance for design,” he added. “So the buildings end up bulky, repetitive and lacking character.
“Some attempt to give a local flavour and the successful ones are commendable. However, if the traditional elements are applied incorrectly, such as outside of their intended scale, function and context, then they tend to appear pastiche and ‘decorative’. Other buildings are contemporary, with a few good and forward-thinking examples, such as the Four Seasons in Bahrain Bay and the Bahrain National Theatre.”
Omari added that, particularly in Bahrain, traditional buildings demonstrate the country’s strong cultural routes and its rich history as a pearling harbour. Built from mud and coral and featuring distinct vernacular architecture, many of these examples are preserved in Muharraq, the country’s old capital, he said.
OAOA’s design for Big Box, a new office project to be constructed in Bahrain by 2021
The comments came as part of a larger conversation regarding OAOA’s new office project in Bahrain, Big Box, which is located within a wider masterplan designed for high density high-rises, while still underdeveloped and exposed to a busy main highway intersection. His client’s commercial desire to have a building that “stood out” from other buildings in the area presented a creative challenge for OAOA.
Big Box consists of four stacked cubes with similar proportions. While retail spaces and a lobby activate the pedestrian level, parking is placed in the aluminium louver-cladded podium box. Office spaces are designated to the three upper boxes, which are visually separated by the lower box, as they are cladded with a ceramic fritted curtain wall.
“It all depends on the context,” Omari said. “Here, there were no existing buildings of historical importance that we would overshadow, and we weren’t disrespectful to any neighbours, so it felt suitable and, if the architecture is well thought-out and serves a purpose, good design adds value.”
Big Box is expected to be completed by 2021, and an in-depth review of the project will be featured in Middle East Architect’s May issue.
Governments in the Middle East are becoming more
receptive to growing private sector involvement in their economies because
public sector debt in many markets is ballooning, an official from the World
Bank’s International Finance Corporation (IFC) has said.
Speaking on an investors’ panel debate at the
Global Financial Forum in Dubai on Monday, the IFC’s Middle East and North
Africa (MENA) director, Mouayed Makhlouf, said: “For the first time,
because of the massive rise in public debt across the region, we see a
difference. Our narrative with these governments has changed. Now, they are coming to us and they are saying
‘can you help us with the reforms?'”
Makhlouf said that the MENA region needs to create
300 million new jobs – “basically, double the population” by 2050 due
to the burgeoning youth population in the region, and that Egypt alone needs to
create around 700,000 jobs per year, although he said it is MENA’s fastest
growing economy currently, with GDP growth of 5.3 percent, compared with a
regional average of around 2-3 percent.
“The social contract in MENA is as such where
most of the services (are) provided by the public sector. But what you have ended up with… is a huge
public debt that has been rising for the past few years,” he said, adding
that debt-to-GDP ratios stand at around 96 percent in Egypt, 97-98 percent in
Jordan and 150 percent in Lebanon.
“For us, the main thing we need to find in
this region are… growth and jobs. And
I really believe both of these things can only come through a larger private
sector participation,” Makhlouf said.
In a separate panel on the outlook for the region’s
banking sector, JP Morgan‘s Asif Raza said that the decline in oil prices
that began in 2014 had created opportunities for
international banks to advise governments that are looking to
diversify on how to embark on “monetisation and privatisation” of
Kamal, MENA head of corporate banking at Citi, said that governments had run up deficits as oil
revenues fell, and had financed these through “various instruments where
banks have been involved”.
“And we expect to see that continue over the
next 2-3 years.”
Although total GCC fixed income issuance declined
by 16 percent year-on-year to $145.3 billion in 2018 as oil prices rallied,
according to Kamco Research, JP Morgan’s Raza said the current pipeline is
A faster flow
Raza said that at this stage last year, “over
$15.4 billion worth of issuance was done in the MENA region – this year, it’s
He added that in 2018, “the loan market
was (at an) all-time high in this region”. Figures published earlier this month from
Acuris showed that syndicated loan activity in the MENA region last year
outstripped bond issuance – with $133 billion of syndicated loans issued,
compared to $89.5 billion in bonds.
Raza said that at the top end of the corporate
banking market, “there’s lots of activity still happening”.
“There’s still quite a decent pipeline of
financing and refinancing,” he said.
However, Citi’s Kamal argued that the market has
been much tougher for SMEs in recent years.
“I believe that there is room for improvement
for all countries in the region as far as creating the right balance for SMEs
(is concerned),” he said.
He said that “time and again” in tougher
economic times large corporates, government-related entities and even government
departments have delayed payments to SMEs, which causes cashflow problems and
affects their ability to repay creditors.
“And some of the legal framework that
surrounds the corporate sector – we all know about bounced cheques and the
consequences of that. In summary, what
happens is SMEs can’t stay back in a number of cases (to) fight through these
cycles. So, we see skips, people leave
and that does not leave a very strong impact as far as consumer confidence is
Yet funding shortages for private sector firms can
also create opportunities – not least for the region’s private equity sector,
according to Karim El-Solh.
Speaking on the investment panel, El-Solh said that
his firm’s pipeline “has increased dramatically as a result of a lack of
availability of funding for businesses elsewhere.
“The IPO market is not open; the bank
liquidity has dried up so for us it’s an opportunity to come and be a provider
of growth capital. We are seeing more
companies, better quality companies, we’re acquiring controlling stakes at
lower valuations,” he said.
Makhlouf said more opportunities need to be created
for the private sector, stating that levels of private sector involvement in
the economy in the region lag behind other emerging markets.
“MENA region is only one-fifth in terms of
private sector participation compared to Latin America,” he said.
This article originally appeared on Fast Company, it was republished by the World Economic Forum on 8 March 2019. It is to be noted that in the eastern end of the MENA region, notably in the Gulf Cooperation Countries, Asian populations and investments happily cohabitate with the respective native minorities.
By Parag Khanna, Senior Research Fellow, Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore
This excerpt is from Parag Khanna’s book “The
future is Asian”. The book was chosen as February’s book for the World
Economic Forum Book Club. Each month, a new book will be selected and discussed
in the group. The author will then join in on the last day of the month to
reply to some questions from our audience.
When we look back from 2100 at the
date on which the cornerstone of an Asian-led world order began, it will be
2017. In May of that year, sixty-eight countries representing two-thirds of the
world’s population and half its GDP gathered in Beijing for the first Belt and
Road Initiative (BRI) summit. This gathering of Asian, European, and African
leaders symbolized the launch of the largest coordinated infrastructure
investment plan in human history. Collectively, the assembled governments
pledged to spend trillions of dollars in the coming decade to connect the
world’s largest population centers in a constellation of commerce and cultural
exchange—a new Silk Road era.
The Belt and Road Initiative is the
most significant diplomatic project of the twenty-first century, the equivalent
of the mid-twentieth-century founding of the United Nations and World Bank plus
the Marshall Plan all rolled into one. The crucial difference: BRI was
conceived in Asia and launched in Asia and will be led by Asians. This is the
story of one entire side of the planet—the Asian side—and its impact on the
Asians once again see themselves as
the center of the world—and its future. The Asian economic zone—from the
Arabian Peninsula and Turkey in the west to Japan and New Zealand in the east,
and from Russia in the north to Australia in the south—now represents 50
percent of global GDP and two-thirds of global economic growth. Of the
estimated $30 trillion in middle-class consumption growth estimated between
2015 and 2030, only $1 trillion is expected to come from today’s Western
economies. Most of the rest will come from Asia.
Asia produces and exports, as well as
imports and consumes, more goods than any other region, and Asians trade and
invest more with one another than they do with Europe or North America. Asia
has several of the world’s largest economies, most of the world’s foreign
exchange reserves, many of the largest banks and industrial and technology
companies, and most of the world’s biggest armies. Asia also accounts for 60
percent of the world’s population. It has ten times as many people as Europe
and twelve times as many people as North America. As the world population
climbs toward a plateau of around 10 billion people, Asia will forever be home
to more people than the rest of the world combined. They are now speaking.
Prepare to see the world from the Asian point of view.
To see the world from the Asian point
of view requires overcoming decades of accumulated—and willfully
cultivated—ignorance about Asia. To this day, Asian perspectives are often
inflected through Western prisms; they can only color to an unshakable
conventional Western narrative, but nothing more. Yet the presumption that
today’s Western trends are global quickly falls on its face. The “global
financial crisis” was not global: Asian growth rates continued to surge, and
almost all the world’s fastest-growing economies are in Asia. In 2018, the
world’s highest growth rates were reported in India, China, Indonesia,
Malaysia, and Uzbekistan. Though economic stimulus arrangements and ultralow
interest rates have been discontinued in the United States and Europe, they
continue in Asia. Similarly, Western populist politics from Brexit to Trump
haven’t infected Asia, where pragmatic governments are focused on inclusive
growth and social cohesion. Americans and Europeans see walls going up, but
across Asia they are coming down.
Rather than being backward-looking,
navel-gazing, and pessimistic, billions of Asians are forward-looking,
outward-oriented, and optimistic.
These blind spots are a symptom of a
related oversight often found in foreign analyses of Asia, namely that they are
actually about the United States. There is a presumption that Asia (and frankly
every other region as well) is strategically inert and incapable of making
decisions or itself; all it is waiting for is the US leadership to tell them
what to do. But from the Asian view, the past two decades have been
characterized by President George W. Bush’s incompetence, President Barack
Obama’s half-heartedness, and President Donald Trump’s unpredictability.
The United States’ laundry list of perceived
threats—from ISIS and Iran to North Korea and China—have their locus in Asia,
but the United States has developed no comprehensive strategy for addressing
them. In Washington it is fashionable to promote an “Indo-Pacific” maritime
strategy as an antidote to China’s Belt and Road Initiative, failing to see how
in reality Asia’s terrestrial and maritime zones cannot be so neatly separated
from each other. For all their differences, Asians have realized that their
shared geography is a far more permanent reality than the United States’
unreliable promises. The lesson: the United States is a Pacific power with a
potent presence in maritime Asia, but it is not an Asian power.
The most consequential misunderstanding
permeating Western thought about Asia is being overly China-centric. Much as
geopolitical forecasters have been looking for “number one,” many have fallen
into the trap of positing a simplistic “G2” of the United States and China
competing to lead the world. But neither the world as a whole nor Asia as a
region is headed toward a Chinesetianxia, or harmonious global system guided by
Chinese Confucian principles. Though China presently wields more power than its
neighbors, its population is plateauing and is expected to peak by 2030. Of
Asia’s nearly 5 billion people, 3.5 billion are not Chinese.
Asia’s future is thus much more than
whatever China wants. China is historically not a colonial power. Unlike the
United States, it is deeply cautious about foreign entanglements. China wants
foreign resources and markets, not foreign colonies. Its military forays from
the South China Sea to Afghanistan to East Africa are premised on protecting
its sprawling global supply lines— but its grand strategy of building global
infrastructure is aimed at reducing its dependence on any one foreign supplier
(as are its robust alternative energy investments).
China’s launching the Belt and Road
Initiative doesn’t prove that it will rule Asia, but it does remind us that
China’s future, much like its past, is deeply embedded in Asia. BRI is widely
portrayed in the West as a Chinese hegemonic design, but its paradox is that it
is accelerating the modernization and growth of countries much as the United
States did with its European and Asian partners during the Cold War. BRI will
be instructive in showing everyone, including China, just how quickly colonial
logic has expired. By joining BRI, other Asian countries have tacitly
recognized China as a global power—but the bar for hegemony is very high. As
with US interventions, we should not be too quick to assume that China’s
ambitions will succeed unimpeded and that other powers won’t prove sufficiently
bold in asserting themselves as well. Nuclear powers India and Russia are on
high alert over any Chinese trespassing on their sovereignty and interests, as
are regional powers Japan and Australia. Despite spending $50 billion between
2000 and 2016 on infrastructure and humanitarian projects across the region,
China has purchased almost no meaningful loyalty. The phrase “China-led Asia”
is thus no more acceptable to most Asians than the notion of a “US-led West” is
China has a first-mover advantage in
such places where other Asian and Western investors have hesitated to go. But
one by one, many countries are pushing back and renegotiating Chinese projects
and debts. Here, then, is a more likely scenario: China’s forays actually
modernize and elevate these countries, helping them gain the confidence to
resist future encroachment. Furthermore, China’s moves have inspired an
infrastructural “arms race,” with India, Japan, Turkey, South Korea, and others
also making major investments that will enable weaker Asian nations to better
connect to one another and counter Chinese maneuvers. Ultimately, China’s
position will be not of an Asian or global hegemon but rather of the eastern
anchor of the Asian—and Eurasian—megasystem.
The farther one looks into the
future, therefore, the more clearly Asia appears to be—as has been the norm for
most of its history—a multipolar region with numerous confident civilizations
evolving largely independent of Western policies but constructively coexisting
with one another. A reawakening of Western confidence and vitality would be
very welcome, but it would not blunt Asia’s resurrection. Asia’s rise is
structural, not cyclical. There remain pockets of haughty ignorance centered
around London and Washington that persist in the belief that Asia will come
undone as China’s economy slows or will implode under the strain of nationalist
rivalries. These opinions about Asia are irrelevant and inaccurate in equal
measure. As Asian countries emulate one another’s successes, they leverage
their growing wealth and confidence to extend their influence to all corners of
the planet. The Asianization of Asia is just the first step in the Asianization
of the world.
The number of millionaires in the UAE increased
last year and this trend will continue over the next five years as growing
investment opportunities will generate more millionaires locally as well as
political and economic stability will also woo rich individuals and families
from foreign countries, say researchers and analysts.
According to the latest report released by global
consultancy Knight Frank, the number of millionaires, or high net worth
individuals, in the UAE expanded 3 per cent to 53,798 last year from 52,344 in
the previous year. The numbers are projected to grow 14 per cent to 61,292 by
2023. Similarly, the number of ultra-high net worth individuals (UHNWIs) – who
own more than $30-million wealth – in the UAE grew from 672 in 2017 to 693 last
year and will reach 799 by 2023.
The study predicted that the number of UHNWIs in
Dubai and Abu Dhabi will increase from 440 last year to 511 in 2023 and from
192 to 223, respectively.
Issam Kassabieh, senior financial analyst at
Menacorp, believes that the ultra-rich will continue to flock to the UAE in
“At the moment, Dubai is attractive for
foreigners. Now, it is a place not just for good investments returns but also
to stay for long term. Government is focusing on key sector so that the cash
comes in and stays in the country through different measures such as longer
visas and ease of doing business initiatives,” Kassabieh said.
“The UAE is an attractive place for foreign
investors – financial markets are at an early stage and have a long way to go.
Real estate was the first to anchor the economy and that brought foreign
investors here. Going forward, the focus will be on more diverse sectors. Also,
the ease of doing business chart shows the UAE is first in the region and also
competitive globally,” he added.
“Dubai offers a full package – good quality of
life, healthcare, education and investment opportunities. All these complement
each other and attracts high net worth individuals to this country. In addition
to that, diversity of population plays a big role in this,” said
Knight Frank data revealed that Dubai and Abu Dhabi
will witness higher growth in UNHWIs as compared to Manama and Riyadh.
Raju Menon, chairman and managing partner, Kreston
Menon, said the number of millionaires will undoubtedly continue growing in the
UAE in coming years.
“Whatever the business challenges or revenue
decline the companies are facing today, it is temporary. We need to look at
long-term of 5 to 10 years. Millionaires should grow here in the UAE because
money is available here so the investment avenues will be opened. The UAE’s
economy offer big opportunities,” he said.
Menon believes that most of the new millionaires
will be homegrown mainly in retail, trading, healthcare, real estate, services
and shipping sectors.
Iyad Abu Hweij, Managing Director of Allied
Investment Partners, said the UAE, home to over 9.4 million residents, remains
an attractive destination for HNWIs in the region.
With investor and business friendly policies, world
class infrastructure and a stable outlook, HNWIs are expected to continue to
grow in numbers in the country over the next coming years. Such policies and
initiatives have played an important role in bolstering the confidence of
investors and attracting Foreign Direct Investments in the UAE, which in turn
creates jobs for a highly talented workforce,” Abu Hweij said
Additionally, the UAE, viewed as a regional startup
hub and a digital leader, continues to boast more startups than any other
country in the region. Naturally, such startups attract more venture capital
and private equity investments locally than anywhere else regionally, he added.
“The UAE continues to provide solid investment
opportunities for investors locally and globally, which, along with a rapidly
developing financial services sector, has played a catalyst like role for the
growth of HNWIs in the country.”
The number of millionaires in the Middle East with
wealth below $30 million grew three per cent from 446,384 in 2017 to 459,937
last year. The number is projected to grow 18 per cent to 541,311 by 2023.
Similarly, the ultra-high net worth individuals with more than $30m assets grew
four per cent year-on-year to 8,301 last year. It’s estimated that the number
will grow 20 per cent over the next five years to 9,997.
According to Knight Frank forecast, the number of
billionaires in the region will grow from 89 last year to 99 by 2023.
Globally, the number of millionaires with less than
$30 million assets are projected to expand from 19.6 million in 2018 to 23.4
million by 2023, an increase of 19 per cent. While ultra rich will increase 22
per cent during 2018 to 2023 from 198,342 to 241,053.
Migrant or expatriate workers continue adding to the labour force of oil-rich Gulf due to mega-construction projects, UN data shows. Al Jazeera posted this article dated 20 Dec 2018 elaborating on a situation known to all since the advent of oil.
Blue-collar migrant workers continue adding to the
labour force of the oil-rich Gulf, skewing long-standing efforts by its leaders
to increase the percentage of its own citizens in the workforce, data of the
UN’s International Labour Organization (ILO) shows.
Figures released this month in a 78-page study, ILO
Global Estimates on National Migrant Workers, showed that the proportion of
migrants in the eastern Arab region’s workforce ballooned by 5.2 percent from
2013 to 2017, mostly in the construction sector.
Migrants now make up 40.8 percent of the workforce
across a 12-nation region that includes the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) bloc of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain and Oman.
This is a much higher proportion than other rich
regions that attract some of the world’s estimated 164 million migrant workers.
In comparison, migrants make up only 20.6 percent of the labour force in North
America, and 17.8 percent in Europe.
In Dubai, Doha and other Gulf
boomtowns, foreigners make up as much as 90 percent of workers, according to
older figures. The ILO did not have data on separate countries for this month’s
report; Ryszard Cholewinski, the ILO’s Beirut-based expert on migrant
workers, said that figures provided by Gulf governments are often
The increase in labour flows to Gulf states these past five years was driven mainly by mega-construction projects, including pavilions for Expo 2020 Dubai and the FIFA World Cup 2022 stadiums being built across Qatar, said Cholewinski.
Demand has also grown for maids, gardeners, drivers
and other domestic staff, he added. In particular, more foreign carers are
being hired to look after a growing number of elderly folks in their homes, as
the Gulf population ages.
“The demand for male workers in the Arab
states explains the sharp increase in the share of migrant workers in this
region. Many of these workers are manual labourers, located mostly in the
construction sector,” Natalia Popova, an ILO labour economist, told Al
“Possible other reasons for the increase in
the high share of migrant workers may include the increasing demand for
domestic workers, both male and female, as well as for migrant workers in the
While data on nationalisation efforts is skewed due
to the sheer amount of blue-collar migrants, Gulf leaders have long sought to
boost the numbers of their working citizens, mainly in the white-collar workforce.
However, state-led hiring drives, with
such names as Qatarisation, Emiratisation and Saudisation, have had only
limited success, particularly in the private sector, according to the ILO.
“Many of these nationalisation policies are
not really having any impact. It’s one of the region’s big challenges,”
Cholewinski told Al Jazeera.
“There’s a lot of rhetoric on nationalisation in for example Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 agenda. But in practice, this is
going extremely slowly.”
Al Jazeera contacted the UN missions of all six
Gulf states by email and telephone over the course of several days, but was not
able to get a comment on this issue.
While each Gulf nation faces different challenges
when it comes to nationalisation, many Gulf citizens loathe taking jobs in
private companies, which cannot compete with the pension plans, generous holidays
and shorter working hours in the cushy jobs-for-life enjoyed by civil servants.
This can lead to odd distortions. A visitor to
Dubai, the UAE’s tourism hub, can spend their whole week-long vacation being
served by migrant workers in shops, taxis and eateries, and the only Emirati
they meet is a passport-stamping immigration clerk at the airport.
Last month, the UAE launched it’s so-called Citizen
Redistribution Policy to temporarily shift civil servants into private sector
jobs. It also rolled out training schemes for Emiratis and online recruitment
In recent months, Riyadh has introduced rules
requiring shops to have Saudis in at least 70 percent of sales jobs. Expat
workers pay monthly fees for their spouses and children, employers pay similar
penalties for foreign employees.
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin
Salman’s ambitious Vision 2030 agenda aims to overhaul the Saudi economy by
massively expanding the healthcare, education, recreation and tourism sectors
and slash the high unemployment rates for young Saudis.
John Shenton, chairman of the Chartered Institute
of Building’s Novus initiative, which supports construction jobs in Dubai, told
Al Jazeera that Gulf nationalisation schemes were bearing fruit.
In some state-regulated sectors, such as banking,
legal and financial services, the number of local staff has grown, Shenton
said. “If the goal is to get more Emiratis in the workforce then it’s
having some effect,” said Shenton. “However there are other factors
that will mean that those efforts may not be reflected in the data.”
These gains are dwarfed by the mass-recruitment of
foreign construction workers to build the skyscrapers, malls and artificial
islands for which the region is famous, he added.
“At a site level, the chaps in safety boots
and hard hats will always be from the subcontinent or South Asia,” Shenton
“At the engineering and supervisory level, the
skill set required can’t be satisfied by the number of local graduates. The
volume of work being undertaken and the discreet programme dates associated
with projects like Qatar 2022 necessitate our hosts resourcing from
Melissa Roza, a headhunter at a Dubai-based
recruitment firm, said nationalisation schemes had made gains in some
white-collar jobs, but that state-set hiring quotas and penalty fees were also
hurting these sectors.
Banks in the UAE often prefer to pay fines for
hiring foreigners than to cover the recruitment costs involved in hiring an
Emirati, training them up and meeting their high salary expectations, she said.
Executives have also found workarounds by hiring
migrants via outsourcing firms, which do not affect the quota count, added
Roza, whose name was changed so she could talk frankly on a hot-button
The crisis that erupted between a Saudi-led bloc of Arab states and Qatar led to the tiny Emirate facing an attack on them that was unprecedented. A full year later, the crisis is still unresolved. Read against the wider exigencies of US interests in the Gulf, the crisis has also highlighted profound weaknesses in Donald Trump’s approach to global politics.
Qatar out of the picture: Donald Trump meets with Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia at the White House. Kevin Dietsch/EPA
From the onset of the crisis, the Saudi-led bloc cut diplomatic ties and hit Qatar with embargoes, including air land and maritime restrictions. They also deployed bot-fuelled hashtags and social media attacks. It was clear that the Saudis and their allies were not only targeting Qatar’s leadership, but also its institutions, citizens and residents.
The Saudi-led bloc confronted Qatar with 13 demands, mostly focused on curtailing the Qatari approach to foreign policy, counter-terrorism and media freedom. When leaders in Doha refused to succumb, they were instead given six broad principles to abide by. The overall objective was clear: to achieve Qatar’s capitulation without making any concessions.
The Arab Gulf can ill afford such a crisis. Already coping with the demands of fragile states such as Yemen and Iraq as well as ongoing challenges posed by radical jihadist insurgents, there had been evident rapprochement and unity among the GCC states, Qatar included. And in the wake of the Arab Spring, the Gulf’s rattled monarchies had attempted to align themselves more closely, especially against Iran, even if this meant accepting Saudi Arabia’s aspirations to regional supremacy.
In this climate of apparent pragmatism, the move against Qatar blindsided observers. It also forced governments and security analysts to reassess the motivations of the Gulf’s leaders – especially the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman – and the implications of the Trump presidency. Indeed, in the early months of the crisis, more and more observers became convinced that Donald Trump had personally played a part in encouraging the move against Qatar.
America drops the ball
Trump may have thought that by siding against Qatar he was building influence and promoting US national security policy interests in the Middle East. He was wrong; instead, his approach to the crisis has only left the US more open to exploitation by foreign interests including the very Gulf actors he considers his friends.
Trump attempted to set the policy on the move against Qatar and all but declare it a terrorist state. This signalled a view radically at odds with his own Department of Defence and the State Department, both of which consider Qatar an essential ally Qatar, for example, is the leading regional security host for the US air forces.
An awkward moment at the Gulf Cooperation Council meeting – rulers of Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and UAE did not attend. EPA/Noufal Ibrahim
The upshot is that for a full year now, it’s been impossible to have full confidence in the US’s ability to effectively mediate and help resolve the crisis. From the start, the White House has failed to fully understand its own interests in the region and has been vulnerable to the machinations of others. The knock on effects on the wider region have cost the US dearly, in particular the actions of an emboldened Iran, which has sought to exploit the crisis and drive a deeper wedge between the Gulf’s Arab states.
But there may be hope for US interests yet. Since the late spring of 2018, there have been signs that the Trump administration is issuing something of a course correction. This is probably a matter of pure strategic self-interest; it seems to have been impressed upon Trump that he badly needs a united GCC to back him up in his anti-Iranian policies – not least his withdrawal from the Iranian nuclear deal and the ensuing sanctions he will enforce against Tehran.
The president might just be listening to his new secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, who has unequivocally stated that it’s time for the Saudis to resolve the crisis and help preserve American interests in the Gulf. But Pompeo faces a huge test: to pull the US out of full-blown incoherence and return it to strategic competence, all under the leadership of a dramatically unpredictable president – and to do so while a resurgent Iran pushes its luck in a region roiled by conflict and divided by deep enmity.