Featured speakers: Ambassador Patrick Theros, Dr. Ebtisam Al Ketbi, Dr. Sanam Vakil, Dr. Mohammad Al Rumaihi, and Sir Richard Dalton.
The last few months saw many efforts by Gulf states and the United States to restore diplomacy’s central role in the resolution of regional tensions, hopefully prioritizing reason and negotiations over sanctions and escalation. Saudi Arabia and Iran held direct talks in Baghdad in an attempt to de-escalate their regional rivalry. Similarly, Iran and the U.S. have re-engaged through indirect negotiations to revive the JCPOA after President Donald Trump withdrew from the pact in 2018.
Washington’s wish to expand the deal to include curbs on Iran’s ballistic missile program and Iranian support for Shia militias within the region on the agenda initially stalled the JCPOA negotiations. Then stalled the election and the inauguration of a new president in Tehran put them on indefinite hold. Given these developments, the region remains vulnerable to increasing tensions. As the world slowly recovers from the COVID19 pandemic, Gulf states—facing domestic political and economic challenges—might feel pushed to support diplomatic efforts to diminish regional security threats.
Has the Gulf region moved past an era of military escalation? Is a diplomatic miracle the only hope for quelling regional rivalries, or will patience and consistent dialogue produce a breakthrough? What would the Saudis and Iranians be willing to bring to the table to ease tensions between the two pillars of the Gulf? Do President Joe Biden’s Middle East priorities include de-escalating tensions in the Gulf? How will the U.S.-GCC relationship develop under President Biden, particularly the U.S.’ relationship with Saudi Arabia?