Speakers: Ambassador Patrick Theros, Dr. Lina Khatib, Alex Vatanka, and Dr. Ali Bakir.
Unlike 2020, 2021 saw the many efforts at de-escalation, dialogue and normalization in the Middle East, in general, and in the Gulf region in particular. While these efforts did not resolve any conflicts, they opened channels of dialogue between nearly all regional and international rivals. Baghdad hosted several rounds of talks between Riyadh and Tehran, aimed at lowering tensions and perhaps resolving some issues between the two principal rivals in the Gulf. Turkey reached out to the UAE, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia after several years of hostility working on economic deals as a driver for de-escalation. The UAE seems to have taken the lead among GCC in seeking full normalization with Assad’s Syria. Finally, 2021 saw the end of the GCC rift and resumption of full relations by Riyadh and Abu Dhabi with Doha. Even the US and Iran have persevered through 8 difficult rounds of trying to revive the JCPOA, the multilateral deal to restrain Iran’s nuclear program. Nonetheless, none of these efforts have reached fruition and all remain works in progress.
What role has the Biden Administration played, intentionally or not, in the de-escalation? What obstacles need to be overcome to secure a deal between Riyadh and Tehran that would bring stability to Yemen and Lebanon? What are the prospects for success or failure of the JCPOA talks and how would they play out?