Persian Gulf

Experts in this Keyword

Ray Takeyh
Ray Takeyh

Hasib J. Sabbagh Senior Fellow for Middle East Studies

  • Yemen
    A Conversation With Senator Chris Murphy
    Senator Chris Murphy discusses the future of U.S. foreign policy in the Persian Gulf, the status of American support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen, and the foreign policy priorities for the 117th Congress.
  • Somalia
    Diplomatic Progress in Somalia
    The re-opening of the U.S. Embassy in Mogadishu, Somalia, is welcome news to many who have worked on U.S. policy issues in the Horn of Africa for decades. It represents not just a positive step in strengthening bilateral relations, but also a victory over those who would prioritize risk-aversion ahead of the actual work of diplomacy, which requires presence, relationships, and a multilayered understanding of the political and social dynamics that shape decision-making for partners on the ground. Achieving thoughtful policy goals in a climate as fractured and fragile as Somalia’s is a difficult task under the best of circumstances. Trying to do it from afar is nearly impossible. But this good news comes at a difficult time. Somalia’s slow and unsteady recovery from total collapse has long been threatened by al-Shabaab, the terrorist organization that still controls significant territory and has the capacity to strike targets in the capital and throughout much of the country, most recently a military base where the U.S. military trains Somali forces. These days, progress in Somalia is also threatened by external powers exporting their rivalries to the Horn. The rift in the Gulf Cooperation Council has found expression in Somalia, where the United Arab Emirates has aggressively courted Somaliland and semi-autonomous Puntland, while Qatar and Turkey are important supporters of President Farmajo’s Somali Federal Government. Rather than uniting Somalis in cooperatively resisting al-Shabaab and building enduring arrangements to provide security and opportunity to the population, this dynamic risks shifting focus to core-periphery tensions that need not be sources of instability for the Somali people. Any country seeking to influence events in Somalia would do well to pay close attention to important lessons from history. The proxy conflict in the Horn during the Cold War empowered corrupt and abusive leaders, led to tremendous human loss and suffering in the region, distorted institutions, poisoned regional relationships, and spawned new threats still bedeviling the United States and others. The unintended consequences of using the region as a venue to outflank a rival are not to be lightly dismissed.
  • Iran
    Is Iran Escalating Gulf Energy Attacks?
    The attacks on the sprawling Saudi oil facility bear all the hallmarks of an Iranian operation, marking a dangerous new phase in Gulf tensions.
  • Iran
    Iran Owns the Persian Gulf Now
    The Trump administration’s nonresponse to Iranian aggression has sent an unmistakable message.
  • Bahrain
    Can Bahrain Be Saved?
    Yesterday the government of Bahrain condemned a leading human rights activist, Nabeel Rajab, to five years in prison. His crime: tweeting. Rajab has been in and out of prison for years for such “crimes,” all of which involve the government’s effort to eliminate freedom of speech and stop all criticism of the government. Freedom of speech is supposedly guaranteed by the Bahraini constitution, which also says “No person shall be subjected to physical or mental torture, or inducement, or undignified treatment.” Rajab wrote that there was torture taking place, for which he was prosecuted; he had violated a law against “insulting” a government agency. Nothing Rajab has done would be a crime in any free country. His conviction is tragic for him and his family, but it is also tragic for Bahrain. Since 2011, when protests arose in the context of the Arab Spring, the government has reacted to them with repression. It will not work. Resentment of the royal family, which is Sunni while most Bahrainis are Shia, will only widen among Shia citizens and all citizens who want a free society. The worst fears expressed in 2011 and after—that the repression would create disaffection, which would lead to more repression and then Iranian meddling—have been borne out. Today, there is real Iranian subversion including shipping weapons into Bahrain. Bahrain is in a downward spiral. Whether it can be stopped is not clear, at least to me. The current path will lead to more and more repression, more and more Iranian subversion, and more and more violence. Moving off that path would require courageous national leadership, from the Shia community to be sure but above all, and first, from the royal family. It has been absent. If it remains absent in the months and years ahead, Bahrain’s future will be darker and darker. A joint effort by the United States, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE is the only solution I can imagine. Together these three governments have the influence to broker a solution—assuming it is not already too late. The Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry made an effort in 2011, but that was in essence a private effort and the implementation of its excellent recommendations depended entirely on the royal family’s good intentions. What is needed now is a higher-powered effort that takes into account both the fate of the Fifth Fleet (headquartered in Bahrain) and the likelihood of increasing Iranian subversion and the violence it can produce. Such an effort may fail, but we will not know whether Bahrain can really be saved from increasing repression, subversion, and violence unless and until we try.  
  • Qatar
    The Other Gulf Conflict: How the Qatar Crisis Is Playing Out in D.C. Back Rooms
    Well-fed lobbyists and think tank experts do battle over catered lunches—but it's not as sleazy as it sounds.
  • Saudi Arabia
    Saudi Arabia's Untested New Crown Prince: Mohammed Bin Salman Has High Hopes, But Rises to Power at a Dangerous Moment
    King Salman's son Mohammed is now the desert kingdom's dominant figure—and the challenges before him are huge.
  • Turkey
    Turkey and the GCC: Cooperation Amid Diverging Interests
    A policy paper by Steven A. Cook and Hussein Ibish exploring relations between Turkey and the Arab Gulf states for the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington.
  • Global
    The World Next Week: July 30, 2015
    US Secretary of State John Kerry meets with Gulf leaders; the first Republican presidential debate is held and the 25th anniversary of the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait is marked.