Please join us for an event hosted by Gulf International Forum and Weiser Diplomacy Center, Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, University of Michigan.
Featured speakers: Dr. Dania Thafer, Ambassador John Limbert , Dr. Hesham Alghannam, Professor David Des Roches, and Negar Mortazavi.
The Gulf region, Saudi-Iranian relations, and Iranian American talks are in a transition. 2021 has witnessed de-escalation between Gulf states and a clear intent to commit to dialogue rather than threats. The Saudis and Iranians are in direct talks in Baghdad. Reports about the resumption of diplomatic relations between the Gulf’s pillars engender cautious optimism that we will see an end to five years of escalating tensions that brought the Gulf to the brink of war several times.
However, the Biden Administration and Iran’s new conservative president still struggle to resume the nuclear deal talks. The U.S. is trying to leverage the Trump-imposed sanctions on Iran to expand the scope of the JCPOA while Iran seeks leverage by increasing uranium enrichment to unprecedented levels. Meanwhile, Israeli politicians keep talking about a “Plan B” implying a vague use of force to stop Iran’s nuclear program. Furthermore, Riyadh, Washington, and Tehran (or their proxies) continue to clash in Yemen, Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon.
These events continue to play out against a backdrop of an apparent U.S. intent to “recalibrate,” i.e., reduce, its presence in the Middle East. Some argue that Biden’s withdrawal from Afghanistan ‘at all costs,’ coupled with the withdrawal of air defense systems from Saudi Arabia indicate that Washington has a decreased interest in its commitment to its GCC partners’ security. Others argue that despite the Biden foreign policy repositioning of military forces to confront China in the Indo-Pacific region, Washington still regards the Middle east as a key battleground in its hegemonic competition with Beijing.