Over the past year, several important changes have crossed the MENA region. Firstly, the Ukraine war has pushed many Middle East and North African countries to take up an increasingly leading role in the regional and international arena. Some countries have offered their services to broker an agreement between Moscow, Kyiv, and the West; or intervened in smaller-scale, specific issues in which high-levels coordination was required to make progress. Among these, Turkey has been at the forefront of diplomatic engagement (i.e. to resume vital-for-the-region grain exports from the Black Sea); but also, Egypt, Israel, and organisations like the Arab League have ‘reinvented themselves’ as mediators and possible powerbrokers of a large-scale international conflict. But this dynamic has been tracked well beyond the Russia-Ukraine war. Qatar, for instance, has stepped up as a mediator between the Taliban and the Western world for a considerable period since the US forces’ withdrawal from Afghanistan; Iraq and Oman have engaged in diplomatic initiatives to design wider de-escalation plans in the context of Iran-Saudi talks; or yet, Cairo’s mediation between Hamas and Israel is also remarkable. In addition to increased unilateral efforts, processes of so-called “normalisation” (whether Arab-Israeli normalisation of “Arab normalisation with Damascus”) reflect important – albeit ambitious – enlarged peace endeavours, as well as profound changes in the foreign policy course of Arab countries, including the GCC. Furthermore, the overcoming of the GCC rift and the rapprochement between Qatar and the Gulf States has marked a step towards integration in the Arab peninsula’s foreign policy, although a consistent degree of fragmentation persists.
Considering the past-year geopolitical evolutions, what does the regional security landscape look like today? What attempts have been made at creating regional security platforms, and to what extent have they been successful? What strengths, and what weaknesses? Is a new regional security architecture in the making?