The Middle Eastern puzzle: unstable alliances and precarious balances

In mid-July, Middle East politics experienced a heated session of diplomatic rounds. On the one hand, the American president, Joe Biden, travelled to Israel and Saudi Arabia with the intention of restoring relations with the historical partners, on the other hand, the leaders of Turkey, Russia and Iran met in the Iranian capital to try to find a lowest common denominator between their respective regional strategies.

Let us therefore take a look at the state of the art of the region's geostrategic landscape and the critical issues facing the various local and extra-regional players.

Biden's trip: between expectations and criticism

The US President made his first trip to the Middle East. He first visited Israel where he met with senior representatives of the institutions and then travelled to Saudi Arabia to hold talks with the leaders of the Gulf Cooperation Council and those of Egypt, Jordan and Iraq. The US administration, given the difficult international contingency, has opted to recalibrate its policy towards Riyadh. The days of calling Saudi Arabia a pariah state are over, national interests now prevail. Indeed, the United States needs to re-establish relations with the Saudi giant in order to find a foothold in the stabilisation of the oil market and to discourage an excessive convergence of Saudi strategy with that of Russia and China. America's historical partners in the Gulf, the Saudis and Emiratis in particular, perceiving a partial US disinterest in their own strategic priorities, have started to deepen relations with the two main competitors of the US. Both countries intensified economic relations with Moscow and Beijing, and opened up to Chinese funding in infrastructure programmes as well as defence programmes. Despite these initial attempts at rapprochement, there is still a long way to go to realign interests. Beijing remains a major importer of Saudi crude oil and Riyadh continues to cooperate with Moscow in managing the oil agenda. Abu Dhabi wants to become one of the region's trade hubs and a bridge connecting Europe and Asia.

In parallel, Washington is pushing for greater integration and cooperation between its Arab partners and Israel. The path of cooperation between the Jewish state, the UAE and Bahrain seems to be well established, both economically and militarily. Although it has opened its airspace to civil flights from Tel Aviv, concrete steps towards a full normalisation of relations with Riyadh may take longer than expected. The monarchy protector of Islam's holy places must still maintain a partial commitment to the Palestinian issue, which in any case is no longer high on the list of priorities of many Arab chancelleries, barring major upheavals. Even the Arab NATO project seems difficult to implement, given the jealousy of its sovereignty with regard to the security issues of many Gulf partners.

The Tehran summit: complex partnerships

The three regional powers that met in Tehran are united in tactics but divided by strategy. Ankara, Moscow and Tehran want to change the regional status quo in their favour, but how to change it does not always involve a harmony of views and interests. While aspiring to carry more weight in regional dynamics at the expense of the US in particular, hegemonic aspirations often overlap, making cohesion of purpose more complex. To date, the Turkish desire to implement a new military action in northern Syria against the Kurds of the YPG clashes with Russian and Iranian desires, jealous of their own positions of power on Syrian soil. While Turkey plays free rider with its Western allies, trying to increase its negotiating power with its partners and Moscow, Russia has an interest in maintaining good relations with the Arab countries and Israel, Tehran's main adversary, which has an interest in derailing cooperation between the Jewish state and the Gulf countries. Moreover, Moscow and Ankara remain in latent competition for influence in the political and economic dynamics of the Caucasus region. Therefore, in this chessboard of precarious balances, even these actors must pay attention to how to conduct their moves, to avoid unpleasant conflictual escalations among themselves and with the other players in the Middle East strategic landscape.

Translated by Margherita Folci

Sources consulted for this article:


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  • L'Autore

    Michele Magistretti

    Mi chiamo Michele Magistretti, classe 1997, nato a Milano ma residente a Buccinasco.

    Dopo aver ottenuto il diploma di maturità linguista al liceo civico Alessandro Manzoni, ho conseguito la laurea triennale in Scienze Politiche presso l'Università Statale di Milano dove attualmente frequento il corso magistrale di Relazioni Internazionali. Appassionato di Storia fin da bambino ho maturato negli anni una passione per la Geopolitica e le Relazioni Internazionali.

    In Mondo Internazionale ricopro il ruolo di relatore nel progetto di "Framing the World", nel quale mi occupo della sezione MENA.

    My name is Michele Magistretti, born in 1997 in Milan but resident in Buccinasco.

    After obtaining a high school diploma in linguistics at the Alessandro Manzoni civic high school, I took a three-year degree in Political Science at the State University of Milan, where I am currently attending the master's course in International Relations. Passionate about history since I was a child, over the years I have developed a passion for Geopolitics and International Relations.

    At Mondo Internazionale I am an author in the "Framing the World" report, in which I write about the MENA section.


From the World Middle East & North Africa Sections International Security Framing the World


#Medio oriente #middle east #GCC #Arabia Saudita #Saudi #turkey #turchia #russia #iran #geopolitica #geopolitics

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