The MENA Region in Flux Programme

This programme covers the evolving regional order of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), examining dynamics in and between the region’s countries as well as the region’s place in a changing world.

Unpacking the MENA Programme

The MENA’s regional order and place in the world are in flux. Countries across the region are navigating the emergence of a multipolar word in which US commitment to regional security appears less certain, while China, Russia, and other external actors are looking to expand their influence. In recent years, new alignments and efforts at de-escalation – between Israel and various Arab states, between Iran and Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf Arab states, and between Turkey and states across the region – have challenged old conceptions of the region’s security order.

At the same time, Hamas’ 7 October attack on Israel in 2023 and the war that followed have highlighted the risk of re-escalation inherent in region’s unresolved conflicts. Other key drivers of instability, including socio-economic pressures, weak governance, and the activities of armed non-state actors remain pertinent. Global developments, like climate change and the energy transition or Russia’s war against Ukraine which has driven up international grain prices, are further adding pressure on governments across the region.

The UK and its allies across Europe and North America cannot afford to lose sight of the MENA. The era of Western interventionism in the MENA of the 2000s and early 2010s may be over, but instability, economic and environmental developments, and geopolitical realignments in the region will continue to directly shape the security and prosperity of the UK, Europe, and the US. Russian and Chinese engagement with MENA countries, bilaterally or multilaterally (e.g. through the BRICS or the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation), affects Western strategic interests, both in the region and further afield. The Iran nuclear programme – and with it wider questions around regional nuclear proliferation – and Iran’s destabilising behaviour in the region and beyond will remain key concerns for Western policymakers. The Middle East is also a region in which the effects of climate change are already acutely felt, and whose world-leading oil and gas producers are both central to UK and European energy security concerns and crucial players in the global energy transition.

The MENA Region in Flux Programme deals with these and other key subjects by conducting in-depth research projects, providing expert commentary, and bringing together policymakers and experts from the region and beyond.

Unpacking the MENA Programme

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