In recent years, there has been a significant over-concentration of wealth, power, and employment opportunities in the main urban centers, especially the capital Riyadh. Nonetheless, this over-concentration in the capital worries some.
In Saudi Arabia, “Vision 2030” and Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud’s economic and social reforms affect also the geographical peripheries of the kingdom. Some of these provinces present long-time economic and social inequalities with respect to the political centre, showing also distinct features in terms of culture and, sometimes, confessional identity. Borderland areas are also connected for kinship and networks with troubled neighbouring states (from Yemen to Iraq), with implications for border security.
In spite of numerous efforts by the USA and its European and regional allies, the three-year blockade of Qatar by the Arab quartet shows no sign of abating. With the Trump administration determined to ratchet up its pressure on Iran and the UN’s Iran arms embargo expiry date fast approaching, one can be certain that the current crisis is set to gain an added urgency in the days and weeks ahead.
Almost three years after Iraq declared victory against the so-called Islamic State (IS), whether and to what extent foreign countries continue to assist Baghdad in maintaining security will affect geopolitical alliances, counterterrorism operations, corruption and, indirectly, numerous other issues in the country.
On August 11, a Turkish drone strike in north-eastern Iraq killed two Iraqi border guards who were returning from an alleged conflict resolution meeting with representatives of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is considered a terrorist organization by Ankara, the US, and the European Union.
On August 20, the Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi met with US President Donald Trump in Washington DC for the second round of the Strategic Dialogues, a series of bilateral talks during which the leaders attempted to discuss the future of both countries’ economic, political and security relations.
In the course of his first official visit to the US in mid-August 2020, the Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi assured his American allies of his commitment to a mutually beneficial exchange.
In Iraq, politics is personal, and the politics of Baghdad-Erbil relations is no exception. Improvements and deteriorations in this relationship have largely been dictated by interpersonal dynamics, such as the rapport and mutual confidence between leaders. In May 2020, the Kurdistan Region’s major political parties played an unusually decisive role in having Mustafa Al-Kadhimi selected as the Prime Minister (PM) of Iraq.
Iraq is facing the biggest challenge to its economy since 2003. Even during the vicious and costly conflict with ISIS, when oil prices plummeted and the government struggled to finance the war, the economic shock did not appear to be as insurmountable as it does today. The COVID-19 epidemic in Iraq has shown no signs of abating and the IMF predicts that Iraq’s economy will contract by 4.7% in 2020.
In October 2019, Iraqi youth took to the streets en masse to protest against government corruption and lack of essential services. The protests later developed to call for a total overhaul of the political system, including a new electoral law, early elections held under UN supervision and constitutional reform, among other issues.