Uncertain Winds: Trends in West Asia in 2024
Hirak Jyoti Das, Senior Research Associate, VIF
Israel-Hamas Conflict

On 7 October, Hamas’ military wing, Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades backed by Palestinian Islamic Jihad’s (PIJ) Al-Quds Brigades executed a multi-domain ‘shock and awe campaign’, ‘Operation Al Aqsa Flood’ in southern Israel through simultaneous land and sea infiltration and rocket barrages. The military operation by Hamas killed around 1200 Israeli and foreign nationals. Israel in response announced ‘Operation Swords of Iron’ to destroy Hamas’ military and governance capabilities and rescuing all hostages. The Israeli assault firmly backed by the US has killed more than 26,000 Palestinians until the end of 2023. Israel has ignored international appeal including the UN General Assembly resolutions on 26 October and 12 December voting overwhelmingly in favour of ceasefire.

In 2024, the Gaza conflict will continue to ignite tensions and resentment in the Arab world towards Israel and its western allies. Questions remain on how the war in Gaza will end and how the nature of Day after scenario shapes up in coming months. The Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) outlining the next phase of the war will preserve its operational freedom of action in post-war Gaza. Defence Minister Yoav Gallant hinted that non-Hamas Palestinian bodies would handle civilian affairs and rejected possibility of Israeli civilian presence in the strip. In case, Israeli government opts for long-term military occupation and initiate settlement construction in Gaza, the Arab public antagonism would intensify and slow down the momentum towards further normalization with the Jewish state.

Israel will seek to sustain the working relationship with Egypt and Jordan and increase cooperation with Bahrain and the UAE; continuation of normalization process with Saudi Arabia and engage with Qatar on hostage related mediation. On domestic level, public resentment against Benjamin Netanyahu government has grown following 7 October attack by Hamas.[1] The killing of Hamas leader Al-Arouri and High Court’s verdict to scrap judicial reforms has slightly increased Netanyahu’s popularity. The mind-set within Israel has further shifted towards the right, but there is inclination to opt for centrist and responsible security-oriented political leadership. It could lead to new configurations within the right and left. In the coming months, political rivals could club together forming unexpected alliances to replace Netanyahu.

On the economy front, the Bank of Israel due to uncertainty about the duration and scope of the war; absence of appropriate government response; downturn in private consumption and demand reduced the growth outlook for next year. The war with Hamas is expected to cost the Israeli economy up to US$ 54 billion. The government budget deficit will widen from 3.7 percent of GDP in 2023 to 5 percent of GDP in 2024. The debt-to-GDP ratio could reach to 66 percent at the end of 2024. OECD has forecasted that Israel’s GDP will drop from 2.3 percent in 2023 to 1.5 percent in 2024. The fiscal deficit ending is expected at 3.1 percent in 2023 and widening it to 5.2 percent of GDP in 2024. Besides the immediate cost of the war and support for those affected, the cost of living, labour market reforms and inflation will remain pressing economic policy concerns in 2024.

Potential Grounds for Escalation of Israel-Hamas Conflict

The intensity of Israel’s attacks in the coming months could subside, but low-intensity warfare or contained confrontation could persist along with targeted assassinations of Hamas’ military and possibly political leadership.[2] Israel’s military occupation could increase the potential for escalation on multiple fronts or transform into a wider regional conflict involving Iranian proxies in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Yemen. Israel’s infringement of Lebanon and Syria’s airspace will remain and may extend to Iraq for carrying out pre-emptive or retaliatory air strikes on facilities of militant groups and targeted assassinations of leaders. Maritime security will be deeply affected in 2024. Houthis in response to Israel’s attacks in Gaza Strip will continue to threaten the navigation routes in the Red Sea affecting trade networks. Oil and natural gas firm, BP and shipping industry giants such as Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC); (MSC); CMA CGM Group; Hapag-Lloyd and Maersk suspended their operations in the Red Sea in mid-December 2023. Persian Gulf and Arabian Sea could emerge as a low intensity battleground between Iran and the US marked by drone strikes and seizure of vessels.

The escalation between Hezbollah and Israel could drag the Lebanese state already facing financial and economic downfall worsened by the 2020 Beirut port blasts; Covid-19 pandemic etc. The political situation is highly fragile marked by social unrest. The risk of full scale war is high especially after the killing of Deputy Chief of Hamas’ Political Bureau, Saleh al-Arouri in Beirut by Israeli forces. The hawks within Israel are hoping to use the present crisis to expand military operations in Lebanon and Syria to deliver a crushing blow to Iran and its allies. Hamas is seeking to mobilise the Palestinians living in Lebanon to join the war against Israel and build grounds to nurture the ‘Axis of Resistance’. The Lebanese state has weak capacity to manage any major escalation. On domestic level, the political elites are keen to preserve the status quo and not likely to employ any serious measures to ensure accountability or initiate reforms to change the power structure. 2024 will likely create new uncertainty for Lebanon.

Iraq is already emerging as an extended battleground of the wider Israel-Hamas conflict. Iraqi militias carried series of strikes on US and coalition bases between October and December 2023. Militia groups have attacked US bases in Iraq and Syria at least 115 times between October and December 2023. The retaliatory strikes by the US have targeted leaders[3], weapons storage facilities, safe houses and vehicles. In 2024, these attacks and US’ retaliatory strikes and targeted killings of militia commanders could continue. These groups want to force conditions for complete withdrawal of US troops and vowed to continue targeting until their objectives are achieved. In case, US retaliatory attacks result in high death toll including civilians, Iraqi government could be pressurized to request US forces to leave the state. Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia Al-Sudani’s office announced that his government is initiating the bilateral committee to permanently end the presence of international coalition forces. On domestic level, Al-Sudani government’s performance to enforce accountability has been poor and chronic problems facing Iraqi political system and economy will remain in 2024.

Economy

In terms of economy, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has estimated an overall GDP growth rate of 3.4 percent in 2024 up from 2 percent in 2023. The wealth gap and income inequalities between GCC states and other states will persist. The middle income states such as Egypt and Jordan will face socio-economic and political challenges due to rising unemployment and inflation. Tourism sector contributes for around 35 to 50 percent of export revenues in Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon. Israel-Hamas war has affected this sector and slowed inflows of FDI and portfolio investments, uncertainty and higher risks for business, leading to tightening of financial conditions.

The spread of Israel-Hamas war could risk reduction in oil and gas supplies in one or more producers in the region. Any disruptions causing temporary blockade in Suez Canal or the Strait of Hormuz or damage to oil facilities could reduce the GDP of major oil and gas producers in the region and harsh consequences for the global economy.

Potential for Transport Corridors

The West Asian region has immense potential to establish itself as the focal point for new Eurasian transport corridors offering alternative trade routes and geostrategic alliances for regional and international players. It facilitated in the formation of the India Middle East Europe Economic Corridor (IMEC) in September 2023 participated by India, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Israel, the US and the European Union (EU). Israel’s actions in Gaza have slowed the progress of the ambitious project in the short term.

Iran and Russia has vested interest to push for the development of the International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC). It would connect Russia through Iran with India and South Asia. INSTC is integral to Russia’s ‘Pivot to the south’ strategy and Iran is keen to emerge as a transit hub in the region as part of its own ‘Pivot to the east’ policy. Iraq and Turkey are developing the 1200 kms multi-modal Development Road involving road, rail and ports connecting Turkey to the Great Faw Port in the northern tip of the Persian Gulf. The road according to the plan would intersect with the Middle Corridor, part of China’s BRI project, advocated by Turkey. The UAE and Qatar have reportedly indicated support for the project. The first phase of the construction is expected to be completed by 2028.

Regional Powers:
Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states

The strategic stature of Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Qatar will likely grow in 2024. The three Gulf States have emerged as regional leaders guiding the region’s political, economic and security policies since 2011 Arab Spring that swept the region destabilising the republican regimes in Egypt, Libya, Syria and Yemen. Saudi Arabia and the UAE have maintained their leadership position in the OPEC+ oil cartel to determine supply flow and prices. Both states have joined the BRICS grouping adding to their strategic heft.

In case of Israel-Hamas war, Riyadh, Abu Dhabi and Doha’s role will be crucial during deliberations on the ‘day after scenario’ in Gaza. The US and Israel want Saudi Arabia and the UAE’s active engagement to stabilize post-conflict Gaza; address humanitarian challenges; provide governance, financial and security needs. Besides these two states, Qatar and Egypt’s role will be crucial to provide ground for inter-Palestinian talks and negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians.

Saudi Arabia’s ambitious Vision 2030 project could be jeopardized by renewal of hostilities with Houthis. In fact, one of the key reasons for Saudi Arabia to rebuild ties with Iran was to de-escalate tensions with Houthis and accepting the current status quo. Saudi Arabia conceding its failure to uproot the group carried out trust building exercises through prisoner exchanges in 2023. Houthis’ military campaign has complicated Saudi strategy to end the conflict. Any incident on Saudi territory could entangle Riyadh into a renewed conflict with Houthis. In such a scenario, Riyadh could cooperate with Iran to pressurize Houthis to avoid any escalation with Saudi Arabia. The common threat from Houthis at the same time could force Riyadh to enhance security engagement with Israel opening options for normalization.

Saudi Arabia’s efforts to position itself as the region’s pre-eminent economic player as part of Vision 2030, could complicate its relations with the UAE serving as business and finance centre in the Gulf region. Saudi Arabia is planning to introduce flagship regional headquarters project prohibiting any foreign firms from conducting business with state firms in the absence of regional headquarters based in Saudi territory. Geo-economic competition could add friction between the two key GCC actors.

Iran

Iran has the difficult task of balancing between limited escalation and preserving its détente with Saudi Arabia and the US. In case of a major escalation, a new wave of sanctions would be disruptive for the economy and worsen the social strains especially in an election year. The upcoming parliamentary election in April 2024 will be carefully managed and the candidates would be strictly vetted to corner anybody opposing the hardliners’ faction. The economic conditions rather than Israel would be the main concern among Iranians.

Any regional destabilisation initiated directly or indirectly by Iran could unsettle the economic recovery process following the improved relations with Gulf States. Iran in 2024 will seek to engage with the west to ease sanctions; build relations with Gulf States and intensify its firm ties with China and Russia.

Turkey

The devastating earthquake in February killed around 46,000 people creating a major humanitarian crisis from Turkish state. The reconstruction work prior to May 2023 election took pace but subsequently slowed down due to high rebuilding costs and rise in rental prices. The economic situation in 2023 remained unstable with inflation hiking to more than 70 percent and high food and energy costs affecting large number of citizens. In mid-2024, Central Bank has predicted to rise to 70-75 percent. President Erdogan government continued to accelerate democratic backsliding; sabotaging rule of law; supressing political opponents and curbing freedom of press and speech. In the upcoming municipal elections in March 2024, Erdogan will attempt to win Istanbul and Ankara defeating Republican People’s Party (CHP).

Turkish forces have intermittently conducted number of air strikes on Kurdish targets in Syria and Iraq in 2023. The situation in Syria and Iraq is already fragile due to the on-going Israel-Hamas war and there is a growing pressure to force US troops to leave both Arab states. In Syria, the Kurdish groups allied to the US could become easier targets for Turkish forces in case of complete withdrawal by US troops.

Turkey learning from past mistakes in evoking the neo-Ottoman aspirations and on-going economic strains has focussed on diplomacy as defining role in global and regional crises. Israel’s assault in Gaza has offered Erdogan an opportunity to assert himself as a regional leader. Turkey is however, unlikely to directly involve itself in the Israel-Hamas conflict and limit its actions to raising concerns in multi-lateral forums and prevent Israel’s targeted assassination plans of Hamas leaders living in the country.

Extra-regional Actors
The US

The US’ regional standing has deteriorated due to its complicity with Israel in Gaza strip that has killed more than 26,000 people. The US efforts will be directed towards controlled tensions and containment of wider conflict through military support and reinforcing troop presence and large aircraft carrier vessels. The US at the same time could engage with the key players through dialogue, diplomacy and backchannel talks. The US’ staunch support for Israel’s actions is already intensifying public antagonism in Arab states affecting its security assets in the region. The attacks on US bases in the region will be more frequent in 2024. The key regional powers due to public pressure could be forced to downplay its engagement with the US and pivot towards China and Russia. The regional alliances could be altered and de-stabilized due to the dynamic circumstances in the region.

The US’ interests in the region will be affected by the on-going conflict between Israel and Hamas; grave humanitarian crisis straining the region’s state system; threats from Iran and its allied groups and remnants of the Islamic State (IS). Joe Biden presidency lacks strategic focus and clear priorities in its overall foreign policy especially with regard to the region. Joe Biden facing election in November 2024 is not ready to displease the pro-Israeli pressure groups that could tilt the balance towards the Republican Party candidates. The operational bandwidth limitations in US’ national security apparatus will affect its capability to proactively engage and Washington DC will be pre-occupied with challenges such as China’s actions in Indo-Pacific region and on-going Russia-Ukraine war. For the US, the bandwidth constraints could prolong the Israel-Hamas war; disrupt progress of the Negev Forum; progress for normalization between Saudi Arabia and Israel and development of India Middle East Europe Economic Corridor (IMEC).

China

China’s successful effort to facilitate normalization of ties between Iran and Saudi Arabia in March 2023 and fairly balanced approach on Israel-Gaza war in support of ceasefire and two-state solution have positively impacted its regional positioning. China’s interest to position itself as a constructive actor and international mediator is aimed at launching in the larger geopolitical dynamics including Russia-Ukraine war; alternative to the US; promoter of security and stability in the region; partner of development and prosperity and a promoter of unity and self-improvement. China at the same time, is risk-averse and, recently, it has expressed unwillingness to take part in regional defence operations including the recent US-led coalition called Operation Prosperity Guardian to protect merchant ships from attacks by Houthis in the Red Sea. China’s objectives in the region are to seek a semblance of peace and stability; pause on Israel-Hamas conflict, and project an image of a responsible great power. The Saudi-Iran deal is part of Xi Jinping’s Global Security Initiative (GSI) to provide an alternative global security order based on China’s solutions to global security challenges in other words, Chinese perception of global security. China signed significant deals with Egypt[4], Saudi Arabia[5], Qatar[6], the UAE[7], Oman[8] and Iraq[9] in 2023.

In November 2023, the People’s Bank of China signed local currency swap agreement worth US$ 6.97 billion or 50 billion Renminbi with Saudi Central Bank. It is aimed at use of local currencies in bilateral transactions and conducting trade and investment. China in 2024 could pressurize the GCC states especially Saudi Arabia to conduct trade in Renminbi instead of dollar. Saudi Arabia’s entry in the BRICS grouping could add impetus for China to convince Riyadh to opt for the currency switch. For Saudi Arabia, the delicate regional balancing and geopolitical and economic reasons including its ambitious Vision 2030 project are critical reasons for continuing to trade in dollar. Saudi Arabia, worried about new challenges, including Houthis’ military manoeuvring against Israel, would want to sustain the US security guarantee and resist any measures that could dilute macroeconomic stability.

Russia

Russia has steadily deepened its inroads in the region despite sanctions and on-going war with Ukraine. Iran and Russia in November finalized the delivery of Sukhoi SU-35 fighter jets, Mi-28 attack helicopters and Yak-130 jet trainers. Russia sent its Black Sea Fleet for joint naval drills with Algerian forces in Mediterranean Sea in December 2023. Russian President Vladimir Putin held discussions with Khalifa Haftar to supply air defence technology and pilot training to the Libyan national Army (LNA) in exchange for building a Russian naval base in Libya. Russian forces were actively involved in Syrian military’s bombing campaign in Idlib and Aleppo against Hayat Tahrir Al Sham and Islamist opposition forces.

In energy sector, Russian oil and gas firm, Lukoil’s contract in West Qurna 2 oilfield has been extended by 10 years. Iraq approved sale of 40 percent stake of Japan’s Inpex in Block 10 region. Russia plans to extend the free trade zone between Eurasian Economic Union and Iran. Notably, Russia’s total trade with Iran has increased to US$ 3.6 billion in 2022. Russia and China will carefully navigate its inroads in the region especially in light of Israel-Hamas war and growing possibility of regional escalation. The policy of ‘two steps forward, one step backward’ depending on the changing ground realities would continue.

State of the Civil Wars:
Sudan

The power struggle between Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) under Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and Rapid Support Forces (RSF) under Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo culminated into a full scale conflict in early 2023. On 15 April 2023, RSF began attacking key government sites including the Presidential Palace; Khartoum International Airport; Merowe Airport; El Obeid Airport, Soba military base in order to directly challenge the military led government. It led to humanitarian crisis causing acute shortages of food, clean water, medicines, fuel, electricity and severely thwarted Sudan’s prospects towards building a democratic state. The protracted and unpredictable civil war expedited increased presence of foreign armed groups and regional actors; flared up new fault lines in the restive peripheral regions; spread the conflict into bordering states such as South Sudan, Ethiopia, Chad, the Central African Republic, Libya and Egypt. Reportedly, around six million people were forced to displace. The negotiation and ceasefire efforts have failed to bring the two warring parties to accept power sharing or move towards democratisation. The grim situation in 2024 will continue with periods of intense fighting due to reluctance by Burhan and Dagalo to accept permanent ceasefire and poor political will by key international and regional actors. Sudan’s civil war situation will be overshadowed by on-going conflicts in Gaza and Ukraine.

Syria

The civil war in Syria has frozen with Bashar Al Assad government backed by Russia and Iran control around 70 percent of the state’s territory. The Idlib region in north-western Syria is controlled by Islamist Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS). The northern areas of Aleppo, Raqqa and Hasakah governorates are under Turkish control and Kurdish dominated Syrian Defence Forces (SDF) has maintained control over large chunk of north-eastern Syria. Turkey in the past year carried out attacks on Kurdish forces in Syria and Iraq. Islamic State (IS) fighters have exploited the factional fighting to retain their presence in the secure scarce patches in the state. The US has deployed around 900 personnel in the state to conduct counter-terrorism operations and contain the activities of Iran backed militia groups. Israeli forces throughout 2023 targeted Syrian and Iranian military positions including airports in Aleppo and Damascus.

Bashar Assad on diplomatic level has succeeded to normalise ties with key Arab states and allowed to re-join Arab League. Syria is in urgent need of aid and support for re-construction.[10] Russia, its closest extra-regional ally is preoccupied with the war in Ukraine. Syria’s key regional ally, Iran is itself facing deep economic troubles, political upheaval and security challenges internally as well as from the US and Israel. Israel-Hamas war has already converted the fragile state as a battleground. Syria will face direct impact in case of escalation between Israel and Iran backed militia groups. In the northern region, limited strikes between Kurdish groups and Turkish forces could continue in 2024.

Libya

In Libya, similar to Syria, the conflict has apparently been frozen and efforts to push forward political reconciliation and convene presidential and parliamentary elections have stalled. The UN Special Envoy, Abdoulaye Bathily has been unable to bringing the contending parties together. The key stakeholders in Tripoli and Tobruk based governments in midst of rampant corruption, illegal migration, economic fragility etc. will try to entrench the existing political, security and patronage networks. Due to halt in political progress, there is risk of renewed oil blockades over control of central bank funds, inter-militia fighting, removing Prime Minster Abdul Hamid Dbeibah; unilateral action to appoint new government by Tobruk based House of Representatives, efforts to push Osama Saad Hammad Saleh as alternative Prime Minister etc. Khalifa Haftar, the de facto leader of Tobruk based government will attempt to strengthen its military ties with Russia. Libya is a critical asset for Russia’s foray in North Africa and the continent in general.

Yemen

The Yemeni Shiite group that controls Sanaa and large chunk of northern Yemen in the past had attacked Saudi oil refineries, pipelines, airports and other critical infrastructure affecting oil flow and investment options. Houthis showcasing its commitment to Palestinian issue has launched missile and drone attacks towards Israel and attacked ships in the Red Sea. It has opened a new front from Israel and US for military actions in Yemen.

Saudi Arabia in order to unite the anti-Houthi forces initiated the formation of the Presidential Leadership Council (PLC) in April 2022. The PLC’s effectiveness has been diluted due to split between Riyadh and Abu Dhabi’s interest that backs the Southern Transitional Council (STC). PLC was not consulted during Saudi Arabia’s truce negotiations with Houthis. Houthis are not ready to relent demanding unconditional withdrawal of the Saudi led coalition, sole recognition as Yemen’s legitimate government and reparations and reconstruction packages. The future in Yemen is uncertain.

Algeria-Morocco Tensions

The relations between the two North African neighbours are highly strenuous since diplomatic relations were cut off in August 2021. Both Morocco and Algeria could continue its hostile approach in 2024. The US recognition of the Western Sahara region as part of Morocco was a major diplomatic victory for Rabat. Algeria could use its non-permanent membership in UNSC in 2024-25 to play a more pro-active role on the global stage and advance its pro-Polisario agenda. The European states are cautiously observing the dynamics in North Africa and these countries have vested interest to maintain stability. Both states however, do not want full-fledged conflict especially in the background of the wars in Gaza and Ukraine. Both sides have prioritized stability over military confrontation; importance of preserving economic development and restraining from escalation. In December, US Assistant Secretary of State Joshua Harris visited Algeria and Morocco to create ground for resolution and support the UN led political process under Staffan de Mistura. In 2024, there is possibility of diplomatic spats and low intensity conflict. Both states at the same time are engaging in multi-lateral platforms to resolve dispute through diplomatic means.

Technology Sphere

The Cold war between the US and China in strategic technologies especially AI could influence the digital transformation goals of Gulf States. The US will pressurize its regional allies such as Israel, Saud Arabia and the UAE to obstruct cooperation with China in AI chips. In October 2023, the US Department of Commerce prohibited chip making firms, Nvidia and AMD to supply AI chips to China. China’s collaboration with regional players could raise the centrality of technology issues in US’ bilateral relations.

The scope of cyber warfare will increase in light of Iran’s limited escalation policy against Israel. Both Israel and Iran have engaged in cyber warfare activities against each other. Iran’s capabilities to disrupt digital services, compromise intelligence databases and sabotage physical infrastructure has increased. The frequency of cyber-attacks has increased in light of war in Gaza. Israel will attempt to update its cyber doctrine to counter Iran’s growing sophistication in cyber warfare backed by Russia in exchange of Iranian military and industrial support. Gulf States will attempt to catch up and increase cyber capacities to deter emerging challenges to its oil and financial infrastructure.

Israel-Hamas war has contributed to remarkable polarization in public opinions throughout the world. The charged and sensitive nature of the conflict coloured with religious, ethnic and nationalist undertones has opened a ‘virtual front’ of the conflict flooding the internet with misinformation in the multiple social media platform such as X, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter etc. Israel has heavily invested in disinformation and public narrative management to rationalize the on-going humanitarian crisis and massive human costs killing more than 26,000 Palestinians. The scale and frequency of public narrative management will increase rapidly by states and non-state actors to shape support during conflicts, domestic and regional tensions; elections etc.

Environmental Issues

The string of natural calamities has brought to light the vulnerabilities of governments and their limitations in preparedness and response mechanisms. The February earthquake in Turkey and Syria killed around 55,000 people and in September, around 3000 people were killed in Morocco. In, around 4300 people were killed during floods in September. The management and recovery efforts of natural disasters are further complicated in Libya and Syria facing civil wars. The water crisis in Iran has grown more acute in 2023 raising questions about the regime’s environmental management. Iran’s dispute with Afghanistan over Helmand River underlines how environmental issues could explode into escalation and ignite border tensions.

The UN’s annual climate summit began in Dubai on 30 November. The leaders approved a climate disaster fund to help vulnerable states cope with the impact of drought, floods and rising seawater. The UAE’s Ministry of Industry Sultan al-Jaber called for proactively engaging with fossil fuel companies in phasing out emissions and talked about the progress by some national oil firms in adopting net zero targets by 2050. The heads of state of France, Japan, the UK, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Jordan, and Brazil as well as activists, lobbyists, and business leaders participated in the summit. Notably, the presidents of the two largest emitters i.e. the US and China did not participate.

Endnotes

[1]According to the Israel Democracy Institute, two thirds of Israelis do not think that the current government has a clear plan for post war scenario in Gaza and majority, even on the right want elections to be held immediately after the war. In terms of preference as Prime Minister, Benny Gantz secured 23 percent while Netanyahu scored only 15 percent votes.
[2]On 2 January 2024, Israeli drone strike killed Hamas’ Political Bureau Deputy Chief Saleh Al-Arouri in Beirut.
[3]On 4 January 2024, the US killed Harakat al Nujaba group leader
Abu Taqwa Al-Saedi.
[4]In October 2023, Egypt’s Suez Canal Economic Zone (SCZONE) signed US$ 6.75 billion deal with China Energy Investment group and US$ 8 billion deal with Hong Kong listed United Energy Group to build potassium chloride production complex and in November, US$ 15.6 billion deal was finalized with multiple Chinese firms for 11 projects in the zone. China Development Bank sanctioned US$ 957 million loan agreement to Egypt’s Central Bank to finance number of projects.
[5]Chinese firms such as State Power Investment Corp, Bank of China, Power China Group and Energy China Group signed green energy cooperation agreements with Saudi based ACWA Power. In December 2023 China-Saudi Conference, around 60 MOUs were signed between firms of both states valued at US$ 25 billion in sectors such as energy, agriculture, tourism, mining, financial services, logistics, infrastructure, technology and health care.
[6]Qatar Energy signed deal to supply 3 million tonnes of gas a year to Sinopec in November 2023.
[7]The UAE Defence Ministry signed US$ 440 million deal with China’s National Aero Technology Import & Export Corporation (CATIC) to buy a fleet of L-15 advanced jet trainers.
[8]China is in discussion with Oman to build a military base.
[9]In November 2023, PetroChina replaced Exxon Mobil Corp in West Qurna 1 oilfield in Iraq. Iraq in December 2023 announced its plan to increase crude supplies to China by 50 percent as part of oil for project agreement to encourage Chinse firms to undertake more projects in the Arab state.
[10]Around 5.2 million Syrian refugees are living in the region and reportedly 7 out of 10 Syrians are in dire need of humanitarian assistance. According to estimates, around 90 percent of Syrians live under poverty line and 65 percent are food insecure. The World Food Programme (WFP) reduced aid to Syria in June 2023 cutting food assistance to about 2.5 million people as compared to 5.5 million previously. In December, WFP announced that it will stop general food assistance across Syria since the beginning of 2024 citing fund shortages. The support will only be limited to families affected by emergencies and natural disasters through smaller and targeted interventions. The withdrawal of WFP support and cuts in aid by the US and the European Union (EU) could lead to disastrous consequence for the Syrian society.

(The paper is the author’s individual scholastic articulation. The author certifies that the article/paper is original in content, unpublished and it has not been submitted for publication/web upload elsewhere, and that the facts and figures quoted are duly referenced, as needed, and are believed to be correct). (The paper does not necessarily represent the organisational stance... More >>


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