Red Sea geopolitics: Six plotlines to watch

by Usman Khan

Author: Zach Vertin

Affiliation: Brookings Doha Center

Publisher: Brookings

Date/Place: 15October, 2019, Doha
Type of Literature: Report

Word Count: 3067 


Keywords: Red Sea Forum, Horn of Africa, Trump administration.  



The article while acknowledging the importance of the Red Sea, discusses the geopolitical issues in the region of the Red Sea region involving the Gulf States and the Horn of Africa. The author provides six plotlines to watch in the months and years to come, ranging from potential great power competition to the growing role of Gulf States in African politics. The war in Yemen, which in 2015 prompted Riyadh and Abu Dhabi to establish military outposts on nearby African shores, has not only complicated rivalries in Yemen, but has also exposed the Saudis’ economic vulnerabilities of the Saudi’s. On the other hand, Somalia—still the Horn’s most fragile State, had an especially turbulent introduction to Gulf rivalry, after its President Farmajo resisted to take sides in 2017. While Ethiopia and Sudan undergo transformation amidst new leaders attempting high-wire political transitions, Gulf States have been quick to insert themselves into both, yielding mixed results. The author opined that the establishment of a so-called Red Sea forum, envisioned as a multilateral talk shop, will serve as an important platform to accommodate shared interests. While the changing intra-Gulf dynamics, marked by the Saudi-UAE blockade of Qatar, presents a possibility of a renewed Saudi-UAE relationship and approach in the Gulf region, the Trump administration’s growing security and strategic interest in the region and involvement of Beijing sets the tone for one of the great power competitions in the region. 


By: Usman Khan Pathan, CIGA Research Associate

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