Two opposing coalitions in the Middle East define a rivalry that threatens to tear the region apart. As competition for dominance intensifies, the confrontation between Iran’s network of state and non-state actors, and a counter-front of traditional Western allies – centred on Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Israel – has become the region’s central battle line.

About the Authors

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ECFR Authors

Julien Barnes-Dacey

Julien Barnes-Dacey is a Senior Policy Fellow at ECFR. He focuses on European policy on Syria, the wider Mashreq, and the Gulf. Julien has worked as a researcher and journalist across the Middle East. He also headed the Middle East and North Africa practice at Control Risks, a private sector political consultancy.

Ellie Geranmayeh

Ellie Geranmayeh is a Senior Policy Fellow at ECFR. She focuses on European foreign policy in relation to Iran, particularly on the nuclear and regional dossiers. Prior to joining ECFR, Ellie worked at Herbert Smith Freehills law firm. She graduated in Law from the University of Cambridge.

Hugh Lovatt

Hugh Lovatt is a Policy Fellow with ECFR’s Middle East and North Africa programme. He works extensively on European foreign policy towards the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as well as on Israeli regional policy. Prior to this, he worked as a researcher for International Crisis Group and as a Schuman Fellow in the European Parliament focusing on Middle East policy.

Read their introduction essay and policy recommendations


External Contributors

Mohammed Alyahya

Mohammed Alyahya is a Saudi Arabian political analyst focusing on Gulf politics and policy, and US-Gulf relations. He has written for the New York Times, the Financial Times, the Guardian, and the Telegraph among other outlets.

Read Mohammed Alyahya’s piece on Saudi Arabia

Kayhan Barzegar

Kayhan Barzegar is director of the Institute for Middle East Strategic Studies (IMESS) in Tehran and a faculty member and Chair of the Department of Political Science and International Relations at the Science and Research Branch of the Islamic Azad University.

Read Kayhan Barzegar’s piece on Iran

Abdullah Baabood

Abdullah Baabood is the director of the Gulf Studies Center at Qatar University. Prior to that, he was director of the Gulf Research Center at the University of Cambridge, where he also holds a PhD in international relations and affairs.

Read Abdullah Baabood’s piece on Qatar, Kuwait, and Oman

Adam Baron

Adam Baron is the co-founder of the Sanaa Center for Strategic Studies and a visiting fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations. Adam was previously based in Sanaa, Yemen, from 2011-2014 where he worked as a journalist, reporting for the Christian Science Monitor, the Economist and McClatchy newspapers.

Read Adam Baron’s piece on Yemen

Galip Dalay

Galip Dalay is the research director at the Al Sharq Forum, senior associate fellow at the Al Jazeera Center for Studies, and a non-resident fellow at Brookings Institution, Doha. He previously worked as a visiting fellow at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP) in Berlin and as a political researcher at SETA Foundation in Ankara.

Read Galip Dalay’s piece on Turkey

Eran Etzion

Eran Etzion currently serves as the executive director of the Forum of Strategic Dialogue, an NGO dedicated to enhancing Israeli-European strategic relations. A former diplomat, Etzion held senior positions including as head of policy planning at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Israel and deputy head of the National Security Council in the Prime Minister’s Office.

Read Eran Etzion’s piece on Israel

Ibrahim Frai​hat

Ibrahim Frai​hat is an international conflict resolution professor at the Doha Institute for Graduate Studies and Georgetown University. He previously served as senior foreign policy fellow at the Brookings Institution, and taught international conflict resolution at George Washington University and George Mason University.

Read Ibrahim Frai​hat’s piece on Qatar-GCC tensions

Ebtesam Al-Ketbi

Ebtesam Al-Ketbi is a founder and president of the Emirates Policy Center. She is a professor of political science at United Arab Emirates University and a member of the Consultative Commission of the Gulf Cooperation Council.

Read Ebtesam Al-Ketbi’s piece on the UAE

Yasser El-Shimy

Yasser El-Shimy is co-director of the Program on Civil-Military Relations in Arab States at the Carnegie Middle East Center. Before that he was a visiting research fellow at ECFR and worked in both academic and policy institutions, including the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, International Crisis Group, Harvard Kennedy School and Boston University.

Read Yasser El-Shimy’s piece on Egypt