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China’s overall strategy to increase its role in world affairs indicates further engagement in its global investments in Asia, Africa, and beyond. It holds the most foreign reserve assets in Asia and is the largest trading partner in Africa. However, China is also continuing to diversify its portfolio by adding investments in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. Although these investments are significantly smaller, Chinese foreign direct investment (FDI) in the MENA region is growing rapidly. Since 2010, China invested billions of dollars in nearly every MENA country and in 2016 eclipsed the United Arab Emirates to become the leading investor in the region.

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Tension continues to escalate along the Israeli-Syrian border with the recent regime southern offensive to oust opposition in the area and Israeli attacks on Iranian targets in Syria. Continued activity along the border is expected as Iran continues to solidify its hold on Syria. Yet Israeli's strategy is less clear as Iran continues to test the boundaries pushing Israel to act in Syria; among other actors like the Islamic State. We asked our nonresident senior fellows former Ambassador Frederic C. Hof, and Mona Alami about Israeli’s current and potential involvement in the Syrian conflict as it develops.

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As the conflict in Yemen continues and the country’s humanitarian crisis deepens, UN Special Envoy for Yemen, Martin Griffiths, is attempting to negotiate a ceasefire for the port of Hodeida, a vital port for bringing aid and food into the famine-struck country. Earlier this month, the Saudi-led coalition began attacking the port city in response to missile attacks from the Iran-backed Houthi rebels. Taken against the recommendation of its allies such as the United States, this attack endangered the lives of many Yemenis who rely on the port for 70 percent of their food, fuel, and medicine imports. Aid organizations are struggling to deliver to the “world’s worst humanitarian crisis.” As Yemen’s war continues into its fourth year and the death toll reaches over ten thousand, Griffith’s negotiation may not only provide relief to the humanitarian crisis, but might also offer hope for a future settlement to end Yemen’s civil war.

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The leaked language for the final version of the forthcoming National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) suggests that the US Congress will hold the delivery of Turkish F-35 fighter aircraft, until a report is drafted that assesses Turkish industry participation in the F-35 consortium, and how best to replace Turkish manufactured components in the supply chain. The potential Congressional action comes after the Turkish government reached agreement with Russia for the delivery of the S-400 missile system. The Russian made surface-to-air missile system poses a unique threat to American aircraft: the S-400’s radar is able to act as a platform to collect electronic and signal intelligence from the F-35. If the radar operates in Turkey, alongside the F-35, Moscow could potentially gain useful knowledge about the jet and be able to detect the jet at greater ranges, potentially giving Moscow useful data about NATO’s future frontline fighter.

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As most headlines continue to focus on US President Donald Trump’s recent meeting with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin and fallout from the NATO summit, Iraq is witnessing some of the largest and most prolonged protests in years. The protests began last week, triggered by water and electricity shortages, unemployment, and government corruption. Despite the growing unrest in a country where the United States has significant interests and forces deployed, there has been little mention of current events in Iraq by American officials or the mainstream media.

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Morocco cut diplomatic ties with Iran on May 1, 2018 after allegations of Iranian meddling in the Western Sahara dispute. The Moroccan Minister of Foreign Affairs, Nasser Bourita, met with his Iranian counterpart, Mohammed Javad Zarif, in Tehran the following day to deliver a ‘secret dossier’ accusing Iran of aiding the separatist group Polisario Front in Western Sahara through its Embassy in Algeria, and positioning Hezbollah as a proxy. During his visit, Bourita revealed that a series of Iranian-mediated meetings took place between top Lebanese Hezbollah officials and Polisario representatives in the Sahrawi refugee camps in Algeria. Bourita went on to state that Hezbollah has smuggled weapons, including truck-mounted anti-aircraft missiles, and has provided military training to Polisario Front members.

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Debate over Libya currently focuses on whether elections should be held in advance of a political agreement or to move forward in the absence of one. This debate is irrelevant. There are no governments or political leaders in Libya with the authority to conclude a political agreement that militias will recognize, nor are those same militias going to respect the results of an election in 2018 any more than they did in 2012 or 2014. Militias are the only groups with any authority in the country, and any solution will have to be negotiated with them. Militias’ main concern is money; therefore, any solution to their fighting over resources—primarily oil revenue and criminal rackets—must be primarily economic.

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The trajectory of Iraq remains uncertain two months after the May 2018 Parliamentary elections in which the political bloc led by Muqtada al-Sadr won the greatest number of seats. Given that the Alliance Revolutionaries for Reform, or Sairoon, fell well short of a majority, Sadr must develop a coalition with other parties to elect a prime minister and form a government. While possible alliances with Shia, Sunni, and Kurdish parties dominate the news, whether Sadr delivers on his campaign promise of improving service provision may prove most critical to maintaining his substantial popular support.

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This June brought significant news about Lebanon’s policy towards the Syrian refugee crisis. For the first time, Lebanese government officials confronted the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) over its policy on the repatriation of Syrian refugees. On June 8, the Lebanese Foreign Minister Gibran Bassil ordered a freeze on the renewal of residency permits for UNHCR staff, accusing the UN agency of discouraging Syrian refugees in Lebanon from returning to Syria. In an official statement, the Lebanese Foreign Minister threatened to take “further measures” against UNHCR. Bassil explained that the Lebanese government does not have the patience for the crisis to be drawn out. “We want it to be short. Their (UNHCR) policy is to forbid the return (of Syrian refugees), the Lebanese policy is to encourage return.”  

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A mere eight days after protests against an unpopular tax law rocked the Hashemite Kingdom, Jordanians shot fireworks celebrating the June 7 government announcement to withdraw the legislation. A strong supporter of the austerity measure, Prime Minister Hani al-Mulki submitted his resignation on June 4 following the demonstrators’ calls for his ouster. “And popular will prevails,” declared a banner at one of the crowded victory rallies following incoming Prime Minister Omar al-Razzaz’s decision to drop the controversial measure. But with Jordan still suffering from deep economic woes and few signs of political liberalization, some in Amman are questioning whether these protests have actually achieved a dramatic victory.

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