Middle East Demands New Frontiers Of Diplomacy – Analysis


By Mauricio D. Aceves 

Recent developments and the humanitarian situation in Gaza are refocusing the world’s attention on a conflict doomed for decades to loiter on the second page of international newspapers and to stagnation in multilateral fora. The situation in Gaza is not an isolated development; the war in Sudan, the conflict in Ethiopia, and the chronicles of clashes in Syria, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Yemen are alarms that started to ring years ago and have not found an end.[1] So, how do we overcome the liability of the moment? So far, profound variations of geopolitical trends have introduced a new stage for vanguard diplomacy, military calculations, and the spread of factual powers.

The occupation of Gaza became a veil for armed groups or political opposition forces across the region to reinforce or reestablish their operations in a belt that begins in the Syrian Mediterranean and touches the Afghan ridges, even when they were not linked with Hamas, Israel, or Palestine.[2] The Non-state actors opportunistically insert their agenda and narratives wherever instability becomes visible. They act as the temperature control of conflicts, raising and lowering tensions against or in favour of the influencers to get concessions, legitimacy, and power. Hamas’s operation in southern Israel activated a new stage of crisis in the history of the conflict in Gaza; meanwhile, the intervention of Hezbollah will be the determinant in regulating tensions in the coming weeks buffering the direct involvement of third nations.

To paraphrase author Tom Clancy, ‘the world is too small for secrets.’ Protests regarding the humanitarian crisis have been widely spread across social media, in art, and on the streets. However, displays of support or the human and material debris of the war have had limited effect on official postures. On the other hand,  discussions and controversies over the Palestinian issue can become part of political narratives as never before, beyond the frontiers of the Arab World.[3] [4] Outside the Middle East, the current situation in Gaza is causing divisions in internal affairs with political implications, particularly in a year full of democratic elections and when polarizing narratives are gaining ground on many fronts, impacting the social and societal anatomies.[5] Sensitive images of the self-immolation of Aaron Bushnell, at the doors of the Embassy of Israel in Washington, D. C. recall stories of emotional protests regarding the Vietnam War, the 1868 movements, or the Arab Spring.[6]

An adjustment of the understanding of asymmetric warfare is crucial. The war in Ukraine has shown that the projections of hybrid warfare also underline the importance of the military-industrial complex, strategies to counter disadvantages, and managing the momentum. The panorama of the Middle East opens new pages in the manual of asymmetric conflict. The Houthis’ reactivation in Yemen has provoked a naval blockade compromising global trade and supply chains without deploying a navy—even though it has eroded opportunities to relieve Yemen’s humanitarian situation. It shows the vulnerability of presumed stable maritime routes regarding food and energy security, among other strategic goods. As an outcome, Egypt’s income from the Suez Canal has decreased by 40% to 50% this year, and the Red Sea traffic has fallen similarly.[7]

Diplomatic milestones that were expected to generate more stable conditions are being repositioned differently from the time when they were initially established. The Abraham Accords, the Joint Trilateral Declaration, the talks between Yemeni Houthis and Saudi Arabia, and even tenuous acts of understanding between the U.S. and Iran through exchanges of detainees and concessions on economic sanctions – these diplomatic achievements are being reevaluated, compromising their progress due to the emergence of new tensions and the recalibration of priorities.[8] The oscillation teach significant diplomatic lessons: no success is permanent, nor are the losses. The bets have changed, and the new ones must be made whilst rethinking the future and ongoing negotiations.

The mediation capabilities of Middle Eastern countries have increased significantly, and they could be critical in the following months. Lately, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Türkiye have been accepted as facilitators at different moments of the war in Ukraine. Still, the outlooks of Gaza and other regional tremors are tests in their own region, especially when the Security Council continues without resolutions.[9] Egypt and Qatar have been capable of mediating the crisis in Gaza, but so far, the results have been limited to sporadic ceasefires or humanitarian supplies relief. The diplomatic pressure of Saudi Arabia is incorporated in the statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs regarding the discussions between Saudi Arabia and the U.S. on the Arab-Israeli peace process.[10] It names the 1967 borders and can be the determinant in proceeding with or cancelling their path to the Abraham Accords. Pragmatic agreements reached in the past will be reviewed and questioned, and diplomatic wires may be reconnected, as was the case of Türkiye and Egypt ties.[11]

Finally, a triad of vital goals is shared by all in the current landscape: ending the hostilities and warding off a genocide, as the International Court of Justice provisional measures stated to relieve a humanitarian catastrophe that can put further pressure on human displacement;  avoiding a regional escalation that can severely disrupt a region pivotal for global stability and energy security; and, managing strategic relations with external powers, such as Europe and the U.S., especially when the NATO and the European continental security paradigm is in a process of  redefinition.[12] In parallel, military spending and the need for deterrence capabilities will define the region’s policies. Just as Scheherazade begins to tell the second story as the first nears its end, geopolitics does not reach its an end without making new settings.

  • About the author: Mauricio D. Aceves is an advisor for security and border issues at STRATOP Risk Consulting and an author in Foreign Affairs Latin America on the contemporary Middle East and Central Asia issues.
  • Source: This article was written for Gateway House: Indian Council on Global Relations.


[1] The Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED), “Regional Overview Middle East January 2024”, ACLED, February 8, 2024. https://acleddata.com/2024/02/08/regional-overview-middle-east-january-2024/

[2] Idem.

[3] Rabinovitch, Ari and Lubell, Maayan, “Brazil’s Lula unwelcome in Israel until he retracts Holocaust remarks, minister says”, Reuters, February 19, 2024. https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/brazils-lula-not-welcome-israel-israels-foreign-minister-says-2024-02-19/

[4] Irish John, “France’s Macron opens door to recognising Palestinian state”, Reuters, February 16, 2024. https://www.reuters.com/world/frances-macron-opens-door-recognising-palestinian-state-2024-02-17/

[5] The Economist, “2024 is the biggest election year in history”, The ECONOMIST, November 13, 2023. https://www.economist.com/interactive/the-world-ahead/2023/11/13/2024-is-the-biggest-election-year-in-history

[6] De Guzman, Chad, “U.S. Serviceman Dies After Setting Self on Fire Outside Israeli Embassy to Protest War in Gaza”, TIME, February 26, 2024. https://time.com/6821425/israel-embassy-air-force-protest-fire-self-immolation-aaron-bushnell-latest-updates/

[7] AFP, “Egypt: Houthi attacks cut Suez Canal revenue by half”, The Africa Report, February 19, 2024. https://www.theafricareport.com/337581/egypt-houthi-attacks-cut-suez-canal-revenue-by-half/

[8] Munich Security Conference, “Munich Security Report 2024: Chapter 4 – Middle East: Abraham Discord”, Munich Security Conference, February 2024. https://securityconference.org/en/publications/munich-security-report-2024/middle-east/

[9] UN News, “US vetoes Algerian resolution demanding immediate ceasefire in Gaza”, UN News, February 20, 2024. https://news.un.org/en/story/2024/02/1146697

[10] Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, “A Statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs regarding the discussions between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United States of America on the Arab-Israeli peace process”, X Account of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, February 6, 2024. https://twitter.com/ksamofaen/status/1755020860836962666?s=48&t=rJFC-4OSaRNCDLrPl5luRg

[11] Tekin, Esra, “Turkish president arrives in Egypt for official visit”, Anadolu Agency, February 14, 2024. https://www.aa.com.tr/en/middle-east/turkish-president-arrives-in-egypt-for-official-visit/3137407

[12] International Court of Justice (ICJ), “Application of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide In The Gaza Strip. South Africa v. Israel; Request for the indication of provisional measures”, ICJ, January 26, 2024. https://www.icj-cij.org/sites/default/files/case-related/192/192-20240126-ord-01-00-en.pdf

Gateway House

Gateway House: Indian Council on Global Relations is a foreign policy think-tank established in 2009, to engage India’s leading corporations and individuals in debate and scholarship on India’s foreign policy and its role in global affairs. Gateway House’s studies programme will be at the heart of the institute’s scholarship, with original research by global and local scholars in Geo-economics, Geopolitics, Foreign Policy analysis, Bilateral relations, Democracy and nation-building, National security, ethnic conflict and terrorism, Science, technology and innovation, and Energy and Environment.

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