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How Geopolitical Relations are Shifting in the Middle East

What’s happening?

Recent talks in the Middle East have marked a shift in geopolitical relations that could reinforce regional divisions and impact any remaining potential for a revived Iran nuclear deal. Earlier in July, United States President Joe Biden visited Israel and Saudia Arabia, his first Middle East trip since taking office. The trip had several outcomes:

  • Growing cooperation against Iran’s destabilizing activities in the region. The President and Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid signed a joint declaration to forbid Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. 
  • A push for increased normalization between Israel and Arab countries like Saudi Arabia. During Biden’s Israel visit, Saudi Arabia opened its airspace to all airlines, including those originating from Israel. The US has also been leading an air defense alliance between Israel and Arab nations with the goal of building regional cooperation in defense against Iran.
  • Warming US relations with Saudi Arabia. Biden had previously ostracized the country after accusing Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of killing Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin also made a rare visit to the Middle East this month, meeting his Iranian and Turkish counterparts in Tehran to discuss the wars in Ukraine and Syria. Global leaders believe the visit was meant to demonstrate that Russia maintains allies and geopolitical leverage in key regions despite global sanctions. White House officials recently claimed that Iran will likely supply Russia with hundreds of drones to support its war effort in Ukraine.

What’s the impact?

Experts on geopolitical relations in the Middle East are concerned about the potential outcome of a growing Israel-Arab alliance. Israel and Saudi Arabia—Biden’s hosts of choice—are Iran’s biggest regional enemies. 

Promoting cooperation between Israel and Saudi Arabia, as well as the US’s proposed integrated air defense system, is seen by Iran as a threat to its national security. According to Iran’s state news agency, IRNA, the country’s foreign ministry spokesperson Nasser Kanaani described the alliance as a “provocative move” that aims to cause “discord and [spread] Iranophobia among regional countries.”

Evolving geopolitical relations between the US, Israel, and Arab nations could increase the chance of a confrontation with Iran and minimize any remaining opportunities to revive the Iran nuclear deal. According to Trita Parsi, vice president of the Quincy Institute in Washington, DC, an Israeli-Arab alliance could “prompt Iran to go back to its policies of the 1990s when it actively pushed its allies to destabilize parts of the region.”

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How can OSINT help?

Insights related to Iran and other regions of interest rely on a combination of classified and open-source intelligence (OSINT). While mainstream social media networks provide real-time, ground-truth information, more covert sources like regional defense forums are valuable for assessing military capabilities in specific regions. Combined, these public data sources can support intelligence teams by:

  • Evaluating regional public sentiment toward issues like Arab-Israeli normalization.
  • Providing anticipatory intelligence, helping analysts detect patterns that could signal conflict escalation, regional destabilization, or other significant events. 
  • Monitoring the evolution of regional military resources and equipment, using visual media to assess where military infrastructure has likely originated.

To learn more about OSINT solutions and data sources for public sector intelligence, book a call with Echosec Systems.