What’s new? Middle Eastern states are accelerating their competition for
allies, influence and physical presence in the Red Sea corridor, including in the
Horn of Africa. Rival Gulf powers in particular are jockeying to set the terms of
a new regional power balance and benefit from future economic growth.
Why did it happen? Regional instability, a relative power vacuum and competition
among rising Middle East states have prompted Gulf countries to seek
to project their power outward into the neighborhood. They are looking at the
Horn of Africa to consolidate alliances and influence.
Why does it matter? Many new Gulf-Horn relationships are highly asymmetrical,
driven more by Gulf than African interests. Gulf states are injecting
resources and exporting rivalries in ways that could further destabilize fragile
local politics. Yet they also carry the potential to resolve conflict and fuel economic
What should be done? Horn and Western policymakers should seek to limit
intra-Gulf sparring in Africa, notably by expanding the role of regional multilateral
organisations to boost Horn states’ bargaining power. Gulf rivals must become
convinced – by their allies or their own experience – that their actions are
undermining long-term security across the Red Sea basin.

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