Select Committee on International Relations
The Middle East: Time for New Realism

2nd Report of Session 2016-17 - published 2 May 2017 - HL Paper 159



Chapter 1: Introduction

Purpose and scope of the report

Figure 1: Map of the Middle East and North Africa

Structure of the report


Chapter 2: Profound disorder of the new Middle East

Unravelling of the old Middle East

A transformation of power

Enduring challenges

Contours of a British policy

Chapter 3: Current policy and current illusions

British interests in the Middle East

Figure 2: The UK’s key economic partners in the Middle East

Figure 3: Estimated total UK defence exports 2006–2015

Disarray of British policy

Response to the Arab spring

Box 1: The Dilemma of Egypt

Syria: the position of President Bashar al-Assad

Arms sales and military involvement

EU dimension and Brexit

Chapter 4: Social change, communications and demography

Two notes of optimism

Communications revolution

UK policy: means to influence in a digital era

Demographic momentum

Figure 4: Demographics of the MENA and G7 countries

UK policy: education

Chapter 5: External powers

External power play

A new US administration

Russia “on the march”

China: flexible and cautious pragmatism

Figure 5: ‘One Belt/One Road’

Disregard of international institutions

Chapter 6: Evolution of Middle East states

The transformation of state power

Figure 6: Sectarian balance of power

Saudi-Iranian rivalry

Consequences for UK policy

Four fold approach

Reframe the UK’s Iran Policy

British-Iranian dual nationals

The Iran nuclear deal, compliance and implementation

Contain Iran’s foreign policy

After the deal

Review the relationship with the Gulf States

The Israeli-Palestinian dispute

British policy options

Regional approaches to cooperation

Chapter 7: Beyond the state

Structural challenge to states

Unravelling of states and rise of new actors

Sub-state actors: the Kurds

Figure 7: Map of major Kurdish political movements

Iraqi Kurds

Non-state actors: terrorists

Chapter 8: Trade and economic policy

Post-Brexit trade policy

Government resources

UK-Gulf Cooperation Council trade agreement

Trade agreements with the Maghreb and Mashreq

Economic relations with Iran

Economic diversification of oil-producing states

Figure 8: Remaining years of oil and gas reserves

Chapter 9: Future British policy

British smart power

Dilemma of democracy promotion

Figure 9: Indication of UK development assistance in 2015

Build on success




Soft power

Role of the Government

Hard power

Iraq 2003 and Mosul 2014

Syria 2013

Summary of conclusions and recommendations

Appendix 1: List of Members and declarations of interest

Appendix 2: List of witnesses

Appendix 3: Roundtable discussion

Appendix 4: UK development funding

Evidence is published online at and available for inspection at the Parliamentary Archives (020 7129 3074).

Q in footnotes refers to a question in oral evidence.

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