Intra-Gulf Competition in Africa’s Horn: Lessening the Impact

The Horn of Africa, long the site of great power competition, today sees a new rivalry playing out on its shores. Gulf Arab countries, as well as Turkey, are accelerating their push for allies and influence in the Horn, such that two of the Middle East’s primary political fault lines – between Iran and Arab states, and among Arab states – are becoming visible across the Red Sea corridor. These longstanding, intersecting rivalries are grafting themselves onto existing local conflicts and generating new tensions. African policymakers, as well as Gulf countries and Western allies, are only beginning to discuss how to prevent competition from evolving into open conflict. A growing number of leaders in the Horn argue the region must achieve greater bargaining power for itself, for example seeking to engage multilaterally with the Gulf and Turkey. Given their enormous influence – as allies, investors, donors and mediators – Gulf states and Turkey should use it to reduce rather than stir up conflict in the Horn.