The expansion of the BRICS is seen as a significant move to reshape the global order and provide a counterweight to the US and its allies. The recent BRICS summit was held in Johannesburg, South Africa, from August 22 to August 24, 2023. One of the major outcomes of the summit was the announcement of the expansion of the BRICS bloc to include six more countries: Argentina, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. The new members represent a diverse mix of emerging economies, oil producers, and regional powers.

Saudi Arabia, Iran, and the United Arab Emirates are three Middle Eastern countries that have gained importance in the BRICS expansion criteria for different reasons. Saudi Arabia is the world’s largest crude oil exporter and a major player in the global energy market. It has strong economic ties with China, the world’s largest oil importer, and Russia, a fellow member of OPEC+, a group of major oil producers. Also, Iran is a regional rival of Saudi Arabia and a key ally of Russia and China. It is facing severe sanctions from the US and its allies over its nuclear program and its involvement in regional conflicts. Iran seeks to join BRICS as a way to sidestep the sanctions and boost its economic and political influence in the world. Moreover, the UAE is a small but wealthy country that has emerged as a hub for trade, finance, tourism, and innovation in the Middle East. It has close relations with China, India, and Russia, as well as with Saudi Arabia and Iran. The UAE aims to join BRICS as a way to enhance its global visibility and leverage its role as a mediator and facilitator in regional and international affairs.

However, the Sino-Indian partnership and the inclusion of these three Middle Eastern nations in the BRICS helped to foster this expansion. Both China and India have strong economic and strategic interests in the region. China is a major importer of oil and gas from Saudi Arabia, Iran, and the AE and is also a key investor in its infrastructure and development projects. India is also dependent on the Middle East for its energy security and has close cultural and historical ties with the countries there. By inviting these countries to join the BRICS, China and India may seek to enhance their cooperation and influence in the region, as well as balance the role of other powers such as the US and Russia. Additionally, the inclusion of these countries may also reflect the BRICS’ aspiration to become a more representative and inclusive platform for the developing world.

Russia has favored the inclusion of the three Middle Eastern countries in the BRICS Plus for several reasons. Firstly, Russia has a strategic interest in strengthening its ties with the region, especially with Iran, which is a key ally and partner in Syria and other regional issues. Russia also wants to counter the US’s influence and presence in the Middle East and promote a multipolar world order that challenges Western dominance. Secondly, Russia has an economic interest in cooperating with the oil-rich countries of Saudi Arabia and the UAE, which are also major importers of Russian arms and investors in Russian projects. Russia also seeks to diversify its energy markets and reduce its dependence on Europe, which has imposed sanctions on Russia over its annexation of Crimea and its involvement in Ukraine. Thirdly, Russia has a diplomatic interest in mediating and facilitating dialogue between the rival countries of Saudi Arabia and Iran, which are engaged in proxy wars and conflicts across the region. Russia hopes to play a constructive role in resolving the tensions and crises in the Middle East, such as the war in Yemen, the nuclear deal with Iran, and the situation in Lebanon. By inviting these countries to join BRICS, Russia aims to enhance its cooperation and influence in the region.

From a regional perspective, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Iran can contribute to the BRICS economy in various ways, depending on their challenges and opportunities. Saudi Arabia can export crude oil to other BRICS members ensuring their energy security. Again, the UAE can contribute to the BRICS economy by facilitating trade and investment flows among the BRICS members and other regions.  Further, Iran can contribute to the BRICS economy by expanding its market access and trade opportunities with the BRICS members, especially in the agriculture industry and defense technology. Iran can also benefit from the BRICS’ support and cooperation in overcoming the sanctions it faces from the US and its allies.

Moreover, the joining of Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Iran in the BRICS could potentially create an oil supplier hegemony in the BRICS and undermine the US in the oil industry. Currently, Saudi Arabia and Russia are the leaders of the OPEC+ group, which includes Iran and other smaller producers. Further, China and India are the world’s largest oil importers, while Saudi Arabia, Russia, and Iran are among the top oil exporters. The UAE is also a major oil exporter, but it has been diversifying its economy away from oil dependence. However, the BRICS Plus members also face challenges and risks in their oil relations, such as geopolitical tensions, sanctions, environmental concerns, price volatility, and competition from other sources of energy.

The US has been wary of the BRICS group since its inception, as it perceives it as a rival bloc that seeks to undermine the US-led international order and institutions. The addition of six new members to the BRICS, especially Iran, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE, has further increased US concerns and suspicions. The US views Iran as a rogue state that sponsors terrorism, pursues nuclear weapons, and has imposed sanctions. The US also has a strained relationship with Saudi Arabia. The US fears that the BRICS expansion will provide Iran and Saudi Arabia with more economic and political support from China and Russia and weaken the US’s leverage in the region. The US also sees the BRICS expansion as a threat to its interests and allies, especially Israel, in the region. The US worries that the BRICS Plus will offer more attractive alternatives to these regions in terms of trade, investment, development, and security cooperation and erode the US’s influence and presence in the Middle East.

The BRICS sees the US as a hegemonic and unilateral power that tries to impose its will and interests on the rest of the world. The BRICS members share a common vision of a more multipolar world order where developing countries have a greater say and role in global governance.  They are opposed to US protectionist and unilateral trade policies, such as imposing tariffs and sanctions on other countries, withdrawing from multilateral trade agreements, and undermining the World Trade Organization. They support free and fair trade and promote regional and inter-regional integration among themselves and with other developing countries.  The members are dissatisfied with the US dominance and influence in the global financial system, such as the role of the US dollar as the reserve currency and the voting power of the US in the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. They seek to create financial institutions and mechanisms that can provide more resources and support for their development needs.

In conclusion, the joining of Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Iran in the BRICS could create an oil supplier hegemony in the BRICS and undermine the role of the US in the oil industry, but this outcome is not inevitable. It will depend on how the BRICS members manage their internal dynamics and external relations in the oil sector, as well as how they adapt to the changing technological and environmental landscape of the global energy system.


Disclaimer. The views and opinions expressed in this op-ed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of MEPEI. Any content provided by our authors is of their opinion and is not intended to malign any religion, ethnic group, club, organization, company, individual, or anyone or anything.

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About the author:

Aishwarya Sanjukta Roy Proma

Research Associate at BRAC Institute of Governance and Development (BIGD). She is a research analyst in security studies. She obtained her Master's and Bachelor’s in International Relations from the University of Dhaka, Bangladesh. She can be reached at


  1. Saumendra Swaskhar Roy says:

    Good analysis.

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