International rehabilitation beckons as Iran signs nuclear deal

After years of deadlock and months of intense negotiations, Iran and the P5+1 group of five United Nations Security Council (UNSC) permanent members plus Germany finally signed a comprehensive deal on Iran’s nuclear programme on 14 July in Vienna....

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Saudi Arabia: New governor in Northern Borders

Prince Abdullah Bin Abdelaziz Bin Musaid Bin Jiluwi Al-Saud, governor of the Northern Borders region, has died, the Royal Court said in a statement on 4 July. He has been succeeded as governor by his son, Prince Mishaal Bin Abdullah Bin Abdelaziz Bin...

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Bahrain: Sharif rearrested

The secretary-general of opposition party Waad, Ibrahim Sharif, has been arrested again, less than a month after he was released from jail. Bahrain’s director-general of criminal investigation and forensic science said on 12 July that Sharif was...

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Saudis question Al-Saud strategy in Yemen

A humanitarian ceasefire between Yemen’s Houthis and Saudi Arabia, brokered by the United Nations, failed miserably to take hold on 11 July, with all sides continuing to fight for control of territory across the fragile nation. The truce, designed...

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More battles ahead for Dana after partial victory against KRG

An important interim judgement favouring Sharjah-based Dana Gas in its case against the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) at the London Court of International Arbitration (LCIA) has placed the authorities on the back foot, at a time when they...

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Islamic banking: steady growth but challenges ahead

The Islamic banking and finance industry has a long history in the Gulf states. When Dubai Islamic Bank (DIB) opened for business in 1976, it became the first Islamic retail bank in the world. Since then, the Gulf has been a key player in an industry...

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Perspectives

A selection of free articles from GSN's extensive database

A year overshadowed by threat from Sunni extremists

No one expected a quiet year in the Gulf, given the ongoing conflicts and ugly groundswell of sectarianism throughout the wider region. But while much of the news agenda in 2014 was filled with foreseeable preoccupations – squabbles between Qatar and the rest of the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC), the further deterioration of the situation in Yemen, tentative rapprochement with Iran, ongoing ...

Issue 983 - 11 December 2014

Iraq: Baghdad and KRG finally agree on oil revenues

The Iraqi federal government and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) announced a draft agreement on sharing oil revenues on 2 December, following two days of negotiations between federal Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi and KRG Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani. The deal, which builds on a temporary agreement signed in November, still needs to be approved by parliament and written into the 2015 budget. ...

Issue 983 - 11 December 2014

Who’s next in the Kuwait succession?

Emir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmed Al-Jaber Al-Sabah has been in power since January 2006; he is 85 years old, and there are some concerns about his health. His half-brother, Crown Prince Sheikh Nawaf Al-Ahmed Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, is expected to succeed him when he dies, and is a fairly uncontroversial choice, although, at 77, he is also advancing in years. Presuming Nawaf succeeds, the key ...

Issue 982 - 27 November 2014

How Saudi Arabia’s terrorist rehabilitation programme works

Saudi Arabia’s strategy to combat extremism – the Prevention, Rehabilitation and Aftercare (PRAC) strategy – developed in the aftermath of the May 2003 bombings of residential compounds in Riyadh. It involves several ministries, but is led by the Ministry of Interior – specifically Prince Mohammed Bin Nayef, who has been minister since November 2012, and was previously assistant to the interior minister for security ...

Issue 982 - 27 November 2014

Oman: Sultan Qaboos to miss National Day

Sultan Qaboos Bin Said Al-Said will not be in Oman for the national holiday to mark his 74th birthday on 18 November. In the absence of official detail about the medical condition which has kept him away from home for more than four months, much significance had been placed on whether or not he would return for the National Day, when ...

Issue 981 - 13 November 2014

Qatar looking to invest more in China

Qatar cemented its growing relationship with Beijing with a two-day visit to China by Emir Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al-Thani on 3-4 November, during which numerous agreements were signed (see Royals). While there, Sheikh Tamim met at least four of the seven members of the Communist Party’s Politburo standing committee, the centre of power in China, including the president, ...

Issue 981 - 13 November 2014

Yemen: Houthis continue attacks on Al-Qaeda

Shiite Houthi militias have continued their advance against Al-Qaeda-linked militants in central Yemen, as newly appointed Yemeni Prime Minister Khaled Bahah struggles to form a government in Sanaa. Employing a strategy that relies largely on treaties with local tribes, the Houthis have been able to push hard against Ansar Al-Sharia (AAS), an affiliate of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), ...

Issue 980 - 30 October 2014

Al-Wefaq suspended for three months

Bahrain’s High Administrative Court ruled on 28 October that the main opposition group Al-Wefaq was in contravention of the law, and should have its activities suspended for three months. The case against Al-Wefaq, filed in July, argued that the society had failed to hold a legal general assembly, or to make the necessary legal filings about the assembly’s outcomes; ...

Issue 980 - 30 October 2014

Russia considers nuclear co-operation with Iran

While in New York for the United Nations General Assembly, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani stated Tehran’s intention to continue working with Moscow on nuclear energy. “We are negotiating power generation using nuclear energy with Russia,” Rouhani told journalists on 27 September. “We will continue co-operation with Russia, as well as with other nations.”Rouhani said Tehran was, so far, satisfied ...

Issue 980 - 30 October 2014

UAE spends millions on PR to build its image in the US

It is little surprise that US vice-president Joe Biden’s undiplomatic 2 October comments to students at Harvard University infuriated the leadership of the UAE. Biden, speaking at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, responded to a question about the war in Syria by saying, “our biggest problem is our allies”. He went on to explain that the Turks, Saudis ...

Issue 979 - 16 October 2014

Politics cast shadow on Bahrain economy

As elections scheduled for 22 November approach, the kingdom of Bahrain remains bitterly divided. The main opposition parties confirmed on 11 October that they would boycott the polls, a decision that was not unexpected but which scuppers any hopes that the election might reinforce the government narrative that Bahrain is stable and on a path of economic recovery.While the boycott will ...

Issue 979 - 16 October 2014

Qatar: QNB takes African stake

Qatar National Bank (QNB) has entered sub-Saharan Africa with the acquisition of a 23.5% stake in Togo-based Ecobank Transnational Incorporated (ETI). QNB took a 12.5% stake through the purchase of ordinary and convertible preference shares from Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (Amcon) on the Nigerian Stock Exchange. Amcon is a Nigerian state ‘bad bank’, which took over the asset following Ecobank’s ...

Issue 977 - 18 September 2014

Governments seek response to drug trade

Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) and other regional trading centres have long been at the centre of the narcotics trade’s financial links to the world’s number one opium producer, Afghanistan. According to international organisations, including the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), an intergovernmental body set up to combat money laundering, drug money is being laundered in jurisdictions such as ...

Issue 977 - 18 September 2014

Saudi Arabia: Surge in executions

Human rights groups say there has been a surge in the number of executions in Saudi Arabia; 22 people were executed between 4 August and 22 August, compared to 17 announced executions between January and July, according to Amnesty International. Some of those executed have been convicted of non-violent offences; Amnesty said four members of the same family were beheaded for “receiving drugs”, and ...

Issue 976 - 4 September 2014

Arbitration rules in Crescent’s favour versus NIOC

An international arbitration panel examining the failed deal between Crescent Petroleum and the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) to supply gas to the UAE has determined that the 25-year contract was valid and binding, and that NIOC has therefore been obligated to deliver gas since December 2005, according to a 10 August statement from Crescent’s partner Dana Gas. Crescent said it ...

Issue 976 - 4 September 2014

UAE accused of airstrikes in Libya

The accusation that UAE war planes flew sorties from Egyptian air bases in mid- to late August to bomb pro-Islamist militia forces in the Libyan capital of Tripoli fits a wider trend of speculation about Gulf states’ involvement in Libya’s slow-burn civil war. But the allegation is far from proven, despite having originally come from United States government officials. ...

Issue 976 - 4 September 2014

Concerns rise over Qaboos’ health

There has been no official news of Oman’s Sultan Qaboos Bin Said Al-Said since he flew to Germany on 9 July for an “annual vacation” and “medical examinations”, but multiple sources have told GSN that his condition is serious, and several have heard he has cancer, either of the pancreas or bowel. While the Gulf rumour mill often associates rulers’ ...

Issue 975 - 31 July 2014

Saudi Arabia: Tadawul to open to foreigners

The Saudi cabinet approved the opening of the stock market to foreign financial institutions on 21 July, at a session headed in Jeddah by Crown Prince Salman Bin Abdelaziz. The move is expected; as GSN reported in its last issue, the idea of opening the Tadawul to foreigners has been mooted for years, and has been edging closer, though the cabinet’...

Issue 975 - 31 July 2014

Risk management report: GCC

The Co-operation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf (GCC) was officially set up on 25 May 1981 in Abu Dhabi, when the leaders of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates agreed to establish a council whose aims were to ‘achieve unity’, formulate ‘similar regulations’ in fields including economics, customs, commerce, communications, education and culture, and ...

Issue 974 - 21 July 2014

Tony Blair seeks to capitalise on Gulf ties

Tony Blair Associates (TBA), the office of the former UK prime minister Tony Blair, is considering opening an office in Abu Dhabi. GSN understands that a decision has yet to be taken, but given that TBA already has a member of staff based in the UAE, an expansion there would make sense. Blair has good political, business and personal links ...

Issue 973 - 3 July 2014

There will be no quick fix in Iraq

The blame game began within hours of Sunni extremists taking Mosul (see page 1). Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki blamed members of the army for deserting, saying the seizure of the city was a “conspiracy”. Saudi Arabia blamed Iranian-backed Maliki, with information minister Abdelaziz Bin Mohieddin Khoja saying: “This would not have arisen were it not for the sectarian and exclusionary ...

Issue 972 - 20 June 2014

Bahrain’s Nabeel Rajab freed

One of Bahrain’s most prominent human rights activists was released from prison on 24 May, after serving almost two years. Nabeel Rajab, president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), was sentenced in August 2012 to three years in jail for organising unlicensed protests and inciting violence. An appeals court later reduced his sentence by a year. Rajab was greeted ...

Issue 971 - 5 June 2014

Oman: Government extends curb on foreign workers

Oman is to extend curbs on the hiring of foreign workers in the construction and housekeeping sectors as part of efforts to save more jobs for local citizens and limit outflows of money from the economy. The hiring of expatriates by private companies in those two sectors will be banned for six months from 4 May, the official Oman News Agency (...

Issue 968 - 17 April 2014

GCC Risk Management Report: GCC tensions erupt as Saudi Arabia, UAE and Bahrain challenge Qatar

On 5 March, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain announced they were withdrawing their ambassadors from Qatar, because Qatar had refused to abide by the terms of an agreement signed on 23 November, which said states should not interfere in other GCC members’ internal affairs, support ‘hostile media’, or support any group that threatened the security of member states. At the heart ...

Issue 968 - 17 April 2014

Miqrin Bin Abdelaziz named deputy crown prince

On 27 March, Saudi King Abdullah Bin Abdelaziz Al-Saud appointed his half-brother, Prince Miqrin Bin Abdelaziz, as deputy crown prince, in a royal decree that may have answered short-term uncertainties about the much-debated Saudi succession, but once again delayed the more interesting question of which of the next generation of princes will be the first to rise.“Prince Miqrin Bin Abdelaziz ...

Issue 967 - 3 April 2014

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Iraqi Kurdistan hydrocarbons infrastructure map

Revised in January 2015, this map provides a detailed overview of hydrocarbons infrastructure in the Kurdistan area of Iraq.

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Power infrastructure in Iraq map

Published July 2014, this map provides an overview of electricity infrastructure in Iraq.

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Oman: Oil and gas infrastructure

Revised June 2014, this map provides an overview of hydrocarbons infrastructure in Oman.

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Sisi hammers the Brotherhood, barters troops for Gulf finance

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi shows no sign of relenting in his campaign to totally subjugate the Muslim...

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Gulf states playing a dangerous game in Syria

The bombing of two Shia mosques in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia on consecutive Fridays in May (GSN 994/1)...

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Qatar’s World Cup headache just won’t go away

The late May eruption of a bribery scandal at world football governing body Fifa, which has been bubbling for years, is just...

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