Politics

GCC summit: more grand plans

The 35th Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) summit took place in Doha on 9 December, ending with an announcement that the bloc would create an Interpol-style regional police force, GCC-POL, based in Abu Dhabi, and also a “unified marine force”,...

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Saudi Arabia: Turki drums home importance of Syria

The absence of regular or reliable insights into what goes on in the minds of the senior Al-Saud acts as a loudspeaker for the views of Prince Turki Al-Faisal, one of the few Saudi royals who is willing to discuss policy. His willingness to talk in...

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Saudi Arabia: Oil price slump: conspiracy or calamity?

A majority of Saudi Arabia’s ruling elite has apparently retained a glacial calm amid global uncertainty as to how and why crude prices have been allowed to slump. The oil price has fallen by over one-third in H2 2014 – to a five-year low of just...

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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...

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Iran faces huge environmental challenges

From the evaporation of lakes and rivers to the extinction of rare species in its ravaged forests, the extent of environmental damage in Iran could, if left unchecked, pose a threat to the country arguably greater than that of any external adversary....

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Saudi Arabia: Ministerial reshuffle

King Abdullah Bin Abdelaziz ordered a major ministerial reshuffle on 8 December, removing six ministers and naming their replacements, and filling two ministries (health and culture) that were already vacant. The ministers of Islamic affairs, higher...

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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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oman and Iran sign gas deal

Oman and Iran have agreed to build a $1bn pipeline across the Gulf, and to export 10bcm of gas per year to Oman. State news agencies reported the deal on 12 March, during Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s two-day visit to Oman, his first trip to the Gulf since becoming president in June. Oman has been looking to buy gas from ...

Issue 966 - 24 March 2014

Oman corruption cases

Oman has been cracking down on corruption in recent months, leading to a string of trials and jail sentences for several prominent businessmen and government officials, the longest of which so far has been 23 years. Many of those convicted are expected to appeal. Court reporting is fairly patchy in Oman, and the large number of investigations makes it hard to ...

Issue 966 - 19 March 2014

UAE wins visa-free travel to Europe

The European Parliament (EP) voted overwhelmingly in favour of granting UAE citizens visa-free access to the 26-member Schengen area on 27 February, making the UAE the first Arab state to win the privilege. Abu Dhabi – which has already secured visa-free access to the UK – had been lobbying hard for approval from MEPs, and will be relieved that criticism of the UAE’...

Issue 965 - 6 March 2014

Saudi defence budget hits $60bn

Saudi Arabia has overtaken the UK to have the fourth largest defence budget in the world, with an annual outlay of $59.6bn in 2013, according to newly published estimates from the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), a London-based think tank. Riyadh’s defence spending has been ramped up massively over recent years. From just over SR69bn ($18.4bn) in 2002, the ...

Issue 964 - 20 February 2014

Yemen: Dialogue ends, Hadi term extended

Yemen’s National Dialogue conference officially came to an end on 25 January. After nearly ten months of deliberations and a closing ceremony that included the release of thousands of balloons into the air above Sanaa, delegates produced a final report with 1,400 recommendations; whether they can be translated into a working nation remains to be seen. Political factions also extended President ...

Issue 963 - 7 February 2014

UAE: 30 convicted in Brotherhood trial

The Federal Supreme Court has sentenced all 30 defendants in a mass trial of Islamists to jail terms ranging from three months to five years. All of those convicted on 21 January were accused of being members of an illegal Muslim Brotherhood cell and of stealing secret information from the security services; rights groups say the charges were vague and the trial ...

Issue 962 - 23 January 2014

Iran: Rouhani tackles IRGC challenge

President Hassan Rouhani’s adept international diplomacy secured a quick win on the nuclear front, with the interim agreement signed by Tehran and the P5+1 on 24 November (GSN 959/1) paving the way for a scaling back of the crippling sanctions regime, and potentially an end to Iran’s years of isolation. But now he faces the arguably more onerous task of ...

Issue 960 - 12 December 2013

Yemen: Security vacuum expands

The security vacuum in Yemen has continued to expand as political factions battle for control of the security forces. Insecurity is plaguing central provinces such as Dhamar, where, on 24 November, deputy governor Abdullah Mayseri was kidnapped, and Taizz, where Mohammed Moneer, a nephew of governor Shawqi Ahmed Hayel, remains in the hands of kidnappers. There have also been a number ...

Issue 959 - 29 November 2013

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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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Licensed oil and gas blocks in the United Arab Emirates

Published in May 2013, this map provides an overview of licensed blocks in UAE both onshore and offshore.

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GSN View

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...

read more

Kuwait: Commodifying citizenship will not solve bidoon problem

In early November, Kuwait’s assistant undersecretary for citizenship and passport affairs, Major General Mazen Al-Jarrah,...

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GCC still struggling to get its act together

The decision by Bahrain and the UAE to withdraw from the World Handball Championship 2015, due to begin in Qatar on 15...

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Events

12-14 January

Saudi Water and Power Forum, Riyadh

26-27 January

Middle East and North Africa Energy: The Dynamics of Power, Leadership and Production, London

3-5 February

The 8th Middle East Artificial Lift Forum (MEALF), Qatar

3-4 February

Middle East O&M and Lifecycle Management for CCGT Power Plants, Dubai

2-4 March

Middle East Electricity, Dubai

2-4 March

Solar Middle East, Dubai

16-18 March

Oman Refining & Petrochemical Exhibition & Conference, Oman

19-21 April

The 23rd Annual Middle East Petroleum & Gas Conference, Abu Dhabi

28-29 April

Kingdom Future Energy Summit, Saudi Arabia

11-13 May

Saudi Energy, Saudi Arabia

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