Battle for Mosul pushed back to late 2016, with ‘Syria first’ the focus

As the dust settles after the successful Kurdish effort to liberate the northern Iraqi city of Sinjar (see page Defence and security), all eyes are on the two capitals of Islamic State (IS, or Daesh), which are connected by Highway 47, the main IS...

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Executives jet in to Iran, but legal pitfalls could put brake on investment

Nothing has yet changed, for all the excitement caused by the agreement to end Iranian sanctions, signed by Tehran and the P5+1 group of six international powers in July. No sanctions have been removed and none will be until the United Nations’...

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GCC divided over ‘authoritarian’ Erdogan

Influential public figures and media outlets in the Gulf appeared sharply divided over Turkey’s election result, in which President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) secured 317 of the 550 parliamentary seats...

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Al-Tamimi’s $560m claim under the Oman-US FTA fails

The American businessman Adel Al-Tamimi, who brought the first, and so far only, claim under the January 2009 Oman-US Free Trade Agreement (US-Oman FTA) over the alleged government expropriation of his limestone quarry investment, has lost his case...

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Kuwait awaits 25th anniversary

Kuwait celebrates the 25th anniversary of its liberation from occupation by Iraq on 24-28 February. A major celebration is expected, with the United States looking to commit substantial resources to marking arguably its finest hour in the region. US...

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Yemen: Riyadh looks on as jihadists split with southern allies, gain ground in Aden

The tenuous alliance of convenience that brought Southern Movement (Hirak) factions and Islamist militants together in Aden broke as soon as Operation Golden Arrows declared its mission accomplished. The alliance to repel Houthi rebels and army units...

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A selection of free articles from GSN's extensive database

Executives jet in to Iran, but legal pitfalls could put brake on investment

Nothing has yet changed, for all the excitement caused by the agreement to end Iranian sanctions, signed by Tehran and the P5+1 group of six international powers in July. No sanctions have been removed and none will be until the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), confirms that Iran has met its side of the Joint ...

Issue 1005 - 26 November 2015

Saudi Arabia: Attack on Najran’s Ismaili community amplifies IS threat

The suicide bombing of a mosque in Najran in late October is the fifth attack this year on a Saudi mosque by those who identify themselves as Islamic State (IS, or Daesh) and the first against the southern Ismaili community. The attack on 26 October killed two people; one of those killed was a 95-year-old man who blocked the bomber as ...

Issue 1004 - 12 November 2015

Qatar battles its image problem – and creates a windfall for PR companies

Qatar’s substantial lobbying clout has been in evidence again, with a flow of contracts for public relations firms and reports of the ruling Al-Thani’s celebrity friends using their influence to promote Doha’s interests.Recent media reports have dragged up the old news that Democrat presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, then US secretary of state, was lobbied by former ...

Issue 998 - 30 July 2015

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 detained for statements he made at a community centre in Muharraq on 10 July, that “called for violence” and “encouraged the overthrow of the ...

Issue 997 - 16 July 2015

Sharjah: Sheikh Sultan promises council elections

The Sharjah Consultative Council (SCC), one of the UAE’s few such emirate-level bodies, is to increase its seats to 42 and elect half of its members, ruler Sheikh Sultan Bin Mohammed Bin Saqr Al-Qasimi announced on 9 June. The other 21 members will be appointed by the ruler – a strategy that may help to avoid an overwhelmingly male, conservative majority when the ...

Issue 995 - 18 June 2015

From the archive: “Democracy in Doha”

Qatar’s Municipal elections came and went in mid-March attracting a lot of international attention, generating some excitement within the country and laying down an important, if undramatic, landmark in the progress of political reform in the Gulf. The participation of women as voters and candidates was the critical issue.As one might expect, bearing in mind the small numbers ...

Issue 993 - 21 May 2015

Sultan Qaboos chairs cabinet meeting

On 8 April, Oman’s Sultan Qaboos Bin Said Al-Said presided over his first council of ministers’ meeting since returning to Muscat on 23 March, following lengthy treatment in Germany for what is understood to be cancer. Photographs showed the sultan in good spirits as he attended the meeting at Bayt Al-Baraka. With Oman somewhat in limbo during his eight-month absence, he ...

Issue 991 - 23 April 2015

Financial and political agenda underpins Gulf commitments

The massive support from Gulf-based institutions for a new and hugely ambitious programme of power sector investments in Egypt may not be as quixotic as it first appears. The intention to back multi-gigawatt coal and renewable generation projects – announced at a conference in Sharm El-Sheikh in mid-March by seven large developers from Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Kuwait – is underpinned ...

Issue 990 - 2 April 2015

Tension builds beneath the silence in Kuwait

Kuwait’s press has rightfully earned itself a reputation as one of the most vibrant and free in the Arab world. It is not uncommon to see Kuwaiti papers splash on political and economic scandals and controversies, or even report on infighting within the ruling Al-Sabah, something which would scarcely be imaginable in the other Gulf monarchies. But over the ...

Issue 989 - 19 March 2015

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

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Gulf boundaries and hydrocarbons infrastructure

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The Gulf region: economy and society

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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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Kuwait offers projects and processes as it reaches out to investors

Kuwait is not going to change decades-old habits overnight, but that doesn’t mean it cannot enact positive change –...

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Oman goes to polls for a Majlis that could be more assertive

Critics have plenty of ammunition when they complain that Oman’s 85-member Majlis Al-Shura (Consultative Council) lacks...

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Syria/Yemen:‘Too hard’ politics just got worse, global response needed

The Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) monarchies have emerged as significant regional players in the past decade, reflected in...

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