The Gulf countries that have led international support for the campaign to topple the government of Bashar Al-Assad face a number of negative consequences as the bloody civil war drags on, with the increasing likelihood that the Baathist regime or...read more
Clashes between the Iraqi army and Sunni insurgents in the Sunni majority province of Anbar over the past three months mean that voting cannot take place in many localities on 30 April. On 1 April, Iraq’s Independent High Electoral Commission...read more
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...read more
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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 of the dispute is Qatar’s support for the Muslim Brotherhood, which Saudi Arabia and the UAE will not tolerate.
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 Al-Saud is granted allegiance as crown prince should the position of the crown prince become vacant, and is granted allegiance as king of the state should the positions of king and crown prince be vacant at the same time’’
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 Iran for years, and negotiations for this specific deal began months ago; in November, Iranian oil minister Bijan Zanganeh had predicted a contract would be signed in mid-March (GSN 958/12). What was signed at Al Alam Palace was an “initial agreement”, which the Omanis described as a “good start”; the two sides have still not agreed on a price for the gas, however, which will come from Iran’s North Pars field.
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 unravel exactly who has been on trial and why. GSN has put together a reference table for subscribers, based on reports in Omani and regional media, and international newswires, which documents trials and convictions to date
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’s human rights abuses did not deter 523 parliamentarians out of 577 from voting in favour. Rights activists will be very disappointed that the EP’s unprecedented 2012 chastisement of the UAE for its treatment of detainees and repression of free speech has been put to one side.
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 budget for defence and security had climbed to SR251bn by 2013, according to the Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency (Sama – the central bank), whose figures differ slightly from the IISS estimates, and show a defence budget that is even higher (see graphic).
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 Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi’s term of office, giving him an additional year to oversee a transition that is running well behind its two-year schedule.
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 politically motivated. It was the second mass trial of Islamists in the UAE in the past year. Indeed, ten of those found guilty in the second trial were Emirati nationals also found guilty in the first, known as the UAE94 trial, which resulted in 69 members of Islamist group Al-Islah being sentenced for threatening to overthrow the government.
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 ensuring Iran’s opening to the West is not frustrated by domestic interests, headed by the powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).
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 of violent attacks in Sanaa, including the killing of a Belarussian defence contractor by gunmen on a motorbike on 26 November.
Recent promises to mend relations between the Kurdistan Regional Government and Baghdad have not led to any real progress on disputes over politics, land and oil. And as Baghdad makes overtures towards its former sparring partner – and close Kurdish ally – Turkey, the government. The 29 April framework accord signed by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki and Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani was intended to steer the process of resolving disagreements over issues such as customs and border procedures, proposals for a new oil law, and the status of disputed areas. It was followed by a series of meetings in June and July when the two sides promised further co-operation.
King Hamad Bin Isa Al-Khalifa returned to Bahrain on 18 September after an official visit to China at the invitation of President Xi Jinping. It was King Hamad’s first visit to China at the invitation of the president, timed to coincide with the first China-Arab States Expo, whose opening ceremony in Yinchuan he attended. During his visit, on which he was accompanied by finance minister Sheikh Ahmed Bin Mohammed Al-Khalifa, he held talks with Jinping and Chinese premier Li Keqiang on “close co-operation between the two countries in various areas”, according to state news agency BNA. The visit was hailed by official media in Bahrain as a historical success, and a turning point in China-Bahrain relations.
Britain’s BAE has submitted a formal bid to supply 60 Eurofighter Typhoon jets to the UAE, which has been looking to upgrade its fleet for many years, according to BAE house broker UBS. France’s Dassault Aviation is competing for the contract: a deal to buy Dassault’s Rafale has been mooted since at least 2009, and seemed close at times. Rivalry for the lucrative contract, expected to be worth between $8bn and $11bn, has drawn in senior politicians, including British Prime Minister David Cameron, who travelled to the UAE in November 2012 to mend a relationship which had been bruised by western criticism of UAE human rights abuses.
The UAE is working hard to shape its profile as an emerging regional and global power. It pulled out of the Gulf Monetary Union in 2009, angry that Riyadh had been chosen over Abu Dhabi as the headquarters for the monetary council, and has reservations about a more integrated Gulf Union. The federation is becoming an increasingly important part of US policy in the Gulf, and, despite concerns over human rights abuses, is widely perceived as one of the most stable countries in the region.
Back in April, with relations between Qatar and then Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi looking strong, Qatar agreed to supply between 18 and 24 LNG cargoes to Egypt, which desperately needed gas to fulfill supply contracts and meet summer domestic demand. But disagreements over pricing saw the number of cargoes fall to 13 and, by mid to late August, reports started to surface that negotiations might be on hold. Qatar has honoured a separate promise, made by Emir Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al-Thani in June (when he was still heir apparent), to send five free tankers of LNG to help Egypt negotiate the hot summer months. Four tankers left Ras Laffan in August, and the fifth, according to the Qatar state news agency, was due to be loaded in September. But on 10 September, Qatargas confirmed to GSN and its sister publication African Energy that no negotiations were under way for the delivery of further cargoes.
The early August appointment of Prince Salman Bin Sultan Bin Abdelaziz as deputy defence minister left Saudi-watchers puzzled, coming as it did just a few months after Prince Fahd Bin Abdullah Bin Mohammed was given the position (GSN 945/1). A son of the late crown prince Sultan Bin Abdelaziz (GSN 911/1), Prince Salman is in his late thirties, and has a degree in military science from the King Abdulaziz Military Academy. His career has included an early 2000s stint at the Saudi embassy in Washington under his high-profile older brother Prince Bandar Bin Sultan. When he returned to the kingdom, he took up a post at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and then joined the National Security Council (NSC), also headed by Bandar, where, in August 2011, he was appointed assistant secretary-general for intelligence and security affairs.
GSN’s listing of the 33rd Kuwait cabinet, announced 4 August 2013.
In the lead-up up to Iraq’s provincial elections on 20 April, Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki’s central theme was the need for a ‘political majority government’ – intended to replace the ‘partnership government’ model upon which the 2010 government was built. The latter sees every major party taking part in government, something Maliki has long complained gives recalcitrant parties a veto, stymying his efforts to rebuild Iraq. His hope was that the April elections would be a first step towards a model more favourable to him; the notion that ‘majority governments’ would first be formed at provincial level was already on his lips in December, well before official campaigning began.
A constitency-by-constituency listing of MPs elected on 27 July 2013 and votes received.
GSN has been looking at the fortunes of some of the protagonists in the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003. Many have remained connected to Iraq, setting up or investing in Iraq-linked businesses, working as consultants or taking positions on boards of companies requiring Iraq expertise. Those profiled include Lewis Paul (‘Jerry’) Bremer III, Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez, Lieutenant General Jay Garner, Sir Jeremy Greenstock, Lakhdar Brahimi, Patrick Kennedy, Zalmay Khalilzad, Colonel Harry Schute, Bernie Kerik and Marek Belka.
Expectations that Qatar is poised for a leadership overhaul continue to rise. For months, GSN has been hearing rumours the Emir Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al-Thani is planning to abdicate in favour of his son, heir apparent Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al-Thani (GSN 946/1); in recent weeks, these have been augmented by suggestions of a top-to-bottom reshuffle of the cabinet, that could also see prime minister and foreign minister Sheikh Hamad Bin Jassim Bin Jaber Al-Thani (HBJ) leave office. Such rumours are notoriously difficult to verify. Even well-placed contacts are largely reliant on hearsay, so tight-lipped are the authorities. Some of GSN’s sources in Qatar suggest senior officials expect an announcement later in June, ahead of the start of Ramadan, and have put any leave on hold.
King Abdullah Bin Abdelaziz has upgraded the Saudi Arabian National Guard (Sang) to a ministry, meaning his son Prince Miteb Bin Abdullah – previously Sang commander with ministerial rank – now has his own ministry. It is the latest in a string of appointments and reshuffles which has seen a number of third-generation royals promoted, as the ageing king seeks to secure his legacy.
King Hamad Bin Isa Al-Khalifa was in the UK for the 2013 Royal Windsor Horse Show at Windsor Castle Great Park from 8 to 12 May, on the sidelines of which Bahrain supported the inaugural 120km Royal Windsor Endurance CEI2 ride. The winning rider, who finished in a time of 4 hours 32 minutes, was the UAE’s Rashed Mohammed Ibrahim Al-Baloush on Bucanero. Their average speed was 26.41km/h. Emirati riders also finished second and fourth.
Deputy defence minister Prince Khalid Bin Sultan was sacked on 20 April, and replaced by a former naval chief from a less prominent branch of the Al-Saud – a surprise to many, even though Khalid had long been considered unpopular with the king. The enfant terrible of Saudi military politics, his 12-year stint at the ministry of defence ended with a brief statement from the Saudi Press Agency that reflected once again the opaque nature of decision making in the kingdom. “King Abdullah Bin Abdelaziz issued today a royal order relieving Prince Khalid… deputy defence minister of his post and appointing Prince Fahd Bin Abdullah Bin Mohammed Bin Abdelrahman Al-Saud, as deputy defence minister at the rank of minister,” the statement said.
The Hôtel de Crillon in Paris, belonging to Saudi Arabian National Guard head Prince Miteb Bin Abdullah, is to close its doors for a two-year renovation by the Lebanese architect Aline d’Amman. The Crillon was French-owned until 2005, when ownership passed to US group Starwood Capital and then, in 2010, to Prince Miteb for a reported €250m ($327m). Prince Miteb’s first cousin Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal owns the GeorgeV Hotel in Paris.
Published in May 2013, this map provides an overview of licensed blocks in UAE both onshore and offshore. The location of oil and gas fields and associated existing and planned pipeline, refineries, processing facilities and tanker terminals are shown.read more
Published in February 2013, this file groups together a series of graphics showing Saudi Arabia's energy comsumption mix, electricity generation capacity gap, and 2032 generation targets.read more
In 2011, political unrest forced the cancellation of the Bahrain Grand Prix and, each year since, those campaigning for...read more
The non-executive chairman of the Qatar Investment Fund, Nick Wilson, published an op-ed in Arabian Business on 12 March in...read more
The last time US President Barack Obama met King Abdullah Bin Abdelaziz in Saudi Arabia, he was on his way to Cairo to...read more