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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 tensions in Bahrain, questions over succession – the main event of the year came as a surprise. The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL)’s takeover of Mosul in June, and the group’s subsequent seizing of swathes of Iraq, cut the year into two halves: before ISIL, and after.