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Free

While governments around the Gulf struggle to come to terms with what the looming Donald Trump presidency might mean for them in terms of changes to US foreign policy – an imprecise science given the lack of clarity or consistency from the president-elect – another aspect of the maverick billionaire’s victory ought to be rising up their list of concerns: the potential impact of his domestic policies, which could indirectly pile more pressure on Gulf currencies pegged to the dollar, leading to higher interest rates and slower economic growth.

Kuwait
Free

Washington’s new National Security Strategy (NSS) opens with a preamble, signed by Barack Obama – a president burnishing his legacy ahead of the November 2016 election in the face of security crises his administration is hard-pressed to counter. “Today, the United States is stronger and better positioned to seize the opportunities of a still new century and safeguard our interests against the risks of an insecure world,” the preamble says, citing “America’s growing economic strength [as] the foundation of our national security and a critical source of our influence abroad”.

Free

The continuing impact of the Jamal Khashoggi murder on Saudi relations with western countries shows little signs of abating. Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman (MBS)’s association with the episode is denied by Riyadh but the issue is still feeding into myriad reports about problems with his father King Salman Bin Abdelaziz and rival factions in the Al-Saud.An early April report that MBS has purchased property and provided stipends for the late journalist’s children was picked up by media worldwide.

Saudi Arabia
Free

On 24 April, Kuwait’s prime minister, Sheikh Jaber Al-Mubarak Al-Hamad Al-Sabah, met some of the country’s leading editors, and – following a “candid, frank and expanded meeting” (in the words of state news agency Kuna) – put the brakes on a controversial media law, which in its current state would seriously undermine press freedom. “If you are against the bill, it will be shelved,” he said, suggesting that consultations between journalists and the government could lead to an amended version.

Kuwait
Free

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 last few months, the press in Kuwait has grown increasingly silent; uncannily so. The silence does not reflect a period of political calm, however. Rather it shows a growing fear among journalists and politicians that reporting anything about brewing political issues might get them into trouble

Kuwait
Free

The impending E222m ($261m) transfer of Brazilian footballer Neymar da Silva Santos Júnior has set the club he has played for since 2013, Barcelona (sponsored by Qatar), against his new employer Paris Saint-Germain (PSG), which is owned by Qatar. Barca and Spanish La Liga officials complain PSG has violated the ‘financial fair play’ rules of football’s European governing body UEFA. Other observers believe the world-record transfer – which is more than twice the size of the previous mega-deal – sends another signal: that Qatar is carrying on with business as usual in terms of projecting its soft power muscle to underline its status as a small state with world class (and World Cup) ambitions.

Qatar
Free

As federal President Jalal Talabani asks prime minister-designate Nouri Al-Maliki to form a cabinet, there will follow 30 days of delicate negotiations. Maliki must also find at least 163 votes by 11 December in order for his government to be ratified. Some progress has been made.

Iran | Iraq
Free

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.

Free

Emir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmed Al-Jaber Al-Sabah is playing a canny game ahead of May’s general election. It is only ten months since Kuwait went to the polls – and two years since the previous election – a political cycle that illustrates the pattern of confrontation between parliamentarians and ministers which has repeatedly blocked legislation and approval of major projects.

Kuwait
Free

Late October saw a flurry of activity in London aimed at boosting Gulf Co-Operation Council-UK ties. If the crowded programme had been the result of a co-ordinated plan by the UK’s (relatively) new coalition government it might be seen as a reaffirmation of UK-Gulf ties organised by a dynamic new administration.

Iran
Free

Rare was the commentator who predicted that the overthrow of Tunisian leader Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in (was it only?) mid-January would be followed by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s demise and the probable overthrow of the even more entrenched Qadhafi regime in Libya.

Free

Since Kuwait was the first Arab state to have a parliament in 1962, it is no stranger to voices of dissent and opposition within its governing system. It has a powerful and democratically elected National Assembly, with a strong sense of constitutional rights (GSN 891/1). This has earned the emirate a reputation for a vigorous political culture.

Kuwait
Free

It has been an eventful year in the Gulf. Against a backdrop of wider regional turmoil – the civil war in Syria and the overthrow of Egypt’s Mohammed Morsi (GSN 951/1) – the six Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) states have been broadly stable, their political currents stirred but not redirected by events elsewhere. In Saudi Arabia, King Abdullah Bin Abdelaziz seemed keen to get his house in order, promoting several younger members of the Al-Saud, and delivering on a promise made in 2011 to appoint women to the Majlis Al-Shura (GSN 948/5, 946/6, 942/1, 941/1, 940/1, 939/20).

Iran | Saudi Arabia | Bahrain | Yemen | United Arab Emirates (UAE) | Iraq
Free

Will Mohammad Khatami secure the backing of Rahbar (Supreme Leader) Ayatollah Ali Khamenei for his presidential comeback bid this summer? Unlikely as this might have seemed even weeks ago, Iranian political observers, whose debates GSN has joined in the past week, are agreed that this may be the decisive question

Iran
Free

The dispatch of a high-level Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) delegation to Tehran on 16 July was another sign of the swelling domestic and foreign unease at Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) President Massoud Barzani’s almost indecent haste in pushing for an independence referendum in the Kurdish Region of Iraq (KRI). The signs are that Kurds will vote for independence from Baghdad on 25 September, which will severely complicate relations with Shia-dominated Iraq and the wider region.

Iraq