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Issue 187 - 22 December 1986



The Saudi Arabian government, will, notwithstanding other matters concerning it at the time, be giving some special attention on 25 January to the general elections being held on that day in West Germany. In particular, Riyadh will have an interest in following the fortunes at the polls of the conservative parties in West Germany and, especially, the Bavarian Christian Social Union party. The Saudi government has a valid reason for concerning itself about the course of the election. A clear victory for the conservative parties could bring the Bavarian Prime Minister, Franz Josef Strauss, into the central government in the key position of foreign or defence minister. And Frans Josef Strauss is the man who thinks Bonn's current arms policy towards Saudi Arabia is all wrong and that West Germany should be free to sell sophisticated weapons to the kingdom.

Issue 186 - 08 December 1986



If one were to believe the press reports (chiefly emanating from Washington) about "Irangate", the instigation for the whole affair might well have originated in Saudi Arabia. Saudi involvement somewhere along the line is undoubtedly the case, but amid all the mudslinging and blame-throwing in Washington, Saudi Arabia is definitely being forced to carry a quite unwarranted burden of responsibility.

Issue 185 - 24 November 1986



The emphasis given to defence and regional security affairs at the recent GCC summit conference in Abu Dhabi served to confirm the Iran-Iraq war as the dominant concern of the governments of the region. Faced with the failure of every political and diplomatic effort to bring about a negotiated end to the Gulf war, the leaders of the six GCC countries had little option but to press on with the improvement of their individual and collective defence capabilities.

Issue 184 - 10 November 1986



For several years the removal of Shaikh Ahmad Zaki Yamani from the ministry of oil has been a subject of innumerable rumours and endless speculation within and outside Saudi Arabia. Now that his dismissal has taken place, a spate of foreign comment has produced a startling range of reasons for his fall from grace. These have included many "now-it-can-be-revealed" stories of long-sustained bad relations between King Fahd and Shaikh Yamani, and strangely detailed accounts of alleged serious differences of opinion within the government over Yamani's oil policies.

Issue 183 - 27 October 1986



When General George Crist, the commanding general-of the United States' Central Command, came to Saudi Arabia earlier this month, his meeting with Defence Minister Prince Sultan was accorded a brief two-line mention by the official Saudi Press Agency (SPA). The Agency's terse description of the meeting ("They reviewed bilateral relations") suggested an official decision not to draw too much attention to the event. The meagre coverage given within the kingdom to General Crist's visit contrasted notably with that afforded to another recent visitor, the French Minister of Defence, Andre Giraud. Even allowing for the protocol difference in rank between a minister and a general, the generous media exposure given to the Frenchman made the tiny ration allotted to the American look positively grudging.

Issue 182 - 14 October 1986



During the General Assembly sessions of the United Nations in New York the Arab foreign ministers generally and the GCC envoys particularly, were extremely active in their contacts with other delegations and in their high profile representations of regional and overall Arab concerns. The GCC ministers were especially vigorous, and two of their more important side meetings were with the European Community foreign ministers and with the US Secretary of State, George Shultz.

Issue 181 - 30 September 1986



In anticipation, presumably, of the 54th anniversary of the founding of modern Saudi Arabia - which fell on 23 September - the recent newscasts' of the official Saudi Press Agency (SPA) have been filled with items about the country's material progress in recent years and listing the present facilities enjoyed by or available to its citizens. A great deal of the material put out by SPA has been statistical in nature - the thousands of kilometres of new roads, the millions of cubic metres of desalinated water, the hundreds of thousands of new houses, the storage capacity of the grain silos, the geographical spread of electricity, and the reach of public transport.

Issue 180 - 16 September 1986



The Gulf countries are in the uncomfortable position of knowing that a large-scale Iranian ground offensive against Iraq is in the offing - and being able to do nothing but wait for the blow. According to one quoted (but anonymous) senior Saudi source: "The common wisdom is that something is coming up within the next several weeks. The idea is to mount another attack that will at least embarrass the Iraqis and push further into the country." The question is not if, but when.

Issue 179 - 02 September 1986



The foreign ministers of the six Gulf Co-operation Council countries, meeting as the Ministerial Council of the GCC, were gathered in Abha, Saudi Arabia, last week to review, as the official statement put it, developments in the Iran-Iraq war, the recent escalations in the "tankers war" and its impact on the security of the GCC member states. The foreign ministers held a joint session with the GCC oil ministers, to discuss a working paper prepared by the Secretariat on the world oil situation and its effect on the member states.

Issue 178 - 19 August 1986



An address by King Fahd to the heads of the Pilgrimage missions in Saudi Arabia for the Haj referred to the dangers from the "bloody conflicts" in the Middle East and a joint official statement from King Fahd and Crown Prince Abdullah reiterated the major policy objectives of the kingdom. Saudi Arabia is "keenly interested" in the objectives and resolutions' of the Islamic and Arab summits and is committed to the Arab League charter and "endeavours to establish peace in the Arab region".

Issue 177 - 05 August 1986



The various expectations - good, bad, or indifferent – anyone, Arab, Israeli, or others may have had as a result of the meetings in Ifrane between King Hassan of Morocco and Shimon Peres, the Israeli Prime Minister, are now well and truly dashed. The flurry of outrage displayed by Syria, Algeria, Libya and others is now to no purpose. The uncertainty of Jordan, the nervous reaction of the PLO, and the muted response of some other Arab states is no longer of much importance.

Issue 176 - 22 July 1986



It is, perhaps, too soon to know whether King Hussein's recent visit to Saudi Arabia did anything to alter the kingdom's traditional full support for Yasser Arafat's leadership of the PLO. Hussein went to Taif to visit King Fahd immediately after closing the 25 Jordanian offices of the Fatah wing of the PLO and expelling Khalil al Wazir, the senior PLO official in Jordan and Arafat's military aide. The closures and expulsion were explained as a reaction to PLO criticism of Jordanian policy in the Middle East. More likely, however, is that Jordan was using the criticism as an opportunity to put further pressure on the PLO to get rid of Arafat and choose a leadership that would better suit Jordanian policy.

Issue 175 - 08 July 1986



The Iranian air strikes which took place last week on two oil tankers inside the UAE's 12-mile territorial waters are the closest military actions yet to the Arab coastline of the peninsula. The development. coming as the GCC Ministerial Council meeting was in progress in Taif, served to underline once again the defence and security concerns of the six member countries, of the GCC. Shortly before the Iranian attacks occurred, Minister of Defence Prince Sultan had delivered a tough speech on Saudi Arabian sovereignty. Speaking to military officers at the King Abdul Aziz naval base at Jubail, Prince Sultan said, "We will never allow any outside force to play with our sovereignty and dignity and undermine our security and stability, whichever and whoever it might be."

Issue 174 - 24 June 1986



The planned meeting between the Syrian and Iraqi Foreign Ministers, that was due to take place on 13 June in Jordan, was cancelled at the last moment, apparently following Iranian pressure on Damascus. First statements said only that the meeting had been postponed. Reports from Tehran said that Iran had coupled a resumption of its cut-price oil supplies to Damascus with a threat to cause trouble for Syria in the eastern Bekaa Valley in Lebanon.

Issue 173 - 10 June 1986



The PLO leader, Yasser Arafat, has warned the world that the current fighting between Palestinians and the Shiite militia, Amal, could lead to a repeat of the Sabra and Shatilla massacres of 1982, in which hundreds of, undefended women and children were killed by Lebanese Forces and Major Haddad's militia from south Lebanon. Arafat has sent pleas to a number of Arab leaders to intercede, and the Palestine Salvation Front has asked the Lebanese Prime Minister, Rashid Karami, to send the Lebanese Army into the Bourg al-Barajneh camp to stop the fighting.