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Based on its huge hydrocarbons and financial resources, Saudi Arabia is the giant of the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) and dominant regional player. While the past decade has seen heavy spending on education, health and social development, the Kingdom faces many problems, not least a fast-growing population, soaring energy consumption and high unemployment among young males.

Saudi Arabia
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Unresolved differences between Erbil and Baghdad are likely to define the major fault lines in the new Iraqi administration which parliament voted into power at the end of 2010. Although the Kurdish parties included the resolution of the status of Kirkuk according to article 140 of the constitution as one of their 19 conditions for supporting the new government, there are no signs that this issue will be resolved.

Iraq
Issue 984 - 08 January 2015

Risk Management Report: Iraqi Kurdistan

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POLITICS: Disagreements between the autonomous Kurdish region and Baghdad have been a source of major tensions in recent years. The 2005 constitution stipulated that Iraqi Kurdistan, which has an identity very distinct from Iraq, is a federal entity recognised by Iraq and the United Nations, and the 2010 Erbil agreement with Baghdad outlined how power would be shared. But the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) has protested their lack of implementation, and relations with Baghdad have been highly acrimonious. Oil has been at the centre of the dispute, with Baghdad furious that Erbil signed production-sharing agreements with international oil companies (IOCs) without its say-so, and Kurdistan refusing to export its oil through the central State Oil Marketing Organisation (SOMO). The Kurds accused former prime minister Nouri Al-Maliki of breaching the constitution by assuming too many powers, and have threatened to hold a referendum on independence.

Iraq
Issue 983 - 11 December 2014

Risk Management Report: Saudi Arabia

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POLITICS: Saudi Arabia is the giant of the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC), not least because of its massive oil wealth. Established in 1932, the kingdom is an absolute monarchy. To date, all rulers have been sons of Abdelaziz Bin Saud, the first monarch; a few younger family members have recently taken more senior positions, and there is much speculation about what will happen when the aged first generation of Al-Saud eventually cedes control. King Abdullah Bin Abdelaziz took over in 2005 on the death of his brother Fahd, and has overseen some reform of education and the judiciary. He faces many problems, including a poor underclass, booming population, high unemployment and unrest in Shiite communities in the Eastern Province. Foreign policy is driven by the desire to maintain regional hegemony and to compete with Iran. Riyadh’s relationship with Washington has been stormy at times, but is sustained by a mutual dependence. Saudi Arabia has a poor record on human rights, and severely restricts freedom of expression. Despite small advances, women’s rights continue to be limited: women may not drive, and must have permission from a male guardian to travel, work or enrol in higher education. King Abdullah has said women will be fully involved in the four-yearly municipal council elections (the country’s only polls) and, in early 2013, women were for the first time appointed to the 150-member Shura Council.

Saudi Arabia
Issue 1016 - 03 June 2016

Risk Management Report - Oman

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POLITICS: Oman has been governed since 1970 by Sultan Qaboos Bin Said Al-Said, the 14th ruler of the Al-Busaidi dynasty, founded in 1750. Qaboos, who deposed his father in a palace coup, relies on a variety of allies typically drawn from the merchant elite, rather than his relatively small family. He was briefly married but has no children or heir apparent; finalising the succession (likely to go to one of three cousins) is an increasingly pressing concern, as Qaboos has been seriously ill since mid-2014. GSN’s downward trend arrow reflects the potential for instability, due to uncertainty over who will succeed and the potential for greater public pressure for political reform – from a population of whom roughly 45% are under 20 years old.

Oman
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Kuwait’s limited parliamentary democracy has often been held up as the most democratic political system in the region, but it has also led to a string of political crises; there have been four elections in less than six years.

Kuwait
Issue 983 - 11 December 2014

Risk Management Report: Qatar

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POLITICS: The Al-Thani family has ruled Qatar since the mid-19th century, its power entrenched at the end of the Ottoman Empire with British recognition of its right to govern. Full independence was declared in 1971 and, officially, Qatar is slowly moving towards democracy. Elections have been held since 1999 for a Central Municipal Council, though voter turnout has halved to around 40%, reflecting disillusionment. The 2003 constitution also approved plans for a 45-member parliament, two thirds elected, but has yet to be implemented.

Qatar
Issue 1008 - 21 January 2016

Risk Management Report - Oman

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Politics: Oman has been governed since 1970 by Sultan Qaboos Bin Said Al-Said, the 14th ruler of the Al-Busaidi dynasty, founded in 1750. Qaboos, who deposed his father in a palace coup, relies on a variety of allies typically drawn from the merchant elite, rather than his relatively small family. He was briefly married but has no children or heir apparent; finalising the succession (which is likely to go to one of three cousins) is an increasingly pressing concern, as he has been seriously ill since mid-2014. The downward trend arrow on Oman’s political risk grade reflects the potential for instability, not only due to uncertainty over who will succeed, but also because a change in leadership could open the door to greater public pressure for political reform – from a population of whom roughly 45% are under 20 years old.

Oman
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On 9 June, Maliki visited Erbil for the first time since November 2010, a visit followed, on 7 July, by Kurdish President Massoud Barzani visiting Baghdad. There were no breakthrough announcements following their meetings, though they have been seen as an acknowledgment that the two leaders need each other more than they have been prepared to admit.

Iraq
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Syria is looking increasingly isolated and at risk of civil war. A League of Arab States mission has failed to staunch the violence and Bashar Al-Assad’s government does not appear ready to give ground. The UN says more than 5,400 people have been killed since protests erupted in March; Syrian officials say 2,000 members of the security forces have died.

Syria
Issue 1023 - 07 October 2016

Risk Management Report: Oman

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Politics: Oman has been governed since 1970 by Sultan Qaboos Bin Said Al-Said, the 14th ruler of the Al-Busaidi dynasty, founded in 1750. Qaboos, who deposed his father in a palace coup, relies on a variety of allies typically drawn from the merchant elite, rather than his relatively small family. He was briefly married but has no children or heir apparent; finalising the succession (likely to go to one of three cousins) is an increasingly pressing concern, as Qaboos has been seriously ill since mid-2014. GSN’s downward trend arrow reflects the potential for instability, due to uncertainty over who will succeed and the potential for greater public pressure for political reform – from a population of whom roughly 45% are under 20 years old.

Oman
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Voter turnout in September for the election of half the purely consultative FNC was disappointing and it seems new members are not always consulted on policy. There has been heated debate this year after the government failed to consult the FNC before approving the 2012 budget.

United Arab Emirates (UAE)
Issue 1109 - 03 September 2020

Saudi Arabia: Navy task force

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The Saudi Royal Naval Forces took over the command of the Combined Task Force (CTF) 150 on 18 August from French forces.

Saudi Arabia
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King Salman Bin Abdelaziz has been in his palace in Neom since 12 August, following recent surgery. The monarch’s steady work schedule included a flurry of phone calls with world leaders on 7-9 September.

Saudi Arabia
Issue 976 - 05 September 2014

Sheikah Mozah: Hindmarch stake

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Mayhoola For Investment, a fund linked to Sheikha Mozah Bint Nasser Al-Misnad, has almost doubled its stake in high-end accessories designer Anya Hindmarch, according to news reports. Mayhoola, thought to be an investment arm of the Qatar Luxury Group (which is owned by the Qatar Foundation), bought a 38.8% stake in the company worth £27m ($45m) in 2012, and in early August was reported to have paid £24.2m for a further 21.2% stake. Despite Mayhoola’s 60% share, Hindmarch retains control of the business through voting rights, The Independent said.

Qatar