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Foreign affairs and international co-operation minister Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al-Nahyan travelled to South Africa to co-chair the second session of the UAE-South Africa Joint Commission in Pretoria on 23 October, alongside his local counterpart Lindiwe Sisulu. The two ministers also held bilateral discussions and signed a memorandum of understanding on social development.

United Arab Emirates (UAE)
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Any discussion of Saudi politics and business quickly turns to questions about the influence of Al-Saud princes and other key players in the royal pecking order, and who will succeed King Abdullah Bin Abdelaziz. For those seeking to understand the trajectory of Saudi politics, there is meaning to be found (or, at least, sought) in appointments and dismissals. The naming of Prince Mohammed Bin Salman as head of the court of his father Crown Prince Salman, for example, may shed a glimmer of light on what lies ahead for him and other ‘third-generation princes’, as they move closer to the pinnacles of power.

Saudi Arabia
Issue 1004 - 12 November 2015

Saudi Arabia: Comorean visitor

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Second deputy premier and defence minister Prince Mohammed Bin Salman on 4 November received Comoros President Dr Ikililou Dhoinine, who was in Riyadh for meetings. Dhoinine had an audience with King Salman the same day and later visited holy sites. On 9 November, he was received by Medina governor Prince Faisal Bin Salman Bin Abdelaziz.

Saudi Arabia
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Former police chief and minister of economy and industry Sheikh Hamad Bin Jassim Bin Hamad is being sued by his ex-wife Meshkah Tawfik for £100m ($153m) in maintenance for their children Sultan and Sheikha. Tawfik told the Sunday Times: “I am suing him not for me but to get maintenance for the children. As members of the royal family they should not be living like this.”

Qatar
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The late January appointment of Emiri Diwan chief Sheikh Khalid Bin Khalifa Bin Abdelaziz Bin Jassim Bin Mohammed Al-Thani as Qatar’s prime minister marks a further stage in the growing centralisation of power around the Emiri Diwan since 2013, when Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al-Thani took over from his now ‘father emir’, Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani. In keeping with the style of Emir Sheikh Tamim’s rule, the transition from long-serving prime minister and interior minister Sheikh Abdullah Bin Nasser Bin Khalifa Al-Thani’s safe pair of hands at the head of government to Khalid Bin Khalifa was a low key affair.

Qatar
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The Mena region’s polities are very different from the post-colonial nation states and newly independent emirates created during the Cold War that moulded geopolitics in GSN’s formative years. Challenges from non-state actors and the evolution of city-based ‘benign autocracies’ now point to alternative political configurations. It is legitimate to question whether Gulf monarchies based on pre-colonial tribal and family structures will persist beyond the coming decades, in a region buffeted by ‘non-state actors’ such as Islamic State, and riven by sectarian conflicts and demands for a more equitable distribution of resources.

Issue 964 - 20 February 2014

Saudi defence budget hits $60bn

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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).

Saudi Arabia
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Abu Dhabi-based Valentine Maritime (Gulf) has awarded two contracts to Aberdeen-headquartered energy consultancy Xodus Group. The first is for the design of new subsea pipelines off the north-east coast of Qatar, in the largest gas field in the world, and is due for completion by year-end.

United Arab Emirates (UAE)
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Chief executive Khalid Al-Falih is expected soon to formally announce change in Saudi Aramco’s senior management (GSN 994/9). Yasser Mufti has been selected to head Saudi Aramco Products Trading Company. Mufti would move from his post as Aramco’s head of mergers and acquisitions to replace Said Al-Hadrami as the trading subsidiary’s chief executive. Hadrami is expected to be named head of the parastatal giant’s international operations. Mufti served as Saudi Arabia’s Opec governor from March 2012 until December 2013 and was also head of the Accelerated Transformation Programme, which is intended to make Aramco a more diversified energy firm.

Saudi Arabia
Issue 1041 - 21 July 2017

UAE: ADNOC to list subsidiaries

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Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (Adnoc) has become the latest state-owned oil company to eye up local stock markets. Adnoc is planning to list minority stakes in some of its service company subsidiaries, according to a statement issued on 10 July. As yet, no specific units have been named as candidates, but any listings appear likely to go ahead on the Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange. Adnoc’s move follows similar plans previously announced for Saudi Aramco and Oman Oil Company.

United Arab Emirates (UAE)
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Violence is once again tearing Iraq apart. The fall of Mosul did not just mark the terrifying rise of jihadists from the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL – now calling itself the Islamic State), but also the beginning of a wider Sunni insurgency which has been long in the making: GSN has been writing about Baathists and Salafis pooling resources to fight the government in Baghdad since 2009, in a series of sadly prescient analyses which even anticipated co-operation with Sunni insurgents in Syria.

Iraq
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Emir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmed Al-Jaber Al-Sabah continues to try and mediate in the dispute between Qatar and the self-styled anti-terrorism quartet of Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE. On 2 May, the emir sent his deputy foreign minister Khaled Al-Jarallah as an envoy to Qatar, carrying a letter for Emir Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al-Thani; the letter’s contents remained secret. Despite Sheikh Sabah’s efforts, the prospects of a breakthrough appear distant.

Kuwait
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Specialist Lloyd’s of London insurer Hardy Underwriting has entered into a joint venture with Arab Insurance Group (Arig) to develop reinsurance business in the Middle East and North Africa.

Bahrain
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The picture across the Middle East is somewhat bleak, as GSN heads off for its brief summer break. The conflict in Gaza may be some way from the Gulf, but the brutality of Israel’s assault reverberates across the whole region. Meanwhile in Yemen, Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has been making known its aspirations to establish an ‘Islamic Emirate’ in Hadhramaut, presumably inspired by the success of that former Al-Qaeda franchise, the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), which now calls itself the ‘Islamic State’, and claims to have established a new caliphate.

Iraq
Issue 1067 - 19 October 2018

Bahrain: Missile order gets green light

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Manama has received approval from the State Department to buy $300m worth of guided missile systems. The decision covers 120 guided multiple launch rocket system pods – with six rockets per pod for a total of 720 rockets – as well as 110 army tactical missile system M57 T2K unitary missiles. According to the United States authorities, the missiles will improve Bahrain’s ability to protect its critical oil and natural gas infrastructure among other things and help to deter regional threats. The prime contractor for the deal is Lockheed Martin Missile and Fire Control.

Bahrain