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The latest series of GSN profiles show how Iran’s clerics – and especially those close to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei – have a grip over the economy that has got ever tighter over the past three decades. There is no prospect of that changing at the parliamentary and Assembly of Experts elections on 1 March.

Iran
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Sultan Haitham left Muscat for the UK on 8 February, with no indication of how long he might be away for.

Oman
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Sheikh Salman Bin Abdullah Al-Khalifa has been appointed vice chairman of the Higher Urban Planning Committee, moving on from his previous role as president of the Survey and Land Registration Bureau.

Bahrain
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A new Emirati/Italian joint venture, which aims to build and sell large warships to non-Nato countries around the world, claims to have a pipeline of $32bn of orders at launch – and could expand into mid-sized submarines in the future.

United Arab Emirates (UAE)
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Growth in defence spending by Gulf Co-operation Council countries slowed significantly in 2023, but heightened tensions as a result of the Gaza war could prompt another acceleration in military outlays this year.

Saudi Arabia | Qatar
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After Sheikh Mishaal Al-Ahmed Al-Sabah took exception to comments by a member of parliament about his inaugural speech as ruler in December, the emir issued a decree on 15 February to disband the National Assembly – meaning a fresh general election must be held by mid-April.

Kuwait
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Emir Sheikh Mishaal Al-Ahmed Al-Sabah travelled to Bahrain and Qatar in mid-February, following trips to Saudi Arabia and Oman earlier in the year. Mishaal has been using the trips to cement regional support for border disputes with Iraq and Iran – although there are signs that Doha is slightly less steadfast than some others over the Iran dispute.

Kuwait
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Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s mid-February tour of the UAE and Qatar followed the signing of big energy supply deals and the release of former Indian naval officers sentenced to death in Doha for spying.

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The IRGC Navy has launched long-range ballistic missiles from one of its ships for the first time, as it continues to flex its muscle in the face of heightened tensions with the United States, but an Iranian spy ship that was thought to have been working closely with Yemen’s Houthis appears to have been sidelined after a US cyberattack.

Iran
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The Saudi government’s Public Investment Fund has been signing contracts with more lobbying and communications specialists, as it continues to face political scrutiny over its investments in the United States.

Saudi Arabia
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Bahrain has set up diplomatic relations with Vanuatu and Qatar with Tonga in a continuation of the trend for Gulf states to expand their diplomatic and development ties with small Pacific Island nations.

Bahrain | Qatar
Issue 1185 - 20 February 2024

UAE ambassador takes up post in Damascus

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Hassan Al-Shehi has presented his credentials, to become the first UAE ambassador in Damascus since 2011, adding further to a bilateral relationship that seemed broken when Abu Dhabi supported opposition groups in the Syrian civil war’s early years.

United Arab Emirates (UAE)
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Alpha Dhabi reported a 25% rise in profits in 2023, alongside a 14% increase in revenues, as the investment firm owned by UAE national security advisor Sheikh Tahnoun Bin Zayed Al-Nahyan’s International Holding Company announced multi-billion-dinar joint venture deals with Adnoc Drilling and Mubadala.

United Arab Emirates (UAE)
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Abu Dhabi National Oil Company is setting up a joint venture with BP focused on natural gas exploration and production in Egypt.

United Arab Emirates (UAE)
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A trade deal between the UAE and Cambodia came into force in early February, just weeks after negotiations were finalised for a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement with Costa Rica, as more of Abu Dhabi’s preferred Cepa deals are unrolled.

United Arab Emirates (UAE)