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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
Subscriber

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
Free

As presidential elections approach, on 18 June, attention will grow on which personality and faction succeeds Hassan Rouhani, head of government since 2013. But the most critical variable in Iran’s highly controlled democracy won’t change: the temporal power and (often very pragmatic) spiritual guidance of Rahbar (Supreme Leader) Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Iran
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In the presidential election scheduled for 18 June, Rahbar (Supreme Leader) Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is likely to favour a candidate who boasts a strong religious/security background, potentially with Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) credentials. The level of opposition facing his preferred successor to Hassan Rouhani may be limited – while Khamenei’s military and clerical allies gain ground, it is likely no substantial moderate/reformist candidates will survive the Shura-ye Negahban (Guardian Council)’s pre-election vetting and liberal voters are increasingly disengaged from the process.

Iran
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Conservatives are trying to claim some scalps among their political opponents as a battle to clamp down on money laundering continues to build momentum. Among those in the firing line are foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and Majlis-e Shura-ye Eslami (parliament) speaker Ali Larijani. Iran is under pressure from the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) to pass a comprehensive set of rules to curb money laundering and financing of terrorist groups by February.

Iran
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Sheikh Khalifa Bin Abdulla Bin Hamad Al-Khalifa has been named as Bahrain’s ambassador to Amman, in the latest refresh of heads of missions.

Jordan | Bahrain
Issue 1025 - 03 November 2016

Khalid Bin Salman could fly high

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With Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman (MBS) widely perceived to be ‘disassociating’ himself from the Yemen war, Saudi-watchers have for several months been speculating that his younger full brother, the 28-year-old Prince Khalid Bin Salman, will take up a place inside the Ministry of Defence and Aviation. An analyst based in the kingdom commented: “It is widely known that MBS is not known to spend time reading serious fare – political theory, philosophy or current affairs.

Saudi Arabia
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Alpha Dhabi Holding – the Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange (ADX)-listed investment firm linked to national security advisor Sheikh Tahnoun Bin Zayed Al-Nahyan – said it had bought a 36.4% stake in National Corporation for Tourism and Hotels (NCTH) for AED730m ($199m), becoming the largest shareholder in the local hotel owner and operator.

United Arab Emirates (UAE)
Free

Prince Turki Bin Salman has been appointed chairman of Saudi Research and Marketing Group (SRMG), replacing his brother Faisal Bin Salman, who was appointed Medina governor in January. SRMG owns Al-Sharq Al-Awsat and Arab News.

Saudi Arabia
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Iraq is buffeted by regional conflicts and domestic political and economic pressures; the dinar remains stressed and the population even more so. This is the first of a much-expanded series of GSN Risk management reports, in an online format intended to provide easy-to-access updates, analysis and contexts as a point of entry into this complex, often opaque region.

Iraq
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Noor Bint Ali Al-Khulaif was appointed to head the EDB in mid-February, taking over from Khalid Humaidan who is now governor of Central Bank of Bahrain.

Bahrain
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Kerman blast: Around 100 people were killed and nearly 300 injured in two explosions at a cemetery in the southern city of Kerman on 3 January, at an event marking the fourth anniversary of IRGC Quds force leader Qasem Soleimani’s death in a United States drone strike.

Iran
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Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman (MBS) is charging ahead on multiple domestic and international fronts, raising eyewatering sums from princes and others accused of corruption, with apparent public support but amid deep concerns from other factions in the ruling family and critics abroad. GSN has heard unconfirmed reports that at least one of the most high-profile ‘guests’ in the Riyadh Ritz Carlton has been put on suicide watch, suggesting events could yet get out of hand.

Saudi Arabia
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Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman (MBS) made a phone call to Abu Dhabi Crown Prince and UAE Armed Forces deputy supreme commander Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Al-Nahyan (MBZ) on 6 September, formally to discuss bilateral and regional issues.

Saudi Arabia | United Arab Emirates (UAE)
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Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman (MBS) on 8 November received the United Nations secretary-general’s special envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths in Riyadh. The meeting gave Griffiths an opportunity to congratulate MBS “on the success of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s efforts to reach the signing of [the] Riyadh Agreement between the Yemeni government and the Southern Transitional Council”, as the official statement put it.

Yemen