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Maysan province provides a pointer to the evolution of politics and security under Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki, in the Bush administration’s last months, where huge resources are needed to assist the traumatised, impoverished population in arguably Iraq’s most under-developed and wildest province.

Iraq
Free

On 20 April, Iraq held its first countrywide elections since the withdrawal of US troops in late 2011. The vote for provincial councils, widely touted as a litmus test for Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki ahead of parliamentary elections in 2014, was seen also as a test of how well Iraq’s political institutions and security forces could handle nationwide polls.

Iraq
Free

Two days after the UAE Armed Forces suffered two separate fatal aircraft crashes, minister of state for foreign affairs Anwar Gargash unilaterally declared that the UAE had completed its mission in Yemen and that its involvement in the Saudi-led coalition had changed focus – from a military campaign to civil development. Details of the military withdrawal had yet to be revealed as GSN went to press, but UAE forces are expected to be repatriated in phases over the next few months. There was no immediate comment from Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Co-operation Council allies.

Yemen | United Arab Emirates (UAE)
Free

Criticism surrounding the $53m US deal to sell armoured vehicles and military equipment to Bahrain has grabbed the headlines, but it is a drop in the ocean in terms of US arms exports.  

Bahrain | Iraq | Syria
Free

Donald Trump clearly chose his ground during his first foreign visit as US president, with the view of enunciating a simple but assertive foreign policy message for the Middle East. In Riyadh and Jerusalem he chose to focus on rallying his Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) allies, led by Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi, and their erstwhile enemy Israel, with a unifying call to confront Iran – which has been confirmed in the Trumpian vision as the pre-eminent regional villain.

Iran
Free

It was on the occasion of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in 1897 that Rudyard Kipling penned his ‘Recessional’, a hymnic warning about the inevitable decline of the British Empire. “Lo, all our pomp of yesterday/ Is one with Nineveh and Tyre!/Judge of the Nations, spare us yet,/Lest we forget – lest we forget!” wrote the poet of the Empire, as Britain’s redoubtable monarch marked 60 years on the throne.

Bahrain
Free

Whether President Barack Obama should have carried through on his threat to intervene in Syria when evidence of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) were revealed in 2013, or if Western allies should have been more robust in projecting their interests in building a post-Qadhafi state in Libya, remain live issues today. The fact that neither happened can be traced directly to the catalogue of disasters that began with the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003; an ignominious chapter of recent western history which has now been elegantly and intensively recorded in Sir John Chilcot’s Report of the Iraq Inquiry, which covers the UK’s involvement from mid-2001 until its troops formally withdrew in July 2009.

Free

The images and tales that emerged from Al-Shabaab’s attack on Kenya’s Westgate mall were searingly dreadful. Mothers shielding toddlers, blood pooling on tiles, the sheer terror of gunfire in what was supposed to be a benign location. Rarely has the vocabulary of winning been so unconsonant. “We have defeated our enemies,” Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta declared as the four-day siege came to an end on 24 September, leaving at least 70 people dead. For all the bravery of security forces, for all the unity of horrified Kenyans, it is wrong to suggest that anyone wins.

Yemen
Free

GSN’s year-end Perspective/Agenda feature provides a look back – and forwards – at key events across the region in 2020-21. It gives an opportunity to update the Risk Grades included with each of our regular Risk management reports. After another year of tragedy, Yemen is effectively a failed state (rated F6, the bottom political and financial grades). Qatar has shown itself to be robust in the face of its neighbours’ boycott, its finances warranting an upgrade to 1, putting it on a par with the UAE. Iraq’s political standoffs and financial woes remain deeply troubling, but the situation is improving rather than deteriorating and the prospect of higher oil prices next year should help further; it has been upgraded from E5↑ to D4↓. Oman’s fiscal challenges continue to mount, prompting a downgrade of its economic rating to 3. 

Iran | Kuwait | Saudi Arabia | Bahrain | Yemen | Oman | United Arab Emirates (UAE) | Iraq | Qatar
Free

International pressure is growing over Saudi Arabia’s actions in Yemen, where civilian – and medical – targets are regularly hit in missions intended to attack Houthi positions. The issue is gaining greater traction among mainstream western politicians – and, more quietly, in several Arab capitals, including Gulf Co-operation Council member Muscat – as well as from Amnesty International and other advocacy groups, who have been lobbying on the issue for many months. However, signs are that Riyadh will carry on regardless as long as key allies like the United States and United Kingdom stay onside.

Saudi Arabia
Free

In the past few weeks Iran has unveiled a new missile defence system, a turbojet engine and a fast patrol boat, underlining how the Islamic Republic has been able to build up its military industry through the years of sanctions. The equipment may not be at the cutting edge, but it is still far ahead of the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC). Fearful of the future for its own Western supply lines (see Defence and security), Riyadh has ambitions to create its own domestic industry.

Iran
Free

It is not just through trade and financial controls that the United States and its allies are gradually encircling Iran in an effort to throttle the Islamic Republic’s nuclear ambitions. And the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) states are playing a larger role in this process than seemed likely earlier this decade, when Saudi King Abdullah Bin Abdelaziz led a move towards rapprochement with Tehran. Thus, according to GSN’s contacts in the

Iran | United Arab Emirates (UAE)
Free

The latest report by the Panel of Experts on Yemen to the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), released in late January, has highlighted how all parties to the conflict are guilty of economic profiteering which, alongside the fighting and human rights violations, is exacerbating the country’s dire situation. The UN Panel offered more details on the strength of the Houthi-Iran relationship, as well as corruption within the government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, and violations of UNSC resolutions by the Southern Transition Council (STC).

Yemen