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Free

The oil price remains volatile, but ministries of finance may take comfort in the views of their hydrocarbons sector counterparts – and a majority of international analysts – that crude won’t collapse once more this year. This reflects on the success of the Opec+ group – comprising the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, Russia and nine other non-Opec producers – in raising prices in the past year. Opec’s co-ordination with non-Opec partners under the so-called Declaration of Co-operation encouraged crude prices to peak at around $85 a barrel (/bbl) in October.

Free

Leave aside for a moment the football politics, so often an opaque affair, and the disappointment of much larger and more established soccer-playing nations, whose hopes of hosting a World Cup were dashed by the Zurich-based Fédération Internationale de Football Association (Fifa), the sport’s governing body. What does the success of Qatar’s bid to host the 2022 Fifa World Cup say about the nature of polities and geopolitics as the world remakes itself after a decade defined by the West’s unresolved interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq, and staggers to an end with European economies and the United States struggling to recover from the credit crunch?

Qatar
Free

Differences between Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman (MBS) and his Emirati counterpart, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Al-Nahyan (MBZ) have been mounting ever since Riyadh led the way towards reconciliation with Qatar at the Al-Ula summit in January.

United Arab Emirates (UAE) | Saudi Arabia
Free

Commerce spoke louder than diplomacy when the state-owned QatarEnergy announced a ten-year deal to supply condensate to the Dubai government-owned Emirates National Oil Company (Enoc). It represents the first major commercial deal since the two Gulf Co-operation Council partners (or mainly, in recent years, rivals) agreed in June to reopen their respective embassies.

United Arab Emirates (UAE) | Qatar
Free

Speculation has been mounting that the Saudi government is set to move forward with the long-planned initial public offering (IPO) of shares in Saudi Arabian Oil Company (Aramco). The news filtering out of the Future Investment Initiative conference in Riyadh – the third annual holding of the event dubbed by supporters the ‘Davos in the desert’ – is that an offering to domestic investors will be announced on 3 November. The mooted timetable would see shares go on sale in early December with trading to start on the Saudi Stock Exchange (Tadawul) around 11 December.

Saudi Arabia
Free

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad garnered moral backing during his mid-January voyage around five of Latin America’s ‘anti-imperialist’ states, but he seems to have come away with little material support to counter Iran’s growing crisis of international isolation – underlined on 23 January, when European Union foreign ministers agreed on the much-anticipated embargo on Iranian oil imports (effective from 1 July).

Iran
Free

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

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, host of the 26th Conference of Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP26), is rarely short of a pithy quip aimed at his support base. Indeed, whole policies have been woven around his notion that the UK electorate can “have its cake and eat it”, however misleading that may be. Johnson’s allies – and even his critics – in the Gulf’s oil and gas producing states would appreciate that sentiment as they emerge from the climate talks, due to end on 12 November.

Free

For all the build-up, United States President Joe Biden’s trip to Saudi Arabia on 15-16 July ended up being a distinctly underwhelming occasion. The grubby compromises of realpolitik were on clear display, but without the glittering prizes of any ‘historic’ breakthrough, either in political or economic terms.

Saudi Arabia
Free

Governments across the Gulf are enjoying another boom in  oil  and gas prices, which is all the more welcome given the fiscal crunch in many economies caused by the Covid pandemic.

Free

As the low price of a barrel of oil begins to tip the fiscal balances of countries across the Gulf region, there is a cogent argument that says now would be an excellent time to wind down energy subsidies. In a time of relative austerity, so the argument goes, the population will find it easier to accept that it needs to assume its share of the burden; lower oil prices also mean the rise in cost to businesses and consumers need not be too dramatic.

Free

There are positive signs – but no yet conclusive evidence – that speed is picking up in Oman’s efforts to rebalance its economy, supporting the creation of a more diverse business environment in which a new generation of entrepreneurs can operate more easily. The shift away from hydrocarbons dependency could, ironically, be helped by higher oil prices, after three bleak years in which budget and fiscal targets have been missed.

Oman
Free

Few can feel comfortable in a region where Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) countries will need to borrow some $148bn next year to cover their budget shortfalls, as Moody’s Investors Service predicted in a report issued on 5 December. Fiscal deficits will not be closed any time soon, not least because new revenue generators like the value added tax (VAT) due to be introduced in Saudi Arabia and the UAE in January are often matched by new spending commitments to ensure social and political stability is maintained

Free

Suspicions about Saudi Arabia’s nuclear intentions are growing in the United States, amid evidence of undeclared uranium activities in the north and other undisclosed activity. The concerns led the US House of Representatives Intelligence Committee in early August to insert a provision in the Intelligence Authorisation Bill which requires the US administration to investigate Riyadh’s efforts to develop a nuclear capability.

Saudi Arabia
Free

Announcing job losses and investment cutbacks, many of Big Oil’s flagship companies have been making dramatic announcements of changes in strategic direction. This is most marked among European majors BP, Eni, Royal Dutch Shell and Total, if not by their US peers ExxonMobil and Chevron Corporation; it suggests that many industry leaders now see their futures as diversified energy companies, rather than old-style international oil companies (IOCs).