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The Yemen conflict, and its complex blend of local and regional alliances, seems to be shifting into a new phase, which does not yet hold out the promise of peace for the tortured country. While the uneasy alliance of Houthi rebels and former president Ali Abdullah Saleh unravels in Sanaa, Saudi Arabia is increasingly taking over the UAE’s leading role in southern Yemen. Meanwhile, Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and Islamic State (IS) jihadists are making new tribal alliances that entrench their influence.

Yemen
Free

Two years into his presidency, Nicolas Sarkozy is starting to reap the rewards of an election night promise to place the Middle East among the key priorities of French foreign policy. Arab governments now see Paris as a key point of contact and leverage, a useful counterpoint to their traditionally close relations with Washington, and a strategic ally in propping up the peace process and countering the strategic challenge posed by Iran.

Iran | United Arab Emirates (UAE)
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The Abu Dhabi ruling family has earned international respect for its discreet behaviour and traditionally unostentatious stewardship of its huge wealth, so that some senior Al-Nahyan were genuinely embarrassed at the media circus surrounding Sheikh Mansour Bin Zayed’s takeover of British football club Manchester City.

United Arab Emirates (UAE)
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It takes time for things to happen in Saudi Arabia. It was back in 2011 that King Abdullah Bin Abdelaziz announced women would be appointed to the Majlis Al-Shura, and on 11 January, 30 women duly were. A royal order specified women were to constitute “no less than 20%” of the council, which is selected by the king and serves as an advisory body.

Saudi Arabia
Free

There was huge appetite for information on Qatar’s prominence in regional (and arguably global) politics when GSN’s editorial director visited Casablanca in early February. Is this due to the huge financial muscle of Qatar’s gas reserves? Has the tiny emirate become the West’s favourite stalking-horse? Or does Emir Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani have a peculiar post-modern Wahhabi agenda? After a tumultuous year for Arab politics, the same questions are being asked from Algiers to Ankara.

Qatar
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Turkey is coming to play a central role in strategic thinking in the Arab/Islamic world, as well as in the West and Eurasian zones. Regional trade is booming, Ankara’s relationship with Israel has become strained while Turkey has emerged as a key player in Iraqi Kurdistan; and as a nuclear Iran emerges, Turkey’s relations with the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) states may well become central to regional strategies.

Free

Iran’s relations with its Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) neighbours have entered a dangerous new phase in the febrile world of Arab politics that has followed the upsurge in popular protest and toppling of North African regimes. Amid claims of bellicose meddling in domestic affairs, it would not be over-dramatic to talk about the emergence of a new Arab-Iranian cold war, reflected in actions such as Kuwait’s 31 March announcement that it would expel an unspecified number of Iranian diplomats for alleged spying and the mid-March attacks on Saudi diplomatic missions in Tehran and Mashhad.

Iran | Kuwait | Saudi Arabia
Free

Given half a chance, Iranians will vote against the establishment – not just in disaffected urban areas, but in the countryside (where incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is widely believed to have the edge), and even within the ruling elite, whose members may swap from faction to faction while maintaining staunch support for Iran’s velayat-e faqih system of clerical rule. Ahmadinejad has made a global career by presenting himself as an underdog – a status that tends to attract Iranian voters (as the reformist Mohammad Khatami found when he beat conservative rivals in 1997). But he has other elite ‘underdogs’ to compete with.

Iran
Free

Saad Hariri’s extended sojourn in Riyadh, widely believed to be at King Salman Bin Abelaziz’s pleasure – or rather willed by his son Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman (MBS) – has stirred concern far beyond Beirut, and discontent within Lebanese ranks, with deep unease at the way the Saudi passport-holding prime minister is being used a bargaining chip. Hariri’s shock resignation in the Saudi capital on 4 November, claiming an imminent assassination threat faced him back home, is now widely viewed to have been forced.

Saudi Arabia
Free

When foreign ministers of the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) met recently in Jeddah to discuss (among other issues) proposals for a Gulf Union, the outcome – in so far as there was one – was further delay.

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

When devastating earthquakes hit Iran’s north-east on 11 August, questions were raised about the impact of sanctions on the rescue of survivors. “Helicopters had to suspend rescue operations during the night as Iran — under international sanctions over its nuclear programme — is barred from purchasing night-vision material,” the New York Times wrote on 12 August.

Iran
Free

Switzerland, Iraq and, bizarrely, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez and Hollywood actor Sean Penn were among those credited with helping to secure the release of the US citizens who spent two years behind bars in Tehran on spying charges. But when Josh Fattal and Shane Bauer touched down in Muscat, Fattal said: “Our deepest gratitude goes toward his majesty Sultan Qaboos [Bin Said Al-Said] of Oman for obtaining our release.”

Iran | Oman
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Plenty of financial issues remain to be resolved, and analysts observe that Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum (MBR) is still less prominent on the world stage than he was before becoming UAE premier in 2006. But something of the old strut is returning to Dubai.

United Arab Emirates (UAE)
Free

Bahrain basked in a return to international prominence, as Manama hosted the 25-26 June Peace to Prosperity conference – the ‘economic workshop’ organised by White House senior adviser Jared Kushner as a first public step towards delivering US President Donald Trump’s “deal of the century” to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. So often overlooked as the smallest part of the GCC-3 alliance alongside its bigger neighbours Saudi Arabia and the UAE, Bahrain claimed to be playing a significant role in pursuing a major international relations goal.

Bahrain