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Parliament reconvenes: Emir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmed Al-Jaber Al-Sabah reopened the National Assembly (parliament) on 30 October. The session was due to start with a grilling of prime minister Sheikh Jaber Al-Mubarak Al-Sabah, but the motion was withdrawn by MPs Mohammed Al-Mutair and Shuaib Al-Muwaizri the day before. In a further sign of compromise, the government has reinstated citizenship to a number of opposition figures and said it is willing to discuss the status of bidoon (stateless residents) later in the session.

Kuwait
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Presidential election: Moderate Kurdish candidate Barham Salih was elected federal president on 2 October, heralding the potential end to a long period of political uncertainty following elections in May. The post of president is typically held by a Kurd as part of efforts to provide a political balance among the country’s various sectarian groups. Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) candidate Salih easily beat his main rival Fuad Hussein of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), securing 219 votes to Hussein’s 22.

Iran
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Presidential rift: The process of electing a new federal president of Iraq – by convention a role given to a Kurd – exposed deepening divisions between the two main Kurdish parties, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP). Since 2005 the two parties have divided the spoils in Iraq, with the PUK holding the federal presidency while the KDP takes the presidency of the Kurdistan Region.

Iraq
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Sanctions take effect: US sanctions are again having a marked impact on the economy, with inflation rising and the rial under pressure in foreign exchange markets. This is reflected in the political arena, where hardliners are mounting a sustained campaign against President Hassan Rouhani and his team. Economic affairs and finance minister Massoud Karbasian and co-operatives, labour and social welfare minister Ali Rabiei were voted out of office by MPs in August. However, Rouhani has been responding.

Iran
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Tehran looks east: Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif signed the Treaty of Amity and Co-operation in Southeast Asia (TAC) on the sidelines of the Association of South-east Asian Nations (Asean) summit in Singapore on 2 August. The TAC is designed to promote political relations between its signatories and does not hold any economic significance; even so, Iranian ambassador to Singapore Javad Ansari said the treaty would enable the Islamic Republic to expand economic ties with Asean member states in the face of the new sanctions being imposed by the United States.

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IDB/OECD back Yemen redevelopment: The war is far from over, but the Islamic Development Bank (IDB) has launched a project with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development to rebuild institutional capacity at the national and local level in post-conflict Yemen. The scheme is being supported with funding from the G7’s Deauville Partnership MENA Transition Fund and is being run in co-ordination with the Yemeni Ministry of Planning and International Co-operation.

Issue 1065 - 07 September 2018

GCC: Omani intervention, EU, Yemen

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Oman pushes for resolution: The GCC remains deeply divided over the dispute between the GCC-3 and Egypt and Qatar. As GSN has observed, the crisis is not yet terminal for the GCC, but it is highly divisive. Oman has re-engaged with efforts to resolve the dispute, with minister responsible for foreign affairs Youssef Bin Alawi Bin Abdullah offering an optimistic assessment following talks with his Bahraini counterpart Sheikh Khaled Bin Ahmad Al-Khalifa in Salalah on 4 September.

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Output is rising: Despite concerns over declining Iranian output ahead of sanctions, Opec’s crude production rose in August to its highest level this year, as the cartel’s 15 members (including recent recruit Republic of Congo) produced 32.74m b/d, Bloomberg reported. This was 420,000 b/d more than in July, representing a significant step towards the goal of adding 1m b/d to the market agreed in June.

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Politics: Established in 1971, the federation of seven emirates – Abu Dhabi, Ajman, Dubai, Fujairah, Ras Al-Khaimah, Sharjah and Umm Al-Quwain is economically liberal and progressive, but remains politically conservative. Ultimate control is held by the emirate rulers, led by oil-rich, politically savvy Abu Dhabi and regional/global commercial hub Dubai. The federal government has legislative and executive jurisdiction over sectors including foreign affairs, security, defence, education, health, currency, electricity and immigration. Each emirate retains considerable economic independence and control over mineral rights and revenues.

United Arab Emirates (UAE)
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Politics: At the top of each emirate are the rulers’ courts and their crown princes. In practice, only the rulers of Abu Dhabi and Dubai make unilateral decisions and issue emiri decrees; most of the smaller emirates use legislation crafted at federal level. Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah all have executive councils (Dubai’s is relatively informal). Abu Dhabi and Sharjah have national consultative councils, whose usefulness (like the Federal National Council) has been questioned. For family trees of all seven families, see GSN 1,000.

United Arab Emirates (UAE)
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The economy weathers a year of ‘seige’: Qatar has arguably emerged as a more robust economy – and with a more defined sense of national identity and interest – from the crisis that began with the planting of ‘fake news’ stories on the Qatar News Agency website in May 2017 and saw erstwhile Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) allies Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the UAE boycotting the economy from 5 June.

Qatar
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MBS at centre stage: Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman remains the centre of attention as autocrat and reformer, a populist who is ruthlessly concentrating power in his hands. His unpopularity among elements of the royal family and Islamist circles in May led to rumours he had been the victim of an assassination attempt or some other health and/or political problems. But MBS came back into public view as May wore on. On 30 May he visited the Kremlin in Moscow. for talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin. MBS was also guest of honour as Russia kicked off the FIFA World Cup against Saudi Arabia on 14 June.

Saudi Arabia
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Political clampdown: The government has banned tribes from holding large meetings, amid apparent increased nervousness about the potential for political opposition. The Public Prosecution Office has vowed to take “all relevant legal measures” against those who help to organise such gatherings, or promotes them on social media. The authorities have the benefit of a strict new penal code to enforce such warnings, which came into effect in mid-January. Articles explicitly prohibit arranging or calling for public gatherings of ten or more people that cause “a breach of security or public order”.

Oman
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Ministerial grillings: The government survived its latest brush with the National Assembly, following a marathon grilling session by MPs on 30 April of prime minister Sheikh Jaber Al-Mubarak Al-Hamad Al-Sabah, oil, electricity and water minister Bakheer Al-Rashidi and social affairs and labour minister Hind Al-Sabeeh. The questioning was followed by votes of no-confidence in Al-Rashidi and Al-Sabeeh on 10 May which they survived; Sheikh Jaber managed to avoid a vote as MPs had failed to reach the required ten votes to table it.

Kuwait
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Moqtada Al-Sadr’s Sairoon (On the Move) electoral bloc emerged as the main winner from the general election held on 12 May. The Shia cleric’s coalition won 54 seats in the 329-seat Chamber of Representatives. It was followed by Hadi Al-Ameri’s Fatah coalition with 47 seats, prime minister Haider Al-Abadi’s Nasr grouping with 42 and former PM Nouri Al-Maliki’s State of Law with 26 seats.

Iraq