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Economic growth: Qatar is set to register the GCC’s joint fastest growth this year, alongside Bahrain, according to the latest IMF forecasts. The IMF’s latest World Economic Outlook (WEO) predicts a 2% expansion of GDP in 2019, rising to 2.8% next year. As with most countries in the region, those numbers are lower than the IMF had forecast in April; in its last WEO report the IMF was expecting 2.6% growth this year and 3.2% in 2020. Regional tensions and reduced oil production have been hindering many Gulf economies, but for Qatar there is the added complication of the economic boycott by its neighbours, since June 2017.

Qatar
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Emir’s health: Emir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmed Al-Jaber Al-Sabah was forced to cancel a planned meeting at the White House with United States President Donald Trump on 12 September due to health concerns. The nature of subsequent medical tests was not disclosed, but officials have continually stressed the results have been positive. The 90-year-old emir has received a string of visitors from the Gulf while in New York and fielded phone calls from regional leaders enquiring.

Kuwait
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Majlis Al-Shura election: The election of 85 members to the ninth Majlis Al-Shura (Consultative Council) is scheduled for 27 October, with 767 candidates standing, 43 of them female. Voter registration closed in September, when preliminary numbers showed there would be 375,801 male and 337,534 female voters. Interior minister Sayyid Hamoud Bin Faisal Al-Busaidi said this increase on previous numbers reflected “the growing desire among citizens to exercise voting rights and take responsibility in the march of progress”.

Oman
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Border issues: Iran closed its Khosravi border crossing near the Iraqi city of Khanaqin, on the fringes of the KRI, on 3 October after a request from Baghdad due to security issues. This followed widespread protests around Iraq. The KRI has largely avoided any impact from the protests, which have been concentrated in Baghdad and the south.

Iraq
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Protests turn deadly: President Barham Salih called for “restraint and respect for the law” after security forces opened fire on anti-government protesters in Baghdad and a number of southern cities on 1 October. In the week of violence that followed– and continued as GSN went to press – at least 100 people were killed and several thousand were injured. “Our young Iraqi children are looking for reform and jobs, and our duty is to meet these legitimate entitlements,” Salih said.

Iraq
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Tribal allegiance: Some 190 Bahraini tribes and families issued statements condemning Qatar and stressing their allegiance to King Hamad Bin Isa Al-Khalifa, in a co-ordinated campaign that began after Qatar’s Al Jazeera Media Network aired a documentary on 14 July, which alleged the Al-Khalifa had conspired with Al-Qaeda to target Bahrain’s opponents. One observer told GSN the statements “add up to a more or less comprehensive list of all families and tribes in Bahrain”.

Bahrain
Issue 1088 - 20 September 2019

Iran: Regional tensions and local tragedies

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Gulf shipping: Tehran is widely believed to have been behind a series of attacks on shipping in the Gulf of Oman in May and June, although it has denied any involvement. The UAE was notably reticent to blame Iran and surprised observers by sending a delegation to Tehran on 30 July to discuss marine security. Omani officials also travelled to Iran in late July to discuss the security of shipping through the Strait of Hormuz.

Iran
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UAE drawdown: UAE officials have confirmed the Emirates are reducing their military commitment, in the process starting a new phase in the war. The extent of the UAE drawdown remains unclear. Most of the focus has been on a scaling back of commitments in Aden, Hodeida and Marib. However, Abu Dhabi seems likely to maintain some sort of presence in a few key areas. In the meantime, Saudi Arabia is being forced to deploy forces into areas vacated by the UAE.

Yemen
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Dubai family dispute: Family issues have brought Dubai Ruler Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al-Maktoum (MBR) into an unwelcome light – which will be amplified when, as widely expected, the case goes to court in London. His wife Princess Haya Bint Al-Hussein has fled the UAE with their two children – Zayed, aged 7 and Jalila, aged 11 – to seek sanctuary in Europe. Haya, a daughter of the late King Hussein and sister of Jordan’s King Abdullah II, married MBR in 2004 and has had the most public exposure of his wives.

United Arab Emirates (UAE)
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Yemen withdrawal: The UAE has begun scaling back its military commitment in Yemen, in a significant strategic shift following more than four years of war. Reports of the change to UAE strategy first emerged in late June and were later confirmed by officials in Dubai, who said the move had been planned for more than a year.

United Arab Emirates (UAE)
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Gulf schism: The dispute between Qatar and the GCC-3 passed its second anniversary in early June, with no sign of any resolution. Instead, the two sides continue to try and score points against each other in international arenas. The World Trade Organisation (WTO) has agreed to set up a panel to investigate alleged restrictions by Qatar on the import and sale of goods from the UAE. This followed an Emirati complaint that the measures were in violation of WTO rules.

Qatar
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Khashoggi report: A hard-hitting report on the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi was released on 19 June by United Nations special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions Agnes Callamard. It said the Saudi government was responsible for the killing and that there was “credible evidence, warranting further investigation, of high-level Saudi officials’ individual liability, including the crown prince” Mohammed Bin Salman (MBS). The Saudi authorities were quick to reject the report’s claims.

Saudi Arabia
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Emiri diplomacy: Emir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmed Al-Jaber Al-Sabah (who celebrated his 90th birthday on 16 June) travelled to Baghdad on 19 June in his latest effort to mend some diplomatic divides. Relations with Iraq have been improving in recent times, and Sheikh Sabah was expected to use that to try and alleviate the pressure that Baghdad finds itself under amid rivalry between Iran and the United States.

Kuwait
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Oil output: Petroleum Development Oman (PDO) has confirmed the upwards trend in its operations, on 16 June announcing a 13-year high production level of 610,170 b/d. In its 2018 ‘sustainability report’, PDO also announced production at 65,300 b/d for condensate and 64.8 mcm/d of natural gas in the last year. “Overall the company has been able to achieve 1.205m barrels of oil equivalent per day in 2018”, the report said.

Oman
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Presidential election: Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) leader Nechirvan Barzani was elected president in a vote by the of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq’s parliament on 28 May. Barzani won 68 votes from the 81 MPs present. The vote was boycotted by the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and New Generation Movement (Naway Nwe), due to wider disagreements with the KDP. Barzani had previously been serving as prime minister of the KRG. He was expected to nominate his cousin, Kurdistan Region Security Council head Masrour Barzani, to take over as PM.

Iraq