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None of the Gulf’s emerging ´middle powers’ have issued a detailed policy document setting out their approach to projecting soft power, even as they continue to spend extravagantly while drawing in investment and talent. Autocracies have no real need to orchestrate the sort of public debate that might follow, even if they regularly sound out local opinion via traditional diwans or more modern polling techniques — not to mention ever more pervasive surveillance of their citizens and others’ communications.

Saudi Arabia | United Arab Emirates (UAE)
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The Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corp (IRGC)’s influence over Iranian politics and business has become an integral element of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s domination and the organisation may well provide a successor to the supreme leader. A new series of GSN profiles shows the extent that military and political leaders with an IRGC background occupy influential posts across the Islamic Republic.

Iran
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The impact of four-month-old Gaza conflict between Hamas and Israel is steadily spreading around the region, bringing fresh instability to Iraq where the US and Iran-backed militia are engaging in an escalating series of strikes and counter-strikes. While Qatar and Egypt continue to push on the diplomatic front, the risk of wider confrontation breaking out is rising.

Iran | Iraq | Qatar
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Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed Sabah Al-Salem Al-Sabah has presented his government’s legislative programme to parliament, but critics inside and outside the National Assembly are likely to make political life difficult for the premier in the coming months, while Kuwait waits on a much-anticipated crown prince appointment

Kuwait
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Emir Sheikh Mishaal travelled to Riyadh on 30 January for talks with King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, further cementing the bilateral relationship. Mishaal then went to Oman in early February to attend the inauguration of Duqm refinery with Sultan Haitham.

Kuwait | Saudi Arabia | Oman
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Royal Commission for Al-Ula chief executive Amr Bin Saleh Al-Madani has been arrested for money laundering and other offences, according to the Oversight and Anti-Corruption Authority (Nazaha), in a sign that the authorities’ patience with public servants enriching themselves is wearing thin.

Saudi Arabia
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Sheikh Ali Bin Khalifa Bin Mohammed Al-Khalifa has been named secretary-general of the Royal Humanitarian Foundation, taking over from former oil industry executive Mustafa Al-Sayed.

Bahrain
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Iraq is buffeted by regional conflicts and domestic political and economic pressures; the dinar remains stressed and the population even more so. This is the first of a much-expanded series of GSN Risk management reports, in an online format intended to provide easy-to-access updates, analysis and contexts as a point of entry into this complex, often opaque region.

Iraq
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Iran launched missiles and drones at targets in Iraq, Syria and Pakistan in mid-January, claiming it was striking back at terrorist groups and Israel-linked sites, in a tough approach that has been accompanied by a domestic clampdown on moderate politicians ahead of elections in March. This suggests the regime continues to feel vulnerable to opposition at home, while speculation builds around the eventual succession to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who is the subject of the first of a series of GSN profiles.

Iran
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Saudi ambassador to the US Princess Reema Bint Bandar has defended the idea of the season finale for women’s tennis being held in Saudi Arabia, following criticism of the idea by former stars Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova; Reema has also been speaking out about the Gaza war and the plight of Palestinians.

Subscriber

UAE state minister for foreign affairs Sheikh Shakhbut Bin Nahyan Al-Nahyan has been on another African tour in January, visiting the capitals of Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda, as well as Angola’s Cabinda province, as the UAE look to continue recent momentum for investments and wider engagement in Africa.

United Arab Emirates (UAE)
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The latest phase of tensions in Hadhramaut involves UAE-backed factions competing with groups linked to Saudi Arabia.

Yemen | United Arab Emirates (UAE)
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Sultan Haitham Bin Tariq Al-Said sailed to Khasab port in the isolated Musandam peninsula in mid-January for a meet-the-people tour and to inspect economic developments, directing local officials to push ahead with further housing and commercial projects.

Oman
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Former Asir governor Prince Faisal Bin Khalid Bin Abdelaziz has purchased an unspecified stake in White Abarrio, ahead of the champion racehorse’s appearance in the $20m Saudi Cup on 24 February.

Saudi Arabia
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Former finance minister Ali Sherif Al-Emadi has been fined almost $17bn and given a 20-year sentence by a Qatari court for money laundering and other charges. The court also sentenced Sheikh Nawaf Bin Jassim Bin Jabr Al-Thani to six years in prison and fined him $227m for misuse of public funds.

Qatar