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They may not be popular, but clerics dominate contemporary Iran, its politics and economy to an extent that most Iranians might have thought inconceivable in the years immediately after the 1979 revolution. The latest series of GSN profiles focuses on senior clerics who occupy key positions across Iran’s political system – all of them closely tied to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and committed to the Islamic republic’s long-term survival.

Iran
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Sultan Haitham left Muscat for the UK on 8 February, with no indication of how long he might be away for.

Oman
Free

Iranians have been asked to come out in force to vote in elections to the Majlis-e Shura-ye Eslami (parliament) and Majlis-e Khobregân-e Rahbari (Assembly of Experts) on 1 March.

Iran
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Emir Sheikh Mishaal Al-Ahmed Al-Sabah travelled to Bahrain and Qatar in mid-February, following trips to Saudi Arabia and Oman earlier in the year. Mishaal has been using the trips to cement regional support for border disputes with Iraq and Iran – although there are signs that Doha is slightly less steadfast than some others over the Iran dispute.

Kuwait
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After Sheikh Mishaal Al-Ahmed Al-Sabah took exception to comments by a member of parliament about his inaugural speech as ruler in December, the emir issued a decree on 15 February to disband the National Assembly – meaning a fresh general election must be held by mid-April.

Kuwait
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Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s mid-February tour of the UAE and Qatar followed the signing of big energy supply deals and the release of former Indian naval officers sentenced to death in Doha for spying.

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The Saudi government’s Public Investment Fund has been signing contracts with more lobbying and communications specialists, as it continues to face political scrutiny over its investments in the United States.

Saudi Arabia
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A trade deal between the UAE and Cambodia came into force in early February, just weeks after negotiations were finalised for a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement with Costa Rica, as more of Abu Dhabi’s preferred Cepa deals are unrolled.

United Arab Emirates (UAE)
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Bahrain has set up diplomatic relations with Vanuatu and Qatar with Tonga in a continuation of the trend for Gulf states to expand their diplomatic and development ties with small Pacific Island nations.

Bahrain | Qatar
Issue 1185 - 20 February 2024

UAE ambassador takes up post in Damascus

Subscriber

Hassan Al-Shehi has presented his credentials, to become the first UAE ambassador in Damascus since 2011, adding further to a bilateral relationship that seemed broken when Abu Dhabi supported opposition groups in the Syrian civil war’s early years.

United Arab Emirates (UAE)
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Alpha Dhabi reported a 25% rise in profits in 2023, alongside a 14% increase in revenues, as the investment firm owned by UAE national security advisor Sheikh Tahnoun Bin Zayed Al-Nahyan’s International Holding Company announced multi-billion-dinar joint venture deals with Adnoc Drilling and Mubadala.

United Arab Emirates (UAE)
Free

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