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Issue 598 - 02 November 1998

Cohen Misjudges the GCC

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US Defence Secretary William Cohen’s recent tour of the GCC provided an insight into changes in US policy towards the Gulf region. The tour displayed a number of facets of what some academics have described as the post-dual containment `policy with no name’. Chief amongst these were a concerted effort to assuage Arab fears and recognise Arab sensibilities in relation to Iraq. Unfortunately, this was accompanied by a continuing insensitivity to evolving Arab perceptions of Iran and changing attitudes to defence-related spending in the current economic climate in the Gulf.

Issue 597 - 20 October 1998

Turkey Flexes its Muscles

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The Turkish-Syrian crisis has caught the world napping. Distracted by the Iran-Taleban confrontation and NATO’s threats against Serbia, the international community is only just taking notice of the escalating Turkish campaign against Syria. This campaign is however a logical result of the changing balance of power in the region and the Turkish-Israeli attempts to reshape the Mashreq. Even if Syria and Turkey back down from a full-scale armed confrontation, the shockwaves of this confrontation could spread far and wide.

Issue 596 - 06 October 1998

Kurdistan’s Tangled Web

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Nothing is ever as it seems in northern Iraq. Washington may have succeeded in bringing Jalal Talabani and Masoud Barzani together but does this represent more of a blow to Saddam or to Turkey? Is this latest US-mediated Kurdish agreement likely to contribute to America’s attempts to revitalise the Iraqi opposition? The answers to these questions are not at all clear – there are simply too many tangled strands and rival interests at stake in northern Iraq.

Issue 595 - 22 September 1998

The Enigma of Bin Laden

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The bombings of the US embassies in East Africa and the subsequent US attacks on Afghanistan and Sudan again brought to prominence in the Western media the figure of Osama Bin Laden. Although much ink has been spilt writing about him, many details of his background and associations, former and present, remain unclear.

Issue 594 - 08 September 1998

America and the Iraqi Opposition

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The hopelessly divided Iraqi opposition in exile stands united in its rejection of America’s latest plan to revitalise as many as 73 moribund parties. Saddam’s opponents have been engulfed by despondency and gloom since the Iraqi army invaded the safe haven in 1996 and dealt a death blow to the Iraqi National Congress (INC). They have been incensed by the State Department’s recent proposals which appear not to take seriously their efforts to subvert the Iraqi regime from within.

Issue 593 - 25 August 1998

Iran's Afghan Woes

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Even as Mohammed Khatami's Iran recreates itself as a moderate member of the international community, Tehran is in the disturbing paradox of being itself threatened by religious zealots on its borders. The Taleban's victorious sweep through northern Afghanistan is a dramatic setback to Iran's foreign policy. Moreover, it poses immediate security threats to the Islamic Republic.

Issue 592 - 11 August 1998

The Islands Dispute

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As Iran continues its diplomatic fence ending exercises in the region, there may at last be some movement towards a settlement of the dispute between Iran and the United Arab Emirates over the islands of Greater Tunb, Lesser Tunb and Abu Musa. Previously Iran has always maintained that the sovereignty of the island was not an issue which it would even consider negotiable and Tehran has rebuffed all UAE overtures for discussions on the matter.

Issue 591 - 28 July 1998

Iraq’s Regional Diplomacy

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The announcement that Syria will reopen a pipeline carrying Iraqi oil to the Mediterranean represents the logical culmination of the rapprochement between Damascus and Baghdad that has been underway for the past few months. Not coincidentally, the news emerged on the eve of the visit by President Hafiz al Asad to Paris in which the Syrian and French leaders are keen to mark out a distinctive European policy in the Middle East.

Issue 590 - 14 July 1998

Yemen Protests

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The violence that has wracked Yemen in recent weeks is symptomatic of more than the inevitable popular protest at IMF-inspired economic reforms. The widespread violence highlights the immaturity of Yemen’s political institutions. Although President Saleh’ s General People’s Congress has tightened its grip on the country, there remains a serious disconnect between state and society. This disconnect means that tribal leaders and the populace turn to force to express their grievances.

Issue 589 - 30 June 1998

Football and Politics

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Iranian hard liners have been warning for some time that the USA is using Sport as an indirect way of improving relations with Iran. These conservatives point to President Nixon’s “ping-pong” diplomacy that opened the door to Communist China and warn that the “Great Satan” is seeking to woo and weaken the revolution through the same means. Their conspiracy theory could appear to have been conveniently vindicated by the Iran-US World Cup soccer match in Lyons. Not only did the US suitably lose by 2 goals to I but Mujahideen-e Khalq supporters dominated media coverage with we...

Issue 588 - 16 June 1998

Kurds and Arabs

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The first Kurdish-Arab seminar, held in Cairo at the end of May, was a worthy initiative to begin building understanding between the two groups. The seminar however reinforced the truism that progress cannot be made until the Kurds first learn to work together. The travails of the PKK provide clear evidence of the selfinflicted wounds suffered by the Kurds as a result of internal disagreements.

Issue 587 - 02 June 1998

The End of ILSA?

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Iran and the Europeans proclaimed it a victory. American hardliners spoke of a humiliation. President Clinton trod carefully and sought to appease all audiences. Such was the confused reaction to the US-EU deal last month that waived US sanctions on Total under the Iran-Libya Sanctions Act (ILSA).

Issue 586 - 19 May 1998

Iraq’s Covert Exports

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Why has Iran begun to once again allow Iraq to smuggle oil through its territorial waters? The answer is opaque but can probably be found in the interplay of Iraqi-Iranian relations and of US-Iranian relations.

Issue 585 - 05 May 1998

Khatami’s Long Game

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The release on bail of arrested Tehran mayo Gholamhossein Karbaschi provides a fine example of how President Mohammed Khatami going about advancing his reformist agenda Although he exploited the popular protest opposing Karbaschi’s arrest, he was careful to take the line of legal and moral rectitude. By clothing himself in the garb of the law and order, Khatam is gradually eroding the room formanoeuvre of his conservative opponents.

Issue 583 - 07 April 1998

The Mixture as Before

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Kuwait’s Crown Prince and Primc Minister, Sheikh Sa’ad al Abdullah al Sabah, who last month tendered the resignation of his cabinet, has formed a new government with pretty much the mixture as before. In the process Sheikh Sa’adhas demonstrated once again that, whatever may