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Issue 506 - 13 March 1995

Turkey's Reorientation


The visit of Iraqi foreign minister Muhammad Said al Sahhaf to Turkey last month demonstrated the growing concern in Ankara at the course of regional events. Since World War II Turkey has been a staunch supporter of Western policy in the Middle East but the country's leadership has recently become very concerned at the costs and implications of Western policy towards Iraq. These concerns come against a background of rethinking in Turkish foreign policy circles and the possibility of reorientation away from Europe and towards the east.


The foreign policy concerns and security worries of the Gulf states tend to centre round narrow issues of immediate significance. The potential for Iraqi military resurgence, the dangers of a revival of Iranian IsIamist militancy and border clashes in the Arabian Peninsula dominate the agendas of the region's foreign ministries and military establishments. The Gulf is however part of a wider regional international system, events in which impact strongly if more indirectly on the Gulf states.

Issue 504 - 13 February 1995

Kurdistan Implodes


The internal conflicts which have characterised Kurdish revolts inevitably raise the question whether the worst enemies of Kurdish national aspirations are the governments that have so brutally oppressed the Kurds over the past 60 years, or whether almost as great an impediment has been less visible, the fragmentary nature of Kurdish society and the less than national aspirations of many of its more traditionally minded people.

Issue 503 - 30 January 1995

The Forgotten Opposition


Iraq's Shia feel forgotten. While Western attention focuses on inter-Kurdish clashes in northern Iraq and policy-makers bicker over whether to work with Saddam Hussein, the Shia in the south continue to suffer terribly as the Iraqi army gradually grinds down their resistance.

Issue 502 - 16 January 1995

Another Unproductive Summit


As usual, the statement issued after the 15th summit meeting of GCC leaders in Manama in December concealed more than it revealed. Fine words about cooperation and the GCC's achievements were spoken even while the Bahraini security forces were engaging in mass arrests and border disputes in the Peninsula were flaring up.

Issue 501 - 12 December 1994

Russia Returns to the Gulf


Russia has been better known in the Gulf for arming the "radical" states than for lending a sympathetic ear to the GCC. Nonetheless, Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin's tour of the GCC last month and Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev's coup in persuading Baghdad to recognise Kuwait demonstrate a desire by both parties to develop better relations.

Issue 500 - 28 November 1994

Defending the GCC


The 13th Meeting of the GCC Defence Ministers, held in Riyadh from 12 to 14 November, once again ended with proposals for joint activities which are likely to remain unfulfilled. Since its formation in 1981 the GCC has spoken of the need to bolster defence cooperation and coordination but internal disagreements have meant that the organisation has so far been unable to achieve progress in this respect either at the strategic or at the operational level.

Issue 499 - 14 November 1994

Politics by Petition


The news that Bahraini opponents of the al Khalifah ruling family are preparing a petition for presentation to the ruler later this month brings to the fore the question of the future stability of this small emirate. In the short term there are few signs that the opposition can have much impact on the country's affairs but in the medium term the emirate will have to deal with water shortages and the end of its oil reserves, providing ammunition for opponents of the ruling house.

Issue 498 - 31 October 1994

Iraq: Still a Military Threat?


Over the last fortnight headlines in the Gulf and the West have been dominated by the prospect of a "Gulf War II" As Saddam Hussein moved his troops towards the Kuwaiti border the US rushed 30,000 troops to the Emirate and issued dire warnings of the consequences if Iraq dared to move on Kuwait. Kuwait mobilised its reserves and Britain and France mounted a show of force in support of the country. In the event Saddam backed down, for his pains merely being the subject of a further humiliating resolution from the UN. The drama nonetheless focused attention on the threat from Baghdad. Three years after their crushing defeat at the hands of coalition forces, Iraq's military has rebuilt itself to a level where it can once again set alarm bells ringing in the Pentagon.

Issue 497 - 18 October 1994

The Debate over Saudi Arabia's Future


The recent arrest of at least 110 suspected opponents of the Saudi government has focused international attention on the political stability of the Kingdom. This dramatic move was the latest in a series of political and economic crises that have buffeted the regime since the 1991 Gulf War. Among Saudi watchers debate rages over whether the Kingdom is entering a period of fundamental change or whether the regime will weather current events as it has past upsets.

Issue 496 - 04 October 1994

Saudi Arabia's Illusory Security


Since the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in August 1990 the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has been arming itself at an extraordinary rate. Although accurate figures are hard to obtain, arms imports since the Second Gulf War probably total some US$30 billion. This represents an acceleration in what was already a large-scale military build-up before the Iraqi invasion. However, it is not at all certain that the Saudis are buying themselves security with their spending spree in the international arms bazaar. Rather, the regime may be merely exacerbating its problems.

Issue 495 - 20 September 1994

The Pan-Arab Media Explosion


Depending on one's perspective, the pan-Arab media is either coming of age or entering a new dark age of state-control and censorship. Whatever the case, the regional media explosion is set to have a wide reaching political and social impact, as well as being of purely business interest.

Issue 494 - 06 September 1994

Iran: The Opposition Resurgent?


The violence which has wracked Iran in recent weeks has focused the spotlight on Iran's opposition groups. Major demonstrations in Qazvin in early August followed bombings of religious sites in June. These events, combined with the Islamic Republic's worsening economic situation, put in question the long term stability of the regime. The opposition movement, the National Council of Resistance (NCR) claims that it is ready to mount the final military offensive that will topple a crumbling system. Other observers are less apocalyptic in their assessments but they acknowledge that Rafsanjani's "moderate" course is running out of steam.

Issue 493 - 23 August 1994

Iran and Terrorism


Neither the British, Argentinian nor Israeli governments have yet produced concrete evidence of Iranian involvement in last month's bombings of Israeli and Jewish targets in Argentina and the United Kingdom. Tehran continues to loudly protest its innocence and hints darkly at the perfidy of Mossad in staging incidents to smear the Islamic Republic's "good name.

Issue 492 - 09 August 1994

Bombs and Handshakes


The headlines of the past fortnight have highlighted the paradoxes of the Middle Eastern "peace process." Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Jordan's King Hussein shook hands in Washington a week after the bombing of an Israeli building in Argentina and the day before the Israeli Embassy in London was bombed by terrorists.