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Issue 383 - 03 April 1990

BUSY TIMES

Free

King Fahd had a great many guests last month at the Hafr al Batin military base. Among a stream of important foreign visitors, the Saudi monarch received North Yemen's President Ali Abdullah Saleh, Lebanon's President Elias Hrawi, Senegal's President Abdou Diouf, Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and Sultan Qabus of Oman. The comings and goings may have looked like little more than normal routine diplomatic exchanges. However, they could also signify something more.

Issue 382 - 19 March 1990

SADDAM AT BAY

Free

The ultimate fate of Farzad Bazoft, the Iranian journalist working for The Observer in London, was unclear as Gulf States Newsletter went to press. The week before last he was condemned to death by an Iraqi court as a spy for Israel and his alleged accomplice, the British nurse Daphne Parish, was sentenced to 15 years in prison.

Issue 381 - 05 March 1990

DIVIDED WE STAND

Free

Nothing is simple in Iranian politics. Less than a year ago, the pragmatic Ali Akbar Rafsanjani was overwhelmingly elected to the post of president with hugely strengthened executive powers. His success was widely greeted with relief at home (where it was taken to signify more practical economic policy-making) and abroad (where it seemed to imply the possibility of a rapprochement with the West and the Arab world, and – of course – progress towards the release of the hostages in Lebanon).

Subscriber

Sharjah's ruler has removed his brother from his posts of crown prince, deputy ruler and deputy chairman of Sharjah's supreme council. 

United Arab Emirates (UAE)
Issue 380 - 19 February 1990

DOWN THE FUNDAMENTALIST ROAD

Free

Last week's stormy session of the Israeli Likud party's central committee, at which the hardline prime minister, Yitzhak Shamir, was brazenly challenged by the even more hardline Ariel Sharon, may not seem to have particular immediate relevance to the Gulf. But if matters proceed as they now seem set to do, the repercussions for the region could be very nasty.

Issue 379 - 05 February 1990

BAD BOYS' BEHAVIOR

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Kuwait has become the focus of the Arab world's answer to Eastern Europe's democratic upheavals – but so far with little positive response from its rulers. On of the most remarkable aspects of the political turmoil among the Soviet Union's former satellites in Europe has been the upsurge in criticism of the way Arab governments conduct themselves.

Issue 378 - 22 January 1990

UNTIMELY TURBULENCE

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The recent widespread rioting in Soviet Azerbaijan, which Moscow itself has said is approaching the intensity of civil war, has received considerable attention in the foreign press. The upsurge of ethnic tension between the Armenians and Azerbaijanis Is the most violent demonstration of what Stalin used to call the Soviet Union's "nationalities problem". Nationalism is not the only factor. Inevitably, there is a religious element to the clashes, even if it is subordinate to the ethnic dimension, since the Armenians are Christians and the Azerbaijanis are Muslim.

Issue 377 - 08 January 1990

DO THEY REALLY MEAN IT?

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North and South Yemen have been talking about unity ever since Aden won independence from Britain in 1967. For most of the period, however, their relations have been more quarrelsome than cooperative. Now there are signs that the two countries may actually be serious about unification. A draft constitution has been drawn up for the unified state and joint delegations have been dispatched to other Arab countries to test their reaction. The most concerned of the latter will be the Yemen's' neighbours in the Arabian peninsula.

Issue 376 - 11 December 1989

OMAN LOOKS CONFIDENT

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Throughout the mid-1980s, the Arab Gulf economies began to look definitely shaky as oil prices performed almost acrobatic manoeuvres. With large financial reserves inherited from more buoyant times -- and plenty of crude reserves to rely upon for the future -- the big Opec actors in the Gulf could afford to bide their time. The smaller producers faced a more problematic outlook. Oman was a case in point.

Issue 375 - 27 November 1989

A MODICUM OF GOODWILL

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Iran and the United States are locked into a curious process of trying to show "goodwill" to one another in order to improve relations -- but not so much goodwill as to antagonise their respective domestic constituencies. There is little question that Presidents George Bush and Ali Akbar Rafsanjani both want to set in motion events which lead to the resumption of ties. Bush wants to get US hostages out of Lebanon; Rafsanjani wants Western assistance in Iran's post-war reconstruction effort. But there are plenty of American Congressmen who do not want the United States to have anything to do with a country involved in "state sponsored terrorism", just as there are plenty of Iranian radicals who still adhere to the rejection of the Great Satan.

Issue 374 - 13 November 1989

SAUDI ARABIA'S RAW NERVES

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The Saudi government is feeling increasingly vulnerable -- and is starting to show its anxiety. Security measures are being tightened around key installations, the number of executions has gone up significantly, and Islamic sharia law is being applied more resolutely than ever before. The assassination of a Saudi diplomat in Beirut earlier this month will only because for further alarm in the kingdom.

Issue 373 - 30 October 1989

IRAN TAKES A TOUGH LINE

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Last week, Iran's President Ali Akbar Rafsanjani treated the Western media to a rather odd display of antipathy towards the United States and Britain. But his real audience was, in all probability, the turbulent political factions inside Iran. The hardline which even known moderates have adopted in the past few weeks is a clear demonstration that the radicals in Iran remain a force to be reckoned with, not to say pandered to.

Issue 372 - 17 October 1989

THE SAUDIS MAKE A TANK DEAL

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After much negotiating, the Saudis appear finally to have made up their minds about what will make up their next generation main battle tank force. Not surprisingly, after a great deal of competition among prospective suppliers, the kingdom has made a compromise. Half the tanks it requires will come from the United States and the remainder are expected to be bought from Brazil.

Issue 371 - 03 October 1989

THE FULL FORCE OF SAUDI LAW

Free

Late last month, the Saudi authorities exacted the maximum punishment on 16 Kuwaitis convicted of planting bombs during the pilgrimage to Makkah last July. The public beheadings would have attracted attention even in the absence of protests from Amnesty International about alleged torture and detention without trial of Kuwaiti pilgrims. The action clearly demonstrated the kingdom's determination to stand firm in the face of what it sees as continuing Iranian inspired provocation.

Issue 370 - 19 September 1989

THE CLERICAL FOUNDATIONS

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"I have been thinking whether to tell it or not, because it is related to myself. But in the end I decided to tell you in this Friday sermon" announced Ayatollah Musavi Ardebili, the former chief justice and head of the judiciary council, as he resigned from his post at the end of last month. "After long thinking... I reached the decision that I should spend the rest of my life at the Qom seminary".