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Issue 369 - 22 August 1989

THE EDGE OF EXTINCTION

Free

When Saudi Arabia, Algeria and Morocco agreed at the Casablanca summit in May to form the mediation committee on Lebanon, King Fahd, President Chadli Benjedid and King Hassan put much of their personal and political prestige on the line. But the decision to raise the Arab League mediation effort to heads of state level indicated both the magnitude of the problem and the difficulties envisaged in bringing any sort of peace to Lebanon.

Issue 368 - 06 August 1989

GUIDELINES APPLIED

Free

The British government's decision not to allow negotiations to go ahead on a possible sale to Iraq of more than 50 British-made Hawk jet training aircraft will disappoint the Iraqis and frustrate British business hopes of an entry into Iraq's significant defence market. Negotiations between British Aerospace (BAe), the makers of the Hawk aircraft, and Iraqi officials had been in progress for some time (issue No.362 of Gulf States Newsletter, 15 May.) As well as talking about an initial order for 50 aircraft, Iraq also wanted a joint venture with BAe for local production of the Hawk and an oil buy-back arrangement administered by oil major Royal Dutch Shell.

Issue 367 - 24 July 1989

THE GULF WIDENS

Free

Who set off the bombs in Makkah two weeks ago which disrupted the hajj? Nobody seems to know, least of all the Saudis. Nonetheless, the finger of accusation has been inevitably pointed at Iran and, equally inevitably, the Iranian regime is playing innocent.

Issue 366 - 10 July 1989

STRANGE PARTNERS

Free

The establishment of relations between Saudi Arabia and the Soviet Union has become one of the Middle East's most long-awaited, and as yet unaccomplished, diplomatic events. When it happens – as inevitably it will – the formalisation of ties between Moscow and Riyadh will be an important coup for the Soviets who have been diligently engaged in building up their political presence in the Gulf region for several years.

Issue 365 - 27 June 1989

NOW IT'S A TURN FOR FRANCE

Free

The West European visit of Prince Sultan bin Abdul Aziz, Saudi Arabia's minister of defence and aviation, was not expected to yield much in the way of new military contracts. The kingdom is already heavily committed to absorbing the material it has on order – chiefly from Britain – and is still assessing its requirements for main battle tanks and submarines in the 1990s.

Issue 364 - 13 June 1989

A PAUSE FOR MOURNING

Free

Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini was always capable of dramatic and unsettling actions. The fatwa ordering the execution of Salman Rushdie was only the most recent example. His demise, so long predicted and until now invariably postponed, was his last contribution to the turbulence of the Islamic Republic. The senior figures of the regime had literally been praying that he would survive long enough to give his imprimateur to the constitutional arrangements which were to go into effect after his death. Khomeini let his subordinates down by a mere three weeks, and left them with a fine political mess.

Issue 363 - 30 May 1989

TEN YEARS AFTER

Free

Ten years ago Egypt was cast out of the Arab League for concluding a peace treaty with Israel; at last week's Arab summit at Casablanca Egypt formally resumed its place in the Arab fold. And Egypt returned to the body to which it was once the host country, not as a remorseful delinquent humbly seeking reinstatement, but as an impenitent peacemaker responding to the near unanimous invitation of its sister countries.

Issue 362 - 16 May 1989

THE BILLION POUND PLEDGE

Free

The visit to London later this month by Prince Sultan bin Abdul Aziz, the Saudi Defence Minister and 2nd Deputy Premier, will, once again, focus attention on the biggest deal ever concluded by Saudi Arabia and Britain. The defence deal initiated in 1985 and now known as Al Yamamah Project, was Saudi Arabia's multi-million pound purchase of Tornado combat aircraft, training aircraft, helicopters, mine-hunter ships, the construction in the Kingdom of major defence bases and wide-ranging support and training programmes.

Issue 361 - 02 May 1989

PERHAPS WE CAN TALK AFTER ALL

Free

As if the political and military situation in Afghanistan were not unsettled enough, Iran is now showing signs of increasing the complexity of the crisis by making discreet approaches to the Kabul regime. In the process, it is causing serious concern in Saudi Arabia which hopes by its prompt recognition of the mujahedin government-in-exile to be a major influence over a future Islamic state in Afghanistan.

Issue 360 - 18 April 1989

THE STRUGGLE BEGINS

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The effective dismissal of Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri as the Imam Khomeini's successor has left the field open for what is already proving a bloody dogfight for political power in Iran. The knives are out in what looks like becoming a no-holds-barred contest for political supremacy.

Issue 359 - 04 April 1989

CURIOUSER AND CURIOUSER

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...as Alice in Wonderland once said. Her observations might be equally appropriate to the less benign wonderland of Iraqi domestic politics. This is normally a closed book, but from time to time a page or two falls out which reveals a bizarre world of internecine intrigue – and leaves one guessing about exactly what is going on. In our last issue, we reported on Iraq's more publicised endeavours in the regional and economic field. But what on earth is going on behind the political scenery?

Issue 358 - 20 March 1989

THE CHANGING FACE OF IRAQ

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The formation last month of the Arab Cooperation Council (ACC) by Egypt, Iraq, Jordan and Yemen Arab Republic (North Yemen ) occasioned only mild international interest and not much more that polite statements of welcome from some of the other Arab states. The ACC's sotto voce debut is in contrast to wide publicity given to the establishment in 1981 of its precursor and probable model, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).

Issue 357 - 06 March 1989

THE SOVIET INITIATIVE

Free

The high ground of Middle East diplomacy has been firmly captured by the Soviet Union as a, result of its current drive to inject new life into the stalemated regional peace process. Eduard Shevardnadze, the Soviet Foreign Minister, prefaced his recently-concluded tour of five key Middle East countries with a detailed statement setting out Moscow's views on the need to accelerate the process and making, specific proposals to set the machinery in motion for reaching a comprehensive political settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Issue 356 - 20 February 1989

THE PRIORITY OF PEACE

Free

When the ceasefire in the Gulf war was accepted last year there were no great expectations, either by the two principals or by the UN and countries concerned to see peace restored to the region, that a fully-fledged peace agreement would be quickly or easily reached. However, the painfully slow progress of even the implementation of the terms of the ceasefire agreement is beginning to cause some uneasiness about the political fragility of the arrangements that brought the fighting in the Gulf war to a halt.

Issue 355 - 08 February 1989

THE POST-WAR ERA

Free

A formal ending of the Iran-Iraq war, in the shape of a firm peace treaty between the two countries is still a distant prospect. But, although there are many issues of contention still to be settled, the cease-fire of last August is holding well and the war is generally regarded as over. Governments in the region may not be fully reassured until a peace treaty has been signed but even the most pessimistic of officials do not foresee a resumption of the fighting. The mutual antipathies expressed in Baghdad and Tehran focus on the political positions to be won - or lost - in the post-war bargaining process; neither country, even in threat, talks about resorting once again to open war.