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Issue 553 - 27 January 1997

War in Sudan

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Arab eyes turned to Sudan in January as opposition factions launched major military offensives in the south and east of the country. Aware of the geostrategic importance of the Red Sea coastline and the Horn of Africa, regional governments reacted with alarm. Egypt is the most affected due to its reliance on the water resources of the Upper Nile but Saudi Arabia and Iran may be drawn in as Khartoum appealed for military help against "foreign aggression.

Issue 552 - 13 January 1997

Providing Less Comfort

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Operation Provide Comfort, which came to an end on 31 December 1996, was established in 1991 in response to the mass exodus of Kurdish refugees from northern Iraq but it never provided much comfort to the Kurds whom it was supposed to benefit. Although humanitarian aid was air dropped in early 1991, since then the American- British-French force has had little more than a surveillance and deterrent role.

Issue 551 - 16 December 1996

Disunity in the Ranks

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The 17th GCC Summit, which ended in Doha on 9 December, produced few surprises although it was preceded by dramatic developments. Intense mediation efforts had failed to persuade Bahrain to attend while, paradoxically, Yemen submitted a formal application to join. These two "non-events," much touted in advance of the summit, were of more significance than other policy issues on which there was little change.

Issue 550 - 02 December 1996

Reconciling with Iran?

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Could there be a reconciliation between the GCC states, the US and Iran? In recent weeks Iran has hinted at this possibility and the ongoing debate in Washington over "Dual Containment" suggests that a more nuanced American policy may emerge. We can however only be cautiously optimistic. In both Washington and Tehran there are many who remain bitterly opposed to any change and the aims of the two sides remain diametrically opposed.

Issue 549 - 18 November 1996

Clinton II - The Gulf

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The US elections have proceeded smoothly to their anticipated outcome. Clinton has been returned to the White House and the Republicans control both houses of Congress. The scramble for top posts in the Administration has begun. Many of the top foreign affairs jobs are to change - Secretary of State, Secretary of Defence, Director of Central Intelligence, National Security Adviser, Ambassador to the UN. But what will this mean for the Gulf region states?

Issue 548 - 04 November 1996

Hamad Strikes a Deal

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Is Qatar's debilitating family feud over at last? Or has Emir Hamad bin Khalifah Al Thani merely won this round in the struggle with his father, Sheikh Khalifah bin Hamad Al Thani? This is the question that remains after last month's news of a deal brokered between father and son. Although optimism is in order, it cannot yet be concluded that family harmony will reign.

Issue 547 - 22 October 1996

Kuwait's Election

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Kuwait's election diwayyani tents. have been dismantled, the strings of election posters and coloured lights advertising the virtues of the parliamentary candidates have been taken down and the lavish free meals service for potential voters has come to an end. The election earlier this month of Kuwait's National Assembly, the only elected parliament in the Gulf Arab states, is over.

Issue 546 - 08 October 1996

The Kingdom's 64th Year

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To mark the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia's 64th National Day on 23 September King Fahd granted an interview to the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) in which he pledged to cushion the Saudi people from any economic difficulties and continue to invest in development. His optimistic pledges were no doubt inspired by the recent rally in oil prices but, as even Saudi daily Asharq al Awsat admitted, the Kingdom faces a number of serious challenges in the coming years.

Issue 545 - 24 September 1996

America Goes it Alone

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Iraq's neighbours are still reeling from the shock of Saddam's bold strike into Kurdistan and, more importantly, of renewed proof of the Clinton Administration's inept Gulf policy. Even if the US unleashes the impressive array of air and naval forces that have been streaming to the region in recent weeks, a prospect that seems more unlikely with every day that passes, this will not change its essential dilemma in the region. By acting unilaterally and relying on low-risk but high-tech military operations, Washington is losing support in the Arab world while doing little to further its objectives in Iraq.

Issue 544 - 10 September 1996

Power Plays in Kurdistan

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The cruise missiles strikes the United States launched against southern Iraq last week, and the extension of the southern 'no fly' zone to a mere 20 miles or so south of Baghdad was President Clinton's chosen response to Saddam Hussein's military incursion into Kurdistan, where Iraqi forces took over the control of Erbil, the seat of the elected parliament of autonomous Kurdistan. The American action underlined the international impotence of the Baghdad regime, proved the circumscribed capacity of the Iraqi armed forces and underlined the villainy of Saddam Hussein. No doubt President Clinton thinks those results are worth the price of the cruise missiles but the ultimate political cost to the United States is likely to be considerably greater.

Issue 543 - 27 August 1996

Turkey and Iraq

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Early Western optimism that Necmettin Erbakan had turned his back on his campaign promises may have been premature. In his first foreign foray as prime minister, the leader of the Islamist Welfare Party chose to tour Turkey's Muslim neighbours to the East, beginning with Iran. His conclusion of a gas supply agreement and border security pact with Tehran infuriated the Americans but was in fact the fulfilment of a project begun by Tansu Ciller, now deputy prime minister.

Issue 542 - 13 August 1996

The Ratings War

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The commercial potentialities and political/cultural threats of satellite TV are widely recognised in the Arab world and in Iran. While entrepreneurs and state broadcasters have been quick to seize the opportunities of the new broadcasting era, governments have responded uneasily to the new technology. This ambivalence is exemplified by the Saudi response to developments. On the one hand, leading Saudi businessmen have invested heavily in pan-Arab satellite TV channels. On the other hand, the government has tried to ban satellite dishes in the Kingdom.

Issue 541 - 30 July 1996

Turkey: Pragmatic Islamists

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Since Necmettin Eroakan, leader of the Refah (Welfare) Party (RP), became prime minister of Turkey earlier this month he has received a state visit from President Hosni Mubarak and fulsome messages of congratulation from President Hafiz al Asad and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, an indication of the importance accorded to developments in Turkey by regional powers.

Issue 540 - 16 July 1996

Bahrain's Hardening Line

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The imposition of death sentences on three men convicted of involvement in the arson killing of seven Bangladeshis last March marks a dramatic escalation in the government's campaign against the domestic opposition movement. These sentences epitomise the hardening of the state's approach to the internal security crisis.

Issue 539 - 02 July 1996

Fewer Guns, More Butter

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A common refrain among arms dealers is the pious claim that high technology arms transfers help development. According to their argument, the need to train and educate military personnel forces developing countries to educate their population more rapidly than would otherwise be the case. While this may be true in some circumstances, it has always seemed a rather self serving argument. A new study from the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) provides statistical confirmation of this doubt. The study confirms the age-old adage, that "fewer guns do indeed imply more butter.