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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

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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.

Issue 354 - 23 January 1989

TURMOIL IN TEHRAN

Free

It is becoming Increasingly apparent that in the aftermath of the Gulf war Iran's political leaders feel under decreasing compulsion to maintain a facade of unity. Factional rivalries and the Internecine struggle for ascendancy have been endemic in the Islamic republic. But now, for the first time since the early years of the revolution, the political battle is being fought in the open and has drawn overt comment from the press.

Issue 353 - 09 January 1989

NEW IMPERATIVES

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For the first time since the Gulf Cooperation Council came into being in May 1981, the leaders of the six member states have been able to issue a communiqué from their GCC summit meeting which is substantially different from earlier annual declarations of brave optimism and hopeful confidence about the future of the region. Until their meeting in Bahrain last month for the ninth GCC summit, all such gatherings of the six Gulf rulers had been held in the shadow of the Iran-Iraq war.

Issue 352 - 12 December 1988

MURDEROUS MULLAHS

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Political developments in Tehran over the past few weeks have been confusing even to Iranian insiders. Long-detained members of the opposition (including, apparently, most of the old Communist party leadership) and several dozen clerics have been summarily executed. The immediate target appears to be Ayatollah Hossein All Montazeri, the officially designated successor of Ayatollah Khomeini. The longer term import of the judicial executions points, however, to a serious diminishment of Khomeini's powers, Indicating that the power struggle for the succession is well under way -- and out in the open.

Issue 351 - 28 November 1988

GOLDEN OPPORTUNITY

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The declaration of an independent state of Palestine by the Palestine National Council (PNC) at its recent meeting in Algiers has transformed the basis of international argument about the core of the Arab-Israeli dispute. By accepting UN Security Council Resolutions 181, 242 and 338, the Palestinians have acknowledged that old Palestine will have to be divided into two states, tacitly allowed the possibility of the internationalisation of Jerusalem and admitted Israel's claim to recognised borders.

Issue 350 - 14 November 1988

MILITARISED PEACE

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The Gulf war may have ended, but the region is fast becoming one of the most militarised in the world. This process is unlikely to be halted by the ceasefire between Iran and Iraq. The conflict has brought home to the Arab Gulf states a frightening realisation of their vulnerability, and this has only further encouraged them to spend ever larger sums on "off-the-shelf" defence.

Issue 349 - 31 October 1988

ANOTHER ARAB SUMMIT?

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The recent call by UAE President Shaikh Zayed bin Sultan al Nahayan for an urgent Arab summit meeting to discuss the current political crisis in Lebanon is a confirmation of the widening regional dimension of the situation in Lebanon. It also betokens a recognition of the fact that the Gulf countries, mainly through recent political actions by Iraq, are once again being brought to a practical involvement in Lebanon's internal affairs.

Issue 348 - 18 October 1988

A MATTER OF POLICY

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Kuwait spent about three billion dollars to build up a 21.69% stake in British Petroleum, the world's third largest oil company. This major investment operation conducted by the Kuwait Investment Office in London, an arm of Kuwait's Ministry of Finance, was variously interpreted and differently explained by a wide assortment of financial experts, industrial analysts, government officials and political commentators. One thing all can now agree upon is that the investment turned out to be bad news for both the Kuwait and British governments.

Issue 347 - 04 October 1988

BONN'S GOOD WORKS

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Each of the superpowers has a reason to feel satisfied about its role in bringing the Gulf War to an end. Once the Iraqis were expelled from Iran in June 1982, Moscow remained steadfast in its military and diplomatic backing for President Saddam Hussain and his call for an immediate truce.

Issue 346 - 20 September 1988

THE SADDAM SOLUTION

Free

In the face of mounting evidence that Iraq has been using chemical weapons against its Kurdish population, the stream of categoric denials issuing from Baghdad carry little conviction. The United States announcement earlier this month that it is "convinced" that Iraq has employed chemical warfare in its military campaign against the Kurdish guerrillas was followed by a vote in the US Senate calling for sanctions against Iraq unless it ceased chemical attacks on the Kurds.

Issue 345 - 06 September 1988

COMPROMISE OR CONFRONTATION

Free

The opening session of the lran/lraq peace talks in Geneva was as stiff and as sticky as had been expected by most observers. Indicative of the sensitive concerns of the two parties was the reluctance of either to enter the negotiating chamber before the other, lest this be taken as a sign of weakness or concession. Eventually the two negotiating teams entered the chamber simultaneously, from opposite doors. The thirteen-man Iranian delegation, led by Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Velayati, included Dr. Hashemi Rouhani, a deputy of Hojatoleslam Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, Majlis Speaker and acting Commander in Chief. The fifteen-strong Iraqi team, headed by Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz, included Ismat Kittani, Iraq's long-standing ambassador to the United Nations, and Dr. Riad Mahillud al Qaysi, a senior Foreign Ministry official.

Issue 344 - 23 August 1988

NOW THE HARD WORK

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On 6 August, Saddam Hussain climbed down and consented to a ceasefire in the Gulf war before the commencement of direct talks with Iran. Diplomatically, his position was becoming increasingly untenable. The Iran-Iraq conflict is far from over, but now it will be fought across the negotiating table rather than over the battlefield. Its outcome will be more greatly influenced by international public opinion, an aspect of the confrontation to which the two sides have of late become particularly sensitive.

Issue 343 - 09 August 1988

WHY WON'T IT END?

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Just under three weeks ago Iran suddenly announced that it would accept the UN sponsored ceasefire at which it has balked since the Security Council passed resolution 598 in July last year. The fighting that has followed this dramatic turnabout has been some of the worst of the eight-year long war. What will it take to bring the conflict to an end?