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Issue 314 - 16 June 1987

DARKENING SHADOWS

Free

The highly desirable diplomatic goal of having the best of all possible political worlds is one that is pursued with considerable vigour by Kuwait. Having obtained the commitment of the two superpowers to help protect its shipping from Iranian attacks, Kuwait then prepared its position for last week's meeting of the GCC's Ministerial Council in Jeddah.

Issue 198 - 09 June 1987

PRIORITIES - AND PROBLEMS

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The end of the holy month of Ramadan occasioned a summary of Saudi Arabia's foreign policy from King Fahd and Crown Prince Abdullah. Celebrating the festival of 'Id al Fitr which concludes Ramadan, King Fahd delivered a television address which emphasised Saudi Arabia's chief external political concerns: Arab unity, the solidarity of the Muslim world, the resolution of the Iran-Iraq war, the conflict in Lebanon, the war in Afghanistan and - most of all - the Palestinian problem.

Issue 313 - 02 June 1987

STRANGE SCENARIO

Free

Something very odd is going on in the Gulf. And for all the ironic comment it may call forth, the situation is particularly dangerous. Gratuitous criticism of US foreign policy has become the common currency of the Middle East media (A rab as well as Iranian) for several years. But there is nonetheless an inescapable impression that the Reagan Administration is once again embarking on a course of action which will lead at best to a qualitative complication of an already complex state of affairs, and at worst a catastrophe.

Issue 197 - 26 May 1987

THE CONFLICT SPREADS

Free

King Fahd performed a valuable service when he brokered the recent meeting between President Chadli Benjedid of Algeria and King Hassan of Morocco. The two North African countries have been on bad terms with each other over various issues for several years, and to have brought the two leaders together was a creditable political achievement by the Saudi monarch. However, the mere fact of their meeting did not produce solutions to any or all of their joint problems and, since then, there has been no suggestion that any further negotiations are in progress on matters of dispute.

Issue 312 - 19 May 1987

END TO NEUTRALITY

Free

From the time it gained its independence in 1961, Kuwait has displayed a penchant for innovation and originality in the exercise of its foreign policies. Kuwait was the first Arab country to invite in a pan-Arab military force to protect itself against an expressed threat in 1961 of annexation by Iraq; it was the first of the Gulf Arab states to establish diplomatic relations with the Soviet bloc countries and China; it was the first Arab country in the region to have an elected General Assembly (dissolved last year by the Amir, when he suspended certain articles of the Kuwaiti constitution); and, now, Kuwait is the first Gulf state to conclude a political deal which, involves both superpowers in the Gulf region.

Issue 196 - 12 May 1987

DIVISIONS AND DIVERSIONS

Free

There was no official comment from Saudi Arabia on the PLO's reunification congress in Algiers last month. This looks rather odd at first sight, given the kingdom's constant reassertion of its interest in rebuilding and maintaining Arab unity. What deeply disturbs the Saudis, however, is the growing possibility that estrangement of the PLO moderates from Egypt and Jordan will create new rifts in the Arab world - and dash all hopes of forming a united front at the long-promised forthcoming Arab summit conference.

Issue 311 - 05 May 1987

GETTING INVOLVED

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The growing confidence and influence of the Soviet Union in the Gulf region was made manifest earlier this month in the tour of Gulf countries by the Soviet Deputy Foreign Minister, Vladimir Petrovsky. He visited the UAE - the highest-ranking Soviet official to have visited the Federation - Kuwait, Oman and Iraq. He said he was carrying proposals to Gulf leaders on ways to end the Gulf war and on means to guarantee security and navigation in the Gulf, the Strait of Hormuz and the Indian Ocean".

Issue 195 - 28 April 1987

PREFERRED PARTNERS

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Prince Sultan, Minister of Defence, referring to King Fahd's recent state visit to France, has stressed the close cooperation in military matter between Saudi Arabia and France. Speaking at a recent graduation ceremony at the King Abdul Aziz Military Academy, Prince Sultan said that France had expressed readiness to cooperate with the kingdom in the field of armaments and other defence sectors.

Issue 310 - 21 April 1987

CONFLICT ON CREDIT

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The Iran-Iraq war is being fought out on the battlefield with unmitigated ferocity. But its outcome will be determined not by casualties and territorial gains, but by the depth of the combatants' pockets. That is the conclusion of a prominent British observer of the war who spoke earlier this month at a seminar in London on the Gulf war and the international oil market.

Issue 194 - 14 April 1987

AN ESSENTIAL PRELIMINARY

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Leo Tindemans, the Belgian foreign minister and currently President of the European Economic Community Council of Ministers, is to visit several Middle East capitals in the coming few weeks to try to inject some impetus in the moves to hold an international conference on the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Issue 309 - 06 April 1987

SOLUTION TO STALEMATE

Free

That Kuwait has declined the offer by the United States to provide naval escorts for Kuwait tanker and merchant shipping in the Gulf suggests more about regional Arab perceptions, by Kuwait in particular and the GCC countries in general, of the risks of a spread in the Gulf war than it does about an assessment of the actual situation in the area and the current threat it represents.

Issue 193 - 31 March 1987

ULTIMATE IRONIES

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The ultimate irony of the arms-for-Iran funds-for-Contras scandal must have been reached with the disclosure that a large slice of the money, perhaps between $2m and $3m, raised by the sale of US arms to Iran. found its way not to the US-supported Nicaraguan rebels, but to the Global Islamic Movement, an organisation controlled by the designated successor to Ayatollah Khomeini, Ayatollah Hossein Montazeri. According to accounts published by the New York Times, drawing on the latest confessions of the Iranian go-between, Manuchur Ghorbanliar, US funds were diverted ("for services rendered") to the Swiss bank account of the Global Islamic Movement. This is an organisation which, amongst its various activities, funds those specialists of the political kidnap operation, the Hizbollah, Party of God, in Lebanon.

Issue 308 - 23 March 1987

HOW MANY STRINGS?

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Just how much does the regime in Tehran control the activities of the Hezbollah in (what is now called) South Beirut? Or, perhaps the question is, which faction in Iran's clerical hierarchy pulls the strings in Lebanon, and how many strings does it have? The Western powers, whose hostages are now more at risk than ever, have scarcely any idea.

Issue 192 - 16 March 1987

CREDIBILITY PROBLEM

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The Tower Commission report on the White House's dealings with Iran in the arms-for-hostages scandal has enmeshed Saudi Arabia in further problems. The Saudis have consistently denied they had anything to do with the tortuous transactions undertaken by Adnan Khashoggi, Manuchehr Ghorbanifar, Colonel Oliver North and the rest of the shady crew at the National Security Council. There is no evidence to prove them wrong in their assertions. But all along there have been worrying rumours that Saudi Arabia channelled funds to the Contra rebels in Nicaragua.

Issue 307 - 09 March 1987

MOSCOW SHOWS ITS HAND

Free

In a rather surprising announcement at the end of February, Iran said that the Kerbala 5 offensive had been formally called off. Tehran does not usually declare that its major operations are being discontinued. And although it was generally evident that the big Iranian push which started early in January had run out of steam, fresh triumphs were being hailed only a few days before.