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Issue 481 - 07 March 1994

Yemen's Eleventh Hour

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The day after Yemen's rival leaders signed a peace agreement in Jordan, troops loyal to the rival factions clashed in the former South Yemen. Fighting continued for several days, bringing Yemen to the brink of full scale civil war just when peace seemed in sight after six months of crisis. Now efforts are being made to contain the military confrontation with help from Jordan and Oman, but the future of the country united less than four years ago is in the balance.

Issue 480 - 21 February 1994

Tehran's Quandaries

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Fifteen years after the overthrow of the Shah the radical Islamic regime is still in power in Iran. In the face of a generally hostile international attitude this is no insignificant achievement. Iran has survived an eight-year war with Iraq, which remains a hostile and potentially dangerous neighbour. In particular, Iraq gives territorial shelter and organisational assistance to the exiled Iranian opposition Mojahedin e Khalq Organisation (MKO), which still carries out frequent armed attacks into Iran. The Iranian regime has faced other challenges too. but so far it has survived them all.

Issue 479 - 07 February 1994

Mending Fences

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Chairman Yasser Arafat has been to Saudi Arabia for his long-sought-after audience with King Fahd. The Palestinian leader's visit was preceded by some careful diplomatic soundings in the Kingdom by senior PLO officials, to make sure that Arafat's effort to restore relations would not be premature and that the slice of humble pie that Chairman Yasser would have to consume would not be too large and indigestible. It was widely and publicly understood that the PLO leader was expected to apologise for the ghastly political mistake he had made in supporting Saddam Hussein and Iraq in the Gulf war.

Issue 478 - 24 January 1994

Close to the Edge

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Yemen's internal political crisis, which surfaced openly last August with a leadership dispute, has its origins in the historical political differences and rivalries between North and South Yemen. The mutually agreed unification of a single Yemen, in May 1990, did not eradicate those differences but only temporarily submerged them. Various and several mediation attempts to reconcile the chief protagonists have failed and the longer the crisis has lasted the deeper become the divisions around which it revolves.

Issue 477 - 10 January 1994

RETROSPECT 1993

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1993 opened with renewed confrontation between Iraq and the USA, on the eve of President Bush's departure from office. Gestures by Iraq challenging the UN, including defiance of Allied enforcement of the southern Air Exclusion Zone, were answered by new US air and missile raids, hitting Iraqi missile and radar sites. As President Clinton took office on 20 January, there was plenty of speculation about whether he would maintain the outgoing president's policy towards Iraq; the answer was to come a few months later. The January raids showed again how helpless Iraq was against the power of the Coalition forces.

Issue 476 - 13 December 1993

A Regional Force

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The 14th annual summit of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), at Riyadh this month, finds the Council making progress towards economic cooperation, while it has already made an impact as a political grouping. But the economic integration process is slow as the individual states apply necessary measures at their own speed. On the other important question, that of common defence, there has also been only slow progress, owing to the difficulties involved, not to any lack of commitment.

Issue 475 - 29 November 1993

Bargains To Be Made

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The intended exchange of ministerial visits between Iran and Iraq, designed to be the first steps towards a post-war accommodation between the regimes in Tehran and Baghdad, has been "indefinitely postponed" said an announcement from Baghdad. Sa'ad Abdul Majid al Faisal, Iraq's deputy foreign minister was due in Tehran two weeks ago, returning a visit to Baghdad by his Iranian counterpart, Mohammad Java Zarif. But the visit was postponed, according to an Iraqi official, in protest at the presence in Tehran of a U.N. mission probing Baghdad's alleged use of chemical weapons against the Shia of southern Iraq.

Issue 474 - 15 November 1993

Trouble at the Top

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The deep rift between President Ali Abdullah Salih and Vice-President Ali Salim al Bidh was made public by the latter's conspicuous absence from the national celebrations on September 26 and October 14 and the cancellation of his appointment with Sultan Qaboos during the Omani leader's visit to Sana'a last month. Al Bidh had conducted a 'stay- away' protest in southern Yemen during last year's national celebrations. At that time, the issue was lack of preparation for election scheduled for November 1992. Those elections, finally held in April this year, had been designed to end a 30-month post- unification transition period, during which power in the five-man Presidential Council and the 301- member parliament was shared between Salih's General People's Congress (GPC) and al Bidh's Yemeni Socialist Party (YSP).

Issue 473 - 01 November 1993

The Complications Of Peace

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Whilst the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries welcomed the agreement between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) as a first step towards the long-standing Arab aim of "a just, lasting and comprehensive" Middle East settlement, the nature and scope of future relations between Israel and the six Gulf Arab states is not yet even a subject of open discussion in the GCC.

Issue 472 - 19 October 1993

A NEIGHBOUR IN DISTRESS

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Somalia is now a major foreign policy problem for the USA, and it matters a great deal for President Clinton whether his proposal for talks to end the conflict succeeds. But if the anarchy and destruction in Somalia matter to the USA thousands of miles away, they also matter, very much to Gulf states which are Somalia's near neighbours across the Gulf of Aden. It is fitting that the Arab League, of which Somalia is a member, is involved in this week's talks to review the troubled UN peacekeeping operation.

Issue 223 - 18 October 1993

THE CRITICAL CROSSROADS

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FIVE MODERN WARPLANES have caused a new and alarming dimension to be added to the war' between Iran and Iraq. France has released the promised five 'Super Etendard' fighter-bombers to Iraq and, last week, they were reportedly on their way to-Baghdad. Both the warring countries have, exhaustively, given their positions on this issue of the aircraft and the possible consequences if and how they are used.

Issue 471 - 05 October 1993

BARK BUT NO BITE

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Just a year ago the new National Assembly was elected in Kuwait. It has made a big impact since then. Not only has it studied 550 laws and decrees it has become a forum for free speech and debate about the government and administration. Dominated by the opposition, the Assembly has been outspokenly critical and has not spared the ruling family.

Issue 470 - 21 September 1993

TIlE REGIONAL REACTION

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The reaction of the various countries of the Gulf region to the stunning development of the agreement between the PLO and Israel contained no surprises for close observers of the regional political scene. This historic breakthrough in the Arab-Israeli impasse is of greater significance, in essence, than the Egypt-Israel peace agreement. The PLO will not be put into diplomatic quarantine by the Arab states, or be excluded from Arab councils and organisations, as Egypt was in 1979.

Issue 469 - 07 September 1993

CREDIBILITY GAPS

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The true state of affairs in the higher levels of authority in Saudi Arabia is very hard to discover and even more difficult to confirm. The government's presentation of its activities and achievements is almost always euphoric, usually self-congratulatory – and often unrealistic. In its unremitting efforts to convince the Saudi people of the absolute success of all its endeavours, the Saudi regime unwittingly erodes the very credibility it constantly seeks to establish for itself.

Issue 468 - 24 August 1993

NO COMMON DEFENCE

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Just three years ago the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) faced in reality the very threat which the six- country organisation had been formed to meet: the military invasion of one of its member states. The GCC had been formed with military and security cooperation in mind among other aims, and it was an article of faith among the members that an attack on one would be considered an attack on them all. Yet when the test came in the shape of Iraq's invasion of Kuwait, the GCC was militarily not capable of doing anything about it.