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Issue 191 - 02 March 1987

A SLENDER CHANCE

Free

The move of large numbers of Syrian army troops into West Beirut is the almost exclusive focus of the Saudi Arabian government's current foreign policy concerns. The kingdom's intense interest in Lebanon's affairs is, for historic and legitimate reasons, more than just one Arab country's understandable curiosity about the circumstances in another Arab state.

Issue 306 - 23 February 1987

GRINDING ON

Free

Iran's Kerbala 5 offensive has evidently run out of steam. It started on 8 January, to the surprise of the Iraqis, lasted rather longer than is usual for Iranian assaults and made significant territorial gains (at least according to the snail's pace of advance which characterises this bloody war). Then, from about the fourth week onwards, the Iraqis put some of their best troops into a counter-attack, regained a quarter of the debris-strewn wasteland they had lost and definitively halted Kerbala 5 in its tracks.

Issue 190 - 16 February 1987

AN UNLIKELY TALE

Free

The convoluted tales engendered by the Iran arms scandal which have some Saudi Arabian connection continue to proliferate. The latest, uncovered as a result of the investigations in the US into the provenance of the Iran arms affair, says that Saudi Arabia agreed in 1981 to channel funds to resistance movements in Afghanistan, Angola and Nicaragua in order to ensure the sale by the US of the advanced AWACS airborne early warning system. The story, carried in some detail in the New York Times, says the agreement was drawn up by top officials of both countries and was approved by King Fahd.

Issue 305 - 09 February 1987

THE ISLAMIC SUMMIT

Free

To the certain relief of the hosts, and probably also of the participants, the fifth Islamic summit conference in Kuwait ended without being subjected to the half-expected and sometimes threatened outbreaks of violence from assorted saboteurs, car-bombers, hostage-takers, hijackers, assassins and other exponents of the exercise of terrorism as a means of political expression.

Issue 189 - 02 February 1987

THE SOVIET OPTION

Free

The dispatch of Saudi Arabian oil minister Hisham Nazer by Opec to visit Egypt, Norway and the USSR to win support for the Organisation's oil price and production policy was a shrewd - and successful - move by the oil producers' cartel. The Saudi minister was ostensibly wearing his Opec hat and speaking solely on Opec's behalf; nothing was said either by Opec or by Saudi Arabia - about the possible national political implications of his three-day sojourn in Moscow.

Issue 304 - 26 January 1987

CRUCIAL STAGES

Free

The latest explosion of fighting between Iraq and Iran has been amongst the bloodiest in a particularly sanguinary war. It might just be the climax to the confrontation. There is a growing feeling in the Gulf, not least in Iraq and Iran, that the conflict has entered a crucial stage. Quite apart from being unprecedently vicious, there are aspects of the fighting which mark it out from previous rounds.

Issue 188 - 19 January 1987

SAUDIS FINALLY SHOW THEIR HAND

Free

On the very last day of 1986, Saudi Arabia at last got a budget to cover the next 12 months. And despite all the predictions and endless speculation, the details still held some surprises. The overall level of spending was much higher than expected, but for the first time ever the kingdom openly admitted in advance that it would have to dig into official reserves to bridge the expected budget deficit.

Issue 303 - 12 January 1987

WAR WITHOUT END

Free

As the New Year dawned over the Iran/Iraq battlefield, the prospects for a resolution of the six-year conflict looked as remote as they have ever done. The conventional wisdom of 1986 seemed to hold equally good for 1987. Despite its technical superiority, Iraq cannot win because it cannot do more than defend its territory; Iran cannot lose, however, because it has many more soldiers and, apparently, fewer qualms about casualties.

Issue 187 - 22 December 1986

SOURCES OF SUPPLY

Free

The Saudi Arabian government, will, notwithstanding other matters concerning it at the time, be giving some special attention on 25 January to the general elections being held on that day in West Germany. In particular, Riyadh will have an interest in following the fortunes at the polls of the conservative parties in West Germany and, especially, the Bavarian Christian Social Union party. The Saudi government has a valid reason for concerning itself about the course of the election. A clear victory for the conservative parties could bring the Bavarian Prime Minister, Franz Josef Strauss, into the central government in the key position of foreign or defence minister. And Frans Josef Strauss is the man who thinks Bonn's current arms policy towards Saudi Arabia is all wrong and that West Germany should be free to sell sophisticated weapons to the kingdom.

Issue 302 - 15 December 1986

MAKING THE MOST OF IT

Free

Western media attention is avidly consumed by Washington's parochial fall out from the arms-to-Iran imbroglio. In the Gulf, the turn of events is seen rather differently. Who knew what in the Reagan Administration's confused bureaucracy - and who replaces whom as a result of the exposure - is not of immediate interest. What does count is the political profit and loss to be made out of the increasingly astounding revelations.

Issue 186 - 08 December 1986

WHAT THE SAUDIS KNEW

Free

If one were to believe the press reports (chiefly emanating from Washington) about "Irangate", the instigation for the whole affair might well have originated in Saudi Arabia. Saudi involvement somewhere along the line is undoubtedly the case, but amid all the mudslinging and blame-throwing in Washington, Saudi Arabia is definitely being forced to carry a quite unwarranted burden of responsibility.

Issue 301 - 01 December 1986

SALT IN THE WOUND

Free

The quite extraordinary actions of the United States' Administration in its secret arms deals with Iran were described by President Reagan as the employment of "courageous diplomacy" - a ludicrous euphemism for the calamitous Presidential essay into the world of clandestine operations and fantasy politics. The escapades of Colonels McFarlane and North, by-passing most regular channels of government and personally backed by President Reagan, were fatuous in conception, farcical in execution and totally unsuccessful in effect.

Issue 185 - 24 November 1986

THE DEFENCE DIMENSION

Free

The emphasis given to defence and regional security affairs at the recent GCC summit conference in Abu Dhabi served to confirm the Iran-Iraq war as the dominant concern of the governments of the region. Faced with the failure of every political and diplomatic effort to bring about a negotiated end to the Gulf war, the leaders of the six GCC countries had little option but to press on with the improvement of their individual and collective defence capabilities.

Issue 300 - 17 November 1986

GULF MILITARY BALANCE

Free

The annual Military Balance, one of the most authoritative surveys of the world's armed forces, has just been published by the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies. Gulf States Newsletter reproduces in this issue the relevant data for -the armed forces of the various Gulf-countries.

Issue 184 - 10 November 1986

ROYAL DISPLEASURES, ROYAL MEASURES

Free

For several years the removal of Shaikh Ahmad Zaki Yamani from the ministry of oil has been a subject of innumerable rumours and endless speculation within and outside Saudi Arabia. Now that his dismissal has taken place, a spate of foreign comment has produced a startling range of reasons for his fall from grace. These have included many "now-it-can-be-revealed" stories of long-sustained bad relations between King Fahd and Shaikh Yamani, and strangely detailed accounts of alleged serious differences of opinion within the government over Yamani's oil policies.