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State-owned Saudi Arabia Military Industries (Sami) announced on 7 November that it had signed a joint venture with Spain’s firm Navantia to produce five Avante 2200 corvettes. It is the first major arms deal to make progress since the Jamal Khashoggi affair came to light; given that a €2bn ($2.3bn) contract was inked by the two sides in July, the decision to stage another formal signing at this time was perhaps motivated more by Riyadh’s desire to portray a sense of ‘business as usual’ rather than any commercial imperative.

Saudi Arabia
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Prince Mansour Bin Mohammed Bin Nawaf Al-Saud, the 26-year-old son of the Saudi ambassador to London, has died after a sudden heart attack. Deputy Defence and Aviation Minister Prince Abdelrahman Bin Abdelaziz has been on a week-long tour of the Kingdom’s military Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal is reportedly being sued by a member of staff. PetroSaudi International, which belongs to Prince Turki Bin Abdullah Bin Abdelaziz Al Saud, and Malaysian state-owned Malaysia Development Berhad have said they will establish a $2.5bn partnership to invest in oil, gas and real estate projects. British newspapers have reported that Janan Harb, a divorced widow of King Fahd, is to bring another court case against the Al-Saud family

Saudi Arabia
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We’ve seen Saudi artists bought by European collectors, and major American works bought by collectors from the GCC,” the fair’s director, Antonia Carver, told GSN in an interview. “Increasingly we are seeing a lot of young collectors

Saudi Arabia
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In a major revamp of the domestic defence industry, “more than 25” local companies and 12,000 staff have been brought together into a new umbrella group called Edge. The new group includes subsidiaries of Emirates Defence Industries Company, Emirates Advanced Investments Group and Tawazun Holding, who together have some $5bn in annual revenues. To date only 23 entities have been named, including small arms maker Caracal, armoured vehicle firm Al-Nimr and electronic warfare player Sign4l.

United Arab Emirates (UAE)
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Qatar’s Municipal elections came and went in mid-March attracting a lot of international attention, generating some excitement within the country and laying down an important, if undramatic, landmark in the progress of political reform in the Gulf. The participation of women as voters and candidates was the critical issue.As one might expect, bearing in mind the small numbers of voters and candidates, the elections ran smoothly and the turnout of registered voters was high; some 90-95% in Doha and 60-75% in rural areas.

Qatar
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Following the Eid holiday Crown Prince Sultan travelled to Tabuk, where he announced a donation of SR10m – to be given on an annual basis – to the Prince Fahd Bin Sultan University

Saudi Arabia
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Politics: Established by King Abdelaziz (Ibn Saud) in 1932, the kingdom – an absolute monarchy – is the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) giant in terms of population, territory, oil wealth and its claim to religious authority. Saudi Arabia is ruled by King Salman Bin Abdelaziz, Ibn Saud’s sixth son to assume the throne. At 82 on 31 December, Salman has broken with Al-Saud tradition to assure the succession of his line, replacing the experienced Mohammed Bin Nayef Bin Abdelaziz as crown prince with his favoured son, the now 32-year-old Mohammed Bin Salman.

Saudi Arabia
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Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al-Khalifa, newly named Emir of Qatar, stands out not just because of the sleek manner of his accession, but because of his youth. Born on 3 June 1980, Tamim had only just celebrated his 33rd birthday when he assumed the role for which he has spent more than a decade preparing. In a culture where respect is very linked to age, holding his own among his senescent Gulf counterparts will require some steel. Three of the five other Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) heads of state are more than double his age; the closest in years, at 63, is Bahrain’s King Hamad Bin Isa Al-Khalifa.

Qatar
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The government has launched a wide-ranging reshuffle of its top energy industry officials, as the Islamic Republic tries to deal with sanctions imposed by the United States. On 18 November, petroleum minister Bijan Zangeneh appointed Masoud Karbasian as National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) chief executive, with the rank of deputy petroleum minister. Replacing the retiring Ali Kardor, Karbasian was finance minister between August 2017 and August 2018; he is a former head of the Customs Administration.

Iran
Issue 1053 - 08 February 2018

Bahrain: Review of UK security pact

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Interior minister Lieutenant-General Sheikh Rashid Bin Abdullah Al-Khalifa travelled to the UK in late January for talks with government ministers and backbench MPs, in an effort to impress upon London the terrorist threats his government says it is facing.

Bahrain
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Politics: The Al-Khalifa family came to power in 1783, driving the Persian empire from the archipelago. The British empire, interested in maritime trade routes, entered into an alliance with the Al-Khalifa 200 years ago; only in 1971 did Bahrain declare independence. The constitution provided for a fully elected parliament, which was formed in 1973 but disbanded in 1975 after a period of repressive rule; a partially elected body was reinstated in 2002.

Bahrain
Issue 957 - 31 October 2013

Kuwait: Court adjourns Al-Barrak trial

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A court on 27 October again adjourned the trial of former MP Musallam Al-Barrak, this time until 7 January. Al-Barrak was sentenced to five years for his public criticism of Emir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmed Al-Sabah during an election rally in 2012. In May, the appeals court overturned that verdict and ordered a retrial (GSN 954/6).

Kuwait
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Amnesty International has raised concerns over the situation of Sheikh Salman Al-Awda, who was arrested in September and has been held in solitary confinement, unable to communicate with the outside world, since October. Amnesty said Al-Awda’s family had learnt on 16 January that he had been hospitalised in Jeddah, but had not received further details of his condition. The sheikh, who has a large following on social media, was arrested after tweeting that he hoped to see a resolution to the conflict with Qatar.

Saudi Arabia
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By playing a prominent role at the Syria Donors Conference in London in early February, Emir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmed Al-Jaber Al-Sabah gave a timely reminder that, even at 86 years old, he can make an important contribution to public life. But at home, questions of succession are fueling growing hostility within the Al-Sabah family, with the potential for internal splits to spill over into wider political conflict. In the short term, they have already torpedoed the emirate’s sporting ambitions, with Kuwait likely to be excluded from the Rio de Janeiro Olympics and 2018 FIFA World Cup.

Kuwait
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Iran was declared an Islamic Republic in 1979, following the overthrow of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. Supreme Leader (Rahbar) Ayatollah Ali Khamenei sits at the top of the political system, his power (in theory) checked by an elected president and parliament; the conflict between theocracy and democracy dictates much of the internal dynamic. The election of President Hassan Rouhani in June 2013, following the firebrand Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, proved a transitional moment in the Islamic Republic’s external relations.

Iran