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Issue 375 - 27 November 1989



Iran and the United States are locked into a curious process of trying to show "goodwill" to one another in order to improve relations -- but not so much goodwill as to antagonise their respective domestic constituencies. There is little question that Presidents George Bush and Ali Akbar Rafsanjani both want to set in motion events which lead to the resumption of ties. Bush wants to get US hostages out of Lebanon; Rafsanjani wants Western assistance in Iran's post-war reconstruction effort. But there are plenty of American Congressmen who do not want the United States to have anything to do with a country involved in "state sponsored terrorism", just as there are plenty of Iranian radicals who still adhere to the rejection of the Great Satan.

Issue 243 - 14 August 1984



Ever since the adoption of Security Council Resolution 242 in November 1967 - the first serious attempt since 1948 to establish a framework for the settlement of the Arab Israeli conflict - all peace initiatives have been punctuated by long ritual pauses to take account of elections in the United States and in Israel. It has become conventional wisdom that it is no use expecting American or Israeli Administrations to respond to international pressures or themselves to adopt enlightened policies while they are wrestling with their recalcitrant domestic constituencies, be it in the apparently interminable preliminaries to American presidential or mid-term elections or in general elections in Israel.


THIRTY-EIGHT LEADERS OF ISLAMIC COUNTRIES declared that Jihad, or holy war, will be the prime objective of this generation until Jerusalem and the occupied Palestinian and Arab territories are restored. The Mecca declaration, which was the main outcome of the Summit, unites the Islamic world firmly behind the Arab cause including support for the Palestinians and a boycott of Israel.

Issue 222 - 04 October 1983



THE IMPENDING SUMMIT MEETING of the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) , due to take place in Doha on 7 November, could be the most important gathering in the short history of the Council.


The foreign policy concerns and security worries of the Gulf states tend to centre round narrow issues of immediate significance. The potential for Iraqi military resurgence, the dangers of a revival of Iranian IsIamist militancy and border clashes in the Arabian Peninsula dominate the agendas of the region's foreign ministries and military establishments. The Gulf is however part of a wider regional international system, events in which impact strongly if more indirectly on the Gulf states.

Issue 175 - 08 July 1986



The Iranian air strikes which took place last week on two oil tankers inside the UAE's 12-mile territorial waters are the closest military actions yet to the Arab coastline of the peninsula. The development. coming as the GCC Ministerial Council meeting was in progress in Taif, served to underline once again the defence and security concerns of the six member countries, of the GCC. Shortly before the Iranian attacks occurred, Minister of Defence Prince Sultan had delivered a tough speech on Saudi Arabian sovereignty. Speaking to military officers at the King Abdul Aziz naval base at Jubail, Prince Sultan said, "We will never allow any outside force to play with our sovereignty and dignity and undermine our security and stability, whichever and whoever it might be."

Issue 534 - 23 April 1996

Iran's Second Round Vote


Iranians went to the polls once again on 19 April. This second round of elections, to the Fifth Majlis, is unlikely to make the likely future course of Iranian politics much clearer than the first round, held on 8 March. Interpretations of the results of the primaries have varied widely. Some hailed the demise of the radicals and the good showing of the pro-Rafsanjani faction while other observers warned that the conservatives were likely to wield increased power.

Issue 492 - 09 August 1994

Bombs and Handshakes


The headlines of the past fortnight have highlighted the paradoxes of the Middle Eastern "peace process." Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Jordan's King Hussein shook hands in Washington a week after the bombing of an Israeli building in Argentina and the day before the Israeli Embassy in London was bombed by terrorists.

Issue 448 - 02 November 1992



Six years after its legislative assembly was suspended by the Amir, Kuwait has elected its new parliament and some fresh faces are to be found among the ministers of the new government. Earlier opposition warnings of possible government interference in the elections proved, in the event, to be unfounded. The voting was trouble-free and even the government's sternest critics concede that the election was fairly and properly conducted.


Under pressure from a faltering coalition, ruthless political rivals, financial shortfalls and other unresolved problems – including how to accommodate the Kurds and their disappointed ambitions for independence – Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi is looking to court voters with an offer that blends stability and the potential for a better future for the longsuffering population. Ahead of the 12 May general election (it is unclear whether long-delayed provincial elections can be held at the same time), Abadi is offering a peace dividend based on large-scale reconstruction of housing, energy and other infrastructure, a reinvigorated anti-corruption drive and encouragement for foreign and local private investors who might be able to create jobs and transform the economy.


Hardliners flexed their muscles when Republican Guards stormed Tehran’s new international airport, but more pragmatic conservative factions are looking to take Iran in a less confrontational direction. Divisions in the conservative camp are again the biggest factor in Iran’s domestic politics.

Issue 642 - 15 August 2000

Across the Region


Arms deals are in the air, with several contracts for the U.K.’s BAe Systems. Bahrain’s new deal was signed at Farnborough; Algeria is buying British equipment through Qatar; and there is speculation that BAe may be negotiating a new-style agreement with Saudi Arabia.

Issue 616 - 27 July 1999

Khatami under Pressure


A wave of unrest swept Iran this month. In the confused series of clashes that rocked the country, the hard-line followers of the Imam’s line, the Ansar-e Hizbollah, found themselves working with their bitter enemies in the Mujahideen-e Khalq to crush students loyal to reformist President Mohammed Khatami. Such bizarre alliances of convenience demonstrate just how complex is the current

Issue 113 - 23 January 1984



FOREIGN MINISTER PRINCE SAUD AL FAISAL chaired the Preparatory Meeting of Foreign Ministers of 43 countries, which drew up the agenda for the Fourth Islamic Summit which met in Casablanca from 16 to 18 January. In closed-door sessions, the ministers elected the Bureau of the Conference, with Morocco taking the Presidency, Palestine the Deputy Presidency and Malaysia and Gabon as members. The Foreign Ministers formed four committees - the Political Committee headed by Prince Saud al Faisal, the Economic Committee chaired by Moroccan Trade Minister Izzedin al Jassous, the Cultural Committee led by Moroccan Education Minister Izzedin al Iraqi, and the Drafting Committee, which groups the Conference Secretariats, Morocco and other countries.


When nominees for George W. Bush’s new cabinet present themselves for confirmation on Capitol Hill, none is assured of an easier ride than General Colin Powell, the former Gulf War Chief-of-Staff who is to become Secretary of State in the new U.S. administration.The Republican conservative ideologues picked for some sensitive domestic portfolios under the Bush II regime are likely to face tough questions from a Senate where Democrat gains in November’s election have brought the two parties to 50:50 parity (although the casting vote will lie with Bush’s deputy Dick Cheney).  But for Powell, who is widely perceived as “an authentic American hero” and a symbol of black success in public life, the confirmation process is a foregone conclusion.