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The massive attack launched on the critical Saudi Aramco oil processing facilities at Khurais and Abqaiq early on 14 September was not just another drone strike by the Houthis – as the Yemeni movement claimed – but in all likelihood was launched from Iran, reflecting the extent that the Islamic Republic has emerged as a significant military power. As well as placing unexpected new pressures on the global oil market, it pitched Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman (MBS) and the Saudi leadership into yet another crisis – of how to respond against an enemy that has shown it has the commitment and wherewithal to do great damage – and US President Donald Trump, who newly shorn of his hawkish national security advisor (NSA) John Bolton must articulate a credible response.

Issue 609 - 20 April 1999

Jordan’s Ambitious Agenda


King Abdullah of Jordan has made an ambitious start to his reign. At home, his government has announced a sweeping policy programme. Abroad won plaudits during a tour of the Gulf and reportedly even initiated discussion on possible Jordanian membership of the GCC.


Saudi Arabian Oil Company (Saudi Aramco)’s future has come under intense scrutiny as potentially momentous reforms to the Saudi economy unfold, driven by Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman (MBS). The increased transparency implied by Aramco’s much-anticipated initial public offering (IPO) could force a significant change in the way the national oil company (NOC) does business. More detailed reserves and production data might emerge that would confirm whether skeptics – such as the late oil investment banker Matthew Simmons, who over a decade ago questioned the giant Ghawar field’s performance – are correct in arguing that Saudi reserves are much diminished from the authorities’ claims. This, in turn, would explain the urgency of the MBS team’s efforts to develop the non-oil economy and pose further questions about the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec)’s relevance.


WhileWestern governments have been fretting over Yemen’s jihadist threat, Ali Abdullah Saleh is confronted by other challenges. Overt opposition from the influential Sheikh Tareq Bin Nasser Al-Fadhli is accelerating a gathering confrontation between the Sanaa regime and an embittered and neglected southern population – which holds the risk of a disastrous new conflict splitting the troubled Yemeni state.

Issue 504 - 13 February 1995

Kurdistan Implodes


The internal conflicts which have characterised Kurdish revolts inevitably raise the question whether the worst enemies of Kurdish national aspirations are the governments that have so brutally oppressed the Kurds over the past 60 years, or whether almost as great an impediment has been less visible, the fragmentary nature of Kurdish society and the less than national aspirations of many of its more traditionally minded people.

Issue 191 - 13 July 1982



IN OUR PREVIOUS ISSUE (Gulf States N°.190) we analysed the strategic and military implications for Iraq of the effective Iranian victory in the Gulf war. The political and economic consequences are just as substantial. In our second article, we consider the long-term significance in those fields of Iraq's unsuccessful war.


The Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) summit was again overshadowed by the crisis pitting Qatar against the GCC-3 of Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the UAE (GSN 1,040/1). Qatar attended the 9 December summit – although Emir Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al-Thani was one of three heads of state who stayed away from the annual meeting, this year held in Riyadh – but 18 months after the GCC-3’s boycott was launched against Doha it is becoming ever harder to paper over the cracks of regional disunity. There was no sign of any unexpected radical shift in key leaders’ thinking, leaving a consensus that the one-day summit had achieved nothing other than to entrench existing positions.

Issue 640 - 11 July 2000

Dredging Up The Past (II)


As well as bringing disaster to Kuwait, the August 1990 Iraqi invasion has become synonymous to many Arabs with a decline in the political fortunes of the Arab world and the onset of paralysis in Arab regional organisations. Arab media and inter-Arab diplomacy focuses on two recurrent themes –


Colonel Qadhafis most prominent son has an impressive network of friends in the Gulf monarchies, which is good news for all concerned as Libya opens up to its own special version of economic libe...


OPEC's Vienna meeting broke up in almost complete failure with only Saudi Arabia's unilateral price rise keeping hope of a compromise alive. The hawks will not be won over to Saudi Arabia's indexing formula which they feel will tie down future price prospects too firmly. Paradoxically, even if they agreed the majority formula world probably prove quite unworkable.

Issue 437 - 02 June 1992



In the new world order so bravely predicated by President Bush after the overwhelming allied victory in the war against Iraq, there was a generally-held supposition that the future stability and security of the Gulf region was safely assured. It was also widely supposed that the main burden of Gulf regional defence would be carried by the US and its western allies and that the Gulf Arab countries would not have to concern themselves too directly with the defence of the region.


The politics were long in the making before the crisis erupted between Qatar and three major Gulf Cooperation Council partners turned adversaries – Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the UAE (the ‘GCC-3’) – plus Egypt and other allies from the wider Muslim world, but several of the immediate consequences emerging from the conflict are nevertheless unexpected.

Issue 633 - 04 April 2000

Iraq Trip


Whilst it is unclear whether the ‘Iraq Trip Report’ recently released by a number of US Democrat and independent congressional staffers will prompt a major reconsideration of US policy on Iraqi sanctions, the report contains many interesting observations on the state of Iraqi society, on its economic prospects and on the future of UN operations in the country. Though only recently released, the report describes the August 1999 trip made by five US legislators to Iraq, and their conclusions on the issues of sanctions and depleted uranium-related illnesses.


Excellence in sport and political ambition, even recognition by the Davos forum as next generation global leaders, mark out the elite of twentysomething Gulf royals at least those in the ruling ...


The detention of Emiratis critical of government policies shows the government is in no mood for a ‘people’s coup’. But the arrests have also shone a light on the country’s vibrant and diverse reform movement