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Issue 110 - 28 November 1983

A PUNISHING SCHEDULE

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BRITISH DEFENCE MINISTER, Michael Heseltine, is to make a two-day visit to Saudi Arabia in mid-December, for defence and political talks with the Saudi authorities. Government sources in London have confirmed that the talks between the British minister and his Saudi counterparts will cover mutual defence interests, the Iran-Iraq war, the Arab-Israeli dispute and the situation in the Lebanon. The London sources say that Heseltine's visit reflects the great importance the British government attaches to political and defence relations with the kingdom.

Issue 48 - 09 June 1981

GULF COOPERATIVE COUNCIL LAUNCHED

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THE FIRST SUMMIT meeting of the newly formed- Gulf Cooperative Council (GCC) was concluded recently in the UAE. The two-day summit was attended by leaders from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Bahrain and the UAE, who have announced their intention to operate within the framework of the Council to strengthen security and stability in the region. Many informed observers that the region has never recovered from a recent series of political incidents such as the fall of the Shah of Iran, the seizure of the Grand Mosque in Mecca, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and, last but not least, the conflict between the neighbouring states of Iraq and Iran.

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Protesters call for widespread demonstrations on 14 February, undeterred by continuing clashes with riot police; rights groups say little has changed since the completion of an official inquiry into last year’s violence

Issue 596 - 06 October 1998

Kurdistan’s Tangled Web

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Nothing is ever as it seems in northern Iraq. Washington may have succeeded in bringing Jalal Talabani and Masoud Barzani together but does this represent more of a blow to Saddam or to Turkey? Is this latest US-mediated Kurdish agreement likely to contribute to America’s attempts to revitalise the Iraqi opposition? The answers to these questions are not at all clear – there are simply too many tangled strands and rival interests at stake in northern Iraq.

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Piqued again by OPEC's failure to move back towards unified oil prices, the Saudis have boosted their own price by $2 and let it be known that they will continue lifting an extra 1 million b/d indefinitely. The fight is now on again for the next level of oil prices, with the Saudis lined up against the hawks. The Saudis appear this time to have every intention of winning.

Issue 981 - 13 November 2014

Sultan Qaboos to miss Oman National Day

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Sultan Qaboos Bin Said Al-Said will not be in Oman for the national holiday to mark his 74th birthday on 18 November. In the absence of official detail about the medical condition which has kept him away from home for more than four months, much significance had been placed on whether or not he would return for the National Day, when he usually oversees a military parade in Muscat; the announcement by a frail-looking Qaboos that he would not come, in a 5 November televised address, has been widely read as a bad sign. “It has been the Almighty’s divine will that the anniversary coincides with a time when we are out of the country, for reasons which you know,” the sultan read from a statement. “Praise be to the Almighty, for he has realised good results for us, that require us to proceed with the medical programme in the period which follows.”

Issue 434 - 21 April 1992

IRAN: THE ROUT OF THE RADICALS

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Ever since the 1979 revolution, Iran's Majlis (parliament) has been stronghold of the so-called hardline or radical elements of the Khomeinist movement which swept aside the regime of the late Shah on an unprecedented and irresistible wave of populist emotion. The Majlis has been an ideal platform for the considerable faction of clerical extremists and political radicals of Iran's Islamic revolution, who had a majority in the parliament, from which they have been able to trumpet their angry slogans of hatred and hostility about everyone who did not share their vengeful outlook and about everything that seems counter to their narrow and fanatic understanding.

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Qatari notables are lining up to sit in the new parliament, after elections, probably to be held in 2005. As civil society gains momentum, can this tiny emirate provide a model for locally-inspired political development?

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The institutionalised use of illicit payments as a marketing tool is revealed in documents seen by GSN that describe business practices at one of the most important Bahrain-based industrial companies.

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President Bush has left ‘all options open’ in the standoff over Iran’s nuclear ambitions, and European governments are venting their frustration over Tehran’s approach – but a long period of attrition, rather than any hot war, beckons. Sanctions may eventually beckon, but first more “messy, dirty, slug-it-out diplomacy” beckons.

Issue 494 - 06 September 1994

Iran: The Opposition Resurgent?

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The violence which has wracked Iran in recent weeks has focused the spotlight on Iran's opposition groups. Major demonstrations in Qazvin in early August followed bombings of religious sites in June. These events, combined with the Islamic Republic's worsening economic situation, put in question the long term stability of the regime. The opposition movement, the National Council of Resistance (NCR) claims that it is ready to mount the final military offensive that will topple a crumbling system. Other observers are less apocalyptic in their assessments but they acknowledge that Rafsanjani's "moderate" course is running out of steam.

Issue 185 - 24 November 1986

THE DEFENCE DIMENSION

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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.

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Confronted with another ratcheting up of international and regional pressure, Tehran has a number of proxy conflicts in which it can make life uncomfortable for its enemies – and President Ahmadinejad and his allies seem determined to flex their muscles over neighbouring Iraq as the US prepares for its end-year military withdrawal

Issue 156 - 01 October 1985

DEFENCE DECISIONS

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The news of Saudi Arabia's four billion dollar arms deal with Britain, under which the kingdom is to buy 72 high performance Tornado strike aircraft and 30 Hawk jet training planes, together with missiles, radar, spares and supporting equipment, has been received with low-key equanimity in Washington, made the subject of only modest rejoicing in London, and given the most meagre coverage in Riyadh.

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Since coming to power in June 2013, Emir Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al-Thani has seemed determined to lead a traditional rentier state into the 21st century amid a complex regional security environment and declining hydrocarbons revenue. He has done so by ditching the approach of ‘Father Emir’ Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al-Thani, purging many of the old guard and creating far stronger oversight mechanisms to control ministers and their spending. The emir’s approach is a case study for cutting government spending but also in consolidating control by centralising power.