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Only the most bullish analysts think the trends that pushed crude oil prices upwards in February – when Brent gained 18% (rising to $62/bbl), the largest monthly increase since May 2009 – are more that a short-term boost. Brent crude fell by more than 3% on 2 March, to around $60/bbl, on a range of news (suggestions that Iran could reach a nuclear deal, Libyan crude output rising and the dollar strengthening). But fundamentals are likely to hold down prices during 2015, led by record high global stocks and continued Saudi determination to see off challenges to its market share.

Saudi Arabia
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The deportation of scores of Lebanese Shia from Abu Dhabi and two foreign ministry warnings against non-essential travel to Lebanon have strained relations with Beirut, prompting an emergency visit by President Michel Sleiman to the Emirates on 6 June.

United Arab Emirates (UAE)
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Clashes between the Iraqi army and Sunni insurgents in the Sunni majority province of Anbar over the past three months mean that voting cannot take place in many localities on 30 April. On 1 April, Iraq’s Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) confirmed what many analysts had predicted, that while balloting will still take place in north-western Anbar in areas such as Rawa and Ana, as well as in some parts of Al-Ramadi, there will be no balloting at all in the city of Fallujah, which comprises one third of the population of Anbar.

Iraq
Issue 1074 - 07 February 2019

UAE: Papal visit

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The UAE hosted Pope Francis on a three-day trip in early February – in a visit which highlighted religious tolerance, but also came up against some thorny political and communal issues.

United Arab Emirates (UAE)
Free

Financing has been confirmed for the Bahrain LNG project, with a syndicate of nine international and regional banks providing a 20-year, $741m loan. The project, which will have a capacity of 800 mcf/d and is due for completion in early 2019, is owned by the local Oil and Gas Holding Company (Nogaholding) and a consortium of Teekay LNG Partners, Gulf Investment Corporation and Samsung C&T.

Bahrain
Free

The announcement on 20 June that the February election in Kuwait was unconstitutional was an unexpected twist in a political drama already thick with confrontations, resignations and involuntary vacations.

Kuwait
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The US has said it will continue to reduce its military forces from Iraq “in light of significant progress towards eliminating the [Islamic State, Isis or IS] Isis threat,” despite evidence that the jihadist movement has become more active this year. In a joint statement issued by the US and Iraqi governments following the 11 June strategic dialogue talks, the two sides said the US would “continue reducing forces from Iraq and discuss with the government of Iraq the status of remaining forces”.

Iraq
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Federal Vice President and Ruler of Dubai Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al-Maktoum (MBR) on 26 April formed the Dubai Nuclear Energy Committee (DNEC), which will be chaired by Saeed Al-Tayer and is attached to the Dubai Supreme Council of Energy. MBR appointed Waleed Ali Salman as vice chairman of the new DNEC, whose technical experts include Dr Riad Belhoul, Dr Abdelkader Al-Khayat; Dr Ali Ahmed and Youssef Nasrallah. MBR on 28 April issued a law renaming the Dubai Foundation for the Museum of the Future.

United Arab Emirates (UAE)
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Neither the Sadrists, Kurds, Sunnis or seculars trust Maliki, and so all will have a strong interest in reducing the relative power of the prime minister. The US and Iran are likely to support this. Is such a restructuring possible and what might it look like? At the outset, the indicators are not encouraging. A ‘government of everyone and no-one’ – where everyone participates but no-one agrees

Iraq
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An upsurge in interest in the tiny emirate puts the spotlight once again on the struggle for power between the aged ruler’s feuding sons

United Arab Emirates (UAE)
Issue 1055 - 08 March 2018

UAE clamps down on unofficial churches

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Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi laid the foundation stone for Abu Dhabi’s first Hindu temple during his mid-February visit. This was seen as a positive step towards official acceptance of religions other than Islam in the UAE. But not everyone is benefitting from greater tolerance.Since mid-2017 the authorities in Dubai have been clamping down on unofficial Christian gatherings, in a campaign that appears to have been stepped up in recent weeks. Last year, religious services and meetings regularly held in school halls were targeted.

United Arab Emirates (UAE)
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The two Gulfstream IV jets which travelled to Istanbul in early October and are believed to have carried the teamresponsible for the disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, are ultimately owned by the state-owned Public Investment Fund (PIF), which is closely associated with Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman. According to Turkish media reports, the planes, with tail numbers HZSK1 and HZSK2, transported 15 senior Saudi officials and intelligence officers who formed the team which targeted Khashoggi.

Saudi Arabia
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CP Sultan: Out of hospital, Musad Bin Abdelaziz: Hospitalised, Mishaal Bin Abdallah: Appointed Najran governor, Abdelrahman Bin Mohammed: Ibn Saud grandson dies, Al-Sauds: Princesses mourned, Abdelaziz Bin Fahd: Geneva holiday

Saudi Arabia
Issue 1071 - 13 December 2018

Smörgåsbord – bringing unity to Yemen

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The news that UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres and UK foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt would join the Yemen peaces talks in Stockholm on 13 December, points to some progress being made in Sweden. UN special envoy Martin Griffiths has worked hard to make the first talks in more than two years a relative success; a new round of consultations is expected to be held in January. One positive factor has been the meeting’s success in bringing the warring sides around not one but two tables: for negotiations and food.

Yemen
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Capital Intelligence (CI) downgraded Oman’s long-term foreign and local currency ratings to A- from A and its short-term foreign and local currency ratings to A2 from A1, on 12 February. The ratings agency said the downgrade was due to a combination of a weaker-than-expected fiscal performance in the first ten months of 2015 and the likely negative consequences of a prolonged period of low oil prices. CI estimates that Oman ran a budget deficit of 17.7% of GDP in 2015; it expects the ratio to rise to 20% this year.

Oman