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There was considerable fanfare surrounding the release of Saudi consul to Aden Abdullah Al-Khalidi nearly three years after he was kidnapped. Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Nayef (MBN) personally called Khalidi and his family as soon as he crossed the border from Yemen on 2 March, and he, Mohammed Bin Salman and Abdelaziz Bin Abdullah met him at the airport in Riyadh. King Salman ordered a private home to be found for Khalidi, and gave him a medal at the Al-Yamamah palace.

Saudi Arabia
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Iran has begun production of its first solid-fuel missile and unveiled a number of new home-grown, remote-controlled vehicles, adding to a string of recent defence equipment announcements. Defence minister Brigadier General Hossein Dehqan unveiled the Zolfaqar missile, which has a range of 700km, in Bandar Abbas on 21 September. Solid fuel offers advantages to Tehran, as it is easier to handle than liquid fuel and allows missiles to be fired more quickly. The Zolfaqar’s unveiling was followed on 26 September with the launches in Tehran by army ground force commander Brigadier General Ahmad Reza Pourdastan of an armed, remote-controlled, four-wheel drive robot.

Iran
Issue 1028 - 15 December 2016

Prince Salman: Visit to UAE

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Crown Prince and First Deputy Prime Minister Prince Salman Bin Hamad Al-Khalifa travelled to Abu Dhabi on 12 December to attend the Fikr 15 conference. On arrival he was received by Sheikh Hamed Bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, chief of Abu Dhabi Crown Prince’s Court. Salman later met Crown Prince Sheikh Mohamed Bin Zayed Al-Nahyan and also visited Khalifa University and the Urban Planning Council.

Bahrain
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Lawyers representing a Russian businesswoman imprisoned in Kuwait have launched legal proceedings against the Kuwait government for what they claim are breaches of a bilateral investment treaty with Russia and an attempt by Kuwait to expropriate $496m in assets.Law firm Crowell & Moring LLP (C&M), which represents Marsha Lazareva, has filed a notice of international arbitration alleging that Kuwait breached the treaty with Russia and has subjected its client to a co-ordinated campaign to damage her reputation and diminish the value of her investments.

Kuwait
Issue 969 - 09 May 2014

Fahd Bin Sultan: Illegal hunting

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Tabuk governor Prince Fahd Bin Sultan Bin Abdelaziz has been featured widely in the international press following allegations that he and his hunting party killed 2,100 Houbara bustards, a species classified as vulnerable, during a three-week safari in Balochistan in January. Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper published details of a report by a member of the Balochistan forest and wildlife department which said the prince hunted for 21 days, from 11 January to 31 January, and hunted 1,977 birds, while other members of his party hunted an additional 123 birds.

Saudi Arabia
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UAE President Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al-Nahyan owns almost £5bn ($6.2bn) worth of property in the UK capital, according to a judgement issued by the High Court in London on 1 May. The revelation came in a case involving claimants Berkeley Square Holdings and 23 other companies incorporated in the British Virgin Islands, of which Sheikh Khalifa is the beneficial owner of all but one; the exception is owned by one of his (unnamed) daughters.

United Arab Emirates (UAE)
Issue 1011 - 04 March 2016

New head of the Qatar Foundation

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Sheikha Hind Bint Hamad Al-Thani, a full sister of Emir Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al-Thani, has been appointed chief executive of the Qatar Foundation (QF), where she will continue in her current role as vice chair. The move was expected. Her mother Sheikha Mozah Bint Nasser Al-Misnad, a key player in the foundation, said that “due to our rapid growth and success, we are now at a key juncture in our history.

Qatar
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The London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) finds itself at the centre of another Gulf-related crisis. Following the furore triggered by the UAE’s decision to stop LSE academic Kristian Coates Ulrichsen from discussing Bahrain at the American University of Sharjah , the university has now cancelled a major Gulf conference planned for London on 25-26 March. The conference, hosted by the LSE Kuwait Programme, was to look at ‘The Arab Spring and the Gulf: Politics, economics and security’; the trigger for the late cancellation was the withdrawal of sponsorship from the Kuwait Foundation for the Advancement of Sciences (KFAS).

Kuwait | United Arab Emirates (UAE)
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Charismatic opposition leader Hassan Mushaima is weighing up the options for future campaigning as he continues to debate whether to join the cleric Sheikh Abdeljalil Al-Mukhdad and 1990s protest leader Abdelwahab Hussain at the head of a new Shia Islamist movement.

Bahrain
Issue 1067 - 19 October 2018

Saudi Arabia: Drone research deal

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King Abdullah University for Science & Technology (KAUST) has signed a deal with United States defence giant Lockheed Martin to co-operate in researching flexible electronics, including the integration of flexible solar cells developed by KAUST into unmanned aerial vehicles (drones). The development could improve the operational endurance of drones, according to KAUST.

Saudi Arabia
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With insurgency adding to an an unstable economic backdrop, Iraq has mustered a potentially important new line of export credit support from the UK, which has agreed to examine up to £1bn ($1.28bn)/yr of support for infrastructure projects over the next ten years. This will be provided through UK Export Finance (UKEF), under a bilateral memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed on 5 March. “UKEF and the government of Iraq are already exploring a number of projects for support under the MoU,” GSN was told by a source at the London-based export credit agency (ECA).

Iraq
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Pressure has been building in Canada, ahead of elections on 19 October, over London, Ontario-based General Dynamics Land Systems-Canada’s C$14.8bn ($11.4bn) sale of light armoured vehicles (LAVs), first announced in February 2014. Described by Conservative Party Prime Minister Stephen Harper as the “largest contract in Canadian history”, the deal has been attacked in televised election debates by the opposition New Democratic Party and Bloc Québécois. Harper has acknowledged that Saudi Arabia may be guilty of human rights violations, but he said that any of Canada’s allies would have signed a similar deal, which is seen as preserving thousands of jobs.

Saudi Arabia
Issue 979 - 17 October 2014

Power shifts into Houthi hands in Yemen

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The Houthi assault on Sanaa has changed the balance of power in Yemen, and brought its political transition to the brink of collapse. After weeks of anti-government marches and protest camps on the edge of the city, Houthi militias took control of the capital in less than 24 hours, the close-quarter battles and artillery bombardment subsiding on 21 September once a number of primary targets had been secured. A ceasefire agreement was hastily drafted, and signed by the Houthis and government later that day.

Yemen
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Like Iraq’s air force, the country’s military helicopter force became a politically sensitive issue after the fall of Saddam Hussein due to the perception that such forces were extensively used in internal repression. It was arguably General Norman Schwarzkopf’s agreement to let Saddam use his helicopters after the 1991 Safwan ceasefire that sealed the fate of the uprising against him at the end of the 1991 Gulf War. Nevertheless, no modern military can function without helicopters, much less one involved in the most intense counter-insurgency in the region. As a result, the modern Iraqi helicopter force is developing faster than other aspects of the country’s air force.

Iraq
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The long-running dispute between centrist/moderate and hardline/principalist elements in the Islamic Republic broke out into the open on 25 February when foreign minister Mohammed Javad Zarif posted his resignation on Instagram. In a subsequent interview with local daily Jomhuori Eslami, he complained that Iranian foreign policy had become the subject of “party and factional fighting.”Zarif’s resignation was ultimately rejected by President Hassan Rouhani, leading to suggestions among some observers that he had been strengthened by the episode.

Iran