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Issue 1063 - 20 July 2018

New Kuwait-Saudi committee

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Kuwait foreign minister Sheikh Sabah Al-Khalid Al-Sabah signed an agreement with his Saudi counterpart Adel Al-Jubeir to set up a bilateral co-ordination council on 18 July. The new council’s role has not been clearly defined. However, it’s the second time in recent months that Riyadh has set up a new bilateral mechanism with a neighbour in an initiative that is bound to raise questions about Riyadh’s commitment to the Gulf Co-operation Council. In June, it finalised a co-ordination council with the UAE.

Kuwait | Saudi Arabia
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Alarm bells have sounded over reports that Saudi Arabia is preparing to sign an unprecedented $2bn arms deal with Russia. Saudi defence procurement is usually the domain of the United States, Britain and France – leading observers to speculate that a geopolitical shift is under way. This might also involve shifting attitudes towards Iran, with Riyadh offering Moscow juicy contracts if it cools relations with Tehran.

Iran | Saudi Arabia
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Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) President Massoud Barzani declared a welcome victory with the 12-13 November ousting of Islamic State (IS, or Daesh) from Sinjar, liberating the Yazidi town more than a year after its traumatic occupation and severing Highway 47, a main supply route between IS-held territory in Iraq and Syria. Following the projection of US-led airpower – the US Department of Defence reported more than 30 airstrikes on Sinjar and surrounding areas during the offensive’s first day – the Kurdish advance, involving an estimated 7,500 troops, was largely unopposed.

Iraq
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Tehran says it has acquired the ability to manufacture nuclear-powered submarines but has not yet decided whether to produce any. In a 3 April interview with the local Mehr News Agency, head of the Ministry of Defence and Armed Forces Logistics’ Marine Industries Organisation Rear Admiral Amir Rastegari said “We have acquired such a knowhow and capability… [but] we have not yet received orders”.

Iran
Issue 845 - 16 January 2009

Emir Sheikh Hamad, Sheikh Abdlaziz

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Emir Sheikh Hamad: Lack of co-ordination over Gaza, Sheikh Abdelaziz: Barclays settles claim

Qatar
Free

Sheikh Isa Bin Rashid Bin Abdulla Al-Khalifa died on 12 March, according to a statement from the Royal Court. Sheikh Isa, who was 82 years-old, was president of the Bahrain Football Association from 1974 to 1988 and later its honorary president. National security advisor and Supreme Council for Youth and Sports Affairs chairman Sheikh Nasser Bin Hamad Al-Khalifa was among those to pay tribute, praising Isa’s “lifetime prolific march to serve the Kingdom of Bahrain in all fields and contributions in laying the foundations for the sectors of youth and sports.”

Bahrain
Issue 936 - 22 November 2012

Kuwaiti Tweeters detained

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Four Twitter users in Kuwait have been detained for ten days for insulting the emir, according to local newspapers. Seven people described as opposition sympathisers were arrested on 14 November, and remanded in police custody pending investigation into tweets deemed offensive and critical of Emir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmed Al-Sabah.

Kuwait
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A rumour that newly appointed General Intelligence Directorate (GID) chief Prince Bandar Bin Sultan Bin Abdelaziz has been killed has diverted attention from the reasons for his 19 July appointment. King Abdullah has chosen Bandar, ambassador to Washington from 1983 to 2005, for a top job that many thought beyond him following his two-year absence from the public eye.

Saudi Arabia
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Sultan Haitham Bin Tarik Bin Taimour Al-Said reshuffled personnel in a number of key diplomatic posts in the Gulf and beyond, in the series of decrees announced on 9 March. Abdullah Bin Nasser Bin Musallam Al-Rahbi has been transferred from permanent representative at the United Nations in Geneva to become ambassador to the UAE, taking over from Khalid Bin Said Bin Salim Al-Jaradi. Idris Bin Abdurrahman Bin Issa Al-Khanjari replaces Al-Rahbi at the UN in Switzerland. Ibrahim Bin Ahmed Bin Mohammed Al-Muaini was named ambassador to Iran, replacing Saud Bin Ahmed Bin Khalid Al-Barwani.

Oman
Issue 922 - 26 April 2012

Electoral officials arrested

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The head of Iraq’s electoral commission, Faraj Al Haidari, and one of its members, Karim Al Tamimi, were arrested on 12 April on corruption charges, and spent three days in jail before being released after posting bail of $12,900.

Iraq
Issue 1032 - 23 February 2017

Emir Sheik Tamim: Erdogan visit

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Emir Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al-Thani on 15 February hosted Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan who was in town for a short visit. Talks were held at the Emiri Diwan and attended by Deputy Emir Sheikh Abdullah Bin Hamad Al-Thani and various ministers. Erdogan and the emir, along with two of his young sons, also visited the Mall of Qatar, which opened in December 2016, and were seen looking at a Turkish restaurant which recently opened there.

Qatar
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Saudi-backed cargo aircraft, the Antonov AN-132D, had a successful maiden flight from the manufacturer’s airfield near the Ukrainian capital Kiev on 31 March. The one hour, 50 minute flight was captained by Victor Goncharov alongside co-pilot Bohdan Zagoruyko, both from Antonov. They were accompanied by test pilot Major General (retired) Captain Mohammed Bin Saeed Ayash of Saudi Arabia’s Taqnia Aeronautics Company. Saudi coverage described him as piloting the plane alongside a crew of Ukrainian pilots and technicians. The AN-132D is being developed by Antonov in close co-operation with ТTaqnia and King Abdelaziz City for Science and Technology (KACST).

Saudi Arabia
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In what appears to be a reconciliatory gesture towards what Riyadh sees as Yemeni rebels, Saudi foreign minister Adel Al-Jubeir has described the Houthis as being an intrinsic part of Yemeni society. “Whether we agree or disagree with them, the Houthis are part of the social fabric of Yemen,” he tweeted on 13 May. “However, Al-Qaeda and [Islamic State] Daesh are terrorist entities that must be confronted in Yemen and everywhere else,” he added, in a follow-on tweet. The tweets prompted the circulation of an Arabic-language hashtag on Twitter meaning ‘Al-Jubeir the Houthis are our neighbours’.

Yemen
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South Yemen continues to be the focus of tensions within the Saudi-led coalition, as the power vacuum created by war has enlivened historical animosities and provided both opportunity and incentive for local politicians to pursue greater self-rule. This has been highlighted by fighting between groups backed by different coalition members – notably the Southern Transition Council (STC) backed by the UAE and forces allied to the internationally recognised President Abed Rabbou Mansour Hadi, supported by Saudi Arabia.

Yemen
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Ruler Sheikh Sultan Bin Mohammed Al-Qasimi, who is president of the University of Sharjah, on 4 June underlined longstanding support for the arts when he opened the university’s College of Fine Arts and Design graduate show. Sheikh Sultan is also president of the American University of Sharjah (AUS), where, on 12 June, he chaired a trustees meeting that agreed measures to further promote AUS’ ambitions to become a significant research university.

United Arab Emirates (UAE)