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Subscriber

The series of blows to Saudi-US ties over the past few months have left the relationship, if not flat out on the canvas, then at least on the ropes. But with a new administration soon to take over in Washington DC, there is at least the opportunity to reset the connection between the two countries in a few months’ time – assuming Hillary Clinton prevails over Donald Trump in the presidential election. How a Trump presidency would relate to the kingdom is a ‘known unknown’.

Saudi Arabia
Subscriber

Emir Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al-Thani’s first foreign visit as head of state was a one-day trip to Saudi Arabia on 2 August. After flying to King Abdulaziz International airport, he performed Umrah (the lesser pilgrimage), and then met King Abdullah Bin Abdelaziz, who hosted an iftar banquet in his honour. Post-Ramadan, Tamim has had a number of meetings with foreign officials. In late August, French defence minister Jean-Yves Le Drian was in Doha for meetings with Tamim and state minister for defence affairs Hamad Bin Ali Al-Attiyah (chief of staff under Tamim’s father).

Saudi Arabia | Qatar
Issue 948 - 06 June 2013

Kuwait: Anti-corruption authority

Subscriber

The government has approved the formation of Kuwait’s first anti- corruption authority, according to state news agency Kuna. On 3 June, Kuna said the cabinet had met and approved a draft decree to establish the authority, which will be chaired by Abdulrahman Saleh Al-Namash. His deputy was named as Riyadh Humoud Al-Hajri, and five board members were also appointed.

Kuwait
Issue 1056 - 22 March 2018

UAE: Air-to-air missiles

Free

The UAE is to buy several hundred air-to-air missiles and related guidance units and other support equipment from the United States, at a cost of $270m. The deal covers 300 AIM-9X-2 Sidewinder Block II missiles, 40 AIM-9X-2 Sidewinder Captive Air Training Missiles and 45 guidance units. The equipment from Raytheon Missile Systems Company is destined for the UAE Air Force.

United Arab Emirates (UAE)
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The new head of the religious police, or Mutaween, was summoned by King Abdullah Bin Abdelaziz following growing anger at the force’s heavy-handed tactics, according to the Saudi press.

Saudi Arabia
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The secretary-general of the main opposition group Al-Wefaq Sheikh Ali Salman, was charged on 28 December with inciting the denigration of another social sect and spreading lies which could jeopardise national security. Al-Wefaq says the charges are politically motivated. With the political process stalled, all sides have been increasingly frustrated; while Salman has often been brought in for questioning, the government’s willingness to charge such a senior opposition figure is a significant development. The official trigger for his prosecution was a sermon delivered at Al-Imam Al-Sadiq mosque in Manama on 27 December, which the state news agency BNA said contained sectarian language and “fuelled acts of rioting, violence and sabotage across Bahrain, which left several on-duty policemen injured”. After being charged, Salman was released, but barred from travelling pending investigation.

Bahrain
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While Western 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

Yemen
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The risks previously associated with doing business in Kurdistan – offending the federal government and discoveries being shut in by Baghdad’s refusal to recognise PSCs – has sparked significant new interest from large IOCs

Iraq
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While the Abu Dhabi economy diversifies, with an expanded private sector role, the traditionally critical role of government remains centre stage when it comes to development strategy and the senior emirate’s undisguised ambition to present itself as a model for environmentally aware development in the Middle East. The Urban Structure Framework Plan – called Plan Abu Dhabi 2030 – is spectacularly ambitious, and also a significant turning point in its attempt to shift the balance of development away from the present coastal waterfront.

United Arab Emirates (UAE)
Free

Chastened by the failure of past stabilisation and state-building efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq, military leaders in Europe and North America have, in recent years, argued strongly that any campaign in the region should be linked to a ‘holistic’ strategy, encompassing political, economic and social reconstruction, as well as the successful projection of military power. This is seen as essential so as not to leave ‘ungoverned spaces’ for the likes of Islamic State (IS, aka Isis or Daesh).

Iraq
Subscriber

The Ministry of Commerce and Industry’s much-criticised circular informing Saudi businesswomen of the need to appoint a male general manager is not the law, “but [it is] what is happening in Saudi Arabia”, Princess Loulwa Al-Faisal Bin Abdelaziz told GSN.

Saudi Arabia
Subscriber

With the Yemeni military preoccupied by domestic power plays, Saudi Arabia is looking to other local proxies – some linked to ultra-radical Islamists – to help contain the perceived Al Houthi threat to the Kingdom’s security. But it is increasingly likely that the Saudi military will again engage directly in northern Yemen, with talk of revenge as well as containment following the Houthi’s 2009 victory the last time Riyadh intervened

Saudi Arabia | Yemen
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Oman’s main sovereign wealth fund, the State General Reserve Fund (SGRF), said on 9 March that it was joining with Oman Brunei Investment Company (OBIC), a 50/50 venture between SGRF and Brunei Investment Agency, to set up Oman Brunei Aviation Leasing Company (OBALC), with capital of OR200m ($520m). OBALC will invest in and manage the purchase and lease of commercial aircraft, operated by airlines in the Middle East and globally.

Oman
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United States: In 2008, Saudi Arabia and the US signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to co-operate on developing environmentally sustainable, safe and secure civilian nuclear energy, but negotiations on a so-called 123 agreement have not been concluded. Failure to complete them and have them ratified by the US Senate would prevent US nuclear companies from significant transfers of nuclear material, equipment or components to Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia
Issue 1011 - 04 March 2016

Oman: America’s Cup success

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In a region where its neighbours are more usually associated with projecting soft power and personal prestige through the promotion of glitzy sporting and leisure events, the sultanate achieved a major (if relatively quiet) success when it became the first Middle East country to host an America’s Cup yacht racing. The Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series Oman took in waters off Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Qatar, but it was organised by Oman Sail, established in 2008, and heavily sponsored by Omani government departments and corporations; it ended in Muscat on 28 February with Sir Ben Ainslie’s BAR team winning a tightly fought series.

Oman