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Issue 1116 - 10 December 2020

UAE: 49th National Day

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Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al-Maktoum and Abu Dhabi Crown Prince and UAE Armed Forces deputy supreme commander Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Al-Nahyan attended 2 December celebrations for the 49th UAE National Day.

United Arab Emirates (UAE)
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Risk Management Report – GSN Risk Grade – D↓4↓ Overview Politics: Disagreements between the autonomous Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI) and the federal Iraqi government in Baghdad have been a source of major tensions. The 2005 constitution gave the KRI an identity distinct from Iraq, as a federal entity recognised by Iraq and the United Nations; the 2010 Erbil agreement outlined how power would be shared. The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) has long protested these agreements’ lack of implementation.

Iraq
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Persuading even vaccinated passengers to take to the skies for long-haul travel will not be easy for an aviation sector that has been hit hard by the Covid-19 crisis. As airlines retrench, led by Etihad, strategies are having to be rethought and consolidation might be unavoidable for an industry that built its extraordinary growth on a global travel boom that has gone into reverse this year.

Saudi Arabia | Bahrain | Oman | Qatar
Issue 1117 - 07 January 2021

Leaders first in line for inoculations  

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Vaccination programmes have begun across the Gulf. Rulers and politicians have been publicly rolling up their sleeves to get a shot, with local newspapers praising their leaders for inspiring confidence among the local population that the vaccines are safe to receive.

Kuwait | Saudi Arabia | Bahrain | Oman | United Arab Emirates (UAE) | Qatar
Issue 1117 - 07 January 2021

No stars in Qatari eyes

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The deal at Al-Ula reflected Qatar’s determination to achieve a close to the three and a half-year boycott, but only on terms that didn’t compromise Emir Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al-Thani, sources in Doha told GSN. “Qatar has been ready to come to the table for a while, so long as they didn’t have to cross red lines,” a Doha-based analyst said – which would mean not cutting ties with Iran and Turkey, or declaring the Houthis in Yemen or Al-Ikhwan Al-Muslimeen (the Muslim Brotherhood) are ‘terrorists’.

Qatar
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The Royal Saudi Naval Force (RSNF) inducted its new Sikorsky MH-60R Seahawk helicopters into its fleet at a late December ceremony, overseen by RSNF commander Lieutenant General Fahd Bin Abdullah Al-Ghufaili and Eastern Fleet deputy commander Rear Admiral Ahmed Al-Buraikan.

Saudi Arabia
Issue 1117 - 07 January 2021

Saudi Arabia: New faces at PIF

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The powerful Public Investment Fund (PIF) in mid-December said its total employee count had surpassed 1,000, with 300 staff joining in 2020 as Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman’s pet entity beefed up its team. A few days later the fund announced the appointment of several more senior management members.  The fund remains very busy, with major new investments in the defence and security sectors.

Saudi Arabia
Issue 1117 - 07 January 2021

Cabinet comeback for Kuwait’s Al-Salem

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The Al-Salem branch of Kuwait’s ruling Al-Sabah family is gaining in influence once again, having been given two key cabinet posts by prime minister Sheikh Sabah Al-Khaled Al-Hamad Al-Sabah in December, following the National Assembly (parliament) elections.

Kuwait
Free

Federal Vice President and prime minister, and Dubai Ruler Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al-Maktoum (MBR) officially joined the TikTok social media network on 19 December.

United Arab Emirates (UAE)
Free

GSN’s year-end Perspective/Agenda feature provides a look back – and forwards – at key events across the region in 2020-21. It gives an opportunity to update the Risk Grades included with each of our regular Risk management reports. After another year of tragedy, Yemen is effectively a failed state (rated F6, the bottom political and financial grades). Qatar has shown itself to be robust in the face of its neighbours’ boycott, its finances warranting an upgrade to 1, putting it on a par with the UAE. Iraq’s political standoffs and financial woes remain deeply troubling, but the situation is improving rather than deteriorating and the prospect of higher oil prices next year should help further; it has been upgraded from E5↑ to D4↓. Oman’s fiscal challenges continue to mount, prompting a downgrade of its economic rating to 3. 

Iran | Kuwait | Saudi Arabia | Bahrain | Yemen | Oman | United Arab Emirates (UAE) | Iraq | Qatar
Issue 1118 - 21 January 2021

Bahrain/UAE: US major security partners

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In one of its last decisions on the region, the Trump administration on 15 January designated the UAE and Bahrain as “major security partners” of the United States. A White House statement described the move as recognising the “exceptional security partnership” and commitment of both countries to counter extremism in the region.

Bahrain | United Arab Emirates (UAE)
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While analysts were puzzling over who would succeed Sultan Qaboos, Sayyid Haitham Bin Tariq was quietly drawing up plans for the personnel and policies he would need if – and when – he took over from the ailing  ruler. GSN understands that the recent spate of key appointments and policy announcements are the fruit of thinking that evolved while the sultan’s uncle, who died one year ago, was still alive. These moves are refashioning Oman as Haitham would like – with the prospect of a few more eye-catching announcements to come as the sultan completes the initial implementation of his plans.

Oman
Issue 1118 - 21 January 2021

Oman: UK frigate repaired at Duqm

Free

Royal Navy frigate HMS Montrose has undergone a four-week programme of repairs and performance improvements at Duqm Naval Dockyard, at a cost of some £506,000 ($690,000), British junior defence minister Jeremy Quin said in an answer to a written parliamentary question on 14 January.

Oman
Issue 1118 - 21 January 2021

No let up in Bahrain-Qatar tensions

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Disputes continue to fester between Doha and Manama, despite the early January Gulf Co-operation Council reconciliation deal. Bahrain has reopened its airspace to Qatari aircraft and invited Doha to send an official delegation to iron out bilateral issues, but it has also complained bitterly about its fishing boats being detained after allegedly straying into Qatari waters. The arrest of Bahraini bodybuilder Sami Al-Haddad earlier this month while on a fishing trip was a particular bone of contention.

Bahrain | Qatar
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Israel's chargé d'affaires to Bahrain Itay Tagner has held initial meetings with officials following his appointment. On 13 January, Tagner held talks with Ministry of Foreign Affairs undersecretary for international affairs Sheikh Abdullah Bin Ahmed Al-Khalifa.

Bahrain | United Arab Emirates (UAE)