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The King is sticking to a reform path, having reinforced his control over family and government power structures, but the pace of change remains cautious and even with the Kingdom awash with liquidity major challenges remain for the Saudi leadership. GSN examines the direction of Abdullah’s rule some three years after the respected elder statesman took over the top job.

Issue 44 - 07 April 1981



SAUDI INDUSTRY and Electricity Minister Ghazi al-Qusaibi, has hastened to reassure bidding companies that the Bahrain causeway contract will be let soon. His pledge is important because several of the competing firms are becoming, not unjustifiably, impatient with the costly delay to the project. Unfortunately, such delays are all too common on large-scale projects in Saudi Arabia. Some firms involved with the Bahrain causeway scheme are already believed to have withdrawn from the bidding. Although the more confident of the remaining companies hope that the contract will be awarded by this summer, past experience hardly justifies optimism and firms may have to wait even longer.


The influential and sometimes intimidating role in overseeing and brokering oil exploration contracts played by a senior Talabani family member Bafal Talabani – now a leading figure in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq’s fight against Islamic State (IS or Daesh) – has been exposed in the English Commercial Court. To considerable embarrassment for the participants, the mid-April hearing explored the dealings underpinning the Kurdamir PSC, one of the longest-running production-sharing contracts in the region, over six days. Depending on the result, it could be extremely costly for Canada-based international oil company (IOC) WesternZagros Resources Ltd (WZR). The episode adds to concerns over governance in the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) area, which is central to efforts to counter IS.

Issue 605 - 22 February 1999

Recycling the Iraqi Opposition


The Iraqi opposition's latest plan of action can be summarised in a few sentences: when everything else fails re-cycle the same old ideas about knocking Saddam off his perch through the creation of a safe-haven – but in the south this time not in the north. Pray that disaffected army units and a few pro-West generals will take refuge in this safe haven and eventually encourage the army to revolt. Talk about uniting the Iraqi opposition and even appoint a special US representative for Iraq's transition. And just to make sure Saddam is well informed, publish articles about your plans in the western press.

Issue 600 - 30 November 1998

Playing Politics with UNSCOM


Within four days of the resumption of UNSCOM inspections in Iraq, the British and American governments once again found themselves threatening air strikes. Baghdad’s initial co-operativeness quickly disappeared once the US and UK backed UNSCOM demands that documents relating to Iraq’s weapons programmes be handed over.

Issue 459 - 20 April 1993



The recent decision by the western powers not to make the removal from power of President Saddam Hussein a condition for the lifting of sanctions against Iraq is merely making a virtue out of necessity. There is in fact very little the western powers are able or are willing to do about consigning Saddam Hussein to the dustbin of history. The dropping of Saddam Hussein's enforced departure from the western political agenda for Iraq has not, however, at all diminished the fervour and the activities of the Iraqi political opposition groups.

Issue 73 - 08 June 1982



Marking the first anniversary of the Gulf Co-operation Council (May 25th), ministers of the member states and Council officials issued the customary statements extolling the achievements and contributions of the organisation. Some of the commemorative comments were fairly well deserved; the Council has undoubtedly made progress in certain areas of its endeavours.

Issue 97 - 17 May 1983



The Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) has taken a new initiative in the continuing war between Iran and Iraq, following the emergency GCC Foreign Ministers' meeting held earlier this month. The Foreign Ministers' agreement to make another effort to end the conflict caused the postponement of the regular ministerial session of GCC foreign ministers, which was to have been held on May 15

Issue 145 - 09 September 1980

The great oil glut deepens


The 1980 oil glut is turning out even deeper than the Saudis (and the West) expected, but given Saudi Arabia's anger with the United States over its inability to prevent Israel annexing East Jerusalem (MEN 25 August 1980) this could prompt the princes in Riyadh to cut back oil production very sharply indeed. For short periods, oil output might even drop well below the official 8.5 million bid ceiling.

Issue 303 - 12 January 1987



As the New Year dawned over the Iran/Iraq battlefield, the prospects for a resolution of the six-year conflict looked as remote as they have ever done. The conventional wisdom of 1986 seemed to hold equally good for 1987. Despite its technical superiority, Iraq cannot win because it cannot do more than defend its territory; Iran cannot lose, however, because it has many more soldiers and, apparently, fewer qualms about casualties.

Issue 333 - 21 March 1988



The ceasefire agreed last week in the Iran/lraq war of the cities lasted only two days: it resumed, in a welter of charges and counter-charges by the two belligerents, with increased ferocity. Before the fragile truce came into force, more than 100 missiles had been fired, about 70 launched by Iraq and over 30 by Iran. Since then, much the same ratio of missile strikes has been maintained. The concentrated missile barrages have introduced a new and savage ingredient into the Gulf war. There is no longer any pretence that military targets are the objectives; the missile attacks are meant to cause civilian casualties and in this they are horribly effective

Issue 308 - 23 March 1987



Just how much does the regime in Tehran control the activities of the Hezbollah in (what is now called) South Beirut? Or, perhaps the question is, which faction in Iran's clerical hierarchy pulls the strings in Lebanon, and how many strings does it have? The Western powers, whose hostages are now more at risk than ever, have scarcely any idea.

Issue 64 - 01 February 1982



The Reagan Administration in the United Stated is expected to smash all records for foreign arms sales during the current fiscal year. And, according to closely guarded Pentagon calculations, more than half of the anticipated total is accounted for by Saudi Arabia alone.

Issue 388 - 26 June 1990



Kuwait has a new national council following elections held last week, marking at least a partial return to parliamentary democracy for the first time since the national assembly was dissolved by the ruler, Sheikh Jaber al Ahmed, in 1986. The vote, however, will not resolve the confrontation between the government and ex-members of the last parliament about the restoration of constitutional democracy.


Plans for the development of northern Kuwait get ever more grandiose, but much depends on improved regional relations if Bubiyan island is to be developed as its backers would like.