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Issue 935 - 08 November 2012

Second phase of BICI payouts begins

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Bahrain has begun a second phase of compensation payments totalling around $6m to the families of 35 people killed during the 2011 uprising. The payments relate to deaths described in detail in the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) report, whose recommendations Manama has been under pressure to implement.

Bahrain
Issue 991 - 24 April 2015

Saudi Arabia: Another minister fired

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King Salman Bin Abdelaziz dismissed health minister Ahmed Bin Aqeel Al-Khatib on 10 April, and appointed minister of state Mohammed Bin Abdelmalik Al Al-Sheikh acting health minister. No reason was given for the royal decree, but it followed the posting online of a video in which Al-Khatib was seen to be having an argument with a citizen. Al Arabiya, generally seen as close to the Saudi government, said the brief video clip showed Al-Khatib dismissing the citizen, who wanted his father moved to a private hospital in Riyadh, and that Prince Mohammed Bin Salman (MBS), son of the king and chief of the royal court.

Saudi Arabia
Issue 952 - 02 August 2013

Qaradawi’s fate unclear


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One key bellwether of Qatari intentions is the fate of Egyptian cleric and Muslim Brotherhood spiritual leader Yusuf Al-Qaradawi. He has been a resident in Doha for decades, helping Qatar draw for itself an Islamic identity separate from its traditionally overbearing Saudi neighbour. Qatar’s indigenous class of religious scholars belong to the Wahhabi school of Salafi thought, beholden to Saudi Arabia and puritanical in its thought and practice, but Qaradawi and his followers functioned as a moderating influence on the population and the clerics. Qaradawi helped Doha establish its own religious identity and prevent its ulama from evolving into a class completely under the thumb of Riyadh-based peers.

Qatar
Issue 955 - 04 October 2013

Bahrain: King Hamad visits China


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King Hamad Bin Isa Al-Khalifa returned to Bahrain on 18 September after an official visit to China at the invitation of President Xi Jinping. It was King Hamad’s first visit to China at the invitation of the president, timed to coincide with the first China-Arab States Expo, whose opening ceremony in Yinchuan he attended. During his visit, on which he was accompanied by finance minister Sheikh Ahmed Bin Mohammed Al-Khalifa, he held talks with Jinping and Chinese premier Li Keqiang on “close co-operation between the two countries in various areas”, according to state news agency BNA. The visit was hailed by official media in Bahrain as a historical success, and a turning point in China-Bahrain relations.

Bahrain
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Sierra Leone has sent a delegation to work at the Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition (IMCTC) headquarters in Riyadh, bringing the total number of countries with permanent delegates to 21. The organisation was set up at the behest of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman in December 2015, but has developed only slowly since then. IMCTC has 41 members drawn from around the Gulf, the wider Middle East, Africa and Asia.

Saudi Arabia
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The head of the Bahrain Olympic Committee and son of King Hamad, Sheikh Nasser Bin Hamad Al-Khalifa, has drawn condemnation for his likely attendance at the London Olympics. Human rights activists have been campaigning to get him banned, and UK newspapers have decried his VIP treatment, because of his alleged involvement in human rights abuses in Bahrain, some of them targeting sportspeople.

Bahrain
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When Qatar bought 12 Dassault Mirage 2000-5 combat aircraft in the late 1990s it was catapulted into pole position as the world’s highest per capita defence spender. Nearly ten years after the first Mirages

Qatar
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First deputy prime minister and defence minister Sheikh Nasser Sabah Al-Ahmed Al-Sabah is recuperating from his recent cancer treatment, choosing the Uzbek capital Tashkent for his convalescence. He was visited by National Assembly Speaker Marzouq Al-Ghanem on 19 September.

Kuwait
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On 11 October, defence minister Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman (MBS) met Russia’s President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the Russian Grand Prix in Sochi. Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov said they discussed bilateral ties and steps towards peace in Syria. While his Saudi counterpart Adel Al-Jubeir noted Riyadh’s concern over Russian military operations in Syria, he said the kingdom would increase co-operation with Russia to fight ‘terrorism’. Kremlin aide Yury Ushakov said Putin thoroughly explained Russia’s position on Syria to MBS and Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, who was also visiting Sochi, Putin’s favoured sporting resort.

Saudi Arabia
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Iraq’s fourth parliamentary elections since the US-led invasion in 2003 will decide the 329 members of the Council of Representatives. A total of 6,990 candidates from 87 parties are competing, including 2,011 female candidates who are guaranteed 83 seats. Nine seats are allocated to minorities. The chamber will elect the next president and prime minister.

Iraq
Issue 990 - 03 April 2015

Qatar: Emir Tamim’s Turkish Mansion

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Emir Tamim Bin Hamad is thought to have bought a $100m mansion in Istanbul, according to the Turkish press. A report in English-language Today’s Zaman on 28 March noted that the emir viewed the 64-room home on the banks of the Bosphorus while in Turkey earlier in March. It claimed that the property had been purchased on the emir’s behalf by a London-based real estate company owned by Mana Al-Hajri, whose daughter Anoud Bint Mana Al-Hajri is the emir’s second wife (married in 2009). According to Today’s Zaman, the property, known as Erbilgin Yalısı, was at one time owned by Ottoman Sultan Abdulhamid II’s son Sehzade Burhaneddin, who bought it in 1911.

Qatar
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King Hamad Bin Isa Al-Khalifa held talks on 10 April with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Prime Minister Prince Khalifa Bin Salman Al-Khalifa was in attendance. That was followed on 13 April with talks with Philippines President Rodrigo Roa Duterte. In between, the king attended the King Abdelaziz Camel Festival in Saudi Arabia, at the invitation of King Salman Bin Abdelaziz Al-Saud. He was the only visiting monarch to attend as other Gulf rulers sent more junior representatives. On 25 April, King Hamad held talks in Manama with visiting Thai prime minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha.

Bahrain
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War with Islamic State (IS, or Daesh) and the fiscal crisis caused by low oil prices have combined to undermine the political arrangements by which both federal Iraq and the autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) have been governed since the Saddam Hussein regime fell. New or invigorated strands of social and political opposition have targeted the massive corruption and mismanagement that have wasted hundreds of billions of dollars over the past decade. But it is far from certain whether Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi’s challenge to corruption and the sectarian quota system, or the Kurdish opposition’s attempts to limit the Barzani clan’s authoritarian rule in Erbil, will result in more accountable government.

Iraq
Issue 1032 - 23 February 2017

Iran: New naval base completed

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Iran has completed work on its newest naval base at Pasabandar, on the Gulf of Oman in the south-east of the country, according to Navy Commander Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayyari. The base has been developed along with two new naval zones, Velayat-e-Jask and Nabovvat, located further up the coast at Konarak.

Iran
Issue 839 - 25 October 2008

SWFs to the rescue

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As the crisis spreads, sovereign wealth funds are being called on to help rescue ailing institutions abroad and at home. Many have already done so: Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (Adia) invested in Citibank last year, followed by the Kuwait Investment Authority (KIA), which invested $5bn in Citi and Merrill Lynch. Qatar Investment Authority (QIA) has invested in

United Arab Emirates (UAE)