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Qatar has been largely unaffected by the wave of protests and calls for reform throughout the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) and wider Middle East. There have been no recorded protests, and the Qatari government has not followed other GCC countries in announcing measures to address domestic issues.

Qatar
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Bahrain is in the midst of a political crisis that began in February 2011,when protesters, inspired by events elsewhere in the region, took to the streets to demand political change. The uprising was largely crushed, but protests have continued on a smaller scale, and political demands on the side of the protesters have, if anything, hardened.

Bahrain
Free

Insurgent attacks continue to expose Iraq’s fragility. Dozens of civilians have already been killed in 2013, including 27 Shiites killed by a suicide bomber as they waited at a bus stop to return home from Arbaeen rites in Kerbala. In mid-December, dozens were killed in a series of attacks in disputed northern territories at the heart of a Kurdish-Iraqi standoff. Pressure has been building there since November, when Baghdad set up a new military command, to the outcry of the Kurdish Regional Government. There have also been massive anti-government street protests by Sunnis in recent weeks, prompted by grievances including marginalisation, anti-terrorism laws and the state of public services.

Iraq
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POLITICS: Disagreements between the autonomous Kurdish region and Baghdad have been a source of major tensions in recent years. The 2005 constitution stipulated that Iraqi Kurdistan, which has an identity very distinct from Iraq, is a federal entity recognised by Iraq and the United Nations, and the 2010 Erbil agreement with Baghdad outlined how power would be shared. But the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) has protested their lack of implementation, and relations with Baghdad have been highly acrimonious. Oil has been at the centre of the dispute, with Baghdad furious that Erbil signed production-sharing agreements with international oil companies (IOCs) without its say-so, and Kurdistan wanting to export oil independently rather than through the central State Oil Marketing System (SOMO). The Kurds accused former prime minister Nouri Al-Maliki of breaching the constitution by assuming too many powers, and have threatened to hold a referendum on independence.

Iraq
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The UAE has pledged billions of dollars to support Egypt’s new administration, which overthrew the Muslim Brotherhood leadership in July. Reports suggest the UAE has since given Egypt $4.9bn, plus a $2bn deposit in the central bank. On 9 March, Arabtec Holding, Dubai’s largest listed construction firm, agreed with the Egyptian army to build a million houses in Egypt in a project worth more than $40bn.

United Arab Emirates (UAE)
Issue 976 - 10 September 2014

Risk Management Report: Kuwait

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Kuwait has been governed by the Al-Sabah family since the 18th century. It gained independence from Britain in 1961; a new constitution written that year confirmed the hereditary monarchy, but gave significant powers to an independent judiciary and an elected assembly. The emir – currently Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmed Al-Sabah – retains final say and political parties are banned. But the 50-member assembly has proven more vibrant than expected, and Kuwait has often been held up as a beacon for democratisation in the region. Friction between the elected parliament and the appointed government has been an ongoing problem, however, often resulting in paralysis of the state. Parliament has twice been shut down – from 1976 to 1981 and from 1986 to 1992 – and there have been three general elections since February 2012.

Kuwait
Issue 984 - 08 January 2015

Risk Management Report: Bahrain

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POLITICS: The Al-Khalifa came to power in 1783, taking its authority from the family’s conquest of the archipelago from the Persian empire. Britain, interested in maritime trade routes, entered into an alliance with the Al- Khalifa in 1820 and helped secure its rule; it was not until 1971 that Bahrain declared independence. A new constitution provided for a fully elected parliament, formed in 1973, but that was disbanded in 1975 after it fell out with the ruler. A partially elected body was reinstated in the 2002 constitution, but power lies primarily with the executive, and the preponderance of Al- Khalifa in key positions means lines between state and ruling family are very blurred. The Sunni royal family rules over a population that is majority Shiite. Hamad Bin Isa Al-Khalifa has been king since 2002.

Bahrain
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Having fought off mass protests and substantial civil unrest after his disputed re-election in June 2009, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is now besieged by a resurgent clerical elite and supporters of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who are fighting back against the president’s attempts to consolidate power.

Iran
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Iran’s poor human rights record and repressive treatment of women have been widely condemned, but it is the nuclear debate that commands most attention. The United Nations, European Union and United States have all slapped heavy sanctions on Tehran, to attempt to deter it from building atomic weapons, but Tehran denies wrongdoing and talks have yet to yield much progress. Iran’s relationship with its Gulf neighbours is characterised by the Shiite/Sunni divide. The Gulf Sunni monarchies regularly accuse Iran of stirring dissent among their Shiite communities, and the battle between SaudiArabia andTehran for regional dominance underlies much of the regional narrative.

Iran
Issue 1009 - 04 February 2016

Risk Management Report - Saudi Arabia

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Established by King Abdelaziz (Ibn Saud) in 1932, the kingdom is the giant of the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) in terms of population, territory, oil wealth and its claim to religious authority. Saudi Arabia is an absolute monarchy, whose rulers have all been sons of Ibn Saud. On 23 January, on the death of his 90-year-old brother King Abdullah, Salman Bin Abdelaziz became Ibn Saud’s sixth son of to assume the throne.

Saudi Arabia
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After Friday prayers on 18 February, hundreds of stateless Arabs protested to demand their civil rights. The elite special forces used water cannon, tear gas, batons and smoke bombs to disperse the crowds.

Kuwait
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Ruler Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al-Maktoum (MBR) remains resolutely in command. Until Dubai’s indebtedness was revealed in 2008-09, the emirate’s other most influential powerbrokers tended not to be members of the ruling family. Since the debt crisis, Dubai has seen the emergence of the next generation of the Al-Maktoum, MBR’s sons

United Arab Emirates (UAE)
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Aspects of Dubai’s economy are looking much brighter, according to the authorities, but there are still serious concerns over other economic factors. Tourism appears to be recovering. But in the real estate market, property values are as much as 60% lower than at their 2008 peak and there are serious concerns over the refinancing of debt at Dubai’s government- related entities (GREs).

United Arab Emirates (UAE)
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Real GDP growth was recorded at 17% in 2010, and is forecast to accelerate to 19% in 2011, according to an International Monetary Fund (IMF) Article IV report issued in December. This considerable economic growth is due to Qatar having huge gas reserves, with significant liquefied natural gas (LNG) capacity.

Qatar
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Yemen is in a fragile state. The regime, headed by President Ali Abdullah Saleh, is besieged on several fronts, with a Houthi rebellion in the north, a secession movement in the south, and increased jihadi activity by groups such as Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) pushing the country on a downward trajectory.

Yemen