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Announcing job losses and investment cutbacks, many of Big Oil’s flagship companies have been making dramatic announcements of changes in strategic direction. This is most marked among European majors BP, Eni, Royal Dutch Shell and Total, if not by their US peers ExxonMobil and Chevron Corporation; it suggests that many industry leaders now see their futures as diversified energy companies, rather than old-style international oil companies (IOCs).


The impact of Bahrain’s Abraham Accord seems to be of a much lower order than the UAE’s relations with Israel, but details have emerged of ties that were, until now, unacknowledged. Israeli military censors have now allowed papers to publish details of the covert diplomatic mission Israel appears to have maintained in Bahrain since at least 2009.

Israel | Bahrain

Saudi ambassador to the UK Prince Khalid Bin Bandar held a meeting on 26 October with a panel of three MPs investigating the detention of former Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Nayef (MBN) and Prince Ahmed Bin Abdelaziz.

Saudi Arabia

Petroleum Development of Oman has awarded more than $1bn-worth of drilling and other services contracts to Gulf Energy, a local subsidiary of US-based oilfield services provider National Energy Services Reunited. The contracts are for up to nine years. In Oman’s energy sector downturn, crude production fell by 7.5% January-August, according to National Centre for Statistics and Information data.


Qatar’s future parliamentarians will have legislative powers, the right of veto over the budget and be able to scrutinise ministers — but only two-thirds will be elected, under the proposed new Constitution. One-third of the 45-member Legislative Council — probably including ministers — will be nominated by Emir Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al-Thani, who will decide when the Constitution is put into effect, probably by early in 2003.

Issue 1114 - 12 November 2020

US election: Diplomatic responses


Taking account of the slow pace of US vote-counting, and in some cases their mixed emotions and perceived loyalties, it was several days before Gulf leaders began to send in their congratulations to the Biden-Harris team. By 7 November, four days after polls had closed, the messages began to pour in. UAE federal Vice President, Prime Minister and Dubai Ruler Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al-Maktoum tweeted: “We look forward to strengthening our five-decade enduring and strategic relations.”


Culture minister Prince Badr Bin Abdullah Bin Farhan has argued that the coronavirus pandemic should encourage governments to do more to develop the “cultural economy” – a term covering everything from films to national heritage sites, museums, art, cuisine and books – in an effort to revive their wider economic fortunes.

Saudi Arabia

Kuwait is preparing for legislative elections on 5 December in what is shaping into one of the most important polls in recent history. Candidate registration closed on 4 November, by when 395 individuals had put  themselves forward. That is significantly down from the last election in 2016, when 440 candidates signed up. Among the new crop are 33 women, the largest number of female contenders yet.


Risk Management Report – GSN Risk Grade – E↓5↓ POLITICS: Confronted by conflict, which has exacerbated multiple humanitarian crises, Yemen has long teetered on the verge of collapse and ‘failed state’ status (GSN’s political risk category F).


When United States President-elect Joe Biden begins to receive official intelligence briefings, one of the more complex issues he and his team will have to grapple with is fashioning a new working relationship with Turkey. Despite its struggling domestic economy, Ankara is testing its appetite for military conflict on ever more fronts, placing heavy pressure on President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s efforts to rebuild what critics and admirers alike have come to see as his version of the Ottomans’ Sublime Porte, on foundations underpinned by Al-Ikhwan Al-Muslimeen (Muslim Brotherhood or MB) ideology.

Saudi Arabia | Bahrain | United Arab Emirates (UAE) | Iraq | Qatar
Issue 1115 - 26 November 2020

Qatar: Some Ottoman troops never left Doha


The current Turkish deployment to Qatar is not the first. In 1872, 100 Turkish troops and field guns were landed in Doha, launching a military presence that was to remain for 44 years. Some years ago, GSN is told, a number of soldiers’ bodies were discovered on wasteland behind Doha Fort, a former Ottoman garrison. Local historians say the death rate from disease among Ottoman soldiers was appallingly high, at around 40%; scurvy was rife among troops who didn’t even have a vegetable garden to tend until 1910.

Yemen | Turkey

Transport slump: Delegates at the Arab Air Carriers’ Organisation (AACO) virtual annual general meeting on 3 November were told it could take between four and seven years for air travel in the region to return to 2019 levels. Passenger traffic is forecast to decline more than 70% this year.

Saudi Arabia | Bahrain | Yemen | Oman | United Arab Emirates (UAE) | Qatar

The British Embassy in Baghdad has issued a call for proposals for a two- to three-year project, to a maximum budget of £3m ($4m) starting in early 2021 under its Conflict, Stability and Security Fund (CSSF) “to support Iraq to develop a more inclusive political system and to support broadened participation in political processes and decision-making”.

Issue 1116 - 10 December 2020

UAE: 49th National Day


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)

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