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The Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) monarchies have emerged as significant regional players in the past decade, reflected in Oman’s invaluable back channels for Washington to talk to Iran, Qatar’s global projection of soft power and military capacity in Libya and the Levant, and the increasing tendency of Saudi Arabia and the UAE to dictate policy with air power. The trend towards greater regional autonomy has been encouraged by the United States’ reluctance to commit to Middle Eastern conflicts during Barack Obama’s presidency, and the hesitancy of new powers such as China or a weakened Russia to provide a counterweight to the declining Pax Americana.

Yemen | Syria
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It is six years since Bahrainis followed the lead of North African protestors who had launched the 2011 ‘Arab Spring’ uprisings against their autocratic leaderships. The anniversary of ‘Bloody Thursday’, when in a night-time raid the authorities crushed protesters camped at Manama’s Pearl Roundabout, comes on 17 February. The Saudi/UAE Gulf Co-operation Council intervention began on 14 March. Six years on, the uneasy standoff continues between Shia communities and their often imprisoned leaders and a regime whose default now is to opt for authoritarian responses, rather than promoting the more pluralist politics that marked the start of King Hamad Bin Isa Al-Khalifa’s reign.

Bahrain
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On 27 March, Saudi King Abdullah Bin Abdelaziz Al-Saud appointed his half-brother, Prince Miqrin Bin Abdelaziz, as deputy crown prince, in a royal decree that may have answered short-term uncertainties about the much-debated Saudi succession, but once again delayed the more interesting question of which of the next generation of princes will be the first to rise.“Prince Miqrin Bin Abdelaziz Al-Saud is granted allegiance as crown prince should the position of the crown prince become vacant, and is granted allegiance as king of the state should the positions of king and crown prince be vacant at the same time’’

Saudi Arabia
Issue 1010 - 18 February 2016

Saudi Arabia: King Salman’s travel plans

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King Salman is set to travel to Egypt in early April, according to Saudi ambassador Ahmed Bin Abdelaziz Qattan (who is also dean of the diplomatic corps in Cairo). But the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has denied reports that King Salman was soon to visit Russia. A MoFA source said no timetable had yet been fixed for his visit.

Saudi Arabia
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The result of the United States’ presidential election has put in doubt the future of the July 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), under which Iran suspended its uranium enrichment programme in return for a relaxation of sanctions. If President-elect Donald Trump’s administration follows through on his campaign pledge to rip up the deal and retighten the sanctions regime, the US will likely encounter resistance from its Russian, Chinese and European co-signatories, all of whom are being courted ever more assiduously by Tehran.

Iran
Issue 917 - 09 February 2012

GCC pulls out diplomats

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The Gulf Co-operation Council is recalling its ambassadors from Syria, and expelling Syrian diplomats.

Syria
Issue 1029 - 16 January 2017

Kuwait: ‘Smart’ bomb kits purchased

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Kuwait is to buy $37m worth of bomb guidance kits from the United States. The deal, which was approved by the US State Department just before Christmas, covers joint direct attack munition (JDAM) tail kits, which are designed to convert unguided bombs into ‘smart’ bombs. The order covers 750 kits for 500-pound (lb) bombs, 250 kits for 1,000lb bombs and a further 250 kits for 2,000lb bombs, all of which are to be supplied by The Boeing Company.

Kuwait
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Gulf Co-operation Council states have long been the focus of efforts by US administrations and their regional military structure Central Command (Centcom) to enforce the Pax Americana. But with some GCC allies already feeling distanced from high-level contacts in Washington, the resignation of General Stanley McChrystal as head of US Forces and the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan, and his replacement by Centcom commander General David Petraeus, threatens to leave them feeling even more distanced from the US civil-military relationship.

Free

Gulf expert Jane Kinninmont has left the Royal Institute of International Affairs (Chatham House), where she was deputy head of the Middle East and North Africa Programme, to join London-based peace and human rights group The Elders, whose chair Kofi Annan died in late August.

Issue 1084 - 05 July 2019

Kuwait: Second frontier crossing

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Eastern Region governor Prince Saud Bin Nayef Bin Abdelaziz inaugurated an upgraded second border crossing to Kuwait on 26 June. The Salmi-Riqe crossing point, close to their common frontier with Iraq, has been designed to handle 2,000 trucks and 12,000 cars a day; it was built at a cost of SR1.6bn ($427m), according to an official statement. The main border crossing remains at Al-Nuwasib-Al-Khafji, close to the Gulf coast. There is some infrastructure in place for a third crossing half way between those two points, but it remains under-developed.

Saudi Arabia
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Deputy Emir Sheikh Abdullah Bin Hamad Al-Thani officially opened the new headquarters of the Emiri Guard at Barzan Camp, on 22 December. The facility includes the unit’s supreme command centre, along with a rapid reaction group building, training centre and barracks. Sheikh Abdullah was accompanied by prime minister and minister of interior Sheikh Abdullah Bin Nasser Bin Khalifa Al-Thani at the opening.

Qatar
Issue 1016 - 02 June 2016

Jannati election scores old guard win

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Analysis that suggested reformists and centrists had won the battle but maybe not the war in Iran’s Q1 16 elections was confirmed when 90-year-old Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, was elected to lead the Majles-e Khobregan (Assembly of Experts) on 24 May. He beat centrist Ayatollah Ebrahim Amini and conservative Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi. Local media reported that Jannati was re-elected by 51 of the assembly’s 88 members. The conservative cleric has chaired the Guardian Council since 1992; having been appointed by the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in February 1980.

Iran
Issue 895 - 25 February 2011

YEMEN: Central bank issues sukuk

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The Central Bank of Yemen announced in mid-February that its first sukuk had been issued. The government is looking to benefit from the surplus liquidity of Islamic banks to finance investments and help boost the economy. The issuance is part of a

Yemen
Free

The narrative for Iran’s passage from Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi’s modernising, economically rational nuclear programme of the 1950s-70s to one capable of delivering an atomic bomb has been marked by persistent delays and a profound lack of intelligence – and understanding – of players’ intentions.

Iran
Free

The internet has made news more opinionated than ever. With the tools of propaganda so close to hand, every story has become a chain of claim and counter-claim, of accusation and denial. On partisan news channels, in press releases emailed to inboxes across the globe, in the deceptively informal forums of social media, it is possible not only to peddle one’s version of history, but to spread it wide. Nowhere is the conflict of recorded histories more evident than in countries where governments seek to keep a lid on freedom of expression.

Bahrain