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The execution of 47 Islamist militants the authorities had linked to terrorism was filled with symbolism: for Riyadh it marked the kingdom’s determination to show zero tolerance of terrorism and extremist Sunni or Shia takfiri (deviant) ideology; in Iran it was seen as yet another provocation against the region’s Shiite populations, leading radicals to invade Saudi legations in Tehran and Mashhad.

Saudi Arabia
Issue 986 - 05 February 2015

UAE suspends airstrikes

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The UAE suspended its participation in air strikes on Islamic State in December, after Jordanian pilot Muath Al-Kasasbeh was captured by the extremists, according to unnamed US officials quoted by The New York Times (NYT) on 3 February. The news comes a day after it emerged that Kasasbeh, whose F-16 crashed over north-eastern Syria, was burnt alive by members of Islamic State. According to the NYT, the UAE – whose joining of the coalition against Islamic State was much publicised – wants the Pentagon to improve its search and rescue efforts, in case other pilots are downed.

United Arab Emirates (UAE)
Free

Saudi Royal Air Force Tornado aircraft arrived at Konya air base in Turkey on 24 May to participate in the Anatolian Eagle exercise. Chief of General Staff Lieutenant General Abdelrahman Bin Saleh Al-Bunyan followed on 28 May, when he met Saudi units at Incirlik Air Base. He was met by Saudi military attaché to Turkey commodore pilot Khaled Bin Hussein Al-Assaf. London-based daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat reported that the 20-day exercise will also involve Qatari forces.

Saudi Arabia | Qatar
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If the Houthi rebellion flares up into a sixth major round of fighting, Saudi Arabia will probably be a combatant almost from the outset. Initially Saudi support would probably be low visibility, including a surge or money, equipment and air support.

Saudi Arabia | Yemen
Issue 995 - 19 June 2015

US sales to the GCC

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Since the 13-14 May US-Gulf Co-operation Council summit, at which the United States promised to fast-track arms transfers to its Gulf allies (GSN 993/3), the US has approved at least two possible military sales to the region. On 29 May, the State Department approved the sale to the UAE of guided bomb units (GBUs) and associated parts and logistical support worth around $130m. The UAE has requested 1600 GBUs of three different specifications – 500 GBU-31B/B(V)1 (MK-84/BLU-117) bombs, 500 GBU-31B/B(V)3 (BLU-109) bombs and 600 GBU-12 (MK-82/BLU-111) bombs – along with containers, fuses, spare parts, technical documentation, personnel training and training equipment.

Subscriber

A rise in crimes such as carjacking, mugging and harassment, and continued warnings of a possible terrorist attack as AQAP regroups, are testing the international security community

Saudi Arabia
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President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi’s 19 December decrees brought Yemen’s counterterrorism operations under one roof for the first time, making it clear that, in line with US wishes, Hadi considers the fight against terrorism a military affair.

Yemen
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The Royal Saudi Air Force (RSAF) cadet who killed three US sailors and injured eight others at the Pensacola Naval Air Station in Florida last December was regularly in touch with Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), including the night before the attack, US attorney general William Barr told a news conference on 18 May. The Federal Bureau of Investigation found that Second Lieutenant Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani had joined the RSAF to carry out a “special operation”.

Saudi Arabia
Subscriber

The situation in Qatif has deteriorated sharply since 2011. Historically, the Saudi government has given the predominantly Shiite population a relatively unfettered existence, at least by the Kingdom’s strict standards. Though almost unrepresented in the security forces or local government, Shia from Qatif have been allowed to establish Shiite cemeteries and husseiniyas, undertake open-air sermonising and the sale of Shia religious materials, and even publicly celebrate Ashura.

Saudi Arabia
Issue 943 - 21 March 2013

Saudi Arabia: ‘Spy ring’

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Saudi Arabia has arrested 18 people it accuses of spying for a foreign country, including one Iranian, one Lebanese and 16 Saudis. On 19 March, the interior ministry said that the suspects had “gathered information on vital installations which they provided to the country” they had been working for, and that they would be handed over to judicial authorities.

Iran | Saudi Arabia
Issue 989 - 19 March 2015

Arms procurements by the GCC

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Most of the Gulf Co-operation Council states have small, relatively well-trained and equipped armed forces, but continue to rely on each other and international allies to guarantee their security. In a climate of regional insecurity, the GCC has been busy modernising its defence equipment, paying billions of dollars for purchases and upgrades. The following items are among those bought in the last few years, according to the International Institute for Strategic Studies’ report The Military Balance 2015.KUWAIT: A $263m upgrade of 72 Patriot missile systems, from PAC-2 to PAC-3, from the US’ Lockheed Martin. Ordered in 2013, the upgrade is expected to be delivered by 2015.

Issue 861 - 26 September 2009

UAE arrests suspected RAK terror cell

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When a 'terror plot' emerges everyone is quick to rush in with their interpretation of the (usually shadowy) events. "An armed cell related to a regional government" was reportedly uncovered over the summer in the northern emirate of Ras Al-Khaimah (RAK). Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Jarida,

United Arab Emirates (UAE)
Free

Three years into an ambitious plan to transform the Ministry of Defence (MoD)’s operational effectiveness, the programme is running into trouble as the initial enthusiasm dissipates. The transformation programme is an important element in the Vision 2030 strategy, as Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman (MBS – also defence minister ) regards the MoD as being in the vanguard of his plans.

Saudi Arabia
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Western governments are reluctant to back popular revolts for fear Al-Qaeda will fill the vacuum if President Saleh goes. But Marib province shows there are several Islamist interests to consider, reports Our Yemen Correspondent

Yemen
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The State Department has approved the US Defence Security Co-operation Agency (DSCA)’s estimated $1.95bn Foreign Military Sale (FMS) of F-16 weapons, munitions, equipment and logistics support. The package requested by Baghdad includes 20 joint helmet mounted cueing systems; 24 AIM-9M Sidewinder and 150 AGM-65D/G/H/K Maverick missiles; 14,120 500-pound (lb) and 2,400 2,000lb bomb body/warheads for use as unguided or guided bombs; 8,000 laser guided bomb (LGB) Paveway II tail kits to be combined with 500lb warheads, 250 LGB Paveway II and 150 LGB Paveway III tail kits, both to be combined with 2,000lb warheads; plus other equipment, ammunition, spares and training.

Iraq