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Gulf States News - Issue 1081 - 23/05/2019

Region on edge as Tehran and Washington push war-like rhetoric

The threat of a major confrontation in the region remains real. While both sides publicly say they do not want a conflict, some senior figures in the United States, such as long-time Iranophobe national security advisor John Bolton, are acting as if they do, while hardliners in the Islamic Republican Guards Corp (IRGC) and other revolutionary and ‘principalist’ bastions in Iran would not shy away from confrontation either. In such an environment the biggest threat may be that misunderstandings lead to war by accident rather than by design.

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African Energy - Issue 392 - 16/05/2019

Zambia’s Zesco seeks to renegotiate power tariffs with IPPs

St ate power utility Zesco is seeking to renegotiate its power purchase agreements with independent power producers (IPPs) in an effort to curb its ballooning debt. At end-April 2019, Zesco owed IPPs about $680m, and the company says low power tariffs mean it has little hope of reducing the burden.

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Gulf States News - Issue 1080 - 09/05/2019

The pattern of Saudi power shifts as the ‘MBS cohort’ of royals emerges

Some 30 Al-Saud princes – and one princess – have been appointed to positions of authority by King Salman Bin Abdelaziz since 2017. The appointments have come in waves: 22 in 2017 (GSN 1,041/6), seven in 2018 (GSN 1,072/1, 1,061/6, 1,055/1) and four in spring 2019 (GSN 1,075/1). Many are notably young, in a system that has traditionally not favoured youth, and are drawn from the same cohort as Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman (MBS).

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African Energy - Issue 391 - 02/05/2019

Ould Kaddour sacked as Algerian regime seeks to show commitment to change

Abdelmoumen Ould Kaddour was dismissed as head of state energy giant Sonatrach on 23 April, to be replaced by head of production Rachid Hachichi. Respected as an industry professional but widely distrusted for his links to the now discredited Bouteflika clan, and especially his ties to the politically ambitious former energy minister Chakib Khelil, Ould Kaddour’s position was in doubt even before Abdelaziz Bouteflika departed the presidency (AE 390/18, 388/3). His removal was announced by the interim president, Abdelkader Bensalah, as the remaining leadership – in which deputy defence minister and army chief of staff Lieutenant General Ahmed Gaïd Salah continues to play a leading role (AE 388/1) – sought to show protesters that the regime is capable of change.

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Gulf States News - Issue 1079 - 29/04/2019

Stockholm peace process fails to stop fighting in Yemen’s trouble spots

Clashes are escalating in Taiz, as rival pro-government factions vie to expand their control throughout the central Yemeni city and surrounding rural areas. Meanwhile, Houthi forces in the north and east of the city continue their four year-long siege. The violence further highlights the lack of progress, five months on, of the Stockholm peace plan, which called for the opening of Taiz to merchants and international aid organisations. Progress is similarly slow in Hodeidah’s negotiations. There are concerns that President Abdo Rabbo Mansour Hadi’s latest political manoeuvring may exacerbate the conflict in Taiz, rather than deliver a solution.

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African Energy - Issue 390 - 18/04/2019

Equatorial Guinea takes hard line on Zafiro extension

While minister of mines and hydrocarbons Gabriel Mbaga Obiang Lima is clearly in a hurry to bring more oil and gas resources into production and to raise the profile of his country within the global hydrocarbons industry, he is also holding out for the best deals he can get. Market speculation is focused on a prospective deal for London-based independent Trident Energy – which is led by former Perenco executives and describes itself as an expert in reviving mid-life oil and gas assets – to take over ExxonMobil’s Zafiro oil and gas field, which started production in 1996. Production levels are declining and Exxon’s contract expires in 2023.

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Gulf States News - Issue 1078 - 04/04/2019

Western powers diverge over how to dilute Iraq’s economic ties to Iran

Tensions between the United States and Europe over attitudes to Iran are seeping across into other areas of policy. Clear differences are emerging between Washington and some European capitals over President Donald Trump’s policy towards Iraq and its Shia-dominated government’s alliance with Tehran. The focus of US policy in the Gulf region is on trying to isolate Iran and, to promote this, Washington is intent on driving a wedge between Baghdad and Tehran. However, European diplomatic sources are concerned that the ‘with us or against us’ choice being presented to Baghdad is likely to prove counter-productive and will simply push Iraq further into the arms of Iran.

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African Energy - Issue 389 - 28/03/2019

South Africa endures more load-shedding as Eskom tariff increase approved

With elections coming up on 8 May, the power crisis in South Africa has peaked at an inconvenient time for President Cyril Ramaphosa. While opposition parties, particularly the Democratic Alliance, are seeking to make political capital out of the catastrophic deterioration in technical and financial performance at Eskom, there are also concerns that no substantial policy measures are likely until after the elections.

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Gulf States News - Issue 1077 - 21/03/2019

Competition for influence in Syria heats up as conflict enters end-game

With the regime of Syria’s President Bashar Al-Assad looking ever more secure, attention in regional capitals is turning to what might happen next. While the monarchies were early movers in finding proxies in Syria, Iran’s tactics during the eight years of civil war have proved far more successful than those of its Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) rivals. It is Tehran’s ally Assad who remains at the helm while opposition groups backed by Saudi Arabia and others have largely failed.

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African Energy - Issue 388 - 18/03/2019

Algeria enters uncertain new phase as disaffected population finds its voice

The announcement that Abdelaziz Bouteflika would not seek a fifth term in the planned 18 April presidential election answered only some critical questions about Algeria’s immediate future. It showed that the ruling factions were not prepared to turn the state’s mighty armoury on peaceful demonstrators to keep the 82-year-old invalid in power. And it showed that Algeria’s predominantly youthful population was ready to take back control of its destiny after three decades of marginalisation as the state first fought radical Islam in the 1990s and then consolidated a malfunctioning system of centralised crony capitalist economics that has mainly benefited the regime during Bouteflika’s 20 years in office (AE 385/14).

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