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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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Gulf States News - Issue 1076 - 07/03/2019

Riyadh rumour mill raises questions over relations between king and crown prince

Another round of fevered speculation about splits in the most senior ranks of the Al-Saud was set off on 5 March, with a report that King Salman Bin Abdelaziz Al-Saud has clashed with his son Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman (MBS) over the Yemen war, the fallout from the Jamal Khashoggi affair and other matters. In the most dramatic allegation, the king’s advisors were said to have changed the personal security team that accompanied the monarch during his recent trip to Egypt, due to suspicions about where their true loyalties lay.

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African Energy - Issue 387 - 28/02/2019

Little prospect of change in Nigeria as Buhari wins second term

Nigeria’s Independent National Electoral Commission on 27 February declared incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari the winner of the delayed 23 February election. Buhari landed 55.6% of the popular vote, a clear margin over the 41.2% who voted for his main rival Atiku Abubakar, according to provisional results. Buhari’s ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) also extended its majority in the National Assembly.

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Gulf States News - Issue 1075 - 21/02/2019

Islamic Republic heads into fifth decade under siege, but with opponents divided

Aseries of events in mid-February, including the anniversary of the revolution which brought the Islamic Republic into being, have served to highlight many of the problems facing Iran but also to underscore the divisions among its opponents. Rahbar (Supreme Leader) Ayatollah Ali Khamenei issued a long statement on 13 February, the day of the anniversary, in which he said Iran “is always flexible and ready to correct its mistakes”. The Islamic Republic was now “entering the second phase of self-development”.

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African Energy Gulf States Newsletter