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African Energy - Issue 408 - 30/01/2020

Haftar rejects peace efforts, reimposes Libya oil terminal blockade

The warlord Khalifa Haftar’s comprehensive blockade of oil export terminals in eastern and western Libya is an attempt to force his drawn-out siege of Tripoli into an endgame. His price for lifting the blockade is the replacement of both National Oil Corporation (NOC) chairman Mustafa Sanalla and Central Bank of Libya (CBL) governor Sadiq Al-Kabir. He also wants a greater share of oil revenues. Acceding to these demands would hand Haftar control of the two institutions that control the country’s resources and its money. It would confirm his legitimacy and represent the capitulation of the Government of National Accord (GNA). This shift to economic blackmail can be interpreted as a sign of weakness as it confirms the failure of military and political strategies for attaining victory. However, muted international condemnation and growing fatalism among Libya’s oppressed and war-weary people mean the gambit may well succeed.

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Gulf States Newsletter - Issue 1096 - 23/01/2020

Qaboos bequeaths a smooth succession as Haitham Bin Tariq takes over in Oman

Rumours about Sultan Qaboos Bin Said Al-Said’s health and imminent death had become a staple of political analysis about Oman and the wider region, reflecting his longstanding position as an essential mediator in Middle Eastern conflicts, as well as the architect of his nation’s emergence from a conflicted and backward-looking past. Close observers said that, by mid-December, the 79-year-old sultan had abandoned a planned programme of medical treatment in Leuven, Belgium, knowing it would be futile. While widely predicted, his death on 10 January nonetheless came as a profound shock to the nation he had not only ruled but profoundly shaped since 1970, and whose political life he had dominated as an absolute ruler (see Perspective for GSN’s appreciation of this remarkable life).

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African Energy - Issue 407 - 16/01/2020

CFA franc to be replaced by eco, but initial change is largely symbolic

The move by the eight-member Union Economique et Monétaire Ouest Africaine (Uemoa) to end its 55-yearold currency union based on the French-guaranteed CFA franc will have a range of consequences for businesses and political relations. The new eco currency, whose creation was formally announced in Abidjan on 21 December by President Alassane Dramane Ouattara and the visiting French president, Emmanuel Macron, includes some major changes, notably ending control over franc zone institutions by the Banque de France and reducing the guarantee of the French state. But it does not yet represent an economic revolution: the eco’s introduction in the Uemoa will be subject to a steady transition, intended to avoid upsets in a region that has made considerable economic progress in the past decade, but remains prone to security concerns and potentially volatile populations.

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Gulf States Newsletter - Issue 1095 - 09/01/2020

Trump sends region to the brink with killing of IRGC kingpin Soleimani

The crowds that thronged the streets of Kerman on 7 January to see the coffin of slain Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Quds Force commander General Qassim Soleimani were in sharp contrast to the crowds that filled the streets of Iranian towns and cities in late 2019. Authorities that brutally suppressed nationwide demonstrations in November were happy to see even more people take to the streets – even in generally dissident regions such as Ahvaz – to mark the death of the architect of Iran’s ‘forward defence’ strategy, killed by a United States drone strike at Baghdad airport in the early hours of 3 January. There were large crowds in Tehran and Qom, as well as in Iraq, as Soleimani’s body made its extended final journey.

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African Energy - Issue 406 - 19/12/2019

Competition heats up for Egyptian gas plant privatisations

The Egyptian government is considering a number of options for the sale of three gas-fired power plants built by Siemens between 2015 and 2018 which together added 14.4GW to the grid. A sale may be negotiated bilaterally or via a more time-consuming competitive auction; options include the eventual floating of a minority stake on the Egyptian Stock Exchange. The newly formed Tharaa sovereign wealth fund is already playing a decision-making role and is likely to retain the state’s long-term interest in the plants.

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Gulf States Newsletter - Issue 1094 - 12/12/2019

Political crisis of confidence leaves Iraq in search of a new direction

After almost two months of protests in which more than 400 people are thought to have been killed and another 15,000 injured, Prime Minister Adel Abdel-Mahdi accepted reality, announcing on 29 November that he would step down. His resignation was accepted by the Council of Representatives (parliament) on 1 December, but Abdel-Mahdi and his cabinet will stay on until a new administration is formed.

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African Energy - Issue 405 - 05/12/2019

Libya’s NOC defies uncertainty with bold investment plan

National Oil Corporation (NOC) chairman Mustafa Sanalla has unveiled a $60bn five-year investment plan to increase crude oil production from 1.25m b/d now to 2.1m b/d by 2024 and gas output to 3.5 bcf/d. Speaking at the Libyan British Business Council in Tunis on 26 November, he said that LYD15bn ($10.5bn) would come from state budgets and the remaining 80% from strategic investors.

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Gulf States Newsletter - Issue 1093 - 28/11/2019

Kuwait political system gets a reboot following cabinet resignation

The resignation of the Kuwaiti cabinet on 14 November (GSN 1,092/4) looks ever less likely to signal the start of yet another crisis in local politics. Instead it has given Emir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmed Al-Jaber Al-Sabah the chance to reshape a cabinet that had become dysfunctional amid allegations of corruption involving a senior member of the ruling family. Local sources tell GSN the removal of interior minister Sheikh Khaled Jarrah Al-Sabah in particular offers an opportunity for a long-term restructuring of power within government.

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African Energy - Issue 404 - 21/11/2019

Petroleum bill set for release as South Africa government mulls gas options

Minister of mineral and energy resources Gwede Mantashe said on 7 November the new draft Petroleum Amendment Bill, which is currently before cabinet, would be released for public comment within the next three weeks. The bill was drawn up following criticism of the previous government’s efforts to lump oil and gas with mining in the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act (MPRDA) Amendment Bill (AE 379/12).

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Gulf States Newsletter - Issue 1092 - 19/11/2019

Iran’s regional influence comes under scrutiny as protests in Iraq turn violent

Iraq scored a notable victory over Iran on 14 November, albeit only on the football pitch in Amman, Jordan, where Usood Al-Rafidain (the Lions of Mesopotamia) won a World Cup qualifier over the much higher ranked Team Melli by two goals to one. The game was played in a neutral location due to security concerns around the original venue in Basra, where anti-government protests have continued through early November, as they have across much of Iraq. Fans’ celebrations were informed as much by events at home as on the pitch in Jordanian capital, with Iran seen by a growing number of Iraqis as exercising an unwarranted degree of influence over their government. Large crowds watching the game on screens in Tahrir Square, Baghdad saw Iraqi players cover their faces after scoring, in reference to the teargas used against demonstrators.

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African Energy Gulf States Newsletter