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Gulf States News - Issue 1061 - 07/06/2018

GCC still split as Qatar crisis enters year two, with regional alliances up for grabs

It was not immediately obvious how serious the issue would become when the Qatar crisis began with the planting of ‘fake news’ stories on the Qatar News Agency (QNA) website on 24 May 2017 (GSN 1,037/7). The region has seen plenty of divisions and arguments between members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) before – not least in 2014 when Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the UAE briefly withdrew their ambassadors from Qatar (GSN 965/1). However, it soon became clear this was something different. As GSN noted in the early days of the dispute, it quickly began to look like the most consequential dispute among GCC members for years had erupted (GSN 1,038/1).

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Gulf States News - Issue 1060 - 24/05/2018

Oman bars tribal gatherings as the spectre of Dhofar rises once again

The Public Prosecution Office has vowed to take “all relevant legal measures” against anyone who helps to organise tribal meetings and gatherings in Oman, or who promotes such events on social media, in what looks to be the latest sign of a clampdown on the sultanate’s (already heavily circumscribed) political arena.

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Gulf States News - Issue 1059 - 10/05/2018

Sanctions beckon as Trump cannot resist pulling down the Iran nuclear deal

Anew countdown has begun for Iran’s relations with the world. Following President Donald Trump’s heavily telegraphed 8 May decision that the United States would no longer honour its commitments under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the US is set to reinstate the sanctions on Iran it dropped in January 2016 when the nuclear deal was implemented.

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Gulf States News - Issue 1058 - 26/04/2018

Political rivalries and protests as Iran waits for US decision on nuclear deal

Speculation over whether the United States will stick to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) nuclear deal was in full flood as GSN went to press, with French President Emmanuel Macron’s state visit to Washington, followed by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, seen as perhaps the last big opportunity for Europea to convince President Donald Trump to stand by the painstakingly constructed deal which has been in force for a little over two years. True to his mercurial form, Trump hinted he may yet reverse his oft-stated determination to exit the JCPOA, saying on 25 April, following discussions with Macron, that “we could at least have an agreement among ourselves fairly quickly”.

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Gulf States News - Issue 1057 - 16/04/2018

Deal-making overtakes diplomacy in MBS roadshow around America

Deal-making was to the fore during the second part of Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman (MBS)’s threeweek tour around the United States (GSN 1,056/4). Following the initial days in Washington where diplomacy dominated, crossing the continent MBS met the top teams in global giants of the new and old economies. However, it remains to be seen whether he persuaded US business leaders to make the big long-term investments Saudi Arabia needs if his Vision 2030 reform programme is to succeed.

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Gulf States News - Issue 1056 - 22/03/2018

Abadi plays conciliator, as Baghdad fashions new relationship with Kurds

The re-opening of Erbil and Sulaimaniyah airports to international flights in mid-March, followed a few days later by the first central government payments in four years to state employees in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI), reveals a tentative thaw in Erbil-Baghdad relations. The newlyempowered federal Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi is now strong enough to compromise with his chastened counterparts in the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) – which Iraq’s western allies have been strongly encouraging him to do.

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Gulf States News - Issue 1055 - 08/03/2018

MBS roadshow gets under way, seeking to persuade sceptics abroad and at home

Before setting off on his first foreign excursion since being appointed king-in-waiting (only) last June, Crown Prince and defence minister Mohammed Bin Salman (MBS) took few chances. A wide-ranging reshuffle of the military top brass was enacted by King Salman Bin Abdelaziz on 26 February based on MBS’s recommendations (see article below). In parallel were a string of changes in the civilian hierarchy, including the appointment of new junior ministers

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Gulf States News - Issue 1054 - 22/02/2018

With declaration of ‘economic war’ Abadi rallies support ahead of Iraq’s election

Under pressure from a faltering coalition, ruthless political rivals, financial shortfalls and other unresolved problems – including how to accommodate the Kurds and their disappointed ambitions for independence – Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi is looking to court voters with an offer that blends stability and the potential for a better future for the longsuffering population. Ahead of the 12 May general election (it is unclear whether long-delayed provincial elections can be held at the same time), Abadi is offering a peace dividend based on large-scale reconstruction of housing, energy and other infrastructure, a reinvigorated anti-corruption drive and encouragement for foreign and local private investors who might be able to create jobs and transform the economy.

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Gulf States News - Issue 1053 - 08/02/2018

Gulf allies’ united front under pressure in Yemen as proxies battle over Aden

South Yemen continues to be the focus of tensions within the Saudi-led coalition, as the power vacuum created by war has enlivened historical animosities and provided both opportunity and incentive for local politicians to pursue greater self-rule. This has been highlighted by fighting between groups backed by different coalition members – notably the Southern Transition Council (STC) backed by the UAE and forces allied to the internationally recognised President Abed Rabbou Mansour Hadi, supported by Saudi Arabia.

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Gulf States News - Issue 1052 - 25/01/2018

Oil price rise postpones Omani budget crisis, but may also discourage reforms

After another rocky year, Oman’s budget was rescued by the global rise in crude prices towards end-2017, which helped to bail out an economy where 70% of total revenues still come from oil and gas, during a period when debt has started to mount up (GSN 1,043/8, 1,040/8). Omani crude achieved an average $56.21/bbl on the Dubai Mercantile Exchange in December, compared to a 2017 budget assumption of $45/bbl oil; the H2 17 crude price hike means the annual average will have been about $50/bbl.

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