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Gulf States News - Issue 1045 - 05/10/2017

Kurdish push for statehood throws up fresh quandaries for region

The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) is not expected to formally declare independence any time soon, following President Masoud Barzani’s referendum on 25 September – the result is technically non-binding and is the subject of a federal Supreme Court action on its constitutionality. Close observers further told GSN that in any case they believed the KRG had given private assurances to the United States, Iran and other major players that it will not issue a formal declaration of nationhood.

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Gulf States News - Issue 1044 - 21/09/2017

Saudi crackdown fuels rumours of crown prince’s ambitions

The contradictory signs emanating from Riyadh over recent weeks – of socially liberalising reforms, a likely easing of some economic reform targets and a fresh crack-down on ‘unhelpful’ commentators – are often hard to make sense of. But within the kingdom they are being read as meaning just one thing: that Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman (MBS) has his eyes firmly on the ultimate prize of taking over from his father and whatever needs to be done to ease his path will be done.

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Gulf States News - Issue 1043 - 07/09/2017

Qatari opposition figures search for credibility on the international stage

The diplomatic dispute pitting Qatar against three of its former Gulf allies – Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the UAE – and Egypt continues to throw some obscure figures into the spotlight. In recent weeks it has been the turn of Sheikh Abdullah Bin Ali Bin Abdullah Al-Thani, a little-known member of the ruling family who rose to prominence after meeting Saudi King Salman Bin Abdelaziz and Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman (MBS) in August. Abdullah Bin Ali has the (possibly unwanted) backing of controversial exiled opponent Qatar National Democratic Party president Khalid Al-Walid Al-Hail, who has political asylum in the UK. Such is his new prominence that Sheikh Abdullah was pictured beside King Salman on the occasion of Eid Al-Adha.

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Gulf States News - Issue 1042 - 03/08/2017

Saudi Arabia grapples with rising security threats on several fronts

Saudi Arabia’s more muscular approach to settling regional disputes, a feature of Riyadh’s projection of power during Crown Prince and defence minister Mohammed Bin Salman Bin Abdelaziz (MBS)’s rise to ascendency, has seen the kingdom and its allies become bogged down in conflict in Yemen, confronting Iran in a number of theatres – including Gulf waters, where a series of naval incidents has heightened the risk of a more violent confrontation and embroiled in a standoff with Qatar that shows no sign of resolution. In this volatile environment, security threats have risen in intensity on several fronts, including at home.

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Gulf States News - Issue 1041 - 20/07/2017

The next insurgency beckons after Mosul, rebooting Iraq’s cycle of violence

The battle of Mosul finally ended after 267 days of major combat operations and well over a year of preparations before that. But even before the final diehards were forced out of their last-stand locations Islamic State (IS or Daesh) jihadists had already begun their shift to terrorism tactics within the city of Mosul.

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Gulf States News - Issue 1040 - 06/07/2017

Antagonists dig in for the long haul as Qatar crisis drags into a second month

Qatar’s predictable and probably inevitable decision to reject the list of 13 demands made of it by its Gulf Cooperation Council adversaries – Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the UAE (dubbed by GSN the GCC-3, also known as the Troika) – and Egypt suggests the conflict will drag on for much longer than its second month (GSN 1,039/1, 1,038/1). Economists believe Doha can see out a protracted boycott, barring a still unlikely military intervention that Qatar’s much smaller forces would find hard to oppose, despite the recent Turkish deployment, discussed on page 5. Closer relations with Iran (see page 3) could have catastrophic consequences for the region if a new military alliance is seen to be forming – as the Qataris well know. Talk of ‘regime change’ to replace Emir Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al-Thani is no more than speculation, as a majority of Qataris ‘rally round the flag’

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Gulf States News - Issue 1039 - 22/06/2017

Dynastic conflicts and generational shifts exacerbate regional crisis

The politics were long in the making before the crisis erupted between Qatar and three major Gulf Cooperation Council partners turned adversaries – Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the UAE (the ‘GCC-3’) – plus Egypt and other allies from the wider Muslim world, but several of the immediate consequences emerging from the conflict are nevertheless unexpected.

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Gulf States News - Issue 1038 - 08/06/2017

Showdown with its neighbours heaps pressure on Qatar, threatens GCC’s future

The most consequential dispute among Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) members for years has escalated from a curious allegation of injudicious comments and hacking into a full-blown diplomatic and economic crisis in the space of a few weeks, to the point where it no longer feels fanciful to question the bloc’s long-term viability. Such is the dispute’s gravity that Emir Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al-Thani’s rule has been called into question, while Qatar is confronted with a potentially deep and multi-faceted crisis.

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Gulf States News - Issue 1037 - 25/05/2017

Rouhani victory sets the scene for future battles between Iran’s competing factions

Hassan Rouhani’s landslide victory in the presidential election on 19 May – when he won 57% of the vote, removing any need for a second round – presents the second term head of government and the wider political establishment with short- and long-term challenges that will be difficult to resolve. At the most basic level, the result was a retort to the hardline conservative/principalist agenda, which has been roundly rejected by the population, allowing Rouhani to come first in 23 of the Islamic Republic’s 31 provinces.

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Gulf States News - Issue 1036 - 11/05/2017

Monarchies struggle with the complexities of their near abroad

The efforts by Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) states to manage their ‘near abroad’ continue to cause difficulties and political trouble. GSN has been talking to senior players and well-placed analysts in a number of the region’s neighbours to gauge how the Gulf states – particularly Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Qatar – are perceived, where their policies are working and where they are failing.

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