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Gulf States News - Issue 1066 - 20/09/2018

Gulf rivals grapple with US defence plans amid differing approaches to Iran

Ameeting of regional defence chiefs in Kuwait on 12-13 September was a rare occasion when senior Qatari officials found themselves around a table with their erstwhile allies from Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, along with the more neutral Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) members, Kuwait and Oman. The event highlighted the aim of the Trump administration and hawkish GCC leaders to articulate a common front, most notably against Iran at a time when US sanctions are posing a major threat to its centrist President Hassan Rouhani. But that desire for unity is proving hard to achieve.

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Gulf States News - Issue 1065 - 06/09/2018

Support for Palestinians becomes another theatre for GCC rivalries, Trump caprices

The United States’ decision to withdraw its funding for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) was intended by President Donald Trump to add to pressure on the Palestinian National Authority (PA) to buy into his administration’s ‘ultimate deal’ to reach a very Israel-friendly accommodation on decades of conflict in the region. Trump’s 31 August decision may also have been intended to add to pressure on other donors to pay more – Germany and Japan are already among those to commit new funds to UNRWA. These developments represent an opportunity for Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states to project their power, while also threating to further exacerbate their differences.

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Gulf States News - Issue 1064 - 02/08/2018

Salman emerges into Neom world as Saudi reforms progress with mixed results

With the summer heat in full force, King Salman Bin Abdelaziz opted for an unusual place to take a break: the yet-to-be-built city of Neom in the kingdom’s north-west corner, abutting Egypt and Jordan, is his chosen destination. Eschewing his usual break in Tangier, Morocco, Salman arrived at the site on 30 July to “spend some time in rest and recreation”, the official statement said. The monarch chaired a session of the cabinet the following day, providing symbolic confirmation of Neom’s incorporation into the new Saudi Arabia being crafted by Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman (MBS) and his teams of advisors.

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Gulf States News - Issue 1063 - 20/07/2018

UAE continues its proxy conflict against Qatar in Libya

The standoff between Qatar and its GCC-3 rivals Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the UAE seems intractable more than a year after the embargo began, with new fronts in the dispute steadily opening up in other nearby regions. The battle for diplomatic influence and control of strategic assets in the Horn of Africa – enlivened by the UAE’s desire for military bases close to the Yemen conflict (GSN 1,055/6) – has been one notable arena. Libya has been a theatre of activity for Gulf and other regional players, notably Turkey, since the 2011 revolution that overthrew the late dictator Muammar Qadhafi. Recent manoeuvres involving Qatar and the UAE fit into what is becoming a familiar pattern.

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Gulf States News - Issue 1062 - 05/07/2018

Northern Emirates at play as Abu Dhabi flexes its centralising muscle

Events over last month have highlighted the strains being created by Abu Dhabi Crown Prince and UAE Armed Forces deputy supreme commander Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Al-Nahyan (MBZ)’s assertive political leadership of the United Arab Emirates, where he is seen as the most powerful political player, with dominant political influence in the smaller less powerful emirates. This has been reflected in British newspapers reports of the defection to Qatar of Sheikh Rashid Bin Hamad Al-Sharqi. The second son of Fujairah Ruler Sheikh Hamad Bin Mohammed Al-Sharqi apparently fled to Doha having taken refuge in a hotel on Park Lane, London; reports said he feared for his safety when it became apparent that MBZ was pressurising his father to change the line of succession in a family where hand-overs of rule have traditionally gone smoothly.

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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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