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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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Gulf States News - Issue 1051 - 11/01/2018

Iranian protesters provide wake-up call for authorities

Whether localised protests over rising social pressures, a cry for regime change or the work of external enemies – or all of the above – the latest upsurge in popular discontent has pointed to complex dynamics across the Islamic Republic which will not easily go way. Dissident group Human Rights Activists in Iran said that between 28 December and 3 January all 31 provinces saw protests, spread throughout 69 counties and 71 cities; from three locations on 28 December, protests grew to 11 and then 28 cities on the next day and continued to spread thereafter.

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Gulf States News - Issue 1050 - 14/12/2017

Saudi Arabia looks forward with trepidation to life in a brave new world fashioned by MBS

The year ends with Saudi Arabia in a state of flux – its politics, society and economics all in the process of being radically remoulded by Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman (MBS), the 32-year-ol son of King Salman Bin Abdelaziz who has emerged as a visionary and apparently allpowerful moderniser and autocrat. With regional relations, dynastic politics, culture, religion and economic structures in play, it may not be overly dramatic to talk of a revolutionary situation – in which, so far, the body politic has held together, with few outward signs of sustained popular opposition to the heady programme of change.

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Gulf States News - Issue 1049 - 01/12/2017

Kuwait searches for political stability after court defeat for opposition

One month after the previous executive resigned on 30 October, Kuwait was still waiting for a new cabinet to be appointed as GSN went to press, amid intensifying tensions between opposition groups and a government which is only in place in an acting capacity (GSN 1,047/4). There appears to be little prospect of things simmering down soon, particularly given the conviction on 27 November by the Courts of Appeal of 67 people for their role in the storming of the National Assembly in November 2011 (GSN 913/1).

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Gulf States News - Issue 1048 - 20/11/2017

Uncertainty follows after Al-Salman purge establishes a new model Saudi autocracy

Saudi Arabia is still struggling to digest the implications of the shock purge of the kingdom’s political and business elite ordered by an ever-more dominant Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman (MBS) on 4-5 November (see GSN 1,048 Special Report,published on 7 November). It is too soon to say whether these dramatic moves will turn out to be brave or reckless, but a number of long-held assumptions about political, economic and social stability have been demolished. The chances of a significant backlash against the emerging Al-Salman autocracy cannot be ruled out; risk assessments of the kingdom must be reviewed and rebased.

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Gulf States News - Issue 1047 - 02/11/2017

Regional crises test bonds between Dubai and Abu Dhabi

Strains are building up between Abu Dhabi and Dubai, with the commercial hub increasingly irked about the damage being caused to its economy by the Qatar crisis, now entering its fifth month. In public, Dubai has remained noticeably silent about the diplomatic and economic boycott of Qatar by Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, which began on 5 June. However, Dubai Ruler Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al-Maktoum (MBR), who is also federal vice president and prime minister – is said by sources in the UAE to be irritated by Abu Dhabi’s hawkish approach to regional security. With the Qatar crisis about to enter its fifth month, there is a widespread view in Dubai that the situation cannot be allowed to go on forever and a resolution needs to be found.

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Gulf States News - Issue 1046 - 19/10/2017

Trump’s revised US policy on Iran divides allies and threatens instability

Donald Trump’s decision to turn his harsh rhetoric into a confrontational policy on Iran’s Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) nuclear deal was widely expected – in the process undermining another legacy of his predecessor Barack Obama. The US president has gone as far as he could to call the JCPOA into question, but this is still not as far as candidate Trump promised during last year’s election campaign to trash “the worst ever deal”. The US ball is in Congress’s court, leaving the world wondering what his next step might be. Only Iran’s most concerted enemies – who include the staunchest of US allies in the Middle East: the ‘GCC-3’ of Saudi Arabia, Abu Dhabi and Bahrain, and Israeli prime minister Benyamin Netanyahu – believe they have won out in Trump’s most antagonistic line.

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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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