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Gulf States Newsletter - Issue 1108 - 30/07/2020

The region braces for possible leadership changes in Kuwait and Riyadh

Changes in the leadership of either Kuwait or Saudi Arabia could have important ramifications for the region. Kuwait’s Emir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmed Al-Jaber Al-Sabah has had surgery, which has led to reflection on his highly-valued position as a peacemaker, while King Salman Bin Abdelaziz’s recent health issues have led to new speculation about succession in Saudi Arabia, where Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman has been moving to ensure he takes over from his father sooner or later (see GSN view).

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Gulf States Newsletter - Issue 1107 - 16/07/2020

Allies rally to support MBN amid rumours of pending corruption charges

Speculation persists that Prince Mohammed Bin Nayef (MBN) is being set up to face corruption charges, as his successor as crown prince, Mohammed Bin Salman (MBS), consolidates his personal power – by cracking down on potential rivals – and economic influence, via instruments including the now pervasive Public Investment Fund (PIF).

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Gulf States Newsletter - Issue 1106 - 02/07/2020

Bin Salman clan clamps down further on royal rivals and other Saudi dissidents

Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman (MBS) appears to be well aware of his pariah status on the world stage in the aftermath of Jamal Khashoggi’s murder in October 2018 (see Diplomatic brief). Wishing to avoid any embarrassment at being cold-shouldered by some senior western leaders, he had severely curbed his global travelling even before the Covid-19 pandemic began and the Bin Salman clan locked down in their island palaces and yachts. MBS is believed to have stayed in the kingdom (and not to have recently visited his French summer home at Louveciennes, near Versailles, acquired in 2015 for an estimated $300m).

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Gulf States Newsletter - Issue 1105 - 18/06/2020

Coronavirus cases start to rise again as lockdown measures ease

With many Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) countries now starting to ease restrictions imposed to counter the spread of coronavirus, GSN has carried out an analysis of the number of new Covid-19 cases and deaths attributable to the disease across the region. While some governments appear to be getting the virus under control, at least to some degree, an analysis of data collated by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control suggests other countries remain firmly in the grip of a healthcare crisis.

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Gulf States Newsletter - Issue 1104 - 04/06/2020

UAE embroiled in North Africa conflicts and challenged by Libyan war’s next phase

The UAE has projected its influence and increasing military muscle in an ever wider arc under Abu Dhabi Crown Prince and UAE Armed Forces deputy supreme commander Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Al-Nahyan (MBZ)’s leadership. Its commitments now run as far west as Libya, where the UAE is a key backer of Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar and his Libyan Arab Armed Forces (LAAF – formerly known as the Libyan National Army), whose march on Tripoli has stalled amid a striking Turkish intervention.

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Gulf States Newsletter - Issue 1102 - 07/05/2020

Alarm bells ring as Iraq slowly faces up to the consequences of slumping oil revenues

After six months of haggling – which is far from a record – the Chamber of Representatives’ 6 May vote has endowed Iraq with a new government. Mustafa AlKadhimi’s administration would face daunting challenges even without the sharply deteriorating economic outlook, triggered by plunging oil revenues. Iraq is one of the biggest losers from the slump: based on an average $30 a barrel ($/bbl) Brent crude price, the International Energy Agency (IEA) has forecast a 70% drop in revenues, while Fitch Ratings expects GDP to contract by almost 10% this year. Low oil prices coupled with lower production and exports threaten to drain the funding pool that Iraq’s political elites have traditionally relied on to maintain their patronage networks. But those holding power and influence in Baghdad seem unlikely to change their ways.

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Gulf States Newsletter - Issue 1101 - 23/04/2020

As Covid-19 strikes rulers and those they rule, the crisis hurts the poorest the most

Gulf Co-operation Council states appear to have coped quite well in slowing the spread of Covid-19, although there is considerable scepticism about the accuracy of the numbers reported. As of 22 April, World Health Organisation (WHO) data show the global death rate stood at 6.8% of all cases, but that figure for the six GCC states was just 0.6%. There is likely to be much worse to come. Kuwaiti scientists believe the virus will not peak there until mid-May. Saudi health minister Dr Tawfiq Bin Fawzan Al-Rabiah said the kingdom could eventually see 200,000 cases, many multiples higher than the current 11,631.

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Gulf States Newsletter - Issue 1100 - 02/04/2020

Dubai faces into another economic storm as the ‘coronacrisis’ forces Expo delay

Dubai’s decision on 30 March to seek a one-year delay of the Expo 2020 fair, which had been due to start on 20 October, represents a psychological body blow to the commercial hub’s economy. Even before the coronavirus pandemic had begun, the Dubai economy was in poor shape, with real estate prices in decline since 2015 and wider levels of activity muted. The sharp fall in oil prices was threatening to make the downturn even worse; even though Dubai has only limited oil and gas reserves, its economy relies to some extent on the recycling of oil-derived wealth from its neighbours.

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Gulf States Newsletter - Issue 1099 - 19/03/2020

Bani Salman leadership projects ruthless ambition as oil prices crash, virus spreads

Alargely unexpected conflict between Riyadh and Moscow has shattered the marriage of convenience which since 2016 has allowed the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec) and Non-Opec countries to stabilise oil prices and with them their domestic finances. The fallout, which threatens huge new pressures on oil producing economies, was driven by one of Opec’s most experienced officials, Saudi energy minister (and royal son) Prince Abdelaziz Bin Salman.

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Gulf States Newsletter - Issue 1098 - 05/03/2020

Political trust and economic growth in the balance as Covid-19 spreads through Gulf

Th e spread of Covid-19 – the strain of coronavirus disease that emerged in central China’s Hubei province last year – is gathering momentum around the region. It is prompting serious questions about the standard of governance in Iran, while shaking the economies of even the best-run Gulf states. Governments have been trying to reduce the risk of infection by restricting travel to and from at-risk destinations, putting in place screening programmes and cancelling public events. But ultimately none have been able to prevent the virus from crossing their borders.

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