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Gulf States News - Issue 1078 - 04/04/2019

Western powers diverge over how to dilute Iraq’s economic ties to Iran

Tensions between the United States and Europe over attitudes to Iran are seeping across into other areas of policy. Clear differences are emerging between Washington and some European capitals over President Donald Trump’s policy towards Iraq and its Shia-dominated government’s alliance with Tehran. The focus of US policy in the Gulf region is on trying to isolate Iran and, to promote this, Washington is intent on driving a wedge between Baghdad and Tehran. However, European diplomatic sources are concerned that the ‘with us or against us’ choice being presented to Baghdad is likely to prove counter-productive and will simply push Iraq further into the arms of Iran.

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Gulf States News - Issue 1077 - 21/03/2019

Competition for influence in Syria heats up as conflict enters end-game

With the regime of Syria’s President Bashar Al-Assad looking ever more secure, attention in regional capitals is turning to what might happen next. While the monarchies were early movers in finding proxies in Syria, Iran’s tactics during the eight years of civil war have proved far more successful than those of its Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) rivals. It is Tehran’s ally Assad who remains at the helm while opposition groups backed by Saudi Arabia and others have largely failed.

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Gulf States News - Issue 1076 - 07/03/2019

Riyadh rumour mill raises questions over relations between king and crown prince

Another round of fevered speculation about splits in the most senior ranks of the Al-Saud was set off on 5 March, with a report that King Salman Bin Abdelaziz Al-Saud has clashed with his son Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman (MBS) over the Yemen war, the fallout from the Jamal Khashoggi affair and other matters. In the most dramatic allegation, the king’s advisors were said to have changed the personal security team that accompanied the monarch during his recent trip to Egypt, due to suspicions about where their true loyalties lay.

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Gulf States News - Issue 1075 - 21/02/2019

Islamic Republic heads into fifth decade under siege, but with opponents divided

Aseries of events in mid-February, including the anniversary of the revolution which brought the Islamic Republic into being, have served to highlight many of the problems facing Iran but also to underscore the divisions among its opponents. Rahbar (Supreme Leader) Ayatollah Ali Khamenei issued a long statement on 13 February, the day of the anniversary, in which he said Iran “is always flexible and ready to correct its mistakes”. The Islamic Republic was now “entering the second phase of self-development”.

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Gulf States News - Issue 1074 - 07/02/2019

Riyadh draws line in the sand as MBS seeks to reinvigorate reform programme

Saudi officials are trying to put the murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi behind them, with a new initiative to kick-start inward investment and a range of soft power initiatives. But while the stellar turn-out of sporting stars, entertainers and business leaders arriving in the kingdom suggests that – rather predictably – many supports for Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman (MBS)’s Vision 2030 agenda see it is business as usual, Riyadh continues to struggle to address criticism of its record on human rights and financial abuses.

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Gulf States News - Issue 1073 - 24/01/2019

Omani clamp-down on property sales highlights tensions with neighbours

Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) owners of land and real estate in Oman have been given until November 2020 to sell up, under the terms of a little-noticed royal decree. Until now the prevailing rule among the six Gulf monarchies has been that the citizens of one GCC country are permitted to buy property in another. However, Royal Decree 29/2018 introduced a series of prohibitions on foreigners owning land and property in designated areas and ordered them to sell such property to Omanis.

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Gulf States News - Issue 1072 - 10/01/2019

Salman reshuffles in bid to protect MBS and shore up internal position

An unexpected reshuffle of senior officials on 27 December, along with the trial of 11 unnamed individuals for the murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi, has sent a clear signal that King Salman Bin Abdelaziz is determined to protect his son Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman (MBS) from any fallout from the killing, while also trying to rebuild Saudi Arabia’s standing on the world stage.

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Gulf States News - Issue 1071 - 13/12/2018

Politics of disunity and animosity in the GCC reshapes the regional landscape

The Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) summit was again overshadowed by the crisis pitting Qatar against the GCC-3 of Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the UAE (GSN 1,040/1). Qatar attended the 9 December summit – although Emir Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al-Thani was one of three heads of state who stayed away from the annual meeting, this year held in Riyadh – but 18 months after the GCC-3’s boycott was launched against Doha it is becoming ever harder to paper over the cracks of regional disunity. There was no sign of any unexpected radical shift in key leaders’ thinking, leaving a consensus that the one-day summit had achieved nothing other than to entrench existing positions.

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Gulf States News - Issue 1070 - 29/11/2018

UAE tests its standing in the international arena with Hedges affair

Matthew Hedges’ release from a life sentence in the United Arab Emirates, following a presidential pardon on 26 November, came as a great relief to his family – led by his wife Daniela Tejeda – and to his many academic and other supporters. However, his ordeal has raised important questions about the state of bilateral relations between the UAE and United Kingdom, as well as concerns for the safety of academics, consultants, journalists and others working in the region, who often need to ask searching questions in the course of their work.

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Gulf States News - Issue 1069 - 15/11/2018

Winners and losers as Sheikh Tamim reshuffles Qatar’s top team

Emir Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al-Thani reshuffled his 14-member cabinet, created a number of new government bodies and appointed new leaders at key state-run institutions, including the Qatar Investment Authority (QIA), Qatar Petroleum (QP) and the Qatar Financial Markets Authority (QFMA) in a string of 4 November decrees.

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