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Gulf States News - Issue 1030 - 26/01/2017

Iran scores diplomatic points in Astana, accused of ‘sectarian cleansing’ in Syria

Population transfers have become an integral part of Syria’s six-year conflict, emerging as a means for the regime and rebel factions to exploit the atomised country’s complex sectarian patchwork to their advantage. Fears over the extent that ethnic cleansing is happening have ramped up over the past year, as reports from Syria have raised fears of a Iranian-backed campaign to cement the Bashar Al-Assad regime’s territorial gains through a more aggressive form of ‘confessional cleansing’.

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Gulf States News - Issue 1029 - 12/01/2017

Saudi government muddles ahead with austerity-lite masquerading as largesse

Mohammed Al-Jaadan’s first budget as finance minister provided an interesting exercise in expectation management and spin. The government tried to present the budget as an expansionary one, allowing the kingdom to catch its breath after several years of tough austerity which have strained the social contract between the Al-Saud and their citizenry. However, analysis of the detail suggests the reality is rather different.

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Gulf States News - Issue 1028 - 15/12/2016

Iran remodels its armed forces to enhance its regional power projection

The overhaul of the upper ranks of Iran’s defence and security apparatus has continued this month, with Rahbar (Supreme Leader) Ayatollah Ali Khamenei appointing Brigadier General Gholam Hossein Gheibparvar as commander of the Basij volunteer forces, in a decree issued on 7 December. It is the latest in a string of senior appointments within Iran’s military establishment this year. Among others, in June Major General Mohammad Bagheri was appointed as Chief of the Armed Forces General Staff, Iran’s highest military policy body, replacing the long-serving Major General Hassan Firouzabadi who had held the job since 1989.

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Gulf States News - Issue 1027 - 01/12/2016

Kuwait’s cunning plan backfires, a selection returns opposition to driving seat

Kuwait is preparing for another period of confrontation and policy deadlock between the National Assembly and government, after the authorities’ gamble with an early election failed to return yet another lenient parliament. The calling of an early election – nine months before it was needed – was seen as an attempt by government to take the opposition by surprise at a time when a number of their leaders were unable to run (GSN 1,024/1). However, the election results clearly showed that the key groups were able to mobilise in time and could draw on wide support from the population.

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Gulf States News - Issue 1026 - 17/11/2016

Citizen Trump’s victory a recipe for uncertainty and instability

The election of Donald Trump adds considerable strain to the fraying fabric of the global order established after World War II. His soothing tones in the immediate aftermath of victory – when the president-elect spoke of governing for “all Americans” – have not assuaged concerns that a volatile narcissist has taken over the Oval Office. Middle East leaders who might otherwise favour a deal-making conservative in the White House – including Gulf rulers disillusioned after eight years of Barack Obama’s presidency and Israeli prime minister (and long-time Republican ally) Benyamin Netanyahu – are concerned about Trump’s potential impact.

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Gulf States News - Issue 1024 - 20/10/2016

Kuwait prepares for another political battle after parliament’s early dissolution

Emir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmed Al-Jaber Al-Sabah’s decision to dissolve the National Assembly on 16 October, only nine months before the end of its four-year term, was officially because of regional security concerns. But removing the most acquiescent parliament of recent years seems like an attempt to sideline critics and pre-empt their chances of gaining significant ground at the next elections.

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Gulf States News - Issue 1023 - 06/10/2016

The considerable power of the Omani state was brought to bear when the Court of First Instance in Muscat sentenced three journalists to prison on 26 September and ordered the permanent closure of their newspaper, Azamn (sometimes written Al-Zaman), for publishing an article that alleged corruption in the judiciary. The piece received subsequent vindication from a senior judicial official – who has also since been detained – but Azamn “violated freedom of expression” in its reports of alleged abuses by the judiciary, the government said in a statement published by the official Oman News Agency (ONA) on 10 August.

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Gulf States News - Issue 1022 - 22/09/2016

Ambiguous statements over the UAE’s commitment to the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen may have created some confusion over the Emirati leadership’s intentions, (GSN 1,018/3), but the federation continues to wrack up casualties in the conflict. Lieutenant Rashid Ahmed Abdullah Al-Habsi was killed while on duty in Yemen on 5 September and Lance Corporal Saeed Anbar Juma Al-Falasi was buried on 22 September, having received treatment in Paris, France before succumbing to his wounds. The official death toll among Emirate forces involved in the conflict has now reached 97, according to GSN’s research, with the majority of casualties coming from the Northern Emirates.

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Gulf States News - Issue 1021 - 09/09/2016

Rival factions line up ahead of an election that could redefine Iran’s direction

The Shora-ye Negahban-e Qanun-e Assassi (Guardian Council) in late July announced that the next presidential election will be held on 19 May 2017. It will be a critical moment as the Islamic Republic is likely to be asked to choose between critics of the nuclear deal drawn from conservative/revolutionary factions (GSN 1,008/6) and President Hassan Rouhani’s more outwardly-oriented pragmatic/moderate agenda. The polls will come at a potentially febrile moment, as the new US president beds in and the region’s several proxy wars place Iran at the forefront of efforts to bring order to a dangerously destabilised Middle East/North Africa area.

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Gulf States News - Issue 1020 - 28/07/2016

Election law amendment represents fresh blow to Kuwaiti opposition groups

The National Assembly and Cabinet of Ministers passed an amendment to the election law on 28 June barring anyone convicted by a final court ruling of insulting God, the prophets or the emir from running in parliamentary elections. The amendment is likely to affect dozens of opposition members, including several prominent former MPs. Judging from the timing, that is exactly what was intended.

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