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Gulf States News - Issue 1093 - 28/11/2019

Kuwait political system gets a reboot following cabinet resignation

The resignation of the Kuwaiti cabinet on 14 November (GSN 1,092/4) looks ever less likely to signal the start of yet another crisis in local politics. Instead it has given Emir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmed Al-Jaber Al-Sabah the chance to reshape a cabinet that had become dysfunctional amid allegations of corruption involving a senior member of the ruling family. Local sources tell GSN the removal of interior minister Sheikh Khaled Jarrah Al-Sabah in particular offers an opportunity for a long-term restructuring of power within government.

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Gulf States News - Issue 1092 - 19/11/2019

Iran’s regional influence comes under scrutiny as protests in Iraq turn violent

Iraq scored a notable victory over Iran on 14 November, albeit only on the football pitch in Amman, Jordan, where Usood Al-Rafidain (the Lions of Mesopotamia) won a World Cup qualifier over the much higher ranked Team Melli by two goals to one. The game was played in a neutral location due to security concerns around the original venue in Basra, where anti-government protests have continued through early November, as they have across much of Iraq. Fans’ celebrations were informed as much by events at home as on the pitch in Jordanian capital, with Iran seen by a growing number of Iraqis as exercising an unwarranted degree of influence over their government. Large crowds watching the game on screens in Tahrir Square, Baghdad saw Iraqi players cover their faces after scoring, in reference to the teargas used against demonstrators.

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Gulf States News - Issue 1091 - 31/10/2019

Doubts about Crown Prince Nawaf’s health spur talk of change in Kuwaiti succession

The return of Emir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmed Al-Jaber AlSabah to Kuwait after an extended period of medical checks in New York appears to have settled some nerves about the immediate succession (GSN 1,090/7). Notwithstanding his health issues, the 90-year-old emir appears in relatively good shape for his age. However, succession is set to remain a live issue, particularly given fresh doubts about Crown Prince Sheikh Nawaf Al-Ahmed Al-Jaber Al-Sabah’s future as heir apparent. GSN’s soundings suggest the succession to Sheikh Sabah may skip a generation, but keep power within the emir’s nuclear family. GSN understands that the emir’s halfbrother Sheikh Nawaf is highly unlikely to succeed given his own health issues. Sources suggest that the emir’s 71-year-old son, defence minister and deputy prime minister Sheikh Nasser Sabah Al-Ahmed Al-Sabah, is now most likely to step up to fill any potential vacancy, but formal decisions have yet to be made.

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Gulf States News - Issue 1090 - 17/10/2019

Abu Dhabi-Dubai ties under pressure from regional instability and economic doldrums

The relationship between Abu Dhabi Crown Prince and UAE Armed Forces deputy supreme commander Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Al-Nahyan (MBZ) and Dubai Ruler, federal Vice President and prime minister Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al-Maktoum (MBR) is inevitably complex, with many of its working parts hidden from public view and shielded by a cloak of lèse-majesté. Ties that have bonded the two leaders in creating in the emirates a global pole of commercial achievement and influence have long played a positive role in the region.

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Gulf States News - Issue 1089 - 03/10/2019

US President Donald Trump’s lack of enthusiasm for backing up his heated anti-Iranian rhetoric with meaningful military resources, even in the wake of last month’s attack on the Abqaiq oil facilities in Saudi Arabia, appears to be a key underlying factor in renewed efforts from within the region to de-escalate tensions. Trump has taken heed of trusted media voices that a Middle East war now would torpedo his re-election chances, while the two main regional protagonists, Iran and Saudi Arabia, are both in positions of relative weakness.

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Gulf States News - Issue 1088 - 19/09/2019

Abqaiq attack raises more awkward questions about regional alliances and balance of power

The massive attack launched on the critical Saudi Aramco oil processing facilities at Khurais and Abqaiq early on 14 September was not just another drone strike by the Houthis – as the Yemeni movement claimed – but in all likelihood was launched from Iran, reflecting the extent that the Islamic Republic has emerged as a significant military power. As well as placing unexpected new pressures on the global oil market, it pitched Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman (MBS) and the Saudi leadership into yet another crisis – of how to respond against an enemy that has shown it has the commitment and wherewithal to do great damage – and US President Donald Trump, who newly shorn of his hawkish national security advisor (NSA) John Bolton must articulate a credible response.

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Gulf States News - Issue 1087 - 05/09/2019

Health scare for Kuwait’s Emir Sheikh Sabah focuses minds on the future

Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmed Al-Jaber Al-Sabah’s health was the subject of renewed concern and speculation following an unscripted mid-August revelation about the 90-year-old emir’s apparently poor health by Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. However, as GSN went to press, the indefatigable nonogenarian emir was expected to visit the United States for talks with President Donald Trump and on 2 September was pictured laughing with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi at the Bayan Palace in Kuwait.

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Gulf States News - Issue 1086 - 01/08/2019

Shipping threats provide rough introduction to Johnson administration

The drama affecting shipping in the Strait of Hormuz is not quite yet a full-blown crisis – characterised as it is by plausible deniability for Iran on attacks on tankers in the Gulf of Oman and dubious claims on the legality of other vessels seized by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corp (IRGC). It does though represent a serious foreign policy dilemma for the newly-installed government of UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, at a time when the British authorities already have an over-full agenda trying to avoid a chaotic exit from the European Union (EU) on 31 October.

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Gulf States News - Issue 1085 - 23/07/2019

UAE drawdown from Yemen creates vacuum for warring parties to fill

UAE officials have confirmed the accuracy of reports that the Emirates are reducing their military commitment in Yemen, in the process signalling a new phase in the war which has now been raging for more than four years (GSN 1,084/5). Whether this is due to war fatigue or a desire to find an exit from a conflict which is undermining the UAE’s reputation on the world stage remains unclear, but Abu Dhabi has insisted the strategic shift – which has taken most observers by surprise – has been planned for more than a year.

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Gulf States News - Issue 1084 - 04/07/2019

‘Rivalry and posturing’ by Gulf powers add to risks in Horn of Africa

The intense competition for influence among Gulf states and other regional players continues apace in the Horn of Africa, with potentially billions of dollars in financial support and investment flowing from the UAE and Saudi Arabia into Sudan, Ethiopia and their neighbours. But as the network of military bases and ports along the coast of the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden gets ever more substantial, criticism of Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) states’ impact on the region is also growing (GSN 1,082/5, 1,055/6).

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