Iran nuclear: after the interim agreement

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John Kerry told the US house foreign affairs committee on 10 December that "I would state to you unequivocally… the national security of the United States is stronger under this first-step agreement than it was before." He asked Congress to hold off imposing new sanctions at present; "This is a very delicate diplomatic …

Kuwait; new thinking and the Muslim Brotherhood

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Recent developments in the region (Egypt, Syria, Iran) have called for new thinking in the Gulf states, most of which are not well adapted for new thinking. Kuwait has a more open political system than most, though it does not habitually aspire to a leading role. The Amirs of Kuwait and Qatar met King …

Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf: Labour conditions

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Since our posting of 28 September working conditions of foreign labour in Qatar have continued to attract criticism, kept in the headlines by reports of preparations for the football World Cup in 2022 and more recently by visits by an international labour delegation and by François Crépeau, the UN Special Rapporteur on the …

Saudi Arabia and the Gulf: external

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Since our posting of 22 September it has become clearer that Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies face a number of new regional policy dilemmas, which together require some rethinking of relations with America: the current success of the Iranian peace offensive, the new international approach to Syrian chemical weapons and perhaps the civil war, …

Israel and Saudi Arabia: unlikely partners

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The stagnant and relatively predictable Middle East scene of recent years has been rudely disturbed, following the Arab Spring, by the election of an Iranian president who appears to seek a more conciliatory policy towards both the Arab world and the wider world, the unpredictability of post-Mubarak Egypt, the end of Sunni domination in Iraq …

Oman

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A visit by Sultan Qaboos bin Said of Omar to Iran has provoked speculation that it was an effort to mediate between Tehran and Washington. Sultan Qaboos is not a frequent traveller. But has important common interests and good relations with Iran, and the visit concluded with the announcement of an agreement by to buy Iranian gas worth …

Qatar: storm in a World Cup

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Qatar under the new Amir Tamim bin Hamad has not withdrawn from the forward policies of his father but has so far not tried new ones. One very high profile project, the football World Cup in 2022, is in jeopardy (but Qatari shaikhs have joined the Ruler of Dubai as big spenders on the British …

The Arab Gulf States and the social media

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The social media were credited with an important role in the overthrow of the regimes in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya in the Arab spring, and it is not surprising that other regimes view them with suspicion as a likely source of subversion. The first article below from the Al Monitor website considers a number of examples of oppressive action in the Emirates, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Omar and Qatar, accusing governments of a desperate rearguard action and failure to adapt to technological change; …

Closing embassies

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On 4 August the State Department spokeswoman announced the closure of 19 US embassies and consulates, mostly in the Middle East "out of an abundance of caution", adding that "This is not an indication of a new threat stream, merely an indication of our commitment to exercise caution." On 9 August she said 18 would reopen on 11 August. …

Kuwait: elections again

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With all its weaknesses, the Kuwaiti parliamentary system is the most democratic in the Arab Gulf monarchies. Parliament can pass legislation and interrogate ministers, but parliaments have repeatedly been dissolved after challenging governments. The election today 27 July follows a court decision that the election in December 2012 was legally flawed. This election like the one in December …