Algeria: President ailing, state on auto-pilot

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Bouteflika flown to France, possibly for a heart checkup. Presidency and state information systems, nominally controlled by Bouteflika’s brother, go dumb (striking contrast with the hyper-modern information system of the IS). President Abd al-Aziz Bouteflika is 77 and in poor health following a stroke last year. He has rarely appeared in public since …

Sultan Qaboos: more health worries

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In our posting of 23 October we recorded that the Sultan of Oman, rumoured to be suffering from cancer, is in hospital in Germany. On 5 November he broadcast a short television message to his people explaining that he would be unable to be in Oman for the national day, 18 November, "for the reasons …

Saudi women driving

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Report of a recommendation from the Shura (advisory) Council denied, but pressure for change continues.  Last week the Associated Press reported that the Saudi Shura Council had recommended lifting the ban on women driving, subject to a number of conditions including permission from a male relative, driving only between 7 AM and 8 PM, conservative dress …

The Gulf Cooperation Council: choppy water

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The GCC, which has proved a useful mechanism for cooperation, is facing problems because of political divisions between members over the Muslim Brotherhood and over Iran. Positive reaction over IS but funding for Jihadis a toxic issue. Kuwait in the hot seat. The GCC, whose members are Saudi Arabia and the five smaller …

Syria: Asad sits it out

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Inconclusive fighting, much of it between Jihadi forces and the US-led coalition leaving the Syrian regime to watch and wait. Bloody fighting continues in Syria. At risk of oversimplifying it appears that the conflict is mainly between pro-regime and Jihadi forces, and that the Jihadi forces are divided with IS gaining ground and al-Qa'ida …

Algeria – new theatre for IS?

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Video of beheading of a French captive by an Algerian group aligned with IS – a game changer, or old Saharan brigandage in new colours? Algeria remains out of the Anglophone media except for football and terrorism. On 24 September a video was released of the beheading of a French mountain guide …

Oman: set fair, but concern about the Sultan’s health

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Oman: set fair, but concern about the Sultan's healthoutlook good except for the Sutan's illness, possibly serious. On IS lip-service to the US-led Coalition. We circulate below a useful roundup report on Oman from the Al Monitor website. The author is a Washington-based analyst. Sultan Qaboos is 73 and rumoured to be suffering from cancer. According to …

Bahrain: human rights and elections

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Leading human rights activist arrested, US concern. UK report on human rights contains some criticisms. Parliamentary elections 22 November, boycotted by opposition parties. Nabil Rajab, a prominent human rights activist and one of the leaders of the popular demonstrations by the Shia majority against Sunni rule in Bahrain in the 2011 Arab spring, …

The ‘Eid al-Adha – feast of sacrifice

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4 October is this year the date of the greatest festival of the Islamic year, celebrated everywhere as a family holiday. It is also the high point of the Hajj, which this year bring two million Muslims to Mecca. Practical arrangements, "cultural devastation" of Mecca itself. Note: for the first time this …

Kuwait/Oman: see no evil

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Kuwait is geographically the most vulnerable of the neighbour countries of IS; in 1990 it was invaded and immediately overrun by Iraq. Relations between the two have been pretty well normalised, and there are close personal and tribal cross-border contacts.