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.

Oil and foreign labour: the example of Oman

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"Addictions are never easy to overcome. Economic ones are no different. Oman’s dual dependence on hydrocarbon revenue and foreign labour has beleaguered development planning in the sultanate since its First Five-Year Development Plan was released in 1976." This is the opening sentence of a research paper Development Planning and Labour Market …

China and the Arab world

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As China becomes the Middle East's main economic partner, she is adjusting the politics cautiously, ready to work on her terms with the US and other powers and anxious to avoid repeating US mistakes. The visit of King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia to China in 2006 symbolised the increased depth of Chinese/Arab relations, based …

Saudi Arabia: the threat

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Today 11 September Saudi Arabia is hosting talks on confronting IS, expected to include John Kerry and from the region Egypt, Turkey, Jordan and members of the GCC including Qatar, but not Syria or Iran. There will be a conference of regional and international powers in Paris on 15 September. If IS were to continue its …

Libya air raids: was it Abu Dhabi?

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In our posting of 28 August we referred to night air raids on Islamist forces near Tripoli airport on 17 and 23 August, as both neighbours and western powers declared their opposition to outside interference in Libya. There are a number of unanswered questions to be asked as pressure mounts for concerted action …

An anti-IS coalition: any volunteers?

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There have been some minor military successes against the IS, achieved by the Iraq army supported by Iraqi Shia militias, Kurdish Peshmerga forces, US airstrikes and possibly some Iranian involvement. From the Sunni Arab states some talk but so far no action. The weekend meeting of GCC foreign ministers in Riyadh appears  to …

Qatar and the GCC

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Qatar's relationship with Saudi Arabia and the UAE remains difficult. The problem is Qatar’s support for the Muslim Brotherhood at a time when the Saudi and UAE obsession with the MB seems almost to rival their obsession with the Shias. As it happens this affects a number of items on today's political agenda: policy towards al-Sisi’s Egypt …

UAE: ready to intervene?

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Three years ago the UAE and Qatari air forces took part in the operation to impose a no-fly zone in Libya alongside NATO air forces. The UAE sent six F-16s and six Mirage 2000s, and Qatar sent six Mirage 2000s and two C-17 transports. On 17 and 23 August 2014 unidentified aircraft carried out night-time strikes …