“Islamic State”: action and reaction

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"Islamic State": action and reactionIS no longer expanding territorially, but continues to make agile use of propaganda. Some counter-propaganda. What to do with returning fighters. In a recent Stratfor report George Friedman comments that "Ideologically, there is little difference between the Islamic State and other radical Islamic jihadist movements, but … While al Qaeda might have longed to …

Foreign workers in the GCC

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Pressure for reform of the near-slavery conditions of foreign workers in the GCC spreads from concentration on Qatar and the football World Cup to the rest of the Gulf. Two recent international reports.  A report published on 17 November by the International Trade Union Confederation " Facilitating Exploitation: A Review of Labour …

GCC: quarrel over?

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Split in the Gulf Cooperation Council formally healed. Saudi, UAE and Bahrain ambassadors returning to Doha. Underlying disagreement about the Muslim Brotherhood probably unresolved. UK risks being caught in the crossfire. A high-level GCC meeting in Riyadh on 16 November in advance of the summit planned in Doha in December reached an understanding based on which …

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 …

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 …

Arab women and sport

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Increasing flow of stories about women’s sport – marginal interest, or leading to more substantial emancipation? Modern sport, previously little followed in the Arab world, has become a passion in this generation – football mania in particular. More recently, again following the non-Arab world, more attention has been paid to women’s sport. To understand the position of women in the Middle East it is often helpful for outsiders to recall their position in western society one, two or three generations ago, with all the conventions, restrictions and inhibitions …

Qatar still under pressure

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Qatar has supported but probably not participated in the US and Arab airstrikes on  IS. Doubts have again been raised about holding the 2022 football World Cup in Qatar. Israel is hostile because of Qatar's support for Hamas. Qatar’s problems with Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Egypt, stemming from Qatar’s support for the Muslim Brotherhood, …

Anti-Islamist lineup: Qatar under pressure

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The Paris conference on Iraq widened the coalition against the IS without producing anything concrete. Moves from Egypt and others to widen the target to include the Muslim Brotherhood put Qatar under pressure and risk losing Turkey altogether. Nothing on Syria or Iran. The Iraq conference in Paris yesterday 16 September extended the agreed …