Saudi Arabia attacks Yemen

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Saudi Arabia bombs Sanaa and other targets in Yemen, aiming to restore the government of President Hadi. Wide Arab support pledged. No early end likely, meanwhile al-Qa’ida and IS will feel some relief. Oil price rises. The international context of the Saudi air strikes on Houthis in Yemen which began yesterday 26 March and the …

Yemen in crisis

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President and government resign, future uncertain. US intends to continue cooperation on antiterrorism. First challenge for the new Saudi administration. First we thank former British ambassador Alan Munro for a comment following our posting of 24 January on the death of King Abdullah:
Crown Prince Muqrin is an outgoing person with progressive ideas and a reputation for …

Yemen: Houthis on top

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The Houthi rebels have taken (perhaps temporary) control of Sanaa and President Hadi has agreed to demands referring to greater autonomy for Saada and the north. Situation likely to remain unstable. The Houthi movement Ansarallah (Champions of God) have taken effective control of the capital Sanaa and of the President’s palace, and President Abd Rabbu …

More on the veil

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Two new developments. al-Qa’ida suspects disguised as women shot dead on Yemen/Saudi border. Major controversy between religious scholars in Saudi Arabia about whether the niqab is obligatory attracting interest throughout the region. On 13 December, the day of our posting on “The Veil”, a number (different accounts say three or five) of suspected al-Qa’ida militants disguised as women and wearing the full veil were shot dead by Yemeni security forces near the Saudi border. The story, details of which are uncertain and barely credible, must …

Yemen: continuing deterioration

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Houthi control over northern Yemen established; government fighting with al-Qa’ida and separatist agitation in the south continue. UN resort to sanctions. Saudi withdrawal of aid threatens an already tottering economy. The multiple political conflicts described in our posting of 18 October continue. News about Yemen is largely confined to reports of acts of violence such as the …

Redrawing the map

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Lines on the map do not last for ever. Borders in the Arab region do not reflect the choices or feelings of the population. Will that change? The sudden emergence of the so-called Islamic State and its control of eastern Syria and western Iraq has led to debate about whether the map based on the Sykes-Picot …

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 …

UAE: “Little Sparta”?

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Abu Dhabi an enthusiastic member of the anti-ISIL coalition. Still at odds with Qatar. Since the formation of the US-led coalition against ISIL in September not much hard information has been available about action by Arab participants. UAE, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain were reported to be joining in airstrikes, and Qatar to be providing support including …

Saudi Arabia: Ashura killings of Shi’ites

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Saudi Arabia: Ashura killings of Shi'ites On 3 November masked men opened fire on a group of Shia worshippers leaving a shrine in al-Dalwa, al-Ahsa governorate in the Eastern province of Saudi Arabia, where they had been taking part in the annual Ashura commemoration of the death of Muhammad's grandson Husain (see posting of 24 October). At least five were killed …

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 …