Labour in Saudi Arabia

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Since the arrival of oil money some two generations ago Saudi Arabia has attracted a large foreign workforce, initially from neighbouring countries but more recently from the Indian subcontinent and further afield. The phenomenon and the associated problems are similar to those in other oil-rich states but on a larger scale. Foreign workers are attracted by …

Christmas in the Holy Land

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A Christmas message from President Mahmud Abbas which describes Jesus Christ as a Palestinian messenger has been badly received in Israel. We thank John Whitbeck for pointing out that it is signed by Abbas as "President of State of Palestine, Chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization"; he comments ‘The “Palestinian Authority” (a/k/a the “Palestinian National Authority”) …

Egypt

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The new draft constitution will be subject to a referendum on 14 and 15 January. It is likely to be adopted, despite boycotts by the Islamist group al-Gamaa al-Islamiya  and the pro-Mursi National Alliance to Support Legitimacy. Commenting in al-Ahram Amr Abdel-Rahman, an activist at the ian Initiative for Personal Rights, concludes that it will if adopted “give …

South Sudan: lurching into civil war

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South Sudan is on the geographical fringe of the WAND area of interest, and after two and a half years of independence it is not clear how closely its affairs will be linked with those of the Arab world. Its present problems however are so serious as to command attention at any level. Tribal fighting …

Lockerbie

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Today 21 December is the 25th anniversary of the atrocity. A US jumbo jet travelling from London to New York blew up over in Scotland with the loss of 270 lives, possibly the biggest mass murder in British history. Suspicion at first pointed to revenge for the shooting down by the USS Vincennes of an Iranian airliner with the loss of 290 lives; it was suggested that a Palestinian splinter group protected by Syria, PFLP-GC, had done the job for Iran. After two years suspicion switched to Libya. …

Oman: unusually assertive

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Reports that Sultan Qabus bin Said of Oman facilitated a secret dialogue between the US and Iran that culminated in the recent Geneva agreement, and the blunt statement by the Omani foreign minister Yusuf bin Alawi in advance of the GCC summit in Kuwait that Oman opposed Saudi proposals for closer union and was prepared to withdraw from …

Jordan: refugees and water

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As expected Jordan has been elected to take the Arab seat on the UN Security Council, replacing Saudi Arabia which withdrew after being elected. There are now 567,000 Syrian refugees in Jordan according to the latest UN figures, out of a total of 2.3 million Syrian refugees in the region (842,000 in Lebanon, 540,000 in Turkey, …

Iraq: oil and al-Qa’ida

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Violence in Iraq continues at a shocking level with scores killed in multiple attacks in the last two days, many of them Shia pilgrims preparing for the Arba’in festival commemorating the death of Imam Husain, the son of Ali and grandson of Muhammad. There are specific challenges to the government's authority in the West and North; we …

Qatar: six months out of the spotlight

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Almost six months after the accession of the new Amir Shaikh Tamim Qatar has taken no major foreign policy initiatives, nor has is it abandoned positions taken earlier. During the visit of the US Defence Secretary to which we referred in our posting of 15 December an agreement was signed confirming the future of …

Tunisia: political compromise

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The political process in Tunisia which has been deadlocked since the assassination of the opposition politician Mohamed Brahmi in late July has reached some compromises. Tunisia Live on 12 October reported agreement that elections, the second since the revolution, will take place in 2014 although problems remain about the formation of the Board of Elections. On …