Mauritania

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With a population of nearly three and a half million, one of the poorest countries in Africa (despite having some oil and abundant mineral resources), is a member of the Arab league and has recently had a slightly raised profile because of concern about security in the Sahara and Sahel countries. President Muhammad Ould Abd al-Aziz came to power …

Russia and the Middle East

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Since the end of the Soviet Union Russia has not played a major role in the region. But as a permanent member of the Security Council and a close neighbour it cannot avoid involvement in the region's problems even should it wish do so. Examples are the preparations for Geneva II on Syria, and the current …

Détente with Iran: the impact

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Although the Geneva talks between Iran and the P5 +1 ended without agreement, the main participants have emphasised that it was extremely close. There are conflicting reports on exactly why and who was responsible for the failure to reach agreement, with some fingers pointed at the French: according to John Kerry “progress was made. The P5+1 was united”, but “Iran couldn’t take it at that particular moment; they weren’t able to accept that particular agreement.” Another meeting has been fixed for 20 November. Britain is reviving diplomatic relations two …

Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf: Labour conditions

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Since our posting of 28 September working conditions of foreign labour in Qatar have continued to attract criticism, kept in the headlines by reports of preparations for the football World Cup in 2022 and more recently by visits by an international labour delegation and by François Crépeau, the UN Special Rapporteur on the …

The Muslim Brotherhood: Egypt and elsewhere

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The Muslim Brotherhood has supporters throughout the Arab world (and elsewhere – Turkey, Pakistan), although many even of those who believe in a political role for Islam have turned against it both because of the incompetence and arrogance of the government of President Mursi and because some of its religious teaching is perceived as innovation …

Palestine: halfway point

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The Israel/Palestine talks led by John Kerry are now roughly halfway through their allotted nine months. Secrecy has been well maintained, but they appear to be passing through a crisis point, though pushed out of the headlines by news about Syria and Iran, as well as the Arafat story and the acquittal of Avigdor Liberman. The sharp …

Jordan survives

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Reports of John Kerry's brief visit to Jordan during his latest Middle East tour concentrate mainly on his meeting with the Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas and his visit to a Syrian refugee camp. But the Jordanians are unlikely to feel sore, having heard Kerry in Jerusalem tell Israeli TV that settlement building in the occupied territories is …

Libya: slipping away

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Since the Libyan revolution in 2011 we have consistently taken the view that the constitutional roadmap announced immediately after the liberation of Tripoli has been followed remarkably closely. Political power has been handed over twice without violence, elections were held which were universally regarded as genuine, and the government of Ali Zaidan has a democratic mandate and a …

History resumes: talks and talks and talks

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The international agenda for the Middle East is even more complicated than usual, with three or possibly four separate talks/conferences in view. The next round of talks on the nuclear issue between Iran and the P5+1 (E3+3) is due on 7/8 November in Geneva, following less than a month after the last round …

Israel unsettled

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Recent political developments, above all the possibility of a thaw in US/Iranian relations and more generally a feeling of loss of control in Washington, have disconcerted Israeli opinion. One article in the Jerusalem Post of 4 November is headed "It’s time to reassess Israel’s strategic assumptions – All of Obama’s second term foreign policy goals are harmful …