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 …

Washington rebalancing: turbulence

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In a recent article in the Washington Post  Andrew Bacevich of Boston University set out the view that the US is turning away from the Arabs. ‘Washington is bringing down the curtain on its 30-plus-year military effort to pull the Islamic world into conformity with American interests and expectations. It’s about time… The U.S. military presence …

Syria: time to rethink

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A new Chatham House paper on Western policy towards Syria states the dilemma: “In the face of the mounting crisis in Syria over the past two and a half years, Western governments (primarily those of the United States, United Kingdom and France) have oscillated between explicit demands for President Bashar al-Assad to leave and implicit …

BDS: Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions

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The old Arab boycott of Israel whose roots go back to 1945, before the founding of the state of Israel, more or less collapsed in 1994 after the Oslo agreements. Since then Israel has been fully integrated into international investment and finance, with particularly strong ties to America but not only America. Following the failure …

Iran nuclear: after the interim agreement

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John Kerry told the US house foreign affairs committee on 10 December that "I would state to you unequivocally… the national security of the United States is stronger under this first-step agreement than it was before." He asked Congress to hold off imposing new sanctions at present; "This is a very delicate diplomatic …

The Gulf states, the GCC and America

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We have described in earlier postings the near-crisis in US/Saudi relations over disagreements on the Arab spring, Egypt, Syria and Iran, and the reaction of other Gulf states to Iran in particular. One Emirati commentator Mish’al al-Gergawi wrote in the Dubai-based Gulf news on 4 December of a sense of betrayal across the Arabian gulf; “A new generation is taking the helm in many Arab Gulf states. Questions abound over where it will direct their interests and capacities and address the region’s …

Saudi Arabia: twitter and dissent

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Human rights and political dissent in Saudi Arabia are constantly examined by NGOs and the media. Like all nations they are also routinely reviewed by the UN Human Rights Council; at the last review in October according to a Reuters report Britain, the US and Germany raised issues including the abolition of male guardianship …