Poison gas: a world policeman – or not?

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Following rapid developments in London, Washington and Paris on the issue of military action in Syria, President Obama has pressed the pause button by referring the matter to Congress without recalling it for an emergency session; the debates are expected to take place on 9 September, so after the G 20 summit in …

Oman

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A visit by Sultan Qaboos bin Said of Omar to Iran has provoked speculation that it was an effort to mediate between Tehran and Washington. Sultan Qaboos is not a frequent traveller. But has important common interests and good relations with Iran, and the visit concluded with the announcement of an agreement by to buy Iranian gas worth …

Qatar: storm in a World Cup

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Qatar under the new Amir Tamim bin Hamad has not withdrawn from the forward policies of his father but has so far not tried new ones. One very high profile project, the football World Cup in 2022, is in jeopardy (but Qatari shaikhs have joined the Ruler of Dubai as big spenders on the British …

Saudi Arabia: social issues

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The Saudi English-language newspapers the Arab News and the Saudi Gazette, like the media in other countries, regularly carry articles, letters and blog postings mostly grumbling about social issues. Frequent subjects are restrictions on women including the ban on driving, and the Haya (Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice) and the religious …

China and the Middle East

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According to reports today 30 August Sinopec, China Petrochemical Corporation, is buying one third of Apache Corporation’s oil and gas operations in Egypt for $3.1 billion. China's investment and trade in the Middle East and Africa has been growing rapidly. This is part of the world-wide growth of Chinese exports, but specifically reflects the requirement for …

Egypt: calmer

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Open confrontation has faded and the curfew has been relaxed, although the underlying conflict between political forces has not been resolved. There have been many arrests, and the Egyptian media carry frequent reports of the detention of Muslim Brotherhood supporters. The Salafist Nur party has reiterated its support for the army regime, as has the Imam of al-Azhar, traditionally …

Syria: reactions in the region

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Reports especially from Washington and London suggests that we are moving rapidly towards military action in Syria, possibly a one-off attack by cruise missiles intended to deter the Syrian government from using chemical weapons. The British Parliament has been recalled and will debate Syria tomorrow 29 August. Reactions in the region have of course been …

Syria: poison gas and its consequences

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UN weapons inspectors are continuing their work for a second day investigating the chemical attack in the suburbs of Damascus. Expert reports published so far are inconclusive. An AFP report describes shocking evidence of suffering and death. ‘But specialists in the impact of chemical weapons said the video evidence was not entirely …

Libya: still on the edge

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Sporadic violence including assassinations, probable vengeance killings, continues. The government is making a more consolidated effort to enforce security, but still with only limited effect. A Reuters report quotes Henry Smith of Control Risks: "Libya is essentially beholden to local and regional interest groups… The government doesn't really have the coercive capacity to be able to …

Bahrain: peaceful confrontation

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With political violence much reduced, tension in Bahrain largely centres on claims and counterclaims about the extent to which changes recommended by the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry have been put into effect, for example police reform including video and audio recording of police interviews. A police officer was reported to have been killed by a home-made bomb …