Region

Gulf and Red Sea Regions

Stories under this heading cover the Gulf and the Red Sea regions, including the Arabian Peninsula, Iran and the countries bordering the Red Sea.

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The prospect of  more Israeli atrocities in Gaza during Ramadan unsettles moderate Arab and Muslim states

The prospect of more Israeli atrocities in Gaza during Ramadan unsettles moderate Arab and Muslim states

With Ramadan fast approaching – likely to start on 10 March –  and with Israeli prime minister Benyamin Natanyahu  repeatedly threatening to launch a direct assault on Rafah, a last haven where hundreds of thousands of Palestinians are now taking shelter in the most difficult situations imaginable, moderate Arab governments, especially those who have established relations with Israel, and others who were considering doing so, find themselves under huge pressure from their domestic public opinion. Having just vetoed a UN Security Council resolution calling for an immediate cease fire in Gaza, the United States, acutely aware of the fragility of the situation, is now desperately pushing for a cease fire during Ramadan. Already, nearly 30,000 people have been killed in Gaza since October, many of them women and children. A direct assault on Rafah is likely to result in many more fatalities. The prospect of a Palestinian bloodbath during Ramadan is considerably unsettling Arab governments, who whilst not often  directly influenced by the views of their populations, cannot ignore them either when feelings are running high. Ramadan is the month of fasting for Muslims, but it is also an occasion for social gatherings. Families and friends come together, and in the long nights when the fast is broken they share views on those things that matter to them. Gaza will no doubt this year be a leading topic, as people remember that whilst they break the fast with big meals and delicacies, in Gaza, the Palestinians are starving. Western countries, whose reputations in the Arab and Muslim worlds have been greatly damaged by their position on Gaza, are now frantically trying to avoid this by pushing for a ceasefire during Ramadan.
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Emir of Kuwait dissolves parliament amid continuing political crisis between government and parliament

Emir of Kuwait dissolves parliament amid continuing political crisis between government and parliament

The Emir of Kuwait, Sheikh Mishal Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, on Thursday issued a decree dissolving the National Assembly following "disrespectful remarks by lawmakers regarding the ruler".  An official statement cited by the state news agency, KUNA,  said the parliament has been dissolved “due to the National Assembly breaching constitutional principles as it failed to show due respect to the political leadership and for deliberately using uncontrolled and offensive language”. The remarks were made by lawmaker Abdulkarim Al-Kandari last week. It is the third time the National Assembly has been dissolved during the past 18 months and the ninth time since 2006 amid non-stop political crises between the elected parliament and the government. The decree said the dissolution was based on article 107 of the constitution, which gives the Emir the authority to dissolve the National Assembly but by stating the reasons. The article also states that fresh elections must be held within two months of the date of the dissolution. The dissolved Assembly was elected barely nine months ago in early June last year after the dissolution of the previous Assembly over disputes with the government. The parliament of Kuwait (National Assembly) has more power than similar institutions in the other Gulf monarchies. This came about after the liberation of Kuwait following the Iraqi invasion and the first Gulf War. Whilst there are no political parties, parliamentarians are usually elected to represent interest groups, including religious groups. In recent years Parliament has been involved in a constant struggle with the government, which is usually led by a member of the ruling al Sabah family. This is the first political crisis under the new Emir, Sheikh Mishal al-Ahmad al-Jaber Al-Sabah, who took over as ruler in December, following the death of his predecessor. The new Emir has as yet also not named a Crown Prince, which leaves the issue of succession open. The Crown Prince usually comes from a different branch of the Al Sabah family, further complicating matters

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UAE marks its national day with a mission to the moon

UAE marks its national day with a mission to the moon

On the eve of its National Day being marked on Friday (2 December), the United Arab Emirates will today become the first Arab country to send a mission to the moon. The UAE Rashid Rover, the first Emirati mission to the Moon surface, on Tuesday was integrated into a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket for its historic launch on Wednesday. The four-wheel rover has undergone its final integration process with the launch vehicle - the Hakuto-R Mission 1 lander – which will launch from a spaceport at the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida at 12:39 pm UAE time. The primary goal of the mission is to study the Moon’s plasma and to provide answers about Moon dust, the lunar surface, mobility on the Moon’s surface, and how different surfaces interact with lunar particles. The Rashid rover - built by Emirati engineers from the UAE’s Mohammed bin Rashid Space Center (MBRSC) - is to be sent to regions of the Moon unexplored by humans.With this mission the UAE becomes only the fourth country to send a mission to the moon. This scientific achievement is being launched as the country prepares to mark the anniversary of its foundation on 2 December 1971.
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Brussels hosts 6th EU-GCC Business forum

Brussels hosts 6th EU-GCC Business forum

The EU and the GCC have underlined their commitment to expanding cooperation during the sixth joint business forum held at the Residence Palace in the European Quarter of Brussels on Thursday, 24 November.  "This meeting is both welcome and timely, given the very challenging global developments we have faced, and continue to face, in 2022," said European Commission Executive Vice-President Valdis Dombrovskis in his keynote speech to the gathering. Dombrovskis said that "in this challenging environment, the EU is fully committed to strengthening economic ties between our two regional blocs. By developing our areas of mutual interest, by working in a more collaborative way, we can achieve real benefits.  "The EU is guided in this important work by our Communication on a 'Strategic Partnership with the Gulf, published in May of this year. The strategic aim of this roadmap is clear: we want to broaden and deepen our cooperation with the GCC and its member countries. We view the Gulf as a dynamic neighboring region, and an important gateway between Europe, Asia and Africa."
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Saudi Arabia declares holiday after amazing win against Argentina at the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar

Saudi Arabia declares holiday after amazing win against Argentina at the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar

A win at a football match during the world cup is always a moment that every country savours. But when your team is not one of the favorites and  yet is able to defeat one of the world's top football teams the sense of national elation is eccstatic. Such was the mood in Saudi Arabia on Tuesday (22 November) after their team in its debut match in the tournament in Doha which opened on Sunday, managed to defeat one of the favorites, Argentina. As Saudi media was quick to point out, this was the first time an Arab or Asian team have beaten the two-time world champions at this level, and will go down as one of the greatest upsets in the history of the competition. Back home, the Saudi government decided it was time to party.  At a regular meeting of the cabinet of Ministers, King Salman approved a suggestion made by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to celebrate the national team’s victory with a holiday. All public and private sector employees and students at all educational stages will be given a holiday, Saudi Press Agency reported.   For Saudi Arabia this is a moment to savour. The country has been in recent years slowly but surely emerging from a period of lethargy, and a new dynamism is appearing in all sectors of society. Many problems linger, and some new ones are emerging too. But today, Saudis will focus on celebrating a football victory which very well embodies the country's new sense of confidence.
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Monday Commentary
Monday Commentary: Let sports unite us

Monday Commentary: Let sports unite us

The 2022 FIFA World Cup opened in Doha on Sunday (20 November) with a lavish half an hour opening ceremony full of music and colour. It will be followed by weeks of football extravaganza that millions are looking forward to watching. It was a proud moment for the small Arab Gulf country which has put a lot of effort and resources towards making the event a success, writes Dennis Sammut in today's Monday Commentary on commonspace.eu. Ever since it was decided to hold the FIFA world cup in Qatar there have been those who questioned the decision. Some said the climate was too hot; others criticised the working conditions of the labour force that built the facilities; others questioned Qatar's human rights record, especially on gay rights. Some of the criticism was justified. The world cup helped put attention to such problems and that is how it should be. But frankly, a lot of the criticism of Qatar went over the top and reeked of racism. Qatar has its shortcomings, but the hundreds of thousands of people who flock there to work, and others who just visit, appreciate it for what it is: a young nation that is trying to play a positive role in the world and to offer opportunity for work and business to whoever wants to work with it. It is ofcourse easy to say that sports and politics do not mix. Since sports is an expression of human talent and human feelings politics cannot be excluded. It needs to be managed. People watching football do not need expressions of political opinions shoved down their throats. Many even find such expressions as an insult to their intelligence. But that does not mean that the occasion of a global sports event cannot be a way of transmitting a dignified message with political connotations. One such example happened yesterday when the captain of the Iranian team sent a message to his compatriots back home.
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Key leaders skip Arab League summit in Algiers (Updated)

Key leaders skip Arab League summit in Algiers (Updated)

The summit of the League of Arab States opened in  the Algerian capital, Algiers, on Tuesday evening (1 November). In the opening address, Algerian president Abdelmadjid Tebboune called for a strong Arab economic block that protects the common interests of Arab countries. “We must all build a solid Arab economic block that protects our common interests, while working to define priorities and areas of common action, with an immediate and perceptible positive impact on the Arab peoples,” said President Tebboune in his speech to the participants in the 31st Arab Summit. “We still face complex crises with multiple challenges and risks, especially after the Covid-19 pandemic, which has led to instability, tug-of-war, and the exacerbation of the scourge of polarization. This situation has contributed to the proliferation of crises with effects on international peace and security and impact on several countries, particularly in terms of food security,” the Algerian president said. A number of heavyweights are missing from the Algiers summit, including Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia and Mohammed bin Zayed of the United Arab Emirates. Other Gulf countries, except Qatar will not be represented by their head of state. Another notable absentee is King Mohammed VI of Morrocco, who initially was thought would attend the summit.  AFP quoted Morocco’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Nasser Bourita, saying that Morocco’s monarch initially confirmed his willingness to attend the Algiers summit. “The Moroccan delegation did not receive any confirmation from Algeria through its channels” after inquiring about information on the arrangements for the King’s reception, Bourita said. On the instructions of the King, the Moroccan foreign minister is leading a delegation, representing Morocco during the summit meetings. Relations between Algeria and Morrocco have been strained for a long time because of differences on the future of the territory of Western Sahara.
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Analysis
Analysis: Mohammed bin Zayed meets Putin in Moscow as Gulf states ponder the new world order

Analysis: Mohammed bin Zayed meets Putin in Moscow as Gulf states ponder the new world order

The president of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), met in Moscow on Tuesday (11 October) with president Valdimir Putin of Russia. Putin warmly greeted his UAE guest at the Kostantinovsky Palace. The visit comes as Gulf states ponder about the new world order, Even before the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the world order that had emerged at the end of the Cold War had clearly run out of steam. Russia and the West, instead of partners in the international system through membership of the G8, cooperation in space, and extensive arms control agreements, became first rivals, and, since February this year, enemies. China, whose rise over the last four decades as an economic power was first admired, has subsequently become a “systematic rival”. As it verges on superpower status it has become more assertive and less predictable. The US and its allies are seriously worried.  For the countries of the Gulf this new world order is uncharted waters. During the Cold War the Gulf was first a British lake, and later an American one. The American shield protected the Gulf states against intruders. When Iraq invaded Kuwait and occupied it in 1990, the US and its allies led the international community in a fightback, and Saddam Hussein was driven back across the border with a bloody nose. When he tried to rear his head again, the West finished him off. Then there was Iran. A huge American presence, with other allies in the wings, saw off Iranian ambitions in the region. It seemed that US-GCC relations were set in stone. Yet as the world reverted back to a multipolar state - the parameters of which are as yet undefined - it was only the naïve who thought that the GCC states will simply slide back to their old role of doing the USA's bidding in return for protection. Things in the Gulf have changed dramatically in the last six decades, and in the last decade in particular, in political terms the region is unrecognisable. In Abu Dhabi, Riyadh, Doha and elsewhere the national interest has been re-defined.