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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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In Kuwait, Emir dissolves parliament and suspends part of the Constitution

In Kuwait, Emir dissolves parliament and suspends part of the Constitution

Emir of Kuwait, Sheikh Meshal Al Ahmad Al Sabah has issued a decree dissolving parliament and suspending some of the articles of the constitution for “a period not exceeding four years”, after weeks of political tension following recent elections. Speaking on television on Friday night (10 May), the Kuwaiti leader said: “We ordered the dissolution of the National Assembly and the suspension of some articles of the constitution for a period not exceeding four years,” the Emir said in a televised speech on Friday evening. “The recent turmoil in the Kuwaiti political scene has reached a stage where we cannot remain silent, so we must take all necessary measures to achieve the best interest of country and its people.” During the period of suspension of the articles of the constitution, all aspects of the democratic process will be studied, the Emir said. The powers of the National Assembly will be assumed by the Emir and the country's cabinet, state TV reported. “Kuwait has been through some hard times lately … which leaves no room for hesitation or delay in making the difficult decision to save the country and secure its highest interests,” the Emir added. The Gulf country held its fourth elections in as many years last month, with 39 of the 46 members from the previous parliament retaining their seats.

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In Kuwait, Emir dissolves parliament and suspends part of the Constitution

In Kuwait, Emir dissolves parliament and suspends part of the Constitution

Emir of Kuwait, Sheikh Meshal Al Ahmad Al Sabah has issued a decree dissolving parliament and suspending some of the articles of the constitution for “a period not exceeding four years”, after weeks of political tension following recent elections. Speaking on television on Friday night (10 May), the Kuwaiti leader said: “We ordered the dissolution of the National Assembly and the suspension of some articles of the constitution for a period not exceeding four years,” the Emir said in a televised speech on Friday evening. “The recent turmoil in the Kuwaiti political scene has reached a stage where we cannot remain silent, so we must take all necessary measures to achieve the best interest of country and its people.” During the period of suspension of the articles of the constitution, all aspects of the democratic process will be studied, the Emir said. The powers of the National Assembly will be assumed by the Emir and the country's cabinet, state TV reported. “Kuwait has been through some hard times lately … which leaves no room for hesitation or delay in making the difficult decision to save the country and secure its highest interests,” the Emir added. The Gulf country held its fourth elections in as many years last month, with 39 of the 46 members from the previous parliament retaining their seats.
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Iran seizes Israel-linked container ship in the Gulf of Hormuz

Iran seizes Israel-linked container ship in the Gulf of Hormuz

Amid heightened tension in the Middle East, and an expectation of some sort of Iranian attack on Israel, it was announced on Saturday (13 April) that Iranian Revolutionary Guards naval units had seized an Israeli linked container ship in the Straits of Hormuz. “A container ship named ‘MCS Aries’ was seized by the Sepah (Guards) Navy Special Forces by carrying out a heliborne operation,” IRNA, the Iranian state news agency reported, adding that the operation took place “near the Strait of Hormuz” and “this ship has now been directed toward the territorial waters” of Iran. Several media sources have aired a video that shows commandos raiding a ship near the Strait of Hormuz by helicopter. The video showed the attack earlier reported by the British military’s United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations. It described the vessel as being “seized by regional authorities” in the Gulf of Oman off the Emirati port city of Fujairah, without elaborating. The vessel involved is likely the Portuguese-flagged MSC Aries, a container ship associated with London-based Zodiac Maritime. Zodiac Maritime is part of Israeli billionaire Eyal Ofer’s Zodiac Group. Zodiac declined to comment and referred questions to MSC, which did not immediately respond. The MSC Aries had been last located off Dubai heading toward the Strait of Hormuz on Friday. The ship had turned off its tracking data, which has been common for Israeli-affiliated ships moving through the region. Regional media reported that 20 Filipinos were on board the ship.
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Too little, too late, but Arabs hope UNSC resolution dents US-Israel relations

Too little, too late, but Arabs hope UNSC resolution dents US-Israel relations

The situation in Palestine continues to cast a shadow over the Ramadan festivities in the Arabian Peninsula and across the Arab and Moslem worlds. On Monday (26 March), the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) finally adopted resolution 2728, demanding an immediate ceasefire for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which started on 10 March, leading to a “lasting sustainable ceasefire”. The resolution, which was put forward by the Council’s elected members, also demands the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages and that the parties comply with their obligations under international law in relation to all persons they detain. Resolution 2728 emphasises the need to expand humanitarian assistance and reinforce the protection of civilians in the Gaza Strip. It also reiterates the Council’s demand to lift “all barriers to the provision of humanitarian assistance at scale”. Arab and Muslim governments have generally welcomed the adoption of UNSC resolution 2728. But amongst a wary public in the GCC and beyond, there is widespread frustration and cynicism, and many consider it as being too little, too late. Palestinian envoy to the UN, Riyad Mansour, speaking in New York yesterday, reflected this mood, saying it had taken “six months, over 100,000 Palestinians killed and maimed, 2 million displaced, and famine for this Council to finally demand an immediate ceasefire.” Palestinians have been killed “in their homes, in the streets, in hospitals and ambulances, in shelters, and even in tents,” he added. “This must come to an end now. There can be no justification for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.” Acceptance of any justification for such crimes would be a renunciation of humanity and destroy the rule of international law beyond repair, Mansour said.
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More than eight million people displaced in Sudan amid threat of widespread famine as a result of the ongoing conflict

More than eight million people displaced in Sudan amid threat of widespread famine as a result of the ongoing conflict

Sudan is suffering one of the worst humanitarian crises in recent history after nearly a year of war, the United Nations has warned. Fighting between the army, headed by General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF), led by Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, since last April has killed tens of thousands of people, as the threat of famine looms amid international inaction. “By all measures – the sheer scale of humanitarian needs, the numbers of people displaced and facing hunger – Sudan is one of the worst humanitarian disasters in recent memory,” Edem Wosornu, director of operations at the UN Office for the Coordination for Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), said on Wednesday (20 March). “A humanitarian travesty is playing out in Sudan under a veil of international inattention and inaction,” Wosornu told the UN Security Council on behalf of OCHA head Martin Griffiths. According to the UN, the conflict has led to more than eight million people being displaced. In early March, the Security Council called for an immediate ceasefire during Ramadan and urged better access to humanitarian aid. However, the ceasefire was not realised due to disagreements between the warring sides. More than 18 million Sudanese are facing acute food insecurity – 10 million more than at this time last year – while 730,000 Sudanese children are believed to be suffering from severe malnutrition.
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Balochi separatists attack Pakistani port of Gwadar, hub of Chinese Pakistani Economic Corridor

Balochi separatists attack Pakistani port of Gwadar, hub of Chinese Pakistani Economic Corridor

Baloch separatists armed with guns and bombs, on Wednesday (20 March) attacked the strategic port of Gwadar, key to the multi-billion dollar China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. Baloch Liberation Army (BLA), the most prominent of several separatist groups in Balochistan, claimed responsibility for the audacious assault which once more highlights controversy around Chinese backed infrastructural projects on the Belt and Road project. Pakistani security forces later reported that they had killed eight Baloch Liberation Army militants who stormed a complex outside the strategic port of Gwadar. Armed with guns and bombs, the militants attacked the complex that houses offices of government departments, intelligence agencies and paramilitary forces. They detonated a number of bombs before opening fire, said Saeed Ahmed Umrani, a government commissioner. China has invested heavily in the mineral-rich southwestern province of Balochistan, including developing Gwadar, despite a decades-long separatist insurgency. The deep-water port in the Gulf of Oman near the strategically important Strat of Hormuz is key to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, which also encompasses roads and energy projects and is part of Chinese President Xi Jinping's Belt and Road Initiative. The Baloch Liberation Army, the most prominent of several separatist groups in Balochistan, has previously been involved in attacks on Pakistani and Chinese interests in the region and elsewhere. Chinese targets have also come under attack by other Baloch militant groups in Pakistan, who have been fighting for decades for a larger share in the regional wealth of mines and minerals that they say is being denied by central government in Islamabad. Belt and Road projects in Pakistan have been plagued by security concerns. In 2021, a bus carrying engineers to a construction site near a dam in northwestern Pakistan was hit by a bomb, killing 13 people including nine Chinese workers.
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Sombre mood across the Islamic world as Muslims think of Gaza at the start of Ramadan

Sombre mood across the Islamic world as Muslims think of Gaza at the start of Ramadan

Muslims round the world today marked the first day of fasting at the start of the Islamic Holy month of Ramadan in a sombre mood, as communities reflected on the suffering of the Palestinian people in Gaza. In Gaza the population is on the verge of starvation, and in other Palestinian territories the shadow of war is not far away either, with tensions high in East Jerusalem. Thousands of Israeli police have been deployed around the narrow streets of the Old City in Jerusalem, where tens of thousands of worshippers are expected every day at the Al Aqsa mosque compound, one of the holiest sites in Islam. Israel's relentless campaign in Gaza has caused increasing alarm across the world as the growing risk of famine threatens to add to a death toll that has already passed 31,000. In the ruins of Gaza itself, where half the 2.3 million population is squeezed into the southern city of Rafah, many living under plastic tents and facing a severe shortage of food, the mood was correspondingly sombre. "We made no preparations to welcome Ramadan because we have been fasting for five months now," said Maha, a mother of five, who would normally have filled her home with decorations and stocked her refrigerator with supplies for the evening Iftar celebrations when people break their fast. "There is no food, we only have some canned food and rice, most of the food items are being sold for imaginary high prices," she said via chat app from Rafah, where she is sheltering with her family.
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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