05 January, 2018

GCC IN REVIEW: 23 December 2017 – 4 January 2018

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A Weekly Publication of the main news surrounding the GCC States

Kingdom of Bahrain

Sunday, 31 December—Bahrain’s Foreign Affairs Undersecretary for Regional and GCC Affairs, Waheed Mubarak Sayyar, participated in the 53rd anniversary of the Palestinian revolution celebration held at the Embassy of Palestine in Manama. In his speech, the Undersecretary criticised the decision of the US Administration for recognising Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and transferring its Embassy to the city, as a violation of international resolutions. The Undersecretary highlighted the sacrifices of Palestinians to achieve a just and comprehensive peace in the region.

Monday, 1 January—Bahrain called on its citizens not to travel to Iran under any circumstances because of the violent large scale protests and the deadly security repression taking place in the Islamic Republic. Bahrain’s Foreign Ministry also urged Bahrainis in the Republic to leave immediately. Relations between Bahrain and Iran are strained over Tehran’s interference in Bahrain’s internal affairs.

Tuesday, 2 January—Bahrain’s Prime Minister, Prince Khalifa bin Salman Al-Khalifa, started his official visit to Kuwait to boost Bahraini-Kuwaiti ties and continue the coordination and consultation vis-à-vis the crucial situations in the region and the unfolding regional developments.

Wednesday, 3 January—Bahrain’s President of the Supreme Council for Youth and Sport Affairs (SCYS) and Chairman of Bahrain’s Olympic Committee (BOC), Shaikh Nasser bin Hamad Al-Khalifa, announced his participation in the King Abdulaziz Camel Festival in Al-Dahna’a, Saudi Arabia. The Festival aims to consolidate heritage and traditions while sending a message to present and future generations to preserve heritage and traditions of the Arab Gulf.

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State of Kuwait

Wednesday, 27 December—Kuwait’s Deputy Foreign Minister, Khaled Al-Jarallah, declared that Kuwait will maintain its mediation efforts to ensure the continuations of the working mechanism of the GCC. As such Kuwait plans to host a Gulf chief lawmakers’ conference.

Tuesday, 2 January—A Kuwaiti financed medical centre was established in the Iraqi city of Mosul. The Iraqi Medical Society warmly welcomed this and other economic efforts by the Kuwaiti society for Relief.

Wednesday, 3 January—Kuwait launched the "Kuwait by Your Side" relief campaign in support of the Yemeni people. Kuwait authorities already started to provide assistance to the medical sector; delivering medicine, equipment, ambulances, buses and various tools to the war-torn state.

Thursday, 4 January—Kuwait’s Petroleum Corporation announced a 28% increase in the price of Kuwait’s crude oil despite the negative outlook of oil prices on the world market.

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Sultanate of Oman

Tuesday, 26 December—Oman’s Deputy Prime Minister for the Council of Ministers, Sayyid Fahd bin Mahmoud Al-Said, received Japan’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Taro Kono. The two reviewed bilateral relations and existing cooperation between the two countries in diplomatic, economic, investment, commercial and cultural fields, and means of enhancing them.

Wednesday, 27 December—Oman deported more than 60 illegal immigrants, mostly Yemenis, from Muscat International Airport. The arrival of illegal migrants is expected to continue as the war in neighbouring Yemen drags on.

Tuesday, 2 January—The price of Oman’s oil registered its strongest opening price to a year since 2014 amid large anti-government rallies in Iran and ongoing supply cuts led by OPEC and Russia.

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State of Qatar 

Monday, 25 December—Bloomberg reported that Qatar's stock exchange index reached its lowest in eight years, crushing down some 18 % in 2017. This comes as the economic boycott of Qatar, by Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain and the UAE-who accuse Doha of supporting terrorism and regional instability-continues.

Tuesday, 26 December—Qatar’s Emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, returned from his official visit to Ghana. The Emir declared that his meeting with Ghana’s President, Nana Akufo-Addo, paved the way for important bilateral projects in areas such as air transport, sport and food security. 

Wednesday, 27 December—Qatar's Defense Ministry announced the arrival of a new battalion of Turkish soldiers to Qatar, which are set to join another group of Turkish soldiers that arrived at theTariq bin Ziyad military base near Doha last year.  

Wednesday, 3 January—Gold prices in the local Qatari market touched a three-month high, starting the new month on a firm note. Sharp increases in gold prices are usually motivated by economic uncertainty regarding alternative revenues. 

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Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

Saturday, 23 December—The General Supervisor of the King Salman Center for Relief and Humanitarian Works, Dr. Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al-Rabeeah, confirmed the re-opening of all Yemeni ports to relief and commercial assistance. Even the Houthi-controlled ports of Hodeidah and Salih still receive commercial vessels, fuel and aid. The ports were previously shut by the coalition following attempts by Shiite Houthi rebels to strike Riyadh with ballistic missiles, to prevent the further supply of ballistic missiles and other weapons from Iran to the Houthi.

Wednesday, 27 December—Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud, received Turkish Prime Minister, Binali Yildirim, in Riyadh. The two reviewed bilateral relations, the means of enhancing them, and discussed the latest developments in the region, including divergences on Qatar.

Thursday, 28 December—The Air Forces of the Saudi-led coalition fighting to restore Yemen’s UN-supported government, destroyed three ballistic missile launchers in Al-Mutama area and six tanks operated by Iran-backed Houthi rebels. The coalition aims to prevent further missile attacks by the Houthis, against Saudi territory.

Friday, 29 December—Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman, discussed developments in the region and the prospects of further cooperation in various fields with Egypt’s President, Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi. The conversation also included joint Saudi-Egyptian efforts to strengthen Arab-American relations.  

Tuesday, 2 January—Saudi Arabia’s  General Authority of Statistics announced that the Kingdom’s overall unemployment rate has fallen to 5.8 % in the third quarter of 2017. The overall unemployment rate among women also fell to 21.1 % in the third quarter compared with the previous quarter where it stood at 22.9 %.

Wednesday, 3 January—Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud received the relatives of slain Judge Mohammed Abdullah Al-Jirani who was killed by terrorists in the Qatif province in December 2016. Saudi Arabia’s security forces only recently identified and arrested three of his kidnappers and killers.

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United Arab Emirates

Tuesday, 26 December—Jail sentences up to 15 years were handed out to 13 individuals by the Abu Dhabi Federal Court of Appeals on terrorism and espionage charges. Among those convicted was 28-year-old Emirati was sentenced to 15 years for spying for Iran. The Emirati was found guilty of passing confidential military information to Iranian agents working at the Iranian Embassy in Abu Dhabi.

Monday, 1 January—The United Arab Emirates, followed by Saudi Arabia, introduced a value-added tax, a first for the Arab Gulf. This is the latest in a series of measures introduced by Gulf states over the past two years to boost revenues and reduce spending. The 5 % sales tax applies to most goods and services and analysts predict that the two governments could raise as much as $21 billion in 2018 as a result. 

Thursday, 4 January—The UAE’s armed forces and Yemeni troops managed to cut the supply lines of the Houthi militias between Hodeidah and Taiz. This could be a decisive military action in support of further advances against Houthi militias on Yemen’s Red Sea front.

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Spotlight on Iran

The mass protests that paralysed Tehran, Mashhad and other key cities, for six consecutive days, requires a special focus on what exactly happened during the #Iran Protests. Due to its aggressive foreign policy vis-à-vis Arab Gulf states, the internal situation of Iran is particularly relevant to the security and to the foreign policy responses of all countries in the Gulf region.

Tuesday, 19 December—Iran’s government announces a new austerity plan imposing a 50% increase in the price of fuel, the cancellation of the monetary support for more than 34 million people while increasing the budget for military armament. 

Wednesday, 27 December—Iranians in the city of Mashhad called on the government to abandon the new austerity package. 

Thursday, 28 December—Economic demands such as the restoration of monetary support and the lifting of fuel subsidies caused the demonstrations to grow larger and met a heavy handed response by the police. 

Friday, 29 December—Students across Mashhad and the entire province joined demonstrations against the new austerity measures and challenged the expensive foreign policy of Iran’s Islamic Republic.

Saturday, 30 December—Despite heavy repression in Mashhad, the wave of protests reaches all major cities in Iran and bubbles in Tehran, Ahwaz and Isfahan. Major clashes take place between students and security forces outside the gates of Tehran’s University.

Sunday, 31 December—Iran’s government severs internet access in all of Iran’s major cities to prevent the organisation of mass gatherings on social media.

Monday, 1 January—Solidarity protests to support Iran’s demonstrators take place in front of Iranian embassies in Canada, Germany and France. The US Administration warns the Iranian regime of the consequences of repression.

Tuesday, 2 January—Iran’s Interior Ministry admits the death of more than 20 demonstrators as protests continued across the Islamic Republic. The Interior Ministry also confirmed the arrest of more than 450 protesters.

Wednesday, 3 January— In a sign of concern about the resilience of the protests, the Revolutionary Guards commander, Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari, said he had dispatched forces to Hamadan, Isfahan and Lorestan provinces to tackle the unrest. Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, called for rallies of regime supporters while accusing Iran’s enemy of inciting anti-government protests.  

By Antonino Occhiuto