Saudi Arabia’s long-awaited lifting of a ban on women’s driving, widely viewed as a symbol of Saudi misogyny, will likely serve as a litmus test for Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s ability to introduce economic and social reforms despite conservative opposition.
In the three-month old Gulf crisis, nothing is too expensive or too down and dirty when it comes to buying influence, garnering soft power, and trying to win hearts and minds.
Recent moves by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates suggest that the two Gulf states may be looking for ways to reduce tensions with Iran that permeate multiple conflicts wracking the Middle East and North Africa. The moves, including a rapprochement with Iraq and a powerful Iraqi Shiite religious and political leader as well as prosecution of a militant Saudi cleric on charges of hate speech, and leaked emails, point towards a possible willingness to engage with Iran more constructively. A dialling down of Saudi-Iranian tensions could contribute to a reduction of tensions across the Middle East and North…
Revelations about two incidents of Gulf-related fake news shine a spotlight on a long-standing psychological war between the UAE and Qatar that preceded the Gulf crisis, as well as the two states’ seemingly repeated and competing interventionist efforts to shape the Middle East and North Africa in their mould.
When news of the latest inter-Arab feud broke on 5 June 2017, it was not the first time that Qatar’s neighbours in the Gulf had lost patience with that stand-alone kingdom. Back in January 2014 underlying tensions, brewing for years, suddenly surfaced, and Gulf states tried to induce Qatar to sign an agreement undertaking not to support extremist groups, not to interfere in the affairs of other Gulf states, and to cooperate on regional issues.
The Gulf crisis that pits Saudi Arabia and the UAE against Qatar is set to escalate with Doha certain to ignore Monday’s deadline that it complies with demands that would undermine Qatari sovereignty and humiliate Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani at a time that he is riding high on a wave of Qatari nationalism sparked by the Gulf crisis.
Saudi Arabia, in a first move to pressure mostly Muslim majority states to join its campaign against Qatar, has persuaded six sub-Saharan African nations with threats of reduced financial aid and restricted quotas for the haj, the annual pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca, to follow its lead in taking punitive steps against Qatar.
A Saudi and UAE-driven campaign to isolate Qatar and by extension Iran puts non-Muslim Arab states in a bind and tests the degree of Saudi soft power garnered in decades of massive spending on the propagation of anti-Iranian, anti-Shiite Sunni Muslim ultra-conservatism. The Saudi-UAE campaign, building on an increasingly vicious cyber and media war against Qatar, kicked into high gear on Monday, 5 June 2017 with the kingdom, the Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt breaking off diplomatic relations and cutting air and sea traffic with Qatar and a 41-nation Saudi-led, Pakistani-commanded military alliance suspending Qatar’s participation in operations in Yemen. The…
Cracks have appeared in a Saudi-led, US-backed anti-terrorist political and military alliance days after US President Donald J. Trump ended a historic visit to Saudi Arabia. The cracks stem from Qatar’s long-standing fundamental policy differences with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates about Iran and the role of political Islam.
The kingdom of Saudi Arabia is such an established feature of today’s Middle East that it comes as something of a surprise to realize that it is less than a hundred years old. It was only in 1932 that Abdul Aziz ibn Saud, after a 30-year political and military struggle against local warlords and the Ottoman Empire, named the area that he had conquered “Saudi Arabia”, and proclaimed himself its first king.