For once the description “historic” was no exaggeration when, on 3 February 2019, Pope Francis I stepped foot on the Arabian peninsula. This was the first time, since the establishment of the Muslim faith fourteen centuries ago, that a pontiff had ever done so. He was visiting the Sunni Gulf state of the UAE (the United Arab Emirates), at the invitation of its crown prince, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan. The visit was arranged to demonstrate the reality behind the UAE’s designation of 2019 as the Year of Tolerance.
A podcast version of this story is available on Soundcloud, Stitcher, TuneIn and Tumblr. Traditionally focussed on ultra-conservative Sunni Muslim Islam, Saudi funding in the era of crown prince Mohammed bin Salman has been streamlined and finetuned to ensure that it serves his geopolitical ambitions, primarily stymying the expansion of Iranian influence in the Middle East and North Africa and enhancing the kingdom’s global impact.
Within ten months of his appointment as UN Special Envoy for Yemen, British born Martin Griffiths has succeeded in what has for years been regarded as the near-impossible – bringing the two main protagonists in the Yemen conflict to the negotiating table.
A podcast version of this story is available on Soundcloud, Stitcher, TuneIn and Tumblr. Embattled Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman could prove to be not only a cat with nine lives but also one that makes even stranger jumps.
The fate of missing Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, assuming that his disappearance was the work of Saudi security and military officials, threatens to upend the fundaments of fault lines in the Middle East. At stake is not only the fate of a widely respected journalist and the future of Turkish-Saudi relations.
Riyadh has repeatedly been accused of kidnapping and sending dissidents back to the Gulf kingdom, accusations it denies. Jamal Khashoggi walked into the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Tuesday to pick up a document. Handing his phone to his fiance, he told her to call for help if he did not come out. Hours later Khashoggi was nowhere to be seen, raising fears that the outspoken Saudi journalist had been kidnapped and possibly rendered to Saudi Arabia. Since then, the Turkish police have launched a probe and claimed that Khashoggi was murdered inside the consulate. A claim Saudi Arabia has…
Yemen has become a vast battlefield, the scene of unending armed conflict. As a result the civilian population is now in the throes of what is universally described as “the world’s worst humanitarian disaster.” On the brink of famine, the nation faces mounting rubbish, failing sewerage and wrecked water supplies, all of which have led to the worst cholera outbreak in recent history. The UN reckons three-quarters of Yemen’s 28 million people need some kind of humanitarian aid. What has led to this catastrophic state of affairs? Even more relevant, of course, is what can be done to bring it…
The failure of Western allies to rally around Canada in its dispute with Saudi Arabia risks luring the kingdom into a false belief that economic sanctions will shield it from, if not reverse mounting criticism of its human rights record and conduct of the war in Yemen. It also risks convincing Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman that acting with impunity will not impinge on his efforts to attract badly needed foreign investment.
President Donald Trump’s declaration about Jerusalem on 6 December 2017 gave rise to instant and almost universal condemnation. Western governments saw it as an unnecessary provocation, guaranteed to set back the prospects of peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, and likely to generate violent protests in the Arab world. Muslim condemnation was immediate. Although notably muted from Sunni Arab states, it was at its strongest from Turkey, Iran and the Palestinian Authority. At a specially convened meeting of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas were vehement in their…
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman could well dash expectations that he is gunning for a break with Sunni Muslim ultra-conservatism rather than a shaving off of the rough edges of Wahhabi ideology that has been woven into the kingdom’s fabric since its founding more than eighty years ago.