Stepped up Saudi efforts to forge close diplomatic, economic and cultural ties to Shia-majority Iraq in a bid to counter significant Iranian influence in the country appear to be paying off. The Saudi initiative demonstrates the kingdom’s ability to engage rather than exclusively pursue a muscular, assertive and confrontational policy towards the Islamic republic and its perceived allies. It raises the question whether it is a one-off or could become a model for Saudi policy elsewhere in the region.
It is not easy to pigeon-hole Qatar, a stand-alone Middle Eastern state in more ways than one − geographically, politically, economically, influentially. Itself a small peninsula projecting into the Persian Gulf from the vast Arabian Peninsula, Qatar clearly aspires to become a major player in the region and beyond. In pursuit of this objective, its tactics have sometimes puzzled, sometimes infuriated, its neighbours. But then, as one of the world’s wealthiest nations – and certainly number one on a per capita basis – Qatar has reckoned for a long time that it could afford the luxury of proceeding along its own…
“I started ironing clothes and he started pulling me to try and rape me. I was lucky the younger brother came back and rang the doorbell–he then left,” 21-year-old “Basma N.,” (not her real name) told me. In February in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania’s commercial capital, Basma told me that her male employer’s brother attempted to rape her twice in 2015 when she was working in Oman as a domestic worker. When conducting research on abuse of Tanzanian domestic workers in Oman and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), I spoke to 19 former domestic workers who said their employers or…
Yemen has further split with Aden under the control of southern separatist movements. Fighting broke out after the government ignored a separatist demand for the Prime Minister and his cabinet to be dismissed. Ahmed Obeid bin Daghr was widely blamed for food shortages in the region, and this is also a major blow for Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi, who is already battling Houthi rebels in the north.
Recent Algerian media reports detailing Saudi propagation of a quietist, apolitical yet supremacist and anti-pluralistic form of Sunni Muslim ultra-conservatism raises questions about the scope of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s commitment to what he has termed ‘moderate’ Islam. So does Saudi missionary activity in Yemen.
In truly historic news, Saudi Arabia has decided to let women drive. The royal decree marks significant progress in the rights of women in the kingdom, which was the only country in the world prohibiting women from driving. The change is predicted to be the catalyst of transformation in the Saudi workforce and societal norms.
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.