[This is a roundup of news articles and other materials circulating on the Arabian Peninsula and reflects a wide variety of opinions. It does not reflect the views of the Arabian Peninsula Page Editors or of Jadaliyya. You may send your own recommendations for inclusion to email@example.com.]
Regional and International Relations
Gulf Arab summit to be held on Jan. 5 – An annual Gulf Arab summit, usually held in December, will be hosted by Saudi Arabia on 5 Jan, Kuwait’s foreign minister said on 17 Dec. Sources said they expected all heads of state to attend the summit, which has not brought Qatar’s emir together with leaders of boycotting states since 2017.
Gulf Arab ministers discuss steps to resolve diplomatic dispute – GCC foreign ministers held a virtual meeting on 27 Dec, ahead of a summit to discuss steps towards ending the Gulf diplomatic crisis.
Kuwait signs deal with Greece's DESFA for liquefied gas import terminal – Kuwait has signed a six-year, $106 million contract with Greek gas grid operator DESFA for the group to operate a liquefied natural gas import terminal.
U.S. State Department approves $4.2 billion in potential arms sales to Kuwait – The US State Department has approved the potential sale to Kuwait of Apache helicopters and spare parts for the Patriot missile system in two separate deals that could have a value of $4.2 billion.
Pakistan returns $1 billion of Saudi Arabia's soft loan – Pakistan has returned $1 billion to Saudi Arabia as a second instalment of a $3 billion soft loan, as Islamabad reaches out to Beijing for a commercial loan to help it offset pressure to repay another $1 billion to Riyadh next month. It is unusual for Riyadh to press for the return of money, but relations have been strained lately between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, historically close friends.
Report accuses Saudi Arabia, UAE of probably hacking phones of over three dozen journalists in London, Qatar – Two London-based reporters and 36 journalists at Al Jazeera television network in Qatar were targeted by the Saudi and Emirati governments using spyware deployed by NSO Group’s Pegasus spyware through an opening in iMessage, according to a report released Sunday by researchers with the Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto.
US approves sale of $290m in bombs to Saudi Arabia – The US state department has approved the sale of $290m in bombs to Saudi Arabia, despite broad congressional and public opposition to such military support because of the human rights records. This was part of a flurry of arms deals that are being rushed through in the last weeks of the Trump administration.
Top U.S. general meets Taliban in Qatar, calls for reduced violence – The United States’ Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley, met Taliban representatives this week in Qatar, urging them to reduce the level of violence and move more swiftly towards a political solution in Afghanistan. The meeting comes as negotiators representing the Afghan government and the Taliban take a break until 5 Jan when they will continue to work on an agenda.
Qatar minister calls for de-escalation of Gulf crisis, Gulf-Iran dialogue – Qatar’s foreign minister, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani, has called for a de-escalation of tension in the Gulf region and for dialogue between Arab countries and Iran. Al-Thani said the Gulf crisis should be resolved by dialogue, respect for sovereignty and non-interference in the internal affairs of states.
Package-tour diplomacy: Thousands of Israeli tourists flock to Dubai after peace deal – In the two weeks since commercial flights began between Tel Aviv and the Emirati cities of Dubai and Abu Dhabi, more than 50,000 Israelis have brushed aside COVID-19 concerns, a terrorism warning and decades of tension to make the three-hour flight across the Arabian Peninsula. Israeli tourism officials expected more than 70,000 to arrive during Hanukkah, in an unprecedented exchange between the Jewish state and one of its historically standoffish Muslim neighbors.
Prominent Saudi Activist, Loujain Alhathloul, Sentenced to 5 Years and 8 Months in Prison for “Terrorism” – Loujain Alhathoul has been sentenced to five years and eight months in prison following her two-and-a-half-years in pre-trial detention. The evidence of “terrorism” pertained entirely to her advocacy for women’s rights in Saudi Arabia. Since her initial detention in 2018, Alhathloul has been held at various times incommunicado and in solitary confinement and subjected to torture and sexual abuse. The government initially sought to prosecute her in the country’s terrorism court, moved her case to the General Criminal Court in 2019, but then moved her case back to the terrorism court earlier this month. The court suspended two years and 10 months of her sentence, and backdated the start of her jail term to May 2018, meaning she has three months left to serve.
Virus Prompts Bahrain Central Bank To Extend Loan Deferrals – The Central Bank of Bahrain asked banks and financing firms to defer loan repayments for an additional six months starting January 2021, in a move aimed at helping borrowers hurt by the coronavirus crisis. Option to postpone installments is offered to all customers residing in the kingdom. Exception is amounts owed on credit cards and loans transferred to the court. Bank will reassess the continuation of such measures in 2021.
Omantel's towers attract three bidders for deal worth over $500 million – Oman Telecommunications (Omantel) has attracted three bidders in the second round of the sale of its tower network, in a deal that could be worth over $500 million, according to sources. The asset sale by the state-controlled company comes as the country seeks to raise cash after the coronavirus crisis and low oil prices.
Aramco may have to sell assets, borrow more to maintain Saudi dividend – Saudi Aramco, whose dividend remains vital to helping the country contain a huge deficit this year forecast at 298 billion riyals ($79.4 billion) or 12% of GDP. They may have to sell assets and borrow more to fulfil its fiscal role amid uncertainty in oil prices, according to market specialists.
Saudi state budget projects spending drop in 2021 – Saudi Arabia has said it plans to spend 990 billion riyals ($263.91 billion) with its 2021 budget, a drop of around 7% compared with this year, as the world’s biggest oil exporter tightens its belt amid lower oil prices.
Saudi economy shrinks 4.6% in third-quarter as oil sector takes a hit – Saudi Arabia’s economy shrank more slowly in the third quarter (4.6%), as the government eased some coronavirus restrictions, but the pandemic-hit oil sector continued to weigh on the broader economy. It expects the economy to shrink by 3.7% this year but to swing back to growth of 3.2% next year. The private sector, shrank by 3.1%, while the government sector grew by 0.5%.
Saudi Arabia says oil market fluctuation remains a major challenge for economy – Saudi Arabia said on 15 Dec the COVID-19 outbreak has made predicting the oil market “increasingly challenging,” warning that oil market fluctuation is a major challenge for the economy. The world’s biggest oil exporter has cut oil output this year as part of a deal with OPEC and other producers to stabilise the oil market, which hit a 21-year low below $16 per barrel in April.
Saudi Arabia expects reserves at 346 billion riyals in 2020, 280 billion riyals in 2021 – Saudi Arabia expects to maintain government reserves at the Saudi Central Bank of 346 billion riyals ($92.23 billion) in 2020 and 280 billion riyals in 2021, according to the finance ministry budget statement.
Saudi Arabia has no immediate plan to increase taxes – Saudi Arabia’s finance minister, Mohammed al-Jadaan, said there were no immediate plans to raise taxes and when asked, said introducing an income tax was not on the cards. The kingdom is expecting to receive between 15 billion and 25 billion riyals in dividends from its sovereign wealth fund, the Public Investment Fund, this year.
At Banque Havilland, Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince Was Known as ‘The Boss’ – Financier David Rowland, and executives at Rowland’s Banque Havilland has provided Mohammed bin Zayed, the crown prince of Abu Dhabi and de facto ruler of the United Arab Emirates, beyond financial advice. It included scouting for deals in Zimbabwe, setting up a company to buy the image rights of players on the Abu Dhabi-owned Manchester City Football Club and helping place the bank’s chairman at the time on the board of Human Rights Watch after it published reports critical of the UAE.
Natixis sees more deals coming from Gulf states monetising oil assets – French Bank, Natixis, expects the Gulf states to accelerate privatisations, including by extracting revenue from oil assets, with Saudi Arabia and possibly Oman as likely candidates for similar deals next year. Lower oil prices as well as output cuts after the coronavirus crisis has led oil exporters to explore new financing sources to cover wider funding needs.
Yemen in Crisis
Yemen rebels: Fighters shot down Saudi-run drone near border – Houthi rebels’ air defences shot down a Chinese-made drone, run by the Saudi military on 21 Dec, over the district of Madghal in Marib province, along the border with Saudi Arabia.
Yemen's president in exile reshuffles Cabinet to end rift – Yemen’s president, President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, in exile in Saudi Arabia, announced a Cabinet reshuffle on 18 Dec. The decree said incumbent prime minister, Maeen Abdulmalik Saeed, would keep his job while 24 ministerial posts would have almost equal representation of both northerners and southerners, as well as the inclusion of women. Naming a new government was part of a power-sharing agreement between the Saudi-backed Hadi and the Emirati-backed separatist Southern Transitional Council.
Houthi sea mine strikes cargo ship in Red Sea – A sea mine planted by Yemen’s Houthi rebels struck a cargo ship in the southern Red Sea on 25 Dec.
Houthi terror designation would push Yemen closer to famine, UN warns – Yemen would be at risk of a devastating famine should the outgoing Trump administration push ahead with a move to designate the Houthis as a terrorist organisation, Mark Lowcock, UN under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs, warned. “There’s a chilling effect of the [terrorist] designation . . . that risks undermining imports of food and becomes the final straw that tips the country into not just a small famine, but a large one.”
Yemen's president, separatists announce new power-sharing government – The Saudi-led coalition in Yemen, led by President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, announced a new power-sharing cabinet on 18 Dec, that would include southern separatists, the Southern Transitional Council, in the internationally-recognised government, part of a deal to end a power struggle between the nominal allies.
Explosions rock Aden airport, killing at least 22, as new Yemen government arrives – Blasts rocked Aden airport on 30 Dec, killing at least 22 people and injuring 58, shortly after members of a newly created unity government arrived from Saudi Arabia. The attack was launched after the new power-sharing government, created a new political alliance between the Yemeni government and southern separatists. The plane’s passengers included Prime Minister Maeen Abdulmalik Saeed and other cabinet members, as well as Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Yemen, Mohammed Said al-Jaber.
Yemen's PM says airport attack aimed to 'eliminate' Cabinet – Yemen’s Prime Minister, Maeen Abdulmalik Saeed, has said that the missile attack on the airport in Aden was meant “to eliminate” the country’s new government as it arrived in the key southern city, as well as a subsequent drone assault on the palace, which he blamed on the Houthis.
Bahrain approves Chinese COVID-19 vaccine for use – Bahrain said on 13 Dec it approved the use of a Chinese coronavirus vaccine, following its earlier approval of a vaccine made by Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech. Over 7,700 signed up to take part in a trial of the Sinopharm vaccine in the kingdom. The kingdom earlier said it plans to give the public free coronavirus vaccines, but has yet to answer any questions about its program.
Kuwait’s key reformer, son of late emir, dies at 72 – Kuwait’s Sheikh Nasser Sabah Al Sabah, the eldest son of the late emir, who emerged as an influential reformer, died on 20 Dec. He was 72. Sheikh Nasser, who held various government posts over the years including minister of defense and deputy prime minister, had been considered a top contender for crown prince following the death in September of his father, Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah.
Kuwait names new oil and finance ministers as government faces liquidity crunch – Kuwait’s emir on 14 Dec approved a new cabinet that included new ministers of oil and finance for the OPEC member state which is mired in its worst economic crisis in decades.
Kuwait emir tells parliament: reform needed, stop disputes – Kuwait’s Emir Sheikh Nawaf al-Ahmad al-Sabah told the new parliament, in which opposition candidates made gains, that comprehensive reform was needed to help the Gulf Arab state exit its worst economic crisis in decades and that there was no time for “fabricating conflicts”.
More than 270,000 expatriate workers left Oman this year – Oman’s expatriate worker population fell by more than 270,000, or nearly 16%, from the end of 2019 to November 2020. Oman had 1.44 million non-Omani workers as of November, down from 1.71 million expatriate workers at the end of last year. Many foreign workers have left the Gulf countries this year due to the effects of low oil demand and prices, on top of the coronavirus pandemic.
Oman to start cutting utility subsidies in January – Oman will start reforming its subsidy system in January by shifting the focus of its electricity and water spending to its poorest citizens. These are part of the government’s plan that aims to reduce a widening fiscal deficit expected to come to 10% of economic output this year, according to an IMF forecast.
Qatar, Oman to receive Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine this week – Qatar granted emergency use authorisation for the COVID-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech and is due to receive the first shipment on 21 Dec. Oman will receive its first Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine shipment on 23 Dec, with the initial phase would covering 20% of the population. Saudi Arabia the week before became the first Arab country to start inoculating people with the Pfizer-BioNTech shot. Kuwait expects to start receiving the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine before the end of the year. Bahrain has also granted emergency authorisation use for the Pfizer vaccine.
Qatari sports network retains EPL rights amid Saudi dispute – Qatar’s sports broadcasting network beIN Sports retained the rights to air all English Premier League games on 17 Dec, for another three years in the Middle East amid a long-running dispute with Saudi Arabia over the pirating of broadcasts. The company has pursued action against the Saudis to stop them allegedly facilitating the bootlegging of its output due to the boycott of Qatar.
Qatar to host 2030 Asian Games, Saudi Arabia in 2034 – The 2030 Asian Games were awarded to Doha on 16 Dec and the 2034 event went to Riyadh after a vote by the Olympic Council of Asia’s general assembly.
Explosion from ‘external source’ strikes oil tanker in Jiddah, Saudi Arabia; port shut – An oil tanker off Saudi Arabia’s Jiddah, suffered an explosion early on 15 Dec after being hit by “an external source,” briefly shutting down Jiddah port. The Singapore-flagged BW Rhine, which was contracted by the trading arm of the kingdom’s Saudi Arabian Oil Co., marks the fourth assault targeting Saudi energy infrastructure in a month, renewing concerns about ship safety in the Red Sea. The strike caused an explosion and fire onboard the ship, damaging its hull. All 22 sailors on board escaped without injury and firefighters later extinguished the blaze. The company said it was still assessing the damage.
Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman to close borders over new COVID strain – Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Oman are closing their borders and suspending commercial flights over fears about a new coronavirus strain. The measures do not apply to movement of goods from countries where the new COVID-19 strain has not appeared.
Saudi Arabia crown prince receives first dose of COVID-19 vaccine – Mohammed bin Salman has received his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, as part of a national COVID-19 vaccination plan being implemented by the ministry of health.
Dubai to begin inoculations with Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine from Wednesday – Dubai will start inoculating people with the COVID-19 vaccine produced by Pfizer and BioNTech for free from 23 Dec, following Saudi Arabia who was the first Arab country to begin using this vaccine last week.
UAE rolls out free Chinese vaccines to all citizens and residents – The United Arab Emirates is offering free COVID-19 vaccinations to all citizens and residents. A vaccine developed by China’s Sinopharm and registered for use by Emirati authorities this month is available at public and private clinics, and field hospitals across the Gulf federation’s seven emirates.
Reports and Opinions
A Nobel prize for feeding the world can't erase the shame of Yemen's starving children – David Beasley, Director of the UN World Food Programme (WFP), pens his mixed sentiments of pride and shame with WFP’s work receiving the Nobel Prize, as millions of Yemenis continue to face hunger. He calls on the international community to take action to end this plight.
The Great iPwn: Journalists Hacked with Suspected NSO Group iMessage ‘Zero-Click’ Exploit – The report found government operatives used NSO Group’s Pegasus spyware to hack 36 personal phones belonging to journalists, producers, anchors, and executives at Al Jazeera between July and August 2020. The personal phone of a journalist at London-based Al Araby TV was also hacked. The phones were compromised involving an invisible zero-click exploit in iMessage. Two of the four Pegasus operators were attributed to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
UAE emerges as hub for companies helping Venezuela avoid U.S. oil sanctions – In June, the United States imposed sanctions on half a dozen oil tankers managed by established shipping firms, a major escalation of American attempts to choke off Venezuela’s oil trade. Within a few weeks, according to internal documents and a publicly available shipping database, it shows how the UAE has become a hub for companies helping Venezuela skirt American sanctions. Three UAE-based entities that were identified by Reuters, have taken over the management of several tankers and has been shipping Venezuelan oil during the second half of this year.
Prominent Saudi Activist, Loujain Alhathloul, Sentenced to 5 Years and 8 Months in Prison for “Terrorism” – Loujain Alhathoul was sentenced to five years and eight months in prison by Saudi Arabia’s Specialized Criminal (Terrorism) Court in Riyadh, following her two-and-a-half-years in pre-trial detention. The evidence of “terrorism” Saudi Attorney General Saud Al-Mojeb presented against her pertain entirely to her advocacy for women’s rights in Saudi Arabia. The government initially sought to prosecute her in the country’s terrorism court, moved her case to the General Criminal Court in 2019, but then moved her case back to the terrorism court earlier this month.
علاقات إقليمية ودولية
بحثت أمريكا وقطر هاتفيا عددا من القضايا ذات الاهتمام المشترك والعلاقة الثنائية بين البلدين لاسيما فيما يتعلق بحلحلة الأزمة الخليجية.
أفادت بعض الشبكات أن قوات أمريكية سحبت حاملة الطائرات من الخليج من أجل تخفيف التوتر في المنطقة وفي آن واحد شدد مسؤولون على أن القوات الأمريكية جاهرة وقادرة على رد على أي عدوان على مصالح أمريكية وبدورها أكدت إيران في اجتماع عقد في الدوحة أنها تسعى إلى إرساء الاستقرار في المنطقة.
أعرب أمير دولة الكويت الشيخ نواف الأحمد الجابر الصباح عن تفاؤله قبل قمة العلا حيث يأمل أنه سيكون هناك تقدم في بعض الملفات الخليجية.
استنكرت قطر اختراق المقاتلات والزوارق العسكرية في مساحاتها الإقليمية، وقالت إن هذه الأعمال الخطيرة وغير القانونية يعد انتهاكا لسيادة الدولة.
أشاد الرئيس المصري عبد الفتاح السيسي بالجهود التي تقوم بها الكويت سعيا لتحقيق المصالحة بين الدول الخليجية.
تسعى الإمارات إلى إرساء التضامن والتعاون والوحدة بين دول الخليج ويأتي هذا التصريح بعد انعقد اجتماع بين الإمارات والكويت في إمارة دبي.
أعلنت الحكومة العمانية أنها ستغلق كل المنافذ الحدودية لفترة أسبوع لتخفيف تفشي سلالة جديدة من فيروس كورونا.
ستشكل سلطنة عمان دائرة لمكافحة جرائم غسل الأموال وتمويل الإرهاب، وتتماشى هذه المبادرة مع أهداف رؤية 2040 لرفع الوعي وتحقيق الاستدامة المالية في البلد.
تسعى قطر إلى أن تصبح قائدة إقليمية من خلال التقارب مع تونس الأمر الذي أدى إلى تصاعد التوتر بين السعودية والإمارات.
تستمر السعودية في توظيف نهج الإسلام المعتدل وبغض النظر عن أنه أمر مثير للجدل، تعتبر السعودية هذا النهج كوسيلة لتحقيق اقتصاد ما بعد النفط وذلك تماشيا مع أهداف رؤية .2030
الحرب في اليمن
تتهم الحكومة اليمنية الحوثيين وإيران بالوقوف خلف الهجوم الذي وقع على مطار مدينة عدن والذي أسفر عن قتل 22 شخصا على الأقل.
شهدت عدن انفجاراً في المطار أسفر عن عشرات القتلى والجرحى بالتزامن مع وصول أعضاء الحكومة اليمنية الجديدة قادمين من الرياض.
ذكر التلفزيون الرسمي في السعودية أن الأضرار في جسم السفينة الخارجي بسيطة، مشيرا إلى عدم وجود خسائر في الأرواح.
بدأت السعودية حملة التطعيم داخل المملكة وحدّدت السلطات الفئات ذات الأولوية للحصول على اللقاح بمن هم فوق 65 عاماً وأصحاب المهن الأكثر عرضة للعدوى.
قصفت طائرات التحالف الذي تقوده السعودية أهدافا في العاصمة اليمنية، غداة هجمات استهدفت مطار عدن وأدت إلى مقتل 22 شخصا على الأقل.
احتفلت قطر بعيدها الوطني وقد اشتملت الفعاليات على برامج القطاع الصحي بهدف تكريم العاملين في هذا المجال وجهودهم في مكافحة فيروس كورونا وتقديرا لخدماتهم المجتمعية في هذه الأزمة غير المسبوقة.
وصلت الدفعة الأولى من لقاح فايزر إلى المملكة العربية السعودية، ووزير الصحة يعرض عينة منه ومن المتوقع أن حملة التطعيم ستبدأ على الفور.
شهدت اليمن سنة طاحنة بسبب عدة عوامل وبالرغم من هذه التحديات هناك بصيص أمل للنساء اليمنيات اللواتي حصلن على عمل بتوظيف قدراتهن وإبداعهن في صنع وتوزيع كمامات قماشية على أفراد المجتمع.
أعلنت الحكومة السعودية أنها ستفتح كل المنافذ الحدودية بعد إغلاقها لفترة مؤقتة لتخفيف تفشي سلالة جديدة لفيروس كورونا.
بمشاركة أكثر من 300 فرد في التنافس على جائزة "الشيخ حمد للترجمة والتفاهم الدولي" التي أطلقت في 2015 سعيا لتشجيع الصداقة والإبداع في هذا المجال ناهيك عن رفع مستوى الترجمة، يتم تتويج الفائزين في نسخته السادسة.
يروي ملعب "الريان" قصة شعب قطر وتاريخه حيث التصميم يعكس ملامح قطر باستخدام زخارف ونقوشات مستمدة من الثقافة الإسلامية والعربية.
حكمت المحكمة الجزائية المتخصصة في الرياض ضد الناشطة لجين الهذلول وقالت المحكمة إن هذا القرار يأتي بموجب نظام مكافحة جرائم الإرهاب وتمويله.
أطلقت السلطات السعودية حملة توقيف ضد بعض المسؤولين الذين كانوا منخرطين في قضايا الفساد والأنشطة التي تخالف النظام العام.
أصدرت وزارة العدل تقريراً عن المنجزات التي تحققت بالمرفق العدلي في السنوات الخمس الماضية، من خلال العديد من المشاريع والمبادرات والقرارات والتشريعات، التي تهدف إلى تحقيق الكفاءة والتميز والابتكار في الخدمات والقطاعات العدلية.
أصدرت المحكمة الجزائية المتخصصة في الرياض ضد الشيخ يوسف الأحمد بالسجن 4 سنوات والجدير بالذكر أن السلطات السعودية قد أوقفت الأحمد ضمن حملة موسعة استهدفت دعاة ومفكرين سعوديين.
ألغى اليمن كافة أشكال العبودية بموجب المادة 248 من قانون العقوبات التي تنص على حبس كل من "باع أو تصرف بإنسان" مدة لا تقل عن عشر سنوات، كما تسلط هذه المقالة الضوء على ما وصفه الخبراء بعودة العبودية وسخرة الأطفال.
كان هناك تداول على وسائل التواصل الاجتماعي عقب تغريدة لنجل الداعية السعودي سلمان العودة أشار فيها إلى أن والده يتعرض للقتل البطيء.
ازدهر المشهد الفني في العقد الماضي في دبي وأبو ظبي، وبالرغم من انتشار فيروس كورونا فقد اعتمد هذا المجال على منصات الكترونية جديدة بهدف الوصول إلى الجماهير "عن بعد."
تشكل دول الخليج جزءا رئيسيا من المشروع الصيني "الحزام والطريق" لذلك بدأت الصين في القيام بدور أكثر نشاطا في السياسة الإقليمية بتوظيف تكتيكات دبلوماسية جديدة.
تسعى البحرين إلى أن تصبح رائدة في خدمات الكترونية سحابية (الكلاود) بهدف تنويع الاقتصاد وتخفيف اعتمادها على إيرادات النفط.