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Saudi pilot’s unlucky day 30, September 2009

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Saudi Arabia.
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saudi air

Apparently, much like Kuwait Airways, Saudi Arabia’s national carrier is appalling. However, Saudi Jeans has a nice story to warm the cockles of hearts that have suffered at their hands. According to Arab News a pilot was one hour late to fly the place keeping the plane and passengers on the tarmac. However, unfortunately for him, the Director General of Saudi Airlines was one of the passengers delayed. No one knows of what happened to the pilot after so manifestly not doing his job in front of his boss. Inshallah, he was fired, but who knows.

Nayef: not good for UAE relations 29, September 2009

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Saudi Arabia, The Emirates.
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Some interesting thoughts on the possible (negative) implications for the UAE if (or rather when) Prince Nayef takes the reigns of power in Saudi Arabia.

Qatar’s diplomacy shunned 29, September 2009

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Qatar, Syria.
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Qatar engages in various diplomatic forays the most famous of which being the startling resolution of the intra-Lebanese disputes back in 2008. Yet, as a short article in Lebanon NOW reports, their attempts to offer assistance are not always taken up. On this occasion Assad of Syria apparently firmly rejected any notion of Qatar mediating between Saudi and Syria earlier this year.

French Suicides 29, September 2009

Posted by thegulfblog.com in French IR.
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The Times reports that there have been 24 suicides in 18 months at a French telephone company. This is – I am sure it doesn’t need to be said – a shocking statistic and is by far the worst manifestation of France’s seeming inability to reform its welfare-state, held to ransom by the Unions, go on strike at the drop of a proverbial hat and preposterously long lunch time taking society.

The nature of oppression 29, September 2009

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Egypt.
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There’s an enthralling but unfortunately true story of a kidnapping of a protester on Inanities’ blog in which there is a top-class, sage-like musing on the nature of dictatorships and oppression.

While there are many worse features of dictatorships and oppression, I am always reminded that one of its defining aspects is tedium, and that it involves hours of standing around waiting with that awful mixture of boredom and fear in your chest.

Kuwait regresses 28, September 2009

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Kuwait.
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There are two very interesting articles in the Kuwait Times that confirms what I wrote some time ago that – as far as I see it – Kuwait does not really want any foreign say/money/advice/expertise/investment in their economy or society. Kuwait has fallen five places in Transparency International’s corruption index to 65th (tied with Cuba!!) and in the ‘doing business in…’ ratings it also fell to 61, falling 9 places. At the moment they don’t need too much foreign expertise as a whole, as they have enough money to live on. However, that time – when they can blithely carry on heedless of the future – is coming to an end in the near future and then they will be in a much weaker position. It is not good strategic thinking.

Hat tip: Victoria’s blog.

Hakyel on the bum bomb 27, September 2009

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Saudi Arabia.
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Bernard Haykel has an excellent piece of analysis in the Guardian about the recent Saudi bum-bomb attack. In short, Hakyel does not really see this incident as a harbinger failure of Saudi’s policies or tactics in their war on terrorism. The key paragraphs are below, but the whole piece is well worth the read.

To an outsider, the episode looks like a colossal security failure, as if the head of the FBI personally greeted one of Bin Laden’s lieutenants at a garden party. But it is just this highly personalised form of politics that the Saudi royals have adopted with defecting al-Qaida members. Indeed, this policy, even with its risks, partly explains al-Qaida’s defeat in Saudi Arabia. Highly personalised politics form part of what might be called Saudi Arabia’s theatre of state, which keeps the royals firmly in power.

Since 2003, Prince Muhammad has been in charge of a successful campaign against violent Islamism in the kingdom. In terms of armed security action, he has developed a strong domestic intelligence and police service that is both efficient and brutal in its tactics. At the same time, the prince has cannily used deeply rooted cultural and religions norms to pressure al-Qaida’s recruits to give up violence.

For example, he offers significant financial inducements to individual jihadis, as well as their families, in return for political obedience. In effect, by not accepting Saudi largesse the militant will be keeping food off his own family’s table – a powerful restraint in a culture and religion in which parents are highly regarded and respected.

Entry into the programme often involves a personal audience with the Saudi prince, in a ceremony that emphasises the paternalistic and personal nature of governance in the kingdom, where all subjects are regarded as well-cared-for children of the royals.

Finally, Prince Muhammad has launched an internet monitoring and disinformation campaign that keeps close tabs on jihadi websites and online forums. As a result, the Saudi security services have a feel for the pulse of jihadi debates, as well as for the radicals’ recruitment strategies.

Al-Qaida has also damaged itself with the Saudi public, which has been repeatedly victimised by terrorist attacks. Suicide bombings of public buildings and attacks on oil and other government installations have alienated many Saudis. With at least 80% of the population dependent on government salaries or grants, the attacks have proved very unpopular.

In addition, ordinary Saudis see the chaos next door in Iraq and do not want the same turmoil at home. For most people, stability, even if imposed by authoritarian means, trumps disorder.

For now, however, the Saudi royals have a prince who is seen as a courageous hero for having survived an assassination attempt while offering the hand of generosity to an unrepentant zealot. Saudi King Abdullah chastised Prince Muhammad for recklessness, but the King must also be thankful that his family has produced a security chief who has broken the back of al-Qaida, at least inside the kingdom.

Dubai metro hits 1,000,000 27, September 2009

Posted by thegulfblog.com in The Emirates.
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Business Intelligence Middle East reports that Dubai’s new metro has passed the magic number of 1,000,000 passengers. Mabrouk, as they say.

Iranian Gulf Relations 27, September 2009

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Iran, The Gulf.
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Two quick snippets from MEMRI show that both sides of the Gulf’s strained Arab-Persian relationship are trying to keep it afloat.

First is the Iranian insistence that their recent display of small and medium ranged missiles is not aimed at their brotherly Muslims but avaricious Western powers. But they would say that, wouldn’t they? And, after all, it’s not as if they’ve been caught lying recently…

Secondly, KUNA (Kuwait News Agency) reports the Arab States have agreed to participate in talks on Iran in October. Not exactly an earth shattering agreement, I suppose, but not without interest.

Arrival in Doha 26, September 2009

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Kuwait, Qatar, The Emirates, The Gulf.
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I just arrived at Doha International Airport for a nine months stint studying Arabic at Qatar University. Needless to say, Qatar is visually much like the rest of the small Emirate-type city-states on the Eastern coast of the Arabian Peninsula. The general low-rise buildings, all the same stucco colour, occasionally give way to spectacular skyscrapers which are invariably high-end hotels or apartment blocks. Nevertheless, there was something discernibly different about arriving in Qatar that is dissimilar to arriving in Kuwait or Dubai. Obviously, Doha International airport is somewhat smaller that these two airports, although that may well change soon, but, simply put, the people at the airport from security guards to police to porters to the customs staff are far friendlier than Dubai and certainly Kuwait.

Arriving in Kuwait and collecting your bag you are inevitably set upon by a phalanx of porters wanting to take your bag to the car for you (and charge you a fortune) or menacing security guards and custom officials glaring at you for having the temerity to interrupt their conversations. In Dubai, the impression is that it is just so busy that people have neither the time to be friendly nor rude. Here’s hoping that this extra bit of friendliness pervades the rest of the country and is not just a freak occurrence on this particular morning.

Qatar is certainly more outward-looking than Kuwait. It wants foreign input in a whole host of ways that Kuwait unanimously rejects. Perhaps this kind of ethos makes its way (through osmosis or by threats) to the staff at the airport. In short, you actually feel that you’re welcome in the country, unlike in Dubai where, as I have said, no one cares either way or in Kuwait where the staff are – more often than not – rude and negligent in their jobs.