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Head of IRGC slaps Ahmadinejad 5, January 2011

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Iran.
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According to a recent Wikileaks cable release the Head of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard (IRGC) slapped President Ahmadinejad in a heated meeting.

Under a section titled ‘He who got slapped’ someone from the US Embassy in Baku, Azerbaijan reported the confrontation.

According to source, President Ahmedinejad surprise dother SNSC members by taking a surprisingly liberal posture
during a mid January post-Ashura meeting of the SNSC called to discuss next steps on dealing with opposition protests.
Source said that Ahmedinejad claimed that “people feel suffocated,” and mused that to defuse the situation it may be
necessary to allow more personal and social freedoms, including more freedom of the press.

According to source, Ahmedinejad’s statements infuriated Revolutionary Guard Chief of Staff Mohammed Ali
Jafari, who exclaimed “You are wrong! (In fact) it is YOU who created this mess! And now you say give more freedom to
the press?!” Source said that Jafarli then slapped Ahmedinejad in the face, causing an uproar and an immediate
call for a break in the meeting, which was never resumed.

Reading this reporting I am reminded of some kind of cross between a game of Chinese whispers and a ‘Days of Our Lives’ storyline. I can’t say I really know why.

The Spanish Paper that released that first commented on the story has been blocked in Iran.

Qatar ‘strengthens security’ with Iran & America 5, January 2011

Posted by thegulfblog.com in American ME Relations, Iran, Qatar.
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Qatar likes to try to assure its security on all fronts. Hence friendly visits to Iran and extra security agreements with America.

The Emir recently visited Iran becoming the first Arab leader to do so since the release of the Wikileaks diplomatic cables. Presumably he didn’t discuss how the two countries routinely “lie to each other” or any other such embarrassing revelations. Instead – you guessed it – emphasis was placed on the “brotherly and excellent” relations between Qatar and Iran, while Ahmadinejad parroted back something to do with harmony, stability and security.

I sometimes feel that there must be a simple machine that churns out these asinine comments, much like this Daily Mail headline creator.

In related news, Qatar recently signed a security document with the US for dealing with exchanging information about terrorists and other similar security-related matters. Again, in the wake of the Wikileaks revelations which place Qatar squarely last in the region for counterterrorism cooperation, unless this is a direct answer to those accusations, which seems is unlikely, I’d say that this visit and signing ceremony is about as much concrete use as the Iranian one.

Kuwaiti PM survives vote of no confidence 5, January 2011

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Kuwait.
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Kuwait’s Prime Minister, Sheikh Nasser Al Mohammmed, a nephew of the Emir, today survived a vote of no confidence. This is despite small rallies outside MPs’ houses to pressure them to vote against the PM. In the end 25 MPs supported the PM while 22 were against with one abstaining. 25 votes are needed to pass the motion.

This is the eighth time that he has had such a motion lodged against him. On six of these occasions, Parliament was dissolved, he resigned or the Cabinet was reshuffled by the Emir to avoid the spectacle of the Royal PM being subjected to such a fate. The penultimate occasion saw Al Mohammed stand his ground and win comfortably. This ushered in a period of relative calm and cooperation between the Government and the Parliament where – for once – crucially important long term projects were pushed through.

The current ‘grilling’ (interpolation) and subsequent vote of confidence stems from a growing anger by opposition groups who feel that the Government is slowly but surely seeking to reduce their influence. A peaceful gathering outside an MPs house that was harshly broken up by Kuwaiti Special Forces a few weeks ago injuring several MPs was the final straw.

Many at the gathering were protesting to preempt what they  feared was the government plotting to amend the 1962 constitution to weaken political and other civil guarantees therein.  Al Jazeera was banned from Kuwait after covering the reaction of the police.

The key question now is whether the Parliament will return to its intransigent past or move on. Around the 6th and 7th attempted grilling of the PM in 2009, there were real fears of an unconstitutional break in the Parliament by the Emir, such was the degree to which necessary bills and laws were not being passed.

Unfortunately, the opposition appears to be set on removing the PM and could resort to their earlier tactics of seeking to ‘grill’ him over minor, relatively inconsequential matters. They know perfectly well that this is likely to anger the government and once again policy decisions will grind to a halt.



Qataris ‘can retire at 40’ 5, January 2011

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Qatar.
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A mooted new pension law in Qatar will allow Qataris with 15 years of government service to retire at 40.


If a state employee has, for instance, put in 15 years of service and his basic salary was QR10,000 and social allowance was QR3,000 at the time he retired, he would be entitled to a monthly pension of QR9,750. In case an employee is not able to continue in the job due to poor health conditions he would be entitled to full pension.

If anyone ever needs an example of the rentier state…I can scarcely think of a better one.

And in other ground-breaking news, a survey reports that Qatari men ‘shun housework’. No! You don’t say? Who’d have thought?


Qataris want tighter sponsorship laws 5, January 2011

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Qatar.
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A survey undertaken by Qatar University has shown that Qataris want a tightening of sponsorship rules.

Currently there are roughly 300,000 Qataris and around 1.4 million expatriates resident in Qatar. The system of sponsorship known as the kefala system is widely criticized by human rights organizations as grossly unfair and restrictive. Under its aegis salaries for lower paid workers are often late and gratuities often go unpaid. To offer another example, only yesterday I saw a poll of expatriates which highlighted their number one complaint: the need to obtain exit visas.

This finding clashes with recent trends in the Gulf. Qatar, Kuwait and Bahrain have all recently announced that they plan to – to varying degrees – overhaul their kefala systems. Despite strenuous objections from business lobbies within the countries, some changes have been made.

This aspect was one that was ruthlessly highlighted by Western press after Qatar was awarded the World Cup in 2022. As I have said before, using the enormous carrot of the World Cup funds, if the Qatari government can spread this largesse over enough of the population and throughout the business community, ‘the World Cup’ can – hopefully – be used as a quid pro quo to eek out compromises and changes from Qataris.