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Testing the waters: Russia explores reconfiguring Gulf security

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  By James M. Dorsey Russia hopes to blow new life into a proposal for a multilateral security architecture in the Gulf, with the tacit approval of the Biden administration. If successful, the initiative would help stabilise the region, cement regional efforts to reduce tensions, and potentially prevent war-wracked Yemen from emerging as an Afghanistan on the southern border of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf of Aden and at the mouth of the Red Sea. For now, Vitaly Naumkin, a prominent scholar, academic advisor of the foreign and justice ministries, and head of the Institute of Oriental Studies at the Russian Academy of Sciences, is testing the waters, according to Newsweek , which first reported the move. Last week, he invited former officials, scholars, and journalists from feuding Middle Eastern nations to a closed-door meeting in Moscow to discuss the region's multiple disputes and conflicts and ways of preventing them from spinning out of control. Mr. Naumkin, who is beli

UAE chalks up diplomatic successes with uncertain payoffs

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  By James M. Dorsey It has been a good week for United Arab Emirates Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed. Headline-grabbing, fast-paced moves reinforce the UAE's position as a regional power. They highlight the UAE's willingness to chart a course that increasingly competes with Saudi Arabia, the Gulf's regional behemoth; is at times at odds with US policy; and scoffs at assertions of human rights abuse by activists and Western politicians. Controversial Emirati general Ahmed Naser al-Raisi was elected this week as the next president of Interpol despite calls by the European Parliament for an investigation into allegations that he oversaw physical abuse of detainees. Last month, two British nationals filed court cases against him. The UAE has denied the allegations. “Major General Al-Raisi is a distinguished professional with a 40-year track record in community and national policing. As the President of Interpol, he will remain committed to protecting people , making

Tackling migration crises: Fighting corruption may help

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  By James M. Dorsey Twenty-three-year-old Mohamed Rasheed was at a loss after returning to Iraq from a grueling failed attempt to cross the Belarus-Polish border. “ There’s no life for us here . There are no jobs; there is no future,” he told a Washington Post reporter. Another man, who had just disembarked from a repatriation flight from the Belarus capital of Minsk to Erbil in Iraqi Kurdistan, frowned and obscured his face with a scarf, according to the reporter, as he responded to a question about why he had left. “Those words cannot leave my mouth. Who dares to tell the truth here?” the man said. The two men were returning to a country whose population has largely been excluded from sharing in the benefits of its oil wealth . Youth unemployment hovers at about 25 per cent . Public good and services are poor at best. Security forces and militias crackdown on and fire live ammunition at protesters demanding wholesale change. Mohammed and his fellow returnee could have been

Qatari World Cup sparks healthy controversy across multiple issues

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  By James M. Dorsey When seven-time Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton wore a helmet this weekend featuring the colours of the LGBTI Pride Progress Flag during the debut Qatar Grand Prix, he was challenging more than the Gulf state’s failure to recognise rights. So will the Danish Football Union (DBU), Denmark’s governing soccer body, that announced that its commercial sponsors had agreed to surrender space on training kits to allow for messaging critical of Qatar’s treatment of migrant workers . The union said it would also minimize the number of trips to Qatar by the Danish team that has already qualified for the 2022 World Cup to avoid commercial activities that promote the World Cup hosts’ events. The stance by Mr. Hamilton and the Danish union calls into question the success of Qatar’s use of sports as a pillar of its soft power strategy. Moreover, it lays bare the state-owned Al Jazeera television network's inability or unwillingness to report critically abou

A new world: The Middle East tries cooperation alongside competition

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  By James M. Dorsey Just in case there were any doubts, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu demonstrated with his visit to Lebanon this week that improved relations between Middle Eastern rivals would not bury hatchets. On the contrary, improved relations shifts the battlefield away from potential armed conflict, allowing rivals to compete while enjoying the benefits of trade and economic cooperation as well as lines of communication that help prevent disputes and conflicts from spinning out of control. With his visit, Mr. Cavusoglu was stepping into a breach. He sought to fill a vacuum after Turkey’s geopolitical and religious soft power rivals, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, together with Bahrain and Kuwait, imposed an economic boycott on Lebanon and withdrew their ambassadors from Beirut. A one-time middle-income country, Lebanon is teetering on the brink of collapse due to endemic corruption and an elite willing to protect its vested interests at whatev

Saudi keeps eye on religious ball in global competition for talent

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  By James M. Dorsey Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has tamed his kingdom’s ultra-conservative religious establishment and made hyper-nationalism rather than religion a pillar of a new 21 st century Saudi identity. But the first beneficiaries of a recent decree to give citizenship to high-end achievers in law, medicine, science, technology, culture, and sports suggests that Prince Mohammed, in contrast to the kingdom’s main competitors seeking to attract foreign talent that include the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Singapore, sees religion as an equally important realm of competition. The fact that approximately one-quarter of the 27 new citizens are Sunni as well as Shiite religious figures , some of whom are not resident in Saudi Arabia, telegraphs the significance that Prince Mohammed attributes to the religious soft power rivalry between Middle Eastern and Asian Muslim-majority states as well as a powerful Indonesian civil society movement. The newly minted citiz