The Gulf Region & Yemen in December 2022

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GULF REGION in December 2022

December 1, 2022

U.S. Administration Shows Warmth to Doha, Cold to Riyadh

Saudi Arabia celebrated a historic World Cup victory over Argentina last week, but departed the competition after losing to Poland and Mexico. Meanwhile, at the annual US-Qatar strategic dialogue, Secretary of State Antony Blinken disclosed that the United States is still reviewing its relations with Saudi Arabia and said there are no plans for Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman to visit the United States. At the same time, Blinken hailed Washington’s “strong partnership” with Qatar.

Qatar will begin supplying Germany with gas after both countries signed a 15 year deal. Local Arabic media sources judged that the agreement may lead Germany to reorient its foreign policy toward Qatar, which has been marked by criticism of Qatar’s human rights record, especially on LGBT-Q+ issues.

Houthis and IRGC Determined to Continue Strikes Against Yemeni Ports

Last week the Houthis continued to attack Yemeni ports in an attempt to disrupt the oil trade into Yemeni government controlled areas. On 21 November Reuters reported that a Panamanian-flagged vessel was forced to evacuate from the Yemeni oil port of Al-Dhaba after the Houthis launched a missile attack from an Iranian made drone. In response to the repeated Houthi attacks, on 28 November the United States demanded that the Houthis cease their targeting of Yemen’s ports and announced that US Special Envoy for Yemen Tim Lenderking would travel to Saudi Arabia and Oman to coordinate with regional countries on this issue. Two days later, Houthi leaders defiantly announced their intention to launch further attacks on ports, oil installations, and ships with the assistance of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards.

December 5, 2022

YEMEN: Houthis and Iran Stoke Conflict on Sea and Land

The U.S. Fifth Fleet revealed on 1 December that it had intercepted a vessel transporting 50 tons of ammunition and missile supplies from Iran to Yemen. The Iranian shipment, which was being smuggled on a fishing vessel in the Gulf of Oman, was the latest in a long string of such shipments from the Iranian regime carrying military supplies to the Houthis. The seized shipment also included rocket fuses and propellant, matching the weapons the Houthis have used against other Yemenis and against Saudi Arabia.

Separately, Al Arabiyah reported that nine Yemeni civilians, most of them children, were killed by Houthi land mines in Hodeidah governorate. The land mines were originally laid by the Houthis and abandoned as the front lines of the war moved. The problem of Houthi land mines that have been laid without any plan to disarm them will likely continue to cause civilian casualties.

10 December 2022

  1. The Arab-Chinese Riyadh summit… the race for progress and renaissance (Al Sharq Al Awsat).  Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz, Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, confirmed at the conclusion of the Arab-Chinese Summit “We assure the whole world that the Arabs will race for progress and renaissance again, and we will prove that every day.”
  2. Unspeakable crimes… Minors suffer in Houthi prisons (Al Hadath).  A recent Yemeni human rights report revealed that militias committed more than 1,893 cases of kidnapping, torture and rape against women from December 2017 to October 2022.

11 December 2022

  1. The Arab-Chinese Summit:  Emphasis on Strengthening the Strategic Partnership (Al Arabiya TV). The leaders of the Arab countries, members of the League of Arab States, and China held the first Arab-Chinese summit on Friday in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, with the aim of developing relations between the Arab and Chinese sides in various fields.
  2. The Houthi militia talks about a new Emirati “tactic” in Yemen and vows to thwart it (Yemen Now News).  The Houthi militia imposed more restrictions on the travel of young men to the city of Aden, the interim capital of Yemen.

12 DECEMBER 2022

  1. Saudi Foreign Minister: If Iran Obtains a Nuclear Weapon, the Countries of the Region will Seek to Ensure Their Own Security (Al Sharq Al Awsat). Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan said that Iran’s acquisition of a nuclear weapon will lead to the efforts of the countries of the region to ensure their [own] security, and that the failure of the nuclear agreement with Iran will enter the region into a very dangerous stage.
  2. UAE and Israel Ratify Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (Al Arabiya). The agreement “will cancel or reduce fees on 96% of products, which will provide a strong boost to the Emirati industrial and service sectors.”
  3. Yemeni Security Seizes Large Hashish Shipment from Iran (Al Arabiya). The drugs that were found are believed to have come from a smuggling ship that sank at sea.
  4. GULF REGION: Emirati and Qatari Heads of State Meet After Years of Severed Relations. Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan (MbZ), the head of state of the UAE, visited Qatar this week to attend the FIFA World Cup and meet with Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani.  The visit to Doha was MbZ’s first since the 2017 rupture in relations between the two countries, which took place as part of the broader rift between Qatar and all other members of the GCC except Oman. The Emirati delegation included Sheikh Tahnoun bin Zayed, MbZ’s National Security Advisor and a key decision maker in the UAE’s regional policy and trade.  Both countries’ news outlets published joint statements promising positive outcomes from the visit and the restoration of relations. MbZ’s meeting with the Qatari emir came just days after Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman also visited Qatar and met with Emir Tamim during the FIFA World Cup.  The two visits in close succession indicate the political rupture between the two sides–which sometimes manifested itself in proxy warfare, such as in Libya–has ended, a development that will have far-reaching implications in the region.
  5. Saudi Arabia:  Are America’s Saudi Allies Shifting to China? Last week, Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Saudi Arabia for summits with Saudi leaders and with leaders from the Arab League.  While the Saudis and Chinese did not announce that Riyadh will enter into military trade with China, the dozens of other agreements the two countries signed have unleashed concerns that the burgeoning Riyadh-Beijing relationship could create security risks for U.S. interests in the region. Saudi media outlets declared Xi’s visit the start of a new strategic partnership that could serve the Kingdom’s interests better than the United States, which they claimed “makes demands” and “interferes” in Saudi affairs in ways that China will not do.
  6. Saudi Foreign Minister Warns of Arms Race if Iran Gets a Nuclear Weapon. Speaking at an international conference in Abu Dhabi, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan warned that if the Iranians acquire an operational nuclear weapon, then “all bets are off,” and the other countries of the region will take whatever measures are needed to secure themselves against an Iranian nuclear threat.  Prince Faisal’s remarks implied that Saudi Arabia and its allied Arab countries will arm themselves either with a nuclear deterrent of their own or with advanced weapons that can deter Iran. Prince Faisal added that the Saudi government remained skeptical that the United States and others can restore the nuclear agreement with Iran. He noted that in any case, the nuclear agreement would need to be seen as a “starting point” rather than an ending point, given, as one Emirati official noted, the regional countries’ concerns over Iranian threats beyond the nuclear agreement such as missiles and drones.
  7. YEMEN: New Reports of Large-Scale Human Rights Violations by Houthis. Two new human rights reports scrutinized Houthi violations in Yemen.  On Sunday, the Yemeni Network for Human Rights released a report documenting more than 127,000 instances of human rights violations committed by Houthi forces since 2014, including the killing of more than 14,000 civilians.  In a separate report last Thursday, the Women’s Coalition for Peace in Yemen stated that Houthi militias had committed 1,893 documented cases of kidnapping, torture, and rape against women from December 2017 to October 2022.  The report also said that minors were subject to harsh treatment in Houthi prisons.

13 DECEMBER 2022

  1. UAE Makes History with Successful Launch of Lunar Rover (Gulf news). The UAE’s and the Arab world’s first journey to land on the Moon began successfully on Sunday, with the triumphant launch of the Emirati-made Rashid Rover aboard a Japanese lunar lander sent to space on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral.
  2. Report: 127,000 Houthi Human Rights Violations in Yemen Since 2014 (Al Arabiya). Houthi mines, during the 8 years of the coup, killed 3,673 civilians, including 647 children and 462 women, and injured 3,135 civilians, including 741 children and 362 women.

14 DECEMBER 2022

  1. Saudi Arabia and Britain Sign Defense Cooperation Pact (Al Sharq Al Awsat) Yesterday British Minister Ben Wallace received Saudi Defense Minister Prince Khalid bin Salman at the Royal Cavalry Guard Square in London, where the two signed a joint plan to develop military capiblities and industry.

15 DECEMBER 2022

1. Houthi Militia Bombs a School in Hajjah (Al Arabiya). Local media sources reported that an attack by a drone belonging to the Houthi militia targeted the Al-Salam School in the village of Al-Dair, Hayran District…the operation resulted in the death of an 11-year-old child and the injury of two children.

16 DECEMBER 2022

  1. Aramco and Total Energies to Build $11 bln Saudi Petrochemicals Plant (Reuters). Saudi Arabian Oil Company (Aramco) and Total Energies will join forces to build a new petrochemicals complex in Saudi Arabia, the French energy group said on Thursday.

December 20, 2022

Houthis Sentence 32 Yemenis to Death

In Yemen, following the footsteps of Iran, the Houthis sentenced 32 detainees to death this week on charges of aiding what the criminal court called “aggression,” a term the Houthis use to refer to the activities of the international coalition to support the Yemeni government. Meanwhile, the Houthis’ media platform published on 17 December a warning that joint Egyptian-American activities in the Red Sea are a threat to international navigation. The Houthi news outlet said that while U.S. Envoy for Yemen Tim Lenderking attempts to present himself as a “pigeon of peace, his actions confirm he is a banshee owl.” 

KSA Eases Visas Requirements for Western Travelers

Saudi Arabia announced the lifting of visa restrictions on travelers from the United States, the United Kingdom, and European Union countries, or holders of United States, United Kingdom, and Schengen visas. Travelers from these countries can obtain the visa upon arrival at the international airports in Jeddah, Medina, Riyadh, and Dammam.  The Saudi government noted that it will establish similar facilities for Turkish nationals to visit Mecca and Medina as well. 

Belgium Investigating Greek MEP’s Ties to Qatar

Tensions are rising between Qatar and the European Union after the Belgian government announced it had launched an investigation into alleged corrupt activities of Greek member of the European parliament Eva Kaili. Kaili has been an outspoken advocate for Qatar within the EU, and she is accused of taking bribes from Qatar in exchange for her pro-Qatar stances and actions. The EU parliament reacted to the Belgian investigation by halting all legislative work with the Qatari government. The Qatari government responded by claiming that the investigation is baseless and will hinder Qatari-Belgian relations, as well as potentially hindering the supply of Qatari natural gas to Belgium. 

21 DECEMBER 2022

  1. Saudi Foreign Minister Says His Country Rejects Any Attack on Iraqi Territory (Al Sharq Al Awsat). Prince Faisal bin Farhan affirmed Saudi Arabia will stand with Iraq to preserve its stability and sovereignty, support its development efforts, restore its historical status as a land of civilization, science and knowledge, and advance it to a new stage in which national interest takes precedence over any other considerations.
  2. President Al-Alimi Calls on European Union to Designate the Houthis a Terrorist Organization (Mareb Press). Al-Alimi received an EU delegation headed by David McCallister, Chairman of the EU Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee. Al-Alimi stressed the importance of doubling international pressure on the Houthis, and supporting the reforms led by his council as the best way to bring peace and limit the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

22 DECEMBER 2022


  1. France Seeks to Sell Defense Weapons to Saudi Arabia (Asharq Al-Awsat). On Tuesday Prince Khalid bin Salman bin Abdulaziz, Saudi Minister of Defense, spoke with French Armed Forces Minister Sebastien Licorne. The two reviewed their bilateral relations and discussed how to enhance their cooperation and joint coordination in the military and defense fields, in addition to discussing a number of issues of common interest.
  2. UK Agrees to Develop Financial Services in Saudi Arabia (Asharq Al-Awsat). On Wednesday, Saudi Finance Minister Muhammad al-Jadaan and his British counterpart Jeremy Hunt met in London to sign a memorandum of understanding under which the UK will assist in developing the Kingdom’s financial and public financial services.
  3. Islamic Countries Agree to a New Fight Against Corruption (Asharq Al-Awsat). Member states of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation on Tuesday adopted the draft resolution of the “Makkah Al-Mukarramah Agreement,” under which they will establish new mechanisms to combat corruption, including exchanging liaison officers to confront cross-border crimes.
  4. Houthi Media Claims U.S. Civil Society Programs Secretly Encourage Yemeni Women to Be Naked and Immoral (al Thawrah). On Tuesday the Houthis’ official media outlet attacked U.S. government programs to support Yemeni civil society, claiming that the programs are a front behind which the Americans are pursuing “hidden goals.”  A Houthi statement claimed that “The American programs focused on attracting women in Iraq and pushing them to be naked, considering that this is freedom. These programs even moved to deeper goals, such as claiming women’s right to abortion, and the right to immoral practices. Later, America used these women and youth groups to cause chaos under the title of the October Revolution, which gave America the opportunity to occupy Iraq for a longer period, plunder its wealth and control its capabilities. Women are a title, and behind the title are malicious American goals that seek to use women in a battlefield that achieves America’s goals in Yemen.”

28 DECEMBER 2022

  1. Saudi Arabia Allows Christmas Celebrations, Announcing A New Era of Tolerance (Al Nahar). This year, Saudi Arabia celebrated Christmas in a different way, with authorities easing restrictions in recent years on the sale of holiday decorations. While congratulating non-Muslim holidays is still a controversial issue for the hard-line clerics in the Kingdom, the statement of the head of the Association of Muslim Scholars in Saudi Arabia, Sheikh Muhammad Al-Issa, emphasized that there is no legal text prohibiting congratulating Christians on Christmas.
  2. Inspired by the Taliban regime.Houthi restrictions stifle the freedom of Yemeni women (Al Arabiya). Several women living in Houthi controlled territories stated that the militia have banned women from moving from one city to another or traveling abroad and are imposing strict social rules similar to those of Taliban. Several swimming pools and gyms for women were closed. Belqis Al-Lahbi, a gender advisor at the Sana’a Center for Strategic Studies, believes that these measures serve both religious and political goals, and come to satisfy the more extremist wing of the Houthis.

29 DECEMBER 2022

  1. Saudi Arabia was world’s largest development donor in 2021 (Asharq Al-Awsat) Saudi Arabia topped donor countries in providing official development assistance (humanitarian and development) to low- and middle-income countries in 2021, with an amount of 26.71 billion Saudi riyals (equivalent to $7.12 billion), according to data published by the Development Assistance Committee of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.
  2. A rare fall of hail creates an unprecedented snow scene in Kuwait (Asharq Al-Awsat) Hail fell on areas in southern Kuwait, in a rare phenomenon that meteorologists said that the Gulf country, known for its high temperatures in the summer, had not witnessed for nearly two decades.
  3. Iran Reportedly Trafficking Stolen Yemeni Antiquities (Al Hadath). The Yemeni Minister of Information, Muammar Al-Eryani, warned today, Wednesday, of what he described as the involvement of the Iranian regime and the Houthis in “organized looting” of antiquities in areas under Houthi control and “smuggling” them for trade abroad. Al-Eryani said that the Iranian regime is doing this “under the cover of fake projects within its scheme to obliterate Yemeni archaeological sites, bulldoze national identity and erase Yemeni history.”


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