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The Gulf Region & Yemen in January 2023

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GULF REGION in January 2023

January 5, 2023

UAE Foreign Minister Visits Assad in Damascus a Second Time.

Emirati Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed met with Syrian regime leader Bashar al-Assad in Damascus on Wednesday.  It was the UAE official’s second visit to Damascus in a little over a year.  According to Sheikh Abdullah’s official statement about the meeting, the two men discussed regional developments and ways to increase economic cooperation and trade relations between the two countries.  It was not clear from the UAE statement how increased trade relations between the Emirates and Damascus would account for the tight U.S. and EU sanctions on the Assad regime–nor how the UAE stands to benefit from its normalization push with the Syrian dictator.

Israel and Saudi Arabia: Can Netanyahu Bring a Normalization Deal?

As Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu leads his new government into office, one of his priorities will be to seek a normalization deal with Saudi Arabia under the umbrella of the Abraham Accords.  Netanyahu’s predecessor is predicting that such a deal could happen soon.  On 29 December, just ahead of the session to swear in Netanyahu’s new government, outgoing PM Yair Lapid told the Knesset that he and outgoing foreign minister Naftali Bennett had taken steps to lay the groundwork for Saudi Arabia’s entry into the Abraham Accords, and, in Lapid’s estimation, the new government could achieve a normalization agreement quite soon.

6 January 2023

  1. UAE Foreign Minister Visits Assad in Damascus (Al Sharq Al Awsat). UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad discussed bilateral relations between the UAE and Syria and ways to strengthen and develop them through joint cooperation at all levels.
  2. Houthis Deploy Missile and Drone Bases to Launch Attack on Yemen’s Coast (Al Hadath). Military sources said that the Houthi militia has deployed bases for launching guided missiles and other bases for launching drones in its areas of control in Hodeidah, and is preparing an attack from the sea on the liberated areas of the coast.

9 January 2023

 The Gulf region continues to struggle with the Assad regime’s smuggling of Captagon.

Qatar is now a new target of Assad’s narcotraffickers, as Qatari authorities announced seizing a shipment of more than 9000 tablets hidden inside children’s mattresses. UAE customs authorities also announced the seizure of five shipments of the drug in December alone.

 Yemeni Foreign Minister Al-Eryani criticized the international community’s dual standard in dealing with his government and with the Houthis.

Eyrani said on Sunday that the international community has a tendency to exert pressure on the Yemeni government because of its status as a legitimate state and as the side that is “sincere about launching a dialogue to end the war and the agony of the citizens,” while at the same time “begging and appeasing the Houthi militia as it is an unruly gang.” Eyrani complained that this dual-standard approach has failed throughout the years as the Houthis, at Iran’s instigation, have vetoed all agreements, undermined cease fire efforts, and exploited diplomacy to buy time.

10 January 2023

  1. Saudi Arabia May Increase Investments in Pakistan to $10 Billion (Arab News). Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has directed a study geared toward increasing the Kingdom’s investments in Pakistan to reach $10 billion. He also directed the Saudi Fund for Development to study increasing the Saudi deposit to Pakistan’s Central Bank to reach $5 billion.
  2. 50 Journalists Killed Since 2011; Syndicate Report: The Houthi Militia once again Tops the List of Violators of Press Freedoms in Yemen (Al Masdar Online). The union said in its annual report for the year 2022, issued on Monday, that it had monitored 92 cases of violations against media outlets, journalists, photographers and their belongings during the past year, while the Iran-backed Houthi militia again topped the list of violators with 40 percent of those violations.

11 January 2023

  1. A new Chapter is Approaching in Saudi-American Relations (Al Sharq Al Awsat). Official sources revealed that the administration of US President Joe Biden dropped its previous threats of retaliation against Saudi Arabia in the wake of the “OPEC Plus” decision to reduce oil production last year, and is moving at the same time to intensify security coordination with Riyadh to confront Iran in the new year 2023, after three months of apparent tension in relations between the two countries.
  2. U.S. Navy Thwarts Smuggling of Iranian Weapons to Yemen (:24.ae News). On Tuesday, the US Navy announced the seizure of more than 2,000 assault rifles that were smuggled aboard a fishing boat in a sea lane between Iran and Yemen. “This shipment is part of an ongoing pattern of destabilizing Iranian behavior,” Vice Admiral Brad Cooper was quoted as saying.
    12 January 2023
  3. A Saudi Delegation Visited the Houthis in Sana’a (Yemen Days). A prominent [Yemeni] government official revealed the details of the ongoing negotiations between the government of Sana’a and Saudi Arabia to reach common understandings, stressing that the visiting Omani delegation to Sana’a is accompanied by a Saudi delegation. Mukhtar Al-Rahbi, Advisor to the Minister of Information, said in a post on Twitter, “An Omani delegation and a Saudi delegation arrived in Sana’a within the framework of a dialogue that has existed between Saudi Arabia and the Houthis for months, with Omani mediation.

12 January 2023

  1. Saudi Arabia Plans to Use Domestic Uranium for Nuclear Fuel (The New Arab). Recent exploration has shown a diverse portfolio of uranium in the Gulf Arab state, the world’s top oil exporter. Saudi Arabia has a nascent nuclear programme that it wants to expand to eventually include uranium enrichment, a sensitive area given its role in nuclear weapons. Riyadh has said it wants to use nuclear power to diversify its energy mix.

13 January 2023

  1. Saudi Arabia and Egypt Stress the Need for Iran to Avoid Destabilizing Activities (Asharq Al Awsat). Meeting in Riyadh, the two countries’ foreign ministers stressed the importance of Arab security and the need to address any threats to the region’s waterways.

January 16, 2023

Saudi Arabia and Egypt Reiterate Opposition to Normalization of Assad

The Kingdom hosted both the French Envoy for Syria and the Egyptian foreign minister during the week, with Syria on the agenda of both meetings. In light of Turkiye’s recent normalization outreach to the Assad regime and threats to conduct a new military incursion into Syria, the Saudi and Egyptian foreign ministers issued a joint statement emphasizing “their rejection of any threats of military operations affecting the Syrian territories and terrorizing the Syrian people,” and their continued call for the implementation of a UN-supervised political resolution to the Syrian conflict in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 2254.

Former Qatari Leader Opposes Military Action Against Iran

On January 14, Qatar’s former prime minister and minister of foreign affairs Hamad bin Jasim issued a string of statements on Twitter opposing military action against Iran and warning that a failure to peacefully resolve the nuclear dispute with Iran could lead to conflict in the region.  Specifically, Sheikh Hamad said that if the nuclear dispute cannot be solved, then the United States may decide to equip Israel with the advanced weapons that Israel would require to destroy Iran’s nuclear program. In that scenario, Hamad said, “I hope that we, in the Gulf region, will explain to America and the West, through all possible channels, the danger of any military escalation and the need to deal with the existing problems peacefully, because we will be the first to lose.”

Israel and Arab Allies Meet

On January 10, the UAE hosted the Negev Forum, the largest meeting yet between Israel and its new Arab partners including Egypt, the UAE, Bahrain, and Morocco. The meetings, which notably did not include Jordan, were an outgrowth of the Abraham Accords and will be followed by a second annual ministerial meeting in Morocco next March.

17 January 2023

  1. Saudi Arabia Launches Program to Detect the Threat of Extremist Groups (Al Arabiya). The Grand Mufti of the Kingdom, Sheikh Abdulaziz Al Al-Sheikh, gave the signal to launch an intellectual awareness program, aimed at strengthening the role of fatwas in the security of society, and pointing out the danger of extremist groups that adopt politics to implement their partisan plans.
  2. Saudi Finance Minister:  We can “heal the rift” between the United States and China (Al Arabiya). Saudi Arabia can help be a channel of communication between the United States and China at a time of heightened geopolitical tensions, Saudi Finance Minister Mohammed Al-Jadaan said on Monday at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland .

18 January 2023

  1. Saudi Foreign Minister: We have Contacted Iran and are Trying to Find a Path to Dialogue (Alarabiya). Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan said on Tuesday that the kingdom has communicated with Iran and is trying to find a path to dialogue. He added during his speech at a session at the Davos Forum in which Gulf and European ministers participated: “Dialogue is the best way to resolve differences in the region…and we are trying to find a path for dialogue with everyone and focus on development.”
  2. Qatari Foreign Minister: Qatar Never Politicizes Energy (Aljazeera) The Qatari foreign minister added – in statements during the 53rd Davos Forum in the Swiss city of Davos – that the State of Qatar will be ready by 2027 with additional capabilities to pump gas to the global market, especially to the European continent. He said that many policy makers of the transition from fossil energy to clean energy have stopped investing in traditional energy sources over the past years, ignoring that this transition takes a longer time.
  3. America and the UAE Comment on the Anniversary of the Houthi Bombing of Abu Dhabi (Alkhaleej Online). Biden indicated that in close cooperation with Emirati President Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, whom he described as a friend, “the United States will continue to support the UAE in defending itself against threats, whether from Yemen or elsewhere.” Biden pledged that “the United States will continue to support the security of the UAE and its other partners in the Middle East, including by providing the necessary military assistance.”
  4. America and the UAE Comment on the Anniversary of the Houthi Bombing of Abu Dhabi (Alkhaleej Online). Biden indicated that in close cooperation with Emirati President Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, whom he described as a friend, “the United States will continue to support the UAE in defending itself against threats, whether from Yemen or elsewhere.” Biden pledged that “the United States will continue to support the security of the UAE and its other partners in the Middle East, including by providing the necessary military assistance.”

19 January 2023

  1. In the Absence of Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, a Meeting of the Leaders of Six Arab Countries in Abu Dhabi (Enab Baladi). On Wednesday, January 18, the UAE capital, Abu Dhabi, hosted a “consultative meeting”…The meeting bore the name “Prosperity and Stability in the Region,” and was attended by the leaders of Qatar, Bahrain, the Sultanate of Oman, Jordan and Egypt. It was the first of its kind in 2023, after many Arab meetings that were held in 2022, at the summit level.
  2. Saudi Finance Minister: The Era of Unconditional Grants and Aid is Over (The New Arab). Saudi Finance Minister Muhammad Al-Jadaan said today, Wednesday, that the Kingdom is moving towards changing the way it provides aid to its allies, represented by providing direct grants and deposits without conditions. Al-Jadaan explained that the Kingdom saw early global inflation looming on the horizon and acted accordingly, which helped keep inflation in the Kingdom at an average of approximately 2.6%, expecting that “inflation will not be high next year.”
  3. Saudi Finance Minister: We are Open to Trade Talks in other Currencies Besides the Dollar (Al Arabiya). Saudi Finance Minister Mohammed Al-Jadaan said in an interview with “Bloomberg” in Davos today, Tuesday, “There are no problems discussing how to settle our trade agreements, whether it is in US dollars, euros, or Saudi riyals”…The world’s largest oil exporter is seeking to strengthen its ties with important trading partners, including China. Last year, during President Xi Jinping’s visit to Riyadh, the two countries agreed to enhance coordination on energy and exploration policy. Xi said during that visit that his country will make efforts to buy more oil from the Middle East and also wants to settle this trade in yuan.
  4. At a Value of $370 Million, Kuwait Signs an Agreement to Purchase Turkish “Bayraktar TB2” Aircraft (Al Jazeera). The Kuwaiti Ministry of Defense and the Turkish company Baykar signed an agreement to export the latest “Bayraktar TB2” armed drones to the Kuwaiti army.
  5. Saudi Arabia Shows its Support to the Syrian Revolution (Facebook Profile Page).
    Twelve years after the beginning of the Syrian Revolution, Al Arabiya Channel, without any written explanation, added the Syrian Revolutionary flag to its logo on its Syria Facebook page, signifying its support and sending a political message to Turkey. 
  6. Children Die Every Day: A Lethal Injection Spreads in Sana’a (Al Hadath). Medical sources in the capital, Sana’a, which is under the control of the Houthi militia, the Iranian arm in Yemen, revealed that a new fake medicine injection has spread in a number of pharmacies and hospitals. It is given to newborns and pregnant women and causes death…According to statistics, from January 2021 to August 2022, about 3,132 newborn deaths were recorded, and fetal deformities amounted to 618 cases.

20 January 2023

  1. Saudi Minister:  We Aim to Manufacture 500,000 Electric Cars Annually by 2030 (Al Sharq Al-Awsat). Saudi Investment Minister Khaled Al-Falih revealed that the Kingdom seeks to produce 500,000 electric cars annually by 2030, pointing in an interview with Al Sharq Al-Awsat to an expected announcement in the first half of this year of a new partnership project between Saudi Arabia and a global company for the production of electric cars.

January 23, 2023

Iran’s former ambassador to China for four years told the Iranian Labour News Agency that the 25-year strategic agreement with China is a document without any value. Malaek claimed that the wrapped-in-mystery agreement has had few practical results and was used by China merely to entice other Arab countries

A close member to the Saudi Royal Court denied Houthi rumors regarding salaries and unilateral talks between the Houthis and the Kingdom.

24 January 2023

  1. The Kuwaiti Government Resigns after Disagreements with the National Assembly (Al Nahar). The clash raged between the government and the National Assembly (parliament) during the past two weeks, over a set of populist laws presented by parliamentarians, including the government’s purchase of citizens’ loans and re-installing them with interest being dropped, and other proposals that the government considers financially costly.
  2. Yemeni Security Officials Thwart the Smuggling of 100 Drone Engines on Their Way to the Houthis (Al Sharq Al Awsat). Yemeni official sources said that the security services in Al-Mahra Governorate (in the east of the country) have thwarted the smuggling of 100 drone engines, which were on their way to the terrorist Houthi militia that controls the capital, Sana’a….The vice-chairman of the Yemeni government’s Consultation and Reconciliation Commission said on his Twitter account: “100 drone engines belonging to a terrorist group whose arming is prohibited by UN resolutions under Chapter Seven, were attempted to be smuggled through a land port to Yemen.”
  3. Yemeni Security Officials Thwart the Smuggling of 100 Drone Engines on Their Way to the Houthis (Al Sharq Al Awsat). Yemeni official sources said that the security services in Al-Mahra Governorate (in the east of the country) have thwarted the smuggling of 100 drone engines, which were on their way to the terrorist Houthi militia that controls the capital, Sana’a….The vice-chairman of the Yemeni government’s Consultation and Reconciliation Commission said on his Twitter account: “100 drone engines belonging to a terrorist group whose arming is prohibited by UN resolutions under Chapter Seven, were attempted to be smuggled through a land port to Yemen.”

25 January 2023

  1. Riyadh will Host Next World Heritage Committee (Al Sharq Al Awsat). The World Heritage Committee of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) approved the decision to host Saudi Arabia’s 45th expanded session of the committee, in the capital, Riyadh, from September 10 to September 25.

26 January 2023

  1. Four Million Captagon Pills Seized in Saudi Arabia (Al Sharq Al Awsat). Saudi Security Forces in cooperation with their Qatari counterparts announced the seizure of 4,091,250 pills of the amphetamine narcotics in the Riyadh region.
  2. Qatar and Italy Launch the vessel “Al-Falak,” Unique in Size and Capabilities in the Gulf (Al Jazeera). A transport and strategic military ship unique in terms of its size and capabilities in the Gulf was inaugurated at the Fincantieri factory in the Italian city of Pelermo. Al-Falak will be the main vessel of the Qatari Naval Forces, with air defense, transportation, and helicopter landing capabilities.

27 January 2023

  1. Saudi Authorities Confiscated Three Million Captagon Pills Hidden in Wooden Planks (Al Sharq Al Awsat). Today’s shipment of 2,972,400 Captagon pills was coming through the Kingdom’s eastern port. 

31 January 2023

  1. Russia and Saudi Discussed Cooperation Within the OPEC+ Group (Al Hurra). The Kremlin said in a statement, Monday, that Russian President Vladimir Putin had a phone call with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman today, Monday, to discuss cooperation within the framework of the OPEC + group to maintain the stability of oil prices…The group’s joint ministerial monitoring committee is likely to recommend maintaining the current oil production policy during their next meeting on Wednesday. 
  2. China Seeks a Free Trade Zone with the Gulf (Al Hurra). The new Chinese foreign minister phoned his Saudi counterpart to express the desire to establish a free trade area between the two countries as soon as possible. 

 

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