The Gulf Region & Yemen in May 2023

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May 2, 2023

  1.  Saudi Arabia Thwarts Attempt to Smuggle Over 5 Million Drug Pills; Syrian Among Accused (Zaman Al Wasl). The official spokesperson for the General Directorate for Narcotics Control… announced that an attempt to smuggle 5,280,000 amphetamine tablets was thwarted inside a shipment of stones and building supplies at the Jeddah Islamic Port in Jeddah Governorate, in coordination with the Zakat, Tax, and Customs Authority.
  2.  US Intelligence Discloses Construction Activities at Chinese Military Facility in UAE (Al Jazeera). The Washington Post reported that these activities, situated at a port near Abu Dhabi, are among several actions taken by the UAE that have drawn the attention of US intelligence. There is growing concern that the Emiratis, long-standing security partners of the US, are fostering close security ties with China, potentially jeopardizing US interests. 
  3.  Aramco Partners with Chinese Firm to Establish Largest Steel Plant in the Region (Al Khaleej Online).  In a statement released Monday, Aramco announced that the plant’s production capacity will reach 1.5 million tons annually. Aramco emphasized that the plant will be the first of its kind in the Kingdom and the Gulf region, providing a system for the area’s steel industry in the area… Four months after President Xi Jinping visited the Kingdom, 35 investment agreements were signed between companies from both countries.  
  4.  Iran Plans to Build Housing on UAE-Occupied Islands (Al Khaleej Online). According to Alireza Tangsiri, commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ naval forces, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has instructed the preparation and development of infrastructure and housing on islands in the Gulf to make them habitable and enhance their security and stability… This move comes amidst the ongoing territorial dispute between Iran and the UAE over the islands of Tunb Alkubra, Tunb Alsughra, and Abu Musa, which Iran occupied and for which it issued official title deeds last September, despite the UAE’s claim of sovereignty over them.

May 3, 2023

  1.  Talks between Aramco, Sinopec, and Total Regarding a $10 Billion Gas Deal (Al Sharq Business). Sinopec and Total Energies are reportedly in talks to invest in developing the Jafurah field in Saudi Arabia. The kingdom aims to exploit one of the world’s largest untapped gas fields…Aramco is seeking equity investors who could assist in financing refining and transportation projects for the Jafurah gas development project in the kingdom’s east, valued at over $100 billion.

May 4, 2023

  1.  Gulf Condemnation of Attack on Saudi Cultural Attaché in Sudan (Al Khaleej Online). The Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs reported that an armed group stormed the Cultural Attaché building in Sudan on Tuesday morning. The attackers vandalized equipment and cameras, seized some of the attaché’s property, and disrupted the attaché’s systems and servers.
  2.  Jeddah Meeting Concludes with 16 Recommendations and Sudanese Call for Non-Interference (Al Sharq Al Awsat). The “Islamic Cooperation” stresses the necessity of an “immediate halt” to the military escalation and the predominance of the language of dialogue.

May 5, 2023

  1. Using Drones to Smuggle Drugs (Al Khaleej Online). In a serious development, the first of its kind, Jordan announced, in October 2021, that it had thwarted an attempt to smuggle drugs using a drone coming from Syrian territory, after which more drones were shot down. An official source in the General Command of the Jordanian Armed Forces stated, “Through monitoring and follow-up, the plane was controlled and shot down, and after searching the area, quantities of narcotics were found.”
  2. Qatar Thwarts the Smuggling of 90 kg of Hashish in a Shipment of Watermelon (Al Khaleej Online). The ministry published a video showing a security man extracting cannabis from a watermelon. Last February, the Qatar General Authority of Customs announced it had thwarted the smuggling of 7,000 narcotic “Lrica” ​​pills through Hamad International Airport.

May 8, 2023

  1.  Top Iranian General to Visit Oman (Tasnim News). Heading a political and military delegation, Chief of Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces, Major General Mohammad Hossein Baqeri, will travel to Muscat at the official invitation of his Omani counterpart. The senior Iranian commander is scheduled to discuss bilateral and regional cooperation during his stay in Oman.
  2.  Saudi Arabia Seized More Than 1.2 Million Amphetamine Tablets in Riyadh  (Enab Baladi). On Saturday, May 6, Saudi authorities announced the seizure of large quantities of drugs hidden inside glass panels in an operation that is the second of its kind in less than a week.
  3.  Houthis Reveal Shocking Information about the Fate of Negotiations with Saudi Arabia  (Sahafaa Net). There is something like a Saudi retreat from what had been agreed upon in the capital, Sana’a, during the recent visit of the Saudi delegation. The sources cited the attack launched by Saudi media on the group in Sana’a under the pretext that its decision needed to be unified.
  4.  Houthis Supported Separatists in Southern Yemen (Sahafaa Net).   The former Yemeni ambassador to Lebanon accused the Iran-affiliated Houthi group of supporting and strengthening separatist tendencies in southern Yemen.
  5.  Houthi Militia Hints at a Military Escalation and Torpedoing Peace Efforts  (Mareb press).  The Houthi terrorist group threatened to return to fighting if its conditions were not implemented regarding the terms of the cease fire agreement. The group leader, Ali Hammoud Al-Mushki, said during his meeting with the military adviser to the UN envoy to Yemen, Anthony Hayward, that talking about a cease-fire before implementing the terms of the agreement is premature.

May 9, 2023

  1.  UAE Seizes 2.25 Million Captagon Tablets Hidden in Fruit Boxes (Arabian Business). Adhering to all legal procedures, the anti-drug team arrested the suspects and seized boxes of Captagon narcotic tablets. The plan was to market some drugs within the country and smuggle the rest to a neighboring country. The team praised the professionalism of the controlling personnel, which led to the thwarting of the suspects’ scheme and the seizure of approximately 2.25 million Captagon pills, along with the tools used for the preparation, processing, and packaging of narcotic substances for trafficking and distribution.
  2.  Bashar al-Assad May Visit Riyadh Before May 19 Arab Summit (Al Khaleej Online). The Russian “TASS” agency said that the possibility of the Syrian regime’s President Bashar al-Assad visiting Riyadh increased significantly after the Arab League Council restored Damascus to its full membership in this regional union.
  3.  Gulf Countries Reach Historic Trade Surplus of $602.4 Billion (Al Khaleej Online). The Saudi Al-Eqtisadiah newspaper reported that the trade balance surplus of the Gulf countries reached $602.4 billion, compared to a surplus of $313.2 billion in 2021. The surplus recorded the highest growth rate since 2018, at approximately 92%, with a difference of $289.25 billion.

May 10, 2023

  1. Saudi Arabia Establishes Air Bridge to Deliver Relief to Crisis-hit Sudan (Al Arabiya). Al Arabiya reported that the first plane carrying aid and medical equipment left Saudi Arabia Tuesday afternoon, heading for crisis-hit Sudan as part of a relief air bridge operated by the Kingdom. The military plane heading to Port Sudan carries 10 tonnes of medical equipment, shelter tents, and other forms of relief for those internally displaced after being loaded at Riyadh’s King Khalid International Airport.
  2.  Football Star Lionel Messi Move to Saudi Arabia a ‘Done Deal,’ Source Says (Al Arabiya). Argentine superstar Lionel Messi will play in Saudi Arabia next season under a “huge” deal, a source with knowledge of the negotiations told AFP on Tuesday.
  3.  UAE Says No Need for Additional Oil Production Cuts (Al Sharq Business). UAE Energy Minister Suhail al-Mazrouei expressed little concern in the short term. When asked about the necessity for “OPEC+” to approve further supply adjustments, Al Mazrouei stated, “Let’s wait; this isn’t speculation or a decision I can reveal now, but rather a collective decision.” Meanwhile, Saudi Aramco is reducing oil prices in Asia.
  4.  Iranian Army Leaders Seek to Strengthen Military Cooperation in Oman (Al Khaleej Online). During his visit to Oman, the Iranian Chief of Staff, Major General Muhammad Bagheri… described “the Arab Gulf region and West Asia as one of the most sensitive regions in the world” and added, “In recent years, this region has been a place for the Americans to test their strength as they attempt to impose themselves as absolute rulers of the world and the region.”

May 11, 2023

  1. Saudi Arabia Confiscates 8 Million Amphetamine Tablets (Al Khaleej Online). During the security operation in Riyadh’s capital, five people were arrested for involvement in a drug shipment. The individuals included two residents, a Syrian expatriate with an expired visit visa, and two Pakistani residents. The accused were detained and referred to the Public Prosecution. Saudi Arabia announced on Tuesday that it had thwarted multiple attempts to smuggle over 100 kilograms of the drug Shabu and thousands of narcotic Captagon pills. The recipients of the drugs in the Kingdom were also arrested.

May 12, 2023

  1. Saudi Arabia Thwarts Smuggling Operation of Over 800,000 Opium and Captagon Tablets (Al Khaleej Online). The Saudi Zakat, Tax and Customs Authority has intercepted significant smuggling of opium tablets clandestinely stashed within a consignment of children’s toys entering the country via King Khalid International Airport. In a separate operation, the authority successfully intercepted 461,164 Captagon tablets hidden in a shipment of automobile spare parts crossing the Haditha border checkpoint with Jordan.
  2.  Iran’s Minister of Economy Visits Saudi Arabia for First Time in 8 Years (The New Arab). Iranian Minister of Economy Ehsan Khandouzi said that trade between Iran and Saudi Arabia had been “zero” for years but that Iran had exported $15 million worth of goods to Saudi Arabia in the past year without importing anything from it. He explained that work was underway to establish a joint chamber of commerce between the two countries and that the Iranian Trade Development Organization was finalizing a roadmap for trade between Iran and Saudi Arabia.
  3.  Bahrain to Suspend Changes to Curriculum Linked to Israel, Normalization (Al Arabiya). The announcement, reportedly in line with King Hamad al-Khalifa’s “commitment to protecting the Islamic religion,” came on Tuesday after some critics voiced issues with the inclusion of Israel and change to the maps of the contested Israeli-Palestinian territories.

May 15, 2023

  1. Saudi Delegation Arrives in Libya to Discuss Reopening the Kingdom’s Embassy (Al Khaleej Online). In May 2014, due to security conditions, Saudi Arabia shut its embassy and consulate in Tripoli and evacuated its diplomatic mission. Over the past two years, the Government of National Accord has urged nations worldwide to reopen their embassies in Tripoli to support the UN-backed political process.
  2.  Dubai’s DP World Signs Deals with China Seaport Companies in Latest Push (Al-Monitor). Over 6,000 Chinese companies have set up operations in the United Emirates, with bilateral trade predicted to reach $200 billion in 2030, according to global business and legal services provider Intertrust Group. The company states that the UAE’s geographical location connecting Central Asia, Africa, Europe, and the Middle East is a significant investment incentive. 

May 16, 2023

  1. Saudi Arabia Thwarts Smuggling of 1.4 Million Captagon Pills (Enab Baladi). On Monday, May 15, the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) stated that the “Agency of Zakat, Tax and Customs” in the Islamic port of “Jeddah” managed to thwart the smuggling of one million and 395 thousand and 90 “Captagon” tablets, hidden in a consignment coming through the port…These drug smuggling operations continue at a high rate with the developments of the Arab rapprochement with the Syrian regime, which is accused of exporting drugs to the countries of the region, leading to the thwarting of almost daily smuggling operations, whether on the Jordanian land borders with Syria or through the land and air ports of Saudi Arabia. 
  2. German Foreign Minister Visits Saudi Arabia (Al Nahar). Baerbock expressed her country’s “thanks and appreciation for the Kingdom’s evacuations of German nationals from Sudan,” noting the “high efficiency of the Saudi authorities in the success of these operations”…The German Foreign Ministry said earlier that Baerbock, who will also visit Qatar, will discuss bilateral issues and regional crises with her Gulf counterparts. “In light of the many challenges in the region, from the acute crisis in Sudan, the protracted conflicts in Syria and Yemen, to the Taliban’s seizure of power in Afghanistan, a reliable dialogue with partners in the Gulf is essential for Germany and Europe,” the ministry added.
  3. Gulf Markets Decline as Risk Appetite Recedes (SNA Business). Most stock markets in the Gulf closed lower on Monday as analysts see an easing risk appetite among investors. At the same time, global issues and energy uncertainty continue to weigh on sentiment. The main index in Saudi Arabia fell 1 percent, affected by a 1.8 percent drop in Saudi Aramco. Data from the General Authority for Statistics showed, on Monday, that the annual inflation rate in Saudi Arabia amounted to 2.7 percent in April, unchanged from the previous month, and the authority attributed this to the rise in housing, water, electricity, gas, and fuel prices by 8.1 percent. According to the data, food, and beverage prices also increased by 1.0 percent.

May 17, 2023

  1. Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Egypt Leading Executioners in 2022 ‘Record Year’: Amnesty International (New Arab). The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region came in the lead of countries with the most executions in 2022, which reached a record high in five years, Amnesty International has said in a report … Recorded figures of people executed rose from 520 in 2021 to 825 last year in the MENA countries, mainly in the region’s most notorious executioners such as Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Egypt.
  2. Saudi Aramco Considers an Additional Share Offering Back in Spotlight (Al Sharq Business). Saudi Arabia’s proposal to float an additional multibillion-dollar stake in Aramco is gaining renewed traction. The share sale would rank among the world’s largest in recent years. As the world’s preeminent energy firm, Aramco boasts a market capitalization of $2.1 trillion.
  3. Saudi Arabia’s Holdings of US Treasury Bonds Reach Highest Level in Three Years (Al Khaleej Online). As of the end of March, Saudi investments in US Treasury bills and bonds saw a monthly surge of 4%, rising to $116.2 billion from $111 billion in February. As reported by the domestic publication, Al-Eqtisadiah, on Tuesday, the Kingdom funneled roughly $4.5 billion into treasury bonds during March.

May 18, 2023

  1. Jordan Extradites Dissident to UAE Despite Fears of Torture (New Arab). Human Rights Watch warned that al-Romaithi is “at serious risk of arbitrary detention, unfair trial, and possibly torture” if he was to be extradited to the UAE.

May 19, 2023

  1. Washington Pushing for Saudi-Israel Normalisation ‘Before 2024 Presidential Election’ (New Arab). The White House is hoping to strike a deal between Saudi Arabia and Israel before President Joe Biden devotes his energy towards his 2024 re-election campaign, according to officials.
  2. Arab Leaders Flock to Jeddah to Participate in Arab Summit (Al Sharq Al Awsat). Many Arab leaders began arriving in Jeddah today, Thursday, to participate in the 32nd session of the Arab League Council at the summit level. Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi was the first to arrive.
  3. Global Wealthy Targeted in Intensifying Competition Between Saudi Arabia and UAE (The New Arab). The Gulf countries are witnessing great competition to attract the capital of the world’s wealthy, especially between Saudi Arabia and the UAE, which offer considerable incentives to lure investors. With more than 68,400 millionaires and 15 billionaires, the Emirate of Dubai occupies the leading position in the Arab world and regionally for cities that are a destination for the residents of the world’s wealthy amid increasing indications of fierce Saudi competition to attract massive capital in the tiny emirate to the cities of the Kingdom.
  4. UAE Condemns the Storming of Al-Aqsa Mosque (Sky News). On Thursday, the UAE strongly condemned the storming of the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque by a member of the Israeli government, members of the Knesset, and extremists, under the protection of the Israeli police. In a statement, the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs reaffirmed the UAE’s firm position on the need to provide complete protection for Al-Aqsa Mosque and stop serious and provocative violations.

May 20, 2023

  1. Ukraine’s Zelensky in Saudi Arabia for Arab League Summit (AL-monitor). Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky attended the Arab League summit in Saudi Arabia on Friday. The leader criticized some in the region for “turning a blind eye” to Russia’s war but also thanked Saudi Arabia and others for their support.
  2. The Emir of Qatar Leaves the Arab Summit in Jeddah Before al-Assad’s Speech – photos and videos (Al Qudos Al Arabi). An Arab official told Reuters today, Friday, that the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, did not hold any bilateral meetings or deliver a speech at the Arab League summit hosted by the Saudi city of Jeddah, indicating that his presence was a “visit of affection.” The official added that the prince left the summit before the start of the speech of the head of the Syrian regime, Bashar al-Assad.

May 22, 2023

  1. Houthi Government Inks Agreement with China for Oil Field Investment (Al Mayadeen). The Ministry of Oil and Minerals under the Houthi government has signed a memorandum of understanding with “Anton Oil” and a representative of the Chinese government aimed at investing in oil exploration in Yemen…The Houthi Ministry of Oil warned foreign companies, cautioning them against conducting business with the Saudi-appointed Presidential Council’s government or entering into contracts with them.
  2. Germany and Italy Seek Stronger Energy Ties with Saudi Arabia and Qatar (Al Monitor). Italy is looking for capital from Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund for a new fund Rome is setting up to help domestic companies in strategically important sectors…Germany Foreign Minister Baerbock met with Qatari Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al Thani on Wednesday, and the two officials signed a memorandum of understanding on establishing a strategic dialogue between the two countries.
  3. Bahrain Resumes Diplomatic Ties with Lebanon (Al Ahram). Bahrain’s foreign ministry on Sunday announced that it had renewed diplomatic representation with Lebanon at the level of ambassadors, Bahrain’s state-run news agency reported.
  4. Israeli Media Says Saudi Arabia Set to Approve Direct Hajj Flights from Israel (i24). According to a report by the Hebrew newspaper “Maariv,” the negotiations that began a year ago have recently led to a breakthrough, noting that these trips will be intended only for Muslims living in Israel and for pilgrimage.

May 23, 2023

  1. Grand Celebration Marks the Arrival of the First Saudis at The International Space Station (Al Khaleej Online). Stem cell researcher Bernawi has made history as the first Saudi and Arab woman to venture into space, joined by her colleague Al-Qarni, a combat pilot in the Kingdom’s Air Force and the first Saudi astronaut bound for the International Space Station.
  2. Saudi Arabia Inks Agreements to Construct World’s Largest Green Hydrogen Plant (Al Khaleej Online). Saudi’s “NEOM” company has signed agreements with 23 local, regional, and international banks and investment firms to establish the world’s largest green hydrogen production plant, valued at $8.4 billion…This project results from an equal partnership with the Saudi firm “Aqua Power” and the American company “Air Products.”
  3. Qatar’s Sheikh Jassim Awaits Manchester United’s Decision as West Ham Rumors Swirl (Al Monitor). Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad al Thani is still awaiting a decision from the Glazer family about whether his offer to buy British soccer club Manchester United will succeed, as a report emerged saying that the Qatari royal may think about trying to buy English Premier League rival West Ham if he fails in his Man U takeover attempt.

May 24, 2023

  1. Private Mission with Saudi Astronauts Docks with ISS (Al Monitor). On Monday, a SpaceX capsule carrying two Saudi astronauts docked with the International Space Station as part of a secret mission chartered by Axiom Space…Rayyanah Barnawi, a scientist who became the first Saudi woman to go into space, and Ali Al-Qarni, a trained fighter pilot, are the first two people from their country to go to the orbital outpost.

May 25, 2023

  1. Saudi Arabia Resumes Diplomatic Relations with Canada (Al Sharq Al Awsat). According to a statement from the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the decision follows discussions between Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit…Saudi Arabia had announced at the beginning of August 2018 the freezing of all new commercial and investment transactions between the Kingdom and Canada, and that the Canadian ambassador there would be considered persona non grata…following statements “issued by the Canadian Foreign Minister and the Canadian embassy regarding civil society activists who were arrested in the Kingdom, urging authorities in the Kingdom to release them immediately.”
  2. Gulf Stock Exchanges Dip Amid US Debt Ceiling Crisis (The New Arab). Most Gulf stock markets closed lower on Wednesday, mirroring the trend of global stocks. The deadlock in negotiations over raising the US debt ceiling has harmed investor sentiment.

May 26, 2023

  1. Dubai Police Arrest 8 Suspects from Israel over Fatal Stabbing of Fellow Israeli (Times of Israel). Police in Dubai said Thursday that a dispute between two families was behind the fatal assault of an Israeli man by eight other Israelis who have been arrested in the emirate.
  2. Saudi Arabia is Considering Establishing an Industrial City in Iraq (Al Arabiya). In addition, the Saudi Minister of Industry confirmed signing three bank agreements to finance exports and imports.

May 29, 2023

  1. Dates and Saudi Coffee for the First Time on the International Space Station (Al Khaleej Online). Saudi astronaut Ali Al-Qarni reviewed the drinks and food they eat on the International Space Station, including Saudi coffee and dates. This was during the interaction of Al-Qarni and his colleague, Rayana Bernawi, from the International Space Station, with students.
  2. Cooperation Between Moscow and Riyadh in Combating Drugs and Cybercrime (Al Mayadeen). Russian Interior Minister Vladimir Alexandrovich Kolokoltsev said, during a television interview with Russia 1, that he had held a meeting with his Saudi counterpart, Abdulaziz bin Saud bin Nayef, for the first time to discuss bilateral cooperation in the field of police. Kolokoltsev added that he discussed the agenda with his Saudi counterpart, and they agreed to develop cooperation in several areas, especially “information about terrorists and extremists, their movements and financing.” The Russian Interior Minister talked about the agreement with his Saudi counterpart on cooperation in the field of combating drug trafficking and combating cybercrime.
  3. Oil has revived the sultanate’s coffers…As a result, Oman records a $3 billion surplus in the 2022 budget (Al Masry Al Youm). The general budget of the Sultanate of Oman recorded a surplus of about 1.144 billion riyals ($2.97 billion) by the end of 2022, according to the Omani News Agency, Sunday.
  4. Saudi Arabia is Negotiating to Join the “BRICS” Bank (Al Khaleej Online). The BRICS Development Bank informed the Financial Times, “We are engaged in a constructive dialogue with Saudi Arabia, a nation we regard as highly significant in the Middle East.” The newspaper noted that Saudi Arabia joining this group would bolster relations among the bank’s members, founded by “the world’s largest emerging economies as an alternative to the Western-led Bretton Woods institutions.”
  5. Qatari Emir First to Congratulate Erdogan on Presidential Election Victory (Al Khaleej Online). In a tweet, Qatari Emir Tamim said: “My dear brother Recep Tayyip Erdogan, heartfelt congratulations on your triumphant victory. As you embark on your new tenure, I wish you great success in fulfilling the aspirations of our fraternal Turkish people for progress and prosperity. Moreover, I look forward to the further development and growth of the robust relations between our two nations.”

May 30, 2023

  1. Saudi Arabia to Double the Number of Flights to Iraq (Iraqi News). The Saudi Minister of Transport, Saleh Al-Jasser, announced on Saturday, during his participation in the Development Road Conference held in Baghdad, that Saudi Arabia will double the number of flights to Iraq by the end of 2023, the Iraqi News Agency (INA) reported.
  2. Empty-handed Ronaldo Ends Dismal Debut Season in Saudi (Daily Sabah). Saudi Arabia’s Al-Nassr succumbed to the allure of acquiring five-time Ballon d’Or winner Cristiano Ronaldo in January…However, despite the remarkable goal-scoring exploits of the prolific Portuguese maestro, their season concluded with no silverware to show for their efforts.

May 31, 2023

  1. US and Gulf Countries Launch Military Maneuvers in Saudi Arabia (Al Khaleej Online) The “Resolve Eagle 23” military maneuvers began on Tuesday in Saudi Arabia between the United States of America and Gulf countries, “to contribute to the process of achieving regional stability”…The exercises integrate various military assets and missions, including a live fire maneuver that includes ground air defense assets and live flight aircraft against drones.
  2. UAE Presses U.S. to Secure Persian Gulf After Iran Seizes Tankers (Wall Street Journal). The United Arab Emirates has pressed the U.S. to make more muscular moves to deter Iran after the Islamic Republic’s military seized two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman in recent weeks, U.S. and Gulf officials said. 

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