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The Gulf Region & Yemen in April 2024

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April 2, 2024

  1. Biden’s National Security Advisor Sullivan to Visit Riyadh for Talks on “Major Deal” Between Israel and Saudi Arabia
    Jake Sullivan, the White House National Security Advisor, is set to visit Saudi Arabia this week for discussions with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The visit aims to advance U.S. efforts to normalize relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia. These talks, paused following a Hamas attack on Israel and subsequent Israeli strikes on Gaza in October, have recently resumed. Although a significant breakthrough is not expected during Sullivan’s visit, wide-ranging consultations on various topics are planned. This visit follows statements by U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken about “good progress” in normalization talks without providing a specific timeline. Saudi Arabia seeks a defense pact with Washington and support for its civilian nuclear program in any normalization agreement.
  2. Foreign Investment in Saudi Real Estate Surged by 411% Since 2021
    Foreign investment in Saudi real estate has surged by an astounding 411% over the past three years. According to Saudi newspaper “Al-Eqtisadiah,” foreign investment licenses in the real estate sector reached approximately 46 licenses in 2023, compared to just 9 licenses in 2021. Data from the Saudi Ministry of Investment indicates a 64% increase in licenses in 2023 compared to 2022. The real estate sector led investment deals in Q4 2023, with 23 completed transactions, followed by media and entertainment with ten deals. The UK led investments in Saudi Arabia with six deals, followed by the UAE, the USA, and South Korea with three deals each. Minister of Municipal and Rural Affairs and Housing, Majid Al-Hogail, noted that the real estate sector contributed about 12.2% to the non-oil GDP, while construction contributed about 11.3% until Q3 of last year.
  3. US-British Airstrike Hits Houthi Positions in Port of Hodeidah
    Houthi rebels reported a US-British airstrike on Hodeidah, Yemen’s coastal province. No immediate details on the strike’s outcome were provided. Hodeidah, vital for its airport, three key ports, and lengthy coastline, holds strategic importance. Three days earlier, the US military destroyed four Houthi drones in the Red Sea. Houthis, claiming to retaliate for the Gaza conflict, has targeted international ships, leading the US-led coalition to retaliate against the Houthis in Yemen since January 12. 
  4. US Envoy Visits Riyadh and Muscat to Discuss Stopping Houthi Attacks
    US envoy to Yemen Tim Lenderking travels to Saudi Arabia and Oman this week to engage with regional allies on how to stop Houthi assaults in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden. Lenderking’s objective also will be to  strengthen peace initiatives and facilitate the provision of humanitarian aid. The US reiterates its dedication to peace in Yemen, promising backing for UN-directed peace endeavors upon the cessation of Houthi hostilities.

April 3, 2024

  1. Aramco Awards $7.7 Billion for Gas Project Expansion
    Saudi Aramco has allocated $7.7 billion for engineering, procurement, and construction contracts to significantly expand a major gas project. This expansion is set to increase the processing capacity at the Fadhili gas plant from 2.5 to about 4 billion standard cubic feet per day, with completion expected by November 2027. The project aims to boost natural gas supplies, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and provide more crude oil for refining and export. The contracts were awarded to Samsung Engineering, GS Engineering & Construction, and Nesma & Partners, marking a strategic step towards Aramco’s goal of enhancing gas production and developing low-carbon hydrogen ventures.
  2. UAE Suspends Humanitarian Aid Via Sea Passage to Gaza After Israeli Strike that Killed Aid Workers
    The United Arab Emirates has temporarily halted its humanitarian aid efforts through the sea passage from Cyprus to Gaza following an Israeli airstrike that killed aid workers. A UAE official stated the suspension awaits further safety assurances and a comprehensive investigation into the deaths of workers from the World Central Kitchen in Gaza. The UAE, the main financier of this aid route, condemned the attack alongside other Gulf countries, emphasizing the need for an immediate end to violence and the protection of civilians and humanitarian institutions. The World Central Kitchen announced a pause in its Gaza operations, expressing shock over the airstrike despite coordination with the Israeli military, which has initiated an investigation into the incident.
  3. UAE Private Sector Faces Production Strain Due to Red Sea Shipping Crisis
    The UAE’s non-oil private sector is experiencing significant production pressures due to a sharp increase in backlogged work, similar to levels seen in June 2018, as reported by S&P Global’s Purchasing Managers’ Index. Administrative delays and tightened supply restrictions, stemming from the Red Sea shipping crisis, have led to record-high work accumulation last month. This situation has affected companies’ production capacities and delivery times, with the latter witnessing the weakest performance in a year. Despite a slight decrease from 57.1 in February to 56.9 in March, business conditions improved markedly in March, driven by a strong influx of new orders.
  4. Saudi-Omani Delegation Heads to Sana’a to Propose U.S. Peace Plan
    A joint Saudi and Omani delegation is scheduled to visit Sana’a in the coming days to present a U.S. proposal aimed at halting Houthi attacks in the Red Sea, Arabian Sea, and Gulf of Aden. This initiative follows a roadmap for peace in Yemen, achieved through negotiations between Sana’a and Riyadh with Muscat’s mediation. The Americans have set conditions for implementing this peace plan, seeking an end to the conflict. The joint delegation’s visit follows meetings in the region with the U.S. special envoy for Yemen, Tim Lenderking.

April 16, 2024

  1. Saudi Arabia Shares Crucial Intel in Response to Iranian Attack on Israel
    Saudi Arabia played a pivotal role in defending against Iran’s attack on Israel by providing key intelligence, alongside the UAE, which significantly enhanced Israel’s defensive efforts. This cooperation marks a significant step in the informal regional air-defense alliance led by the U.S., designed to counter threats from Iran. However, Saudi Arabia did not permit the use of its airspace for U.S. operations during the attack. This development reflects a shift towards greater military collaboration between Israel and Sunni Arab nations, focused on regional security rather than forming a formal alliance.
  2. Microsoft Invests $1.5 Billion in UAE’s G42 to Advance AI Technologies
    Microsoft has invested $1.5 billion in G42, the leading AI company in the UAE based in Abu Dhabi, aiming to integrate cutting-edge AI technologies and skill development initiatives globally. This strategic partnership, supported fully by both the UAE and US governments, includes Microsoft President Brad Smith joining G42’s board and G42 utilizing Microsoft’s Azure cloud services. 
  3. Iranian President Praises Yemen’s Role in Attacks Against Israel
    Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi praised Yemen’s support for the Palestinian people, particularly in Gaza. In a phone call with Yemen’s Supreme Political Council President Mahdi al-Mashat, Raisi criticized the Western nations’ silence on the continued atrocities in Gaza, which he claims has emboldened Israel. Raisi lauded Yemen’s initiatives to halt the genocide against Palestinians, stating that Yemen’s solidarity is crucial in deterring further Israeli crimes. Al-Mashat reaffirmed Yemen’s support for Iran’s responses to Israeli aggressions, condemning international stances that overlook Iran’s sovereign defense actions.
  4. Escalating Regional Tensions Exacerbate Yemen’s Economic Crisis
    Yemen faces growing economic and banking crises exacerbated by regional conflicts that have intensified in the past six months. Local experts say Yemen is particularly vulnerable to repercussions from the Iran-Israel tensions and express concerns about potential economic, monetary, and investment implications for Yemen, including disruptions in international markets and supply chains. These challenges compound the existing difficulties in mediating the economic conflict between Yemen’s internationally recognized government and the Houthi rebels, making peace efforts more arduous amidst ongoing regional instability.

April 17, 2024

  1. Qatar Responds to Steny Hoyer’s Hamas Warning
    Qatar’s embassy in the United States took the rare step of issuing an official response to American Congressman Steny Hoyer’s call for Doha to pressure Hamas or else face consequences in the US-Qatar relationship. Hoyer urged Qatar to use its influence to advance hostage release and ceasefire talks and said that if Qatar fails to act, the United States could reassess its relationship with Doha. The Qatari Embassy said in response that Qatar solely mediates and does not control Hamas or Israel, and expressed surprise at Hoyer’s ultimatum.
  2. Pakistan Says Saudis Will Invest Billions in Pakistan
    Pakistan’s Prime Minister, Shahbaz Sharif, revealed that Saudi Arabia has pledged multibillion-dollar investments in Pakistan after a visit by the Saudi Foreign Minister to Islamabad. The Saudi delegation, led by Prince Faisal bin Farhan, met with Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari and other high-ranking officials. Meanwhile, Sharif’s office announced an upcoming visit by Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi to Pakistan, following a cabinet meeting.
  3. EU Naval Commander Calls for More Warships for Red Sea Security Mission
    The EU naval mission in the Red Sea remains unaffected despite Iran’s first direct attack on Israel. However, Admiral Vasileios Gribaris said the mission requires additional warships to protect commercial vessels across vast waters. Since February, the mission has safeguarded ships from Houthi attacks, destroying drones and intercepting ballistic missiles. Gribaris requested a doubling of the current fleet.
  4. Iranian Navy Says it Will Escort Ships in the Red Sea
    Iran’s Navy announced its ships will provide naval escort for commercial vessels in the Red Sea. Commander Shahram Irani said, “Our escort extends from the Gulf of Aden to the Suez Canal, prepared to safeguard other nations’ vessels.” Meanwhile, Iranian Brigadier General Kiomarth Heidari warned that Israel would regret any attacks on Iranian territory. As Israel weighs responses to recent Iranian actions, including a ship seizure, analysts speculate that Israel could respond using cyber or targeted strikes. US officials anticipate Israeli action as soon as this weekend but are urging Israeli restraint to avoid further regional escalation.

April 18, 2024

  1. Qatar Reassesses Its Mediator Role Between Israel and Hamas
    Qatar is reevaluating its mediation role between Israel and Hamas, as stated by Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, Qatar’s Prime Minister and Foreign Minister. This decision follows concerns that the mediation has been misused for narrow political gains. Qatar remains committed to its humanitarian stance but recognizes limits to its influence in these negotiations. The reassessment comes after critical remarks from U.S. Congressman Steny Hoyer urging Qatar to pressure Hamas regarding hostage releases and ceasefires, and Turkish accusations against Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu of escalating regional tensions for political survival.
  2. Saudi Arabia’s NEOM Will Borrow $1.3 Billion for Future Projects
    Saudi Arabia’s NEOM has arranged to issue its first-ever Riyal-denominated debt securities later this year, aiming to enhance funding for its ambitious $1.5 trillion

April 22, 2024

  1. U.S. Reaffirms Support for Qatari Mediation in Gaza, but Doha is Rethinking its Mediator Role
    A U.S. diplomat in Cairo reiterated Washington’s support for Qatari mediation efforts in Gaza and expressed U.S. confidence in Qatar as an effective intermediary. The statement comes as Qatar is reevaluating its mediation role due to political pressure and the apparent collapse of talks between Israel and Hamas for a cease fire and hostage/prisoner exchange. Additionally, there are indications of an expanded mediation role for Turkey, aligning with U.S. strategic interests to influence the situation in Gaza through broader regional involvement. 
  2. Israeli Officials Acknowledge Qatar as Indispensable Mediator with Hamas
    Israeli officials admitted to the Israeli Broadcasting Corporation that no other nation but Qatar could broker a deal between Israel and Hamas. Despite recent criticisms of Qatar, including accusations from Israel’s Economy Minister and a U.S. Congressman questioning the effectiveness of Qatar’s mediation, top Israeli authorities confirmed Qatar’s compliance with Israeli requests. This includes hosting Hamas leaders and aiding Gazan families on Israel’s behalf. Qatar is reevaluating its mediation role.
  3. EU Begins Indirect Negotiations with Houthis for Red Sea Shipping Security
    Following the withdrawal of their warships from the “Eunavfor Med Irini” mission, European Union countries commenced negotiations to secure the safe passage of their ships through the Red Sea. These discussions, facilitated through Oman with Houthi representatives, focus on coordinating safe transit via the Bab al-Mandab Strait. This initiative comes after Germany became the fourth EU country to pull its frigate from the mission, joining Belgium, Denmark, and France.
  4. Report:  New Negotiation Round Planned Between Yemeni Government and Houthis
    Informed political sources suggest that a new round of negotiations between the Yemeni government and the Houthi group is expected under the auspices of the UN Special Envoy for Yemen. Omani mediators reportedly persuaded the Houthi leadership to return to dialogue, based on previous agreements that include a peace roadmap. This upcoming round aims to finalize the peace agreement, establish a ceasefire, address civil rights issues like employee salaries and prisoner releases, and regulate air and sea movement restrictions at Sanaa International Airport and Hodeidah Port to prevent weapon smuggling.

April 23, 2024

  1. Qatar, Frustrated by Criticism, is Reevaluating its Mediation Efforts Between Hamas and Israel
    Qatar is currently reevaluating its role in mediating between Hamas and Israel, as announced by Majed Al-Ansari, spokesperson for Qatar’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Despite facing criticism, particularly from Israeli government officials, Qatar remains committed to its mediation efforts and to preventing further regional security deterioration. Al-Ansari stressed that Qatar would not tolerate being politically exploited by any party. The reevaluation does not impact Qatar’s humanitarian commitments to Palestine, with ongoing aid deliveries to Gaza and continued care for the injured in Doha.
  2. Saudi Arabia and Iran Take New Steps Toward Reconciliation
    Saudi Arabia and Iran are advancing reconciliation with significant moves, including the return of Umrah flights from Iran to Medina for the first time since 2016, and the appointment of a Saudi consul general in Mashhad. These developments are part of ongoing efforts under the “Beijing Agreement” to facilitate bilateral visa grants, including for religious visits. This renewed cooperation follows a history of diplomatic tensions.
  3. Will the “Development Pathway” Announced in Baghdad Overshadow the Gulf Economic Corridor?
    A new strategic project named “Development Path” was announced in Baghdad, aiming to connect Europe with the Arabian Gulf via Iraq and Turkey. This project could emerge as a competitor to the “Economic Corridor,” influenced by the ongoing US-China rivalry, by facilitating the transit of Chinese goods to Europe. Unlike the Economic Corridor, which involves the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Israel, the “Development Pathway” sees potential in strengthening trade relations for countries like Qatar, Iraq, and Turkey that were excluded from the former. Notably, the UAE’s participation in both projects raises questions about its strategic goals and the potential impacts on the existing Economic Corridor.
  4. EU Grants Multi-Entry Visas to GCC Citizens
    The European Union has approved multi-entry visas valid for five years for Gulf Cooperation Council citizens, enhancing travel and economic engagement. This decision, supported by France and announced during a high-level forum on regional security in Luxembourg, aligns with efforts to strengthen bilateral relations. This move reciprocates Saudi Arabia’s electronic visa access for EU nationals.
  5. US and UK Face Limited Strategic Options in Yemen
    As the US-British “Prosperity Guard” alliance sees diminishing returns from airstrikes in Yemen and European Union countries are withdrawing their naval forces from the Red Sea, America’s strategic options appear increasingly constrained. Washington is now compelled to consider alternative strategies or tougher sanctions against Sana’a, despite previous failures in the Arab Coalition’s ongoing war since 2015. Meanwhile, local allies are under pressure to intensify military fronts, even as Western-backed punitive measures and economic sanctions continue to be debated among policy-makers for their effectiveness in compelling peace according to the US perspective.
  6. Houthi Militia Agrees to Direct Talks with Yemeni Government–But Only With No New Conditions Attached
    The Houthi militia has agreed to direct discussions with the Yemeni government to negotiate a UN-proposed roadmap, contingent upon no changes to the previously agreed draft. This development was reported by the London-based Al-Quds Al-Arabi, noting that the meeting is being arranged by Riyadh and Muscat as part of efforts to finalize the roadmap. 

April 24, 2024

  1. Aramco and China’s Rongsheng Petrochemical Seal Exchange Deal
    Saudi Aramco plans to acquire a 50% stake in the Ningbo Zhongjin Petrochemical unit, owned by China’s Rongsheng Petrochemical, following a new cooperation agreement. In return, Rongsheng will gain a 50% share in Aramco’s SASREF refinery in Jubail, Saudi Arabia. This strategic exchange, building on Aramco’s recent $3.4 billion investment in Rongsheng, aims to enhance collaborative projects in both upstream and downstream sectors, reinforcing their industrial supply chain objectives.
  2. Saudi Arabia Aims for $80 Billion Mining Sector by 2030
    Saudi Arabia is ambitiously transforming into a global mining power, targeting a contribution of $80 billion from this sector by 2030. This initiative, part of Vision 2030, seeks to diversify the economy away from oil. Recent increases in the kingdom’s untapped mineral resources—valued at approximately $2.5 trillion due to new discoveries—are driving efforts to enhance exploration and attract investments. The country has also started issuing licenses to international mining firms and has signed multiple cooperation agreements.
  3. Blinken to Visit Riyadh to Discuss Israel Normalization with Crown Prince
    US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will visit Saudi Arabia next weekend following his trip to China. He will participate in the World Economic Forum in Riyadh on April 28-29. Blinken is likely to meet Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and other regional leaders, with discussions possibly including access to Israel. This visit aligns with ongoing US efforts to broker a defense pact and address Saudi Arabia’s civilian nuclear program. However, progress may be hindered by ongoing Gaza conflict and Netanyahu’s political alliances. 
  4. Mediterranean Ports Face Congestion as Red Sea Tensions Redirect Shipping
    Mediterranean ports are nearing full capacity, used as transit hubs by global shipping companies to avoid conflict zones

April 25, 2024

  1. Kuwait is Unhappy with Iraq’s Development Corridor Initiative
    Kuwait has reacted strongly against the signing of the Development Corridor Memorandum of Understanding between Iraq, Qatar, the UAE, and Turkey. The project, set to enhance connections between Iraq and the Gulf through Turkey, begins at Iraq’s Al Faw Port, adjacent to Kuwait’s struggling Mubarak Port. Over a third of Kuwait’s parliament members have criticized the government’s lag in developing its own ports, viewing the corridor as a threat to national economic and trade interests. They urge immediate action to complete Mubarak Port and investigate the delay’s impact on Kuwait’s interests.
  2. Qatar to Host Global Meeting on Ukrainian Peace Proposal
    Qatar is set to host a key gathering of national security advisors and senior officials worldwide in Doha to discuss a Ukrainian proposal aimed at settling the conflict with Russia. The discussions are part of preparatory talks leading to a high-level summit scheduled in Switzerland in June. The Doha meeting will involve participants from the G7 and the Global South, setting the stage for broader peace negotiations. 
  3. Qatar Delivered Recording of Israeli-American Prisoner to the U.S. Before Public Release
    Qatar handed over a video recording of Hersh Goldberg Bolin, an Israeli prisoner with U.S. citizenship held by Hamas, to the U.S. government last Monday, as reported by Axios. The issue was discussed in calls between Qatar’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, alongside senior White House officials. The recording was part of Qatar’s efforts to facilitate an exchange deal and served as proof of life.
  4. Houthis Target U.S. and Israeli Ships; CENTCOM Intercepts Missile Attack
    The Houthis have launched additional missile and drone attacks on American and Israeli vessels in the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean. In response, U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) reported successfully intercepting a ballistic missile and several drones aimed at coalition ships. These attacks highlight the Houthis’ determination to sustain their threats against U.S. and British naval interests, expanding their operational reach into strategic maritime routes.
  5. Greek Warship Intercepts Houthi Drones in the Red Sea
    A Greek naval frigate participating in the European Union’s maritime mission in the Red Sea intercepted two Houthi drones targeting a commercial ship. The Hydra frigate, which was escorting a merchant vessel in the Gulf of Aden, successfully destroyed one drone and repelled another. This defensive action is part of the EU’s efforts, initiated in February, to protect key maritime trade routes from Houthi drone and missile attacks, which the Houthis claim are in retaliation to Israel’s ongoing conflict in Gaza.

April 26, 2024

  1. Saudi Arabia to Host Ministerial Meeting on Gaza’s Future on Monday
    Saudi Arabia plans to convene a meeting in Riyadh to discuss the future of Gaza with Arab and foreign officials, including U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, according to Bloomberg. Scheduled for Monday, the talks will not include Israeli or Hamas representatives. Participants will include the British Foreign Secretary and officials from the EU, Jordan, Egypt, Qatar, and the Palestinian Authority. The discussions will occur alongside a special edition of the World Economic Forum, as global and regional powers seek to address the humanitarian crisis and reconstruction in Gaza.
  2. Saudi Arabia to Spearhead New UN Resolution for Gaza Cease-Fire
    Saudi Arabia is set to propose a new UN resolution to the Arab Group at the UN General Assembly aimed at achieving a ceasefire in Gaza. The Saudi Permanent Representative to the UN, Abdulaziz Al-Wasil, announced that discussions would take place next Monday. The resolution might also seek to resubmit Palestine’s request for full UN membership, previously vetoed by the U.S. last week. Additionally, Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan highlighted emerging support within the EU for recognizing the state of Palestine.
  3. Aramco and FIFA Announce Four-Year Global Partnership
    Saudi Aramco has entered into a four-year global partnership with FIFA, becoming its main global partner and the exclusive energy category sponsor. The deal includes sponsorship rights for major events like the 2026 Men’s World Cup and the 2027 Women’s World Cup. The partnership will run until the end of 2027.
  4. Saudi Economy Grew to $1.07 Trillion in 2023
    Saudi Arabia’s economy grew to approximately $1.07 trillion in 2023, marking a 60% increase since the launch of the Kingdom’s “Vision 2030” development plan. The annual report highlights the significant role of non-oil activities, which now comprise 50% of the GDP. Unemployment fell to 7.7%, nearing the 2030 goal of 7%. Female workforce participation reached 35.5%. Over 200 global companies have established headquarters in Riyadh by the end of 2023, with the vision’s initiatives 87% complete. The Public Investment Fund managed assets worth $750 billion, surpassing its annual target.
  5. CENTCOM Reports Houthi Missile Launch Toward Aden Gulf
    U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) announced that the Houthi militia fired an anti-ship ballistic missile from Yemen toward the Gulf of Aden, which resulted in no casualties or damage to U.S., coalition, or commercial ships. In response, CENTCOM destroyed a Houthi-controlled unmanned boat and drone. This incident follows a recent successful interception by coalition forces of a similar missile likely targeting the U.S.-flagged MV Yorktown, manned by an American and Greek crew. Additionally, CENTCOM reported the destruction of four Houthi drones in separate engagements.
  6. Houthi Leader Pledges Expansion of Maritime Attacks to Indian Ocean
    Abdul Malik al-Houthi, leader of the Houthi movement, declared an expansion of their naval operations to the Indian Ocean, continuing recent attacks on ships in the Red Sea. In a video statement, he linked the persistence of these attacks to the ongoing Israeli war and blockade on Gaza. Al-Houthi claimed that every two days, a ship associated with Israel is targeted and claimed the Houthis have hit 102 Israeli ships in the past 202 days. He also noted that these actions have significantly increased insurance costs for American companies to $50 million per ship.

April 29, 2024

  1. Arab Ministerial Committee Calls for Sanctions and Arms Embargo on Israel
    During a session in Riyadh, an Arab-Islamic ministerial committee urged the international community to impose effective sanctions on Israel, including halting arms exports, in response to violations of international law and alleged war crimes in Gaza and the West Bank. Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan warned of severe consequences if military operations in Gaza expand. The committee emphasized the urgent need for intensified Arab and Islamic cooperation to promptly end the conflict, protect civilians, and ensure sustainable humanitarian aid throughout Gaza.
  2. War Threatens UAE Port Project in Sudan
    The ongoing conflict in Sudan may lead to the cancellation of previous investment agreements with the UAE, including the Abu Amama Port project on the Red Sea. Sudanese Finance Minister Jibril Ibrahim indicated that the memorandum of understanding for the port was non-binding and could be revoked due to the war, amidst accusations of UAE’s involvement in funding conflict against the Sudanese government. Analysts suggest the current war impedes Sudan’s ability to develop new ports independently, highlighting the strategic importance of the Abu Amama project.
  3. U.S. Military Engages Drones Over the Red Sea
    The U.S. Central Command reported that its forces engaged five drones over the Red Sea, posing threats to U.S. and allied naval and commercial vessels. This confrontation follows recent hostilities, including a Houthi attack on a British oil tanker and the downing of an American MQ9 drone by Houthi forces. The increase in maritime threats, with over 100 vessels targeted since November 19, has prompted retaliatory airstrikes by the U.S. and the UK to curb Houthi capabilities threatening global maritime commerce.

April 30, 2024

  1. Saudi Arabia Eyes Normalization with Israel
    A diplomatic source told the Israeli newspaper Haaretz that Saudi Arabia has decided to normalize relations with Israel and is deliberating the optimal timing for the announcement of this shift, which could be made in the coming weeks or after the U.S. presidential election. The move is contingent on advancements towards Palestinian statehood, with the U.S. pushing for this as part of the agreement under the Abraham Accords. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken highlighted ongoing efforts toward normalization, emphasizing the inclusion of a pathway to a Palestinian state as essential. The Saudis have paused negotiations following recent conflicts but remain committed to normalization, seeking guarantees on Palestinian statehood progress.
  2. Riyadh Hosts Tripartite Meeting on Gaza and Two-State Solution
    In Riyadh, foreign ministers from Arab, Islamic, and European nations convened to discuss the Gaza conflict and the broader Palestinian issue, including the two-state solution. Chaired by Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan and his Norwegian counterpart, Espen Barth Eide, the meeting focused on the humanitarian situation in Gaza and advancing Palestinian state recognition. The Saudi minister emphasized the non-negotiable right of Palestinians to statehood, urging European partners to persuade Israel to embrace peace, highlighting the dire conditions in Gaza, including the discovery of mass graves.
  3. Final Touches on Saudi-U.S. Security Agreement
    Saudi Arabia and the United States are close to finalizing a security agreement, focused heavily on the situation in Gaza and the broader Palestinian issue. This was highlighted during multiple meetings at the World Economic Forum in Riyadh, involving key figures like Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. The discussions emphasized the need for a credible pathway to establish a Palestinian state and a permanent ceasefire in Gaza. Blinken also urged Hamas to accept a significant Israeli proposal to advance normalization efforts between Israel and regional countries.
  4. UAE-Iran Joint Committee Meets After a Decade
    For the first time in ten years, the UAE-Iran Joint Economic Cooperation Committee is reconvening in Abu Dhabi, reflecting Tehran’s intent to enhance Gulf relations despite U.S. pressures. Attended by Iran’s Minister of Roads and Urban Development, Mehrdad Bazrpash, and UAE’s Minister of Economy, Abdullah bin Touq Al Marri, the meeting marks a pivotal moment in diplomatic engagements. This initiative follows a period of reduced ties since 2016 and symbolizes a significant step in revitalizing long-standing trade relationships, with the UAE remaining a major trade partner for Iran.
  5. Vessel Bound for Israel Attacked and Sinking in the Red Sea
    The vessel CYCLADES was severely damaged by a coordinated attack involving missiles and drones by Houthi forces from Sanaa. This attack, which occurred after the ship ignored multiple warnings including live fire, may cause the ship to drift and potentially sink in the coming hours. Houthi sources claimed the vessel had been under surveillance and had falsely declared its destination, leading to its targeting on April 21 as it headed towards the port of Eilat.
  6. New Houthi Attacks on Shipping in the Indian Ocean and Red Sea
    Houthi rebels have launched new attacks on international shipping, targeting the MSC Orion container ship in the Indian Ocean with drones. This assault is part of an ongoing campaign that has expanded to include the commercial vessel Cyclades and two American destroyers in the Red Sea. These actions have drastically affected global supply chains, forcing ships to reroute and significantly increasing maritime shipping and insurance costs.
  7. Satellite Images Reveal Houthi Construction of Underground Military Facilities
    Satellite imagery has exposed the Houthi militia’s efforts to construct substantial underground military installations, a strategic move to enhance their defenses against future conflicts. According to the International Institute for Strategic Studies, this development marks a significant advancement from the group’s earlier use of simple caves and tunnels. The Houthis are now renovating pre-war Yemeni army tunnels and creating entirely new underground facilities, preparing for potential confrontations with the United States and its allies.

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