Although the position of Saudi women within society quite rightly draws media attention, young Saudi men for the most part remain a silent mass, their thoughts and views rarely heard outside of the kingdom. But new research conducted in Saudi Arabia by Mark C Thompson, including 50 focus group discussions and interviews and surveys of over 5,000 young men from diverse backgrounds, reveals intriguing new insight into their views on subjects including gender segregation, identity, education, employment and marriage, as well as political participation and exclusion.
As 78% of the workforce, the views of Saudi men are crucial to the Saudi government’s Vision 2030 plan, which aims to help break the kingdom’s dependency on oil and, at the same time, diversify the economy towards important growth sectors, such as retail, health, IT, communications, tourism and education.… Seguir leyendo »
What role does energy play today in the shifting geopolitics of the Middle East particularly in the ongoing conflicts in Syria and Libya?
Interestingly, energy doesn’t play much of a role in Syria because the country is not an important energy player. There is some public speculation that Syria sits on a large energy resource base, both onshore and offshore, but I think those expectations are misplaced.
It’s commonplace to think of the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990 and the subsequent US-led coalition to liberate Kuwait as being predicated on ‘freeing up the oil’. Similarly, the war in Iraq in 2003 has been characterized – mischaracterized in my opinion – as a ‘grab for oil’.… Seguir leyendo »
The pardoning of a British student sentenced to life imprisonment in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for spying has been welcomed by the UK government. But the balance of power between the countries is changing.
The imprisonment of Matthew Hedges posed a real dilemma for the UK. It had to decide whether to stand up to the UAE, a country with which it does £15 billion of trade, or cave in and risk the perception that it is now the junior partner in the relationship.
Its strong response – and the fact Hedges can now return home – is testament to the UK’s diplomatic weight; this time the UAE flinched.… Seguir leyendo »
There is no doubt that the disappearance and likely death of Jamal Khashoggi will now damage Saudi Arabia’s relations with the US and Europe, should Riyadh be found responsible. (And as yet, Saudi Arabia has done little to convince that it is not responsible.)
They are already trading barbs. Donald Trump has said that Saudi Arabia will be ‘severely punished’ if found responsible for Khashoggi’s death, and while he has since walked back some of his remarks, leading Republicans are pushing for a strong response. Meanwhile, the Saudi commentator Turki al-Dhakheel claimed in an Al-Arabiya column that ‘more than 30 potential measures’ are being discussed by the kingdom as responses to potential sanctions.… Seguir leyendo »
Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s fate remains unclear, but one thing appears certain – he has been ‘disappeared’. While it will require an investigation to establish the facts, the implications of Khashoggi’s disappearance are clear.
The new Saudi leadership is now intolerant of all dissent – home or abroad. US policy has inadvertently given carte blanche to the leadership to act with impunity. The kingdom’s international partners have very little leverage over its domestic or foreign policies. And confidence among international investors is nosediving and – without a drastic change in policy – will undermine Vision 2030.
Irrespective as to whether he has been killed or transported back to Saudi Arabia, the move has laid down an indelible marker that the new Saudi leadership will brook no criticism of its transformation project Vision 2030 – levelled from within or outside the kingdom.… Seguir leyendo »
Total’s agreement to re-enter Iran after an absence of five years is a major boon for former US president Barack Obama’s landmark nuclear deal reached in 2015 between Iran and the P5+1. The deal is significant because it signals Total’s confidence in the Iranian market in spite of growing anti-Iranian rhetoric in Washington, Riyadh and Abu Dhabi, which aims to further isolate Iran and actively discourage international businesses from investing in the country. As an energy deal, it is not groundbreaking, and is unlikely to unlock the floodgates and lead to an early rush of international businesses entering Iran. But it does carry with it an opportunity to embolden President Hassan Rouhani’s economic reform agenda and strengthen the hands of the moderates.… Seguir leyendo »
To many, Western policy towards Syria over the past six years – to the extent there has been coherent action – looks largely a failure. Russia and Iran (and now Turkey) have won both diplomatic and military battles in Syria and now appear in place to shape the eventual outcome in their interests – game over.
But look closer, and Western powers – specifically the US, the EU, the UK and France – still retain some leverage. If applied effectively – and that is a huge if – they could still shape the final political settlement, support an inclusive reconstruction process, tackle extremism and help alleviate the refugee crisis.… Seguir leyendo »