Bahrain by Michelle Ryan

Five people were left dead and hundreds detained after a raid by Bahraini government forces against a pro- opposition stronghold. This is said to be one of the deadlier crackdowns to happen in the Kingdom since protests began in 2011. Bahrain continues to have good diplomatic relations with both the United States and Egypt after King Hamad met with both Trump and Al-Sisi this month. The Gulf island continues to be criticized for its human rights record with the UN calling for the release of an imprisoned human rights activist as well as an investigation into the treatment of detainees. The Kingdom is also accused of cracking down on freedom of speech as well as censorship after barring a Human Rights Watch (HRW) official from entering the country and blocking eight Qatari news sources after an Emir was quoted criticising US foreign policy in a Qatari publication. Economically, Bahrain is trying to keep up amidst dropping oil prices by merging with other Gulf finance houses as well as investing in its small and medium sized enterprises. Nonetheless, the Kingdom reported a 3 per cent growth rate in its non-oil sector. 

Read More

Angola by Michelle Ryan

Refuges continue to enter Angola daily from the DRC, leading to overcrowding in refugee camps. The Angolan president José Eduardo dos Santos has returned from Spain, following medical check-ups. According to a United National Children’s Fund report, over 1.4 million people have been affected by chronic drought in Angola. On 24 May, Angolan Defence Minister announced Angola’s commitment to regional peacemaking. The Defence Minister, João Lourenço signed a memorandum of understanding with the USA to strengthen US-Angolan relations. The Angolan Foreign Affairs Minister announced on 31 May that economic diplomacy would be a government priority. Angola’s private investment technical unit has signed a contract to build a telecommunications hub worth US$19.5 million. Angolan Secretary of State for Geology and Mines, Miguel Bondo announced plans to significantly increase diamond production. 

Read More

Yemen by Michelle Ryan

President Hadi and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) rejected the formation of a transitional political council for the separation of southern Yemen on 14 May. A state of emergency was declared on 15 May in the rebel-held capital of Sanaa after a major outbreak of cholera. The minister of foreign affairs for Oman, Yusuf bin Alawi, reiterated Oman’s support for President Hadi’s internationally backed government during a meeting with Yemen’s deputy prime minister on 15 May. Negotiations between President Hadi’s government and Houthi rebels took place in Oman in an attempt by the United Nations (UN) to resume full peace talks. Human rights groups have criticised the USD 110 billion arms deal made by President Donald Trump and the Saudi Arabian government on 23 May. On 27 May, Human Rights Watch (HRW) encouraged all warring factions in the Yemeni conflict to release all wrongfully held detainees and to reveal the whereabouts of all prisoners who have forcibly disappeared. A Saudi drone was destroyed by Houthi rebels in the northern province of Hajjah on 14 May. The UN special envoy to Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheickh Ahmed, highlighted deep concerns for his safety and that of UN workers in Yemen after his convoy was attacked as he travelled from the airport to the UN compound in Yemen on 22 May. A raid by United States (US) marines killed seven suspected al-Qaeda militants but also killed several civilians in the Marib governorate on 23 May. Forces backed by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) regained control of Aden airport in the south of Yemen on 31 May. 

Read More

UAE by Michelle Ryan

Tensions have dramatically escalated between Qatar, the UAE and Saudi Arabia, with the UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs warning of a major crisis facing the Gulf Cooperation Council. Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan met with US President Donald Trump in Washington. German Chancellor Angela Merkel arrived in the UAE on an official state visit. Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan met with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in Washington. Yemeni President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi has accused Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan of “behaving like an occupier of Yemen rather than its liberator.” The prime minister of Libya’s UN- backed government, met with Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, the head of the Libyan National Army, in Abu Dhabi. The US government announced that it has approved a $2 billion arms sale to the UAE in an effort to bolster security in the region. UAE-backed forces have taken control of Aden Airport, Yemen. The UAE has announced that Emirati military recruits are being trained on Socotra Island, Yemen. Eight Arab princesses are being tried in absentia in Brussels for trafficking and abusing servants during their stay in the country. According to the IMF, the UAE is adjusting well to the low oil price environment, with non-oil economic growth rebounding in the Emirates during 2017. The UAE has contributed approximately $137 dollars tp the Yemeni health sector between 2015 and 2017. 

Read More

Somalia by Michelle Ryan

The international community continued to collaborate on their efforts to provide aid to Somalia. The German foreign minister made a surprise visit to the capital, in which he pledged a further $76 million USD in aid to help with famine relief. The London Somalia Conference, hosted by the United Kingdom was extremely productive: the participants adopted the New Partnership for Somalia, a framework of mutual accountability aimed at achieving peace, stability, and security in the country. While Somalia and Turkey both asked that the arms embargo be reviewed, British Foreign Minister, Boris Johnson argued against it, claiming that weapons may fall into the wrong hands and further hinder progress. At the conference, Saudi Arabia pledged USD $10 million to combat Al-Shabaab, the terrorist group that has consistently been attempting to undermine the western-backed government. Last month, the Pentagon approved of intensifying air-strikes in Somalia, and Africom Commander met with the president of Somalia this month to discuss collaboration between US Special Forces and the Somali National Army Forces in the fight against terror. Uganda also pledged to double its troops posted under the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), while a continent of four experienced Zambian police officers recently joined a team of Individual Police Officers under the Mission. In spite of heightened security response, Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for various attacks around the country, including attacks on Ethiopian troops, on a government soldier at the capital, an attack in the Somali parliament, and the kidnapping of aid workers. Furthermore, the Islamic State recently claimed its first attack in Somalia in the town of Bosaso, where a suicide bomber killed at least five people. Internal tensions in the Galgaduud region left six dead, over territorial and resource disputes between two sub-clans in the area. The arrival of the rainy season has provided little relief, disease and malnutrition are still rampant in the country. The World Health Organisation reported at least 200 to 300 reported cases of cholera daily, as well as increasing numbers of measles in the pre-famine conditions. As such, the UNICEF, the WHO, and the Federal Government have collaborated to administer oral vaccinations to children of internally displaced persons (IDPs), who live in camps where such diseases are frequent. 

Read More

Pakistan by Michelle Ryan

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) ordered Pakistan not to execute Kulbhushan Jadhav, an Indian citizen, on charges of espionage until the Court is able to investigate the case further. India summoned Pakistan’s ambassador to demand Pakistan take action over the alleged killing and mutilation of two Indian soldiers by Pakistani special forces on 1 May. Pakistan denied the claim. Prime Minister Sharif travelled to Beijing to attend the Chinese One Belt, One Road (OBOR) Forum. Pakistan and China signed agreements amounting to $500 million extra Chinese investment in Pakistan at the forum. Chinese Premier Li Keqiang told Sharif that China hopes Pakistan will improve its efforts in protecting and ensuring the safety of Chinese personnel and assets relating the CPEC in Pakistan after unknown gunmen killed 10 construction workers in the port city of Gwadar who were working on linking the surrounding area to the port that will form a key hub of CPEC. Prime Minister Sharif and former Pakistani Chief of Army Staff (CoAS) Raheel Sharif were not given an opportunity to speak at the 2017 Riyadh Summit. The Saudis and United States (US) President Donald Trump appeared to dominate the Summit. King Salman apologised to the participants who were not able to address the summit. Sartaj Aziz, Prime Minister Sharif’s foreign affairs adviser, wrote to the United Nations (UN) claiming that India is attempting to change Kashmir’s demographic by converting the Muslim majority in Kashmir into a minority. Pakistani and Afghani troops exchanged fire along their border on 5 May, leading Pakistan to close the Chaman border crossing. At least 15 people were killed in the fighting. Further clashes occurred on 7 May, with the Pakistan army claiming it had destroyed five Afghan checkpoints near the border resulting in at least 50 Afghan and 2 Pakistani deaths. Pakistan later reopened the Chaman border crossing with Afghanistan citing the decision to be based on humanitarian grounds. A roadside bomb outside a girls’ school in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province injured 4 people on 8 May. Islamic State (IS) claimed responsibility for a suicide attack that left 25 people dead in the province of Balochistan on 12 May. On 20 May assailants threw grenades at a school and four homes in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province resulting in 15 people being injured. Also on 20 May 4 policemen were killed when their vehicle, returning from an operation in the Kamal Khel area, was rushed by militants from Jamaat-ul-Ahrar. In a third attack on 20 May, 2 members of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi riding motorcycles opened fire on a police van in Karachi, killing 2 policemen and injuring another. On 22 May a roadside bomb killed 5 volunteers from a government-backed militia in the Tirah Valley. Pakistani military courts convicted and hanged 6 men for being members of the Pakistan Taliban, 2 of whom were involved in the 2014 Peshawar school massacre. The Indian army destroyed multiple Pakistani army posts on 9 May claiming they were being used to help militants cross the LoC and stating that it was retaliation for the beheading of two Indian soldiers on 1 May. Pakistani and Indian troops shelled one another on 13 May resulting in the deaths of 2 Indian civilians. Pakistani officials claimed that UN military observers were fired on by Indian troops but were not hurt. Pakistani jets reportedly violated Indian air space and were swiftly escorted out. Indian officials disputed this claim, however, stating that the jets had merely flown near to the Siachen Glacier. On 28 May, Indian and Pakistani forces exchanged fire once more, resulting in the death of an Indian army porter. An Iranian delegation visited Pakistan on 3 May to press Pakistan to capture and punish Jaish-al-Adl militants who had killed 10 Iranian border guards on 26 April before fleeing to the Pakistani side of the border. On 8 May the head of the Iranian armed forces stated that if Pakistan fails to stop the terrorists and capture the perpetrators then the Iranian armed forces will attack safe havens within Pakistan. On 21 and 27 May mortar shells fired from Iran landed in Balochistan Province resulting one Pakistani civilian death. Protests erupted across Pakistan as electricity shortages left 100 000s of people without power resulting in 1 person dying after police opened fire on protesters. Pakistan welcomed $15 billion of Chinese investment in 12 new coal-fired power plants as part of their plan to boost energy generating capacity. Pakistan and Japan signed a $24m agreement for the implementation of the second phase of the Islamabad-Buchanan Transmission Line Reinforcement project. Pakistan’s Finance Minister presented a $50 billion budget for 2017-18 marking a 4.3 per cent increase in government spending. The budget promises a 7 per cent increase in military spending, a growth rate of 6 per cent, inflation to be kept below 6 per cent over the next year, and the fiscal deficit being reduced from 4.2 per cent to 4.1 per cent. The budget set $20 billion aside for development across the country and gave the corporate sector a 30 per cent tax cut. The World Bank (WB) forecast Pakistan’s growth in 2017 to climb to 5.2 per cent, 5.5 per cent in FY18 and 5.8 per cent in FY19. Pakistan’s economy surpassed $300 billion on 18 May. The private sectors of Pakistan and Scotland formed a joint business council (JBC) to enhance trade between the two countries. The Chairman of the Pakistan-Scotland Business Council, stated that the JBC would further cement trade relations with Pakistan during a time when Brexit has provided the United Kingdom (UK), and so Scotland, an opportunity to develop greater ties with the Commonwealth. 

Read More

Nigeria by Michelle Ryan

Fears over the state of Nigeria’s President Buhari’s health remain after he was absent from three consecutive cabinet meetings this month, before flying to London for medical treatment for the second time this year. Nigeria is continuing to struggle to stave off famine in the northeastern state of Borno. Aid agencies have only been able to raise one fifth of the $1.05 billion required in order to provide assistance this year. 82 of the 300 Chibok girls that were abducted from their school in 2014 have been released in exchange for five Boko Haram commanders. On 15 May Boko Haram fighters killed at least six farmers who were working on their land in the village of Amrawa. On 18 May, at least one person was killed after two explosions at the University of Maiduguri in the northeast of the country. Both Houses of Parliament have now approved Buhari’s record-breaking budget for 2017. The budget will boost government spending by 25 per cent in response to last year’s recession which saw the economy shrink by 1.5 per cent. Spending will increase to 7.4 trillion naira ($23 billion). Nigeria continues to be exempt from OPEC’s deal to cut oil production, which this month, was extended for a further nine months, until March 2018. Forcados pipeline which can handle 200,000 bpd is expected to return to service in the near future after damage by militant activity caused a year of disruption. Inflation has slowed for the third consecutive month due to a decline in gasoline prices. Inflation in April fell to 17.2 per cent from 17.3 per cent in March.

Read More

Kuwait by Michelle Ryan

Kuwait has been elected to serve a two-year term as a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, beginning January 2018. During his visit to Saudi Arabia, President Trump signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Gulf Cooperation Council member states on countering the financing of terrorism. The Kuwaiti logistics company, Agilit, has agreed to pay a $95 million settlement fee to the United States government to settle a civil case of defrauding the government during the company’s time as the main food supplier to the US Army in the Middle East. The Gulf Cooperation Council has reaffirmed its support for the internationally-backed President Abd-rabbu Mansour Hadi of Yemen who has recently rejected the announcement of a transitional political council for the south of Yemen. The Kuwaiti coastguard prevented an Iraqi vessel from entering Kuwait waters on Thursday 18 May. Two people were injured in the process. OPEC agreed to extend its deal to cut oil production, which has been in place since January, for nine more months until March 2018. The high compliance of Kuwait and Saudi Arabia has led to the rise in overall compliance with the deal from 90 per cent to 95 per cent, despite a slight increase in overall OPEC oil production this month. Kuwait Energy Plc. Is intending to be the first Kuwaiti company to have its stock publically traded on the London Stock Exchange. 

Read More

Iraqi Kurdistan by Michelle Ryan

Turkey continued air raids in Northern Kurdistan targeting the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). Kurdistan is experiencing a rise in illegal gun sales and violence amongst citizens thought to be due to the influx of weapons used in the fighting against the Islamic State (IS). The Kurdistan Region Security Council (KRSC) was happy to report the death of a senior IS leader following airstrikes in Mosul. Towards the end of the month Baghdad experienced a string of suicide car bombs that left many injured as well as many fatalities. Iraq also faces non- military security threats such as the imminent deterioration of the Mosul dam which is need of urgent repair. If left neglected floodwaters would put millions at risk. Kurdistan continues to enrich its foreign diplomatic relations with a delegation traveling to Russia this month to both meet with President Vladimir Putin as well as attend the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF). A new political party affiliated with the PKK was founded in the Shingal province of Kurdistan after requesting official recognition from Baghdad. Iraq and Iraqi Kurdistan continue to be major suppliers of oil. It was revealed that OPEC’s newest production cut would not include oil exports from the Kurdistan region. Although the Iraqi government recently authorized a project in Kurkuk, Kurdistan is facing a suit by a consortium of companies seeking financial compensation for delayed project starts in oil fields. If they are not paid they may be able to seize Kurdistan’s assets. Iran and Kurdistan continue to have good relations after officials in Tehran stated they would be open to create an oil pipeline leading from Kurdistan to Iran as well as in addition recently opening a fourth international border crossing. Human rights in Iraq and the Kurdistan region continue to be a key focus for officials domestically as well as international organizations. 

Read More

Iran by Michelle Ryan

Rescue workers recovered 35 bodies from a coal mine in northern Iran after an explosion led to the collapse of a tunnel. Hassan Rouhani was re-elected in Iran’s presidential election, garnering 57 per cent of the vote. Iran sanctioned nine U.S. linked businesses and organisations in response to American sanctions over Iran’s ballistic missile program. The head of Iran's armed forces, Major-General Mohammad Baqeri, declared that Iran will attack areas sheltering terrorists in Pakistan unless it tightens control over its borders and prevents insurgent cross-border attacks. According to US defence officials, Iran failed in its attempt to launch a cruise missile from an Iranian Yono- class “midget” submarine in the Strait of Hormuz. Iran has built a third underground ballistic missile production factory and will continue production of its missile program, according to a senior commander of the Revolutionary Guard. The US administration confirmed that it will continue to waive certain sanctions against Iran, as required under the 2015 Nuclear Deal. The first four ATR 72-600s were handed over to Iran Air in a ceremony on 15 May. On 24 May, Iran signed a deal worth $615 million with a Spanish-Iranian under which the group will provide pipes for use in Iran's oil industry. Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh stated that Iran sees $55 per barrel as an appropriate price for crude oil. 

Read More