Gulf in the News – December 16, 2013

Saudi Prince Criticizes Obama Administration, Citing Indecision in Mideast

Source: New York Times (Read full story)

“We’ve seen several red lines put forward by the president, which went along and became pinkish as time grew, and eventually ended up completely white,” said Prince Turki al-Faisal, the former intelligence chief of Saudi Arabia. “When that kind of assurance comes from a leader of a country like the United States, we expect him to stand by it.” He added, “There is an issue of confidence.”  Mr. Obama has his problems, the prince said, but when a country has strong allies, “you should be able to give them the assurance that what you say is going to be what you do.” The prince no longer has any official position but has lately been providing the public expression of internal Saudi views with clear approval from the Saudi government.

Saudi citizens say they can’t find work, despite expat exodus

Source: The National (Read full story)

Saudi Arabia has no shortage of jobs these days.  When one million of the country’s 8.5 million expatriate labourers left this year as part of a government drive to limit illegal labour, shops were left untended and cars unwashed. Schools could not find teachers and students lost their tutors.  Yet even as posts are left vacant, many Saudi citizens say they cannot find work. Roughly one in three Saudis under the age of 30 is unemployed, as well as 35 per cent of women, government statistics say.  The government is trying to close that gap with a carrot-and-stick approach of reducing expatriate workers and convincing Saudis to take private-sector jobs.

Oman: No Gulf-wide union for us

Source: Al-Jazeera (Read full story)

Leaders from the six oil-rich states that make up the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) agreed in their annual meeting last week to take it slow regarding a proposal on becoming a union.  The proposal, first put forth two years ago by Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah, comes as Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani, pursues a more moderate foreign policy and detente with the West.  Yet the plan for a union – and the degree of political, economic or military integration it would entail – remains vague. When GCC General Secretary Abdellatif al-Zayani was asked for more details, he responded that “it is all still under discussion”.The proposal to form a union, presented as a key topic at the GCC summit in Kuwait, lost steam after a blunt rejection by Oman.

US repatriates two Guantanamo detainees to Saudi Arabia

Source: The National (Read full story)

The United States has sent two detainees being held at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility back to their native Saudi Arabia, the Pentagon said on Monday, the latest push in a slow-moving effort towards eventually shuttering the facility. The transfers of Saad Muhammad Husayn Qahtani and Hamood Abdulla Hamood lowered the prisoner population to 160 and follows the repatriation of two prisoners to Algeria earlier this month. The Saudi detainees had not been charged with a crime.

Iran says nuclear talks continue despite US blacklist

Source: Khaleej Times (Read full story)

“We are pursuing the negotiations seriously and of course we will give a well-considered, purposeful, smart and proper reaction to any inappropriate and unconstructive move,” Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif wrote on his Facebook page.  This was despite the Americans having made “inappropriate moves to which we gave the appropriate response by considering all aspects of the issue”.  “The negotiations and achieving a result are a difficult task and will definitely have a lot of ups and downs. We have predicted that from the very beginning.”  The United States blacklisted a dozen overseas companies and individuals on Thursday for evading its sanctions imposed on Iran to halt what the West sees as its bid to build a nuclear bomb.

Focus turns to domestic policy under Qatar’s new emir

Source: The National (Read full story)

In the six months since his accession, Qatar’s emir has turned his focus inward, quieting the country’s previously frenetic foreign policy.  In the previous two years, Qatar seemed to announce a new foreign policy drive every week, backing revolutions in Libya and Syria, offering aid to allies in Cairo and Tunis.  As Qatar prepares to celebrate its national day on Wednesday, domestic policy is the focus of the government of Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani.  Still, analysts question whether this is a change of style or substance: Qatar’s policymakers are less outspoken about their aims, but across the region, the country maintains influence and allies.