The Royal Court announced the death of Prince Talal Bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud on 15 December. Funeral prayers were held the following day at Imam Turki Bin Abdullah mosque in Riyadh, led by King Salman Bin Abdulaziz. Prince Talal’s eight surviving sons attended the prayers, including prominent businessman Prince Alwaleed and deputy governor of Asir region Prince Turki. (he was promoted to govenor a few days later) , as well as princes Khalid, Abdelaziz, Abdulrahman, Mansour, Mohammed and Mashhoor Bin Talal.
While 11 suspects have gone on trail for the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, MBS’s position appears to have been further enhanced by promotions for some of his allies
The GCC region ends 2018 with an even greater sense of discord than it began, after the six-member grouping’s annual summit in Riyadh was characterised by bickering and widespread antipathy. Qatar’s decision to quit Opec further reinforces the sense that a long-term realignment of alliances is under way
A debate within the Islamic Republic’s halls of power over the positions of the rahbar (supreme leader) and president (head of government) is occupying a growing number of leaders and representatives in the Vilayat-e Faqih system.
The release of British researcher Matthew Hedges after a presidential pardon was a relief to those who know him, but his ordeal is not the only sign of tension between London and Abu Dhabi – and the unfortunate student is not the only person to have recently been targeted by the UAE authorities
The disappearance and likely murder of the high-profile Saudi commentator is emblematic of the growing crackdown on dissent around the region, as younger generation autocrats concentrate their power. Riyadh was caught off-guard by the strength of international reaction to the Jamal Khashoggi affair, which has tested the west’s flirtation with Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman to an unprecedented extent – forcing other uncomfortable stories emerging from the region further down the news roster, including the spying charges placed against British academic Matthew Hedges in Abu Dhabi
The Court of Cassation threw Kuwaiti politics into fresh turmoil on 8 July, by sentencing two current members of the National Assembly and six former MPs to jail terms of three and a half years for storming parliament in 2011.
Rare public protests broke out in the capital Muscat and a number of other towns and cities, including Salalah and Sur, in late January, as young Omanis expressed their frustration with the difficulty of finding a job. Unemployment continues to be one of the country’s greatest economic challenges, and one of its biggest political headaches too.
The war of words between the conservative principalists that surround Rahbar (Supreme Leader) Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Hassan Rouhani’s more pragmatic allies shows no sign of dying down, with the issues of public referendums and the wearing of the hijab among the latest bones of contention. At the same time, there is still clear potential for public demonstrations to destabilise the political scene. A substantial Gonabadi Dervish protest turned violent on 19 February, outside a police station in northern Tehran, where a member of the Sufi group was being held. More than 300 people were subsequently arrested and six people lost their lives, including three policemen, two Basij militiamen and one protestor. Coming so soon after a widespread and diverse series of demonstrations during December and January – including protests against corruption and the enforced wearing of the hijab (GSN 1,051/1) – the impression is building that the regime is struggling to balance its own needs with those of its people.
At the end of an unusually tumultuous year there are more questions than answers about the direction Saudi Arabia and the region are being taken in. An era of accelerated economic and social modernisation beckons in visionary autocrat Mohammed Bin Salman’s brave new world, provided predictions of political instability prove unfounded