Dossier : Focus on the Arabian Peninsula

, by  DRÉANO Bernard, Orient XXI

The Arabian Peninsula is a region bounded by the Arabian Gulf to the east, the Red Sea to the west, the Arabian Sea to the south and the middle of the desert to the north.

The population is very unevenly distributed over the territory, as are the resources, particularly oil, of which the countries best endowed are Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates. The high concentration of hydrocarbon reserves in the region is the main reason for its importance on the international scene. This specificity makes the countries of the region loyal allies of Western countries but also the largest buyers of arms in the world during the last decade.

First under Ottoman and then British rule, the peninsula now has seven sovereign states that are constantly seeking to expand their international influence through huge investments in sports, culture and tourism.
This policy seems to be bearing fruit, as several of these countries have managed to attract major international events to their territory and to make a name for themselves on a global level.

However, the peninsula faces many dilemmas that put its influence into perspective. In spite of their facade of openness, the countries of the region remain largely reactionary and inclined to immediate repression of any contestation. Moreover, the programmed end of fossil fuels weakens these states whose capacity to adapt seems limited and whose image has already been somewhat dented on the international scene, particularly following the murder of the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

The Strange Peninsula

Can the Gulf countries survive without foreign workers?

In the countries of the Arabian Peninsula, foreign workers are an essential component of the economy since they represent a very significant share of the salaried workforce, namely 80% of the private sector. However, they are still subject to great insecurity and the health crisis has only increased their vulnerability. Indeed, in order to cope with the economic consequences of the pandemic, the Gulf monarchies have resorted to policies to protect the national workforce to the detriment of foreigners, who nevertheless constitute a primordial and even irreplaceable resource for the attractiveness and the economy of these States.


Oman: How the Shah of Iran saved the regime

The Sultan of Oman, Qaboos Ibn Said, who died in January 2020, waged a multi-year war against Marxist-inspired rebels in Dhofar at the beginning of his reign in the 1970s. With the support of the British military, then the reinforcement of the Iranian air force and troops, in an operation entirely designed by the Shah of Iran. This is how the Sultan secured his power.


Yemen: a die-in in Paris to denounce France’s silent complicity

As Yemen, on the brink of famine and with its humanitarian situation more catastrophic than ever, is bogged down in a seventh year of war, 12 humanitarian and human rights non-governmental organisations (NGOs) are calling on President Emmanuel Macron to end France’s silent complicity by ceasing its arms sales to the states party to the conflict. On the call of the NGOs, activists gathered on Thursday 25 March 2021, for a big die-in at Place de la République in Paris.

Timid initiatives to bring Yemen out of war

Yemen is back in the international spotlight. The UN recognises the famine that is affecting the inhabitants, and the Houthist movement is stepping up its offensive on Marib at a time when the Saudis, pushed by the United States, are putting forward proposals to end the war.

Unworthy Agreement Between France and the United Arab Emirates

Since the revelations in 2019 about the use of the Yemeni gas site of Balhaf as a military base and secret prison by the United Arab Emirates, Paris has remained curiously silent. The discreet and fruitful partnership between these two countries, particularly in terms of arms sales, could explain the French silence.

Saudi Arabia

René Backmann - The Dakar Rally at the service of the Saudi dictatorship

It was not to promote motor sport in the Middle East that the inventors of the rally-raid sold Saudi Arabia the organisation of the event which started on Sunday 3 January 2021. But to help the despotic and intolerant Wahhabi regime in Riyadh to improve its international image. With the blessing of the Élysée Palace and the Quai d’Orsay, determined to spare tyrants and dictators when they are good clients of our arms industries.

Kamel Daoud - Saudi Arabia, a successful DAESH

While the West prides itself on fighting the Islamic State with ardour, it remains a faithful ally of Saudi Arabia, whose more presentable image is only a facade that hides a repressive, liberticidal, and intolerant policy. "Black Daesh, white Daesh. The former slits throats, kills, stones, cuts off hands, destroys the heritage of humanity, and hates archaeology, women and non-Muslim foreigners. The second is better dressed and cleaner, but does the same thing."


Salam - Decade of oppression

This report is a ten-year retrospective on the condition of human rights, democratic representation, and the rule of law in Bahrain since the 2011 Uprising and the violent crackdown by security forces that followed. It has drawn upon Bahrain’s social and political history to examine and explain why and how the situation there has worsened since liberal-democratic reforms were promised by King Hamad Isa bin Al Khalifa, in accordance with the recommendations of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry in 2011.

Andrew Macintosh - Segregation and Political Oppression in Bahrain

Sectarianism is currently one of the pillars of control in Bahrain. The government has embarked on a policy that has trivialised Sunni beliefs but marginalised anything approaching Shia or ’Iranian’ beliefs. The society is currently designed to isolate and control the Shiite population. This manifests itself in several ways: through religious persecution, discrimination by the authorities, segregation, poor media representation, and the importation of foreign security forces to regulate the Shi’a population.
In response to international criticism of human rights abuses, the government has claimed that the country is in a state of perpetual reform. But these "democratic reforms" are often a tool designed to weaken opposition movements.


Andreas Bjorklund - The Bidoon in Kuwait, History at a Glance

In several Gulf countries there are stateless people known as ’Bidoon’. The country where they are most present is Kuwait, where there are between 100 and 150 thousand.
Statelessness is not only a legal conundrum to overcome, but it has direct consequences on access to basic human rights and the possibility of living in dignity. Without a nationality, it is difficult, if not impossible, to prove one’s legal identity and thus to regularise one’s legal status in the country in which one lives.
This report traces the emergence of the Bidun issue in Kuwait, examines the reasons why it has not been resolved, and provides a brief overview of the current situation.

United Arab Emirates

How does Abu Dhabi play its influence in the US?

The UAE is a major investor in the US. They also have a lot of political support. Long before the recognition of Israel, Abu Dhabi developed an intense lobbying strategy in Washington. Researcher Colin Powers details its organisation and scope.

Emirates-Israel. Mohamed Ben Zayed digs his furrow in the Middle East

The agreement between Abu Dhabi and Tel Aviv, officially conditioned by the end of the annexation of Palestinian territories, is above all part of the regional policy of the United Arab Emirates, which has asserted itself as a regional power with an independent foreign policy. It represents the culmination of an offensive diplomacy put in place by the country’s strongman, Mohamed Ben Zayed.

This dossier was produced with several articles from Orient XXI, Intercoll’s partner.

In the updates of this dossier we will look for more information on social movements and their strategies.



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