Children play in the surf at Kite Beach in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Jan. 8, 2016 (AP photo by Jon Gambrell).

Tucked just below the surface of the ongoing Saudi- and Emirati-led blockade of Qatar lies a seemingly banal rationale for the dramatic standoff: the future of tourism in the Gulf. When vacationers think of sun, luxury or both, which futuristic city will they think of: Doha or Dubai? As part of their post-oil economic strategies, Gulf states have doubled down on tourism, none more so than the United Arab Emirates and Qatar. The skylines of Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Doha all glitter with ever newer, ever more luxurious high-rise hotels, as Emirati and Qatari development plans pin their hopes on […]

Equatorial Guinea’s president, Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, during the India-Africa Forum Summit, New Delhi, India, Oct. 29, 2015 (AP photo by Manish Swarup).

Editor’s Note: Every Friday, Associate Editor Robbie Corey-Boulet curates the top news and analysis from and about the African continent. In March 2007, a group of NGOs filed a complaint in France against the ruling families of a handful of African countries, alleging that property and other assets they owned in France were obtained via corruption. A decade of legal wrangling later, the first trial in the so-called “biens mal acquis,” or ill-gotten gains, affair is now in full swing, with hearings unfolding in Paris in the case of Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue, the vice president of oil-rich Equatorial Guinea […]

South Sudanese refugee children catch water overflowing from a reservoir being filled at the Imvepi reception center, northern Uganda, June 9, 2017 (AP photo by Ben Curtis).

Last Tuesday, which was World Refugee Day, the United Nations refugee agency reported three new shipwrecks off the coast of Libya involving vessels carrying refugees and migrants. One of them, a rubber dinghy, “began taking on water just hours into its journey,” and 129 people were missing after it capsized. Another boat, which was carrying 85 people, including many families with children, broke in two before sinking. The U.N. reports that more than 77,000 people have tried to make the sea crossing to Europe so far this year. The U.N. refugee agency’s Global Trends study for 2016, released to coincide […]

A hotel staff member mops the floor in front of a picture featuring portraits of the late North Korean leaders Kim Il Sung, left, and Kim Jong Il, Pyongyang, North Korea, June 19, 2017 (AP photo by Wong Maye-E).

Editor’s note: This is the second of a two-part column. The first part can be found here. America’s military involvement in Syria topped this week’s headlines, but North Korea remains the most dangerous security problem the United States faces. Pyongyang has not engaged in any outright military provocations for a few weeks. But the death of Otto Warmbier, an American student arrested in Pyongyang a year ago and returned last week in an unexplained comatose state, has amplified anger against the bizarre Kim Jong Un regime and led to calls for expanded sanctions against it. On Tuesday, U.S. President Donald […]

A refugee builds a temporary shelter in the Imvepi camp, Uganda, April 6, 2017 (AP photo by Jerome Delay).

Editor’s Note: Every Friday, Associate Editor Robbie Corey-Boulet curates the top news and analysis from and about the African continent. The United Nations used World Refugee Day to launch an appeal for $8 billion to address South Sudan’s refugee crisis, as news from inside South Sudan indicated there was no sign it would be letting up anytime soon. At a summit on Friday in Uganda that authorities hoped would raise $2 billion, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres praised that country’s “exemplary refugee policy,” under which refugees enjoy freedom of movement and are permitted to work. However, Uganda is currently hosting nearly […]

Defense Secretary James Mattis looks over his notes before a news conference at the Pentagon to give an update on the Islamic State group, Washington, May 19, 2017 (AP photo by Jacquelyn Martin).

As the fight against the so-called Islamic State approaches its endgame, the United States seems to be stumbling its way up the escalation ladder in Syria. Repeated U.S. airstrikes against Syrian forces and allied militias in southeastern Syria had already caused alarm that the U.S. might be drawn deeper into the country’s civil war. The downing of a Syrian warplane by a U.S. fighter jet over the weekend punctuated those concerns. In response, Russia announced it would suspend the use of a communication channel to “deconflict” air operations over Syria—that is, avoid unintended confrontations between Russian and American jets—although the […]

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, right, accompanied by Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, waves to his supporters during a campaign rally, Isfahan, Iran, May 14, 2017 (AP photo by Vahid Salemi).

Last week, the U.S. Senate passed a bill imposing new sanctions on Iran and Russia. Even if the bill makes it through the legislative process to become law, it should not derail the 2015 agreement that curtails Iran’s nuclear activities. But more intangible factors, including Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s recent comments on the Iranian regime, could do harm to the agreement’s durability. The sustainability of the Iran nuclear agreement, one of former President Barack Obama’s signature foreign policy achievements, has been in doubt since Donald Trump’s presidential election. On the campaign, Trump mocked the agreement and suggested that he […]

Khalid Al-Falih, Saudi Arabia’s energy minister, and Mohammad Sanusi Barkindo, the Nigerian secretary-general of OPEC, attend an OPEC meeting, Vienna, Austria, May 25, 2017 (AP photo by Ronald Zak).

Across Africa, governments have reacted swiftly to the rift between Saudi Arabia, backed by allied states, and Qatar, with a number of countries signaling their support for Riyadh. West Africa is no exception. Mauritania has announced it is cutting ties with Qatar, while Senegal and Niger have recalled their ambassadors in Doha. Such positions reflect Saudi Arabia’s strong standing in the region despite Qatar’s active diplomacy in recent years. In an email interview, Rahmane Idrissa, a political scientist currently based at the University of Gottingen in Germany and the author of “The Politics of Islam in the Sahel,” explains how […]

Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan during a welcome ceremony in Doha, Feb. 15, 2017 (Press Presidency Press Service photo by Kayhan Ozer via AP).

Like the rest of the world, Turkey was blindsided by the sudden decision by Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain to cut all diplomatic, trade and transportation ties with Qatar earlier this month. Ankara is now scrambling to respond coherently to this new headache over Qatar, a state with which it has deepened ties in recent years. This is a strategic dilemma of the first degree for Turkey. If Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan fails to stand by the only true Arab ally he has left, he could lose all semblance of influence in the Arab world. […]

Tribesmen loyal to Houthi rebels attend a gathering aimed at mobilizing more fighters, Sanaa, Yemen, June 20, 2016 (AP photo by Hani Mohammed).

In this week’s Trend Lines podcast, WPR’s editor-in-chief, Judah Grunstein, and senior editor, Frederick Deknatel, discuss the contrasting fortunes of British Prime Minister Theresa May and French President Emmanuel Macron, and the implications of the British and French elections for the EU. For the Report, Laura Kasinof talks with Peter Dörrie about how, amid the chaos of Yemen’s ongoing crisis, former Yemeni President Ali Adullah Saleh has maneuvered himself back into a position of power. If you’d like to sign up for the beta version of WPR’s Africa-only subscription, you can do so here. It’s free for the first two […]

Iranians attend the funeral of victims of last week’s attack by the self-styled Islamic State group, Tehran, June 9, 2017 (AP photo by Ebrahim Noroozi).

Last week, while a great deal of attention was focused on the aftermath of the terrorist attack in central London, another wave of jihadi killings unfolded a continent away, in the heart of the Islamic Republic of Iran. The perpetrators of the June 7 operation in Tehran struck directly at regime targets, hitting the country’s parliament and the shrine to its founder, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, killing 17 people and wounding more than 50. The so-called Islamic State quickly took responsibility for the attacks in both London and Tehran, adding evidence to the theory that as it loses ground in Syria […]

Teachers, health workers and civil servants join a three-day strike over plans to tighten spending and increase the retirement age, Algiers, Nov. 21, 2016 (AP photo by Sidali Djarboub).

Editor’s Note: This is the first article in an ongoing WPR series on social welfare policies in various countries around the world. On June 1, state media in Algeria reported that President Abdelaziz Bouteflika had ordered a 2.5 percent increase in pensions for retirees, on top of an equivalent increase awarded in 2016. According to Reuters, there are 2.8 million retirees receiving pensions in Algeria, and the decision to increase their income comes as the oil-producing country struggles to adapt to reduced oil prices and considers reforms to its broader social welfare system. In an email interview, Azzedine Layachi, a […]

A woman sells bread near the Tawfiqia market, Cairo, Egypt, Oct. 18, 2016 (AP photo by Nariman El-Mofty).

CAIRO, Egypt—In November 2016, Egypt’s major cities experienced something that has become rare since a military coup led by then-Gen.—and now President—Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi in July 2013: protests. In the streets and at universities in Cairo, Alexandria and Port Said, Egyptians took great risks in sight of the police to gather and demonstrate against price hikes and bread shortages. Until then, the country had appeared to have settled into a period of relative calm. Five years after the uprisings that brought down former President Hosni Mubarak, and three years on from the coup that felled his democratically elected successor, Mohamed Morsi, […]

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses members of the ruling Justice and Development Party, Ankara, June 13, 2017 (Pool photo via AP).

As the dust settles from President Donald Trump’s first visit to the Middle East, his policy in the region, such as it exists, is harkening back to the years before his predecessor, Barack Obama. Obama only sought minor recalibrations in long-standing U.S. policy toward its allies in the region, and his criticisms of them amounted to the mildest rebukes. But Trump’s visit made it clear that Saudi Arabia and Israel are, once again, the unmistakable pillars of America’s Middle East posture. Egypt also seems more firmly in the U.S. orbit than ever, given Trump and Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi’s mutual […]

The skyline of Doha’s West Bay neighborhood, Qatar, Jan. 6, 2011 (AP photo by Saurabh Das).

A ransom payment for a kidnapped royal hunting party. Hacking claims and “fake news.” A blockade that U.S. President Donald Trump appeared to take credit for, hours after his secretary of state called for it to be lifted. “The biggest bovine airlift in history.” The escalating rift between Qatar, the tiny Gulf state with a big foreign policy agenda, and its neighbors, led by Saudi Arabia, already had all the makings of a geopolitical soap opera. And the plot keeps thickening. On Monday, Qatari shipping lines were rerouted to Oman, bypassing their usual ports in the United Arab Emirates, which […]

Omani Minister for Foreign Affairs Yousif bin Alawi bin Abdullah, left, arrives at the Gulf Cooperation Council foreign ministers meeting in Doha, Qatar, Dec. 9, 2014 (AP photo by Osama Faisal).

The dramatic crisis pitting tiny, oil-wealthy Qatar against regional powers Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt raises the question of the survivability of the Gulf Cooperation Council, the regional organization of six Gulf states. Most likely, Qatar will make some concessions to return to the fold. But the GCC will end up weaker as a result, and Riyadh’s ambition to push for deeper unity of effort among the six states will not be realized. The political assault against Qatar has seen Saudi Arabia, the UAE and other states break diplomatic ties with Doha, as well as close their […]

Supporters of former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh attend a rally marking one year of the Saudi-led coalition, Sanaa, Yemen, March 26, 2016. (AP photo by Hani Mohammed).

In March, to mark—and taunt—the two-year anniversary of the military intervention launched by Saudi Arabia in northern Yemen, former President Ali Abdullah Saleh marched down a major thoroughfare in the Yemeni capital, Sanaa, surrounded by throngs of adoring supporters. Bodyguards cleared his path as a crowd of tens of thousands cheered him on. The Sanaanis, as the capital’s residents are called, were overjoyed to catch sight of the man they consider their leader—even though he was forced to step down as president five years prior. Saleh delivered a speech to the crowd in his clipped northern accent, triumphantly declaring that […]

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