GCC News Roundup: Saudi Arabia’s driving ban ends, Yemen’s warring parties agree to resume negotiations (June 1 – June 30)

Majdooleen, who is among the first Saudi women allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia, drives her mother to work in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia June 24, 2018. REUTERS/Faisal Al Nasser

Content from the Brookings Doha Center is now archived. In September 2021, after 14 years of impactful partnership, Brookings and the Brookings Doha Center announced that they were ending their affiliation. The Brookings Doha Center is now the Middle East Council on Global Affairs, a separate public policy institution based in Qatar.

Saudi Arabia threatens military action in the wake of Qatar’s interest in Russian defense systems

According to the French newspaper Le Monde, Saudi Arabia’s King Salman threatened military action against Qatar if the country were to install a Russian air defense system. The newspaper reported that King Salman had written to the French President and had expressed concern over Qatari – Russian military ties. In 2017 Russia and Qatar signed a military agreement after which Qatar was in talks with Russia for the purchase of Russian S-400 missile air defense systems. According to the letter by King Salman quoted in Le Monde, “The kingdom would be ready to take all necessary measures to eliminate this defense system, including military action.”

Qatar criticizes Saudi military threat

Qatar’s Foreign Minister expressed his concern over King Salman’s letter to French President Emmanuel Macron, in which the Saudi monarch threatened military action against Qatar. In an interview with Al Jazeera, Qatar’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani stated that he did not believe the Saudi threat to be serious. However, he criticized the panic inducing disturbance caused by the letter. There is no serious military threat out of this, but the way it is being used to justify or to create a disturbance in the region is just unacceptable,” he said. “There is no legitimate grievance behind this letter and threatening Qatar.”

Imprisoned Shiite leader acquitted in Bahrain spy case

A Bahraini opposition leader was formally acquitted of espionage charges, marking a distinctive win for the country’s political opposition and activist groups. The accused, namely, Shiite cleric, Sheikh Ali Salman, was the leader of the nation’s largest opposition party, Al-Wefaq and had played a prominent role in the country’s Arab Spring demonstrations in 2011. However according to Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, the director of advocacy at the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy, the victory of acquittal is not enough: “Despite his acquittal, Sheikh Salman will continue to languish in Jaw Prison for exercising his right to freedom of expression.” The charges against Salman were linked to recorded telephone calls between Salman and Qatar’s former prime minister, Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim Al Thani, during the 2011 protests.

Saudi driving ban ends

Saudi Arabia’s ban on female drivers ended as a result of reforms pushed by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The historic move marked a pivotal moment in the young monarch’s bid to diversify the Saudi economy and to boost foreign investment.

UAE addresses Qatar’s discrimination lawsuit at UN high court

The United Arab Emirates challenged Qatar’s discrimination lawsuit before the UN’s International Court of Justice on Thursday, June 28. The UAE’s defense team alleged that there was substantial evidence of Doha’s, “support of terrorism, its interference in the affairs of its neighbors and its distribution of hate speech.” During the court session, one of the UAE’s official representatives contradicted the UAE Foreign Ministry’s 2017 directives regarding the expulsion of Qatari citizens from the UAE. According to Saeed Ali al-Nuwais, the UAE’s ambassador to the Netherlands, “The UAE completely rejects these allegations, all of which are without any merit.”

Earlier in June, Qatar filed a lawsuit accusing the UAE of the mass expulsion of Qataris, a move considered to be a violation of the obligatory statutes of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.

Yemeni government and Houthis agree to UN-sponsored negotiation talks

On Thursday June 28, U.N. special envoy Martin Griffiths announced plans for negotiation talks between Yemen’s warring parties. After a two-year break in negotiations, the Houthis and the Saudi-backed government coalition both confirmed their willingness to participate. Leading up to this announcement, Griffiths had already been in contact with both parties in order to discuss the situation in Hodeida. Earlier in June, the Saudi-led security forces launched an offensive to seize Hodeida. The fighting has unfolded both within and across the city’s airport, which has left millions of Yemeni citizens vulnerable to mass starvation. The Houthis agreed to have the U.N. supervise Hodeida’s port, pending an “overall ceasefire,” which was also accepted by Yemeni government forces. According to Griffiths, the U. N’s management role will begin once a formal agreement has been set in place.

Trump mounts pressure on Saudi Arabia to increase oil production

U.S President Donald Trump tweeted that he had orchestrated an increase in oil production in his talks with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman. The declaration came after President Trump’s continued efforts to pressure the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) into increasing oil supplies. According to The New York Times, the Trump administration, “has been signaling that it wants to take much of Iran’s oil exports off the market.” Analysts expressed that the strategy of increased oil production from Saudi Arabia is crucial to the Trump administration’s containment of Iran and to securing some stability in oil prices.