Gulf Research Center
GRC Premium Members Roundtable
As part of the quartely briefing for Premium Members, analysts of the Gulf Research Center provided their assessment of the key issues dominating regional Gulf affairs during the first three months of 2010 from a regional security, international relations, economic and energy perspective. In his opening remarks, GRC Chairman Abdulaziz Sager gave a panoramic overview suggesting that while the first quarter of 2010 had been relatively stable, a broad array of challenges remain with the Iranian nuclear program, the situation in Yemen, and the implications of the global financial crisis staying in the forefront. Prof. Giacomo Luciani, Director of the Gulf Research Center Foundation in Geneva, gave his assessment of development in the energy sector by highlighting the oil contracts being signed in Iraq, the unexpected continued high demand for oil coming from China, and the issue concerning the oversupply of LNG and its implications for Qatar. Dr. Mustafa Alani provided an overview of the security issues by listing Iraq, Iran, Yemen and Afghanistan as the immediate areas of concern. On Iraq, he mentioned that while the election process went ahead smoothly, the result is greater uncertainty about the future political stability of the country. On Iran, the possibility of military conflict over the country’s nuclear program remains and possible Israeli action on this issue cannot be discounted. On the international relations front, Dr. Christian Koch, Director for International Studies highlighted the general disappointment of the region with the first year of the Obama administration, especially as far as the Arab-Israeli peace process is concerned, but he also expressed his view that the next few months might witness a more active American President now that the domestic debate about health care in the United States had been finished. Overall, the GCC states are continuing their policies to diversify their international relationships. A key indicator is that while no European Head of State had visited the GCC countries so far in 2010, the region had seen numerous dignitaries from Asia including the visit of the Indian Prime Minister to Saudi Arabia and Qatar’s Emir had visited Brazil and Argentina. Finally, Dr. Mohammad Raouf, Senior Researcher for GCC Environment issues highlighted the growing relevance of more encompassing green economic policies for the region although the actual implementation within the GCC region remains slow and generally haphazard. For example, while the issue of water scarcity is acute, the problem lies more in water management than anything else. In the discussions that followed, much focus was on the outcome of the Iraqi elections, the validity of the oil contracts now being signed in Iraq, and the dilemmas facing the Obama administration as it tries to find a diplomatic solution to the Iranian nuclear issue.
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