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AssessmentsOct 23, 2020 | 20:31 GMT
Former Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri arrives at the office of President Michel Aoun, after the latter appointed him to form a government on Oct. 22, 2020, in Beirut, Lebanon.
In Lebanon, Hariri’s Return Will Ease Markets and Enrage Protesters
Saad Hariri’s return as Lebanon’s prime minister will unlock access to French aid and likely improve the country’s economic stability, but it will also trigger a fresh round of unrest by reinforcing popular perceptions that political reform is unlikely. On Oct. 22, Lebanese President Michel Aoun named Hariri, a prominent Sunni politician, prime minister-designate and tasked him with forming a government. Most political parties approved the nomination, indicating cross-sectarian approval for the three-time prime minister. The Iran-backed militant group and Shiite political party, Hezbollah, even tacitly approved Hariri’s nomination, despite disapproving of other candidates up to this point. 
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AssessmentsOct 23, 2020 | 18:21 GMT
Fans of the Saudi national football team cheer during a match against Qatar at the King Fahad International Stadium in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on Nov. 26, 2014.
Budget Cuts Will Test Saudis’ Loyalty to Their Government
New survey data suggests that Saudi Arabia’s citizens remain politically aligned with and supportive of the government, though that support may quickly dissipate as Riyadh makes difficult decisions on economic restructuring. The Arab Opinion Index, a survey compiled by the Doha Institute in Qatar, gives rare insight into regional social and political trends in the Middle East. For Saudi Arabia, the latest survey findings reveal a population largely content with their economic and political situations. Saudis’ economic well-being, however, will be undercut as pandemic-related losses of oil revenue and the arrival of peak oil demand force their government to make deeper cuts to crucial social programs, creating pockets of unrest across the kingdom.
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AssessmentsOct 12, 2020 | 20:57 GMT
A picture taken during a helicopter tour organized by the government of the United Arab Emirates shows an aerial view of Dubai on July 8, 2020.
A Larger UAE Citizenry Would Mean Smoother Policymaking and Rockier Regional Ties
The United Arab Emirates is considering offering citizenship to its large expatriate population, which would significantly alter the country’s political economy, as well as its regional relationships, by assimilating non-Arab Gulf residents into its middle- and upper-classes. Over time, this new group of foreign-born Emirati citizens would likely erode the tribal and ethnic dynamics that have long shaped the governance of Abu Dhabi and Dubai, along with the cultural foundations driving many aspects of cooperation in the Arab Gulf. On Sept. 30, the Emirati government unveiled proposed changes to the country’s citizenship law that would ease the way for investors, long-term residents and wealthy foreigners to earn a permanent place in the country. With foreigners far outnumbering its local population, the United Arab Emirates’ current citizenship laws have offset the country’s long-standing demographic imbalances by ensuring the influence and prominence of its minority Emiratis via special legal and political protections. Changing
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AssessmentsOct 1, 2020 | 10:00 GMT
A masked Hamas militant mans a machine gun in the back of a pickup truck in the Palestinian city of Rafah, located in the southern Gaza Strip, on Oct. 17, 2019. The yellow flags of the Palestinian party Fatah can also be seen in the background.
Abandoned by Old Allies, Palestinian Leaders Turn to Turkey -- and Each Other
A Turkey-brokered agreement to hold the first Palestinian elections in 15 years suggests a new appetite for cooperation between the territories’ staunch political rivals, along with a new mediating role for Ankara, in light of warming Israeli-Arab Gulf relations. On Sept. 23-24, high-level representatives from Palestinian parties Fatah and Hamas met in Istanbul for a two-day discussion hosted by Turkey’s foreign ministry. After the meeting, a Hamas spokesperson announced that the two parties -- which have been engaged in more than a decade of infighting -- had agreed to begin planning elections within six months. 
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Quarterly ForecastsSep 28, 2020 | 11:00 GMT
2020 Fourth-Quarter Forecast
The last quarter of 2020 will be a waiting game -- waiting for the results of the U.S. election in November, waiting on economic numbers, and waiting to see how the COVID-19 crisis plays out.
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SnapshotsSep 25, 2020 | 17:42 GMT
In Kuwait, a Blocked Debt Law Portends a Dissolved Parliament
Kuwait’s pandemic-related financial struggles may force its leader, Emir Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah, to bypass the country’s legislative process in order to push through a crucial debt law that remains locked in parliament. The need to enact other overdue reforms may also tempt Al Sabah to extend a potential parliamentary suspension -- a politically risky move that would also require suspending Kuwait's constitution. On Sept. 23, Moody’s Investors Service downgraded Kuwait's sovereign credit rating for the first time to “A1,” citing the country's liquidity crisis that has been brought on by low oil prices due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In its announcement, Moody’s also specifically referenced the Kuwaiti government’s failure to pass a debt law that would help mitigate the country’s current financial woes by enabling its finance ministry to issue sovereign bonds.
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SnapshotsSep 24, 2020 | 19:59 GMT
COVID-19 Tests Jordan’s Stability
Jordan’s deteriorating social and economic conditions due to COVID-19 are driving support to Islamist parties, raising the risk of a government crackdown that could fan the flames of radicalism. Despite recording fewer than 5,000 COVID-19 cases since March, Jordan has taken a strict lockdown approach, with tight border controls and restricted incoming arrivals for tourist locations. The subsequent impact on business activity, and in particular tourism revenue (which accounts for nearly 20 percent of Jordan’s GDP), has in turn taken a steep toll country’s economy, with unemployment now expected to hit an all-time high of 25 percent by the end of this year. 
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On GeopoliticsSep 4, 2020 | 10:00 GMT
A satellite image of the Middle East and North Africa. 
A New Brand of Nationalism Takes Root in the Middle East
Once the salve for crushed Middle Eastern empires, Pan-Islamism and its vision of a singular caliphate are now increasingly seen as a threat to stability in the region, with countries such as the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia turning toward nationalism to instead define their policies and behavior. Indeed, even the countries that still claim to embody the movement’s ideals, such as Qatar and Turkey, are only doing so as a means to a nationalist end, exploiting its preachings of Islamic unity to project their government’s strength at home and abroad. This trend has most recently been illuminated by the UAE-Israel normalization pact by dealing yet another blow to the idea that a global Muslim community, despite its many differences, could at the very least agree on issues such as the Palestinian question. 
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AssessmentsAug 28, 2020 | 10:00 GMT
Legislators attend a plenary session in Tunisia's parliament on June 3, 2020.
Polarized Politics Plagues Tunisia’s Economic Prospects
Tunisia's third attempt to form a government in less than a year is unlikely to resolve the dysfunctional partisan infighting that saw the demise its last two governments, leaving its leaders unable or unwilling to pass the reforms needed to mitigate the country's deepening economic crisis. Following his predecessor Elyes Fakhfakh's July 15 resignation, Tunisia's prime minister-designate Hichem Mechichi unveiled a new cabinet of independent technocratic ministers on Aug. 24, which will go to a parliamentary vote on Sept. 1. But even if Mechichi's proposed government is approved by the country's highly divided parliament, Tunisia's deep-rooted party rivalries ensure little actual governing will be done, weakening Tunisia's ability to secure much-needed external funding, as well as serve as a model democracy in the Arab world.
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SnapshotsAug 26, 2020 | 20:58 GMT
Despite a Rocky Start, UAE-Israeli Defense Ties Are Poised to Grow
The United Arab Emirates' desire to simultaneously upgrade its defense ties with Israel and the United States will probably create political controversy in both countries, though the benefits of deeper security cooperation with Abu Dhabi is more likely to earn greater support in Israel than Washington. On Aug. 25, Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz and his Emirati counterpart, Mohammed al-Bawardi, reportedly discussed possible security cooperation in their two countries' first publicly-known phone call since agreeing to normalize ties. The call came a day after the United Arab Emirates canceled a planned trilateral meeting with the United States and Israel in response to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's public objection to the potential sale of the American F-35 stealth fighter jets to Abu Dhabi.
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AssessmentsAug 25, 2020 | 10:00 GMT
A vintage map of the Middle East.
What's Driving Muslim Countries to Normalize Their Ties With Israel?
The waning influence of the pan-Islamism and pan-Arabism movements, combined with increasing U.S. pressure, will cause Oman, Bahrain and Morocco to soon join the United Arab Emirates in formalizing ties with Israel, accelerating a longer-term normalization trend that no longer hinges on the formation of a Palestinian state. The allure of Israel's technology and defense capabilities could also compel other Muslim states with covert ties and limited histories of overt conflict with Israel, such as Pakistan, to follow suit. Israel will, in turn, see expanding global economic ties that strengthen its post-pandemic recovery, as well as stronger regional allies that bolster its position against Iran should the upcoming U.S. election yield a less hawkish administration in Washington.
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