Events in the Middle East in June have been dominated by a political crisis that has seen Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt cut diplomatic ties with Qatar and close land, air and sea links with the country (pages 14-15). The group accuses Doha of pursuing policies that are destabilising the region and has issued a list of demands it wants Qatar to adhere to.

Later in June, Saudi Arabia announced the promotion of Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to crown prince, usurping Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef in the process. Elsewhere, Egypt lifted restrictions on foreign currency transactions, after years of battling a currency crisis.

Doha told to comply with demands by 3 July

On 24 June, Qatar rejected a list of 13 demands presented two days earlier by Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt, on the grounds that the requests were unreasonable.

The stipulations called for Doha to shut down state-owned broadcaster Al-Jazeera, cut diplomatic ties with Iran and close a Turkish military base in Qatar.

13

Number of demands on list issued to Qatar by Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt

31

Age of Saudi Arabia’s new crown prince

Doha denies accusations that it is funding terrorism and fostering regional instability, and has asserted its sovereign right to pursue its own foreign policy. The UAE’s foreign minister, in turn, has suggested ties may be cut completely.

Prince Mohammed bin Salman appointed crown prince  

The promotion of Mohammed bin Salman al-Saud to crown prince of Saudi Arabia has been anticipated ever since he was named deputy crown prince in April 2015. The timing, however, was unexpected.

His appointment comes at a testing time for the kingdom, which is still adjusting to the fall in oil prices since 2014 and is seeing rising tensions with its traditional regional rival Iran.

Prince Mohammed has been the face of Riyadh’s Vision 2030 economic reform programme and, as defence minister, has led the kingdom’s war in Yemen.

His carefully choreographed appointment, which saw the removal of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, was accompanied by the promotion of a host of other young figures to government posts.

The reshuffle shows that King Salman has a clear succession plan in place, which he hopes will smooth the transition of leadership of Saudi Arabia to the next generation of Al-Sauds.

Cairo finalises Saudi island deal

Egypt’s President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi on 24 June ratified a controversial treaty that transfers two largely uninhabited Red Sea islands to Riyadh.

The deal to hand over Tiran and Sanafir was agreed during a visit to Egypt by Saudi Arabia’s King Salman in June 2016 and was backed by the Egyptian parliament on 14 June.

It has sparked protests in Egypt, with Al-Sisi being accused of “selling” territory in return for Saudi aid. A legal battle over the islands’ status continues.

Saudi security forces foil Mecca attack

Saudi Arabia foiled an attempted terror attack targeting the Grand Mosque in Mecca on 23 June.

According to a statement from the Saudi Interior Ministry, there was an exchange of gunfire with one of the suspects, who eventually blew himself up in a residential area. Five people, including a woman, were arrested in security operations in Mecca, the Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya news website said, citing Interior Ministry security spokesman Mansour al-Turki.

Five security force members and six other people were injured, the report said.

The attack was planned as millions of Muslims from around the world were gathering in Mecca to celebrate the end of the holy month of Ramadan.

Cairo eases foreign currency restrictions

Cairo’s decision to lift restrictions on foreign currency transactions will be welcomed by international firms that previously struggled with the issue.

The decision, which was taken by the Central Bank of Egypt, was communicated as a key milestone for the country, following the flotation of the currency last year.

It is an attempt to spur foreign direct investment and a sign that the supply of foreign currency in Egypt is improving.

$17bn

Amount of foreign currency inflows since Cairo’s flotation of the pound

$28.5bn

Egypt’s foreign reserves in April

Restrictions on individuals and firms had, at times, severely affected the ability to withdraw profits and dividends.

Many foreign companies were deterred from entering the market for fear of having funds stuck in Egypt. Some firms even left the market.

Doha signs $12bn defence deal with US

The defence ministries of Qatar and the US have signed a deal worth an estimated $12bn for the supply of F-15 fighter jets. The agreement is understood to cover 36 jets, which will be manufactured by Boeing.

The $12bn sale will give Qatar a state-of-the-art capability and increase security cooperation and interoperability between the US and Qatar, a Pentagon spokesman said in a statement.

The sale was agreed despite criticism of Qatar’s foreign policy by US President Donald Trump and the ongoing dispute with its GCC neighbours. It follows Doha’s award in February of a $1.07bn contract to US-based Raytheon for an early warning radar system.

Isis claims Iran attacks

Iran fell victim to a twin attack on its parliament and the mausoleum of Ayatollah Khomeini on 7 June, leaving 17 dead and injuring 50.

The terrorist attacks, the first in many years on Iranian soil, have been claimed by the jihadist group Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (Isis), which has denounced Shia Iran as a nation of heretics in the past.

Iran’s intelligence minister Mahmoud Alavi said security forces had killed the commander of the operation, in which five men dressed as women opened fire on visitors to the Majlis-e Shoura and the mausoleum.

Two of the attackers detonated explosive vests themselves, while the others were shot dead by security forces.

Yemen faces world’s worst cholera outbreak

A statement by Unicef and the World Health Organisation on 24 June said the number of suspected cholera cases in Yemen has exceeded 200,000.

So far, more than 1,300 people have died – one quarter of them children – with the death toll expected to rise. An estimated 5,000 new cases are being diagnosed every day.

200,000+

Number of cholera cases in Yemen

1,300+

Deaths attributed to the outbreak

5,000

Number of new cases a day

25%

The proportion of children among the dead

The two UN agencies say they are doing everything they can to stop the outbreak from accelerating further. “We are now facing the worst cholera outbreak in the world,” the statement said. “In just two months, cholera has spread to almost every governorate of this war-torn country.”

Further reading

Iran begins supplying gas to power plants in Iraq

Iran has begun gas exports to Iraq, four years after an agreement to transport the fuel from the South Pars field was signed. Iran is starting with an initial supply of 7 million cubic metres a day to Iraq’s Sadr, Baghdad and Al-Mansuriya power stations.

Elsewedy submits lowest price for Dubai power project

Egypt’s Elswedy Power has submitted the lowest bid for the engineering, procurement and construction contract for Dubai’s H-Station power plant. Proposals were received from 12 contractors for the fourth phase expansion of the H-station.

Oman postpones Misfah IPP for at least a year

Oman Power & Water Procurement Company (OPWP) has postponed plans to tender the new Misfah independent power project (IPP). On 20 June, prequalified developers were informed by OPWP that it was deferring the project for at least one year.

Frontrunner emerges for final Kuwait New Refinery package

Italy’s Saipem is the frontrunner for the final package of Kuwait’s New Refinery Project after submitting a bid of $842m, according to sources close to the scheme. The retendered package comprises pipelines to supply crude and gas feedstock.