By Olivier Da Lage
We have to admit that there was a pre-AlJazeera era and a post-AlJazeera era. There is no doubt that the start of broadcasting in November 1996 by the Qatar-based Arab satellite channel has profoundly changed the media and political equation in the entire Middle East. Countless articles, many books, and research papers in many languages have been devoted to "the AlJazeera phenomenon".i
State broadcasting authorities and newspaper managers in the Middle East, international broadcasters elsewhere, and governments in the region and beyond had to rethink their policies, change the way they addressed their people and the people of their neighbouring countries. Competitors were forced to set themselves up with the aim of luring away AlJazeera viewers. Where this succeeded (e.g. with Al Arabiya), it was because these other broadcasters emulated AlJazeera's formula of field reporting, and tough questioning of political figures on live interviews. Those viewers who were attracted to other channels usually continued watching AlJazeera for the sake of comparison.
By Afro-Middle East Centre
The striking advances of Houthis in Yemen, having already taken de facto control of the capital Sana'a last month, has implications for Yemen as well as for the greater Middle East. Within Yemen, they signal the return to political prominence of the Zaidi-Shia, who had been marginalised since 1962, and a divergence from the federalist future that was being contemplated for the country by President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi. Regionally, in addition to becoming part of the cold war confrontation between two hegemons, Iran and Saudi Arabia, the Houthi gains also affect the manner in which al-Qa'ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) positions itself against its various enemies.
By Kenneth Katzman
Members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) have been loyal and crucial allies of US policy in the Gulf region for over three decades. Some Gulf states, such as Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, have been pillars of US Gulf policy since the end of World War II. Furthermore, the Gulf states have fully supported all US interventions in the region in which their interests matched those of the United States. The 1991 Persian Gulf War against Saddam Hussein is one such example.
Perhaps more significant is that the Gulf states have even supported the United States in cases where the outcome of US intervention might threaten GCC interests. They supported Operation Iraqi Freedom (in March 2003) which aimed to remove Saddam Hussein from power, making bases and facilities available but not supplying any actual forces. The GCC states provided this logistical and material support (although publicly opposing the action as an unjustified war on an Arab state) even though they knew that ousting Saddam would inevitably lead to an Iraq dominated by the majority Shiite Arab Muslims.
The decision to allow women to participate in the Shura Council and municipal councils of Saudi Arabia is an important step forward, especially given that Saudi Arabia is in dire need of any movement on this issue. At the same time, however, such a step is not expected to bring about the desired concrete and effective changes, given the limitations of the realities on the ground. Furthermore, the predominant popular and cultural impression of the Shura and municipal councils in the Kingdom is that they offer no space for any real and meaningful participation in the political decision-making of the state.
By Abd al-Jalil al-Marhoun
Seen through the prism of geopolitics, interactions related to security in the Arabian Gulf are - in principle - closely connected to the reality of more general regional security. This perspective can also be expanded to include the impact on the wider scope of regional and international policies.
There are eight countries that reside on the shores of the Arabian Gulf: the six members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) - Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, The United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain, and Oman - and Iraq and Iran. Traditionally, the Gulf was divided into three zones: Iraq in the north, Iran in the west, and the six GCC countries (also known as the inland Gulf countries) in the east.