Year in Review – Middle East

A brief rundown of 2010

Dec28: The American oil company Noble Energy signed a letter of intent to provideIsrael with natural gas from the Tamar field, discovered in January 2009 and located some 90 kilometers offshore ofthe country’s northern coast. The field, which may run into Lebaneseterritorial water, can potentially produce up to $750 million worth of naturalgas annually, according to Noble.

Jan4: The world’s tallest building, theBurj Khalifa, officially opened in Dubai with a spectacular display of 10,000 fireworks, light beams, music andsound effects. Formerly known as the Burj Dubai, the 828 meter-high buildingwas renamed after the ruler of neighboring Abu Dhabi, who bailed outdebt-ridden Dubai at the end of 2009.

Jan9: In 2009, Abu Dhabi’s economymade a significant turnaround withjust 0.8 percent inflation, down from 14.8 percent in 2008, according to theStatistics Center of Abu Dhabi, the official body concerned with the collectionof statistical data in the emirate. A fall in commodity prices and the effectsof the global financial crisis were the primary reasons for the improvement,the center said.

Jan10: Sheikh Issa, the brother ofthe United Arab Emirates president, was acquitted on charges of torture, a year after a video obtained by the American TV networkABC showed Issa graphically torturing an Afghan grain dealer. According toIssa’s lawyer, “The court accepted our defense that the Sheikh was under theinfluence of drugs that left him unaware of his actions.”

Jan12: According to the US-based FreedomHouse Index, the Arab world is the most repressive region globally and several countries that had shown improvements inrecent years had regressed. Jordan, Bahrain and Yemen were downgraded from“partly free” to “not free” and 88 percent of Arab populations were deemed tolack basic rights. January 2010

Jan19: Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, an exiledHamas military commander who had been living in Syria for the past 20 years,was assassinated — by strangulationand electric shock — in a hotel room in Dubai. Israel refused to comment onallegations that it was behind the killing, and the UAE said the perpetratorshad already fled the country.

Jan20: According to the globalconsultancy firm Control Risks Crude, oil prices were expected to remainstable in 2010 after two years ofmarket fluctuations brought on by the global economic downturn, with barrelprices hovering around the $80 mark. “We called the price at $70 for 2009,which people said was crazy at the time, but which turned out to be pretty muchon tap,” said Jonathan Wood, global issues analyst at Control Risks.

Jan20: David Jackson, the CEO ofDubai Holding’s investment arm, Istithmar World, resigned and was replaced by the company’s chief investmentofficer, Andy Watson, as the government-owned conglomerate struggled torestructure an estimated $22 billion in debt.

Jan25: Standard & Poor’swithdrew its credit rating for the government-owned Dubai Holding CommercialOperations Group citing“insufficient information” and claiming that the group was “likely to bematerially weaker” than previously thought.

Jan25: Iran’s Central Bank governor,Mahmoud Bahmani, said Iran’s banking system had $48 billion innon-performing loans and was on the brink of a crisis. Meanwhile, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announcedthat three zeros would be knocked off the Iranian currency, but did not statewhen the measure — intended to help recover the rial’s depreciated value —would take place.

Jan25: Shortly after taking off fromBeirut in stormy weather, Ethiopian Airways Flight 409 crashed into theMediterranean, killing all 90 persons on board, including 51 Lebanese nationals, 31 Ethiopians andthe French ambassador’s wife. Media speculation abounded about the cause of theaccident — ranging from lightning and pilot error to sabotage and a bomb onboard.

Jan31: The Washington Post reported that the Obama administration wasquietly speeding up arms sales and upgrading defenses for oil terminals and keyinfrastructure in Saudi Arabia andother Persian Gulf allies, to thwart attacks by Iran. The initiatives wouldtriple the size of America’s forces in Saudi Arabia.

Feb1: Following the cessation of atwo-month long military campaign against Yemeni rebels along the border inwhich at least 133 Saudi troops were killed, Saudi Arabia’s deputy defenseminister, Khalid bin Sultan, said some 69 percent of Saudi soldiers areoverweight and that this posed a threat to “combat efficiency.” Bin Sultan himself underwent gastric bypass surgeryin the US to lose weight, the UPI newswire claimed.

Feb3: Ahead of scheduled Marchelections, an Iraqi appeals court overturned a ban on hundreds of candidatesfor suspected ties to the former Baath party. “The appeal court will look at their file after the election,” and ifthey find them to have links to Saddam’s outlawed Baath party, “they will beeliminated,” Hamdia al-Husseini, an electoral commission official, told Iraqistate TV.

Feb4: Loaded House, a traditionalEmirati restaurant in Dubai, introduced its newest entrée — a quarter-poundcamel burger, which comes loadedwith cheese and burger sauce and a side of fries, priced at $5.45. Therestaurant’s assistant manager claimed that the burger was fat andcholesterol-free, but declined to comment on how the outlet tenderized the toughmeat.

Feb7: Saudi Arabia’s Prince Turkial-Faisal smiled warmly and shook hands with Israeli Deputy Foreign MinisterDanny Ayalon at a securityconference in Munich, following a diplomatic spat about seating arrangementsfor a panel. Ayalon began his talk to the panel by saying that “arepresentative of a country with a lot of oil” had pressured the organizers toseparate the panel because he “did not want to sit with us.”

Feb8: The world’s tallest building, theBurj Khalifa in Dubai, was unexpectedly shut down  only a month after opening. Witnesses cited electrical problems with the towers’elevators and visitors told the media they were stranded on the skyscraper’sobservation deck for around 45 minutes as the lift faltered.February 2010

Feb15: Dubai’s police departmentpublished passport photos and CCTV footage of 11 alleged Mossad agents at the hotel where Hamas operative Mahmoudal-Mabhouh was assassinated in late January. The passports — six British, twoIrish, one French and one German — corresponded to the real names ofIsraeli-European dual citizens, some of whom contacted the press claiming thattheir identities had been stolen.

Feb15: A year after she was denied anentry visa for a tournament in Dubai, Emirati authorities permitted Israeliplayer Shahar Peer to play in the Dubai Tennis Championships, though she was restricted from speaking to thepress and could only travel from the hotel to the tournament site. Peer endedup beating Belgium’s Yanina Wickmayer, the world’s number 15.

Feb18: According to the STR GlobalConstruction Pipeline Report, Dubai reported the largest number of hotelrooms currently in the active pipeline and construction phase in the region, with 30,222 rooms and 15,563 rooms, respectively,followed by Abu Dhabi. Region-wide, a total of 456 hotels with 123,764 roomsare in the active pipeline, the report said.

Feb23: According to the KhaleejTimes, the UAE central banklifted restrictions on the percentage of profit at which bonus shares may bedistributed, overturning a 60percent restriction put into place just one week before. The paper reportedthat the cap was put into place in order to retain liquidity in the banks. Itwas removed when bankers suggested that allowing bonus shares to be distributedat an unlimited percentage of profits would expand the banks’ capital base.

Feb24: Saudi Prince and billionaireal Walid bin Talal, agreed to sell a 9.09 percent stake of his Rotana Media for$70 million to Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp, with an option to take this up to 18.18 percent. The move marked NewsCorp’s most significant investment in the Middle East.

March3: Nissan said it would recall50,000 vehicles across the Middle East due to faulty fuel gauges and brakepedals, as part of a worldwiderecall of some 50,000 automobiles. The recall affects several of the Japaneseautomaker’s pick up truck, sports utility vehicle and minivan models, rangingfrom 2005 to 2010. Nissan said no accidents had been reported and blamed aparts supplier for the defect.

March18: As global demand for oilincreased, the head of Libya’s delegation to the Organization of PetroleumExporting Countries (OPEC) said that the cartel’s ability to raise productionwas being stymied by Russia’s increased output, since the December inauguration of its EastSiberia-Pacific Ocean pipeline. OPEC would, however, not change output targetsin the hope that rising demand later in the year would absorb excessproduction.

March22: According to the FinancialTimes, the UAE was awaiting ananswer from the US in response to its request for new American-made JointStrike Fighter planes. The US said it would first have to review arms salesto the Gulf, in light of its policy of maintaining Israel’s “qualitativemilitary edge” in the region.

March22: Undersecretary of Abu Dhabi’sdepartment of economic development Mohammed Omar Abdullah told a pressconference that Abu Dhabi would not permit 100 percent foreign ownership ofcompanies outside existing free zones. However, the revised Companies Law, which is under review by the government,will relax foreign ownership rules, Abdullah said.

March22: In a notice sent to all foodestablishments, the Dubai municipality ordered restaurants to stop servingdishes with alcoholic content or risk a fine of $5,440, Abu Dhabi-based The National reported. Restaurant owners criticized the decision,which is based on a 2003 law. The Dubai Municipality retracted the ban one daylater, saying it was a misunderstanding.March 2010

March23: Dubai International Airport saw cargo volume rise by 26.7 percent to 171,707tons in February, and the number of passengers increase from last year by 22.6percent to 3.64 million. The announcement marked the ninth consecutive month ofdouble-digit passenger growth at Dubai airport. By comparison, 2009 saw anannual passenger increase of only 9.2 percent, up from a 4.6 percent rise in2008.

March24: Former director of the DubaiInternational Financial Center (DFIC) Omar bin Suleiman, who was removed fromoffice last November, was reportedly being detained and questioned by state security for alleged financial crimesamounting to some $13.6 million, according to the daily Gulf News. Suleiman hadnot yet been charged, and DIFC and public prosecution officials refused tocomment.

March24: United Kingdom ForeignMinister David Miliband announced his country would expel an unnamed Israelidiplomat, after investigations byBritain’s Serious Organized Crime Agency revealed “compelling reasons” tobelieve Israel was behind 12 forged British passports used in the Januaryassassination of a Hamas operative in Dubai.

March25: Investigators formallycharged and slapped a travel ban on Mansour bin Rajab, a Bahraini minister who stands accused of laundering money reportedlytotaling more than $30 million, according to the daily Gulf News. The move cametwo days after Bahrain’s king issued a formal decree dismissing bin Rajab.

March25: According to the local daily TheNational, the UAE was consideringnew legislation which would fine traffic violators based on their salaries. Head of public health and safety at the DubaiHealth Authority Ali al-Marzouqi told the paper: “If someone is earning 50,000dirhams or 60,000 dirhams a month, a few thousand dirhams worth of fines isnothing so it would not be fair to increase the amounts for everyone.”

April1: As oil prices reached their highest levels since October 2008 at $84 perbarrel, energy ministers concluded a two-day meeting of the InternationalEnergy Forum in Cancun, publishing a joint statement calling for greatertransparency to curb energy market volatility and strengthenedconsumer-producer dialogue.

April2: According to the Sisters’ ArabForum for Human Rights, a 13-year old Yemeni girl, Elham Assi, reportedlydied of injuries to her genitals four days after her marriage to a 23-year oldman. Authorities detained herhusband.

April8: Dubai police announced theyhad arrested Steven Moos, who posed as renowned plastic surgeon Dr. StevenHooping to lure patients into thebasement of his Dubai villa and performed surgical procedures on his kitchentable. Moos apparently used rudimentary tools and disposed of fat removed byliposuction in a cooking pot.

April11-15:  Several major opposition parties boycotted the firstmulti-party presidential, legislative and local elections held in Sudan in more than two decades, citing the logisticaldifficulties of holding fair elections in the war-torn south and Darfur. The USCarter Center and European Union observers concluded that the elections did notmeet international standards, while Russia concluded that the elections werefair by “African standards.”April 2010

April15: In the greatest disruption to air travel since 9/11, a massive cloud ofvolcanic ash from an erupted Icelandic volcano led much of Europe to shut downits airspace for four days. Canceled flights left thousands stranded across theMiddle East, with the Dubai-based Emirates Airlines estimating that 100,000passengers had been affected, amounting to $65 million in losses for thecarrier. The UAE responded by issuing 96-hour visas to passengers stranded atEmirati airports.

April18-21: According to eventorganizers, some 255 exhibitors from 36 countries and 800 company chiefexecutive officers participated in the Abu Dhabi Cityscape 2010, as well as regional and international visitors andinvestors. During the event, the Abu Dhabi-based developer Sorouh Real Estatesigned a $1 billion agreement with the Urban Planning Council to develop theWatani and Shamkha residential areas.

April19: Pan-Arab recruiter GulfTalentreported that Saudi Arabia and Qatar saw a rise in employment in the lastquarter of 2009 on the back ofgovernment spending and increased oil revenues, which helped to drive economicgrowth. Saudi Arabia’s employment rate rose 2.4 percent in the fourth quarterof 2009 with Qatar witnessing a 2.2 percent rise, according to the recruiter,while the UAE, Bahrain and Kuwait all suffered job losses.

April19: Spending on informationtechnology in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region was set to grow at12 percent in 2010, four times theglobal average of 3 percent growth, with total spending reaching $1.48 trillionthis year, according to a study conducted by telecom research firm IDC. Thestudy’s findings followed the announcement that Emirates IntegratedTelecommunications Company (Du) was planning to raise $273 million by sellingadditional stock to shareholders to fund accelerated growth, networkcapabilities and mobile infrastructure.

April23: Amnesty International accusedUAE authorities of torturing 17 Indians sentenced to death in the killing of a Pakistani man. According to thehuman rights organization, the suspects were beaten, given electro shocks,deprived of sleep and forced into stress positions.

April27: Kenya’s foreign minister arrivedin Dubai to defuse tensions after four members of the Emirati ruling family,who were vacationing at a resort in Mombasa over Easter, were questioned asalleged terror suspects byimmigration officials and subsequently deported. The UAE responded bytightening visa requirements on Kenyan nationals, only permitting universitygraduates to enter the country.

May11: The number of humantrafficking cases prosecuted in the UAE doubled last year, with 43 cases goingto court, compared to only 20 in 2008and 11 in 2007, The National reported, citing a report by the governmental National Committee to CombatHuman Trafficking.

May13: The German Ex Oriente Luxcompany unveiled a vending machine at Abu Dhabi’s Emirates Palace Hotel thatdispenses one, five and 10 gram gold bars, in addition to a one ounce bar. The fluctuating price of gold will bereflected in the bars’ pricing, with one-gram bars currently vending for$47.70. The machine includes security features and anti-money-launderingsoftware.

May18: The Israeli daily Haaretz reported that Israel rejected two Qatariproposals to renew diplomatic ties and allow Israel to re-open an office in Doha, in exchange for letting thekingdom carry out reconstruction projects in Gaza and import necessary constructionmaterials. Ties between the two were suspended following Israel’s December 2008pummeling of the Gaza Strip.

May19: Without explanation, Bahrainsuspended Qatari TV network Al Jazeera from broadcasting locally and barred a TV crew from entering the kingdom,accusing the station of breaching “professional media norms and flouting thelaws regulating the press and publishing.”The US-based Committee to Protect Journalists noted that it came a day afterthe station broadcast a report on poverty in Bahrain.May 2010

May24: The Dubai-based Spot On PublicRelations reported that, at 15 million users, the number of social mediasubscribers in MENA surpassed the combined circulation of newspapers in theregion, with the UAE, Egypt, SaudiArabia, Morocco and Tunisia accounting for 70 percent of Facebook users in theregion.

May24: Australia expelled an Israelidiplomat after a police investigation revealed that Israel was behind theforging of four Australian passports used in the January murder of Hamas operative Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai. “Thedecision to ask Israel to remove from Australia one of its officers at theIsraeli embassy in Canberra is not something which fills the Australiangovernment with any joy,” Foreign Minister Stephen Smith said.

May26: Baghdad’s municipality saidit had shortlisted eight foreign firms to construct a $3 billion metro systemthrough Iraq’s capital. Thecompanies — from Britain, Germany, Finland, Italy and the US — will presenttheir bids to the project’s consultants, French engineering group Systra. Themetro’s first line will span 21 kilometers with 21 stations, while the secondline will run a stretch of 18 kilometers and have 20 stations.

May31: Saudi Arabia announced plansto establish an independent firm to manage the kingdom’s eight ports and gradually privatize them, reactivating a processthat has been frozen since 1997 when a royal decree first permitted privatefirms to operate berths and equipment. The move aimed to raise the kingdom’scontainer handling capacity to 15 million 20-foot equivalent units by 2020.

May31: A total of nine civilians — eightTurks and one Turkish-American — were killed and dozens were injured afterIsraeli commando troops attacked and seized a Gaza-bound flotilla of humanitarian ships loaded with 10,000 tons of aidin international waters.

May31: In a press release thatcoincided with “World Day for Anti-Smoking,” the Director General of the GulfCooperation Council Executive Council for Health Ministers, Dr. Tawfeeq Khojah,said that the GCC states were working on a unified anti-tobacco strategy, in line with international criteria. The strategywould be set for 10 years, cost $3 million and would include national campaignsin each of the GCC states.

June7: A planned $3 billion,40-kilometer long causeway linking Qatar to Bahrain was put on hold for the second time. Inside sources told Reutersthat skyrocketing costs and political tensions were to blame for the delay inconstruction, which was scheduled to begin in the first quarter of 2010 and becompleted by 2015.

June8: Stunning its competitors at anair show in Berlin, Dubai’s Emirates airline placed an $11 billion order withAirbus for 32 double-decker A380s to be delivered by 2017, making it the mostexpensive commercial aircraft order ever.

June11: Al Jazeera, which wonexclusive regional rights to broadcast the 2010 World Cup from South Africa,came under fire for glitches during the opening game’s transmission. Subscribers, who paid up to $150 to watch thegames, were faced with blank screens, pixilated images and commentary in thewrong language for subsequent games. The station blamed sabotage and said thatsignals on Egypt’s Nilesat satellite operator and Saudi Arabsat were

deliberatelyjammed. June 2010

June13: Citing US government officialsand an internal Pentagon memo, the New York Times reported that the US had discovered nearly $1trillion in untapped minerals in Afghanistan, such as iron, copper, cobalt, gold and lithium, “enough tofundamentally alter the Afghan economy and perhaps the Afghan war itself.” TheAfghan mining minister later announced that mineral deposits could be worth upto $3 trillion, as the Afghan government launched an international biddingcampaign to attract investments.

June14: Abu Dhabi’s Criminal Courtsentenced an 18-year old woman who had accused six men, including one policeofficer, of gang raping her, to one year in prison for consensual sex. The plaintiff was not granted a lawyer. The policeofficer received a one-year sentence for extramarital sex and two defendantsreceived three-month sentences for being in the company of a female not relatedby blood, while two others were fined $1,361. One man was acquitted.

June17: As US crude oil prices roseto $77 per barrel, Arab Monetary Fundchief Jassim al-Mannai told reporters that growth in the Arab economies wouldreach at least an average of 4 percent this year due to higher oil prices, andthat the euro zone crisis’s impact on the region would be marginal.

June17: Dubai’s ruler Sheikh Mohammedbin Rashid al-Maktoum published a poem in the Al-Khaleej daily entitled “Gaza’s Iliad,” criticizing Israel’s blockade of Gaza and the attackon the aid flotilla, while urging Arab aid to the embattled strip.

June20: In the aftermath of a Hamasoperative’s assassination in January, Dubai’s police chief General DahiKhalfan Tamim told The National that the emirate needs to install security cameras “everywhere” and would invest an additional $136 million onsecurity technology this year. He added that residents of the emirate, whichalready boasts 25,000 security cameras, needn’t be concerned about theirprivacy, as such intrusions are against the law and not “accepted by ourreligion and tradition.”

June21: A few days after the UNSecurity Council slapped a fourth round of financial and military sanctions onIran for its controversial uraniumenrichment program, the UAE reportedly shut down 40 international and localcompanies for violating the UN sanctions, the daily Gulf News reported.

June21: Saudi Arabia’s official newsagency said that the kingdom was allocating $1.6 billion to build 6,000 homes for citizens displaced during the November 2009 toJanuary 2010 fighting between Yemeni rebels and the Saudi army along theirshared border. The funds would also cover educational facilities and healthinfrastructure in the southern Jazan province.

July2: Only 10 to 14 percent of the400,000 known HIV patients in the MENA region receive treatment due to stigma and discrimination, UNAIDS regionaldirector Hind Othman told Reuters. The number of reported HIV cases in theregion grew by 100,000 in the past two years according to UN statistics, thoughOthman cast doubt on the accuracy of those figures due to a lack of systematictesting for the virus.

July4: The UAE received approval fromthe European Commission to begin exporting camel milk to Europe beginning in 2011, following quality andsafety testing. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization estimated thepotential world market for camel’s milk at $10 billion, which is lower in fatand richer in iron and minerals than its bovine counterpart.

July13: Satish Khanna, general managerof Al Fajer Information and Services, which is staging the first GulfRail showand conference in Dubai in 2012, said that $170 billion worth of transportprojects are expected to be put in place in the Gulf region over the next 10 to15 years, with 85 percent ofinvestments made in the UAE, Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

July22: Following four days of powercuts, the UAE daily Gulf News reported that power had been restored in most of Sharjah. Industrial areas and the Al Wahda residential areawere the worst off with power gone for more than 70 hours, with the SharjahElectricity and Water Authority blaming technical faults. At least oneconstruction worker died from heat exhaustion, as hospitals reported four timesthe average number of heat-related illnesses.

July27: Abu Dhabi Ports Companyawarded a $280 million contract to ajoint venture between ED Zublin AG and Al Jaber Transport & GeneralContracting for the design and construction of its flagship offshore KhalifaPort and Industrial Zone project, set to commence operations in 2012. By 2030,the zone is set to span 420 square kilometers with a port container capacity of150 million 20-foot equivalent units and 35 million tons of general cargo. July 2010

July27: In an online poll by ArabianBusiness, more than 70percent of respondents said that additional protections for internationalinvestors would help inspire confidence in the region, a month after the UAE federal government introduceda scheme to offer Dubai investors and developers a ‘government guarantee’ incase of stalled or canceled projects that are already in the constructionphase.

July27: Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashidal-Maktoum, prime minister of the UAE and ruler of Dubai, approved a documenton “professional behavior principles and ethics” for employees of all ministries and federalauthorities, aimed at boosting the state’s reputation and developing a “spiritof responsibility with adherence to ethics while dealing with subordinates,colleagues or public.”

July27: According to a global survey byColliers International, of 145 business districts, Abu Dhabi’s daily privateparking rates for prime business areas are the highest in the world at $55 perday. Dubai ranked 13th at $40 perday, while Chennai in India was the lowest globally at a daily rate of $0.96.

July28: In its Global Economic WeeklyReport, Bank of America Merrill Lynch said the UAE’s economy would seesluggish growth of just 1 percent in 2010 and 2 percent in 2011, making it the worst performing economy in the GCCfor both years. Qatar’s predicted growth was highest in the region at 11.3percent for 2010 and 9.6 percent for 2011.

July30: On his first visit to Lebanonsince the assassination of Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri in 2005, SyrianPresident Bashar al-Assad joined Saudi King Abdullah and President MichelSleiman for a historic summit.Commentators said the meeting was a show of unity and support for Lebanesestability, amid fear of unrest over a possible indictment of Hezbollah membersby the international tribunal tasked with prosecuting Hariri’s assassins.

Aug1: According to a report by theUnited Nations’ Economic Commission for Western Asia, Kuwaitis and Emiratishave the highest average life expectancies in the region, at 77.6 years and 77.4 years, respectively. Thereport credited advanced health and education facilities for the ranking.

Aug3: A study by shoemaker RYN MiddleEast cited in Emirates Business showed that only 4 percent of Emiratis walkon a weekly basis, compared to theUK where the ratio is 10 times higher. Lack of physical exercise, blamed on theheat, contributes to some of the world’s highest obesity rates in the countriesof the GCC.

Aug3: In the biggest borderconfrontation since the 34-day 2006 war, three Lebanese soldiers, an Israelicolonel and a Lebanese journalist from the daily Al Akhbar were killed during border clashes between theLebanese Armed Forces and the Israeli army, after the latter cut trees near Adaysseh along the disputed Blue Line.After the media published photos showing Israeli personnel appearing to breachthe border fence, a UNIFIL investigation concluded that the trees were onIsrael’s side of the blue line.

Aug5: According to census figures, SaudiArabia’s expatriate population declined from 37 percent of the overallpopulation in 2004 to 31 percent in April 2010, though their actual numbers had risen by 37.7percent from 6.1 million in 2004 to 8.4 million this year. Workers from India,Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia and the Philippines made up the vast majorityof expatriates.

Aug9: Figures from the DubaiStatistics Bureau showed a 10 percent rise in marriages between Emiratis andforeigners between 2007 and 2009 inDubai alone, with divorce rates among mixed-nationality couples only slightlyhigher than their Emirati counterparts. The cost of dowries demanded by thefamilies of Emirati women was encouraging men to marry foreigners, according toa spokesperson for the Ministry of Social Affairs. August 2010

Aug11: A YouGovSiraj survey showed thattwo in five residents of the UAE supported a governmental ban on BlackBerryservices, which had been scheduledto go into effect in October, with Western expatriates most resistant to theban. Saudi Arabia had also announced a ban on BlackBerry services deemed athreat to national security, but claimed that Canadian Blackberry makerResearch in Motion had agreed to fulfill regulatory requirements.

Aug15: Some 73 percent ofcounterfeit medicine seized at European borders was routed through the UAE, reported The National, quoting a report by the European CommissionTaxation and Customs Union, with the amount of fake medicine arriving via theUAE rising from 750,000 items in 2008 to almost 5.5 million items in 2009.

Aug22: According to UAE daily TheNational, Dubai opened a newcircuit within its court to deal with the huge volume of debtor cases overbounced checks. The circuit washearing more than 100 personal and commercial cases every week in itsafter-hours sessions, leading to calls for the government to overhaul laws thatmake it a criminal offense with jail time to bounce a check.

Aug30: According to a study by globaloffice solutions provider Regus, more than 50 percent of professionals inthe United Arab Emirates may quit their jobs after their annual summer leave due to low involvement by top management coupledwith a lack of promotions and company vision. Other factors contributing to theresignations included long commutes and bosses taking credit for the work ofemployees.

Aug31: Dubai’s Road and TransportAuthority delayed the opening of some of the remaining eight metro stations ofthe Red Line, due to be inauguratedin October, the Abu Dhabi daily The National reported. Director of RailOperations Ramadan Mohammed blamed disappointing passenger volume and the slowdevelopment of the communities around the stations, but didn’t specify which ofthe eight stations’ openings would be delayed.

Sept5: A report released by the UAE’sMinistry of Foreign Trade on commercial transactions between the Emirates andIndia, its largest trading partner, showed that the Gulf state now runs a tradesurplus. The UAE turned a trade deficit of $1.99 billion during the firstquarter of 2009 into a surplus of $599 million during the first three months of2010.

Sept6: Bahrain’s government decidedto reassert its control over the country’s mosques, after charging members of a Shiite opposition groupwith plotting to overthrow the Sunni government. Bahraini Crown Prince SalmanAl Khalifa said the measures were aimed at “regaining control of the pulpits sothey are not hostage to incompetent politicians or clerics who have lost theirway,” according to the official Bahrain News Agency.

Sept6: Lebanese Prime Minister SaadHariri told the pan-Arab daily As-Sharq al-Awsat that it was a ‘mistake’ to accuse Syria ofkilling his father, and that theclaim was a ‘political accusation.’ He said that “false” witnesses who “misleadinvestigations did harm to Syrian-Lebanese ties by politicizing the murder,”but tried to distance the tribunal from the earlier investigation. Hariri alsosaid that his visits to Syria feel like “going to a brotherly and friendlystate.”

Sept7: Seven years after signing acommon market agreement, the GCC shelved its latest plans to implement it after a meeting of GCC foreign ministers in Jeddah.“I do not want to say that there are hurdles facing the execution of theagreement but definitely there are differences of opinion among us,” KuwaitiFinance Minister Mustafa al-Shamali told the media after the meeting.

Sept8: Data released by theinternational housing research firm EuroCost International showed that Dubaihad dropped from the 12th most expensive city in the world in 2009 to 31st thisyear. The firm said that the cityexperienced “spectacular decreases” in the range of 30 and 50 percent dependingon the type of housing. September 2010

Sept11: Kuwait plans to build fournuclear reactors by 2022, with eachfacility producing 1,000 megawatts of electricity, according to a report by theofficial KUNA news agency. Secretary General of Kuwait’s National NuclearEnergy Committee Ahmad Bishara said that an initial analysis showed nuclearenergy was a viable option if oil prices remained above $45 to $50 a barrel.

Sept13: The Wall Street Journal reported that the US administration planned tosell $60 billion worth of sophisticated aircraft, weaponry and ballisticmissile defense systems to Saudi Arabia to “support Arab allies against Iran,” including 84 new F-15s, in amove that would create an estimated 75,000 jobs in the US.

Sept15: British Airways chief WillieWalsh told the European Aviation Club in Brussels that Europe had been tooslow in recognizing “the significant threat” posed by competitive MiddleEastern airlines and that it wasworrying to see European governments fund Dubai’s Emirates airline, which isthe biggest customer for Airbus’s A380 superjumbo, by “providing them withcheap access to capital.”

Sept15: Abu Dhabi’s government-ownedAdvanced Technology Investment Co will build the emirate’s first chipmanufacturing plant, investing some$7 billion in the endeavor, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing CEO Ibrahim Ajami. The plant willbe a 12-inch wafer production facility and will come online between 2014 and2015.

Sept19: Manama Municipal Councilmember Abdulmajeed al-Sebea’a accused the Bahraini police and tourismdepartment inspectors of encouraging prostitution to attract tourists during the Eid holidays, whichwas discouraging Gulf families from visiting the kingdom, the Gulf Daily Newsreported.

Sept23: Saudi Information and CultureMinistry spokesman Abdul Rahman al-Hazza told Al-Arabiya television stationthat Saudi websites and online media, including blogs and forums, would haveto register officially with the government to prevent libel and defamation,under a new electronic media law. The news sparked outrage from Saudi web users, leading Hazza to clarify thatonly online news sites would be “required” to register, while blogs would be“encouraged” to seek a governmentallicense.

Oct6: The US military presence inKuwait generates $6 billion annually for the state’s economy through logistics, supplies and other services, thelocal daily Al Watan reported, citing US Ambassador to Kuwait Deborah Jones.Kuwait’s exports to the US jumped 72 percent in the first seven months of 2010compared to the same period last year, while US exports to Kuwait rose 80percent during the same period, the ambassadorsaid.

Oct11: In what analysts were calling a‘bidding war’ between the neighboring countries, Iran announced that it hadovertaken Iraq in estimated oil reserves with 150.31 billion barrels ofreserves, a week after Iraq said ithad surpassed its neighbor with 143 billion barrels in proven reserves.

Oct13: On his first official statevisit to Lebanon, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was met by thousands ofsupporters who gathered alongBeirut’s airport road. During his two-day trip, Ahmadinejad met with PresidentMichel Sleiman and Prime Minister Saad Hariri, attended a rally near the borderwith Israel in southern Lebanon and reportedly received an assault riflecaptured from Israeli soldiers during the July 2006 war from Hezbollah leaderHassan Nasrallah.

Oct14: A Reuters poll of 16 economistsand investors estimated that Dubai’s debt stood at about $115 billion, despite its debt restructuring efforts over thelast year. All but one of the respondents predicted that Dubai would likelyfinance its debt obligations through asset sales, with port operator DP Worldtopping the list of likely sales.

Oct17: Ten workers at the privateKuwaiti Scope TV station were injured when a mob of 150 people, reportedly armedwith pistols and knives, stormed the station and assaulted employees over a talk show segment they deemed insultingto members of Kuwait’s ruling family. October 2010

Oct18: After the UAE abruptlycanceled an agreement allowing the Canadian military to use Camp Mirage nearDubai, Canada was reportedly “moving quickly” to find a new hub from which toresupply its troops stationed in Afghanistan. Canada had allegedly balked at a UAE request to give Emirati airlinesmore landing rights in cities such as Toronto, Calgary and Montreal. Shortlyafter, Canadian troops were told they had a month to clear out.

Oct18: The UAE’s Federal SupremeCourt ruled that a man has the right to beat his wife and children “provided he does not leave physical marks” and“abide[s] by the limits of this right,” the local daily The National reported.The court found that a man who had “slapped and kicked his daughter and slappedhis wife” had exceeded his rights under sharia law, because the beating was toosevere and the daughter, age 23, too old for such disciplinary measures.

Oct21: The UAE opened a naval baseon its eastern coast in the emirate of Fujairah to protect oil exports in the event that Iran closesthe Strait of Hormuz. Abu Dhabi was reportedly also building a massive oil exportand storage facility in Fujairah, as well as two oil and gas pipelines betweenthe emirates.

Oct23: In the largest classifiedmilitary leak in history, whistle-blowing website Wikileaks published400,000 secret US military logs detailing the torture of detainees in Iraqijails and the deaths of tens ofthousands of Iraqi civilians between 2004 and 2007. Wikileaks claimed the logsprove that approximately 15,000 more Iraqi civilians had died than previouslyestimated.

Oct28: Following the death of Ras AlKhaimah ruler Sheikh Saqr bin Mohammed al-Qassimi at age 92, the UAE’s FederalSupreme Council officially recognized his son Sheikh Saud bin Saqr al-Qassimias successor, despite a challenge bySaud’s older half-brother Sheikh Khaled, who had posted a video messagedeclaring himself the new emir on his website following their father’sdeath.

Nov4: A report released at the ArabForum for Environment and Development in Beirut warned of a looming regionalwater crisis, with Lebanon and theArab world facing “severe water scarcity” by 2015 and the region’s populationleft to subsist on 10 percent of the global average supply, if waste,mismanagement and pollution were not immediately addressed. Lebanon’s annualwater demand is expected to triple by 2050, the report noted.

Nov7: Etihad and Emirates airlinesstopped carrying cargo from Yemen after two packages containing explosives werefound aboard a US-bound Emiratesplane. The Yemeni branch of Al Qaeda claimed responsibility for the parcels,which were addressed to a synagogue in Chicago.

Nov8: Following disputes over landingrights in Canada for Emirati carriers, the closure of a Canadian military basein the UAE and threats to ban key services of the Canadian-owned BlackBerrymanufacturer Research in Motion, the UAE’s embassy in Ottawa announced that Canadiancitizens would require visas to enter the Emirates starting January 2, 2011.

Nov15: As part of its efforts to easecongestion and attract more religious tourism, Saudi Arabia marked the firstday of the hajj by unveiling a new 11 kilometer light-railway, dubbed the‘Mecca Metro,’ which will shuttle pilgrimsbetween holy sites. The railway is only open to Saudis and GCC citizens priorto becoming fully operational next year; the opening came a day after officialssigned a $7 billion deal to develop the nearby Jeddah airport.

Nov17: The UAE had the worst percapita record for greenhouse gas emissions, due largely to a sharp rise in desalination plants that run on fossilfuels, according to British consultancy firm Maplecroft’s ranking of 183countries. The ranking combined current and historic emissions, with the US thelargest cumulative emittersince 1900.November 2010

Nov23: After rights groups urged her toaddress the ‘systematic abuse’ of migrant workers in the UAE, IndianPresident Pratibha Patil inaugurated a counseling center for Indians working inDubai that includes a 24-hourhelpline and a shelter for runaway housemaids, the first of its kind outsideIndia.

Nov24: Dubai Pearl Chairman AbdulMajeed al-Fahim announced the developer was looking to sell some $6 billion inhospitality assets to raisefinancing for the 18.5 million square meter mixed-use project. Final completionof the Pearl project, which was restarted in March, was being postponed from2013 to the end of 2014, Fahim said.

Nov25: In her first visit to the UAE inmore than 30 years, British Queen Elizabeth II met with the UAE VicePresident and Prime Minister SheikhMohammed bin Rashed al-Maktoum to unveil the British design for the ZayedNational Museum, which is set to be built by 2014 on Saadiyat Island. BritishForeign Secretary William Hague reportedly also signed a number of agreementswith his Emirati counterpart, including one on civil nuclear cooperation.

Nov28: The first batch of some 250,000 secretUS diplomatic cables leaked to the press by the transnational whistle-blowingwebsite Wikileaks revealed that Gulf rulers, including the UAE’s leaders, hadencouraged the US to attack Iran toprevent it from obtaining nuclear weapons. In response, Emirati minister ofstate for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash dismissed the cables as revealing “anAmerican perspective.”

Nov28: A Gallup survey of young peoplein the region showed that the UAE was a more popular destination for immigrationamong women than men. One third ofyoung people polled want to migrate permanently to another country, and youngArabs are almost four times more likely to plan to start their own businessthan their European and North American counterparts, the survey revealed.