World: Profiling the Gulf States

Vast riches and growing pains for the Arab sheikdoms

For 550 miles, from the Shatt-al-Arab in Iraq to the Musandam peninsula in Oman, a shallow, aquamarine trough of water glistens under the brutal sun—the Persian, or Arabian Gulf, depending on the side of the water on which one stands. On either shore, the Arabian and Iranian plateaus form some of the most uninviting landscape anywhere: endless vistas of desert and rock, so desolate that in one stretch in Saudi Arabia it is known as Rub'al Khali—the Empty Quarter.

Along the gulfs shores and in...

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