Al Arabiya TV reports that Saudi Arabia has extradited from Lebanon a prime suspect with responsibility for the 1996 bombing of a US barrack in Al-Khobar. Ahmed al-Mughassil, who has also been indicted by the United States, was captured in Beirut and transferred to Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia holding main suspect in 1996 Khobar bombing

Saudi Arabia is holding the main suspect in the 1996 bombing of the Khobar Towers residence at a U.S. military base in the country, pan Arab newspaper Asharq al-Awsat reported Wednesday.

The newspaper said Ahmed al-Mughassil, leader of the Hezbollah al-Hejaz who had been indicted by a U.S. court for the attack that killed 19 U.S. service personnel and wounded almost 500 people, had been captured in the Lebanese capital Beirut and transferred to Riyadh.

Both Saudi Arabia and the United States have accused Iran of being behind the truck-bomb attack, although Iran has denied any responsibility.

Asharq al-Awsat quoted official Saudi sources as saying the country’s security service had received information on al-Mughassil’s presence in Beirut.

“The discovery of Mughassil and his arrest in Lebanon and his subsequent transfer to Saudi Arabia is a qualitative achievement, for the man had been in disguise in a way that made it hard to identify him,” Asharq al-Awsat said, without elaborating on when he was captured and who captured him.

August:26:2015 - 07:09 | Comments & Trackbacks (0) | Permalink

The plunge in the Chinese stock market hammered stock markets around the world. Saudi Arabia wasn’t spared. The Saudi market, Tadawal, dropped 5.88% with most of the damage coming to oil futures, Arab News reports. China, now the largest importer of Saudi oil, is seen to be facing a contraction and thus lower demand for oil. This is driving oil prices down around the world. The Gulf, already facing economic pressure from lower oil prices since last year, is going to be squeezed a bit more.

Tadawul slips to 29-month low
Khalil Hanware

JEDDAH: The Saudi stock market (Tadawul) had a steep fall as crude oil futures fell sharply on Monday.

The plunge was a 29-month low, which erased more than SR375 billion ($100 billion) of market value.

The Tadawul All-Share Index dropped 5.88 percent to 7,024.6 points, breaking major technical support on its December low of 7,226 points.

The value of traded shares reached SR7.83 billion on Monday despite big drops in petrochemical, industrial investment and real estate sectors.

The Tadawul index, which plunged 6.9 percent on Sunday, has now lost 23 percent in August, erasing more than $100 billion of market value, Reuters reported.

James Reeve, deputy chief economist and assistant general manager at Samba Financial Group, told Arab News that most global stock markets have been oversold and there will be some bounce back, especially in the United States and Europe.

August:25:2015 - 06:34 | Comments & Trackbacks (0) | Permalink

After many years’ delay, Saudi women are finally able to vote. Their political franchise was promised years ago, then delayed because Saudi custom required an elaborate piece of theater to ensure that unrelated members of the opposite sex didn’t meet at the polling stations. But now, Saudi Gazette reports, women are finally registering to vote in the municipal elections to be held later this year.

KSA sees first female voter registrations
Saudi Gazette report

MADINAH — They don’t know each other, and are separated by about 450km, but Jamal Al-Saadi and Safinaz Abu Al-Shamat became the first two women to register as voters for the upcoming third municipal elections in Madinah and Makkah respectively.

“The participation of the Saudi women in the municipal elections as voters and candidates was a dream for us,” Saadi said. “The move will enable Saudi women to have a say in the process of the decision-making.”

Voter registration began in the Two Holy Cities on Sunday, a week earlier than the rest of the Kingdom. Both women said they had thoroughly prepared all the documents they would need so that nothing would stop them from participating in elections for the first time.

“I was quite ready for this day,” Saadi said. “I have prepared all the documents needed to obtain a voter’s card. This is a nice experience to go through. We are just at the beginning of the road.”

August:18:2015 - 08:20 | Comments Off | Permalink

In his column for Al Arabiya TV, Abdulrahman al-Rashed notes that arguments that the lack of “moderates” in the political sphere is what leads to extremism are sorely lacking in evidential support. Empowering moderates does not lead to inclusive governments. Instead, it leads to moderates seizing power and attempting to impose their political views — which aren’t very moderate after all — on the population and to do away with their opponents.

He looks at Iran, Sudan, Gaza, and Egypt where once religious parties gained control, they did their utmost to ensure that there was only one orthodoxy: theirs. Worse, their assumption of power led to no decrease in actual extremism in the name of religion. A failed experiment that relied on unrealistic views of human behavior.

The theory of terrorism and restraining moderates
Abdulrahman al-Rashed

hose affiliated with religious groups have for long reiterated that the emergence of extremist Islamic groups is due to the restraining of “moderate” Islamic ones. Western governments were convinced of this for a while and thus began to urge Arab governments to allow religious groups in politics and include them in governance, either democratically or through partnership and quotas.

It may seem reasonable that including moderates leads to the expelling of extremists, but this theory is not supported with evidence – at least in our Arab arena. These concept of participation for these groups means a monopolizing of authority. They are not like Turkey and Indonesia’s Islamic groups who work and govern under a secular system and whose “Islamic liberalism” looks nothing like the extremism of Islamist Arabs. The aim of politicized religious groups is to attain power regardless of the rhetoric adopted and the means used in order to later create a dominating regime and eliminate others!

Based on experience, it’s been proven that most Arab religious parties are exclusionary despite all their talk about moderation and co-existence. There are many examples on the case from our modern history and I will resort to four of them to elaborate my point. The first experience was Iran. The masses who protested in the streets of Tehran and called for toppling the Shah and received Ayatollah Khomeini at the airport were a mixture of political parties who agreed on establishing a regime that allows pluralism.

August:12:2015 - 08:17 | Comments & Trackbacks (2) | Permalink

Following meetings between the Russian and Saudi Foreign Ministers, Al Arabiya TV reports, there’s no agreement about the future of Syria’s President. Neither side is budging over its views about Assad, though both do agree that something needs to be done regionally about ISIS.

Saudi FM: Assad has no place in Syria’s future

Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said on Tuesday Riyadh’s position on the conflict in Syria has not changed and that there was no place for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the future of the country.

He was speaking after talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Moscow, a long-standing ally of Assad in the conflict, amid a renewed diplomatic push to end the conflict in Syria because of gains on the ground by ISIS.

August:11:2015 - 05:59 | Comments Off | Permalink

Amid public denunciation of the suicide bombing of a mosque in the Asir Province, Saudi authorities have identified the bomber as a Saudi national. Fifteen were killed and another 33 injured, Saudi Gazette reports:

Asir bomber was a Saudi

JEDDAH – The terrorist act last Thursday at the special emergency forces mosque in Asir region was carried out by 21-year-old Saudi suicide bomber Yusuf Bin Sulaiman Bin Abdullah Al-Sulaiman, security spokesman of the Ministry of Interior stated to SPA.

The blast took place on Thursday while the personnel of the special emergency forces in Asir region were performing Dhuhr (mid-day) prayer in congregation in the mosque at the forces’ headquarters.

The bombing martyred 15 people and injured 33 others. Shreds and human body parts were found at the scene of the incident believed to be the result of a blast using an explosive vest.

The authorities, following investigations of the heinous crime, said the bombing was carried out by the suicide bomber using an explosive vest.

The security authorities are still following up on the terrorist incident.

August:09:2015 - 07:16 | Comments Off | Permalink

Another mosque has been bombed in Saudi Arabia. This time, the target appears to have been security personnel — 17 of whom were killed — rather than Shi’ite congregants. The bombing took place in the southern city of Abha.

Deadly suicide bombing hits Saudi mosque

At least 17 security officers were killed Thursday after a suicide bombing targeted a mosque used by the emergency forces south of Saudi Arabia, Al Arabiya News Channel reported.

The incident took place in Abha, capital of Asir province.

In July, Saudi Arabia arrested 431 people as part of a crackdown on a cluster of cells linked to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militant group.

August:06:2015 - 06:37 | Comments Off | Permalink

Saudi Arabia’s move toward renewable energy continue, Arab News reports. A new solar power plant is scheduled to open in Aflaj, in the center of the country. The plant will produce 50 megawatts of electricity daily.

Solar power plant set to open in Aflaj

RIYADH: The solar-power plant, “Layla,” in Aflaj province, will be opened shortly, Saleh Al-Awaji, chairman of Saudi Electricity Company (SEC), has said.

The Saudi Electricity Company (SEC) is one of the signatories, along with King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology (KACST) and Taqnia Energy, to a memorandum of understanding (MOU) for the launch of the first 50 megawatt solar power station at Al-Aflaj.

Al-Awaji described the start of the power plant as a move toward a newfound reliance on renewable energy for electricity generation. “It will make Aflaj the first province in the Kingdom to benefit from clean energy. There are similar projects that the company will undertake in the future.” He recalled that the strategic transformation program approved by the board of directors in April 2014 includes plans to ration the use of fossil fuels and raise the efficiency of its use in power plants, through a transformation of the power plants of the company from simple cycle to combined cycle, as well as by providing investment opportunities for the implementation of projects for converting stations to renewable energy electricity.

Al-Awaj said the implementation of these projects is expected to save 1.5 million barrels of fuel per day, which translates into 550 million barrels per year.

August:05:2015 - 06:28 | Comments Off | Permalink

Summers can get pretty hot in Saudi Arabia. The record high temperature is 52.0° C/125.6° F. As a result, the Saudi Ministry of Labor has promulgated a rule that requires outdoor work to stop between the hours of noon and 3:00PM. That rule, however, is inconvenient for many employers, so they tend to ignore it.

Now, report Saudi Gazette/Okaz, the Ministry is stepping in to halt the abuse. It has identified some 250 firms flouting the regulation and is fining them.

Employers continue to flout mid-day work ban
Ibrahim Alawi

JEDDAH — The Ministry of Labor’s Makkah branch recorded 250 violations of regulations prohibiting outdoor work between noon and 3 p.m., and has penalized the companies involved.

The branch’s director general, Abdullah Al-Olayyan, said all of the ministry’s inspectors in the region carried out field campaigns to detect such violations since the ban came into effect on June 15.

The ban covers both commercial and government projects, including the construction of housing complexes and any sites where employees work under direct sunlight.

Al-Olayyan added that the 250 employees were from different firms. He said the inspection tours are being carried out due to the ministry’s keenness to provide a safe work environment, to raise the efficiency of occupational safety and to protect employees from hazards and accidents.

He called for the cooperation of all parties by not forcing employees to work during the ban period in order to protect their safety and stressed that inspections would be intensified. The ministerial decision defining the ban calls for fines ranging from SR3,000 to SR10,000 for companies that violate the law.

August:03:2015 - 08:02 | Comments Off | Permalink

The UK’s The Guardian newspaper catches Iran forging a document alleging Saudi skullduggery and attempting to legitimize it by saying it’s a product of WikiLeaks.

There was a major release of Saudi documents via WikiLeaks over the past month or so. The documents I’ve seen aren’t very surprising; they’re what the Saudis are saying publicly, though perhaps a bit more frankly since they’re internal documents. But seeking to leverage the notoriety — and presumed veracity — of documents exposed through WikiLeaks isn’t totally dumb. Low-information readers can certainly be taken in. Iran should remember, though, that two can play the game.

Iran uses fabricated WikiLeaks cable to smear UN rights rapporteur
Saeed Kamali Dehghan

Iran has launched a sophisticated smear campaign against the UN special rapporteur investigating its human rights violations by widely spreading a fabricated WikiLeaks cable purporting to show he received bribes from Saudi Arabia.

In a concerted effort aimed at discrediting Ahmed Shaheed in the eyes of the general public, Iranian state-run agencies and semi-official websites simultaneously carried articles claiming that the Saudi embassy in Kuwait had paid the UN envoy $1m to take an anti-Iran position. It dominated many Iranian front pages on Tuesday and an Iranian official later used the false information to question Shaheed’s credibility.

The allegations are based on what is claimed to be a WikiLeaks cable the authenticity of which has been challenged by the organisation itself. “Please show which cable this claim is based on. You fail to link to one of our cables in the article,” the official account of the WikiLeaks tweeted in response to a website carrying the news. Shaheed has also strongly denied the claims.

August:03:2015 - 06:17 | Comments Off | Permalink

Saudi Arabia is pumping oil as never before, Arab News reports. Saudi production is in line with the rest of OPEC, according to the article. Global oil prices continue to drop and when Iranian oil hits the market following the lifting of sanctions, it’s likely to decline further.

Despite lower prices, the article states, Saudi Arabia remains committed to its mega-projects in infrastructure development.

Saudi Arabia keeps oil output at record pace

JEDDAH: OPEC oil output reached the highest monthly level in recent history in July, a Reuters survey found on Friday, as Saudi Arabia and other key members show no sign of wavering in their focus on defending market share instead of prices.

The latest boost from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries adds to excess supply in the market without the significant rise in demand OPEC hopes will happen in the second half of the year and in 2016.

Saudi Arabia has kept output steady or higher than in June, which was a record, sources in the survey said, as Riyadh meets higher demand internationally and from domestic power plants and refineries.

Riyadh reported crude oil production of 10.6 million barrels a day in June in the monthly oil market report published by OPEC. This is an increase of more than 200,000 bpd on the previous month and its highest level since records began.

August:01:2015 - 07:44 | Comments Off | Permalink

Arab News reports that an agreement has been reached between King Abdul Aziz City for Science & Technology and the Saudi Electric Company for the first meshing of solar power with the country’s electric grid. The goal is to reduce dependence on the country’s oil assets in meeting rising energy demand. Along the way, the project will seek to use homegrown talent, labor, and materials.

KACST gears up for KSA’s first solar power station

RIYADH: The King Abdul Aziz City for Science and Technology (KACST) signed a memorandum of understanding on Thursday with the Saudi Electricity Co. (SEC) and Taqnia Energy to launch the first standalone 50MW solar power station at Al-Aflaj.

KACST also inked another memorandum to establish a joint research and development center at the SEC distribution sector.

KACST President Turki bin Saud bin Mohammad Al-Saud, SEC CEO Ziad Mohammad Al-Sheeha and Taqnia Energy CEO Abdul Rahman Ali Al-Muhanna signed the two memorandums.

Al-Saud said the memorandum aims to provide alternative and safe sources of energy that would ensure providing fuel and help building a sustainable future through engaging science, research and energy-related industries in reducing the cost of generating electricity through solar energy.

July:31:2015 - 07:14 | Comments Off | Permalink
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