Asharq Alawsat reports that the Saudi government is intent on hunting down those responsible for the suicide bombing on Friday at a Shi’a mosque in the Eastern Province. The attack has garnered condemnation across the country, including from the Grand Mufti.

The ISIS group has claimed responsibility, but that claim is itself under investigation.

Saudi Arabia vows to hunt down Qatif attack “masterminds”

Qatif and Dammam, Asharq Al-Awsat—Saudi Arabia vowed to hunt down those behind the deadly terrorist attack on a Shi’ite mosque in the village of Al-Qadeeh in the eastern province of Qatif on Friday.

The blast at the Ali Ibn Abu Talib Mosque in the small town of Al-Qadeeh is the second attack on a Shi’ite mosque in eastern Saudi Arabia in the last six months. At least 21 worshipers were killed, including a six-year-old child, while 97 others were injured in the attack.

The attack is believed to have been carried out by a lone suicide bomber, although the circumstances are still being investigated by Saudi security authorities. “What is important now is that we stop the masterminds behind this cowardly act and arrest them,” Interior Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Mansour Al-Turki told international media following the attack.

Eyewitnesses informed Asharq Al-Awsat that the suicide bomber entered the mosque after the Friday sermon in the middle of prayers, locking the door of the mosque behind him before detonating himself in the midst of the worshipers.

“The suicide bomber broke into the middle of the praying ranks with the aim of killing the largest number of casualties,” an eye-witness said.

No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, although Al-Turki described those responsible for the attack as part of the “deviant group,” Saudi shorthand for Al-Qaeda or the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

May:23:2015 - 08:49 | Comments Off | Permalink

The American website “The Daily Beast” reports that ISIS is claiming responsibility for the bombing of a mosque in Saudi Arabia’ Eastern Province last night. According to Arab News, 21 were killed and over 100 injured.

ISIS: We Bombed Saudi Mosque

SIS has claimed credit for a suicide bomb attack at a Shiite mosque in Saudi Arabia during Friday prayers. At least 21 people were killed in the attack, and as many as 50 were injured. This may be ISIS’s first successful attack within Saudi Arabia. In a statement released Friday afternoon, ISIS said the attack was carried out by Abu Amer al-Najdi, implying that the attacker came from the central Saudi Arabian region of Najd.

May:22:2015 - 15:57 | Comments Off | Permalink

Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Petroleum and Minerals, Ali Al-Naimi, acknowledges that the world is moving away from oil as its primary energy source. Just when that will happen is a question, but it is inevitable. Saudi Arabia is preparing for that eventuality by beginning a shift toward solar energy. He did not mention that nuclear power is also in the plans for the Kingdom.

As a former Oil Minister said, “The Stone Age did not end because the world ran out of rocks.” Oil will still be an important industrial product, if only as feed stock, long after its use as a fuel has passed.

Al-Naimi sees eventual end of fossil fuels

PARIS: Petroleum and Mineral Resources Minister Ali Al-Naimi said on Thursday the Kingdom envisaged the fact that fossil fuels could become unnecessary before the middle of the century and was investing in renewable energy for that reason.

“In Saudi Arabia, we recognize that eventually, one of these days, we are not going to need fossil fuels, I don’t know when, in 2040, 2050… so we have embarked on a program to develop solar energy,” he told the Business and Climate conference in Paris.

“Hopefully, one of these days, instead of exporting fossil fuels, we will be exporting gigawatts, electric ones. Does that sound good?” he asked, to applause in the audience.

May:22:2015 - 07:38 | Comments & Trackbacks (2) | Permalink

Saudi Arabia’s Shoura Council has voted — unlike the governments of several GCC states — against the opening of branches of foreign universities within the Kingdom, Arab News reports. Citing issues ranging from “cultural values,” and “mixing of the sexes,” though some noted that it might be better to bring the universities to Saudi Arabia than to expose Saudi students to foreign cultures through study abroad.

Shoura says no to foreign universities in Kingdom

JEDDAH: The Shoura Council has rejected the proposal of council member Saeed Al-Sheikh to permit foreign universities to open branches in the Kingdom due to concerns over breaching Saudi cultural traditions and gender segregation.

The decision was also based on the failure of the branches of universities in surrounding countries to transfer the latest technologies and the best professors.

According to the council, there is no need to open branches of foreign universities in the Kingdom due to the success of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques Scholarship Program.

Ibrahim Abu Abah challenged the proposal, arguing that there are 40 government and private universities able to absorb high school graduates.

While Prince Khaled Al-Saud pointed out that opening foreign universities would require mixed academic environments, Sultan Al-Sultan supported the proposal, arguing that “continuing to graduate students in non-technical fields from our universities would impose a threat on national development.”

May:21:2015 - 09:11 | Comments Off | Permalink

The American conservative magazine, “The Weekly Standard” writes that Saudi Arabia has all but given up on the Obama administration when it comes to protecting Saudi Arabia’s regional concerns. If the Kingdom cannot count on the US, it will have to take matters into its own hands.

Rejuvenated Royals
The Saudis push back against the Obama foreign policy

The Obama administration put a happy face on its Camp David summit last week, even as four of the Gulf Cooperation Council’s six leaders turned down Obama’s invitation to attend. The most significant absence, of course, was that of Saudi Arabia’s king, Salman. In his place, Riyadh sent Salman’s 55-year-old nephew, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, and Salman’s 28-year-old son, Mohammed bin Salman, deputy crown prince and defense minister.

Both men are said to be responsible for the aggressive Saudi policies in confronting Iran, especially in Yemen, where Mohammed bin Salman is leading the campaign against the Iranian-backed Houthis. In other words, while snubbing Obama, King Salman also delivered a strong message through the two men who are in line to lead Saudi Arabia for the foreseeable future. They’re not happy with what they correctly perceive as the White House’s pro-Iranian tilt in the Middle East—and they’re in a position to challenge it.

In Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, referred to in Western policymaking circles as MBN, the White House is likely to find an especially able statesman. MBN served as the deputy minister of the interior under his father and then won the top post himself, where he has distinguished himself as a tough-minded security official who proved instrumental in dismantling terrorist networks and providing U.S. officials with valuable insight into their workings. He has survived at least four assassination attempts.

May:20:2015 - 11:12 | Comments & Trackbacks (2) | Permalink

Saudi Gazette reports that seven senior officials in Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Health are about to be fired and are under investigated for corruption. The charges include misuse of funds and favoritism.

7 senior health officials face the axe
Saudi Gazette report

JEDDAH — Seven senior officials of the Health Ministry are expected to be sacked prior to investigations on corruption charges, Al-Watan Arabic daily reported on Tuesday quoting ministry’s sources.

They said the Bureau of Investigation and Public Prosecution (BIP) has made some observations and remarks on the performance of the seven high-ranking officials related to corruption and the waste of public funds.

The sources said the accused violated the regulations of appointment in some programs and spent large sums of money on irrelevant conferences and seminars.

The officials were also accused of giving some employees allowances that they were not entitled to while depriving deserving staff of a pay raise.

Another piece in the paper, translated from the Arabic Al-Madina warns that King Salman is determined to rid the government of corruption. Too many officials, the article states, have escaped the consequences of their actions. King Salman, however, is taking a turn “180 degrees” different from the past.

Punishing corrupt officials

May:20:2015 - 10:32 | Comments Off | Permalink

Saudi Arabia will conduct its next municipal elections on December 12, Arab News reports. The Municipal Election Committee has also established a timetable for voter and candidate registration. These elections — which are the first to include women as both voters and candidates (if any) — will permit 12 days for campaigning.

Civic poll on Dec. 12

JEDDAH: The third municipal election, which will see for the first time women participating as voters and candidates, will be held between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. on Dec. 12. The results will be out the following day.

“The Municipal Election Committee has set a timeframe for the polls, including the timings for registration of voters and candidates,” said Jedaie bin Nahar Al-Qahtani, spokesman of the election panel.

The whole election process, including campaign, would take three months. Registration of voters will be done between 5 p.m. and 10 p.m. from Aug. 22 to Sept. 14, he said Registration of candidates will be from Aug. 30 to Sept. 17, the spokesman said.

May:18:2015 - 09:55 | Comments Off | Permalink

Saudi Gazette reports that the sponsorship program for foreign workers (kafala) now in use in Saudi Arabia violates human rights law, according to the Saudi National Society for Human Rights. There are multiple failings ranging from employees not being given copies of their contracts to being deprived of pay. Many of these violations are also against Saudi law, but they continue without much in the way of official supervision and action.

Sponsorship system violates human rights, asserts NSHR
Saudi Gazette report

RIYADH — The kafala (sponsorship) system that the Labor Ministry is using for the recruitment and employment of expatriates is replete with human rights violations, the National Society for Human Rights (NSHR) has said in a report.

“There are 13 loopholes in the system that were behind the complaints the society has been receiving since its establishment in 2004,” the society told Makkah newspaper.

According to the report, about 67.8 percent of labor issues the society had dealt with were complaints by expatriates against their Saudi kafeels (sponsors).

The society said the various labor issues it was notified about during 2014 constituted about 6 percent of all the cases it had considered.

The society listed the following violations as a result of the kafala system:

May:18:2015 - 09:43 | Comments & Trackbacks (2) | Permalink

An interesting analysis in The Washington Post arguing that Saudi Arabia has already achieved its goals in Yemen and it’s now time to step back a bit. Silvana Toska, a PhD candidate at Cornell University says that the Saudis have accomplished the major objectives they set for themselves: Consolidate power clearly within the ruling family; put Iran front-and-center on American radar; shown that they will take action against Iranian encroachment; increase Saudi nationalism. Worth reading.

Has Saudi Arabia already won its Yemen war?
Silvana Toska

Despite the current humanitarian ceasefire, Saudi Arabia’s military operation in Yemen is now in its second month with no end in sight and no sign that any of the parties are willing to negotiate. The intervention has caused devastating destruction in Yemen, a deepening of divisions between already divided Yemeni factions, a large number of casualties and refugees and has done nothing to stabilize the country.

Militarily, Saudi Arabia has not achieved its goals. However, to understand the rationale behind the intervention, Saudi Arabia’s actions must be seen in a wider context that includes both its domestic and regional goals. From this perspective, this military incursion serves the present interests of Saudi Arabia in a number of ways, regardless of the military outcome.

May:17:2015 - 07:33 | Comments Off | Permalink

Saudi media (as well as other GCC media) are headlining Pres. Obama’s pledge that the US will continue its support of regional security. The US is not conducting a “pivot to Iran,” as has been feared, but sees it as critical that relations with Iran be calmed down. That, however, is largely up to Iran and its leadership.

The reports also note the continuing cooperation on anti-terrorism efforts, no matter the origin of the threats. Asharq Alawsat reports:

Obama pledges “ironclad” support to GCC security

Camp David (Maryland), Asharq Al-Awsat—US President Barack Obama pledged “ironclad” American support for Gulf regional security at the US-Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) summit at Camp David on Thursday.

Speaking following the meeting with senior Gulf officials and heads of state, the US President said: “I am reaffirming our ironclad commitment to the security of our Gulf partners.”

“The United States is prepared to work jointly with the GCC states to deter and confront an external threat to any GCC state’s territorial integrity,” Obama said.

The joint US-GCC statement issued following the summit contained US pledges to bolster its security cooperation with the GCC on counter-terrorism, maritime security, cyber-security and ballistic missile defense.

The joint statement stressed that the US would use any and all means at its disposal in order to carry out an “appropriate” response to any external threat to the GCC’s territory, including “military force.”

“The United States and GCC member states oppose and will work together to counter Iran’s destabilizing activities in the region and stressed the need for Iran to engage the region according to the principles of good neighborliness, strict non-interference in domestic affairs, and respect for territorial integrity . . . And for Iran to take concrete, practical steps to build trust and resolve its differences with neighbors by peaceful means,” the statement said.

May:16:2015 - 06:57 | Comments Off | Permalink

Al Arabiya TV reports that the Obama administration sees the US-Saudi relations as just hunky dory. There’s certainly no snub in King Salman’s not attending the Washington/Camp David summit.

That might not be quite how the Saudis see the relationship, however. The article expresses concern about how the conflict between the desire to build a legacy for the President might not accord with GCC desires for containment of Iran and its nuclear ambitions.

Obama hails ‘extraordinary’ Saudi relations

U.S. President Barack Obama hailed the “extraordinary friendship and relationship” Washington has with Riyadh after meeting with Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammad bin Nayef and Deputy Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman at the White House after King Salman pulled out of the visit.

“The United States and Saudi Arabia have an extraordinary friendship and relationship that dates back to [President] Franklin Roosevelt,” Obama said at the start of the meeting.

He added: “We are continuing to build that relationship during a very challenging time.”

May:14:2015 - 07:36 | Comments & Trackbacks (5) | Permalink

According to an Associated Press item run on Al Arabiya TV, Iran is warning both the US and the Saudi-led coalition to not interfere with a shipment it categorizes as “humanitarian” now en route to Yemen. The Iranian government is definitely rattling its spears. The US says that the ship should put into port in Djibouti, where international humanitarian efforts are being coordinated.

Iran warns U.S. against hindering Yemen aid ship

TEHRAN (AP): A senior Iranian military official has warned the U.S. and the Saudi-led coalition targeting Yemeni militias that blocking an Iranian aid ship bound for Yemen will “spark a fire,” as a five-day humanitarian cease-fire appeared to hold early Wednesday after going into effect the day before.

“I bluntly declare that the self-restraint of Islamic Republic of Iran is not limitless,” Gen. Masoud Jazayeri, the deputy chief of staff, told Iran’s Arabic-language Al-Alam state TV late Tuesday.

“Both Saudi Arabia and its novice rulers, as well as the Americans and others, should be mindful that if they cause trouble for the Islamic Republic with regard to sending humanitarian aid to regional countries, it will spark a fire, the putting out of which would definitely be out of their hands.”

Iran says the ship, which departed Monday, is carrying food, medicine, tents and blankets, as well as reporters, rescue workers and peace activists. It says the ship is expected to arrive at Yemen’s port city of Hodeida next week. Iran’s navy said Tuesday it will protect the ship.

The US stance, if push comes to shove, isn’t entirely clear, but Pres. Obama, in an interview with Al Arabiya TV, characterizes Iran as “a state sponsor of terrorism” and not playing a helpful role in the region.

In exclusive interview, Obama says Iran is a ‘state sponsor of terror’

May:13:2015 - 06:53 | Comments Off | Permalink
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