It’s known, in a fairly widespread manner, that Saudi Arabia and Israel do not have diplomatic relations. When a car with Saudi license plates was discovered in Jaffa, Israel last week, it set off a bit of a social media firestorm. The car, driven by an expat working in the KSA, set social media all atwitter. I suspect the car’s owner (and driver, if they are different) will be hearing about it from Saudi authorities and soon.

Photo of ‘Saudi’ car in Israel raises storm

JEDDAH: A Mercedes car with a Saudi number plate was spotted in Israel. The discovery led to intense discussion on social media websites on Tuesday.

According to reports, the car was spotted last week in Jaffa’s Clock Tower Square by Jacky Hugi, the Middle East editor for Israel’s Army Radio, who posted the picture on Twitter.


July:29:2015 - 09:25 | Comments & Trackbacks (0) | Permalink

There’s been a recent media splash over portions of an ancient Quran discovered in a collection at Birmingham University in the UK. Some of the claims about it have been a bit extravagant, such as claiming it as “the world’s oldest.”

Saudi scholars think the reports are mistaken, according to this story from Saudi Gazette. The scholars point out that there are certain historical discrepancies such as the use of red ink (not appropriate for the period) and believe the Birmingham researchers should have carbon-dated the ink, not the parchments.

Experts doubt oldest Qur’an claim
Saudi Gazette report

MAKKAH — Historians and manuscript experts have cast doubt on the credibility of the recent Birmingham University claim that it had discovered the oldest copy of the Qur’an.

The university recently showed two leaves of parchment with Qur’anic verses from chapter 18-20 in legible Hijazi script. It said the verses could have be scribbled somewhere between 568 AD and 645 AD.

The university’s claims mean that the verses were written close to the time of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) who was widely believed to have lived between 570 AD and 632 AD.

Quoting the experts, Makkah daily said on Sunday that the manuscript might have possibly been written after the time of the Prophet (pbuh) due to several factors.

Experts contend that during the time of the Prophet (pbuh) there was no separation between the Surahs (chapters) in red colors, no red ink was used in writing “Bismillah Al-Rahman Al-Raheem” with which a Surah begins and that the holy book itself was not put in its today’s order.


July:27:2015 - 07:54 | Comments & Trackbacks (0) | Permalink

Once again, the government of Saudi Arabia is calling for all nations to enforce laws prohibiting blasphemy. Saudi Gazette carries a story from the official Saudi Press Agency reporting on a call made at a European symposium. The story does not report on what Iceland, which earlier this month repealed its laws against blasphemy, had to say.

Criminalize vilification of religious symbols, says Saudi official

SPA: LILLE, France — Saudi Arabia has reiterated its call on the international community to criminalize any act vilifying religious beliefs and symbols of faith as well as all kinds of discrimination based on religion.

Addressing an international symposium on media coverage of religious symbols based on international law, which started in this French city on Saturday, a senior Saudi official said the Kingdom emphasized years ago that the international community must act urgently to confront ethnic, religious and cultural intolerance, which has become widespread in all communities and peoples of the world.

“We have made it clear that freedom of expression without limits or restrictions would lead to violation and abuse of religious and ideological rights,” said Abdulmajeed Al-Omari, director for external relations at the Ministry of Islamic Affairs.


July:26:2015 - 08:54 | Comments & Trackbacks (0) | Permalink

According to this Saudi Gazette report, Saudi Arabia believes the media and commentators are overplaying the recent visit by Hamas leaders to the Kingdom. The visit was purely a religious pilgrimage, according to the country’s new Minister of Foreign Affairs, Adel Al-Jubeir, and there were no meetings between Hamas and the government.

Position on Hamas unchanged: Al-Jubeir

SAUDI ARABIA on Thursday played down the significance of a visit by Hamas leaders, saying it was only a religious pilgrimage and Riyadh’s position on the Palestinian Islamist movement was unchanged.

“There was no (political) visit by Hamas to the Kingdom,” Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir said at a joint press conference with his Egyptian counterpart, Sameh Shoukry.

The official Saudi Press Agency reported last Saturday on the rare Hamas visit.

“A group from Hamas, including (politburo chief) Khaled Meshaal… visited Makkah for Umrah (the lesser pilgrimage). They performed the Eid prayers there and offered Eid greetings to the King,” Jubeir said. “There were no meetings.”

Jubeir described as inaccurate and exaggerated media reports that the visit was political in nature.


July:24:2015 - 08:09 | Comments & Trackbacks (0) | Permalink

Al Arabiya TV is featuring its exclusive interview with American Secretary of State John Kerry, pointing out his qualms about recent statements by Iran’s Supreme Leader. Kerry is still selling the nuclear accord, but appears to be acknowledging that regional states’ concerns aren’t just moaning about it.

Kerry slams ‘disturbing’ Khamenei speech

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Monday said recent anti-U.S. remarks from Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei were “disturbing,” adding that the United States was “not kidding about the importance of pushing back against extremism.”

In an interview with Al Arabiya News Channel’s Nadia Bilbassy-Charters, Kerry discussed Khamenei’s speech, made four days after Iran and world powers signed an accord designed to thwart Tehran’s nuclear program.

Khamenei had said his country would continue to support its regional friends despite its recent nuclear deal with world powers, including “the oppressed Palestinian nation, Yemen, Syria, Iraq (and) Bahrain.”

Full transcript of Al Arabiya interview with Secretary of State John Kerry


July:21:2015 - 07:40 | Comments & Trackbacks (1) | Permalink

Saudi authorities have arrested 431 people for their alleged involvement in terrorist attacks in the Kingdom, Al Arabiya TV reports. Those arrested come from ten countries, including Saudi Arabia. They are accused of playing a role in the attacks on Shi’a mosques and other Shi’ite areas in the Eastern Province, including attacks in 2014.

Saudi arrests 431 ISIS-linked suspects

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, the kingdom’s Ministry of Interior (MOI) said.

Authorities also thwarted seven mosque attacks that had been planned by the suspects in the capital Riyadh as well as the Eastern Province, MOI Spokesman Gen. Mansour Al Turki said in a press conference carried by Al Arabiya News Channel.

Among the arrested were Saudi nationals and suspects from nine other nationalities, he said adding that the cluster of cells was divided by tasks and target, he told reporters.

In one cell, made of five members, their task was to prep suicide bombers while another five-member cell had the mission to manufacture explosive belts.

Of the 431 arrested, 190 made up the four cells suspected to behind the Al-Qadeeh and Al-Unoud mosques’ bombings which claimed the lives of dozens of worshippers in May.


July:18:2015 - 10:02 | Comments Off | Permalink

A suicide bomber killed himself and injured security personnel at a checkpoint in southern Riyadh, Arab News reports. The checkpoint was on the way to Al-Ha’ir high-security prison from the capital. The bomber was identified as a Saudi national.

Defiant driver blows himself up in capital

RIYADH: A suicide bomber blew himself up on Thursday at a security checkpoint in Al-Hair neighborhood of the capital city, killing himself and wounding two policemen, the Interior Ministry said.

The blast went off when policemen manning the checkpoint on Al-Ha’ir Road stopped the car at the time of Maghreb prayer for a routine inspection, a spokesman for the ministry said.

“The bomber, Abdullah Fahad Al-Rashid, 16, a Saudi national, blew up the car and killed himself,” he was quoted as saying. The policemen were taken to hospital and were in a “stable condition,” the spokesman said.


July:17:2015 - 07:10 | Comments Off | Permalink

Saudi media are reporting on the meeting between Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir and American Secretary of State John Kerry. All report that Saudi Arabia isn’t particularly pleased with the nuclear agreement recently worked out with Iran. This Arab News report likens it to the agreement worked out with N. Korea during the Clinton administration which did nothing to thwart that country’s developing nuclear weapons.

Iran warned against any misadventure

WASHINGTON: Iran should use a nuclear deal agreed this week with six world powers to improve its economy, and not to pursue “adventures” in the Middle East, Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir said on Thursday.

“We hope that … if the deal is implemented that the Iranians will use this deal in order to improve the economic situation in Iran and to improve the lot of its people … and not use it for adventures in the region,” Al-Jubeir said after a meeting with US Secretary of State John Kerry.

“If Iran should try to cause mischief in the region, we’re committed to confront it resolutely,” he said.

Al-Jubeir stressed the importance of inspections to verify Iran is complying and the “snapback” of sanctions if it is found to be cheating.


July:17:2015 - 07:06 | Comments Off | Permalink

It didn’t take long, but after a decent interval following the Iran nuclear deal, after waiting to see the details, Saudi Arabia — through Pr. Bandar, its former ambassador to the US — has decided it doesn’t like the deal.

Al-Arabiya TV reports:

Saudi prince: Iran deal worse than one with N. Korea

Saudi Prince Bandar bin Sultan, a former ambassador to Washington, has said in an opinion piece for Elaph newspaper that the United States moved forward with the Iran nuclear deal despite predictions of the situation developing into a North Korean-style scenario.

In a column published by the London-based Arabic news website Elaph, the former chief of intelligence said the nuclear deal “will wreak havoc in the Middle East,” a region already plagued by major conflicts.

“Serious pundits in the media and in politics say that President Obama’s Iran deal is ‘déjà vu’ in relation to President Clinton’s North Korean nuclear deal.”

President Clinton’s decision was based on strategic foreign policy analysts, top secret national intelligence, and the desire “to save the people of North Korea from starvation,” wrote Prince Bandar, in reference to the 1994 “Agreed Framework” between North Korea and the United States that aimed to freeze the country’s nuclear power program.


July:16:2015 - 07:31 | Comments & Trackbacks (4) | Permalink

Saudi Gazette/Okaz report that Saudi authorities have arrested a gang alleged to have attempted using a quadracopter drone to deliver drugs into Briman Prison.

The report also notes that drones are illegal in Saudi Arabia.

7-member gang uses drones to smuggle drugs into prison
Adnan Al-Shabrawi | Okaz/Saudi Gazette

JEDDAH — The police arrested the head of a gang of seven members for smuggling drugs into Briman Prison by hauling the drugs on an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (drone) and flying it past security into the prison.

Briman Prison surveillance cameras recorded a drone hovering over the fenced walls of the prison and landing on the rooftop of one of the buildings. The drone had four propellers and was being controlled by a remote control. The person behind the drone was nowhere nearby.

A Briman Prison officer reported the drone was seized and investigated. The drone had a diameter of 45 cm. The officers found more than 2,000 amphetamine pills and a large amount of hashish hung on the drone. The operation was an attempt to smuggle the drugs into the prison for the prisoners.


July:15:2015 - 08:52 | Comments Off | Permalink

It’s not really surprising that the vast majority of new Saudi university graduates think finding a job is the most critical next step. Nearly 80% of them think so, according to a survey done by Bayt.com and reported by Saudi Gazette.

An even larger percentage see entrepreneurship in their futures, not relying on either government jobs or working for corporations. Many chose their academic majors with the job market in mind even though about a third ended up in jobs with a different focus. An interesting read…

Finding job greatest challenge facing fresh graduates living in KSA: Survey

RIYADH — When pursuing their first job, 78% of fresh graduates living in Saudi Arabia used or plan to use leading online job sites, Bayt.com 2015 “Fresh Graduates in the Middle East and North Africa” survey conducted by Bayt.com, the Middle East’s leading career site, and market research agency YouGov, revealed.

The majority of respondents state that finding a job is the biggest challenge of their generation, in line with this, 81% are leaning towards entrepreneurship as a potential future career option.

The study has also revealed that 54% of KSA respondents obtained their most recent qualification in KSA, followed by Egypt, at 10%. The two most common fields of study pursued by respondents were engineering (29%) and information technology/computer science (19%). Most graduates living in KSA (65%) were satisfied with the quality of higher education they received; in fact, 39% consider the preparation it gave them for the workplace to be ‘very good’ or ‘good’. Qualification of teachers (76%), curriculum (70%), teaching methods applied (61%), quality of infrastructure (56%), technology usage (60%), and value for money paid (62%), are also rated positively by KSA respondents.


July:15:2015 - 08:48 | Comments Off | Permalink

Given Saudi Arabia’s concern over a nuclear-armed Iran, Pres. Obama called King Salman to discuss the recently completed agreement with Iran over its nuclear program. According the the report from Al Arabiya TV, the Saudis will watch, hopefully, to see how the agreement is implemented.

Obama discusses Iran deal with Saudi King Salman

President Barack Obama telephoned Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz on Tuesday from Air Force One to discuss the newly completed Iran nuclear agreement, the White House said.

Saudi Arabia expressed hope Tuesday for an end to Iran’s regional “interference” after a historic nuclear deal aimed at ensuring Tehran does not obtain an atomic bomb was struck.

“Given that Iran is a neighbor, Saudi Arabia hopes to build with her better relations in all areas on the basis of good neighborliness and non-interference in internal affairs,” said an official spokesman cited by the Saudi Press Agency.

Both leaders also discussed the urgent need to stop the fighting in Yemen and ensure assistance for all Yemenis through international humanitarian channels.

Obama also spoke with Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan by telephone to discuss the nuclear agreement.

According to the UK’s Telegraph, however, things aren’t quite so sanguine. It sees Saudi Arabia and Israel in agreement that Iran’s program is dangerous and that the agreement may not pan out as its most hopeful supporters expect.

Israel and Saudi Arabia present united front over Iran deal


July:15:2015 - 08:38 | Comments & Trackbacks (1) | Permalink
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