The UK’s The Telegraph newspaper runs an interview with Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Deputy Crown Prince and Minister of Defense. It’s certain wide-ranging and the reforms mentioned, if brought to fruition, would represent a major change in the country. For the better.

Revealed: Saudi Arabia’s manifesto for change in the face of rumours of coup plots
In rare public statement, advisers to all-powerful Prince Mohammed bin Salman tell Telegraph of plans for opening up country’s economy and society
Richard Spencer, Middle East Editor

Saudi Arabia has issued a manifesto for change in the face of rumours of coup plots and international pressure, ranging from economic reform to the role of women and allowing human rights groups into the country.

At a time when the country’s internal politics are under more scrutiny than at any time for decades, close advisers to the new King Salman and his powerful son have taken the unprecedented step of outlining a detailed programme of its future government to The Telegraph.

It amounts to a Thatcherite programme of budget cuts, increasing the role of the private sector, and reforms to the way the kingdom is governed.

It obliquely acknowledges that radical changes in the royal family since the king acceded to the throne in January, including the sidelining of a generation of older princes and the former heir to the throne, have met with opposition. There have been claims outside the country that disgruntled princes are attempting to mount a coup to replace the king with one of his brothers.

But the statement of principles shown to the Telegraph says that the way the country has been run since its founding a century ago must give way to “youth”. “These resolute and decisive changes may have annoyed some people but it does not amount to a crisis,” it says.

November:13:2015 - 06:38 | Comments Off | Permalink

Al Arabiya TV runs a Saudi Gazette report, not yet posted on the Gazette’s website, noting that three Saudi universities have achieved ranking among the top 800 universities in the world.

Three Saudi universities on global ranking list
Saudi Gazette

Saudi Arabia has three representatives in the newly expanded World University Rankings published by the Times Higher Education.

Jeddah’s King Abdulaziz University, Dammam’s King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals and Riyadh’s King Saud University feature on the list.

“Saudi Arabia is one of several countries to have made its debut in this year’s World University Rankings. This achievement is in part due to expanding the ranking to include 801 universities and 70 countries,” said Phil Baty, the editor of the Times Higher Education World University Rankings.

He said the newly expanded Times Higher Education World University Rankings is great news for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.

“MENA universities need to continue to progress up the rankings for the region to compete effectively in the 21st century knowledge economy.”

September:30:2015 - 07:46 | Comments Off | Permalink

In the ping-pong of American legal process, Saudi Arabia has been dropped from a suit by 9/11 victims’ families by an American court. The Associated Press runs the following account, noting that the decision will again be appealed.

Judge drops Saudi Arabia from Sept. 11 lawsuit
LARRY NEUMEISTER, Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) — Saudi Arabia was dismissed Tuesday as a defendant in lawsuits brought by the families of victims of the Sept. 11 attacks by a judge who said lawyers had failed to show sufficient evidence linking the country to the attacks.

U.S. District Judge George Daniels said in a written ruling that lawyers for the plaintiffs had failed to show facts sufficient to overcome Saudi Arabia’s sovereign immunity. He also dismissed as a defendant the Saudi High Commission for Relief of Bosnia & Herzegovina on the grounds that the charity is an instrument of Saudi Arabia and thus covered as well by sovereign immunity.

The judge wrote that evidence would have to show that Saudi Arabia or its officials took actions to support the terrorist plot. Fifteen of the 19 hijackers were citizens of Saudi Arabia.

September:30:2015 - 07:24 | Comments Off | Permalink

Al Arabiya TV reports that Saudi authorities have broken an ISIS cell operating out of Riyadh and Dammam. Among those killed in the raids was one among the “most-wanted” terrorists in the country. This cell is believed responsible for the attack on a mosque in Abha last month that killed several security/military personnel.

Saudi arrests ISIS-related terror cell in two cities

The Saudi Interior Ministry announced Monday it has intercepted an ISIS cell during four simultaneous operations in the Saudi capital Riyadh and the eastern city of Dammam, Al Arabiya News Channel reported on Monday.

During the operations, two ISIS members were killed and three others were arrested.

The ministry confirmed that the cell was linked to the suicide bomber behind the Abha mosque attack that took place in August.

September:29:2015 - 07:33 | Comments Off | Permalink

The government of Saudi Arabia is taking grave exception to Iran’s criticisms of how it handles Haj, Arab News reports. It widely quotes Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir bluntly telling Iran to stop trying to make political hay out of the recent tragedy.

KSA rubbishes Iran criticism of stampede

NEW YORK: Saudi Arabia firmly rejected Iran’s criticism of its handling of the Haj pilgrimage Saturday after Tehran demanded an inquiry into the Mina stampede.

“I believe the Iranians should know better than to play politics with a tragedy that has befallen people who were performing their most sacred religious duty,” Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir said, according to AFP.

Al-Jubeir, delivering remarks along US Secretary of State John Kerry, insisted that Saudi Arabia was on top of the situation.

“The Kingdom has had a long history of spending tremendous resources to care for the pilgrimage to ensure that the pilgrims who come there have a successful pilgrimage,” he said.

“And we will reveal the facts when they emerge. And we will not hold anything back. If mistakes were made, who made them will be held accountable,” Al-Jubeir said.

September:28:2015 - 06:59 | Comments Off | Permalink

Saudi media, typified by this Saudi Gazette report, are suggesting that a group of Iranian pilgrims eager to reach Mina to complete their Haj, ignored their scheduled travel and ended up causing the stampede that has killed over 700 people.

‘Violation of rules by Iranian pilgrims caused stampede’
Saudi Gazette report

MINA — Violation of the pilgrims’ grouping regulations by some 300 Iranian pilgrims resulted in the stampede in Mina which killed 769 Hajis and injured 934, Asharq Al-Awsat daily reported on Saturday quoting an official of the Tawafa Establishment for the Iranian Pilgrims.

The official, who requested anonymity, said the violation of rules by this group of Iranian pilgrims started from their very first movement from Muzdalifah on Thursday morning to Jamarat to perform the first day’s stoning ritual. They were clearly instructed to go to their tents from Muzdalifah instead of moving to Jamarat with their baggage. They had been instructed to take rest in their tents and wait for the time allotted for them to perform their stoning ritual.

Moreover, these pilgrims moved back to their tents from Jamarat through Street 204 in the opposite direction of pilgrims’ movement, the official said. The flow of pilgrims from two opposite directions resulted in the overcrowding and the stampede ensued, the official said.

According to sources, there are cameras installed in the tunnels leading to Jamarat and it will be obvious from the visuals that the Iranian pilgrims committed violations with regard to their movement to Jamarat.

Iran, meanwhile, blames Saudi government “incompetence”:

Iran blames Saudi Arabia for hajj disaster

September:27:2015 - 06:20 | Comments & Trackbacks (2) | Permalink

The number of dead keeps rising in reports on a stampede at a pilgrim camp crossroad on the way to the Jamarat area of the Haj pilgrimage. The exact cause of the stampede is unknown, though clearly overcrowding will be seen to have played an important role.

At least 453 dead in Mina stampede

Saudi Arabia’s civil defense says that at least 453 pilgrims have died on Thursday when a stampede broke out in the city of Mina, reported Al Arabiya News.

At least 719 others were injured in the crush at a crossroads on Street 204 at the camp city at Mina, a few kilometres east of Makkah, the Saudi civil defence said.

Al Arabiya News Channel’s correspondent Abdulrahman Al-Osaimi reporting from Mina emergency hospital said the stampede happened at the entrance of the Jamarat bridge near Street 204, and not inside of the Jamarat area where the stoning pillars are situated.

“The injured have been distributed to four other hospitals in the Mina area. Some of the injured have been evacuated by helicopters to hospitals in Makkah city,” our reporter said.

Al Arabiya TV also provides a timeline of earlier disasters — including other stampedes — that led to high numbers of deaths during the pilgrimage. Balancing public access with public safety is a difficult equation.

Timeline: A look at the worst stampedes during Hajj

UPDATE: The death toll has now reached 717, as of Sept. 25. There are still hundreds of injured being treated, not all of whom are expected to survive.

The groups suffering the highest number of deaths is reported to have been Iranians and Moroccans.

September:24:2015 - 07:10 | Comments Off | Permalink

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman has announced the the victims (and the families of victims) of the crane collapse in Mecca will receive SR 1 million (US $296,000) in compensation for the tragedy. The compensation is not in lieu of private law suits.

SR1m for family of each crane victim
Siraj Wahab | Arab News staff

JEDDAH: Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman has ordered massive payouts for the families of those killed and injured in last week’s crane crash tragedy, which claimed the lives of 111 people and injured over 238.

In a royal decree on Tuesday, the king announced that there would be SR1 million paid to each victim’s family, SR1 million to those whose injuries resulted in permanent disability, and SR500,000 for each of the injured, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

The king stated that these payments would not exclude the families of the deceased, and the injured, from launching lawsuits through the courts for compensation.

The government has suspended all crane operations during Haj to avoid any repeat. It is also reported that the Bin Laden Group construction company, whose crane was responsible for the deaths and injuries, has been suspended from further work, though it is not clear whether this pertains only to work at the Grand Mosque or on all projects.

September:16:2015 - 07:34 | Comments & Trackbacks (2) | Permalink

Saudi Gazette/Okaz report that Saudi Arabia’s medical establishment is still reliant upon foreign practitioners. Saudi medicos make up about one-third of the total, but only one-quarter of the doctors and one-fifth of the pharmacists. About half of the nurses are Saudi, however, which is a marked change over the past 20 years. Of course, most of these Saudi nurses are still male as the profession is seen as not quite morally suitable for women.

Expat docs outnumber Saudis — Ministry
Mohammad Al-Zahrani
Okaz/Saudi Gazette

TAIF — There is a total of 317,000 expatriate health practitioners and doctors and only 139,000 Saudi health practitioners and doctors, according to the Ministry of Health.

A source from the ministry said hospitals and health institutions are in need of more medical staff. “The ministry has stopped renewing the contracts of certified doctors and health practitioners working in administrative positions.

There is a great number of Saudi employees with a degree in medicine who are occupying administrative positions when they could work as doctors,” said the source.

“There are 102,000 expatriate doctors in the health industry and only 25,800 Saudi doctors. There are also 39,000 expatriate pharmacists but only 7,000 Saudi pharmacists.

September:16:2015 - 07:26 | Comments Off | Permalink

All Saudi media are reporting on the collapse of a construction crane at the Grand Mosque in Mecca. Major renovation and expansion work is underway at the mosque. The collapse is currently being blamed on high winds and torrential rains. Al Arabiya TV accompanies its report with videos of the storm and the collapse of the crane. The weather certainly looks close enough to a hurricane that structural damage could be anticipated.

More than 100 killed in Makkah crane collapse

More than 100 people have been killed and scores more wounded in Makkah’s Grand Mosque after a crane collapsed on Friday, Al Arabiya News Channel reported citing the Saudi Civil Defense authority.

It is believed the crane collapsed in high winds and severe rainfall.

Saudi Gazette reports that the rains were exceptionally heavy:

Heaviest rain in decades lashes Makkah

September:12:2015 - 07:27 | Comments & Trackbacks (1) | Permalink

Pushing back against media reports that Saudi Arabia (and the other GCC countries) aren’t doing enough to help Syrian refugees, the Saudi Press Agency is claiming (and Saudi media are repeating) the claim that the KSA has, in fact, received 2.5 million Syrians since the start of the Syrian crisis. The piece notes that the Saudis aren’t treating them as “refugees” per se by placing them in camps, but has elected to merge them into the general expat community. The Saudis have also provided assistance to countries where refugees have fled, have donated millions of dollars toward relief efforts, as well as provided direct humanitarian relief.

Saudi official: We received 2.5 mln Syrians

Saudi Arabia has received around 2.5 million Syrians since the start of the conflict in their country, an official source in the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) has revealed, elaborating that the Kingdom has adopted a policy not to treat these Syrians as refugees, or place them in refugee camps “in order to ensure their dignity and safety.”

Speaking to the state-run Saudi Press Agency (SPA), the MoFA official explained that Saudi Arabia initially did not “intend to speak about its efforts to support Syrian brothers and sisters, during their distress, as it has, since the beginning of the problem,” adding that “Saudi Arabia dealt with the situation from a religious and humane perspective, and did not wish to boast about its efforts or attempt to gain media coverage.”

September:12:2015 - 07:18 | Comments & Trackbacks (3) | Permalink

Insofar as Saudi media reporting goes, King Salman’s visit to Washington and meeting with Pres. Obama went swimmingly. Both countries are to build on their generations of friendship and cooperation. Both countries have similar views on the major issues. Asharq Alawsat‘s report is typical:

King Salman hails Saudi Arabia’s “21st century alliance” with US

Washington, Asharq Al-Awsat—Relations between Saudi Arabia and the United States remain as strong as ever and are entering a new stage, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman Bin Abdulaziz said in a statement as he wrapped up his historic visit to Washington late on Saturday.

During the visit, his first to the US since acceding to the Saudi throne, King Salman met with US President Barack Obama at the White House to discuss the fight against terrorism, the crises in Yemen and Syria, and the Iran nuclear deal.

“The meetings which we held, especially regarding our new strategic alliance for the 21st century, will contribute, God willing, to deepening these relations and strengthening them, and in boosting our cooperation in order to benefit both our friendly countries and peoples,” King Salman said.

“I wish to reiterate our strategic and historic relations which were formed during the historic meeting between King Abdulaziz Al Saud and President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1945, and which since then have been further developed in a number of areas.”

King Salman headed to Tangiers in Morocco following his departure from Washington on Saturday evening, and was seen off at the airport by a number of US officials.

During the visit King Salman met with Saudi university students currently enrolled in the US, as well as Saudi journalists, writers, and academics residing in the country.

Following the meeting with King Salman, President Obama agreed to speed up the delivery of US weapons to the Kingdom to shore up defenses against potential threats by Iran—part of promises made by the president to Gulf countries in May, before the announcement of the Iran nuclear deal in July.

Asharq Alawsat also editorializes on the visit, pointing out that while Saudi Arabia is no longer dependent upon the US for its security, it appreciates it and anticipates that it will continue into the future.

September:08:2015 - 08:10 | Comments Off | Permalink
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