Al Arabiya TV reports that cross-border attacks are still continuing in Jizan and Najran, Saudi Arabia’s southwesternmost provinces. The attacks are primarily artillery attacks on the part of the Houthis, while Saudi Arabia is responding with airstrikes.

Yemen’s Houthis attack Saudi border towns

Yemen’s Houthi militias on Saturday shelled various areas in Saudi Arabia’s Jizan and Najran, according to Reuters news agency citing Houthi sources.

Thirteen shells had been launched on Friday, targeting several areas including Jizan’s airport, the report stated, adding that military equipment had also been destroyed.

It is yet unknown whether there are casualties.

A Saudi-led alliance has been bombing Yemen’s Houthi militia and allied army units loyal to deposed leader Ali Abdullah Saleh since March 26 in an attempt to restore exiled President Abdrabbu Mansour Hadi to power.

Saudi forces and the Houthis have been trading fire across the border since the Arab alliance began its military operations.


July:04:2015 - 07:40 | Comments & Trackbacks (0) | Permalink

According to Arab News, Saudi Arabia’s laws prohibiting criticism of public figures is still going strong. The paper reports that two Saudis are to face trial for allegedly “insulting the late King Abdullah”.

2 to be tried for ‘insulting’ the late King Abdullah

RIYADH: Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman has ordered that two men face trial for allegedly insulting the late King Abdullah.

Quoting reliable sources, a local online publication said that King Salman has also barred Mohsin Al-Awaji and Abdullah Al-Mudaifir from appearing in the media.

The website said the program ‘Fis Sameem’ (At Heart) broadcast on Rotana television, would be taken off air. The show hosts public figures and interviews them on various issues.

During the television talk show hosted by Saudi presenter Al-Mudaifir, Al-Awaji reportedly uttered negative remarks about the former king who ruled the country from August 2005 to 2015.

The publication reported that King Salman took the decision because the government would not allow anyone to besmirch the name of any of the country’s previous rulers, who all helped to build the Kingdom.


July:03:2015 - 06:43 | Comments & Trackbacks (0) | Permalink

H.A. Hellyer, writing at Al Arabiya TV, notes that there’s something wrong with the (partial) condemnations of sectarianism popping up in the regional media. Whether is obliviousness, disengenuity, or out-and-out machinations, what is condemned is only that which comes from the other guy. “Our guy” gets a pass, if not actual support.

The short-sightedness (to put it at its most gentle) is appalling. There seems to be utterly no conception of the possibility that today’s majority might not remain so tomorrow. And when that happens, all the methods, tricks, interpretations, and the like that are used to justify violence in the name of today’s majorities will be used to justify similar actions against them when they’re in the minority. Even the most cursory reading of history should inform one that things do not stay the same forever.

Sectarianism is bad… until it is your side that is inciting it
H.A. Hellyer

It’s Ramadan. Against the backdrop of Muslims observing the obligatory performance of the fast, sheikhs and religious authorities will remind the faithful of the saying of the Prophet: “There has come to you Ramadan, a blessed month which God has enjoined you to fast, during which the gates of heaven are opened and the gates of Hell are closed, and the rebellious devils are chained up.” Sages in the past would comment – and warn believers that if there were sins they persisted in the month, they had to take them seriously. For in this month, the whispers and murmurs, beckoning souls to wretchedness – well, that’s all on them. Because the devils, as the adage goes, are locked up.

One would hope, then, that in this month, there would be an absence of truly horrendous actions – if from no one else, than from Muslims themselves, particularly those that claim to raise high the banner of Islam. Alas, the last few days show that while some human beings don’t require the murmurs and whispers of baser beings at all – they can do rather evil things all on their own.

… Is the principle really ‘sectarianism is bad’ – or is the principle ‘sectarianism is bad… until it is my side doing it?’

Is there anyone who will take seriously within the region that be it Sunni on Shiite sectarianism; or Shiite on Sunni sectarianism; or Sunni on Sunni sectarianism; or Muslim on Christian sectarianism; that these are all just bad ideas? That differences of views can, and should, be expressed – but that the incitement that finds itself in words will, far too often, be eventually conveyed in acts of violence and terrible consequences? Or have too few not reached the point of realizing that rotten discourse does not have rotten consequences?

Are there leaders in these communities who know they must rise, in order to be clear once and for all, not simply in rhetoric but in action, to avert further catastrophe by declaring – if you will seek to promote hate and incitement, you will not be tolerated? Are there leaders who will pursue that path, not as a way to crackdown on legitimate dissent and varying opinions that do not win favor with the palace – but as a way to ensure and develop the health of their communities and societies?


June:29:2015 - 10:07 | Comments & Trackbacks (1) | Permalink

Saudi Gazette reports that over 1,300 Saudis have been arrested for involvement with ISIS/Daesh over the past eight months. The article suggests that these are predominantly youths, only some of whom took part in attacks. The others were captured “before they were able to do so,” officials say.

1,351 Daesh terrorists arrested in 8 months
Saud Al-Shaibani

RIYADH — A total of 1,351 terrorists belonging to Daesh (the self-proclaimed IS) have been arrested in various parts of the Kingdom over the past eight months.

A source reported the terrorists make up 29 different nationalities, but most of them are Saudis.

“There were 1,058 Saudi terrorists and most of them were very young. They contacted Daesh through numerous websites and some of them have committed deadly terrorism attacks and others were arrested before they were able to do so,” said the source.

The source also said the total number of non-Saudis who were arrested for being involved in terrorism stands at 293.


June:28:2015 - 12:27 | Comments & Trackbacks (0) | Permalink

Saudi Arabia is making its position on Gay Rights clear: There are none.

Arab News reports that the country’s Ministry of Interior says that in the conflict between gay rights and religion, religion wins. It’s not just delivering a message to Saudis, but vociferously made its point in a session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.

Saudi Arabia rubbishes calls for gay rights

JEDDAH: There would be no rights granted to gay people in the Kingdom, the Interior Ministry said on Wednesday.

In a post on its Twitter account, the ministry stated that it supports human rights principles proposed by international bodies as long as they are in line with Islamic law. It also slammed those questioning the Kingdom’s rights record.

It said that freedom of expression does not mean demeaning the beliefs of Muslims; and condemned those who continue to ridicule the Prophet, peace be upon him.

The ministry said it rejected terrorism and urged united international action to tackle all forms of extremism because these ideas violate the teachings of the world’s religions.


June:25:2015 - 07:25 | Comments Off | Permalink

American magazine “The Atlantic” takes a look at Saudi Arabia’s solar power aspirations. It notes some of the problems it faces in trying to replace petroleum-based energy with solar energy, including such simple things as dust storms that can drop the energy production of solar cells precipitously.

Worth reading in its entirety.

Why the Saudis Are Going Solar
The fate of one of the biggest fossil-fuel producers may now depend on its investment in renewable energy
Jeffrey Ball

Prince Turki bin Saud bin Mohammad Al Saud belongs to the family that rules Saudi Arabia. He wears a white thawb and ghutra, the traditional robe and headdress of Arab men, and he has a cavernous office hung with portraits of three Saudi royals. When I visited him in Riyadh this spring, a waiter poured tea and subordinates took notes as Turki spoke. Everything about the man seemed to suggest Western notions of a complacent functionary in a complacent, oil-rich kingdom.

But Turki doesn’t fit the stereotype, and neither does his country. Quietly, the prince is helping Saudi Arabia—the quintessential petrostate—prepare to make what could be one of the world’s biggest investments in solar power.

Near Riyadh, the government is preparing to build a commercial-scale solar-panel factory. On the Persian Gulf coast, another factory is about to begin producing large quantities of polysilicon, a material used to make solar cells. And next year, the two state-owned companies that control the energy sector—Saudi Aramco, the world’s biggest oil company, and the Saudi Electricity Company, the kingdom’s main power producer—plan to jointly break ground on about 10 solar projects around the country.


June:24:2015 - 10:08 | Comments Off | Permalink

Khaled Almaeena, Editor-at-Large for Saudi Gazette, comments on how the Ministry of Islamic Affairs seems incapable of enforcing its own decrees on its own employees. He criticizes the way firebrand preachers (who do draw salaries from the government) ignore Ministry directives, large and small. If they cannot be called into line over little things like the banned use of loudspeakers to broadcast sermons, he asks, what chance is there to haul them up short when they’re preaching divisive sectarianism and misusing religion to attack those that annoy them?

A rant too far by an Imam
Khaled Almaeena

THE Minister of Islamic Affairs has issued directives for an investigation into the rantings of an Imam of a mosque in Asir, who condemned the Saudi actor Nasser Algassabi and accused him of heresy.

Algassabi, well known for his satire in previous shows like “Tash Ma Tash”, has been the object of vilification and scorn by many hard-liners before. But he is again the target of incoherent attacks for his irreverent double entendres on television.

However, this time Saeed Bin Farwa, the mosque Imam, has gone too far with his ravings, outgunning his own ilk in his accusations. Other preachers also appeared on social media some invoking God’s wrath on Algassabi.

These people apparently have acted for many reasons, known only to them. Personally I think it gets them attention and followers, and that’s why they are quick to shoot from their lip.


June:22:2015 - 07:21 | Comments & Trackbacks (1) | Permalink

Hacking government computer systems is going on around the world and Saudi Arabia isn’t immune. Al Arabiya TV reports on Saudi government reaction to the release of tens of thousands of internal documents into the wild late last week, noting that the hack itself probably took place last month.

The government is engaged — as governments are wont to do — in various efforts at backing and filling: “Security is at a high standard.” “Investigation is proceeding.” And the admonitory, “Beware of false documents posing as real ones,” with absolutely no hints given on how to distinguish the two.

The government avows that whatever was released was only expected government policy: “nothing to see here, move along.”

As with any hacks like this, what’s out there might be interesting, but it’s largely lacking context.

Leaks do not contradict declared policies

The Saudi foreign ministry on Sunday described content of Wikileaks’ publications of more than 60,000 documents as showing no contradiction to its declared policies and warned against circulation of these documents as many were “fabricated,” Al Arabiya News Channel reported.

Head of Information Department at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Ousama Al Naqli confirmed to Al Arabiya News Channel in an interview that the organized electronic attack that targeted the ministry was not able to hack most classified documents which are in millions.

He also said “the Ministry of Foreign Affairs uses a system with very high standards. It also uses one of the best protection systems in the world.”

Ambassador Naqli said the current information is related to an earlier attack, and refers to the well-known policy of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.


June:22:2015 - 06:33 | Comments & Trackbacks (2) | Permalink

Al Arabiya TV features a Reuters report on the 2014 Annual Report on Terrorism from the US Department of State. The report is global, but most interest is focused on the Middle East, primarily with the rise of ISIS. The report is based on State Dept. reporting conducted in 2014, but is published now.

The section on Saudi Arabia notes Saudi confrontations with Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and with ISIS/ISIL, but does not include conflict in Yemen that broke out only this year. It does report on widespread Saudi anti-terrorism and anti-terror-financing efforts.

Big rise in deadly terror attacks, says U.S. report
Warren Strobel | Reuters Washington

Terrorist attacks worldwide surged by more than a third and fatalities soared by 81 percent in 2014, a year that also saw ISIS eclipse al-Qaeda as the leading jihadist militant group, the U.S. State Department said on Friday.

In its annual report on terrorism, the department also charts an unprecedented flow of foreign fighters to Syria, often lured by ISIS’s use of social media and drawn from diverse social backgrounds.

Taken together, the trends point to a sobering challenge from militant groups worldwide to the United States and its allies despite severe blows inflicted on al-Qaeda, author of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks in Washington and New York.

Al-Qaeda’s leaders “appeared to lose momentum as the self-styled leader of a global movement in the face of ISIS’s rapid expansion and proclamation of a Caliphate,” the report said, using an alternate acronym for Islamic State.


June:20:2015 - 07:07 | Comments Off | Permalink

Ramadan, the holy month that calls for dawn-to-dusk fasting, has some exceptions. Pregnant women and the ill can postpone their fasts, for instance. But soldiers involved in fighting can also break their fasts if they think it necessary, Saudi Arabia’s Grand Mufti reminds. Arab News has the details:

Soldiers in war front can terminate fast: Mufti

JEDDAH: Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Aziz Al-Asheikh has announced that soldiers fighting on the country’s borders can break their fast in the middle if they find fasting too difficult.

“You are fighting for God’s sake and in God’s name, and we are proud that you are bravely defending your country. If you have the ability to fast, then do so.

“But for those who cannot, there is a legal excuse to end your fast before time. May God grant you a great victory and support you,” he said, according to a report in a local publication on Thursday.

Al-Asheikh, who is also president of the Council of Senior Scholars, wished the soldiers well for the holy month.


June:19:2015 - 07:18 | Comments Off | Permalink

The iqama was one of the most critical pieces of identification a foreigner resident in Saudi Arabia could hold. It showed that s/he was authorized to reside and was one of the most frequently demanded documents a foreign could hold.

Now, in an effort to abate fraud, the iqama is being replaced by the machine-readable muqeem (“resident”) card, according to an Arab News report. It will not specify the period of validity on its face, but will be linked to central databases that provide that information which is subject to the individual’s terms of entry and residence.

Defeating fraud: ‘Muqeem’ card to replace iqama
SAEED AL-KHOTANI

RIYADH: The government will provide new machine-readable identity cards to expatriates from the first day of the Islamic year, or Oct. 14 this year, in a bid to fight fraud and improve the efficiency of its systems.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Naif, deputy premier and minister of interior, launched the “Muqeem” (Resident) card, which will replace the current one, in Riyadh on Thursday. The name “iqama” would no longer be used by the department.

The new card can last for five years or more, depending on how the user looks after it. All expatriates will have this identity document in place of the current one, Col. Khalid Al-Saykhan, director of information technology, told Arab News.

However, Al-Saykhan warned that the new document does not mean residency laws have changed. This was only a move to improve the efficiency of the department’s e-system, he said.

“The residency periods for expatriates will stay the same. The period of stay must be recorded through the Abshir system, to register an identity card automatically,” he said.


June:19:2015 - 07:14 | Comments Off | Permalink

Al Arabiya TV reports that Saudi Arabia and Russia have signed six agreements concerning the development and peaceful use of nuclear power in the Kingdom. This is in line with other agreements the Saudis have signed with the US, France, Korea, and others.

It’s a bit peculiar in that Russia is a strong supporter of Iran’s nuclear program, about which the Saudis have grave and negative suspicions. It could be that the Saudis think that pulling Russia on board might give Saudi Arabia some leverage vis a vis the Iranian program, but I wouldn’t count on that if I were they.

Saudi, Russia sign nuclear deal

Saudi Arabia on Thursday signed six agreements with Russia including the peaceful use of nuclear technology, Al Arabiya News Channel reported.

The news comes after Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz met with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Konstantin Palace in St. Petersburg on Thursday after arriving in Moscow late Wednesday in an official visit, the state-run Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported.

Meanwhile, two sources told Reuters that the oil ministers of Russia and Saudi Arabia plan to discuss a broad cooperation agreement on Thursday at an economic forum in St Petersburg.

Saudi Arabia is the top producer in the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and the world’s top oil exporter, while Russia, which is not an OPEC member, is the second biggest oil supplier to the global markets.


June:19:2015 - 06:48 | Comments Off | Permalink
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