Saudi Gazette reports that Saudi authorities have interrupted a plot by ISIS to use car bombs in the Kingdom. Arrests and seizures of the cars and bomb-making materials came as part of the investigation into the shooting deaths of two Saudi policemen in Riyadh earlier this month.

Saudi Arabia foils Daesh bomb plot
Mishal Al-Otaibi

RIYADH — The Interior Ministry said on Friday it had foiled a bomb plot by Daesh (the so-called IS) and blamed the group for shooting dead two policemen in Riyadh earlier this month.

Interior Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Mansour Al-Turki said three bomb-laden cars had been seized during investigations into the killings.

A Saudi man arrested at a farm in the Huraimla governorate, north of Riyadh, on suspicion of carrying out the shooting has confessed that he was following orders received from Daesh in Syria, Al-Turki told a press conference. He also confessed to injuring two other policemen in a separate attack in March.

The suspect was identified as Yazid Bin Mohammed Abdulrahman Abu Niyan, 23. The authorities offered a SR1 million bounty for an accomplice, another Saudi identified as Nawaf Bin Sharif Samir Al-Onaizi, who was wanted over several other criminal cases.

Arab News also covers the story:

IS ordered cops’ killing


April:25:2015 - 07:05 | Comments & Trackbacks (0) | Permalink

Al Arabiya TV runs a piece reporting on how the sudden announcement of the end of “Operation Decisive Storm” and the start of “Operation Renewal of Hope” caught all analysts off guard. Everyone was left trying to figure out just what happened.

Now, it seems, something like clarity is arising. While the goals of Decisive Storm have been mostly achieved — degrading the Houthi ability to conduct attacks on Saudi Arabia, shipping, and coalition aircraft, as well as destroying arms depots — direct attacks on troop concentrations will continue. The coalition will now seek to embargo any arms resupply from Iran and are counting on a UN resolution to encourage other UN members to take part. Left unstated is exactly how the Houthis will be forced out of cities they have seized, including the capital Sana’a.

Understanding ‘Operation Renewal of Hope’ in Yemen
David Andrew Weinberg | Special to Al Arabiya News

The Saudi-led military coalition in Yemen declared the end of Operation Decisive Storm yesterday, to be replaced with Operation Renewal of Hope effective midnight. Although coalition spokesperson General Ahmed Asiri suggested on Sunday that a “next phase” of activities was imminent, yesterday’s developments still caught commentators surprised and scrambling to explain what the multilateral forces would now be seeking to achieve.

Emphasizing how the news caught so many observers off-guard, Yemen’s press attaché in Washington Mohammed Albasha noted soon afterwards on his personal Twitter account: “I will be honest, I have no idea what’s going on.” The editor of the Middle East Journal, Michael Collins Dunn, gave voice to further puzzlement on his blog: “Wait, What? They won? … Something just happened, but I’m not sure what.”

Part of the confusion was fed by an announcement earlier on Tuesday by Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Amir Abdollahian that a “halt” to military operations would likely be reached “in the coming hours,” along with reports that former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s faction among the rebels was pushing hard for a ceasefire. Yet General Asiri insisted to the press that “we are not talking about a cease-fire,” pledging that Operation Renewal of Hope would still involve military action to prevent the Houthis “from moving or carrying out any operations inside Yemen.”


April:23:2015 - 08:54 | Comments & Trackbacks (0) | Permalink

Saudi Arabia announced the end of Operation Decisive Storm, to White House approval, and the start of Operation Restoring Hope. While air attacks will continue on Houthi strongholds, emphasis will be put on finding a political solution to the Yemen crisis. Al Arabiya TV has this report.

White House welcomes end of ‘Operation Decisive Storm’

The White house said on Tuesday it welcomed Saudi Arabia’s announcement that it would end air strikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen and back political peace talks.

“The United States welcomes today’s announcement by the government of Saudi Arabia and its coalition partners of the conclusion of Operation Decisive Storm in Yemen,” said Alistair Baskey, a spokesman for the White House National Security Council.

“We continue to support the resumption of a U.N.-facilitated political process and the facilitation of humanitarian assistance,” Baskey said in a statement.

The Saudi Ministry of Defense announced on Tuesday the end of Operation Decisive Storm, a military campaign led by the kingdom in Yemen to combat the Houthi advance in the embattled country, Al Arabiya reported.

The operation will continue to target Houthi militias as it enters a political phase, Saudi state television reported.

Asharq Alawsat likens the goals of Operation Restoring Hope to those of the Marshall Plan following WWII in Europe. There’s a will do do this and there’s money, but exactly how it will be done is yet to be determined.

Saudi-led coalition announces new “Arab Marshall Plan” to rebuild Yemen


April:22:2015 - 09:07 | Comments & Trackbacks (0) | Permalink

Facing an enormous energy crisis, the Saudi government is stepping up its enforcement of energy efficiency in domestic appliances. Arab News reports that testing is going on at various factories and machines are being rejected for not meeting energy standards.

12,407 devices fail energy test
JUBAIL: SULTAN AL-SUGHAIR

A total of 12,407 devices, including 9,824 air-conditioners and 2,583 washing machines, have failed the Saudi standard and specifications test.

The commission of the Ministry of Commerce and Industry (MCI) and Saudi Standards, Metrology and Quality Org. (SASO) did not find the equipment energy efficient.


April:21:2015 - 08:59 | Comments & Trackbacks (0) | Permalink

The children of expat workers in Saudi Arabia do not have the right to study at Saudi universities. That is due to change, Arab News reports, when a new university is opened specifically to deal with them. According to the report, 300,000 children of expats leave the country every year to attend higher education schools. The new university is seen as particularly attractive for parents of female students who are reluctant to send them abroad, even back to their home countries.

The university, when it opens, is sure to be over-subscribed. Strict entry requirements are being planned. Instruction will be in English.

New university to solve problem of expats
JEDDAH: P.K. ABDUL GHAFOUR

Realizing the decades-old dream of expat parents, a Saudi business group led by Prince Saud bin Musaed has taken the initiative to open an international university in Jeddah, offering degrees in engineering, automobile mechanics and business management.

The new university is a joint venture between Gammon Saudi Arabia and the Bangalore-based Bapuji Institute of Science & Technology, said Sheikh Rafik Mohammed, chairman of Gammon Group, who is confident that it would be a cent percent successful project.

“There are more than 10 million foreign workers and their families in the Kingdom,” Mohammed said, adding that they lack a university required for the higher education of their children. At least 300,000 expat children leave the Kingdom every year for higher education.

Prince Faisal bin Saud will sign an agreement with Ganesh Shivashankarappa, CEO of Bapuji Institute and managing director of Shamanur Group in Davangere, next month to establish the university, which will be the first such university in the Kingdom.


April:21:2015 - 08:54 | Comments & Trackbacks (0) | Permalink

Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Health is reporting a sharp and continuing drop in the number of cases of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), caused by a coronavirus. New cases are being tolled at the rate of two per week.

According to this article from Arab News, World Health Organization officials are still not absolutely positive that camels are the vector through which the disease is being spread, but at present, that forms the best theory of contagion. The article also notes that three specialists hospitals — in Jeddah, Riyadh, and Dammam — have been established to deal with the disease.

MERS cases drop sharply
RIYADH: MD RASOOLDEEN

The number of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) corona virus cases has dropped drastically in the Kingdom, with only one death being reported from Makkah and an infection in Dhuba in the last seven days.

“This is the fifth consecutive week the Ministry of Health has observed a sharp decline in the number of MERS patients,” an official said, adding that people should still continue to take all precautionary measures against the disease.

The ministry will also continue to take maximum precautions, the official said.

During the period, the ministry tested some 1,009 samples and the number of visits by the Rapid Response teams were limited to less than five.

A total of 979 cases have been reported since June 2012, which included 428 deaths and 548 recoveries, while three are currently being treated in hospitals.


April:20:2015 - 07:12 | Comments & Trackbacks (0) | Permalink

A Saudi student in the UK has identified the gene responsible for “heritage paralysis” and finds that it is exacerbated by close intermarriage. This only adds to the number of diseases and conditions resulting from the traditional practice of preferring marriages among first cousins throughout the Arab world. The article at Arab News includes a graph showing the prevalence of the disease throughout the region.

Saudi finds ‘disease gene’ linked to intermarriage

A Saudi scholarship student in Britain, Nuha Al-Rayess, has discovered a new genetic mutation that leads to muscle atrophy, weakened limbs and, finally, total paralysis in some cases. The tests she conducted showed that the principal cause for this condition is intermarriage and reproduction among family members.

Al-Rayess noted that this disease is known in medical terms as “heritage paralysis.” However, its genetic causes were previously unknown. As such, her new discovery is a significant leap forward in the world of genetic disease research.

Al-Rayess said that 70 percent of hereditary diseases in Saudi Arabia occur due to people marrying and subsequently producing children with their blood-line relatives. Indeed, the Kingdom has some of the highest rates in the world for familial marriages, making it easier for the disease to continue in future generations.


April:18:2015 - 11:34 | Comments Off | Permalink

The Saudi government is facing a conundrum when dealing with temporary marriages (Nikah Misyar, for Sunni Muslims). While there are multiple fatwas authorizing such marriages as permitted under Shariah law, it is against Saudi Arabia’s public policy. The government acts to discourage it — as with this article from Saudi Gazette — but appears to be unable or unwilling to directly counter religious statements. Whether moral suasion overcomes biological drives and convenience, with a religious blessing, will be an interesting thing to watch.

Grappling with the surge in temporary marriages
Saudi Gazette report

THE Saudi Charitable Society for the Welfare of Saudi Families Abroad (Awaser) has warned Saudi citizens against engaging in any temporary marriage contracts abroad.

Speaking to Al-Riyadh newspaper, Tawfiq Abdulaziz Al-Suwailem, chairman of the board of directors, said the society works with the ministries of social affairs and foreign affairs as well as Saudi missions abroad to crack down on Saudis who enter temporary marriages.

“There should be legislation and extensive media coverage of such marriages arranged by brokers outside the country. Saudi men should realize the consequences of these marriages.

Unfortunately, over the past 10 years, these types of marriages have spread and are out of control. They have been called tourist, summer and common-law marriages and they all have one common thing: they’re temporary and the disengagement ends with a divorce,” Al-Suwailem said.


April:18:2015 - 11:22 | Comments Off | Permalink

While things are much better than they were 20 or 30 years ago, there’s still too much sycophancy appearing in Saudi media to suit King Salman. Arab News reports that the King as told government agencies to take action to block the obsequious flattery and fawning that is published every time an official receives a new position or spends a day in the hospital.

King raps excessive ads greeting govt officials

Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman has instructed monitoring authorities to control publication of reports and advertisements congratulating government officials and exaggerated condolence messages and punish violators, sabq.org reported on Wednesday.

“In a circular issued to ministries and government departments, the king said it has been noticed that people publish excessive ads for congratulations and condolences, violating regulations,” the electronic newspaper said, adding that allocations for such ads are made from the budget.

A circular issued by the government eight years ago banned ministries and government departments from publishing such ads and reports in local newspapers and magazines.


April:16:2015 - 08:32 | Comments Off | Permalink

Asharq Alawsat‘s Editor-in-Chief Salman Aldossary trumpets the UN Resolution on Yemen as a victory for the Gulf Cooperation Council. He sees this as one of the GCC’s finest moments and as an indication that the GCC is finally punching its own weight in the international arena.

The GCC teaches the world a lesson from New York
Salman Aldossary

This could well be the greatest diplomatic triumph for the Gulf and Arab countries at the United Nations. Who would have believed that mighty Russia, which until recently has been extremely sympathetic to the Houthis, would not be able to impede the UN Security Council resolution on Yemen? What kind of diplomatic efforts did Gulf countries exert to enable them to convince Russia to give its indirect approval to Operation Decisive Storm? What explains this level of international support that the offensive has garnered from the world’s highest political authority? This shift in positions must have been caused by the same logic that led to the launch of Operation Decisive Storm: that it was necessary to rescue Yemen after its legitimate President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi submitted an official request to the UN.

The UN Security Council resolution on Yemen has not only hemmed in the Houthi militias and Yemen’s ousted former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, but also, thanks to the unprecedented level of international support, went so far as to voice rejection of the Houthi coup in Yemen. It also imposed sanctions on senior Houthi figures and Saleh under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter. The resolution was clear enough in that it threatened to take further measures in the event rebels failed to comply with Resolution 2216. In other words, Operation Decisive Storm is merely one of the measures the international community has decided to take in a bid to stop the occupation of Yemen.

The success of these diplomatic efforts, which Saudi Arabia has spearheaded, highlights that Operation Decisive Storm was not a rash step. It is impossible for Riyadh to breach international laws, and it has enough experience and knowledge to take major decisions with wisdom and temperance, even in such difficult times. The UN Security Council is confirming the validity of the Saudi decision and supporting it politically, and perhaps would also support it with military force in case the rebels do not comply with Resolution 2216 within the next 10 days.


April:15:2015 - 08:49 | Comments Off | Permalink

King Salman wants to leave his mark on Saudi history, but he wants it to be a good mark. Reacting to a video showing Minister of Health Ahmed Khatib getting into a dawsha with a citizen complaining about health care, the King sacked the Minister. He’d been in office since January 28.

Al Arabiya TV has the story:

Saudi health minister sacked after leaked video shows heated row

A recently leaked video involving a Saudi minister in a squabble has been a hot topic in the kingdom.

Health minister Ahmed Khatib was filmed having a heated argument with another citizen, in which he was shouting and making angry gestures.

He was later relieved of his duties in an order by Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz on Friday, with Dr. Mohammed Ali al-Sheikh appointed Acting Health Minister of Saudi Arabia.

In the 27-second video, the former minister is seen loudly dismissing a visibly angry citizen who had come to speak to him about the state of a private hospital in Riyadh.


April:11:2015 - 10:00 | Comments & Trackbacks (1) | Permalink

Saudi Gazette reprints an article from Economist that seeks to answer the question about why Saudis are such heavy consumers of and participants in social media. Various surveys show Saudis as being the most active on various social media platforms in relation to both population size and Internet connections.

The article notes that the lack of other social outlets is certainly a factor, but also that conservative Saudis — including clerics — find that the outreach possibilities are too good to ignore. While abuses of social media abound and there are recurrent calls to ban or control it, Saudis aren’t going to give up their access to the world and their soapboxes from which they can address it.

Why Saudis are ardent social media fans

On MARCH 18th, at an Arab media get-together, Twitter announced that it will open an office in Dubai. Not before time. Smartphone growth has rocketed in the Gulf—by most counts the region has the highest penetration. WhatsApp and Facebook have become standard modes of communication. Nowhere is that more so than in Saudi Arabia. Several surveys in 2013 showed that the kingdom has the world’s highest percentage of people on Twitter relative to its number of internet users; and on YouTube too. Saudis also spend more hours online than their peers elsewhere. That might seem surprising for such a conservative country where the constitution is said to be taken directly from the Koran and where women are not permitted to drive. Why are Saudis such big fans of social media?

Outsiders often regard the 30m Saudis as far behind the rest of the world. The modern Saudi state was founded only in 1932, and then on the basis of an existing pact between the Al Saud family and the Wahhabist clerics, who peddle a particularly red-hot version of Islam. It is certainly a traditional place, especially around the capital Riyadh. But the country has also rapidly modernised since discovering its vast oil wealth. It has a GDP per capita of almost $26,000. Today thousands of its young people study abroad, speak English and are as globalised as their peers in other countries. Fully 75% of the population are under 30. They have grown up thinking it normal to go online to do everything from ordering a coffee to watching TV.

It is the wedding of these factors to Saudi Arabia’s social peculiarities that may account for its topping of the virtual rankings. Shopping malls are pretty much the only source of entertainment for young people, because the clerics dislike cinemas and bars. So mingling with friends on social media has obvious appeal, not least because it is illegal for unrelated men and women to fraternise in person. Facebook has become a way of picking up a date (previously, many young people would turn on Bluetooth and search for random connections nearby). Frustrated Saudis can also vent about the government anonymously on Twitter. But social media is not just used for getting up to naughty things. The country’s most popular Twitter account, with 11.4m followers, is that of Muhammad al-Arefe, a Saudi cleric—and not a particularly liberal one, either.


April:10:2015 - 09:05 | Comments Off | Permalink
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