An article in Saudi Gazette reporting on new regulations concerning photography in Saudi Arabia shows the divergence in both law and expectations between the US and the Kingdom. The article focuses on the issue of privacy. In Saudi Arabia, privacy appears to extend even into the public realm. It decidedly does not in the US.

While private activities in private areas are protected in both countries, that which happens in public areas in the US — those things that anyone can observe with his own eyes — is considered public. There is no privacy right to prevent those photographs. If it is observable without intrusion — and that include things that happen indoors, within sight of a passerby, it’s public.

In Saudi Arabia, it’s considered intrusive to take a photo of a willing subject, but one which might include bystanders in the background. While it might be considered good photographic practice in the US to know what’s in the background, that’s only for the purposes of avoiding bad photos and photobombing. Inadvertent results can be embarrassing, particularly if one is where one isn’t supposed to be, but that’s the thing about being in public: it’s in public!

Taking photos in public
Saudi Gazette report

TECHNOLOGICAL advancements have allowed people to take up hobbies with great ease and accessibility and an increasingly popular hobby is photography. With cameras embedded in gadgets including cell phones, laptops and tablet PCs, people are taking more photographs than ever before. However, photography is a controversial issue in a country where people greatly value their privacy. Some people in the Kingdom view taking pictures in public as a tolerable phenomenon while others view it as a breach of privacy, Al-Riyadh daily reports.

Five regulations on taking photographs in public places, ministries, government locations and tourist areas were issued based on recommendations by the concerned authorities. These regulations allow for photographs to be taken anywhere with the exception of sensitive installations where “No Photography” signs are clearly visible. It is the responsibility of every establishment, association or organization whether it is military, civilian or industrial to take measures regarding photographs taken in its domain. Moreover, each organization is responsible for taking sensible measures when these regulations are violated.

Industries and organizations are responsible for putting up “No Photography” signs where appropriate and ensuring that these signs are visible, written in both English and Arabic and illustrated. Penal measures should never result in confiscation of devices, pictures or videos but workshops, lectures and informed security officers should be available to raise awareness on the dangers and consequences of breaching others’ privacy. If one violates the regulations with no ill intent, then a simple warning should suffice.

Majidah Altamimi said taking photos and capturing videos of other people in public places is a breach of personal privacy. “Many take pictures of their friends in public but do not consider the people that appear in the background. That, in itself, is an act of inconsideration, especially if the photos were then posted on social media.


October:18:2014 - 09:54 | Comments & Trackbacks (1) | Permalink

Al Arabiya TV reports that the Saudi accused of killing an American and wounding another has been identified as Fahad Alrashid. He had recently been fired from his job at Vinell Arabia — an American defense firm with long-standing contracts with the Saudi National Guard — and the two he shot worked for the company.

Reports indicate that he may have been fired for “drug-related reasons” and that he may have had similar problems in the US prior to his 2011 return to the KSA.

Image revealed of Saudi suspected of killing American

An image of the man suspected to have killed an American citizen in Saudi Arabia’s capital on Tuesday has been obtained by Al Arabiya News Channel’s online Arabic platform.

Abdulaziz Fahad Abdulaziz Alrashid, 24, the alleged shooter who authorities say was wounded in a gunfight with security forces, is a U.S.-born Saudi who had been fired from U.S. defense contractor Vinnell Arabia, an interior ministry spokesman said in a statement late Tuesday.

Riyadh’s embassy in Washington said in a statement Tuesday that the suspect was recently dismissed from his job “due to drug related issues.”

Vinnell Arabia is a U.S. military contractor supporting Saudi National Guard military programs in Riyadh.

“We are deeply saddened and regret to confirm the death of one of our employees, and the injury to another in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia,” a statement from Vinnell Arabia said.

Al Arabiya also runs stories noting that the individual was not on any terrorism watch lists nor reported to be linked to any extremist organizations. In other words, this was an incident of work-related violence.

‘No terror suspicion’ behind Saudi killing of American

One of the Vinell company’s housing areas was a target of the May, 2003 terrorist bombings in Riyadh.


October:15:2014 - 10:18 | Comments & Trackbacks (1) | Permalink

Saudi media run stories based on a report from the government’s Saudi Press Agency (SPA) that two Americans were shot at a gas station in the east of Riyadh. One was killed; the other, wounded.

This is very early reporting, so few details are available. A gunman was arrested near the scene. I anticipate further reporting as the investigation continues.

At the moment, the US Embassy in Riyadh does not have any notice of the incident on its Citizen Services web page, nor does it offer any warning or analysis.

American killed east of Saudi capital Riyadh

A U.S. citizen was killed and another was wounded east of the Saudi capital Riyadh on Tuesday by unidentified gunman, Al Arabiya News Channel reported on Tuesday, citing the police.

Security forces arrested the gunman following the afternoon attack at a petrol station in eastern Riyadh, a police spokesman said in a statement carried by the SPA state news agency.

“The attack resulted in the killing of one person and wounding another and it turned out they were of American citizenship,” the statement said.

Police said the attack happened when the two stopped their vehicle at a filling station in an eastern district of the capital.

The UK’s Guardian reports that the arrested assailant is a Saudi, born in the US.

US national shot dead in Saudi Arabian capital Riyadh

Oddly, Arab News headlines an article saying the shooting was not terrorism-related, but has no story to support that assertion. Instead, the headline links to a very brief recap of the SPA statement.

Riyadh shooting not related to terrorism: Police


October:14:2014 - 10:45 | Comments Off | Permalink

Al-Jazeera TV offers a useful interactive page that shows the types of assistance (humanitarian, military, or both) that are being provided to the coalition fighting against ISIS in Syria and Iraq. It has another graphic that shows which nations have taken part in air attacks on ISIS targets and where those targets are located.

Countries countering ISIL


October:07:2014 - 06:54 | Comments Off | Permalink

Arab News carries a story noting Saudi Arabia’s involvement in air raids against ISIS facilities in Syria. The story notes that Bahrain, the UAE, and Qatar also took part in the actions alongside the US. Saudi Foreign Minister Saud Al-Faisal is extensively quoted on Saudi anti-terror efforts and calling for more states to join global anti-terrorism efforts.

KSA joins airstrikes to crush IS

Saudi Arabia’s air force participated in US-led bombing strikes against the so-called Islamic State (IS) militants in Syria on Tuesday as part of global efforts to eliminate terrorism, an official source said.

“The Saudi Royal Air Force participated in the military operations against IS in Syria, in support of the moderate Syrian opposition, and as part of the international coalition,” said the source. The coalition, he added, was formed to “eliminate terrorism, a deadly disease, and to support the brotherly Syrian people to restore security, unity and development in this devastated country.”

Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal, meanwhile, told a New York forum that Saudi Arabia would be in the forefront of global efforts to defeat terrorists. “We’ll never hesitate to participate in such serious international anti-terror operations,” he said.

Prince Saud expressed the Kingdom’s hope that the present campaign against IS militants would serve as a nucleus for an international coalition to strike and root out terrorism all over the world.


September:24:2014 - 07:27 | Comments Off | Permalink

Long-time Middle East correspondent Chris Dickey writes at “The Daily Beast” website that the Royal Saudi Air Force was involved in last nights raids on ISIS facilities in Syria. It joined the US along with Jordanian, the Emirates, and the Bahraini air forces.

Arab Kings vs. ISIS Barbarians

…The air strikes over Syria, participated in directly by the Saudis, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan and Bahrain, represent “the beginnings of a real Arab defense force,” the Saudi source said optimistically. Other Arab states, including Qatar and Kuwait, reportedly provided or facilitated logistical support.


September:23:2014 - 16:19 | Comments Off | Permalink

While this Reuters (carried in Asharq Alawsat) piece does not spell out what cooperation Saudi Arabia is giving the US in its attacks on ISIS and Nusra Front targets in Syria, whatever it is, it is sufficient to cause ISIS to blame the Saudi royal family. The article does note that the Saudis are allowing the US to train Iraqi military units within its borders.

US, Arab partners launch first strikes on ISIS in Syria

Washington and Beirut, Reuters—The United States launched air and missile strikes with Arab allies in Syria for the first time on Tuesday, killing dozens of Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) fighters and members of a separate Al-Qaeda-linked group, and widening its new war in the Middle East.

“I can confirm that US military and partner nation forces are undertaking military action against [ISIS] terrorists in Syria using a mix of fighter, bomber and Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles,” Rear Admiral John Kirby, Pentagon press secretary, said in a statement.

US Central Command said Bahrain, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates had either participated or supported the strikes against ISIS targets.

US forces also launched strikes to “disrupt imminent attack” against US and Western interests by “seasoned Al-Qaeda veterans” who had established a safe haven in Syria, it said, apparently referring to attacks against a separate group.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors the war in Syria, said at least 20 ISIS fighters were killed in strikes that hit at least 50 targets in Raqqa and Deir Ezzor provinces in Syria’s east.

It said strikes had also targeted Al-Nusra Front, in the northern provinces of Aleppo and Idlib, killing at least 30 fighters and eight civilians. The Al-Nusra Front is Al-Qaeda’s official Syrian wing and ISIS’s rival.

The air attacks fulfill President Barack Obama’s pledge to strike in Syria against ISIS, a Sunni Muslim group that has seized swathes of Syria and Iraq, imposing a medieval interpretation of Islam, slaughtering prisoners and ordering Shi’ites and non-Muslims to convert or die.


September:23:2014 - 09:52 | Comments Off | Permalink

Over the past several years, relations between Saudi Arabia and the US have become strained. The Saudis have not appreciated the American approach toward dealing with Iran, nor did they think much of the weak response from Washington to the atrocities committed by the Syrian government. The Saudis made their displeasure clear.

Now, argues Fahd Nazer in an article for “Foreign Affairs,” things may be getting back to normal. The catalyst is ISIS and the threat it represents to not just Saudi Arabia, but to the region as a whole. Recognizing a common enemy, however, is not sufficient to form new bonds or to reinforce older ones. The actions taken by both the US and Saudi Arabia will be watched closely by the other. Walking the walk is more important than talking the talk.

Making Amends in Saudi Arabia
Fahd Nazer

The United States and Saudi Arabia — one, the world’s preeminent liberal democracy; the other, a conservative monarchy that declares the Koran to be its constitution — have never been the most natural allies. It shouldn’t come as a surprise, then, that the relationship has had its ups and downs. It reached an apex in 1991, when Saudis fought alongside U.S. troops to reverse Iraq’s annexation of Kuwait, only to hit a nadir a decade later, when 15 Saudis participated in the devastating terrorist attacks in New York and Washington organized by al Qaeda. Since then, the Saudi government has become more suspicious of U.S. foreign policy, bristling at the invasion of Iraq in 2003, the encouragement of pro-democracy protests during the Arab Spring, and the ongoing attempt to strike a nuclear deal with Iran, Saudi Arabia’s regional rival.

But the sudden rise of the brutal militant group the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS, also known as the Islamic State) could change all that. Riyadh and Washington have both recognized that ISIS poses a serious threat to Middle Eastern security and stability. By working together against the group, they might shore up the region — and their relationship. But much will depend on the Obama administration’s ability to articulate a clear long-term strategy for the Middle East — and specifically for the two countries where ISIS rose to prominence.


September:17:2014 - 09:52 | Comments Off | Permalink

Over at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), Anthony Cordesman offers a critique of Pres. Obama’s announced policies concerning ISIS. As Cordesman says, while there’s much in accord with what he has suggested in the past, it is not risk-free. Those risks must be understood.

The “Best Game in Town” – Five Key Risks of the President’s Strategy
Anthony Cordesman

It may seem unusual to criticize a strategy you have both suggested and endorse, and it is important to stress from the outset that President Obama has almost certainly chosen a strategy that is the “best game in town” — if he fully implements it, gives it the necessary resources, and sustains it over time. The President has had to choose a strategy based on the “rules of the game” in the United States, in Iraq, in Syria, and allied states. They are rules that place major constraints on what the United States can do.

The Limited Choices That Shape the “Best Game” in Town

The United States had no choice other than to depend on regional allies for ground forces, training, bases, improvements in unity and governance, efforts to limit the Islamic State’s funding and its volunteers, and efforts to highlight its lack of religious legitimacy and horrifying departures from Islam.


September:12:2014 - 09:15 | Comments Off | Permalink

With the Jeddah coordinating meeting finished in Jeddah, there is a common concern about ISIS and its future in the region. As Asharq Alawsat reports, the US is looking for partners who will play an active role in trying to contain and destroy the extremist group and, so far, it is meeting with some success. Regional states face peril from the group and agree that something must be done about it. This is spelled out in the communique issued following the conference.

What is not spelled out is exactly what each country is to do. All are reluctant to put “boots on the ground” for a variety of their own political reasons.

U.S.-Arab states coordinate action on ISIS

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry held a series of meetings with his Arab counterparts in the Saudi city of Jeddah on Thursday to coordination military and other forms of action against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

A joint -Arab communique said the countries agreed, as appropriate, to join in “many aspects” of the military campaign against ISIS.

Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates agreed to “do their share” in the fight against ISIS.

The 10 countries pledged to stop the flow of funds and fighters to ISIS and help rebuild affected communities.

The meetings came hours after President Barack Obama unveiled his strategy to counter the militant group, which has occupied swathes of land in Iraq and Syria.

Asharq Alawsat reports on some of the reasons for Arab hesitation, or at least the lack of full-blooded eagerness to get militarily involved in dealing with ISIS. It also notes Turkey’s reluctance in the face of its nationals being held hostage in Iraq:

Wary Arabs join U.S.-campaign against ISIS

A significant problem seems to be that large parts of their populations approve of the group’s ends while remaining silent about their means. Once again, the intolerance taught in regional schools, madrassas, and mosques is rearing its head and threatening the stability of regimes and the region.


September:12:2014 - 08:46 | Comments Off | Permalink

The Saudi government continues to prosecute and convict young Saudis who have gone off to Syria and Iraq to take part in jihad, Saudi Gazette reports. Saudi media seems to have weekly reports on convictions for supporting terrorism, these days. But it’s also clear that there’s going to be a need for a lot more of the same. The convictions reported today are for actions taken last year. What will happen with the new crop of extremists and sympathizers?

The Saudis are leading a conference today that brings together officials from 41 states to address a common approach to terrorism in the region. US Secretary of State John Kerry is among them. Given what Pres. Obama said in his address last night, the US is going to be looking for concrete action plans, not just rhetoric, from regional powers. Just how forthcoming they will be is the big question. There might be some sort of indication tonight, or perhaps in tomorrow’s reporting.

2 Saudis jailed for fighting abroad
Mishal Al-Otaibi | Saudi Gazette

RIYADH – The Special Criminal Court in Riyadh sentenced on Wednesday two citizens to jail terms for taking part in fighting abroad, especially in Syria.

The court sentenced a young Saudi to five years in prison and imposed a travel ban for an equal period. The second Saudi was sent to jail for a period of one-and-a-half years and faced a travel ban for three years. The convicts can appeal the verdict within 30 days.

The court found the young Saudi convict guilty of violating the Kingdom’s travel documents law and the law to combat money laundering, in addition to traveling to regions of conflict and taking part in fighting.

The charges against him also included contacting his brother, who is present in the conflict zone, and concealing his brother’s incitement to take part in fighting. He was also convicted of extending cooperation to a terrorist abroad who works as coordinator to recruit young men from the Kingdom in order to take part in fighting.

The court found no evidence to prove the prosecution charges that the young man embraced deviant ideology and supported terrorists with money and giving shelter to one of the wanted terrorists.


September:11:2014 - 09:00 | Comments Off | Permalink

Asharq Alawsat reports on the meeting to be held tomorrow in Jeddah that will bring together regional representatives (along with US Secretary of State Kerry) to discuss how to deal with groups like ISIS.

There have been a lot of meetings of late discussing this issue. The Arab League recently conducted its own. Saudi King Abdullah has enlisted the entirety of his government in condemning and, in some cases, jailing supporters of extremist groups. But much is left to be done.

The problem lies in definitions. What one country or government may see as extremist, another may see as simply “the opposition.” Getting everyone in the region on the same page, working from the same definitions, ought to help. But if “extremist” is going to be used to round up any and everyone who has political views not in accord with those of his government, more problems will ensue, including the loss of support by others who need to be working together.

Saudi Arabia to host regional counter-terror conference

Jeddah, Asharq Al-Awsat—Saudi Arabia is set to host a special regional meeting in Jeddah to discuss the issue of terrorism on Thursday, the state-owned Saudi Press Agency (SPA) has announced.

The meeting will be attended by representatives of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), Egypt, Jordan and Turkey, as well as officials from the US. The meeting will discuss the issue of terrorism in the region, extremist organizations and their ideology, and ways of combating them.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavu?o?lu is currently on a tour of Gulf states and will attend the regional meeting in Jeddah, along with other regional foreign ministers. US Security of State John Kerry is traveling to Saudi Arabia and neighboring Jordan this week to discuss the latest regional developments, including the new Iraqi government and Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), and is also expected to attend the Jeddah meeting.

The announcement comes one day after Riyadh backed an Arab League resolution emphasizing the need to take quick measures to crush ISIS and other regional terrorist organizations.

…The [Saudi] cabinet called for Arab states to “take the necessary measures to maintain Arab security, [and] confront all terrorist and extremist organization … at all political, security, defense, judicial, media and intellectual levels,” according to the SPA.


September:10:2014 - 07:38 | Comments & Trackbacks (3) | Permalink
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