Saudi media are all highlighting a report from the Associated Press about the interception of an Iranian dhow in the Indian Ocean that was carrying arms ostensibly intended for Houthi rebels in Yemen. The report says the interception was accomplished by the “Arab coalition,” but does not specify exactly which country’s or countries’ navy was involved.
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates: The Saudi-led coalition battling Yemen’s Shiite rebels said Wednesday that it has foiled an attempt by Iran to smuggle missiles and other weapons to the rebels aboard a fishing boat bound for Yemen.
Saudi Arabia and its coalition allies fear that Iran is actively providing aid to the rebels, known as Houthis, as a way to gain a foothold on the Arabian Peninsula. Iran acknowledges providing political support to the rebels but denies arming them directly.
The weapons seizure took place early afternoon on Saturday, about 240 kilometers (150 miles) southeast of the Omani port of Salalah, according to a coalition statement carried by the SPA.
The ship was carrying 18 pieces of one type of anti-tank missile and 54 of another, as well as launchers and other equipment, according to the coalition. Fourteen crew members aboard the ship have been arrested, including the captain, identified as Bakhsh Jakal.
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.
Ahmed Omran — known to long-term readers as “Saudi Jeans” and now a correspondent for The Wall St. Journal — used a tweet to nudge Uber and Careem — the alternative taxi services — to provide free transportation for women to the polls. Saudi women have complained that it’s proving difficult for them to even register to vote in the municipal elections as (quelle surprise!) they’re not allowed to drive. Not all Saudi women have drivers, either. Nor are they all rich enough to spend money on taxis. Stepping up to provide free rides is extremely helpful, not to mention its being good PR for the companies.
JEDDAH: Prompted by a tweet from journalist Ahmed Omran, new-generation car booking services Uber and Careem have decided to offer free rides to women wishing to vote in the upcoming municipal elections.
The elections, which will be held in December, are the first allowing Saudi women to both run as candidates and vote.
Careem, which operates in 18 cities in the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia, decided it would take up Omran’s idea, reported Al-Arabiya.
“The idea to tweet about this came after a female friend of mine complained that she can’t register to vote because she doesn’t have a driver, and she wondered if the government would reimburse her if she used one of these apps,” said Omran, Wall Street Journal’s Saudi correspondent.
CNN presents a — if not tell-all, then tell-much — story on what it characterizes as the greatest computer hack in history… against Saudi ARAMCO.
The attack happened in 2012 and brought the company to its knees, a blow that could have bankrupted smaller concerns. And it all started with a spammy e-mail.
Read the whole thing.
Three years ago, the world witnessed the worst hack ever seen.
And for the first time, we’re now learning new details about the monstrous cyberattack on Saudi Aramco, one of the world’s largest oil companies.
In a matter of hours, 35,000 computers were partially wiped or totally destroyed. Without a way to pay them, gasoline tank trucks seeking refills had to be turned away. Saudi Aramco’s ability to supply 10% of the world’s oil was suddenly at risk.
And one of the most valuable companies on Earth was propelled back into 1970s technology, using typewriters and faxes.
When it comes to sheer cost, the recent cyberattacks on Sony Pictures and the American government pale in comparison.
The average person has never heard about Saudi Aramco — or this hack. But we all felt its mysterious reverberations.
In an op-ed for Asharq Alawsat, Abdulrahman Al-Rashed says that trying to shut down social media (typified by Twitter) won’t do much to address the real problems caused by ISIS or other extremist groups. Social media are just that: media. They’re the channels through which information is flowing. Blocking the channels won’t alter the information; won’t make the groups or their ideologies any less dangerous. Block one channel, and another one will appear.
Blocking social media will, however, annoy and inconvenience multitudes of people who aren’t involved in extremism for no good purpose. It’ll be just another ham-handed government effort that burdens citizens, including those who use social media to fight against extremism.
Blocking Twitter is not the solution
Many counterterror experts believe they have pinpointed the source of the problem when it comes to terrorism and extremism. They believe social media networks are to blame because they play a hand in inciting extremism and help with the recruitment of militants. Some experts have even called for blocking these sites in order to starve the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and its ilk of their primary means of communicating with sympathizers and potential recruits.
Despite the rush of calls to shut down Twitter and other social media sites, this is not an ideal solution, because these groups will just end up using alternative platforms. It’s also not fair to punish millions of ordinary users in order to get rid of the thousands of militants or militant supporters online. It is a known fact that the world is battling against extremist ideologies, and therefore it is understandable that this sometimes requires giving up our privacy and freedom. However, even the necessities of war aren’t enough of a reason to restrain millions of people just because the problem was not dealt with from another angle. Reform education, reform da’wah (the preaching of Islam), and spread Islam’s real and beautiful values, then you’d realize that extremist concepts are an exception and are actually rejected. If such steps are implemented, moderation would become a real ideological movement that everyone adopts.
Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and other websites are a means of communication that can either eliminate extremism or help spread it. What distinguishes extremists is that they are an active and determined party with a cause which they believe is righteous. They are capable of adapting to technological changes. They exploit religious communities, which they don’t belong to, and try to lure people into their extremist ideologies. There are hundreds, and perhaps thousands, of militants who spend hours surfing these websites in search of lost, angry, or curious youths, attempting to “guide them” to jihadist solutions and then recruit them as soldiers who await orders.
The Washington Post runs an Associated Press article talking about the Saudi Ramadan TV series “Selfie,” noted here earlier.
The article describes the content of some of the shows, along with the reactions — positive, negative, and deadly — it’s drawing.
Saudi TV show becomes a hit by mocking Islamic State group
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — A new TV satire program has become a hit in the Arab world by mocking some of the region’s most serious issues, from the intractable Sunni-Shiite divide and religious extremism to the brutality of militants like the Islamic State group.
The show, “Selfie,” has also brought a backlash. Islamic State group sympathizers have made death threats against its Saudi star and top writer on social media. One mainstream Saudi cleric denounced the show of heresy for mocking the country’s ultraconservative religious establishment. That has made it the buzz of the current Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which is the peak television viewing season in the Middle East.
Naser al-Qasabi, the series’ star, and its writer Khalaf al-Harbi told The Associated Press in their first interview with foreign media that they expected the backlash, but weren’t prepared for the popularity. It’s one of the top shows on MBC, the privately owned Saudi network that airs it, and has been the talk of the Gulf press.
Al-Qasabi says the series’ dark humor reveals just how tragic the situation across the Middle East has become.
In the Yahoo.com news carriage of the same piece, there are photos and a few video clips included:
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
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.
The American conservative magazine, “The Weekly Standard” writes that Saudi Arabia has all but given up on the Obama administration when it comes to protecting Saudi Arabia’s regional concerns. If the Kingdom cannot count on the US, it will have to take matters into its own hands.
The Saudis push back against the Obama foreign policy
The Obama administration put a happy face on its Camp David summit last week, even as four of the Gulf Cooperation Council’s six leaders turned down Obama’s invitation to attend. The most significant absence, of course, was that of Saudi Arabia’s king, Salman. In his place, Riyadh sent Salman’s 55-year-old nephew, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, and Salman’s 28-year-old son, Mohammed bin Salman, deputy crown prince and defense minister.
Both men are said to be responsible for the aggressive Saudi policies in confronting Iran, especially in Yemen, where Mohammed bin Salman is leading the campaign against the Iranian-backed Houthis. In other words, while snubbing Obama, King Salman also delivered a strong message through the two men who are in line to lead Saudi Arabia for the foreseeable future. They’re not happy with what they correctly perceive as the White House’s pro-Iranian tilt in the Middle East—and they’re in a position to challenge it.
In Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, referred to in Western policymaking circles as MBN, the White House is likely to find an especially able statesman. MBN served as the deputy minister of the interior under his father and then won the top post himself, where he has distinguished himself as a tough-minded security official who proved instrumental in dismantling terrorist networks and providing U.S. officials with valuable insight into their workings. He has survived at least four assassination attempts.
An interesting analysis in The Washington Post arguing that Saudi Arabia has already achieved its goals in Yemen and it’s now time to step back a bit. Silvana Toska, a PhD candidate at Cornell University says that the Saudis have accomplished the major objectives they set for themselves: Consolidate power clearly within the ruling family; put Iran front-and-center on American radar; shown that they will take action against Iranian encroachment; increase Saudi nationalism. Worth reading.
Has Saudi Arabia already won its Yemen war?
Despite the current humanitarian ceasefire, Saudi Arabia’s military operation in Yemen is now in its second month with no end in sight and no sign that any of the parties are willing to negotiate. The intervention has caused devastating destruction in Yemen, a deepening of divisions between already divided Yemeni factions, a large number of casualties and refugees and has done nothing to stabilize the country.
Militarily, Saudi Arabia has not achieved its goals. However, to understand the rationale behind the intervention, Saudi Arabia’s actions must be seen in a wider context that includes both its domestic and regional goals. From this perspective, this military incursion serves the present interests of Saudi Arabia in a number of ways, regardless of the military outcome.
According to an Associated Press item run on Al Arabiya TV, Iran is warning both the US and the Saudi-led coalition to not interfere with a shipment it categorizes as “humanitarian” now en route to Yemen. The Iranian government is definitely rattling its spears. The US says that the ship should put into port in Djibouti, where international humanitarian efforts are being coordinated.
TEHRAN (AP): A senior Iranian military official has warned the U.S. and the Saudi-led coalition targeting Yemeni militias that blocking an Iranian aid ship bound for Yemen will “spark a fire,” as a five-day humanitarian cease-fire appeared to hold early Wednesday after going into effect the day before.
“I bluntly declare that the self-restraint of Islamic Republic of Iran is not limitless,” Gen. Masoud Jazayeri, the deputy chief of staff, told Iran’s Arabic-language Al-Alam state TV late Tuesday.
“Both Saudi Arabia and its novice rulers, as well as the Americans and others, should be mindful that if they cause trouble for the Islamic Republic with regard to sending humanitarian aid to regional countries, it will spark a fire, the putting out of which would definitely be out of their hands.”
Iran says the ship, which departed Monday, is carrying food, medicine, tents and blankets, as well as reporters, rescue workers and peace activists. It says the ship is expected to arrive at Yemen’s port city of Hodeida next week. Iran’s navy said Tuesday it will protect the ship.
The US stance, if push comes to shove, isn’t entirely clear, but Pres. Obama, in an interview with Al Arabiya TV, characterizes Iran as “a state sponsor of terrorism” and not playing a helpful role in the region.
While some media are portraying King Salman’s decision to stay home and not attend the Washington/Camp David summit called by Pres. Obama, a snub, the Saudi media is reporting that he has other important things to be doing over the time period. Apparently, so does the King of Bahrain.
Al Arabiya TV notes that the King has his own programs going on, including a five-day truce in Yemen, where Saudi forces are engaged.
Sending the Crown Prince in his stead doesn’t strike me as much of a blow to US honor and prestige. The Crown Prince also happens to be Minister of Interior.
Saudi King Salman has designated Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef to attend a Gulf Arab summit with U.S. President Barack Obama in his place, the Saudi foreign minister said, the state news agency, SPA, said on Sunday.
The minister, Adel al-Jubeir, said the summit coincides with the start of a five-day humanitarian truce in Yemen and the opening of a humanitarian relief center that carries the Saudi monarch’s name, SPA said.
The summit will include all of the six nations of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) on Thursday. It will begin at the White House and then continue at Camp David.
If Saudi Arabia’s opinions and policies can be garnered from its media, then the Saudis have all but abandoned Pres. Obama and his Middle Easter policies. Asharq Alawsat — sometimes known as “The Green Truth” as a nod to its line to Saudi policy makers — runs editorials from two former Editors-in-Chief that lambaste the President for his errant views brought forth in an interview with The New York Times‘s columnist Thomas Friedman.
From Tariq Alhomayed:
Obama is always wrong on the Middle East
In his interview with journalist Thomas Friedman this week, US President Barack Obama said that the threat to regional states, including Saudi Arabia, is not Iranian intervention, but rather “internal threats.” Can this be true?
The reality is that Obama has an incorrect view of the region, and this is something that has become increasingly clear since he took office. He is always wrong on our region, and has made the biggest mistakes here, and these mistakes have had major consequences.
Obama rushed to withdraw from Iraq, and now here we see him returning once again. He played down the Syrian revolution and Assad’s crimes. He talked about “red lines” but Assad has crossed each and every one of these, while Obama has done nothing. He played down the threat of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) only to subsequently be forced to acknowledge the reality of the situation, although he still had enough time to blame his country’s intelligence services for failing to realize this earlier.
It is also interesting to note a recent Washington Post report that revealed the extent of ISIS’s connection with the former ruling Ba’athist regime in Iraq, and that many members of the group are ex-members of Saddam Hussein’s military. This is the same military that was controversially disbanded following the Iraq invasion. Washington has made many mistakes in Iraq, and Obama must bear some share of the responsibility for this.
From Abdulrahman Al-Rashed:
Contradictions in Obama’s Doctrine
I tried to ignore US President Barack Obama’s interview with the New York Times because I was sure it would be part of his propaganda campaign for the framework nuclear deal with Iran. Still, the interview’s impact cannot be ignored. Rather than calming the fears of those in the Gulf region, Obama has provoked many here.
Thomas Friedman, one of the Times’ most prominent writers who is extremely knowledgeable about the region’s affairs, interviewed the president. Perhaps this was why the nation’s leader was dragged into arguing his points, instead of justifying them.
What’s strange about the conversation was that Obama commended the Iranian regime, justifying its actions and implying a sense of guilt over what the US had done against Iran.
I don’t know what books the American president reads before he goes to bed or how he understands the events of the past three decades. Tehran’s mentality and practices are close to those of Al-Qaeda: religious, fascist and hostile towards anyone who opposes their ideology. Tehran’s understanding of the world considers others as either believers or infidels. It is Iran that was responsible for much of the violence in the region under the banner of religion—and this was around 15 years before Al-Qaeda even emerged.