Al Arabiya TV reports that the Obama administration sees the US-Saudi relations as just hunky dory. There’s certainly no snub in King Salman’s not attending the Washington/Camp David summit.

That might not be quite how the Saudis see the relationship, however. The article expresses concern about how the conflict between the desire to build a legacy for the President might not accord with GCC desires for containment of Iran and its nuclear ambitions.

Obama hails ‘extraordinary’ Saudi relations

U.S. President Barack Obama hailed the “extraordinary friendship and relationship” Washington has with Riyadh after meeting with Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammad bin Nayef and Deputy Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman at the White House after King Salman pulled out of the visit.

“The United States and Saudi Arabia have an extraordinary friendship and relationship that dates back to [President] Franklin Roosevelt,” Obama said at the start of the meeting.

He added: “We are continuing to build that relationship during a very challenging time.”

May:14:2015 - 07:36 | Comments & Trackbacks (5) | Permalink

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.

Iran warns U.S. against hindering Yemen aid ship

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.

In exclusive interview, Obama says Iran is a ‘state sponsor of terror’

May:13:2015 - 06:53 | Comments Off | Permalink

Saudi Gazette runs a report saying that King Salman called and spoke with Pres. Obama yesterday, expressing his regret that he couldn’t attend the summit the latter had called. This suggests to me that no diplomatic snub was intended and that the Saudi King wanted to make that clear.

King Salman, Obama discuss summit, Yemen

RIYADH — Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman phoned US President Barack Obama on Monday to “express his regret” for missing a high-profile summit at the White House and Camp David this week, and review the agenda for the meeting with Gulf leaders, Saudi Press Agency said.

The leaders agreed they need to work with other Gulf states “to build a collective capacity to address more effectively the range of threats facing the region and to resolve regional conflicts,” SPA said, noting the leaders agreed on the need for urgent humanitarian aid in Yemen.

May:12:2015 - 09:22 | Comments Off | Permalink

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 sending crown prince to summit with Obama

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.

May:11:2015 - 08:30 | Comments & Trackbacks (2) | Permalink

International copyright law (and the Saudi interpretation of it) is a bit of a mess these days, but that doesn’t mean that plagiarism is okay. Arab News reports that a number of Saudi “academic centers” are under fire for copying research done by others and allowing their clients to submit it as their own work. The government’s anti-corruption organization, Nazaha is cracking down. More needs to be done to protect intellectual property, experts say.

Nazaha slams student service centers

Most student service centers in the country are corrupt because they copy research without permission, according to participants at a workshop held in Riyadh recently.

The Community Partnership Forum on scientific integrity was organized by Imam Muhammad bin Saud University in partnership with the National Anti-Corruption Commission (Nazaha).

Abdullah Abdul-Qader, deputy president of the Nazaha, called on the government to crack down on these centers by withdrawing their licenses if they are found to have copied the copyrighted work of researchers for their customers, according to a report in a local publication.

Abdulaziz Al-Swailem, vice president of King Abdul Aziz City for Science and Technology (KACST), said in a paper on ethics that researchers must ensure that they produce credible and quality work.

Firas Al-Madani, faculty member of the Northern Border University, said there is currently a lack of laws that protect intellectual property. Those laws that are currently in place have loopholes, he said.

May:10:2015 - 06:29 | Comments & Trackbacks (1) | Permalink

Saudi Gazette/Okaz report that Jeddah is again having trouble supplying drinking water to its residents. While the production of desalinated water is said to be sufficient, distribution is seen as the problem. As a result, people are turning to the black market, at considerable expense.

Water tanker costs SR500 as Jeddah water crisis worsens
Hussein Hazzazi | Okaz/Saudi Gazette

JEDDAH – The water crisis in Jeddah has led black market prices for a 19-ton water tanker to rise to SR500, according to citizens. Informed sources blamed the National Water Company (NWC) for the ongoing problem.

They said the Saline Water Conversion Corporation (SWCC) pumped sufficient quantities of water but the NWC-administered networks did not distribute the water to the districts, resulting in the crisis.

Residents of Jeddah said it was not reasonable for them to remain without water for so long. Saudi citizen Khaled Abdulkareem said residents were forced to go to the distribution points to pay for tankers, leading to overcrowding in the areas, especially in the evening.

He believed the timescales for distributing water in Jeddah were the main cause of the shortages. “This is because water does not reach some districts except after a month.

May:10:2015 - 06:22 | Comments Off | Permalink

Yesterday, media reported that Saudi Arabia had intercepted explosives that were in the process of being smuggled into the Kingdom from Bahrain. Today, the media report that joint Saudi-Bahraini security action has resulted in the arrest of five more involved in the attempt.

The story clearly links Iran with the smuggling effort and sees it as related to earlier attempts — both earlier this year and in 2013 — to bring in explosives.

5 more arrested for bid to smuggle RDX into Kingdom

Manama — Joint operation by Saudi and Bahraini authorities led to the arrest of five more people suspected of involvement in smuggling RDX explosives into Saudi Arabia, said Bahraini Chief of Public Security Maj. Gen. Tariq Al-Hassan here on Saturday.

He commended the alertness of the Saudi authorities which led to the detection of explosives and the arrest of culprits.

He said that as part of the joint investigation into the attempt to smuggle ‘RDX’ into Bahrain, a team of representatives from various authorities of the Interior Ministry was formed to work in coordination with their Saudi counterparts.

Several houses were searched after warrants were obtained from the Public Prosecution. This led to the confiscation of material suspected to be explosives, mobile phones, laptops, portable hard disks, cameras, Iranian mobile phone chips and Saudi, Jordanian and Iranian currencies.

May:10:2015 - 06:18 | Comments Off | Permalink

Over the past few months, and now peaking with Turkish elections around the corner, there’s been press speculation that Turkey and Saudi Arabia are forming an alliance to rid Syria of the Assad regime.

Perhaps, says a Turkish analyst, writing at Al Arabiya TV. There’re are certain common interests: both see Assad as a pain in the neck (for different reasons) and both would prefer that Iran not be involved in Arab politics. But after that, things get a little murky.

Just which opposition groups to support is not a trivial question, but there are no clear answers. With a long land border with Syria, it’s obvious that Turkish land forces could exert some effort. But Saudi Arabia has no land border with Syria; its contributions would have to be by air or by sea. The KSA is already involved in air operations in Syria, but doesn’t have the naval components to support land actions. Already occupied in the Gulf of Aden and the Persian Gulf, the Saudi Navy might have a hard time even working to block Syrian ports.

Nor is it at all clear that Turkey and Saudi Arabia have a common view about what would constitute success and what might follow an overthrow of Assad. Perhaps the whole idea is just foreign media yelling, “Let’s you and him fight!” Perhaps it’s just crazy talk, like that of the supposed Saudi-Israeli alliance.

A Turkish-Saudi push against Bashar al-Assad?
Sinem Cengiz

While all eyes are fixed on the upcoming June 7 parliamentary elections in Turkey, there are multiple reports recently circulated in the Western and Arab media regarding the possibility of creating a joint Turkish-Saudi alliance against Syrian regime.

Following an unsubstantiated report published in Huffington Post last month claiming that there were high-level talks between Ankara and Riyadh with the aim of forming a military alliance to oust Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, the Associated Press published a recent unconfirmed analysis stating that Turkey and Saudi Arabia have converged on a common strategy to topple Assad regime. The report followed a claim by main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) Deputy Gürsel Tekin, who stated that Ankara plans to send ground troops to Syria before upcoming election.

The Turkish government didn’t reply to the claims immediately – a situation that further raised concerns over the reality of Turkish intervention to Syria.

May:10:2015 - 05:50 | Comments Off | Permalink

Saudi Arabia has no minimum age at which a woman can marry. Many Saudis think this needs correction, that minors need to be protected, and that the country does need to specify a minimum age for marriage.

Saudi Gazette, reprinting an AFP story, reports that Spain — the European country that used to have the lowest age — is raising the minimum from 14 years to 16. That is roughly the target Saudis are seeking. By showing that the world is closing in on a range of ages, the paper is encouraging the government to follow along.

Spain to raise marriage age from 14 to 16

MADRID — Spain is moving to raise the minimum age for marriage from 14 to 16 in a bid to boost protection of minors and bring the country in line with its European Union neighbors. The legislation was approved by the lower house of Parliament last month and was sent to the Senate on Friday for debate and likely approval over the coming months. Spanish law allows boys and girls to marry at 14 with permission from a judge. Without such consent, they must wait until they are 18. Spain has one of Europe’s lowest minimum ages for marriage in the EU, with most members setting it at 16.

May:09:2015 - 06:07 | Comments Off | Permalink

Saudi Gazette translates a piece from the Arabic daily Al-Watan pointing out that Saudi actresses, faced with a dearth of acting opportunities in the Kingdom, are finding ways to perform. Some travel to other countries to take up their careers. Increasingly, they’re also turning to YouTube as a showcase for their performances.

The article goes on to note that tribal politics are being raised as a way to denigrate the women’s choices. Apparently, the daughters of the mighty tribes don’t do that sort of thing. Or so they say.

Why are some Saudi actresses appearing on YouTube?
Abdulmajeed Al-Zahrani | Al-Watan

Lujain Omran, the Saudi host of “Good Morning Arabs,” recently talked about an unusual subject. The rising star focused on Saudi actresses who have resorted to YouTube to showcase their skills. The report focused exclusively on these Saudi women.

Of course, Saudi and Gulf TV shows have recently featured Saudi women who have taken up acting as a profession. Some of the actresses mentioned in the report included Maryam Al-Ghamdi, Nirmeen Mohsin, Marwa Muhammad and Aseel Omran to mention but a few. But the strange thing is the appearance of many young Saudi women on YouTube.

May:09:2015 - 06:01 | Comments Off | Permalink

Saudi Arabia has retaliated for cross-border shelling into Jizan and Najran with airstrikes in the Yemeni Saada Province. Saada is the home turf of the Houthis. Al Arabiya TV reports:

Saudi-led strikes target Yemen’s Saada province

Saudi-led warplanes bombed several targets in the Yemeni province of Saada late on Friday, after a deadline the kingdom had given citizens to leave the province expired.

The raids targeted command centers for the Houthi leader Abdel Malek al-Houthi in several parts of Saada, Saudi state television Al Ekhbariya reported.

The northwestern province is a stronghold of the Iran-allied Houthi movement.

The locations included communication centers and weapons storage facilities, the television network said.

Saudi authorities had warned all civilians earlier to leave Saada, which borders on Saudi Arabia, by sunset on Friday after threatening a harsh response to Houthi shelling of Saudi frontier towns earlier this week.

May:09:2015 - 05:52 | Comments Off | Permalink

Saudi Gazette reports that the the government of Indonesia is making a moratorium on sending domestic workers to Saudi Arabia and 20 other Middle Eastern states permanent. The Indonesian government is acting to protect its citizens working in environments that offer few labor protections and too many violations of human rights.

The Saudi Chamber of Commerce & Industry points out that Indonesian workers represent only one percent of the foreign labor workforce in the Kingdom, so the ban will have little effect on the labor market.

Indonesian ban won’t affect Saudi labor market
Saudi Gazette report

JEDDAH — The Indonesian government’s decision to ban its nationals from working in 21 Middle Eastern countries including Saudi Arabia will not affect the Kingdom as it has expatriates from various nationalities, a senior Saudi official said on Wednesday.

Indonesian expatriates constitute only 1 percent of foreign labor in the Kingdom, Saudi Council of Chambers’ head of the National Committee for Recruitment Saad Al-Badah was quoted as saying by Makkah Arabic daily.

“Indonesian expatriates are typically drivers and workers at private companies in the Kingdom. The Indonesian government’s ban will hardly affect us as Saudi Arabia has expatriates from various nationalities,” he said.

Indonesian manpower minister Hanif Dhakiri was reported in local media as saying that the ban, which applies to Middle Eastern countries, including the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain and Egypt, will come into effect in three months’ time.

May:07:2015 - 07:03 | Comments Off | Permalink
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