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

Al Arabiya TV runs a report from Agence France Presse noting that five people were killed in the Saudi city of Najran when artillery rockets from across the Yemeni border landed in the town. I’m sure this is going to lead to a ratcheting up of Saudi coalition actions in northern Yemen.

Houthi shelling kills 5 in Saudi border city

Shells fired from Yemen killed five people in Saudi Arabia on Wednesday in a second day of cross-border bombing blamed on Houthi militias, civil defense authorities said.

Two civilians in a car and two passers-by were killed by a shell in the city of Najran, while 11 others were wounded, the civil defense department said in a statement carried by the Saudi Press Agency.

A prison security officer was also killed and another wounded when a second shell landed on their patrol in the same area, the statement said.

According to Saudi Gazette, the number killed in the attacks is 10.

10 die as Houthis shell Najran, Jazan

May:07:2015 - 06:51 | Comments Off | Permalink

Saudi media are reporting that government ground forces repelled a cross-border attack by Houthi militia in Najran Province. Reports do not say whether the Saudi Army or the National Guard was involved, but I’m assuming it was the Army.

3 soldiers killed as KSA repels Houthi attack
Jeddah: Arab News

Three Saudi troops and “dozens” of Houthi rebels were killed as Saudi ground forces repelled a major attack from inside Yemen, officials said.

A statement by the SPA said the attack on “border posts and control points” Thursday night took place on its southern border near the town of Najran. Saudi ground troops exchanged fire with Iran-backed Houthi Shiite rebels and called in airstrikes, said the SPA. “Dozens of the militiamen were killed. Three soldiers of the ground troops were martyred,” according to the statement.

The attack was the first major incursion into the Kingdom by the Houthis since the Saudi-led coalition began carrying out airstrikes inside Yemen more than a month ago.

May:02:2015 - 05:59 | Comments Off | Permalink

Along with this week’s reorganization of the line of succession and changes among the Saudi Cabinet, changes were made in how Saudi ARAMCO is to work in the future. Saudi Gazette provides early analysis that sees a decoupling of the Saudi government and its principal oil producer. ARAMCO, operating under a new Supreme Council, will continue to be run by technocrats and will be run as a business, making decisions on production for itself and maintaining its own financial books. The government, through its Ministry of Petroleum & Minerals, will continue to set policy, but will not be involved in day-to-day operations.

Some also see the move as a step in the process of naming Pr. bdulaziz Bin Salman, another of the King’s sons and a long-time member of the Saudi delegation to OPEC, as the next Minister of Petroleum & Minerals, succeeding Ali Naimi.

Saudi Aramco Restructured
Saudi Gazette report

The Kingdom has created a new 10-member supreme council for state-run oil company Saudi Aramco, headed by the Kingdom’s deputy crown prince, according to a statement on Aramco’s website.

“The council is chaired by Prince Muhammad Bin Salman, who is also deputy crown prince, minister of defense, chairman of the Royal Court and special adviser to the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques,” the statement said.

Aramco’s senior vice-president Amin Al-Nasser has been named acting president and chief executive officer until further notice, the company said on its Twitter account on Friday.

The Aramco statement was providing details of the company’s annual meeting in Seoul, South Korea last week. The agenda included a briefing by Oil Minister Ali Al-Naimi “on the recent dissolution of the Supreme Council for Petroleum and Mineral Affairs and the creation of the Supreme Council of the Saudi Arabian Oil Company (Saudi Aramco).”

Al Arabiya television channel also said the Supreme Economic Council had approved a restructuring of Aramco that included separating it from the oil ministry.

May:02:2015 - 05:48 | Comments & Trackbacks (1) | Permalink

With the juggling of Saudi succession seeing the Ministers of Interior and Defense being put in direct line to the throne, Saudi Arabia seems to be asserting a more direct role in determining its own future. It is moving a bit out from under the US security umbrella because it sees its own interests in regional security — primarily concerning Iran — as diverging from that of the US.

In a thoughtful editorial for Al Arabiya TV, Washington Bureau Chief Hisham Melhem looks at the US and whether it remains “exceptional” (as Republicans might have it) or “Indispensable” (the term Democrats might prefer). He argues that the US does remain indispensable because there is no other state or collection of states that can replace it.

Is America really indispensable?
Hisham Melhem

The world has been radically transformed in ways that were unimaginable 25 years ago. And the changes that will occur in the next 25 years are impossible to fathom beyond saying that they will alter fundamentally the way we think, interact, communicate, govern and fight. The diffusion of political and economic power among and within nations, the historic power shift from West to the East, the emergence of mega-cities, climate change, cyber-attacks, powerful and dangerous non-state actors like ISIS and Hezbollah, the growing role of civil society organizations, multinational corporations, and transnational threats from terrorism to pandemics such as Ebola, have caused seismic changes in our social and economic lives not seen since the Industrial Revolution.

The eve of a new Renaissance?

More importantly, the easy access to sophisticated information, the availability of the internet, the proliferation of affordable advanced technology such as smart phones and other powerful empowering tools of connectivity, and mega data, all of these megatrends will empower individuals, institutions and states in both creative and disruptive ways.

As David Rothkopf, editor of Foreign Policy magazine framed the impact of these technologies in a brilliant presentation at the Atlantic Council’s Global Strategy Forum this week ‘this is the day before the beginning of the renaissance. This is the day before the beginning of a massive change in human history that we have not begun to grapple with.’ Rothkopf contends that the fundamentals of our lives will change in the wake of this revolution which will alter our very human identity. ‘Who am I? Do I associate with the people who are close to me? Or do I associate with people who are like me on the internet? Geography no longer becomes the primary identifier of who I am as a human being, affinity does’. According to Rothkopf, the change will transform the meaning of community, the nature of governance, society, how do we connect to one another, and even the nature of human rights.

May:02:2015 - 05:36 | Comments & Trackbacks (2) | Permalink

Toy airplanes with cameras mounted are currently being blocked and/or controlled at the import stage by Saudi and other Gulf countries. While not military drones, they can function as reconnaissance vehicles and surveille military outposts and facilities. That’s not acceptable, particularly given regional tensions. Arab News reports:

Customs look at toy planes with suspicion

Saudi and Gulf customs authorities have imposed strict security procedures on children’s toys, especially toy planes with cameras.

Saudi Customs confirmed that there are controls in place but this hasn’t prevented their import, and if a permit is obtained from relevant bodies the ban will be lifted.

A source said restricting the entry of these toys is linked to their use in filming military locations, which means there has to be a permit from the Ministry of Interior or they are going to be re-exported to prevent their misuse.

A source at Bahraini customs said recently inspections have been stricter because of the current situation. He continued that these are precautionary measures, but nothing has been seized lately.

May:01:2015 - 07:24 | Comments Off | Permalink

Saudi media spend considerable ink (and electrons) extolling the virtues of the cabinet shake-up. All appointments are wise. Everyone, from clerics to the man-in-the-street, approves.

From Arab News:

King empowers next generation

The man with an iron will

Youngest Cabinet member who has proved his mettle

Best qualified men ‘selected to undertake big responsibilities’

Cabinet reshuffle creates a big buzz on Twitter

One month bonus for military personnel

Citizens happy over new appointments

Citizens pledge allegiance to new leaders

Prince Saud’s 39 years of astute foreign diplomacy

New health minister has good administrative skills

Labor minister vows to end unemployment

Saudi Gazette runs parallel articles.

April:30:2015 - 07:50 | Comments & Trackbacks (2) | Permalink

In a move that caught most Saudi-watchers on the hop, King Salman has implemented a major shake-up in government.

Prince Muqrin, the former Crown Prince and the youngest son of the country’s founder, is reported to have asked to be relieved of his position. He is replaced by former Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Naif, who also accedes to the position of Deputy Prime Minister. A new Deputy Crown Prince is named: Pr. Mohammed bin Salman, son of the King and Minister of Defense. He will keep his Defense portfolio.

Long-serving Minister of Foreign Affairs Saud Al-Faisal finally gets to retire and take care of his health. He is being replaced by current Saudi Ambassador to the US, Adel Al-Jubeir. This is the first time a non-Al-Saud has held the position in modern times.

Arab News reports on the shuffle and covers the major changes:

King Salman names Mohammed bin Naif as new Crown Prince

Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman named Mohammed bin Naif as Crown Prince on Wednesday in a Royal Decree.

King Salman made a number of major changes across a number of government positions including that of Crown Prince Muqrin who was relieved of his position, upon his request.

The Royal Decree also named Defense Minister Mohammed bin Salman as the Deputy Crown Prince, second in line to the Saudi throne.

Other changes saw veteran Foreign Minister Saud Al-Faisal stepping down from his post for health reasons but continuing as a cabinet minister as well as becoming a special adviser to the king.

Saudi Gazette has a more comprehensive list of changes, including those in the Ministries of Health and Labor:

Muhammad Bin Naif new crown prince, Muhammad Bin Salman becomes new deputy crown prince

Qatar-based Al-Jazeera TV has an early analytical piece, quoting Khalil Jahshan, the executive director for the Arab Centre of Washington, calling the changes “a political earthquake.”

Saudi king replaces crown prince in cabinet reshuffle

I find it gratifying that in replacing the Crown Prince, King Salman acted through the Allegiance Council. This serves to solidify the Council’s role in dealing with future succession issues.

April:29:2015 - 05:56 | Comments & Trackbacks (3) | Permalink

Al Arabiya TV reports that Saudi authorities have broken up an ISIS cell that had been planning attacks across the country. Most of those arrested were Saudi, with several foreigners also included.

Saudi arrests 93 suspected of ISIS links

Saudi Arabia has arrested 93 people, including a woman, with links to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the Saudi interior ministry said on Tuesday.

The statement said authorities had foiled several ISIS attempts to assassinate a number of members of the military.

A militant cell planned a suicide car bombing targeting the U.S. embassy in Riyadh, but the plot was disrupted in March, said the Interior Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Mansour al-Turki.

The arrests have taken place since December last year and most of those detained were Saudis.

Among those held is a 65-strong ISIS-linked group plotting to target “residential areas, and operations to incite sectarian sedition” in attacks similar to the killing of seven members of the minority Shiite community in Eastern Province in November, it said.

April:28:2015 - 09:15 | Comments & Trackbacks (4) | Permalink

The apparent Saudi allergy to holding menial, blue-collar jobs has several sources, a piece in Arab News reports. And it starts from the fact that Saudi children aren’t expected to do chores around the home, leaving them instead to cheap expat workers. From that, disdain toward manual labor grows until it’s seen as simply beneath one’s dignity, is an impediment to marriage, and leads to a cycle of disrespect from employers. Government efforts to change attitudes and to make blue-collar work more appealing are in place, but not yet successful on a large scale. Attitudes toward manual labor are shared across the gender divide.

Why young Saudis turn down blue-collar jobs
RIYADH: Rodolfo C. Estimo Jr.

Despite the “Jobs on Air” television program’s success in looking for employment opportunities, many young Saudis refuse to accept blue-collar jobs.

“Based on a survey, there are at least five reasons why young Saudi males turn down menial jobs,” said Mohsin Shaikh Al-Hassan, program host. The program — which has found at least 8,500 jobs for young Saudi males and females since it went on air four months ago — is broadcast on Al Danah television channel from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. every Tuesday.

Al-Hassan said that one reason why young Saudis refuse to accept menial jobs is because of the family. “Saudi families did not train their children while small to do chores at home. They provided everything the child needed. That’s why children don’t want to accept menial jobs when they grow up,” he said.

April:26:2015 - 06:44 | Comments & Trackbacks (3) | Permalink

Saudi Arabia has been busy on the home front in fighting terrorism, Saudi Gazette reports. Over 800 have been arrested over the last six month, primarily Saudis, but including at least 23 other nationalities.

Over this same time period, five attacks have taken place, several leading to fatalities.

811 arrested on terror charges
Mishal Al-Otaibi | Saudi Gazette

RIYADH — The security authorities have arrested 811 people of 25 nationalities on terrorism charges across the Kingdom in the past six months, according to sources.

These include an American, a French national and a Canadian.

Weapons, explosives, various documents and electronic devices were found in their possession.

Of the arrested persons, 634 are Saudis, 73 are Yemenis, 51 Syrians, 17 Pakistanis, 15 Egyptians, eight Palestinians, eight unidentified persons, six Sudanese, six Jordanians, five Indians, four Bangladeshis, three Chadians, two Iraqis, two Ethiopians, two Malians, a Canadian, Libyan, Malaysian, Filipino, American, Frenchman, Bahraini, Qatari, Kuwaiti and Lebanese.

During the pursuit, four security men were martyred and 25 sustained injuries.

This brings to total 3,692 people of 42 nationalities arrested in terrorism related cases since the Kingdom started pursuing them.

April:26:2015 - 06:35 | Comments Off | Permalink
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