Saudi Gazette/Okaz report that Saudi Arabia is going to be involved in the manufacture of trains. The article isn’t clear whether this will be locomotives, train cars, or both, but sees a potential to employ 10K Saudis in making the equipment to support a GCC-wide rail network. The Saudis seem to be working to lay down a claim on building rail equipment, closing the door on regional competition. The article goes on to extoll the reasons why it makes sense for the Saudis to do so.

Plans on track to manufacture trains in Kingdom
Mohammad Al-Enezi | Okaz/Saudi Gazette

DAMMAM – The Saudi Railways Organization (SRO) is planning to enter into partnerships with international companies to manufacture trains in the Kingdom.

The head of SRO, Mohammad Al-Suwaiket, said the purpose of seeking foreign partners is to benefit from their expertise in meeting the Kingdom’s need for trains.

The country’s long-term plan is to connect the governorates and cities with a rail network.

“These trains will also solve the country’s public transportation needs,” Al-Suwaiket said, explaining that he is currently considering inviting a number of international companies that have a proven global reputation in manufacturing trains to participate in setting up production facilities in the Kingdom.

September:25:2014 - 09:55 | Comments & Trackbacks (2) | Permalink

Saudi media are replete with articles about the fight against IS, Nusra Front, and others. Saudi Gazette quotes Foreign Minister Saud Al-Faisal’s explanation of why Saudi Arabia is involved and the importance to the Kingdom of taking part in an international coalition against it. Keeping Saudi society on-side is going to be an important objective of the government.

Why did Saudi Arabia join anti-IS air strikes in Syria?
Saudi Gazette report

JEDDAH — Minister of Foreign Affairs Prince Saud Al-Faisal stressed that his country will not hesitate to participate in any serious international effort seeking to mobilize and intensify action against terrorism wherever it occurs and whatever its motives.

This came in a speech delivered at the Global Counter Terrorism Forum in New York City on Tuesday as Saudi Arabia’s Air Forces participated in US-led bombing strikes against militants linked to the self-proclaimed Islamic State in Syria.

“We meet today as we are witnessing a concerted international effort to combat terrorism with active participation of the regional group and the United States to fight the most dangerous terrorist organization in the region inside the Syrian territories,” Prince Saud said.

He hoped that such an act will form the first nucleus of an international coalition to fight terrorism wherever it exists and whatever its justifications or reasons and without discrimination between sex, color or doctrine.

“We hope to continue this alliance for eliminating this scattered evil currently threatening the region and the world. Terrorism has distorted the image of Islam and Muslims,” he said.

Arab News reports that the son of the Minister of Defense was one of the pilots who flew in the raids. It notes that the pilots — who were named and shown in the media — have received death threats from IS supporters.

KSA throws full weight behind war on IS terror
RIYADH: Ghazanfar Ali Khan

The son of Crown Prince Salman, minister of defense, was among the eight Saudi airmen who took part in a US-led airstrike against Islamic State (IS) targets on Tuesday.

Prince Khaled bin Salman, a pilot, took part in the operations, newspaper reported on Wednesday, much to the pride of his father, who expressed admiration at the team’s professionalism and bravery in standing up to the enemies of Islam.

A large number of Saudis, meanwhile, sent tweets praising the valor of Saudi pilots.

Saudi Arabia pledged stronger cooperation with the international community in combating terrorism.

“Saudi efforts will continue to eliminate terror outfits, including the IS,” said Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly meeting.

And just to keep the testosterone levels in check, Arab News also reports that a female pilot led the UAE’s strike force in the raids:

Female UAE pilot ‘leads strikes’ on jihadists

Writing at The Wall St. Journal, Ahmed Al Omran — formerly known as “Saudi Jeans” — argues that Saudi participation in the raids shows that it is willing to take the risk of creating domestic unhappiness in the face of a far greater danger.

Participation in Syrian Airstrikes Reflects Saudi Fears

September:25:2014 - 09:17 | Comments & Trackbacks (1) | 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

Today, Saudi Arabia celebrates its 84th year as an independent, unitary state. The government has done a pretty good job in developing a sense of nationalism and that is encouraged by pieces such as this one from Saudi Gazette encouraging the public to wear green and white to show their pride in the country.

Go Green on National Day
Nisma Rafiq | Saudi Gazette

JEDDAH — Today, Saudi Arabia will mark its 84th National Day. And it will be celebrated with solidarity, love, pride and passion. As cities across the country are adorned with national flags, green and white banners, streamers and balloons, this is the day that you can “go green” too.

So, how are you planning to wear and carry green this National Day? Green is an eye-catching color, gets attention, but it is not easy to flaunt green and look fashionable at the same time.

Dressing up in green doesn’t mean that you start walking around like a ripe tree. Here, we have made a short list of ideas to help you celebrate the National Day with style.

September:23:2014 - 10:14 | Comments Off | Permalink

Writing in the Arabic daily Okaz, Khalf Al-Harbe comments on a video clip that has been racing around Saudi Arabia for the past week or so. It shows a teacher tearing pages out of a text book — and instructing his students to do likewise. The photos are of female children. The teacher finds these morally reprehensible and tries to teach his male students likewise.

This, Al-Harbe argues, is how terrorists are made. They are taught to hate, to disrespect others, to take violent actions to ensure that “the good” is served. Al-Harbe goes on to note that the teacher — whom the government sincerely wishes to have a talk with — was also taught this kind of intolerance and extremist thought. As bad as this single teacher is, he is hardly alone in his extremism: it’s widespread in Saudi classrooms. And it needs to be stopped.

The making of a terrorist
Khalaf Al-Harbe | Okaz

I would be exaggerating if I say I was surprised by the video clip showing a teacher tearing a school textbook in front of his students because it contained pictures of girls. He also ordered his students to do the same.

Such behavior has been going on behind school walls for many years. The only new thing the teacher has come up with is that he filmed his action and posted it on social media.

Many other teachers must have done worse stuff than this, but they are too clever to make it acceptible for people to watch. The Ministry of Education promised to hunt down the teacher and punish him.

This shocking video may help us understand the roots of terrorism. The young man, who suddenly decides to commit a terrorist act, will not be doing that on a whim or just because his mastermind asked him to blow himself up.

The issue is not that simple. The arrival at the point of exploding oneself and the other innocent people needs a lot of effort make his mind frame that of a terrorist.

September:23:2014 - 10:10 | Comments Off | Permalink

In yet another semi-coherent piece of media reporting, Saudi Gazette/Okaz report on a series of terrorism trials in Saudi Arabia. According to the story, a terror cell — termed “one of the country’s largest — had been broken up (no date given). Some 60 members (no names given) have been sentenced in the course of several trials. Seven have received the death sentence.

Given the speed at which Saudi law grinds and the reported targets, it does not appear that any of these cases involve ISIS, but instead refer to earlier group actions, likely Al-Qaeda-related, that took place several years ago.

Seven terrorists sentenced to death
Mansour Al-Shehri | Okaz/Saudi Gazette

RIYADH — Seven Saudi men have been sentenced to death for their role in one of the Kingdom’s largest terror cells, which consisted of 94 persons and aimed to target oil facilities and assassinate security officers, scholars, senior officials and journalists.

The Special Criminal Court in Riyadh awarded death penalty to three terror suspects on Monday and four others on Sunday. Forty suspects were sentenced to prison terms. On Monday, the court sentenced 20 suspects to prison terms ranging from five to 25 years, in addition to a travel ban. All the convicts are Saudis. The convicts can appeal the verdict within 30 days, the Saudi Press Agency reported. The charges against the convicts included kidnapping and killing a foreigner, armed confrontation with the security forces, embracing deviant ideology, joining Al-Qaeda, disobedience of the ruler, making explosives, and receiving training in the use of weapons.

On Sunday, the court jailed as many as 20 suspects for between two and 23 years for a variety of crimes ranging from joining a terror cell, providing shelter for terrorists to embracing a takfiri ideology (labeling others as infidels).

The four sentenced to death were convicted of various crimes.

September:23:2014 - 10:02 | 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

Saudi Gazette reports that Imam Muhammad ibn Saud Islamic University — Saudi Arabia’s leading university for the teaching of Islamic sciences, is purging its bookshelves of materials that promote extremism. Further, it is refusing to accept research into extremist ideologies and attendance at conferences and the like organized by extremist groups.

As always, the devil is in the details and Saudi media rarely provide details. No names of authors or titles of books are given.

Saudi Arabia also lacks freedom of speech — censorship is pervasive — so actual scholarship is being limited. Academic freedom of professors is equally being denied. This, though, is pretty much the norm for the country. Believing it is facing an existential threat from extremism, it is perhaps wise for the government and university to take these steps, but it comes with a cost, too. Imperfect knowledge does not usually lead to good conclusions.

University removes books with deviant ideologies
Saudi Gazette report

RIYADH — Imam Muhammad Bin Saud University here has begun reviewing the books in its library to eliminate books that spew deviant and extremist ideologies, Makkah daily reported.

The university has set up a special committee to go through all books listed in the library and take improper ones off of shelves so that students do not read them, a source said.

The books and references that contain certain religious content or security issues will also be eliminated and destroyed. The source said the university is keen to ensure that all the books in the library do not have any ideas that encourage extremism and factionalism.

The university has banned the registration of any research dealing with a personality or a society that has any form of ties with extremist groups and organizations unless the research criticizes these groups. Students are not allowed to summarize any audio or written files about extremist groups and persons or distribute them to other members of the university community.

September:21:2014 - 08:29 | Comments Off | Permalink

Haj, the pilgrimage to Mecca that should — if at all possible — be undertaken at least once in a Muslim’s life, has taken on mystic attributes. Arab News reports that the Saudi government is growing concerned over the number of people coming to Mecca in very poor health and under the impression that to die during Haj is to assure one’s arrival in Heaven. This is a myth the government says.

It’s also a problem. Not only can the diseased transmit diseases, but they greatly tax an already burdened health system. They don’t make things better for other pilgrims, either. The government is urging Islamic scholars around the world to emphasize that only the physically fit should undertake Haj.

Sick pilgrims coming with wish to die in KSA criticized

Saudi Arabia has expressed concern over the increasing number of pilgrims arriving with chronic or serious health problems. Such pilgrims are posing a health hazard for others and also putting pressure on the health facilities in the holy cities.

“Haj is mandatory for Muslims if they are physically and financially able,” said Abdallah Al-Asiri, the deputy minister for preventive health. “However, many pilgrims are ignoring the stipulation, which is a matter of concern.”

Speaking to Arab News, he said many Muslims in different parts of the world strongly believe that death during Haj or in holy cities would give them a place in heaven. This belief is making them hide their health problems as they arrive with determination to undertake the pilgrimage.

“Unfortunately, many pilgrims believe that their sickness could result in their death during the pilgrimage, which can give them a place in heaven,” he said.

September:20:2014 - 09:01 | Comments Off | Permalink

Saudi Gazette runs a brief piece noting that the Ministry of Islamic Affairs has said they’ve identified 100 problematic imams (out of a total of 15,000 in the Kingdom) who exhibit extremist tendencies. These imams are being given a chance to get with the program of condemning extremism or find themselves out of work.

‘100 imams with extremist thoughts’

RIYADH — The Ministry of Islamic Affairs, Endowments, Call and Guidance has identified about 100 mosque imams out of 15,000 with extremist tendencies. He said the imams are currently being rehabilitated but will be dismissed if they do not repent, the ministry’s undersecretary for mosque affairs Tawfiq Al-Sudairy announced. He said the ministry is closely monitoring the performance of all imams and their Friday sermons. The undersecretary said following the terrorist attack against a police checkpoint in Sharoorah in Ramadan, the ministry asked all mosque imams to denounce the incident and to criticize any anti-Islamic ideologies. “The response of the imams was excellent. Those who did not implement the ministry’s instructions were given another opportunity to do so,” he said. Al-Sudairy warned that any imam who conveys any extremist ideas in his sermon would be sacked.

September:19:2014 - 08:39 | Comments Off | Permalink

The idea of cinemas in Saudi Arabia is a fraught one. While they used to exist, up to the 1960s at least, in some parts of the Kingdom, they have all be shuttered in the name of keeping the sexes separate and avoiding the dispersal of “bad” ideas. They remain unpopular with a large part of the Saudi population for those reasons, but others see not only a desire for cinema, but an economic need.

Saudi Gazette reports that the Ministry of Labor is at least open to the idea of re-opening cinemas. It sees it, tentatively, as a new area in which Saudis can be employed. This would go along with the fact that Saudis are becoming more adept at making films, even if they have to cross borders to do so. Saudis certainly cross borders to view films, as Bahraini theaters are pleased to record in their balance sheets.

The arguments about content seem to now be obviated by the fact of satellite TV and the Internet. Content that was once considered anathema is now common, though filtering and blocking things like obscenity and objectionable religious and political content continue (to decreasing effect). Separating the sexes ought not be a difficult task for a country that has been separating them for a few generations now.

Many see the reintroduction of cinemas in Saudi Arabia as inevitable. At present, though, it’s a matter of “Soon, just not now.”

Cinema is now an economic activity
Saudi Gazette report

THE Ministry of Labor in the Kingdom has included cinema in the economic activities that people can work in. The ministry has included various cinema and other entertainment activities, film production as well as distribution and display of movies among economic activities, a statement of the ministry put on its website said.

In an exclusive report this June, Maaal Arabic newspaper revealed that an investor has officially submitted an application to the Saudi General Commission for Audiovisual Media for a license to set up a movie theater in Saudi Arabia.

Through its website, the ministry did not give more details on these specializations and the possibility of working in them nor did it specify conditions and regulations for someone willing to engage in such activities, according to Al Arabiya website.

Earlier, the audiovisual commission did not object to the idea in principle. It asked the investor to give a full explanation on the project including a future strategy.

If the commission thinks the investment is feasible, it could ask higher authorities to clear the way for movie theaters nationwide, sources reportedly said.

September:19:2014 - 08:34 | Comments Off | Permalink
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