News – 2012.02.24

Published: February 24, 2012

SUSRIS Daily News – Excerpts from International Media Reports
/Provided as a service from the Saudi-US Trade Group, Washington, DC/

2.24.12 EDITION

Kingdom Tower Go-Ahead: KHL GROUP

Chris Sleight | 2/24/12

The Saudi Arabian government has granted the final permits to allow construction of the Kingdom Tower in Jeddah to go ahead. At 1 km tall, the SAR 4.6 billion (US$ 1.23 billion) sky scraper will be the tallest building in the world, overtaking the current record holder, the 830 m Burj Khalifa in Dubai, UAE.

Private Consumption Growth Remains Robust In Kingdom: ARAB NEWS

2/23/12

Saudi consumers have weathered a number of storms in recent years including sharp stock market corrections in 2006 and 2008, an abrupt economic slowdown in 2009 in the wake of the global credit crunch, recession and an oil price collapse. An unprecedented surge in inflation to nearly 10 percent in 2008 also put pressure on real incomes. Inflation has since dropped back to around 5 percent, but it remains historically high, prompting adjustments from both employers and consumers.

China’s Persian Gulf Diplomacy Reflects Delicate Balancing Act: JAMESTOWN FOUNDATION

Chris Zambelis | 2/21/12

The marked expansion of Chinese diplomatic, energy and economic interests in the strategically important Persian Gulf represents one of the most important geopolitical trends of recent years.

Could Middle East Tensions Boil Over?: CNN

Fareed Zakaria | 2/24/12

…We are watching an open Cold War between Saudi Arabia and Iran with Syria as the battle ground. The Saudi King publicly said (and, remember, the Saudis are very reluctant to say things publicly) to the Russian President that any dialogue with Syria is “futile” – that we need to push the regime of Bashar al-Assad out. The Iranians, on the other side, are warning the outside world against intervening in Syria.

Valuations No Barrier to Saudi, Dubai Stock Rallies: ARAB NEWS

Reuters | 2/23/12

Leading Gulf stock markets have risen so rapidly in the last several weeks that some investors are wondering if a pull-back is in store. But valuations suggest the rallies may have further to run, fund managers say.

Saudi Binladin Group Secures Mecca Rail Contract: MENAFN

2/23/12

Saudi constructions giant Saudi Binladin Group won a contract to build the first phase of a rail line linking the Haramain train route with a metro in Mecca, Al-Eqtisadiah reported.

Saudi Arabian Airlines halts flights to Syria: THE NATIONAL

David Black | 2/24/12

Saudi Arabian Airlines (SAA) has become the first commercial carrier to suspend routes to Syria after it announced yesterday it had stopped flying to the country last Friday.

The Saudis Need Those High Oil Prices: BUSINESSWEEK

Glen Carey | 2/24/12

The world last year watched to see if Saudi Arabia would suffer the same instability that swept away other regimes in the Middle East. The question now is whether the world’s largest oil supplier needs to raise prices to sustain ramped-up spending intended to calm its citizens. Higher prices would be bad news for Western governments, which need affordable oil to nurture their economic recoveries.

World’s Press Calls for Release of Saudi Arabian Journalist: BIZ COMMUNITY

2/24/12

The World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA) and the World Editors Forum (WEF) have called for the immediate release of Saudi Arabian journalist and blogger Hamza Kashgari, who was arrested on charges of apostasy after posting tweets about the Prophet Mohammed.

Saudi Arabia’s Climate U-Turn? GREEN PROPHET

Arwa Aburawa | 2/23/12

It’s not long now till the climate summit follow up to Durban, is held in Qatar later this year. And in response to the eyes that will be soon focusing on the Middle East, it appears that climate skeptics are being pushed away to the sidelines – if temporarily. In Saudi Arabia, the notoriously climate skeptic Mohammed Al-Sabban has been replaced by the well-respected Khalid Abuleif as the leading voice at the climate negotiations for the country.

Levant Capital and CVCI Private Equity acquire leading Saudi supermarket chain, Al-Raya: BI-ME

2/23/12

Investment funds advised by Levant Capital Limited (“Levant Capital”) and Citi Venture Capital International (“CVCI”) announced today that they have jointly acquired a controlling stake in Al-Raya For Foodstuff Company Limited (“Al-Raya”), a leading supermarket chain in Saudi Arabia.

Harvard Expert to Study Saudi Architectural Developments: ARAB NEWS

Saeed Al-Asmari | 2/23/12

An architectural expert from the prestigious Harvard University was in Dammam on Wednesday to study the architecture and development of urban areas in the Gulf.

Non-Saudi Players Born In KSA May Join National Teams: SAUDI GAZETTE

2/24/12

Saudi Arabian Olympic Committee may allow non-Saudis born in the Kingdom to represent Saudi Arabia in various international sports events, said Prince Nawaf Bin Faisal Bin Fahd Bin Abdul Aziz, General President of Youth Welfare and President of the Saudi Arabian Football Federation, here Wednesday.

Massachusetts-Based AS&E Partners with Saudi Arabia’s Al Zamil Group for Cargo and Vehicle X-ray Inspection System at King Abdul Aziz Seaport in Dammam, Saudi Arabia: PRESS RELEASE

2/22/12

American Science and Engineering, Inc., a leading worldwide supplier of innovative X-ray detection solutions, in conjunction with Al Zamil Group, a global leader in industrial, petrochemical, and service sectors, announced that Saudi Arabia Customs debuted AS&E’s OmniView(TM) Gantry cargo and vehicle X-ray inspection system at King Abdul Aziz Seaport in Dammam, Saudi Arabia.

Young Saudi Artists Exhibition at Athr Gallery: SUSIE’S BIG ADVENTURE (Blog)

Athr Art Gallery held its opening reception of Young Saudi Artists Exhibition on February 21 for a crowd of more than 200 art enthusiasts. Unfortunately I was not able to attend because, like all women here in Saudi Arabia, I cannot drive – and my husband dislikes driving across town in the horrendous evening traffic. Many Saudi women are fortunate enough to have drivers to cart them here and there, but I am not so fortunate.

Saudi Women Driving: A Counter View: MIDEAST POSTS

Abu Muhammed | 2/24/12

Many people on both sides of this emotional argument only see what they perceive to be important to their side of the problem—and that ‘right’ is ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ is ‘wrong’. It reminds me of the perennial slap-stick movie gag about a guy who demands to have a closet door opened after ignoring the attempts of his companion to warn him of the impending avalanche of content waiting to bury him.

More News and Commentary from SUSTG

SYRIA: SYRIAN REBELS GET ARMS FROM ABROAD, SAYS REPORT

Foreign powers are turning a blind eye to weapons purchases by Syrian exiles who are already smuggling light arms, communications equipment and night vision goggles to rebels inside Syria, a Syrian opposition source said on Friday, Lin Noueihed and John Irish (Reuters) report. OPPOSITION SEEKS PLEDGE OF ARMS: The main Syrian opposition group has asked for rebel fighters to be allowed to import weapons. The plea came at a major international “Friends of Syria” conference being held in Tunisia to seek a breakthrough in the increasingly bitter conflict, BBC reports. ‘FRIENDS OF SYRIA’ WANT PEACEKEEPING MISSION: The nations that make up the Friends of Syria group will call Friday for the United Nations to begin planning a Syria peacekeeping mission once the regime agrees to a cease-fire, a senior diplomat said Friday. PHOTOS: Homs, a portrait of a massacre, as shared by Foreign Policy magazine.

OPINION: HOW TO HALT THE BUTCHERY IN SYRIA

Foreign military intervention in Syria offers the best hope for curtailing a long, bloody and destabilizing civil war. The mantra of those opposed to intervention is “Syria is not Libya.” In fact, Syria is far more strategically located than Libya, and a lengthy civil war there would be much more dangerous to our interests. America has a major stake in helping Syria’s neighbors stop the killing, Anne-Marie Slaughter (NYT) writes.

IRAQ: AL QAEDA CLAIMS ATTACKS ON IRAQI CITIES

Iraq’s al-Qaeda branch has claimed responsibility for the latest wave of bombings and other attacks that killed dozens in Baghdad and across the country in a single day, raising concerns over the government’s ability to provide security after the U.S. troop pullout, AP reports.

ARAB SPRING: FEW FEEL SAFE IN ARAB SPRING COUNTRIES
Residents in several Arab countries affected by uprisings feel less safe now than they did before those uprisings took place. Egyptians feel the least secure, with the percentage who say they feel safe walking alone at night in the city or area where they live dropping to 47% in 2011 from 82% in 2010. Perceived safety also decreased substantially over the same period in Tunisia and Bahrain, while differences in attitudes in Yemen are not significant, Gallup reports.

ISRAEL: POLICE CLASH WITH PALESTINIANS

Israeli police clashed with hundreds of Palestinians throwing rocks after Muslim prayers at Jerusalem’s most sensitive holy site on Friday, Washington Post reports. NETANYAHU TELLS MINISTERS ‘NOT TO SPEAK PUBLICLY ABOUT IRAN’: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered his ministers not to speak publicly about Iran, officials said Friday, in an apparent attempt at damage control before his upcoming trip to the White House, ABC News reports.

AFGHANISTAN: QURAN PROTESTS CLAIM MORE LIVES
Thousands of Afghans enraged over US military personnel setting fire to copies of the Koran have taken to the streets for a fourth day of protests, BBC reports.

IRAN: TEHRAN WANTS MORE UN NUCLEAR TALKS AFTER STALEMATE

Iran wants more talks with the U.N. nuclear watchdog, its ambassador to the body said, despite what one Western envoy called “very long and fruitless” negotiations this week on addressing suspicions about Tehran’s atomic activities, Fredrik Dahl (Reuters) reports. US REPUBLICANS ARE WRECKLESSLY SABRE-RATTLING ON IRAN: So far we haven’t gleaned much wisdom from the GOP contenders, who, except for Ron Paul, are encouraging a reckless rush to war while unfairly portraying President Obama as an appeaser, the LAT editorial board writes. THE US DOES NOT BELIEVE THAT IRAN IS CURRENTLY BUILDING A BOMB: The latest U.S. intelligence report indicates Iran is pursuing research that could enable it to build a nuclear weapon, but that it has not sought to do so, the LAT reports.

SOMOLIA: NERVOUSLY, WORLD POWERS EYE ACTION

Somalia might still be described as the “world’s worst failed state,” but international enthusiasm for involvement there is ticking up to levels not seen since the 1994 withdrawal of international peacekeepers, Peter Apps (Reuters) writes.

TUNISIA: BECOMING A REGIONAL PLAYER FOR THE FIRST TIME

In early February, the interim government, formed after Constituent Assembly elections last October, took the surprisingly proactive step — and one unthinkable under its predecessor — of expelling the Syrian ambassador and severing official relations with the Assad regime. Libya followed suit a few days later, while demonstrators in Cairo and Algiers demanded their governments take similar action, Alex Warren (FP) writes.

PAKISTAN: PRIME MINISTER URGES AFGHAN TALIBAN TO JOIN TALKS

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani on Friday urged Taliban leaders and other Afghan militant groups to participate in negotiations to end the war in neighboring Afghanistan, and he pledged that Pakistan would do “whatever it can” to facilitate peace talks, Richard Leiby (Washington Post) reports.

OPINION: AMERICA’S WAR OPERATIONS ARE UNACCOUNTABLE

American war is heading for the “shadows” in a big way.  As news articles have recently made clear, the tip of the Obama administration’s global spear will increasingly be shaped from the ever-growing ranks of U.S. special operations forces.  They are so secretive that they don’t like their operatives to be named, so covert that they instruct their members, as Spencer Ackerman of Wired’s Danger Room blog notes, “not to write down important information, lest it be vulnerable to disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act.”  By now, they are also a force that, in any meaningful sense, is unaccountable for its actions, Andrew Bacevich (Tom Dispatch) writes.

/The daily news is provided as a service of the Saudi-US Trade Group, Washington, DC. Visit www.SUSTG.org for more information and to get a free email subscription to the News Review./</h4></div>