News – 2012.03.26

Published: March 26, 2012

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

3.26.12 EDITION

The US and Saudi Arabia: A Renewed Partnership on Oil Markets?: PEAK OIL NEWS


Saudi Aramco has been steadily increasing its production. In speaking to reporters during a trip to India in late February, Saudi Deputy Oil Minister Prince Abdul-Aziz bin Salman suggested that February’s level of Saudi production was in line with January’s output, with the Saudi oil official telling reporters that his country is producing 9.8 million b/d and has 2.5 million b/d of spare capacity. The Saudi government has suggested that its output has remained at 9.8 million b/d or above since this past November, when Saudi production reached a near-record 10.047 million b/d. According to Prince Abdul-Aziz, “we have demonstrated to our friends here how much excess capacity there is today and how much capacity will be there in the future.”

Oil scene: IEA grapples with crude realities: ARAB NEWS

Syed Rashid Husain | 3.25.12

Crude consumers and producers are rarely on the same page — hand in hand — together. They occupy the opposite sides of the table and the difference is understandable. Their interests, mostly, diverge. Yet for a change now, the International Energy Agency, the consumers’ watchdog, and major crude producers seem converging on the moot point — there is enough capacity to meet the emergency — in the event Iran sanctions start to bite. Saudi Arabia will be able to pump enough oil to compensate for any loss of Iranian output caused by Western sanctions, the head of the International Energy Agency (IEA) conceded on Friday. A welcome change from past indeed! “There is no fear of disruption of supplies and you know Saudi Arabia is going to bring more oil to the market,” Maria van der Hoeven, IEA executive director underlined. Saudi Arabia has been assuring the markets of adequate supplies — in case needed — for some time now. The Saudi cabinet reiterated recently that in order to ensure and sustain global economic growth, the Kingdom would continue to provide as much crude as is required by the world.

Banks lead Saudi to highest close since 2008: TRADE ARABIA


Banks led Saudi Arabia’s bourse to fresh three-and-half-year high and analysts expect the kingdom’s financial sector to lift the market further, backed by strong fundamentals. The main benchmark rose 1.1 percent to finish at 7,759 points, its highest close since September 2008 and third straight gain.

Arab Media Clash over Syria: WALL STREET JOURNAL

Sam Dagher | 3.24.12

Satellite TV remains the most accessible medium for the Arab world’s masses. In areas where Internet penetration is sparse, news and views of the broader world come largely from the free stations picked up by dishes that are ubiquitous on rooftops from Baghdad’s slums to the remotest village in Morocco. These stations broadly reinforce a regional narrative that pits Iran, which sees itself as the leader of the region’s Shiite Muslims and supports Mr. Assad, against Gulf Arab states led by Saudi Arabia, a center of Sunni Islam that is fully behind the opposition. The media battle is galvanizing populations across the region along sectarian lines and further fueling fears that a local conflict will metastasize into a regional one.

Iranian-Saudi Tensions Play Out in Beirut, Tripoli: PBS

Gareth Smyth | 3.24.12

Relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran warmed during the presidencies of Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani (1989-97) and Mohammad Khatami (1997-2005), but they were soon to deteriorate. Ahmadinejad offered an assertive Shiism that was less noticed in the West than his strident criticisms of Israel — but some in Iran saw a link between the two. At the beginning of 2007, Habibollah Asgaroladi, a senior member of the traditional conservative Motalefeh party, said Ahmadinejad had raised the issue of the Jewish holocaust in order to outflank Saudi Arabia across the Muslim world.

Saudi Women and the Olympics: CROSSROADS ARABIA

John Burgess | 3.24.12

Adulateef Al-Mulhim offers his thoughts in Arab News on the announcement that Saudi women will be taking part in the next Olympic Summer Games, being held in London this July and August. I know there are capable female Saudi athletes, but I suspect a lot of Saudis aren’t aware. Sports for women – athletic of any kind – are viewed with skepticism, particularly from cultural and religious traditionalists. Some women, with supportive families, are able to ignore the social issues. Some schools, private for the most part, ignore them as well in realizing that healthy bodies help produce healthy minds, not to mention even healthier bodies. Still, it is only now that state schools are considering formal programs of girl’s sports and athletics. As a result, it’s mostly privileged Saudi women who are competent in sport; they or their families had to pay for everything from the most basic training onward. Saudi Arabia has been blackmailed, essentially, by the International Olympics Committee. It was told that if no women participated, no men would be permitted to participate either. That would be an embarrassment too far for the Saudi self-image.

Saudi Shura Council set to vote on sexual harassment law: AL ARABIYA


The Consultative Assembly of Saudi Arabia, also known as the Shura Council, will vote this month on a draft law that will set punishments in cases of sexual harassment. Council member Sadaqa Fadel said the law classifies sexual offenses into categories and assigns particular punishments to each category. Fadel told Saudi al-Eqtisadiah newspaper that punishments range from warning flogging and imprisonment.

Bishops slam edict by Saudi religious official: GULF NEWS


Christian bishops in Germany, Austria and Russia have criticised Saudi Arabia’s top religious official after reports that he issued a fatwa saying all churches on the Arabian Peninsula should be destroyed. In separate statements on Friday, the Roman Catholic bishops in Germany and Austria slammed the fatwa by Grand Mufti Shaikh Abdul Aziz Al Shaikh. Archbishop Mark of Yegoryevsk, head of the Russian Orthodox department for churches abroad, called the fatwa

Saudis, expats paid SR5bn in traffic fines last year: ARAB NEWS


Fines paid by traffic violators in the Kingdom last year amounted to more than SR5 billion, Al-Sharq newspaper reported yesterday quoting a source at the traffic department. He said only 64 percent of the violators paid the fines against them. The source said more than 2 million traffic violations were recorded in Jeddah last year, and the fines reached more than SR400 million.

Fourteen Companies Apply for Saudi Air License: BLOOMBERG

Glen Carey | 3.25.12

Fourteen companies applied for a license to operate an air carrier in Saudi Arabia, Arab News reported, citing a statement from the General Authority for Civil Aviation. Local and regional companies as well as a Saudi-Chinese group with aviation experience have expressed interest, the Jeddah-based newspaper said.

Saudi Billionaire Alwaleed Does the Fairmont Hotel Shuffle: FORBES

Kerry A. Dolan | 3.24.12

Sell a hotel one week, buy another one the next. So it goes in the world of billionaire Saudi investor Prince Alwaleed bin Talal. On Saturday, Alwaleed’s Kingdom Holding announced that Fairmont Hotels and Management, in which it has a partial stake, is purchasing the Fairmont Sonoma Spa and Inn in northern California for $88 million. This comes on the heels of news in mid-March that Alwaleed is selling his stake in the historic Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco.

Dow Announces Coatings Manufacturing Investment in Saudi Arabia: STREET INSIDER


The Dow Chemical Company today announced plans to invest in a new manufacturing facility for its Dow Coating Materials (DCM) business unit in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Dow Coating Materials is the premier supplier of products and technologies to architectural and industrial coatings manufacturers. The planned facility, which will be located at the Jubail Industrial City, will manufacture a wide range of coating materials for both the Kingdom and export markets worldwide.

French defence minister holds Saudi talks: AFP


French Defence Minister Gerard Longuet held talks Saturday with his Saudi counterpart in Riyadh on bolstering ties between their ministries, SPA state news agency reported.

Saudi student obtains Ph.D. in stem cells: ARAB NEWS


A scholarship student from the Kingdom has recently become the first Saudi student to obtain a Ph.D. in stem cells. Khalid bin Ibrahim Al-Zir received his degree from the Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) in southwest Wales. The Ph.D.  thesis centered on cancer resistance mechanisms against current treatments for cancer patients. It also dealt with the functions of stem cells and their applications in replacement of organs (cells) to cure certain diseases such as Alzheimer’s.

More News and Commentary from SUSTG


As it prepares to take power in Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood is overhauling its relations with the two main Palestinian factions in an effort to put new pressure on Israel for an independent Palestinian state, David Kirkpatrick (NYT) reports.


Iran had planned to bomb an Israeli ship while it crossed the Suez Canal, the prosecution in Egypt’s state security court said, the Egyptian newspaper Al-Ahram reported on Saturday.

According to the report, two Egyptians were recently arrested and investigated for allegedly planning an attack on an Israeli ship in the Suez Canal, Haaretz reports.


On the other hand, it seems to me evident that if Iran ever did move out of its comfort zone (which is dilatory opacity), throw out the International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors monitoring its uranium enrichment, combine the elements of its nuclear and ballistic research, and rush for a bomb, it would face assault from Israel and the United States together. Neither can permit such a decisive shift in the Middle East strategic equation. Obama means it when he says containment of a nuclear Iran is not an option. In this sense, the whole Iran debate — with its receding “red lines,” its shifting “zones of immunity,” its threats and counter-threats, its bad metaphors and worse similes — is false. We know what will trigger a war and what won’t. At least we should. As the United States has learned this past decade, mistakes can happen in the form of politically driven irrational choices, Roger Cohen (NYT) writes.


As Arab leaders converge on Baghdad for a landmark summit meeting this week, they will be treated to carefully chosen glimpses of a new Iraq: gleaming hotel lobbies, renovated palaces and young palm trees lining an airport highway once called the Road of Death, Jack Healy (NYT) reports.


Bahraini police clashed with anti-government protesters on Saturday at a Shi’ite town where residents tried to demonstrate against the Gulf Arab state’s holding of a Formula One race next month, Andrew Hammond (Reuters) reports.


Thousands of Tunisian Islamists took to the streets on Sunday to step up their demands for the creation of an Islamic state in one of the most secular Arab nations.

About 8,000 conservative Salafi Islamists filled the capital’s Habib Bourguiba Avenue, a focal point of the 2011 revolution that sparked uprisings across the Arab world, Tarek Amara (Reuters) reports.


Iran-Qatar relations face unprecedented uncertainty. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad cancelled a planned trip to Doha in November 2011, and anti-Qatari Iranian rhetoric is at an all-time high. From Tehran’s perspective, Qatar has dangerously raised the stakes by spearheading Arab efforts to remove the Iranian-backed regime of Bashar Al-Assad in Damascus. Still, while Iran strongly resents Qatar’s so-called adventurism in Syria, Tehran’s hands are somewhat tied as it ponders a possible alternative approach towards Doha. The simple fact is that Iran badly wants to maintain whatever entente it still has among Arab countries in an era of Arab-Iranian tension—and the undeniable rise in tensions between Iran and Qatar have to be viewed in this context, Alex Vatanka (Majalla) writes.


Drought, floods and a lack of fresh water may cause significant global instability and conflict in the coming decades, as developing countries scramble to meet demand from exploding populations while dealing with the effects of climate change, U.S. intelligence agencies said, AP reports.


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