SUSRIS Daily News – Excerpts from International Media Reports
/Provided as a service from the Saudi-US Trade Group, Washington, DC/
Iraq’s Fugitive Vice President In Saudi Arabia: ASSOCIATED PRESS
Abdullah Al-Shihri | 4.4.12
Iraq’s fugitive vice president arrived Wednesday in Saudi Arabia after a four-day official visit to neighboring Qatar, the official Saudi news agency said. Tariq al-Hashemi, the top Sunni official in Iraq’s Shiite-dominated government, is wanted in Iraq on terror charges for allegedly running death squads against Shiite pilgrims, government officials and security forces. IRAQ’S RELATIONS WITH ARAB WORLD DETERIORATING DAYS AFTER BAGHDAD SUMMIT: Liz Sly (Washington Post) reports that, “Iraq’s fugitive vice president, Tariq al-Hashimi, flew to Saudi Arabia on Wednesday as the goodwill generated between Iraq and its Arab neighbors by an extravagant summit in Baghdad last week began unraveling. The visit by Hashimi, who is wanted by Baghdad authorities on charges of terrorism, came as Iraqi officials announced they had called off a national reconciliation conference planned for Thursday that was supposed to ease tensions between Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and the Sunni and Kurdish factions in his coalition government.”
Diana Al-Jassem | 4.5.12
Arab News spoke to number of business leaders and banking experts and they were of the view that the Kingdom’s need for more foreign investments for furthering its economic growth was paramount. “The Kingdom’s economy cannot be boosted by taxing expatriate workers. This will be a retrograde step. We have to think out of the box and create a more congenial environment for foreign investments,” said Nahed Taher, founder and CEO of Gulf One Investment Bank.
Internet In The Middle East Still Short Of Its Potential: WALL STREET JOURNAL
Ben Rooney | 4.5.12
Last week’s third ArabNet conference for digital entrepreneurs in the MENA region was, by the standard of these things, a modest affair. But nonetheless it showed how the regional digital economy has grown, and how it is poised to take off. As one commentator said: “Jordan for the talent, Lebanon for the creativity, Egypt for the eyeballs and Saudi Arabia for the purchasing power.” Currently, for a region that is awash with cash, the Internet economy is tiny. According to figures published by ArabNet, Turkey has half the number of Internet users as the whole Middle East and North Africa region. Yet Turkey’s e-commerce market, at around $12 billion, is roughly three times that of the MENA region. So what is holding the region back?
Merger and acquisition (M&A) deals in the Middle East will see gradual improvement in 2012, particularly among key players not impacted by liquidity constraints, such as Saudi Arabia, Abu Dhabi and Qatar, said a report. M&A advisory experts at Deloitte predict that several sectors such as education and healthcare, consumer goods and the food and beverage industry will continue to be of interest, in addition to the financial services sector, which is also apt for consolidation.
The question ”Have you broken into my desk?” coming from the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia to an American columnist might seem unusual. It was, however, the start of a story that ended with the members of the Arab League approving a plan for peace with Israel at their summit ten years ago. A month before the Beirut Summit in 2002, Thomas Friedman was received by King Abdullah, then the heir apparent of Saudi Arabia. According to Friedman’s February 17, 2002 New York Times column, “An Intriguing Signal From the Saudi Crown Prince,” he floated the notion, said to originate in private dialogue among some Arab League members, of a “clear cut proposal to Israel to break the Israeli-Palestinian impasse.” It has been ten years since the peace plan proposed by King Abdullah was adopted by the 22 nations of the Arab League. At this milestone SUSRIS takes a look at this important initiative through the perspective and insight of veteran Middle East specialist Thomas Lippman, Middle East Institute scholar, author and career journalist who headed the Washington Post’s Middle East Bureau. He is author of numerous books including: Understanding Islam (1982, 3d revised edition 2002); Egypt After Nasser (1989); Madeleine Albright and the New American Diplomacy (2000); Inside the Mirage: America’s Fragile Partnership with Saudi Arabia (2004), Arabian Knight: Col. Bill Eddy USMC and the Rise of American Power in the Middle East (2008) as well as the just released, “Saudi Arabia on the Edge: The Uncertain Future of an American Ally.”
Small businesses in Saudi Arabia have invested approximately $2.4 billion (SR9 billion) in social media to date, according to statistics announced during workshops at the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Ninety percent of the population in Saudi Arabia is utilizing some form of social media, with an average of 195 “friends” per user. Four million Saudis use Facebook, and 2 million are on Twitter. Saudi Arabia also leads the world in number of daily YouTube views at 36 million, with the time spent on YouTube exceeding the time spent watching television in the Kingdom. LinkedIn is especially popular for businesses, with over 2 million companies listed on the site. The personal aspect of the sites enables small businesses to build brand familiarity and customer trust. Experts at the seminar encouraged small business to take advantage of this expansive user base and pointed out that company products could be discussed on the sites even if the company does not have a page.
Andrew Torchia | 4.4.12
Saudi Arabia’s market interest rates are climbing as the economy booms, but the rise is as much due to international pressures as strain on banks’ lending resources, and any hike of official rates probably remains distant. The increase in interbank lending costs underlines how Saudi money markets are returning to normal since a sudden increase in government spending last year, announced in response to the Arab Spring uprisings in the region, flooded the banking system with money and pushed rates down to record lows.
AFP | 4.5.12
The head of the Saudi Olympic Committee has ruled out sending women athletes from the ultra-conservative kingdom to the London Olympics this summer, local dailies reported on Thursday. Prince Nawaf bin Faisal said, however, that Saudi women taking part on their own are free to do so and the kingdom’s Olympic authority would “only help in ensuring that their participation does not violate the Islamic sharia law.” “We are not endorsing any Saudi female participation at the moment in the Olympics or other international championships,” he told a press conference in Jeddah on Wednesday. The Saudi official was reiterating a position he announced late last year, confirming that Saudi Arabia will be fielding only male athletes in London.
The Eastern Province, Land of Opportunities: ARAB NEWS
Arab News | Abdulatif Al-Mulhim | 4.4.12
Saudi Arabia consists of 13 provinces of which the Eastern Province is the largest in terms of area, with a population of about 4 million. It covers an area of about 260,000 square miles and is almost as large as the US state of Texas. The capital of the province is Dammam, where the office of governor Prince Mohammad bin Fahd is situated. The young prince was educated in the West and graduated from the University of California at Santa Barbara (UCSB), where he majored in economics and political science. His office is called the Amarah (governor office). One of the traditional weekly events in the province is called the Majlis, where Prince Mohammad would receive every Monday afternoon a group of residents from all over the province and all members of society.
Makkah Youth Bewail Closure Of Shisha Cafés: SAUDI GAZETTE
Wael Abdullah | 4.5.12
Authorities in Makkah recently closed down shisha cafés within the Haram boundary following an intense campaign titled “No Smoking in Makkah.” The move was taken to make Makkah a smoke-free zone. Many people, however, are hurting from the decision. Khalid Al-Husseini, a civil servant, said: “I’ve been frequenting shisha cafés for more than 10 years. I enjoy spending my leisure time there along with my friends. Now there are no more cafés or places where I can meet my friends,” he said. “Since the authorities began sending teams to close down shisha cafés, we’ve been left with no place where we can relax and breathe except these undeveloped residential districts where we sit on pavements until dawn,” Al-Husseini said. “This, naturally, leads to other problems. The police pass by us from time to time to watch what is going on. It’s against the law to sit on pavements or streets after midnight. We then end up having to ask the officers to allow us to stay longer — there’s a whole host of problems now,” he added.
Gaming Saudi Charities: CROSSROADS ARABIA
John Burgess | 4.4.12
In the wake of the 9/11 attacks, it was found that terrorists were using Saudi Arabia’s charities to raise and then divert funds toward ends other than claimed. The government cracked down on this in several ways, including the prohibition of sending charitable contributions directly abroad. Contributions were forced to go through a limited number of government channels.
It’s not just terrorists who abuse Saudi charity, though. Arab News reports on a conference that discussed the way Saudis themselves are gaming the system by seeking support from two or more organizations at the same time and either pocketing the cash or selling on goods given as support.
SYRIA: RUSSIA WARNS AGAINST ARMING SYRIAN REBELS
Russia’s foreign minister has warned Western and Arab governments against arming rebel forces in Syria that seek to topple President Bashar al-Assad. Western countries have so far refrained from suggesting they want to arm Syrian’s rebels, although Saudi Arabia and Qatar have already urged such action. On a visit to Azerbaijan, Sergei Lavrov said providing weapons to the opposition would escalate violence in Syria and in any event prove pointless since rebels couldn’t hope to defeat Assad’s much bigger and better-equipped military. “Even if they arm the Syrian opposition to the teeth, it won’t be able to defeat the Syrian army,” Lavrov said. “The carnage will go on for many years.”
EGYPT: THE RISK OF WASHINGTON’S NEW LOVE AFFAIR WITH ISLAMISTS
It’s vitally important for Egyptian and American national interests and for regional security that the democratically elected FJP and the U.S. government continue to communicate with a view to helping create a pluralist and prosperous example of democracy in Egypt. FJP officials have, rightly, met with senior officials inside the Obama administration. There’s glee in Washington that traditional American foes are now friends. I understand and support that sentiment. But it’s too early for resting on laurels. Anti-American sentiment remains worryingly high across most of the Middle East–and we remain, as always, hostage to events, Ed Husain (The Atlantic) writes. ANTI-AMERICAN EGYPTIAN CANDIDATE MAY BE TRIPPED UP BY MOTHER’S U.S. TIES: An ultraconservative Islamist whose denunciations of American power have helped propel him to the front of Egypt’s presidential race appears to have been tripped up by his own American connections, David D. Kirkpatrick (NYT) writes.
POLL: TWO-THIRDS OF YOUNG ARAB WOMEN REMAIN OUT OF WORKFORCE
About one in three young Arab women between the ages of 23 and 29 participate in their country’s labor force versus about eight in 10 young Arab men. This gender gap is generally consistent across the 22 Arab countries and territories Gallup surveyed in 2011, but young women’s labor force participation is slightly higher in low-income countries than in higher income countries, Steven Crabtree (Gallup) writes.
UNITED STATES: ENTERING THE ‘DANGER ZONE’
U.S. President Barack Obama recently said that “all elements of American power” remain on the table to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. The USS Abraham Lincoln — a nearly 100,000-ton supercarrier with a crew of around 4,800 and 50-plus aircraft — is one of these elements. Steaming just 30 miles off the coast of Iran while launching F/A-18 Hornet strike aircraft, it is one of the most visibly impressive demonstrations of American military might. If strategic power can be measured in decibels, the flight operations of a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier must rank at the top. Even if one wears earplugs as well as ear protectors, the noise on the flight deck is overwhelming. Depending on the aircraft type and the payload it is carrying, each F/A-18 is catapulted off either at full power or with the additional fiery blast of afterburners. Similarly on landing, the throttles are opened in case the aircraft’s hook does not catch on one of the four arrestor wires stretched across the deck. An aircraft that misses is labeled a “bolter” and has only yards to once again become airborne and fly round for another attempt. In several hours of watching, there were few “bolters.” Most pilots caught their target, the third wire, Simon Henderson (FP) writes.
PAKISTAN: QUARTER OF A MILLION PAKISTANIS FLEE FIGHTING IN KHYBER
A quarter of a million Pakistanis are in desperate need of food, water and medicine after being forced to flee their homes due to intensified fighting between the army and militants near the Afghan border, a leading aid group warned on Wednesday, Reuters reports.
LIBYA: WARRING MILITIAS IN WEST LIBYA VOW NO LET-UP IN FIGHT
The government in Tripoli has called for a halt to the fighting and says it will intervene, but it is looking enfeebled against the powerful mix of divided communities, old vendettas and plentiful weapons that is driving this conflict, Reuters reports.
OPINION: FIVE REASONS AMERICANS SHOULD BE HAPPY (IN A VERY UNHAPPY MIDDLE EAST)
In Iran, the centrifuges spin ever closer to acquiring enough fissile material for a nuclear weapon. In Egypt, Islamists crowd out the liberals and the Google generation. In Syria, the Assads maintain their bloody grip on power, defying the international community and the will of their own people. As for the Israelis and Palestinians, well … they don’t even pretend there’s a negotiation in sight, let alone an end to their conflict. And in the middle of this muddled mess sits the United States. Like some modern-day Gulliver, America seems tied down by small powers whose interests are not its own, and tied up by its illusions, Aaron David Miller (FP) writes.
AFGHANISTAN: THE LINK TO LARIAM REMAINS OPEN
If – and it’s a big if — Staff Sergeant Robert Bales become psychotic after taking mefloquine, it wouldn’t be the first time. In fact, there have been confirmed cases of psychosis and aggression in Afghanistan directly related to mefloquine, also known as Lariam, Mark Thompson (TIME) writes.
ISRAEL: ROCKET HITS ISRAELI RESORT TOWN
A rocket fired from the Egyptian Sinai peninsula blew up early Thursday in the Israeli resort town of Eilat (southern Israel), causing no casualties. “The Grad rocket fired from Egypt exploded in the city, but caused no casualties or damage,” police official Ron Getner told Army radio. He said the device exploded several hundred meters of houses in a site under construction. Getner said the police were on “high alert “while stressing that no new instructions had been given to the public or visitors to Eilat, Al Bawaba reports.
GAZA: FUEL ARRIVES IN GAZA UNDER NEW DEAL
Fuel began arriving in Gaza on Wednesday as per a new deal between the territory’s Hamas government and the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, an official said. “Tanks of fuel holding 45,000 liters each entered through the Kerem Shalom crossing this morning,” Raed Futuh, the coordinator on the Palestinian side of the crossing, told AFP. “We’re expecting about 430,000 liters of industrial fuel for the electricity plant today,” he added.
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