Editorial: World must rein in Iran before inking deal

Updated 08 May 2015
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Editorial: World must rein in Iran before inking deal

A deal with Iran over its nuclear program is supposed to be inked by the end of next month. It will focus almost entirely on the International Atomic Energy Agency being given unrestricted access to nuclear sites. It will not take account of Iran’s deadly meddling in the Middle East. It will not commit the government in Tehran to restoring friendly relations with its neighbors in the Gulf.
As Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman pointed out this week to fellow GCC leaders in Riyadh, the agreement has to have wide and strict provisions. Without them, there is a clear danger of an arms race.
Iran is suffering badly from the international sanctions imposed upon it. The covert support of Russia’s President Vladimir Putin is doing little to help ordinary Iranians. Popular discontent is rising. The government in Tehran fears the consequences. It is desperate for the lifting of sanctions. The minute they end, whether in stages, as the Group 5+1 insists, or immediately, as the Iranians are demanding, all chance of curbing Tehran’s misbehavior in the region is gone.
Iran has been in breach of its obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). It has obstructed the international inspections that, by signing the NPT, it agreed to facilitate. It has insisted that its top secret research is for civilian, not military use. If that was ever true, there never ought to have been a problem allowing in IAEA inspectors.
It has to be suspected that the 12 long years of talks were all about buying time for Iranian nuclear scientists. The Iranians saw what happened with maverick North Korea. Once the regime in Pyongyang had detonated its first nuclear device, the rules of the game changed. Iran, like North Korea, has also been developing longer range rockets, capable of carrying nuclear warheads.
In addition, while the marathon talks dragged on, Iran stepped up its regional interference. The support for Bashar Assad in Syria and for the terrorist Hezbollah in Lebanon has fostered ruin and tragedy. More than 300,000 people have died and millions turned into refugees thanks to Iranian and Russian interference. In Iraq, Iran has backed division. It has supported murderous militias. The fanatical terrorists of IS are in part the product of Iranian meddling. They are welcomed by Tehran because they add to regional instability.
Iran has also sought to sow discord in GCC states. Iranian agitators were responsible for the riots in Bahrain. They tried and failed to stir up similar discontent in Eastern Province. And now they have organized and armed Houthi rebels in Yemen. Yet more tragedy and more destruction and loss of life can be laid directly at the door of the Iranian government.
The international community well understands Iran’s malevolent meddling. The support given to the Saudi-led Decisive Storm air operation, to halt the Yemen rebels in their tracks, is proof that it accepts the need for firm and unflinching responses to Iranian adventurism.
This makes it a mystery that the nuclear negotiations have not been broadened to secure a wider outcome. The G5+1 may complain that it has been hard enough to reach even the framework deal agreed last month. To have thrown in more substantial negotiating points would have destroyed the talks completely.
But this is blinkered and foolish. Forcing Iran to abandon its nuclear weapons program was never the key issue. A Middle East nuclear arms race is, as King Salman said, a terrible threat. But he also looked to the wider issue of convincing Iran to revert to being a good neighbor. Thus reaching a wide agreement based on a commitment not to interfere in the affairs of other states is crucial.
There has never been a better opportunity for this to come about. At the heart of the solution is the hard-hitting sanctions regime. Assuming that the Iranians do actually agree to abide by the treaty obligation, one way or another the sanctions will end. When this happens a critical lever will be lost. Iran will be free to carry on with its expansionist policies and its promotion of religious division.
The nuclear deal therefore needs to be recast. It must be made part of a regional treaty involving all stakeholders, including the GCC members. Tehran has been playing games for long enough over its nuclear weapons program. It needs to be convinced that its tragic regional interference must end. It also needs to understand that it has everything to gain from a stable and prosperous Middle East.


EDITORIAL: Jeddah floods a reminder of why we need the anti-corruption drive

Saudi drivers take a flooded street in Jeddah on Tuesday. (AFP)
Updated 22 November 2017
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EDITORIAL: Jeddah floods a reminder of why we need the anti-corruption drive

It has happened again. The roads, streets and many underpasses in Jeddah were flooded with rainwater on Tuesday. Many areas were turned into lakes because of the heavy, though forecast, downpour. In some areas, water was knee-deep while in others it was chest-deep. People were stuck in their vehicles and many were seen pushing their vehicles to the side of the roads with great difficulty. In low-lying areas, citizens struggled to remove their belongings from flooded houses.

For the residents of Jeddah, rain has, more often than not, brought trouble and devastation. Whenever the skies open up, thoughts go back to that “Black Wednesday” of November 25, 2009, when more than 100 people lost their lives and property worth billions of riyals was destroyed. An investigation was opened into the disaster and some of the guilty were taken to court and tried; some of the small fry were even jailed. As has been the case in the past, the mighty arm of the law could barely touch those at the top who enjoyed immunity from prosecution.

And so it was business as usual until the rain began to wreak havoc again, reminding us that the laws of nature take their course and that hiding your head in the sand does not chase the clouds away.

Having said that, it must be admitted that, yes, lessons were learned. A disaster management team was set up. The weather forecast department became active in issuing alerts. In fact, Tuesday could have been far worse had it not been for the timely alert from the Presidency of Meteorology and Environment (PME) and a prompt decision by the Ministry of Education to suspend classes, schools and universities in and around Jeddah. That helped in keeping people and vehicles off the streets. At noon on Tuesday, it looked as if the city were under some kind of curfew.

The questions that are on everyone's minds right now are: Why is it that rain renders the city helpless and immobile at this time every year? Why have efforts to create effective rainwater drainage systems not borne fruit despite pumping billions of riyals into new projects such as dams and canals? Why is it that the authorities are found wanting whenever heavy rain occurs? More importantly, what is the solution?

Here is the answer. These floods are a stark reminder of why the current drive against corruption is so essential. It is required in order to instill the fear of law into high-ranking officials and heads of construction companies and civic bodies who have failed in their responsibilities. Those who have cut corners and have pocketed public money, those who have not delivered on the projects and who have provided substandard services must pay for their sins of omission.

This is exactly what is happening. No one is above the law. The guilty, whoever they are, however high up they are, will have to pay — and they are. In this new era of transparency and accountability — initiated by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman — word has gone down from top to bottom that no one is immune. If you are guilty you will be punished. Those responsible for the havoc of the floods on Tuesday will have no rest either.