Editorial: Tehran’s unabated meddling in Yemen

Updated 02 October 2015

Editorial: Tehran’s unabated meddling in Yemen

Iran's intemperate attack on the Kingdom over the organization of the Haj and the Mina tragedy is in reality a cynical effort to open yet another front in its meddling in the region. The agony of Syria owes much to Tehran’s interference. Lebanon’s Hezbollah terrorists are bought and paid for the Iranians. They were thrown into the fight to protect Bashar Assad, along with Iranian Revolutionary Guards. In Iraq, Iranian intervention has been catastrophic for the country. By exploiting pliant Shiite politicians Tehran has sought to ensure that it will not have a strong and united Arab neighbor. The decade of misgovernment by ousted Premier Nuri Al-Maliki could not have done more to further this devious policy. Iraq is divided and in political and military ruins. The leaders in Tehran are rejoicing.
The Houthi rebellion in Yemen is yet further evidence of the Iranians’ clear intention to destabilize the region. Tehran has been frustrated by the firm response of the Kingdom at the head of a coalition of fellow Gulf countries. Since it was launched in March, Operation Decisive Storm has checked the revolt. It has wrested Yemen’s port city Aden from the Houthis, who are now being driven back toward the capital Sanaa. The country’s internationally recognized President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi is in Aden leading the fight-back against the Houthis and their Iranian masters.
Yet even as the rebels’ cause collapses, Tehran is redoubling its efforts to sow mayhem. It is making desperate attempts to bolster the Houthi and the discredited former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who has placed himself at their head. On the third day of the Eid coalition forces intercepted a vessel off the coast of Salalah in southern Oman. Brig. Gen. Ahmad Al-Assiri, from the Ministry of Defense, revealed that it was carrying a huge shipment of arms. The weapons were meant to be smuggled into Yemen. The boat was reportedly manned by 14 Iranians and carried several documents indicating it was owned by an Iranian national.
This is by no means the first such seizure. The Iranians have been caught sending rockets, RPGs, ground-to-air missiles, explosives and even armored vehicles to the Houthis. The iniquity is that the rebels are still being urged on by the Iranians, even though the revolt is clearly doomed. Tehran is brazenly prepared to fight this conflict down to the last Houthi terrorists.
What matters, of course, is that the Iranians have lit yet another fire in the Arab world. If they care about the destruction of life and property in a country that already faced severe economic challenges, it is only in celebration. Tehran’s planners of havoc have been frustrated in their attempts to sow dissent and disorder in Bahrain. Yemen appeared to be the vulnerable backdoor to the Arabian Peninsula. It is a door that the Saudi-led coalition is firmly slamming shut.
The calamity is that Washington, though fully supportive of Operation Decisive Storm, refuses to recognize the insidious Iranian threat to the region’s stability. The nuclear deal with Iran has mesmerized the Obama administration. Yet the removal of sanctions will empower the Iranians to continue their deadly campaign of mischief-making
Obama has been suckered by the acceptable, civilized face of the Iranian regime. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif led the negotiating team that finally hammered out the nuclear deal. It was an easy matter for Obama to shake Zarif’s hand when their parties bumped into each other at the United Nations in New York this week. Obama was no doubt glad to exchange the greeting with a man who had given him what he regards as his main foreign policy success.
Yet that handshake caused an absolute furor back in Tehran. Hard-line mullahs who still characterize the US as “the Great Satan” were outraged. There appears to be a real prospect that Zarif will be fired.
Obama and his people take a quick lesson from this alarming reaction. They should immediately think again about the nuclear deal and the easing of sanctions. A regime that can regard the civilized greeting of a handshake as a scandal, is clearly not itself civilized. It cannot be trusted to behave in a reasonable and moderate fashion. If Iran’s dangerous meddling in the Arab world has not been enough to convince Washington of its political dementia, the furious protest at that handshake ought to clinch it.

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

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.