Kingdom’s leadership, unity role in Mideast

Updated 14 April 2016
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Kingdom’s leadership, unity role in Mideast

Muslim nations have never needed unity so urgently as at this time. The current proactive drive by Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman is designed to forge that unity. And unity means little without leadership. This the Kingdom is also offering at political, economic and military levels.
The king’s state visit to Turkey is a clear demonstration of this. Outside meddling in the affairs of the Arab world has been a disaster. It has left two countries — Iraq and Syria — in ruins. It has spawned the horror of terrorism. And whatever the spectacular crimes Daesh and Al-Qaeda have committed around the world, the greatest number of their victims are here in the Middle East.
Washington is disengaging from a catastrophe which it did so much to create. Its regional policy is floundering. It sees no moral responsibility to clear up the mess it has made. It is turning a blind eye to the turmoil it has brought about. It has consistently failed to understand the breadth and depth of the issues which it was once so confident it could solve. America’s only Middle East constant is its slavish support for Israel. This continues despite the ceaseless encroachment of illegal settlements and the imprisonment of Palestinians in their own land.
On top of this, Moscow has meddled dangerously in Syria to sustain the Assad government. And then there is the rising menace of Iran. No longer restricted by international sanctions, Iranian interference lies at the heart of virtually every conflict and outbreak of unrest throughout the region.
King Salman’s crucial insight is that the Arab world must find its own solutions to its many challenges. And this effort must also embrace the wider Muslim Ummah.
In the light of this, it is already clear that the king’s two days of talks with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan have consolidated many key initiatives. They have also laid the foundations for further bilateral cooperation. Turkey is poised to be an important participant in the 34-nation Islamic military alliance formed by the Kingdom to counter the threat of terrorism. This includes state terrorism, not least that of Bashar Assad in Syria. For the last two months, Saudi warplanes have been flying out of Turkey’s Incirlik air base in operations against Daesh. The Kingdom and Turkey are one in agreeing that Assad is the principle part of the Syrian tragedy. As such, he has no role whatsoever to play in the country’s future. The support of both Riyadh and Ankara for the Syrian rebels will not waver.
Nor has the Kingdom forgotten how Turkey stood beside it this January after Iran’s assault on Saudi missions, following the execution of a convicted terrorist in Eastern Province. And Ankara also shares Saudi concerns over Iranian interference in Yemen and Iraq. This is creating unrest which, unless contained, could spill over in the Kingdom and Turkey.
Turkey has much to gain by forging closer ties with Saudi Arabia. The Kingdom represents a rich and sophisticated market for Turkish goods and services. Of recent years, trade has stagnated. But the unfilled opportunities identified a decade ago are now even more enticing for Turkish business. They range from consumer goods to construction to defense procurement. By the same token, Turkey needs solid, long-term investment. This is exactly what the Kingdom can provide.
Turkey also has much to gain politically. Its rift with Egypt has been deeply regrettable. During his pivotal recent Egyptian visit, King Salman prepared the ground for a much-needed rapprochement between Cairo and Ankara.
There is something common to all the unfortunate differences that divide the Muslim Ummah. This is that the divisive arguments themselves are hugely outweighed by the policies and principles that unite the Islamic world.
It is in recognition of this that King Salman has taken the natural lead in promoting greater unity. Saudi Arabia has the strongest economy in the Arab world with the largest and most advanced military capacity. It is its duty to assist and sustain its neighbors in the face of the great dangers they face. The Kingdom has confronted and defeated terrorism within its own borders.
The message from the King is clear that these battles must and should be fought by the people of the Middle East. Washington’s lack of vision and commitment has removed it from the front line. Its interference over the last 15 years has unleashed chaos. Under King Salman’s inspired leadership, the Arab world is taking back the ownership of its own challenges.


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.