Editorial: Investigation aside, bombing an Iraqi shrine is a reminder of the brutality of war

This file photo shows the Pentagon in Washington. (AP)
Updated 22 October 2016
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Editorial: Investigation aside, bombing an Iraqi shrine is a reminder of the brutality of war

Just like misinformation led to a Saudi-led coalition plane targeting a funeral hall — and ultimately killing Yemeni civilians — earlier this month; yesterday’s airstrike on a Shiite shrine near the Iraqi city of Kirkuk — which has killed 15 women according to AFP — was another tragic reminder of wars, the mistakes that occur in them and how innocent civilians always end up paying the price.
Of course, state-owned Iranian media immediately accused the United States of conducting the strike on the shrine (seemingly without bothering to seek a confirmation from the Pentagon). For its part, Arab News reached out to the US Department of Defense and a spokesperson advised that the matter is still being investigated, adding that they are in the process of finding out whether or not there were any missions by the US-led coalition against Daesh actually flying at the time and place of the above-mentioned strike.
Yet, any well-informed expert on regional affairs will tell you that — apart from the US coalition — there aren’t exactly many options when it comes to the ability of conducting airstrikes in Iraq.
At the same time, one must remember that the US — like Saudi Arabia — subscribes to and respects international treaties. Furthermore, and contrary to Iranian propaganda, it certainly has no interest or intention in targeting mosques, residential areas or funerals.
Now, regardless of the outcome of the Pentagon’s internal investigation, the fact remains that 15 innocent women died in Iraq yesterday. This is truly sad, as any innocent life lost — be it Sunni, Shiite, Christian, Jewish or of any other religion — is a life too many!
It goes without saying that any/all warring nations must continue to do their utmost to avoid civilian causalities; countries that develop weapon systems must continue to enhance their precision technology, or enhance their intelligence gathering to avoid atrocities such as what happened in Kirkuk yesterday.
But most importantly, with only days separating us from the upcoming American elections, all one could hope for is that the next US president gets better advice on the complexities of the Middle East. And that he/she understands that the war — whether physical or ideological — on the likes of Daesh and the equally horrific Iranian-funded militias can’t be won through a remote control, but through close engagement and via a better partnership with long-term and reliable US allies, such as its Arab Gulf allies.


Motorsport, rock bands, tourists … welcome to the new Saudi Arabia

There was an explosion of joy at the podium when Antonio Felix da Costa lifted the winner’s trophy at the conclusion of the Formula E Saudia Ad Diriyah E-Prix on Saturday. (Photo/Supplied)
Updated 16 December 2018
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Motorsport, rock bands, tourists … welcome to the new Saudi Arabia

  • Three-day event at Ad Diriyah reaches spectacular climax in an unprecedented spirit of openness

The driver with the winner’s trophy was Antonio Felix da Costa — but the real winners were Saudi Arabia itself, and more than 1,000 tourists visiting the country for the first time.

Da Costa, the Andretti Motorsport driver, won the Formula E Saudia Ad Diriyah E-Prix in front of thousands of race fans at a custom-built track in the historic district on the outskirts of Riyadh.

But in truth, the event was about much more than high-tech electric cars hurtling round a race track — thrilling though that was. The three-day festival of motorsport, culture and entertainment was Saudi Arabia’s chance to prove that it can put on a show to rival anything in the world, and which only two years ago would have been unthinkable.

The event was also the first to be linked to the Sharek electronic visa system, allowing foreigners other than pilgrims or business visitors to come to Saudi Arabia.

Jason, from the US, is spending a week in the country with his German wife, riding quad bikes in the desert and visiting heritage sites. “I’ve always wanted to come for many, many years ... I’m so happy to be here and that they’re letting us be here,” he said.

Aaron, 40, a software engineer, traveled from New York for two days. “Saudi Arabia has always been an exotic place ... and I didn’t think I’d ever be able to come here,” he said.

About 1,000 visitors used the Sharek visa, a fraction of what Saudi Arabia aims eventually to attract. 

“Hopefully we will learn from this and see what we need to do for the future, but I can tell you from now that there is a lot of demand,” said Prince Abdul Aziz bin Turki Al-Faisal, vice chairman of the General Sports Authority.

His optimism was backed by Kirill Dmitriev, chief executive of the Russian Direct Investment Fund and a visitor to Ad Diriyah. “Such events will attract tourists and are a true celebration for young Saudis who desire a bright future,” he said.

“The vision of moderate Islam, promoted by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, is important both for the region and the entire world, and its realization needs to be appreciated, respected and supported.”

The event ended on Saturday night with a spectacular show by US band OneRepublic and the superstar DJ David Guetta. “Just when you think things can’t get better, they suddenly do,” said concertgoer Saleh Saud. “This is the new Saudi Arabia, and I can’t wait to see what’s going to happen next.”