Editorial: Hopefully not a Franz Ferdinand moment

Russian Ambassador to Turkey Andrei Karlov makes a speech at an art gallery shortly before he was shot in Ankara, Turkey, on Monday. (REUTERS/Ugur Kavas)
Updated 19 December 2016

Editorial: Hopefully not a Franz Ferdinand moment

The assassination of the Russian ambassador in Ankara last night is an awful crime that every civilized person should condemn. After all, diplomatic envoys and missions must at all times remain protected and immune — this should always be the case no matter where we go in the world.
However, we should differentiate between attacks orchestrated by terror-supporting regimes — such as Iran, which did not stop its own thugs from attacking the Saudi Embassy in Tehran earlier this year – and individuals and/or non-state-backed terrorist organizations, such as what seems to have happened in Ankara last night.
Turkey, like every other country on the planet, has a duty to protect diplomatic missions. Yet mistakes happen, and whether we like to acknowledge it or not, we simply cannot protect ourselves against the whims and actions of every madman who decides to commit a crime. So far Moscow seems to have understood this, and it is comforting that it has condemned the attack as an act of terrorism.
Needless to say, those celebrating the attack and propagating sensational material — such as that the attacker shouted “Allahu Akbar” prior to the act — are either misguided or malicious. Regardless of how much the majority of the world disagrees with Moscow over its pro-Assad position, killing an innocent man in no way serves as revenge for what is happening in Syria. Furthermore, Daesh — which many of those celebrating seem to want to think is behind the assassination — is equally responsible for the plight of the Syrian people.
More importantly, what happened in Ankara last night does not help stop the deteriorating situation in Syria. The fact that the attack came shortly before a breakthrough between Turkey and Russia was said to have been reached in terms of an agreement raises serious questions about the intentions of the plotters. Those who planned this awful crime knew exactly how to instantly get attention and news coverage, and seemingly were deliberately trying to poison the waters between Russia and Turkey.
Given that the two countries came close to armed confrontation over the past years, and that the whole Middle East is being redrawn, one cannot help but see much resemblance with the assassination of Franz Ferdinand just over 100 years ago, which ultimately led to World War I.
As such, both countries’ self-restraint is now crucial to avoid further escalation in the region. Furthermore, all concerned parties should soon return to the negotiating table and focus all efforts on ending the ongoing bleeding of Syria. We all know this cannot happen without Moscow’s blessing.

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.