Missile attack on Riyadh ‘an act of war’ by Iran

Updated 07 November 2017
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Missile attack on Riyadh ‘an act of war’ by Iran

JEDDAH: A Houthi missile fired at Riyadh may be considered an act of war by Iran, and Saudi Arabia will not tolerate any infringement of its national security, senior Saudi officials said on Monday.
“The Kingdom reserves the right to respond in a timely manner to the hostile actions of the Iranian regime,” Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir said.
“Iranian interventions in the region are detrimental to the security of neighboring countries and affect international peace and security. We will not allow any infringement of our national security.”
Iran supplied the ballistic missile fired into Saudi Arabia on Saturday night by Houthi rebels in Yemen. Saudi defense forces intercepted the missile and shot it down over King Khaled International Airport in Riyadh, and there were no casualties.
“Iran’s role and its direct command of its Houthi proxy in this matter constitute a clear act of aggression that targets neighboring countries, and threatens peace and security in the region and globally,” the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen said on Monday.
“Therefore, the coalition’s command considers this a blatant act of military aggression by the Iranian regime, and could rise to be considered as an act of war against the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
“The coalition command also affirms that the Kingdom reserves its right to respond to Iran at the appropriate time and in the appropriate manner.”
The Coalition Forces Command ordered the temporary closure on Monday of all air, sea and land ports in Yemen, except for aid workers and humanitarian supplies.
Col. Turki Al-Maliki, spokesman for the coalition, produced evidence on Sunday that Iran supplied weapons and technology to the Houthis, including ballistic missiles, launchers, aerial drones, land and naval mines and improvised explosive devices.
Bahraini Foreign Minister Sheikh Khaled bin Ahmed Al-Khalifa said Iran was a danger to the region, and the Harvard scholar and Iranian affairs expert Majid Rafizadeh said the international community should hold Tehran accountable.
“Compromises, concessions and diplomatic maneuvering don’t work with the Iranian regime,” he told Arab News. “Iranian leaders view concessions as weakness.”
He called for a combination of economic sanctions, political pressure and enhanced monitoring of Iran’s illegal activities. “Tehran’s exports and imports should be closely examined and restricted. The US, EU and Arab powers should form a military front, like NATO, as a bulwark against the Iran regime.”
Rafizadeh said Iran was the leading state sponsor of terrorism. “The UN should invoke UN Resolution 2231 and immediately punish Tehran for violating it. Otherwise, Tehran’s belligerent behavior will continue to grow. This can turn the regional conflict into a conflagration.”
UN Security Council Resolution 2231 adopted the 2015 Iranian nuclear deal, but also imposed restrictions on Iran’s use of some ballistic missiles.
Thomas Mattair, executive director of the Middle East Policy Council in Washington, told Arab News: “Iran should not expect to be able to facilitate attacks on Saudi Arabia without paying some consequences.”
Dr. Hamdan Al-Shehri, a Saudi political analyst and international relations scholar in Riyadh, said the international community should have prevented Iran from creating havoc in the region.
“Things would not have reached this pass if the world community had taken measures against Iran and its arming of militias such Hezbollah and the Houthis,” he told Arab News. “The world’s inaction led Iran to believe that it can basically get away with murder.”
He condemned Iran for first attacking Makkah in July, and now Riyadh. “They want to kill innocent people and spread terror; this is their only business.”
The world community, and specifically the US and Russia, must pressurize Iran to give up its hostility to Arab countries, Al-Shehri said. “Now is the time to act.”  
Al-Shehri said the missile attack on Riyadh was a “declaration of war” on Saudi Arabia.  
“Saudi Arabia will not sit idle and will not wait for the international community to do nothing,” he said. “Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir has made it clear that Saudi Arabia, in coordination with its Arab allies, reserves the right to defend its sovereignty and its people.”
Al-Shehri said all options were on the table and all measures were being explored. “The Saudi leadership will decide what option and measures to go for and when,” he said. “One thing is clear, this Iranian-Hezbollah-Houthi provocation and attack will not go unpunished.”
Among the options, he said, was directly confronting Iran. “A fitting Saudi response will come at a time and place of its choosing.”
David Pollack, a scholar at the Washington Institute for Near East policy, said Saudi Arabia “generally has a valid case. The Arab coalition and its international partners, including the US, should intensify maritime and land interdiction efforts, including via Oman.”
Aaron David Miller, vice president for new initiatives and Middle East program director at the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars, speculated that Saudi Arabia had reached a “firm understanding” with the US that should tensions with Iran escalate, “the US will be there to support” the Kingdom.
King Salman and President Donald Trump spoke by phone on Saturday and discussed the Houthi missile attack and Iran’s involvement in the region.


How ‘Absher’ app liberates Saudis from government bureaucracy

Updated 2 min 27 sec ago
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How ‘Absher’ app liberates Saudis from government bureaucracy

  • Western media mistaken in portraying app as a tool of repression, leading female journalist says

JEDDAH: Absher, the “one-click” e-services app launched by the Interior Ministry in 2015, is now regarded as the leading government platform for Saudi citizens, freeing them from bureaucratic inefficiency and endless queuing for everyday services.
However, in a recent New York Times article, the app was criticized as a “tool of repression” following claims by Democratic Senator Ron Wyden and women’s rights groups.
Apple and Google were urged to remove the application from their devices over claims that it “enables abhorrent surveillance and control of women.”
In an official statement, the ministry rejected the allegations and said the Absher platform centralized more than 160 different services for all members of society, including women, the elderly and people with special needs.
The app makes electronic government services available for beneficiaries to access directly at any time and from any place in the Kingdom, the ministry said.
Absher allows residents of the Kingdom to make appointments, renew IDs, passports, driver’s licenses, car registration and other services with one click.
Many Saudis still recall having to queue at government agencies, such as passport control offices and civil affairs departments, for a variety of official procedures. Appointments could take weeks to arrange, with people relying on their green files, or “malaf allagi” — the 1980s and 1990s paper form of Absher that was known as the citizen’s “lifeline,” both figuratively and literally.
Hours would be spent as government departments ferried files back and forth, and if a form was lost, the whole transaction process would have to start again. As complicated as it was for men, women suffered more.
Muna Abu Sulayman, an award-winning strategy adviser and media personality, told Arab News the introduction of Absher had helped strengthen women’s rights.
Sulayman said she was disappointed at comments on the e-services platform being made abroad. “There are consequences that people don’t understand. It’s a very idealistic and naive way of understanding what is going on,” she said.
“The discussion on the guardianship law is internal and ongoing — it is something that has to be decided by our society and not as a result of outside pressure. We’re making strides toward equality and Absher is a step in the right direction,” she said.
“In a Twitter survey, I asked how many women have access to their guardian’s Absher. Most answered that they control their own fate. Men who don’t believe in controlling women gave them access to their Absher and that shows an increase in the participation of women in their own decision-making.”
Absher also provides services such as e-forms, dealing with Hajj eligibility, passport control, civil affairs, public services, traffic control, and medical appointments at government hospitals.
The platform is available to all men and women, and removes much of the bureaucracy and time wasting associated with nonautomated administrative systems.
On the issue of granting women travel permits, the law requires a male guardian to grant it through the portal, as well as for men under the age of 21.
Retired King Abdullah University professor Dr. Zainab M. Zain told Arab News: “I always had issues with my passport renewal as well as my children’s as they are both non-Saudi. For years it was risky not to follow up properly at passport control — you never knew what could happen, but now I can renew their permits by paying their fees online through Absher from the comfort of my home in Abu Dhabi.”
Ehsanul Haque, a Pakistani engineer who has lived in the Kingdom for more than 30 years, said: “Absher has helped tremendously with requests, such as exit and entry visas for my family and myself. I can receive approval within an hour whereas once it would’ve taken me days,” he said.
“The platform has eased many of my troubles.”
The Absher website also provides information on how to report wanted persons, or administrative or financial corruption.
In April, 2018, the ministry launched “Absher Business,” a technical initiative to transfer its business services to an interactive digital system.
With an annual fee of SR2,000 ($533), business owners such as Marwan Bukhary, owner of Gold Sushi Club Restaurant in Jeddah, used the portal to help manage his workers’ needs in his expanding business.
“There are many features in Absher that helps both individual and establishment owners,” he said. “I took advantage of the great features it provided, and it saved me a lot of time and trouble and also my restaurant workers. It’s a dramatic change. When Absher Business was launched last year, it organized how I needed to manage my workers’ work permits.
“Through the system, I could see the status of all my employees, renew their permits, grant their exit and entry visas, and have their permits delivered to my house or my business through the post after paying the fees. It saved business owners a lot of time and energy.
“I used to have to do everything manually myself or have my courier help. I believe it’s the government’s most advanced system yet with more features being added every now and then,” Bukhary said.
“Absher has eased our burden, unlike the old days when we needed to visit government offices and it would take four weeks just to get an appointment. One click is all it takes now.”