Iran’s all-out attack against Kingdom

Updated 20 May 2016

Iran’s all-out attack against Kingdom

Spying takes two forms. There is the gathering of intelligence to try to understand the intentions and capabilities of another state. This is passive espionage. At its simplest level it is diplomats asking probing questions at official receptions.
Then there is aggressive espionage. Here one state actively seeks to interfere in the affairs of another. It may be by planting false information. It may be introducing a computer virus, such as that which briefly compromised the IT systems of Saudi Aramco. Or it may be seeking to undermine security and stability by fostering and exploiting divisions. And the ultimate weapon of one state seeking to disrupt another is the training and financing of terrorist cells.
The Iranian government has not hesitated to use all these methods against its neighbors. The most deplorable example is in Yemen. Tehran’s agents encouraged, financed, trained and armed Houthi rebels. They exploited social differences in one of the world’s poorest countries. As a result of the failed Houthi insurgency, Yemen is poorer still.
The Iranian government’s agents have also been active in the Gulf states. Serious sedition has been stirred up in Bahrain.
The Kingdom helped Bahrain in containing the Iranian-backed threat to its peace and stability. The Kingdom also led its Gulf allies in Operation Decisive Storm in Yemen. This saved the government of President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi.
Tehran knows that Saudi Arabia is the key power that is checking its plans for regional hegemony. The Kingdom has therefore become the Number One target for Iranian espionage. Social unrest has been actively encouraged in Eastern Province. The vicious terrorist attacks by Daesh on Shiite mosques have been designed to sow anger and despair among Saudis. The link between the Daesh fanatics and Iran may seem strange. But the mass murders of Saudis worshipping in Eastern Province mosques could have been custom-designed to boost Iranian plans to sow division. “Go figure” as they say.
But Daesh has encountered a resolute and alert Saudi intelligence apparatus backed up by a vigilant public. And now Iranian spymasters have also discovered the strength of the Kingdom’s defenses.
The trial is under way in Riyadh of 32 alleged Iranian spies. Thirty are Saudis, along with an Afghan and an Iranian. The prosecution case is that they formed a spy ring spanning eight cities, Riyadh, Dammam, Qatif, Sihat, Al-Ahsa, Madinah, Jeddah and Makkah. They were recruited and run by members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard working out of the Iranian Embassy. These spies reported directly to Iran’s religious leader Ali Khamenei.
It is bad enough that Tehran was looking to foment civil unrest. But the Riyadh trial has uncovered evidence that the key task of the spy network was to use Iranian pilgrims to disrupt this year’s Haj. One of the accused is the caretaker of Iran’s Haj mission in Makkah. He has admitted that he had been ordered to sow chaos during the Haj. This is an outrageous response to the hospitality that the Kingdom extends generously to all who come here for Haj and Umrah.
The unmasking of the plot has had serious consequences for ordinary Iranians. On Thursday, the Ministry of Haj and Umrah said that Iran was the only country that had refused to accept the terms for this year’s arrangements. Instead the government in Tehran has decided to ban its own people from performing the pilgrimage. This is a harsh penalty for those Iranian citizens who had been eagerly preparing themselves for their sacred duty.
Iran’s aggressive espionage has therefore rebounded in its face. But the implications of this plot are of course far greater. They demonstrate that the government in Tehran will stop at nothing to wreak havoc in the region. Its policies are rooted in the ambition to use sectarianism to sow division. The clear plan is to exploit whatever discord can be achieved.
Iran’s overt meddling in the affairs of its Arab neighbors is clear for all to see. In Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and Yemen, Tehran is backing, funding, arming, and in Syria and Iraq, reinforcing with ground troops, its attempt to establish its regional dominance.
The covert side of its aggression was widely known. But it has taken the Riyadh trial to expose the lengths to which the Iranian government would go in pursuit of its dishonorable aims. And without doubt its scheme to disrupt the Haj is the most unforgivable. Had it succeeded it could have caused death and misery to Muslims from all over the world who come in peace as welcomed guests of the Kingdom.

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.