Saudi-US ties set for new heights

Updated 17 June 2016
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Saudi-US ties set for new heights

Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s high-profile US visit is very important in political, economic and security terms. Saudi Arabia and the United States are longstanding allies. They have not always seen eye to eye. Few allies do. But the strength of their alliance has always seen these differences overcome.
There have been differences over Washington’s rapprochement with Iran which the US did without taking into account Tehran’s foul play in the region. The move emboldened Iran which continues to meddle in the affairs of its neighboring countries. Saudi Arabia also urged Obama’s early intervention in Syria. The US administration chose to ignore the advice. The resultant ruin of Syria has destroyed the lives of millions. It has flooded neighboring states with refugees. It has built a comfortable nest for Daesh terrorists.
In Yemen, the Kingdom had to act to check the Iranian-backed Houthi insurgency and restore the legitimate government through Operation Decisive Storm.
Unfortunately, Washington has wanted to believe the government in Tehran is part of the regional solution. The fact is, Iran is, along with Israel, the core regional problem.
Despite these differences, the Saudi-US ties remain robust and the visit of the deputy crown prince for the third time testifies to that.
The Americans recognize the importance of their Saudi ally. This is a time of unprecedented danger in the Middle East and North Africa. At such an hour, Washington is looking to reliable partners. The Kingdom has never been anything less. The deputy crown prince and his large delegation clearly talked security with the Americans. Saudi Arabia has long been in the front-line in the battle against Al-Qaeda and Daesh. It has defeated one terror wave. It is now grappling successfully with a second. It has readily shared its knowledge and expertise with other nations, not least the Americans.
Washington of course is the Kingdom’s largest trading partner. It is a major source of defense equipment for our armed forces. The deputy crown prince and his delegation arrived in America with details of the transformational Saudi Vision 2030. One part of the full-on development of the non-oil economy, is the fostering of advanced manufacturing. This includes defense equipment. American defense suppliers will have been eager to hear details of this part of Saudi Vision 2030. Silicon Valley will have been no less interested to see how they can take advantage of the Vision. Technology and knowledge transfer with the Arab world’s largest economy offer clear commercial opportunities.
At a security level, the top commanders in the Saudi royal party are in regular contact with their opposite numbers in the US defense and security establishments. The face-to-face meetings during this visit have clearly advanced these relationships. It is one thing for countries to be in formal alliance. Personal meetings cement these links. They build all-important trust.
And trust is key in the alliance between the Kingdom and the United States. There have been strenuous efforts from some quarters to undermine this. There have been malign attempts to cast Saudis as the source of terror. Islamophobia is a great evil. And because of the Kingdom’s crucial position at the heart of Islam, it is the obvious target for this bigotry. The Obama administration knows that it has to push back against these wild lies. The royal visit will have been a reminder that it probably needs to try harder. Strong allies must protect each other’s interests and defend their integrity.
There is no doubting that the deputy crown prince’s visit has been greeted with excitement in the States. The ambitions of Saudi Vision 2030 are compelling. They are reinvigorating an economy that has already made remarkable strides. But they signal something else. The Kingdom has long exercised its considerable influence through quiet diplomacy. It has always favored the projection of soft power.
However, those who wanted to interfere in the Arab world, took this as a sign of weakness. Operation Decisive Storm and Saudi involvement in Syrian and Iraqi anti-terror airstrikes will have come as a shock. The Kingdom has demonstrated that it has both the will and the power to counter outside meddling. In Yemen, it has acted with Washington’s support and encouragement. The puzzle has always been that the source of the tragedy in Yemen, Iraq and Syria has been Iran. The US nuclear deal that ended economic sanctions empowered Iran and added to the challenge that the Kingdom and its regional allies face. But, it is heartening that the US is realizing that Iran needs to be reined in.
Hopefully, the world will realize how inappropriate it has been to give a free hand to Iran to push forward its evil designs.


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.