Editorial: A pack of lies by Amnesty and HRW

Updated 05 August 2016

Editorial: A pack of lies by Amnesty and HRW

Non-government organizations such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have a valuable role. But that value depends entirely on the truthfulness of their reports. It depends on the reliability of their researchers. More than anything it depends upon their dedication to complete objectivity.
They have alleged that the Saudi-led coalition’s Yemen operation deliberately targeted civilians, particularly children. These are horrific charges. Because of the good work these NGOs have done elsewhere in the world, they carry credibility. But for reasons that can only be conjectured, they are totally wrong. Worse, they are a wickedly unjust slur on a coalition that has been seeking to save lives, most especially the lives of children.
Everyone needs to stick to the facts. The Houthi insurgency in Yemen brought the country to the brink of ruin. Iran wanted the state to collapse into anarchy. It wanted chaos on the Kingdom’s southern border. It wanted to compromise the one regional power strong enough to challenge its meddling in the Arab world. To that end it was prepared to stop at nothing.
The corrupt Yemeni leader, former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, clung to power by exploiting Yemen’s north-south rivalries. Many Yemenis worked in Saudi Arabia sending home their earnings.
The Kingdom had long been the country’s major aid donor. But to stay in power, Saleh’s tribal manipulations seriously damaged his country. The harm was both economic and social. By some measures, Yemen was already a failed state when Iran chose to intervene and sponsor the Houthi insurrection.
The brutality of that rebellion has seen terrible slaughter. Among the dead have been some 10,000 children. And not all of these have been civilians. The Houthi use child soldiers. The mystery is that the Kingdom and its allies are being accused by NGOs of a crime which has been committed by the insurgents.
There may be civilian deaths caused by coalition’s operation. But whereever such deaths have been brought to notice, the coalition has undertaken investigations. It is monstrous to suggest that this loss of civilian life has been caused deliberately.
The Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International assessments are flawed. The “investigators” did not visit Yemen. They did not seek to talk to the coalition. They relied on anecdotal reports. They drew their information from social media. At best they were naïve in their work. At worst they knowingly allowed themselves to be used as a tool against the legitimate government of President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi and its Saudi-led allies.
They have demonstrated no appreciation of the geopolitical forces in play from across the Gulf. The Yemen peace talks in Kuwait are stalled. The Houthis have taken fearful losses. Their military position is desperate. Now they are trying to win back at the negotiating table what they have lost on the battlefield. The guiding hand of Iran is clearly behind this tactic. And a key component is propaganda. Tehran wants to reverse reality. It wants to present the coalition as the aggressor and the Houthi as the victims. For whatever reason, the NGOs’ “investigators” chose to ignore this reality.
From the outset, the Kingdom warned that Washington’s rapprochement with Iran was unwise. The nuclear deal is meaningless. But the removal of economic sanctions means everything to a regime that had almost been brought to its knees. Tehran is now free to meddle in Yemen, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. And it is notable that the Obama White House has not sought to seriously question, let alone attack Iranian interference in the Arab world.
These prejudiced reports therefore come at a pivotal moment. They could have been custom-made to strengthen Houthi negotiators at the Kuwait peace talks. In fact, they might even have been drafted in Tehran, they are so one-sided.
They are not transparent and they are not accurate. If fed into the propaganda myth being spun by Iran, they will jeopardize the peace Yemen so badly needs.
At least the UN is now having none of it. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon this week presented the UN’s annual report on children and armed conflict. He said the Saudi-led coalition was not involved in causing the deaths of children in Yemen.
Iran is behind the conspiracy to blacken the name of the Kingdom and its Gulf allies. In mounting the operation, the coalition was acting on behalf of the international community. The least Washington and its allies can do is counter Iranian lies.

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.