The Iranian mask slips

Updated 18 August 2016

The Iranian mask slips

Iran has given up trying to hide its malevolent role in Yemen. It had long denied it was giving arms and ammunition to the Houthi rebels. The evidence to the contrary was damning. But this week the state news agency in Tehran admitted that the country had supplied missiles to the insurgents. This admission was significant. The Iranians knew that the missiles had been fired across the border into the Kingdom. They were therefore confessing to being complicit in an attack on Saudi Arabia.
Iran’s interference in the Arab world has reached a new pitch. This week Tehran allowed the Russian air force for the first time to launch airstrikes in Syria from an Iranian air base. The timing of the missile attack on the Saudi armed forces is significant. It came during a cease-fire and UN-brokered peace talks in Kuwait. The Saudi-led coalition forces have been obliged to respond. It is necessary to demonstrate to the Houthi rebels that they will pay a high price for their bad faith. No armed forces anywhere could ignore such a provocation. To have done so would have allowed the terrorists to embark on a ruthless turkey shoot.
The Houthis and their Iranian sponsors are using the peace talks for anything but peace. The cease-fire is being used to rearm and regroup. The cross-border missile attack proves the bad faith of the Houthi negotiators. At some point, the Kingdom and its allies must draw a line. The onslaught of Operation Decisive Storm forced the Houthis to the negotiating table. But they have abused the resulting respite. Encouraged by their Iranian backers, they are preparing for renewed resistance.
This is a tragedy for Yemen. There was considerable devastation when the Houthis sought to overthrow the legitimate government of President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi. The Houthi rebellion has been halted. The insurgents cannot win. Yet if they continue to listen to the siren voices from Tehran, there will be yet more ruin, yet more bloodshed.
The damage to areas of Yemen is already catastrophic. The country was impoverished before Iran unleashed the Houthis. In some regions the position has now become pitiable. Homes and livelihoods have been destroyed. Breadwinners have died. Refugees have fled in search of safety. The Kingdom is leading a major effort to care for these desperate people. The short-term humanitarian needs provided by the Kingdom are already considerable. The aid required in the long-term will be immense.
Saudi Arabia and its allies stand ready to help the country rebuild. There is a will in the Arab world to give Yemen the foundations for prosperity. But this work cannot be undertaken until there is stability. That stability cannot come until the Houthis recognize the futility of further resistance. As their losses mounted, some rebel leaders question the point of continuing the rebellion. Rank and file rebels began to melt away from the fighting. But Tehran refused to loosen the reins. It had fomented chaos on the southern border of the one Arab state that stands between it and its regional ambitions. It was not about to give up as the insurgent losses mounted. The Iranian government was prepared to fight its Yemen campaign through to the life of the last Houthi rebel.
The international community can be under no further illusions about Iranian interference. President Barack Obama freed Iran from crippling economic sanctions in return for largely-meaningless and time-limited promises over its nuclear weapons program. He thus empower Tehran for greater interference in the affairs of its Arab neighbors, who are also his long-standing allies. He also emboldened the Iran leaders. They now make no secret of their dangerous meddling. And did Obama ever imagine that his “open hand of friendship” to Iran would result in Russian bombers using an Iranian air base?
The Kingdom has warned constantly of the serious dangers of Obama’s Iranian appeasement. Many on Capitol Hill have come to accept the wisdom of the Saudi view. It is not too late to reverse such an ill-conceived foreign policy change. Western businessmen who rushed to Iran in the hope of big deals are being disillusioned. Iranian counter-parties are demonstrating slipperiness and bad faith that make major foreign investment look majorly risky.
Tehran has got its hands on its frozen funds but needs far more than cash. Reimposed sanctions would once again rob it of the expertise and technology it needs to rebuild its decayed productive infrastructure.

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.