Editorial: The Saudi coalition will investigate Sanaa. Will Assad do the same for Syria?

Bashar Assad
Updated 11 October 2016
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Editorial: The Saudi coalition will investigate Sanaa. Will Assad do the same for Syria?

It has always been true that “the first casualty of war is the truth.” This is even more true when one deals with a malicious regime like that of Syria’s Assad — a regime which has — from Day 1 — resorted to denial and to imposing a deliberate media blackout to cover-up its brutal retaliation and deliberate targeting of civilians which has been ongoing for the past five years.
 
Not only is the Assad regime in denial, but also its response to the global intolerance of its crimes is simply laughable. While one can dispute facts such as which of the opposing sides in the Syrian civil war waged a particular attack, there possibly can’t be a dispute that a civil war is actually happening in Syria.
 
You may think that this is unimaginable, but the reality is that it has actually happened. You see, not only does the Assad regime deny that it used chemical weapons, or that it continues to barrel bomb its own people, it also gets its state-owned media to launch campaigns promoting tourism in Syria and claiming that contrary to what we all know, Syria is safe and being flooded with tourists.
 
Of course, this is absolutely ludicrous, as anyone in their right mind would be able to tell you that it is TERRORISTS, not tourists, who are flooding Syria today, and we all take the blame for collectively failing to draw a line to Assad’s crimes early on.
 
Now compare all of this with yesterday’s Saudi-led coalition’s response to accusations that it has targeted a funeral hall in the Yemeni capital, Sanaa, resulting in the killing and injuring of many.
 
Within hours, the coalition had issued a statement and coalition spokesperson Maj. Gen. Ahmed Al-Assiri made himself available at all times to answer all media inquiries — in person, over the phone, by e-mail and even by WhatsApp!
 
Furthermore, and rather than living in denial — such as what the Assad regime would have done, the coalition issued additional comments stating that it will “immediately investigate this case along with the Joint Incidents Assessment Team (JIAT) in Yemen.”
 
Also, rather than cursing the US for flagging its concern (again, which is something the Assad regime would have done), the Saudi-led coalition said that it would “seek advice from the US to help with their experience in such investigations.”
 
That said, it is a given that any life lost is a life too many, and our thoughts and prayers will always be with the Syrian people against their brutal, blood-thirsty dictator, and with the Yemeni people and their legitimate government against the Houthi religious extremists, who under their slogan of “Death to America” have brought nothing but death and destruction to their own country.


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.