Arab states stand united against ‘unacceptable Iranian aggression’

Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir leads Saudi Arabia’s delegation at the Arab League’s extraordinary general meeting in Cairo on Sunday. (SPA)
Updated 20 November 2017

Arab states stand united against ‘unacceptable Iranian aggression’

CAIRO: Arab states stood united on Sunday against Iranian aggression in the region, and Saudi Arabia warned that it would not stand idly by in the face of threats to its national security.

“We are obliged today to take a serious and honest stand … to counter these belligerent policies so that we can protect our security,” Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir told an emergency meeting of Arab League foreign ministers in Cairo.

The ministers expressed their full solidarity with Saudi Arabia and support for any measures it may take to counter Iranian threats, warned Iran to stop interfering in the internal affairs of their countries and end its support for Hezbollah and Houthi militias, and called for an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council to discuss Iranian aggression.

Saudi Arabia asked for Tuesday’s meeting, with the support of the UAE, Bahrain and Kuwait, after the launch on Nov. 4 of an Iranian-supplied missile aimed at Riyadh from Houthi militia-held territory in Yemen. Al-Jubeir said Iran continued to threaten the security of Arab states, violating all international principles.

Iranian missiles did not respect sacred Muslim sites in Makkah, he said, and the missile that targeted Riyadh reflected Iranian aggression against the Kingdom and illustrated the “grave dangers in the region due to Iranian interference.”

Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit said the missile that targeted Riyadh was “an Iranian message of aggression which is unacceptable in form and substance.”

He said: “The Iranian missile program poses a dangerous threat to the region and its security. Iranian threats have crossed a line, and they are pushing the region to the brink. Iran is adopting a sectarian strategy to fuel regional conflicts and is seeking to make Yemen a thorn in the side of Saudi Arabia and the Arab world.”

The secretary-general urged Tehran to “review its policies toward the region and stop its interference.”

Bahraini Foreign Minister Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed Al-Khalifa said Lebanon was under the “total control” of the Iran-backed Hezbollah movement. “Iran’s biggest arm in the region at the moment is the terrorist Hezbollah arm,” Sheikh Khalid said, and there was dangerous Iranian escalation in the region.

Lebanese Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil did not attend Sunday’s meeting. He was replaced by Lebanon’s delegate to the Arab League, Antoine Azzam. Lebanese sources said there was intense pressure on the League to avoid explicit references to Hezbollah in statements after the meeting, but the efforts failed. Bassil is the son-in-law of Lebanese President Michele Aoun, who is an ally of Hezbollah.

Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim Al-Jaafari, who is known for his support of Iranian-backed militias such as Hezbollah, was also absent from the meeting; the Undersecretary at Iraq’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Nizar Khair Allah, attended instead.

Diplomatic sources said the General Secretariat of the Arab League has prepared a dossier of violations, interference and provocative statements by Iran and its officials, along with memorandums from member states, mainly Saudi Arabia, detailing Iranian interference targeting regional stability.

Arab affairs expert Dr. Moutaz Salama, of Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, said Sunday’s meeting was part of a long-term Saudi strategy which will develop gradually to contain Iran’s destructive role in the region. Rallying Arab diplomatic efforts against Iranian interference was an essential step to move the issue on to the international stage, he said.

Arab diplomatic sources said that there was an agreement between Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the UAE, and Bahrain to confront Iranian regional aggression decisively.

Companies must deploy AI to transform industries: Mubadala deputy CEO

Updated 45 min 42 sec ago

Companies must deploy AI to transform industries: Mubadala deputy CEO

  • ‘One of the mega trends you see around the world is that preferences matter’
  • ‘We have to change the way we view technology’

DUBAI: The next wave of value creation in the business world will not come from companies that develop artificial intelligence (AI), but from those that can innovatively deploy technology to transform industries, Waleed Al-Muhairi, deputy CEO of Mubadala Investment Co., said on Tuesday at the first Middle East SALT conference.

The two-day event is taking place in Abu Dhabi, and is run by former White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci.

It is hosting more than 1,000 leaders from the worlds of investment, finance and policymaking at the city’s financial hub, the Abu Dhabi Global Market.

Discussing Mubadala’s partnerships with China, the UAE’s largest trading partner, Al-Muhairi referred to billion-dollar investments in China’s private and public sectors.

“We have a wonderful partnership with China. We’ve established a $10 billion fund there with the China Development Bank, and have deployed almost $2 billion in 15 to 16 different sectors, with technology being the main theme,” he said.

Mubadala currently has $240 billion of assets under management, with close to $100 billion invested in the US (60 percent of the state-owned holding company’s portfolio).

The remaining 40 percent is divided “almost” equally between investments in the UAE, Europe and Asia, “with a heavy concentration in China,” said Al-Muhairi.

“But our objective is to participate in the growth and success of a large, growing and dynamic economy like China’s,” he said, adding that it is only a matter of time before the country becomes the “largest economy on Earth.”

On technology, Al-Muhairi cited Asia-focused private equity firm Hill House, which transformed a mid-level athletic footwear company in China to the No. 1 brand in the country through the deployment of AI.

The company applied the expertise of 50 scientists and engineers to revolutionize the manufacturing process of footwear, while subsequently improving the brand’s retail experience.

By placing censors on the shelves to detect customers’ interest in buying specific footwear, they were able to shorten the cycle of understanding customer feedback and preference, said Al-Muhairi.

“One of the mega trends you see around the world is that preferences matter. And those business that are able to curate a customized experience for customers are going to be the ones who succeed, especially in the retail industry,” he added.

While people often refer to technology as a “sector,” Al-Muhairi believes it is similar to the concept of “electricity” in that it empowers projects and is infused in everything we do today.

“We have to change the way we view technology,” he said, adding that while it is the “life-blood of any successful company” and the “single most important enabler,” it is not an objective in itself. 

“We don’t invest in technology for the sake of technology. We invest in it because it will transform something or it will create value and a return,” he said.