Houthis accused of threatening world’s electricity supplies

The tanker ‘Arsan’ suffered minor damage in the Houthi missile attack. (Courtesy: marinetraffic.com)
Updated 27 July 2018

Houthis accused of threatening world’s electricity supplies

  • Saudi Arabia suspended oil shipments through the Bab Al-Mandeb strait after the missile attacks
  • The protection of Red Sea shipping is one of the aims of the Saudi-led coalition fighting to restore Yemen’s internationally recognized government

JEDDAH: Iran-backed Houthi militias in Yemen were accused on Thursday of threatening the world’s electricity supplies after they attacked two oil tankers in a crucial Red Sea shipping lane.

Saudi Arabia suspended oil shipments through the Bab Al-Mandeb strait after the missile attacks, in which one tanker — the Arsan, operated by the Saudi shipping company Bahri — suffered minor damage.

The Houthis have threatened before to block the strait, and said on Thursday they had the naval capability to hit Saudi ports and other Red Sea targets. Iran has also threatened to block another strategic shipping route, the Strait of Hormuz.

The protection of Red Sea shipping is one of the aims of the Saudi-led coalition fighting to restore Yemen’s internationally recognized government. The rest of the world must now be alert to the threat posed by Iran and its Houthi proxies, analysts told Arab News.

“Saudi Arabia cannot put the lives of its men and material in danger. It is too risky in Bab Al-Mandeb, as evident from the Houthi attacks,” said Dr. Hamdan Al-Shehri, a Saudi political analyst and international relations scholar in Riyadh.

“Had the attacks succeeded, it would have been catastrophic. The world, especially the European nations, must step up to the plate and play their part in neutralizing the threat from Iran and the Houthis.

“All this while Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies have been fighting this scourge of terrorism and blackmail with little or no help from the Europeans. This is not just our fight. These militias, who are armed to teeth by Iran, pose a threat not just to us but to the entire global economy.

“Iran has repeatedly threatened that it will attack oil tankers in the Strait of Hormuz. And what has been the response from Europe? Criticism of the Saudi efforts and more pandering and cajoling of Tehran. Well, this cannot go on. They need to decide, and fast, what they want — oil to keep their economies running, or ties with Iran. Now is the time for them to take a stand.”

Oubai Shahbandar, a Syrian-American analyst and fellow at the New America Foundation’s International Security Program, echoed that view. 

“Disrupting the freedom of movement of oil shipments and threatening the sanctity of global energy markets will be viewed by the international community as a red line,” he said.

 “Targeting international shipping through the Bab Al-Mandeb really highlights the strategic threat to regional stability posed by Houthi militants and their missile arsenal.”

 


Saudi TikTok users weigh in on potential app ban

Photo/Supplied
Updated 12 July 2020

Saudi TikTok users weigh in on potential app ban

  • Due to pandemic, interest in the app skyrocketed as many users watch videos and try to recreate them while in quarantine

RIYADH: Chinese video platform TikTok is under fire once again, as rumors of the app being a tool used by the Chinese government to spy on users resurface online.

TikTok, owned by Chinese company ByteDance, is a video-sharing site similar to the now-defunct Vine, where users share short clips of themselves which can be altered using AI technology.
Lip-syncing along with a track, using filters, and adding special effects give users the chance to create short clips that can be shared and downloaded in several social media platforms.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, interest in the app skyrocketed as many users downloaded TikTok to watch videos and try to recreate them while in quarantine. The app has also gained significant popularity in the Middle East with influencers such as Saudi model Roz, UAE-based content creators Khalid and Salama, and Saudi top TikToker iimeeto, who recently celebrated reaching four million followers on the platform.
Rania Mohammed, a fourth year medical student at Dar AlUloom University in Riyadh, said that TikTok was “the only thing keeping her sane” as she struggled with the pressures of school and quarantine.
“As a med school student, my attention span and free time are both severely limited,” she told Arab News. “Taking a 15 minute break to watch silly TikToks has helped me keep motivated. The specific brand of humor on that app is the fastest way to make me laugh.”
Mai Alhumood, a government employee, said that she downloaded the app while she was bored and became “quickly addicted” to the platform’s fun short videos.
“People are so creative on TikTok, and the challenges that keep going viral are so interesting,” she told Arab News.
However, the app has long-suffered from accusations of spying and gathering users’ private information on behalf of the Chinese government, leading to both temporary and permanent bans in countries around the world.
Recently, it was reported that Amazon requested that employees remove the app from their smartphones in an email over “security risks.” The company later retracted its directive.
Saudi cybersecurity expert Abdullah Al-Jaber believed that concerns over the security of TikTok’s collected data stemmed from the app’s country of origin and its rules and regulations.

HIGHLIGHTS

• Following a provisional ban in April 2019, India’s Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology banned TikTok permanently in June this year, along with 58 other Chinese apps. The ministry claimed that the apps were a ‘threat to the sovereignty and security of the country’ following a Himalayan border clash with Chinese troops in the disputed territory of Ladakh.

• Indonesia temporarily blocked TikTok in July 2018, citing public concern regarding ‘illegal content’ such as pornography and blasphemy. However, the app was unblocked following various changes from TikTok such as the opening of a government liaison office and implementing security mechanisms.

• Recently, the US became the third country to seriously consider banning the app, according to information from President Donald Trump’s administration. Trump also weighed in on a potential TikTok ban. He said that banning the app would be ‘punishing China for its response to the coronavirus.’

“TikTok collects data in a very similar way to US applications,” he told Arab News. “However the main concern is that the US has regulations and compliance that must be met when collecting customer data, such as GDPR data privacy regulation. In the case of TikTok, we don’t know as much about how the data is being used or stored because we don’t know their regulations.”
Following a provisional ban in April 2019, India’s Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology banned TikTok permanently in June this year, along with 58 other Chinese apps. The ministry claimed that the apps were a “threat to the sovereignty and security of the country” following a Himalayan border clash with Chinese troops in the disputed territory of Ladakh.
Indonesia temporarily blocked TikTok in July 2018, citing public concern regarding “illegal content” such as pornography and blasphemy. However, the app was unblocked following various changes from TikTok such as the opening of a government liaison office and implementing security mechanisms.
Recently, the US became the third country to seriously consider banning the app, according to information from President Donald Trump’s administration.
Trump also weighed in on a potential TikTok ban. In an interview with Gray Television, Trump said that banning the app would be “punishing China for its response to the coronavirus.”
“Look, what happened with China with this virus, what they’ve done to this country and to the entire world is disgraceful,” he said.
While Saudi Arabia has yet to announce a ban of any kind of TikTok, local users and followers are trying to practice caution while using the app anyway.
Alhumood considered making videos on the platform, but dismissed the idea and only uses it to follow other people’s videos.
“I have ideas for it, sure, but I’d rather not take the risk. I don’t even have a username or a registered account, and that’s one of the better things about TikTok. I only have the app, but I can still watch all the videos without giving them my private information.”
Mohammed also said that she had no interest in creating videos herself, though she did have a registered account in order to comment on videos and keep track of her favorites.
However Al-Jaber said that, in his opinion, registering an account on TikTok did not necessarily pose more of a risk than using other social media.
“If you use Facebook or Twitter, it’s not much different than using TikTok,” he said.