Aramco attacks solidify Iran’s ‘enemy’ status among young Arabs

Tehran-backed attacks on Saudi Arabia’s oil facilities will only add to the view among young Arabs that Iran is an “enemy,” a panel of regional experts said on Monday. (AFP)
Updated 24 September 2019

Aramco attacks solidify Iran’s ‘enemy’ status among young Arabs

  • Iran denies involvement in the attacks, which initially halved oil output from Saudi Arabia
  • Saudi Arabia featured prominently in the Arab Youth survey in several ways

LONDON: Tehran-backed attacks on Saudi Arabia’s oil facilities will only add to the view among young Arabs that Iran is an “enemy,” a panel of regional experts said on Monday.

According to the Arab Youth Survey, which was published in May by the PR consultancy ASDA’A BCW, 67 percent of the region’s youth saw Iran as an enemy, as opposed to 32 percent who saw it as an ally.

However, members of a panel discussion at Chatham House, in London, said the attacks on the Saudi Aramco sites, as well as Iran’s seizure of a UK-flagged oil tanker in the Strait of Hormuz, have solidified, if not increased, negative views of the country.

“I would imagine that the tensions demonstrate that the findings in the report hold. They may even have increased perceptions of Iran being an enemy,” Dr. Simon Mabon, senior lecturer in international relations at Lancaster University, told Arab News.




The panel at the UK's Chatham House. (AN Photo)

Iran denies involvement in the attacks, which initially halved oil output from Saudi Arabia. Responsibility was claimed by Yemen’s Houthi militants, an Iranian-aligned militia fighting the Arab coalition in Yemen’s civil war.

However, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said last week: “Amid all the calls for de-escalation, Iran has now launched an unprecedented attack on the world’s energy supply…There is no evidence the attacks came from Yemen.”

The survey’s results also showed the US becoming perceived more and more as an enemy rather than an ally since Donald Trump became president, with 59 percent of the youth seeing it as the former. This is a 27 percent rise in negative perception from 2016’s survey result.

“This is where we see what’s called the Trump effect…you don’t have to look too far. Look at all the policies he made, the travel bans, and all those kinds of things,” Sunil John, founder ASDA'A BCW, said.

Saudi Arabia featured prominently in the survey in several ways. When asked which countries had grown in prominence in regional and international affairs, 37 percent of young Arabs named the Kingdom as the biggest gainer in influence this year, with the UAE coming in second at 27 percent.

“We’re moving from the power hubs of Baghdad and Cairo to those of Riyadh and Abu Dhabi,” John added.

The eleventh annual survey is based on 3,300 face-to-face interviews with Arabs between the ages of 18-24, split equally between men and women, in January this year.


Clashes, tear gas in Beirut as protests turn to riots

Updated 06 June 2020

Clashes, tear gas in Beirut as protests turn to riots

  • Divisions among protesters over the goals of the demonstration quickly became apparent as groups of protesters faced off
  • Hundreds of Lebanese soldiers and riot police were deployed on major roads in the capital and its suburbs ahead of the protest

BEIRUT: Lebanese riot police fired tear gas at protesters in central Beirut on Saturday, after a planned anti-government demonstration quickly degenerated into rioting and stone-throwing confrontations between opposing camps.
A few thousand demonstrators had gathered in Martyrs' Square hoping to reboot nationwide protests that began late last year amid an unprecedented economic and financial crisis. But tensions and divisions among protesters over the goals of the demonstration quickly became apparent as groups of protesters faced off, with the army standing between them.
Scattered groups of protesters arrived in the capital's downtown area, only some of them wearing masks and face shields to protect against the spread of the coronavirus, in response to calls for a centralized protest to press for demands.
Lebanese rose up against their political leaders in nationwide mass protests on Oct. 17 amid a spiraling economic crisis, blaming them for decades of corruption and mismanagement. The protests, which further deepened the slump, eventually lost some momentum and later were put on hold after the outbreak of the pandemic.
The government has gradually begun easing a lockdown aimed at curbing the virus, and protesters have returned to the streets in small numbers in recent days. Saturday's protest was called for by grassroots organizations and civil society groups as well as several political parties, including some groups who have introduced for the first time demands for the Shiite militant group Hezbollah to disarm.
The participation of political groups and anti-Hezbollah slogans have upset some activists and protesters who say the focus should remain on addressing the country's economic crisis and calling for early elections.
Hundreds of Lebanese soldiers and riot police were deployed on major roads in the capital and its suburbs ahead of the protest. They later stood between supporters of Hezbollah and its allied Shiite Amal movement on one side and protesters on the other, some of whom shouted insults aimed at the Hezbollah leader, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah.
The pro-Hezbollah side, some carrying yellow Hezbollah flags, chanted “Shia, Shia, Shia!”
Near the parliament building, a group of young men hurled rocks over cement barriers erected to seal off the area. Young men vandalized several storefronts, including a luxury French designer furniture company and a nearby hotel. Police responded with heavy tear gas.
The unprecedented economic crisis, nationwide protests and pandemic pose the biggest threat to stability since the end of the country’s civil war in 1990, and there are fears of a new slide into violence.
In recent weeks, the Lebanese pound, pegged to the dollar for more than two decades, has lost 60% of its value against the dollar and prices of basic goods soared. Unemployment has risen to 35% and an estimated 45% of the country’s population is now below the poverty line.