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Middle East Press (09 Mar 2018 NewAgeIslam.Com)

Why Entering Stadiums Is a Matter of Joy for Saudi Families By Dr. Razan Baker: New Age Islam's Selection, 09 March 2018





New Age Islam Edit Bureau

09 March 2018

Why Entering Stadiums Is A Matter Of Joy For Saudi Families

By Dr. Razan Baker

Great Opportunity for UK, Saudi Arabia to Cooperate In Countering Extremism

By Mubaraz Ahmed

Is Eastern Ghouta Another East Aleppo?

By Christian Chesnot

Arab States Must Unite to Stop Iran’s Weapons Smuggling

By Dr. Majid Rafizadeh

Saudi-UK Cooperation Is a Two-Way Street

By Dr. Mohamed A. Ramady

Yemen’s Disenfranchised Youth Must Be Given A Voice

By Fatima Abo Alasrar

Mohammed Bin Salman and the Battle of London

By Abdul Rahman Al-Rashed

Compiled By New Age Islam Edit Bureau


Why Entering Stadiums Is a Matter of Joy for Saudi Families

By Dr. Razan Baker

8 March 2018

Why should Saudi families not be overjoyed to enter stadiums? I come from a family in which my uncles were captains of the Al-Ittihad football team. They played in games I never had the chance to watch because they were not filmed those days in the late 1960s.

For many years, I heard about the skill, performance and achievements of my father and uncles on the pitch through word of mouth. I attend football matches abroad with my family but have never done so here in the Kingdom. I have attended matches in which the Saudi national team has played abroad, but never in Saudi Arabia.

I attended, as a sport reporter, Saudi volleyball and water polo finals in 2008. However, these events took place in closed rooms behind opaque glass screens so no one would know a female was there.

I used to watch matches on TV and then telephone players for quotes after the final whistle. I knew deep inside that this would change. I just did not know that I would get the chance to watch a football match with my father and his grandchildren at a club that we have been supporting from one generation to another.

This is not just a dream come true, it is history breaking tradition and culture in a very promising way. This is a result of Vision 2030. The nature of Saudi culture evolves around being there for each other and supporting each family member. In simple words, family always comes first.

Doubling Spectators

When the decision was announced this year to allow families to enter stadiums in Jeddah, Riyadh and Dammam, the number of spectators doubled. Al-Riyadiyah, for example, said this week that the number of spectators in the Saudi football league had risen from 32,244 in the 16th round to 61,441 in the 17th.

This does not only mean extra attendance, but also new areas of investment that would help the economy. We could see more kiosks, restaurants and children friendly attractions that families could visit before and after matches.

London, for example, built a new Olympic park to host the London 2012 Summer Olympics. The goal was to host the games but it also resulted in regenerating the East End of London and giving prominence to sports. It also created many jobs, increased the rate of rent in the area and helped in providing a kind of legacy to local people, not to mention a decrease in the rate of crime.

That is why it might be just a football game for some, but for us it is a new window of opportunities and a way of sharing additional quality time with family. This is a time for families, siblings and parents to bond. This is how sports bring us together and that is what we are proud of and happy to see in Saudi Arabia.

Furthering Interests

This is also why it matters to us. Mothers will no longer miss their children when they go to watch matches. Parents can now introduce their children to sports and find out which ones they really enjoy and encourage them to further their interests. Things like this do not happen by just watching sports on television.

First-hand experience can play magic. This is an opportunity to see the reactions of winners and losers after matches, something that can teach our children many lessons such as there always being a second chance and that you just have to be patient and committed to prove yourself.

In 2017, the Journal of Park and Recreation Administration published an article about this that concluded that family presence and involvement supported the acquisition and application of life skills and that youth participation in programs created opportunities for bonding and positive changes within families.

In my view, attending matches is going to be the new hype for families and entrepreneurs interested in a booming industry. Attendance will encourage athletes who will see their worth and value in society increase. Spectators will appreciate athletes more, will closely follow games and even start considering athletes as role models.

Entrepreneurs will also be there to seek opportunities and enhance the Kingdom’s business and economy. That is what the country is working hard to achieve through its vision and by allowing families to attend stadiums and enjoy matches. Let us be there for our national teams, children and future generations.

Source: english.alarabiya.net/en/views/news/middle-east/2018/03/08/Why-entering-stadiums-is-a-matter-of-joy-for-Saudi-families.html


Great Opportunity for UK, Saudi Arabia to Cooperate In Countering Extremism

By Mubaraz Ahmed

8 March 2018

While the UK Government will undoubtedly be keen to use Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s visit to the UK to foster closer economic ties with the Kingdom, policymakers would be wise to use the opportunity to develop greater cooperation to counter Islamist extremism. In this regard, Britain has much to learn, but also much to offer.

Ahead of the visit, the Crown Prince highlighted the important strategic relationship between the UK and Saudi Arabia, whose close-knit association stretches back decades, rightly emphasizing the security challenge from extremism the two countries share. Here in the West, we often appear to forget that Muslims themselves are the biggest victims of the violence of groups like ISIS.

Officials from both sides are keen to make progress in this area. Discussions are expected to take place on how Britain and Saudi Arabia could further strengthen their longstanding military cooperation and intelligence sharing activities, with the Crown Prince due to participate in briefings from senior figures from the UK’s military and intelligence agencies. But while such collaborative efforts are necessary and important, more can be gained by both sides. 

Conviction, Clarity and Coherence 

As part of his broad, sweeping and ambitious plans to revolutionize Saudi Arabia, economically, socially and religiously, the Crown Prince has demonstrated a level of conviction, clarity and coherence in identifying and understanding the nature of Islamist extremism that Western policymakers should seek to learn from. Britain should learn from Saudi Arabia and how it has demonstrated a clear commitment to tackling the politicization of Islam to inform policymaking, with no moral ambiguity in delineating Islam, the faith, from Islamism, a politicised ideology.

Conversely, Britain should share its knowledge, experience and expertise in developing a multi-stakeholder, multi-disciplinary approach to countering extremism in the pre-criminal space. Britain has learnt, through trial and error, some valuable lessons in how best to address extremism, such as the government’s role in coordinating, convening and supporting efforts, rather than fronting and delivering, and the invaluable role played by families and communities in parallel to that of the government and law enforcement. 

Empowering, Engaging Civil Society

As Saudi Arabia continues along its upwards trajectory outlined by the Crown Prince’s ambitious Vision 2030 plans, Britain can play a role in empowering and engaging civil society to help forge the open, tolerant and vibrant society the Kingdom is seeking to establish. Such drastic change in such a short space of time is likely to result in tensions between conservatives and modernists, traditionalists and innovators, those with a closed-minded view of the world and those with an open-minded approach.

Through exchanges of culture, knowledge and experiences, Britain can, and should, play an active role in both helping Saudi Arabia navigate the challenges and realize the opportunities that lie ahead. An open, outward facing Saudi Arabia, one focused on national, regional and international co-existence, has the potential to be a powerful force for social economic prosperity in the Middle East and beyond.

The domestic counter-extremism efforts in Saudi Arabia and Britain could be significantly strengthened through mutual cooperation to build on, and complement, existing joint counter-terror efforts. The threat from Islamist extremism cannot be adequately combated through conventional security and counter-terror measures alone, the ideology must also be dismantled.

Vital Partners

In this regard, allies like Saudi Arabia, who are cognizant of the rich Islamic tradition, imbued with both its values and culture, are vital partners in bringing clarity to the fight against Islamism. There is no moral dilemma or hesitance in drawing a clear and distinct line between Islam and Islamism, something that Western policymakers have struggled to do effectively or confidently.

The British government is often criticized by so-called representative Muslim organisations of pursuing an Islamophobic agenda with its counter-extremism policies and practices, despite the government’s instance on distinguishing between Islam and Islamism.

Learning from partners like Saudi Arabia, whose experience in combating the ideological underpinnings of extremism go back further than our own, would not only bring a distinct level of clarity to the conversation, but also give confidence to the government in knowing that their approach is in keeping with the response to the same threat in Muslim majority countries, where the same policy prescriptions and programs would never be accused of being Islamophobic.

The Crown Prince has constantly expressed his determination to return Saudi Arabia to a “moderate Islam,” and has reached out to the international community to help support his efforts to transform the Kingdom into an open society. Britain, as a close ally of Saudi Arabia, has much to offer in this regard and should be willing to play a key role in realising the revolutionary reforms.

There will undoubtedly be detractors, some with genuine concerns about the changes taking place in Saudi Arabia and the broader region. Many continue to peddle age-old adages of Saudi Arabia, without acknowledging the threat that Saudi Arabia itself faces from terrorism and how its leadership is determined to make amends.

Candid Reflections

In an interview last year, the Crown Prince shared candid reflections about the state of affairs with religious extremism and conservatism in the Kingdom, saying:

“What happened in the last 30 years is not Saudi Arabia. What happened in the region in the last 30 years is not the Middle East. After the Iranian revolution in 1979, people wanted to copy this model in different countries, one of them is Saudi Arabia. We didn’t know how to deal with it. And the problem spread all over the world. Now is the time to get rid of it.”

And perhaps the most telling statement from the Crown Prince, one that underscores the ambitions he has for transforming the Kingdom socially and economically, is his urgency in wanting to bring about change, admitting that “70% of the Saudis are younger than 30. Honestly, we won’t waste 30 years of our life combating extremist thoughts, we will destroy them now and immediately.”

The relationship between Britain and Saudi Arabia was forged during a period of great upheaval and instability in the Middle East during the 1980s. The 1979 revolution in Iran, where hard-line clerics deposed the Shah and sought to export their narrow, politicised articulation of Islam throughout the region, brought Britain and Saudi Arabia closer together.

The landscape of the Middle East today presents a similar picture. ISIS may have been militarily defeated in Iraq, but the threat of extremist violence in the region continues to loom large, while the proliferation of ideologically-motivated, Iranian-backed militias is also a cause for grave concern. The threats faced by Saudi Arabia and Britain today are transnational, and so too must the response be.

Source: english.alarabiya.net/en/views/news/world/2018/03/08/Great-opportunity-for-UK-Saudi-Arabia-to-cooperate-in-countering-extremism.html


Is Eastern Ghouta Another East Aleppo?

By Christian Chesnot

8 March 2018

The regime of Bashar al-Assad, backed by Russia, is steamrolling Ghouta day after day. The situation appears similar to the Aleppo siege, which ended by the end of 2016 with the evacuation of the last standing rebels with their families in the snow. The direction of those who fled Aleppo was Idlib. Air strikes, artillery shelling, chemical weapons, starvation and much more was resorted to in order to crush East Aleppo’s rebellion.

The suburbs of Damascus are witnessing the same awful humanitarian crisis. United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres denounced developments in Eastern Ghouta and described people’s plight there as ‘hell on earth’. The UN once again finds itself paralyzed in terms of taking action. All it can do is issue statements. The first lesson here is that developments in Ghouta once again reflect the failure of the UN’s “humanitarian diplomacy” that’s reduced to mere incantations.

Diplomacy Of Surrender

The ‘diplomacy of surrender’ reigns once again - this time in the eastern suburbs of Damascus. The Syrian regime’s aim is to empty Ghouta of its people to better isolate the armed groups and their families. By the end, buses will wait for them to take them to Idlib, Syria’s last-held rebel province.

The second lesson here is that the West is out of the game and they have no bargaining chip to really influence the crisis. For the United States and Europeans, the fall of Ghouta will resemble a political and moral loss. After this horrifying chapter, Bashar al-Assad will become the master of Damascus once again. Such a triumph will also close any room for a political settlement to the Syrian conflict. In any case, this is what Michel Duclos, France’s former ambassador to Damascus, thinks. How can it be conceived that the Syrian regime will suddenly be possessed by a desire to negotiate a political transition?

What after the Collapse of Ghouta?

The expected collapse of Ghouta will conclude a chapter of the war in Syria. Assad now controls all the major cities. The opposition and the rebels are being pushed outside Syria and to the country’s outskirts. The opposition is also about to endeavor a long journey in the desert. The reality is cruel and the challenges they face are huge. They have failed to unite in order to topple the regime in 2011-2012. The opportunity will not represent itself anytime soon. They need to review their plans from A to Z.

So what does the future hold for Syria after the fall of Ghouta? It certainly revolves around chaotic reconstruction and a long journey of daily agony for the Syrians. But perhaps this is when the Syrians demand accountability. We must not forget that Assad survived and remained president mainly thanks to Russia, Iran and the Lebanese party Hezbollah, as they all united just in time to support his regime. However, will these allies remain partners when the situation calms down? Everyone has his own agenda in Syria.

As the Russians have previously stated, they are not “married” to Bashar al-Assad. Moscow is only interested in its geopolitical interests and the sustenance of the state structure. As long as they have not found an alternative for the Syrian president, they will keep protecting the regime. They also know that Bashar al-Assad’s term ends in 2021. Perhaps that’s when the political transition will begin. In the meantime, the Syrian people will have to grit their teeth.

Source: english.alarabiya.net/en/views/news/middle-east/2018/03/08/Is-eastern-Ghouta-another-East-Aleppo-.html


Arab States Must Unite to Stop Iran’s Weapons Smuggling

By Dr. Majid Rafizadeh

8 March 2018

According to the latest reports, the Iranian regime is increasing its efforts to illegally supply weapons to terrorist groups and its proxies, specifically the Houthis in Yemen, as well as many other militias in Syria and Iraq.

When it comes to smuggling and supplying the Houthis with weapons, Tehran is engaged in four major categories: First is the supply, sale or transfer of short-range ballistic missiles (known as Borkan-2H). Second is the supply of field storage tanks, which are utilized for liquid bipropellant oxidizers and developing ballistic missiles. Third is supplying unmanned aerial vehicles (such as Ababil-T and Qasef-1). Fourth is the provision of ballistic missile technology to the militias.

These acts are in violation of two UN resolutions: 2216, which imposes an arms embargo on Yemen’s Houthi rebels, and 2231, which bans the Islamic Republic from transferring weapons and advancing its ballistic missile program in specific instances.

Intriguingly, even the annual report of the United Nations conclusively revealed that “the Islamic Republic of Iran is in non-compliance with paragraph 14 of resolution 2216 (2015).” It added: “The panel has now identified strong indicators of the supply of arms-related material manufactured in, or emanating from, the Islamic Republic of Iran subsequent to the establishment of the targeted arms embargo on April 14, 2015, particularly in the area of short-range ballistic missile technology and unmanned aerial vehicles.”

Despite such findings, the UN has not yet taken any concrete measures to punish the Iranian regime. One of the reasons for this is the veto power that Russia holds in the Security Council. Russia recently vetoed a resolution that would have simply applied pressure to Iran over the transfer of weapons to Yemen. Therefore it is unlikely the UN will be capable of action as long as Russia supports the Iranian regime.

Since such a global institution has failed to hold the Iranian regime to account for its crystal clear violations, the solution to this problem is dependent on employing the power of regional organizations and coalitions. In fact, in some cases, a united regional front can be much more effective in establishing peace and halting destabilization in the region than the international organizations.

This is where a coalition of several Arab states, as well as the Gulf Cooperation Council and the Arab League, could play a major role. There are several gradual steps that Arab states can take. First is to impose targeted sanctions aimed at holding the Iranian regime accountable based on the findings of the UN over Tehran’s smuggling of weapons. Arab states can impose sanctions on specific entities that the UN has found to be involved in supplying and transferring weapons to Tehran’s proxies. One should remember that Arab states in the Gulf and other nations in the region endure the direct and indirect consequences of Iran’s smuggling of weapons and destabilizing behavior.

Secondly, the Arab states can impose sanctions on those entities and individuals that the United States has already sanctioned for violations of UN resolutions and international laws. Many of these entities and individuals are affiliated with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

Third, a coalition of Arab states can utilize their economic power to counter the Iranian regime. Regional economic sanctions can have an impact on the regime’s trade and revenues.

By taking these steps, Arab states are simply following international law, implementing the legal framework, responding to the UN’s findings and imposing penalties on the Iranian regime. These are the penalties the UN wants to impose itself, but it has so far failed due to Russia’s veto power.

It is worth noting that these actions would also send a robust message to European countries, and Russia and China too. These global actors will be more inclined to pressure the Iranian regime over its illicit weapons activities if they see that other countries in the region are united and already imposing penalties and pressuring Tehran through economic and political frameworks.

Waiting for the international community to take action and stop the Iranian regime’s smuggling of weapons would be futile. In addition, Tehran simply disregards global condemnations or UN reports indicating that it is violating international laws or resolutions.

One of the inevitable repercussions of waiting for international institutions or global powers to take action and stop the Iranian regime is to witness Tehran’s increasing influence, power and further destabilization of the region. The Arab states can unite and play a critical role in stopping the Iranian regime’s illicit smuggling of weapons. When a united Arab front leads in confronting Iran, the EU, Russia and China would find it extremely difficult not to join them.

Source: arabnews.com/node/1261931


Saudi-UK Cooperation Is a Two-Way Street

By Dr. Mohamed A. Ramady

8 March 2018

All eyes are on the ongoing visit by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to the UK this week. It might be a short visit with a lot of symbolism and photo opportunity events but beneath it lies issues of more substance and importance to both sides.

Despite some criticism from politicians on the left and anti-war campaigners to the visit, the overall message is clear – both Saudi Arabia and the UK will stand to benefit from a closer relationship with each other rather than drifting apart.

The signing of a new and comprehensive UK-Saudi “Strategic Partnership Council” — an initiative to encourage Saudi Arabia’s economic reforms and foster cooperation on issues such as education and culture, as well as defence and security.

It has laid the cornerstone for a long term mutual beneficial relationship Britain and sets out an ambition to build 65 billion pounds ($90.29 billion) of trade and investment ties in coming years.

This will also go beyond current trade relations with British non-oil exports to Saudi Arabia totalling 6.2 billion pounds in 2016 and imports from Saudi Arabia totalling 2.6 billion pounds. As the British government officials have pointed out, this has in turn supported “tens of thousands” of UK jobs.

British lives have also been saved by Saudi intelligence, as is quickly forgotten by those who question Saudi Arabia’s value to the UK.

Two-Way Street

The new investment and procurement opportunities envisioned is a definitely a two-way street that benefit both sides and will be spread across a range of sectors including education, training and skills, financial and investment services, culture and entertainment, healthcare services and life sciences, technology and renewable energy and the defence industry.

All these areas are underpinning the new Saudi Vision 2030 modernization and economic diversification program of Saudi Arabia and British expertise in these areas will help the Kingdom given the already strong relationship both countries have especially in education and science.

The Memorandums of Understanding for 14 trade deals are due to be signed during the visit will be a boost to the UK as it tries to find viable long term trading partners post a Brexit exit with growing economies like Saudi Arabia, China and India and is a welcome relief to Prime Minister May as the Brexit talks are getting bogged down in sniping from both the UK and EU officials.

“This is a significant boost for UK prosperity and a clear demonstration of the strong international confidence in our economy as we prepare to leave the European Union,” a Downing Street spokesperson said in the statement.

Then there is the expected Aramco IPO listing this year with major financial centres like London and New York vying for a slice of the international offering but it is not yet expected that a decision on where to list is made during this visit.

Defense Partnership

Defense remains a vital partnership between the two countries as Britain is Saudi Arabia’s second-biggest supplier of defence equipment and London-based based BAE Systems has been waiting for a follow-on order for the Eurofighter Typhoon fighter jet after the initial Al-Yamamah sale of 72 of the warplanes in 2006.

A deal would boost UK industry as Britain tightens its own defence spending. In this area the UK is also taking a lead in supporting the Crown Prince’s mandate for localization of as many of the imported defence equipment in Saudi Arabia to create jobs and add to local supply chain content.

The lessons of the earlier failures of the initial al-Yamamah offset program has been learned by both sides. Another area of UK expertise that Saudi Arabia values is UK cyber expertise to help them tackle the threat from Iran as cyber threat to both the public and the private sector has increased over the past few years from hostile actors.

One of the most important aspects of the Crown Princes’ visit is to set the message that Saudi Arabia is a reliable partner and that the Kingdom is indeed open for business and is looking for international support for his internal economic reforms while at the same time trying to offer reassurance to nervous international investors given the quick pace of internal reforms and anti-corruption campaigns to ensure a level playing field for all parties.

For those who have criticized Saudi Arabia as a country that moves at a snail’s pace, the pace of change has literally taken everyone by surprise and make the same people now say slow down. The Crown Prince has, however, made it clear – join us or be left behind.

Source: english.alarabiya.net/en/views/news/middle-east/2018/03/08/Why-Saudi-UK-cooperation-is-a-two-way-street-.html


Yemen’s Disenfranchised Youth Must Be Given a Voice

By Fatima Abo Alasrar

8 March 2018

If there is a single moment in Yemen’s history that illustrates young people’s lack of power, it is the 2011 “independent youth” uprising. That 11-month quest for better governance and economic opportunity unlocked a Pandora’s box of competing political interests that overshadowed the voices of youth, demonstrating that they were merely pawns in a larger battle for control between political elites and informal tribal structures.

While some youths hold that their movement was a success, arguing that “change” by itself was a crucial step that altered the political dynamics in Yemen, it remains clear that independent youth miscalculated their leverage in negotiating a political settlement or averting the cataclysmic leadership failure that led to the Houthi militia’s takeover of Yemen’s capital in September 2014.

Yemeni political parties, including the major opposition party Congregation for Reform (Al-Islah), were welcomed by independent youth, who felt the momentum of their movement was gaining strength  in numbers. However, the independent voices became dwarfed by party politics. As a result, the negotiations of Yemen’s political settlement inadvertently excluded independent youth from the process, with the National Dialogue Conference containing just 40 youth delegates out of 565. While some initiatives sprung up to provide a platform for the youth, such as Al-Watan and the Justice and Building Party, their influence dissipated as they became affiliated with the transitional  government of Yemen. The clamoring of parties around the political process ended up putting the youth in the back seat of a movement they initially drove.

The NDC stipulated the creation of measures to ensure youth participation in critical socio-political issues, including a new Supreme Council for Youth, which would incorporate public policy on youth issues. But the government has not taken any steps to execute such progressive national policies that would focus on youth inclusion. This in part explains the emergence of new movements that compete with national objectives, such as the Southern Transitional Council, which has provided a regional base of support to young women and men from the South.

Unfortunately, Yemen’s political and economic situation during the war has shrunk the space for youth participation to an alarming degree. Although young people make up about 60 percent of Yemen’s 28 million-strong population, their voice is still in the minority. Today, youth continue to be excluded from the political process, as peace talks are focused on the already strong and established parties and individuals with influence over the situation on the ground.

While support for youth in the political space can be found in some piecemeal initiatives, the lion’s share goes to humanitarian projects due to the current conflict. “We could achieve peace through development,” said Yasmin Al-Nadheri, a Yemeni youth, peace and security expert. “Youth and civil society organizations have done phenomenal work helping their communities on the local level and development projects could engage youth constructively and employ people, as well as stitch up the social fabric that was torn by the war.”

The process of selecting organizations for Track 2 peace building processes (parallel to the high-level Track 1 focusing on early recovery) appears to be haphazard and sporadic, according to some youth. The founder of Peace Track Initiative, Rasha Jarhum, was disappointed with the systematic negligence of Yemeni youth: “The former UN Special Envoy, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, did not take serious efforts to include youth in the peace process. This was disappointing for independent youth and a setback if compared to the youth participation in the national dialogue.”

Prior to the uprising, donors and many international civil society organizations active in Yemen had focused on sustainable democracy programs that invested in people and empowered civil society. Today, the catastrophic economic situation and humanitarian crisis have led to a complete shift of focus from sustainable governance and democracy programs to humanitarian efforts. This was an abrupt and shortsighted change, as it failed to recognize the role of youth in organizing aid delivery, monitoring and evaluation, and reaching out to local communities.

Lack of sound programming and inclusion in political processes has also affected young people’s morale, as they feel they are being used as data points for a study rather than an actual partner in change. “For the past two years, I have spent time and money when requested to meet with foreign dignitaries but, when it comes to following up, they rarely engage,” said Said Al-Nadheri. “It is also alarming that the international community is narrowing their focus on a few Yemeni organizations that are patriarchal,” adding that they are “not inclusive in their programming” and work on things that fail to represent a broad spectrum of youth.

With the war soon to enter its fourth year, breaking the barriers to youth inclusion must start with supporting, engaging and funding various youth groups inside and outside Yemen. The young women and men who sparked change are still Yemen’s best hope of getting out of the current crisis. If the youths’ initial experience appeared myopic, the difficult risks they are incurring on the ground today as a result of their bitter experience and the civil war is making them more attuned to the political realities that they minimized in 2011. Trust and support for youth is essential in order to avert another miscalculated political gambit.

Source: arabnews.com/node/1262096/opinion


Mohammed Bin Salman and the Battle of London

By Abdul Rahman Al-Rashed

9 March 2018

The attempts of some Qataris, Iranians and their followers and leftist remnants have failed to foil the first visit of Prince Mohammed bin Salman as a crown prince to the UK, and denigrate his political and social plans.

Most of the politicians and journalists with an interest in Middle Eastern affairs have expressed admiration for his personality and plans.

First off the mark was British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, who praised “the reformist” crown prince in an Op-Ed in "The Times" newspaper, declaring that not just the UK, but the whole world should support the crown prince, whose plans are in all parties’ interests.

What can Sheikh Tamim, and his father — the real governor of Qatar — do besides attempting to save their French football team, Paris Saint-Germain, or tarnish the image of the Saudi guest?

The alternative program of Doha is to promote the Muslim Brotherhood and Hezbollah and other factions which have ruined the region since the radical Islamists took over the government in Iran in 1979.

The UK, usually reserved in taking decisive positions, was this time quite swift in its positive response to the crown prince. Most newspapers and political programs on TV were authentically positive, and most comments of the MPs and government officials at all levels supported Saudi Arabia.

The British government explicitly stated its support to the Kingdom's stance over Yemen, despite protests by some organizations and pro-Qatar and Iran groups.

Moreover, the British government supported Riyadh against the government in Iran and its dangerous activities in the region. A week before the visit, the UK led the consultations at the UN Security Council, aiming at blaming Iran for its military support to the Houthi militia in Yemen, a motion aborted only by a veto from Russia.

The importance of the visit of the crown prince is that it comes in the context of seeking support to the stance of Saudi Arabia and the coalition countries, in the face of relentless attempts to turn the Europeans — particularly the British — against it.

The war in Yemen has been reduced to humanitarian issues, rather than looking for the real source of the crisis and the suffering and the root cause of the problem, which is the coup against the legitimate government; the same government instituted by the decisions of the UN Security Council sponsoring a political solution in Yemen. The UK, however, has responded by acknowledging the real source of the crisis, i.e. the coup whose leadership is holding Yemen hostage.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman recognizes the importance of the Yemeni issue, and he is right to support the legitimate government and the Yemeni people, because the collapse of Yemen will have a ripple effect and lead to the collapse of the rest of the region and the prevalence of violence and chaos.

The goal is to destroy the "statelet" of Ansarallah-Houthi militia, and thus prevent a terrorist group from reigning over Yemen by force, which will no doubt spread and increase violence in the region.

Throughout the three-day "state visit," opponents attempted to turn the British capital into a confrontation arena and a challenge to the guest — but they did not succeed. They even tried and failed to take the issue of the war in Yemen to the streets of London after the British government refused to respond to them.

Most of the debates and reactions, in fact, focused on discussing the crown prince’s plans related to openness, empowering women and youth, combating extremism — including Iran’s threat — and reforming the economy in the framework of the new Saudi vision.

The visit has reaffirmed the role of Riyadh as an important regional center and a leader of positive change. The world wants to see rapid progress toward moderation, tolerance, coexistence and putting an end to extremism. Riyadh definitely has an important role to play, and it has just started.

Source: arabnews.com/node/1262266/opinion


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