Tag Archive: Arabian Peninsula


September 17, 2018

The Qatari envoy yesterday inaugurated the Justice Palace complex in the central Gaza Strip.

Qatari Ambassador Mohamed Al-Emadi, head of the National Committee for the Reconstruction of Gaza, launched the 11 dunam (2.7 acre) site which cost $11 million to build and comprises the Supreme Judicial Council, the Supreme Court, as well as Appeal, First Instance and Reconciliation courts.Abdul Raouf Al-Halabi, president of the Supreme Council of the Judiciary in the Gaza Strip, praised Qatar’s efforts to complete the project and its continued support to the Palestinian people.

“I am pleased on behalf of myself and my colleagues in the Supreme Council of the Judiciary. We welcome your presence here,” he said.

Al-Halabi explained that this project is a major Palestinian landmark, “to begin through this moment the first stage of the march of judicial development in the Gaza Strip.”

He thanked the Qatari Ambassador and his team for their efforts and support to complete the project.

The National Committee for the Reconstruction of Gaza is carrying out a number of projects in the Gaza Strip as a part of $407 million grant from His Highness the Emir Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani.

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20180917-qatar-opens-courts-in-gaza/.

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September 13, 2018

Saudi Arabia is reported to have purchased the Iron Dome missile defense system from Israel signaling a rapprochement between the two countries, according to several diplomatic sources quoted in Al-Khaleej Online.

Saudi Arabia not only wants political convergence with Israel, said the sources, but also seeks to reach a level where it publicly purchases heavy and developed weapons from Tel Aviv like the UAE does.

Israeli-Saudi relations are the best they have ever been. Chief of staff of the Israeli army, General Gadi Eisenkot, recently said in an interview with the British-based Saudi Elaph newspaper that Israel was prepared to share intelligence with the Saudi side in order to counter Iran’s influence.

Moreover, a former senior official in the Israeli army revealed that he had recently had two meetings with two prominent Saudi emirs, who confirmed that Israel was no longer an enemy of Saudi Arabia.

The sources confirmed that Saudi Arabia has recently convinced Israel through very strong mediation by the United States during secret tripartite meetings in Washington to sell it its advanced Iron Dome system.

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20180913-saudi-arabia-buys-iron-dome-defence-system-from-israel/.

August 27, 2018

Saudi Arabia’s Mohammad Bin Salman has threatened to target women and children in Yemen with the Saudi-led Arab coalition despite international criticism, Al-Khaleej Online has reported.

According to an “informed source”, who asked not to be named, the Crown Prince issued his threat during a meeting with the coalition’s military commanders following the massacre in Hodeida earlier this month.

“Do not care about international criticism,” Bin Salman is alleged to have told his officers, a reference to the international condemnation of military operations against civilians in Yemen, particularly raids that kill women and children. “We want to leave a big impact on the consciousness of Yemeni generations. We want their children, women and even their men to shiver whenever the name of Saudi Arabia is mentioned.”

Bin Salman’s threats coincide with condemnation of the Saudi-led Arab coalition’s bombing of displaced civilians as they fled from the fighting in Hodeida province.

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20180827-bin-salman-threatens-to-target-women-and-children-in-yemen-despite-international-criticism/.

August 18, 2018

MECCA, Saudi Arabia (AP) — Saudi Arabia is preparing to host the annual hajj pilgrimage beginning Sunday, as over 2 million Muslim faithful are ready to take part in the ultraconservative kingdom. The pilgrimage represents one of the five pillars of Islam and is required of all able-bodied Muslims once in their life. In recent weeks, the faithful have arrived in Mecca from across the world, all chanting “Labayk Allahuma Labayk,” or “Here I am, God, answering your call. Here I am.”

The hajj offers pilgrims an opportunity to feel closer to God amid the Muslim world’s many challenges, including the threat of extremists in the Mideast after the Islamic State group was beaten back in Iraq and Syria and the plight of Myanmar’s Muslim Rohingya minority.

“My feeling is indescribable to perform the hajj,” said Imad Abdel-Raheem, an Egyptian pilgrim. “I also want to pray for all Muslim countries, for them to live free in all places, in Palestine and in Burma, in all places, in Afghanistan and in India.”

Maj. Gen. Mansour al-Turki, the spokesman of the Saudi Interior Ministry, told journalists Saturday that over 2 million Muslims from abroad and inside the kingdom would be taking part in this year’s hajj.

Men attending the hajj dress in only terrycloth, seamless white garments meant to represent unity among Muslims and equality before God. Women wear loose clothing, cover their hair and forgo makeup and nail polish to achieve a state of humility and spiritual purity.

Since arriving, many have circled the cube-shaped Kaaba in Mecca — Islam’s holiest site. The Kaaba represents the metaphorical house of God and the oneness of God in Islam. Observant Muslims around the world face toward the Kaaba during their five daily prayers.

Muslims believe the hajj retraces the footsteps of the Prophet Muhammad, as well as those of the prophets Ibrahim and Ismail — Abraham and Ishmael in the Bible. After prayers in Mecca, pilgrims will head to an area called Mount Arafat on Monday, where the Prophet Muhammad delivered his final sermon. From there, pilgrims will head to an area called Muzdalifa, picking up pebbles along the way for a symbolic stoning of the devil and a casting away of sins that takes place in the Mina valley for three days.

At the hajj’s end, male pilgrims will shave their hair and women will cut a lock of hair in a sign of renewal for completing the pilgrimage. Around the world, Muslims will mark the end of hajj with a celebration called Eid al-Adha. The holiday, remembering Ibrahim’s willingness to sacrifice his son, sees Muslims slaughter sheep and cattle, distributing the meat to the poor.

While a holy, once-in-a-lifetime experience for pilgrims, the hajj is by no means an easy journey. The temperature in Mecca and Mina will be around 42 degrees Celsius (107 degrees Fahrenheit). Pilgrims walk between 5 to 15 kilometers (3 to 9 miles) a day. Long lines and even longer waits can strain even the most patient as they weave through the throngs of people.

For Saudi Arabia, the hajj is the biggest logistical challenge the kingdom faces. Its ruling Al Saud family stakes its legitimacy in part on its management of the holiest sites in Islam. King Salman’s official title is the “Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques,” at Mecca and Medina. Other Saudi kings, and the Ottoman rulers of the Hijaz region before them, all have adopted the honorary title

The kingdom has spent billions of dollars of its vast oil revenues on security and safety measures, particularly in Mina, where some of the hajj’s deadliest incidents have occurred. The worst in recorded history took place only three years ago. On Sept. 24, 2015, a stampede and crush of pilgrims in Mina killed at least 2,426 people, according to an Associated Press count.

The official Saudi toll of 769 people killed and 934 injured has not changed since only two days afterward. The kingdom has never addressed the discrepancy, nor has it released any results of an investigation authorities promised to conduct over the disaster.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia also faces threats from al-Qaida militants and a local faction of the Islamic State group. Days earlier, the Interior Ministry acknowledged arresting a Saudi wearing an explosive vest in the kingdom’s central al-Qassim region who shot at security forces.

Politics often intrude into the holy pilgrimage. Saudi Arabia under King Salman and his son, the assertive 32-year-old Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, have had strained ties with Iran, which boycotted the 2016 hajj They will be there this year, as will Qataris, whose small country on the Arabian Peninsula is being boycotted by Saudi Arabia and three other Arab nations.

Meanwhile, a Saudi-led war in Yemen against Shiite rebels drags on without an end in sight. The rebels have fired over 150 ballistic missiles on the kingdom during a conflict that has seen Saudi airstrikes hit markets and hospitals, killing civilians.

And perhaps most surprising, Canadians recently found themselves in the cross-hairs of Saudi anger over their diplomats tweeting their desire to see detained women’s rights activists released. Those on the hajj said they hoped for better relations across the Muslim world.

“I hope this year would be a good one for the Islamic nations,” said Ahmad Mohammad, an Egyptian pilgrim. “I hope the situation will be better, and I ask Allah to accept my pilgrimage.” That was a feeling shared by Jordanian pilgrim Jehad Hussein.

“I pray to Allah to grant victory to all of them, the people of Palestine, the people of Gaza, Syria and all Arab countries. Allah willing,” she said.

August 27, 2018

Turkey’s weapons manufacturer and defense contractor, Roketsan, has developed the world’s most potent artillery, dubbed “Jobaria” at the request of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), local Turkish media reported yesterday.

Jobaria is a multiple cradle launcher that was first introduced at the International Defense Exhibition, which was held in the Emirati capital of Abu Dhabi in 2013. It consists of four rocket launchers attached to the trailer carrying 60 rockets, 122 millimeters each.

The Turkish artillery was listed as the world’s largest rocket launcher regarding the number of nozzles by the Guinness World Records for 2018.

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20180827-uae-purchases-worlds-largest-rocket-launcher-from-turkey/.

August 10, 2018

Qatar is set to be knocked off its perch as the richest country in the world by the Chinese gambling enclave of Macau.

For several years the gas rich Gulf state held the envious status of the richest country in the world. Its per capita GDP was around $127,600 a year ago, according to the International Monetary Fund and with Luxembourg quite a way off in second place, with $104,003, Qatar’s status seemed to have been safe.

However the global casino hub of Macau has reached parity with Qatar’s GDP per capita and is predicted to outstrip Qatar by 2020, with $143,116 per capita GDP, according to projections from the IMF. The prediction will put Macau ahead of the current No. 1 Qatar, which will reach $139,151 in the same timeframe.

A former Portuguese outpost on the southern tip of China, Macau has become a gambling capital since returning to Chinese control almost two decades ago.

It is the only place in China where casinos are legal, turning it into a magnet for high-rollers from the mainland. Macau’s gross domestic product has more than tripled from about $34,500 per capita in 2001, the IMF data shows.

The wealth gap between the two places is also expected to widen beyond 2020, with Macau’s GDP per capita set to reach $172,681 by 2023, according to data compiled from the April edition of the IMF’s Global Economic Outlook database. Qatar’s, meanwhile, will grow to just $158,117.

Small developed countries or regions are more likely to rank top of world rich lists when there are fewer people to divide the wealth. The per capita calculation works in favor of Macau, whereas the oil-rich nation of Qatar has a population of 2.57 million.

Qatar has also endured a period of sluggish economic growth as a result of sanctions imposed by its Gulf neighbors; Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain and Egypt. Doha’s economy has recovered but its ability to maintain the level of growth seen in past is unlikely to be repeated in the foreseeable future under the current climate.

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20180810-qatar-set-to-be-knocked-off-its-position-as-richest-country-in-the-world/.

August 06, 2018

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Saudi Arabia on Monday ordered the Canadian ambassador to leave the ultraconservative kingdom within 24 hours after his nation criticized the recent arrest of women’s rights activists.

The Saudi Foreign Ministry also said it would freeze “all new business” between the kingdom and Canada. Some 10 percent of Canadian crude oil imports come from Saudi Arabia. “Any further step from the Canadian side in that direction will be considered as acknowledgment of our right to interfere in the Canadian domestic affairs,” the Saudi Foreign Ministry said in an extraordinarily aggressive statement. “Canada and all other nations need to know that they can’t claim to be more concerned than the kingdom over its own citizens.”

It wasn’t immediately clear if Ambassador Dennis Horak was in the kingdom. Saudi Arabia said it would recall its ambassador to Canada as well. Marie-Pier Baril, a spokeswoman for Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland, said Canada was “seriously concerned” by Saudi Arabia’s actions.

“Canada will always stand up for the protection of human rights, very much including women’s rights, and freedom of expression around the world,” she said in a statement. “Our government will never hesitate to promote these values and believes that this dialogue is critical to international diplomacy.”

The dispute appears centered around tweets by Canadian diplomats calling on the kingdom to “immediately release” women’s rights activists recently detained by the kingdom. Among those recently arrested is Samar Badawi, whose brother Raif Badawi was arrested in Saudi Arabia in 2012 and later sentenced to 1,000 lashes and 10 years in jail for criticizing clerics. His wife, Ensaf Haidar, is now living in Canada.

Freeland tweeted about the arrests on Thursday. “Very alarmed to learn that Samar Badawi, Raif Badawi’s sister, has been imprisoned in Saudi Arabia,” she wrote. “Canada stands together with the Badawi family in this difficult time, and we continue to strongly call for the release of both Raif and Samar Badawi.”

Saudi Arabia ended in June its long practice of not allowing women to drive automobiles in the Sunni kingdom. However, supporters of women’s rights were arrested just weeks before the ban was lifted, signaling that only King Salman and his powerful son, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, will decide the pace of change.

Saudi women still need permission from male guardians to travel abroad or marry. The diplomatic dispute with Canada may be part of that assertive foreign policy pushed by Crown Prince Mohammed under his father. Germany similarly has found itself targeted by the kingdom in recent months over comments by its officials on the Saudi-led war in Yemen.

It isn’t immediately clear what new business could be affected between the two countries. Bilateral trade between the two nations reached $3 billion in 2016, with tanks and fighting vehicles among the top Canadian exports to the kingdom, according to government statistics.

Saudi Arabia in recent years has expelled Iran’s ambassador over attacks on its diplomatic posts following its 2016 execution of a prominent Shiite cleric.

Associated Press writer Rob Gillies in Toronto contributed to this report.

July 18, 2018

Samir Murad, Jordan’s Labor Minister, and Qatar’s Minister of Management Development, Labor and Social Welfare, Issa al-Naimi announced an agreement, Tuesday, to create 1,000 work places for Jordanians by September, Jordanian news agency Petra reported.

This agreement is part of the Qatari initiative to afford 10,000 work places for the Jordanian youths, the Jordanian minister said.

During a press conference in Doha, Murad said that Qatari government will issue visas for Jordanian job seekers.

Murad went on to say that both the Jordanian and Qatari ministries agreed to form a joint committee to follow up the issue. They will prepare a database for the Jordanian job seekers and make it available to Qatari employers.

Murad said that the Qatari initiative would help decrease unemployment rate in the Kingdom, which has reached 18.5 per cent (280,000).

Murad also said that Jordan would support Qatari efforts in the run up to World Cup 2022.

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20180718-qatar-recruits-jordanians/.

Mohammad Ersan

June 17, 2018

Ambiguity surrounds the financial mechanisms adopted by Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates at a June 11 summit in Mecca to help Jordan navigate through a crippling economic crisis. The kingdom’s debt has risen to record highs this year, totaling 96% of the gross domestic product, or $39 billion, while the unemployment rate rose to 18.5%.

The five-year, $2.5 billion package includes a deposit at the Central Bank of Jordan along with guarantees from the World Bank for Jordan to borrow funds and finance development projects. Jordanian authorities have not, however, made public the amount of the deposit, the terms of the guarantees or the share of the package allocated to development projects.

The offer of aid follows on the heels of protests that began May 30 opposing the government’s economic austerity policies and a draft income tax law. The demonstrators called for changes to the government’s economic approach and a halt to borrowing from international financial institutions, including the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The protests ended June 6, after Prime Minister Hani al-Mulki’s government resigned, and Mulki’s designated successor, Omar al-Razzaz, promised to withdraw the income tax legislation.

Given the timing of the Mecca summit, political analysts have been speculating why Saudi Arabia, which chose not to provide aid to Jordan in 2017, has decided to resume financial support to Amman at this particular time.

Bassam Badarin, a political analyst and director of Al-Quds al-Arabi in Amman, told Al-Monitor that the resumption of Gulf aid to Jordan is linked to concerns over possible instability. “Saudi [Arabia has] concerns about Jordan’s peaceful protests spilling over into Gulf countries, as happened with the Tunisian revolution, which later turned into the Arab Spring in 2011,” Badarin said.

In 2012, during the Arab Spring, the Gulf Cooperation Council provided financial support to Jordan that included a $5 billion package over five years to bolster the economy’s performance. Additional funding was not forthcoming after the expiration of that package in 2017, a decision that unidentified Jordanian officials say was punishment for Jordan taking positions inconsistent with those of Saudi Arabia on regional matters. The Saudis did not issue an official statement on why it cut the flow of aid to the kingdom.

Amer al-Sabaileh, a strategic analyst and director of the Middle East Media and Policy Studies Institute, told Al-Monitor, “Saudi Arabia is dealing with Jordan differently than it deals with Egypt, which has received a larger amount of aid. This is because of the estrangement between Jordan and Saudi Arabia driven by several issues, namely the Jerusalem issue and the Hashemites’ guardianship over the city’s holy sites, Jordan’s failure to ban the Muslim Brotherhood and Amman’s position on the blockade against Qatar, as Jordan only downgraded its diplomatic representation in 2017 [by withdrawing its ambassador in Doha].”

Jerusalem is a top priority for Jordan’s ruling Hashemite family, as the kingdom has administered all Muslim and Christian religious sites in Jerusalem’s Old City since the 1950s. Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia’s growing ties with Washington and Riyadh’s muted reaction to the US Embassy being moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem have led many in Palestine and Jordan to view Riyadh as placing Palestine, and the issue of Jerusalem in particular, on the back burner.

Sabaileh added, “[The aid] comes against the backdrop of Jordanian popular protests in order to help Jordan through its economic crisis, as [the Gulf] considers the kingdom a friendly country and not an enemy. At the same time, it is obvious that Jordan is no ally of the Saudis, given the minimal efforts made in this regard and the underwhelming amount of the aid.”

During a Jan. 31 meeting with students of the Prince Al Hussein Bin Abdullah II School for International Studies, King Abdullah II had said that the financial situation and economic pressure on Jordan persists because of its political positions, especially on Jerusalem, the idea being that a change in Amman’s stance could lead to offers to help ease the country’s economic problems.

Sabaileh ruled out the possibility of the Gulf aid being linked to Jordan ultimately accepting the so-called deal of the century for Israeli-Palestinian peace supposedly being finalized by Donald Trump’s administration. He reasoned, “Jordan is granting Palestinian refugees Jordanian nationality. Pressuring Jordan to either accept or reject [the deal] will not change a thing [in terms of aid].”

The more than 2 million Palestinian refugees in Jordan constitute the highest percentage, 40%, of those registered in the five areas of operation of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, according to the kingdom’s Department of Palestinian Affairs. Jordan has reservations about Trump’s forthcoming peace plan based on fears that it might revoke the Palestinians’ right of return or pressure Amman into accepting a confederation with the West Bank excluding Jerusalem — that is, Jordan becoming an alternative country for Palestinians at the kingdom’s expense. Such a proposal would be met with great anger by indigenous Jordanians.

Labib Kamhawi, a political affairs expert and writer for the London-based Al-Rai Al-Youm, takes a different position on the resumption of Gulf assistance. “Some Arab countries felt bad about their financial blockade of Jordan in terms of causing instability there, and thus in the region as a whole, which could adversely affect future plans contained in the so-called deal of the century, which requires a high degree of stability in both Palestine and Jordan,” he told Al-Monitor. Kamhawi was referring to Jordan’s traditional backers — including Saudi Arabia, the United States and the UAE — reducing aid allowances to the kingdom in recent years, including US threats to cut aid to countries that voted in favor of the resolution condemning the Jerusalem move at the United Nations.

He said, “Stability is a prerequisite for the success of the so-called deal of the century, since so far it is only a set of ideas going back and forth between parties.”

Zaki Bani Irsheid, deputy general controller of the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan, also ruled out any link between Gulf aid and Jordan’s acceptance of a peace plan. He told Al-Monitor that the aid was, however, linked to the popular protests in the country. “All solutions, disputes, grants, aid and internal and external borrowing are mere temporary efforts to ease the pressure of the present crises without considering what the future might hold for Jordan,” Irsheid noted.

Khalid al-Zubaidi, a Jordanian writer and economist, told Al-Monitor that he does not believe the Gulf aid package will boost the economy, because it is rather “insignificant.” He called the distribution of aid between deposits and guarantees “vague.”

Zubaidi said, “The amount offered is modest compared to Jordan’s $11 billion budget, and the Gulf support was expected to be even greater, so the Mecca summit’s gesture was more one of moral support than financial.”

Source: al-Monitor.

Link: https://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2018/06/jordan-saudi-arabia-aid-deal-of-the-century.html.

March 15, 2018

Qatar signed yesterday a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Iraq to strengthen security cooperation between the two countries, the Qatar News Agency (QNA) has reported.

The agreement aims to enhance security cooperation and exchanging information and experiences between Qatar and Iraq.

“The MoU between the Qatar and Iraq aims at further joint security cooperation and regulates the coordination process between the two countries, as well as the exchange of information and experience, as Iraq accumulates experience in the security field,” QNA quoted the country’s head of public security, Major General Saad Bin Jassim Al Khulaifi, as saying.

He further explained that it will cover all security-related areas, including training and exchange of information in the field of combating terrorism, money laundry, combating counterfeiting, organised crime, drugs and human trafficking as well as all security of ports and airports.

Praising the “close cooperation between the two countries in all fields,” Al Khulaifi noted that the two parties intend to form a joint committee of specialists to follow up and monitor the implementation of the MoU’s provisions.

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20180315-qatar-iraq-sign-security-cooperation-agreement/.