Tag Archive: Atmariar Gulf


November 9, 2017

Saudi Arabian authorities have carried out further arrests and frozen more bank accounts under an expanding anti-corruption crackdown that was announced last Saturday against the Kingdom’s political and business elite, Reuters reported, quoting official sources.

Since the campaign kickoff, dozens of royal family members, officials and business executives have already been held in the purge. They face allegations of money laundering, bribery, extortion and exploiting public office for personal gain.

According to the sources, the anti-corruption authorities have also frozen the bank accounts of Prince Mohammed Bin Nayef, one of the most senior members of the ruling Al Saud, and some of his immediate family members.

Nayef, known as MbN, was ousted as Crown Prince in June when King Salman replaced him with the then Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Those who were held most recently include individuals with links to the immediate family of the late Crown Prince and Defense Minister Prince Sultan Bin Abdulaziz who died in 2011, the sources noted.

“Others appear to be lower-level managers and officials,” the sources told Reuters.

Since Sunday, Saudi Arabia’s central bank has been expanding the list of accounts it is requiring lenders to freeze on an almost hourly basis, according to an official banker, who preferred anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to media.

The number of domestic bank accounts frozen as a result of the purge is over 1,700 and rising, up from 1,200, the banker added.

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20171109-in-purge-crackdown-saudi-arabia-makes-fresh-arrests-freezes-royals-accounts/.

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November 08, 2017

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — French President Emmanuel Macron will be joining Arab leaders to inaugurate the new Louvre Abu Dhabi in the capital of the United Arab Emirates on Wednesday evening.

The museum marks a major cultural achievement for the UAE after a decade-long wait and questions about conditions that laborers on the project had faced. The artwork on display offers a brief history of the world and its major religions — without shying away from Judaism in a country that officially does not recognize Israel.

Museum officials say it also serves as a cultural bridge between the East and West. However, the conservative mores of Abu Dhabi, the UAE capital that’s more buttoned-up than freewheeling Dubai, can be seen in the relative absence of pieces depicting nudity.

“Here at the Louvre Abu Dhabi, we’ve accomplished history,” Mohamed Khalifa al-Mubarak, the chairman of Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority, said at a ceremony for journalists on Monday. “This museum is a lot more than just a museum.”

Designed by French architect Jean Nouvel, the modernist museum sits under a honeycombed dome of eight layers of Arab-style geometric shapes. It draws the lapping waters of the Persian Gulf into its outer corridors, allowing individual beams of light that pass through the roof to strike the surface and cast dancing reflections across the white walls. At night, light inside pours out like tiny little stars from a salt shaker against the city’s skyline.

“I imagine this metaphor of the sky, cosmic, cosmographic, with a random system like the stars itself,” Nouvel told The Associated Press. “I imagine that with not a lot of lighting, just a little bit to create a kind of rain of light.”

That rain has been a long time coming in this desert country, a federation of seven sheikhdoms on the Arabian Peninsula. Authorities first announced the project in 2007 as Dubai feverishly built the world tallest building and other wonders.

Today, much of Saadiyat Island, envisioned as a cultural district anchored by the museum, is still empty. A planned Middle East outpost of the Guggenheim remains unbuilt, with just a poured foundation on the salt flood plain.

Part of the reason is the drop in global energy prices from over $100 a barrel in 2014 to around $30 in early 2016. Abu Dhabi officials have not disclosed how much it cost to build the museum. What is known is that Abu Dhabi agreed to pay France $525 million for the use of the “Louvre” name for the next 30 years and six months, plus another $750 million to hire French managers to oversee the 300 loaned works of art. A center at Paris’ Louvre now bears the name of the late UAE President Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, which was also part of the deal.

During construction, the project faced intense criticism over laborer conditions amid low pay, long hours and the brutal UAE heat. A worker was killed in an accident in 2015 while another died of “natural causes” in 2016, according to Abu Dhabi authorities.

Hundreds working on projects on the island, including the Louvre, also were deported or lost their work visas for launching strikes over their conditions, according to a 2015 Human Rights Watch report. Labor strikes are illegal in the UAE.

Jean-Luc Martinez, the president-director of the Louvre in Paris, contends the museum spoke “very frankly” about laborer conditions. He described the museum as a bridge between Asia, Africa and Europe.

“We are not a European museum,” he told the AP. “It’s a place to see the world from Abu Dhabi.” The museum also makes a point to put the world’s religions side by side. In one exhibit, a Jewish funerary stele from France in 1250 sits next to a Tunisian Muslim’s funerary steel and a Christian archbishop’s stone epitaph from Tyre, Lebanon. A painted French stone statue of Virgin and Child stands by a section of a Syrian Quran dating to around 1250, open to a page recounting the night during the holy month of Ramadan when Muslims believe the holy book was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad.

In a darkened room, a page from the Blue Quran, one of the oldest ever found, sits near a Gothic Bible, Buddhist sutras and a Torah from Yemen dating to 1498. In a Middle East still torn by religious and sectarian conflict, whether between Sunni and Shiite or Israelis and the Palestinians, simply putting them side by side is a major statement.

For now at least, the museum’s exhibit ends with an installation by Chinese artist Ai Weiwei called “Fountain of Light,” an illuminated work of steel and glass that recalls the museum’s gleam at night.

2017-11-01

DUBAI – Kuwait’s emir reappointed his prime minister on Wednesday and asked him to form a cabinet, the official state news agency said on Wednesday, after the government stepped down earlier this week in an expected cabinet reshuffle.

The major oil producer has the oldest legislature among the Gulf Arab states and experiences frequent cabinet resignations amid tensions between the government and lawmakers.

Prime Minister Sheikh Jaber Mubarak al-Sabah had tendered his resignation on Monday.

Pan-Arab television channel Al Arabiya had earlier reported the news.

Source: Middle East Online.

Link: http://www.middle-east-online.com/english/?id=85708.

2017-11-03

MANAMA – A Bahraini citizen convicted of “insulting the king” and stripped of his nationality has been deported to Iraq after serving a two-year jail sentence, Amnesty International said on Friday.

Ibrahim Karimi was released from the notorious Jaw prison on Monday and “deported to Iraq the next day”, Amnesty said in a report.

He had served a sentence of two years and one month for allegedly “insulting the king” of Bahrain as well as Saudi Arabia and its ruler, and for possession of a stun gun.

Karimi was sentenced in 2016 but his citizenship had been revoked by the Bahraini authorities more than three years earlier.

Amnesty said Karimi had been found guilty of “publicly inciting hatred and contempt against the regime” and of “publicly insulting the king”.

He was also convicted of “insulting Saudi Arabia and its king” in a tweet, following the deadly 2015 collapse of a massive construction crane at the Grand Mosque in Mecca that killed more than 100 people.

Karimi has denied ownership of the twitter account.

Amnesty has described Karimi as a “prisoner of conscience”.

Authorities in Manama have stepped up prosecution of dissidents in recent months, granting military courts the right to try civilians for charges including terrorism as protests demanding an elected government in the Sunni-ruled monarchy near their seventh year.

Dozens of mostly Shiite protesters have been jailed and number of high-profile activists and clerics stripped of their citizenship since protests erupted in 2011.

Bahrain, a key ally of the United States and home to the US Fifth Fleet, accuses Shiite Iran of training “terrorist cells” that aim to overthrow the Bahraini government.

Iran denies the allegation.

Source: Middle East Online.

Link: http://www.middle-east-online.com/english/?id=85757.

October 13, 2017

PARIS (AP) — The election of UNESCO’s new chief has been narrowed down to two candidates, one from Qatar and the other from France. The winner to be selected on Friday will succeed outgoing Director-General Irina Bokova, whose 8-year term leading the U.N. cultural agency was marred by financial woes and criticism over Palestine’s inclusion as a member.

The final vote comes the day after the U.S. and Israel said they plan to pull out of the Paris-based organization over perceived anti-Israel bias. Qatar’s Hamad bin Abdulaziz al-Kawari and France’s Audrey Azoulay are vying to get the needed 30 votes from UNESCO’s executive board.

Arab countries have long wanted to lead the organization, but the Palestine issue has complicated the election. UNESCO’s general assembly will have to sign off on the board’s pick.

October 26, 2017

Several Israeli companies are in talks with the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia about business opportunities in the Kingdom’s new “smart city”, according to documents obtained by the Jerusalem Post.

The Israeli daily claims to have seen correspondence confirming economic cooperation between Arab diplomats and businessmen in Tel Aviv; Israeli firms will reportedly be competing under the table for billion-dollar contracts from the Saudi government.

“The Saudis are not so willing to cooperate with the Israelis formally, but … it’s much easier to create all kinds of cooperation on water, energy, ag-tech, food tech. This is the stuff that the prince of Saudi Arabia [Mohammed Bin Salman] wants to promote in the smart city,” said a source in Israeli venture capital who is familiar with the project.

On Tuesday, Saudi Arabia officially launched the NEOM, a developmental project to create an economic zone spanning the country and parts of Egypt and Jordan. Designed to free the Kingdom of its dependency on oil, it will focus on industries including water, biotechnology, food, advanced manufacturing and entertainment; at an estimated cost of $500 billion.

The project is part of Bin Salman’s 2030 economic vision for the country, which he has also promised will come with modernization.

The news comes amid increased rumors of a burgeoning relationship between Saudi Arabia and Israel; causing controversy in recent weeks. The normalizing of relations between the two countries remains a proposal that has repeatedly been rejected by the Saudi public.

Yesterday Major General Anwar Bin Majed Bin Anwar Eshki, a former government advisor, was reported to have confirmed suspected relations when he said diplomatic and intelligence cooperation between Saudi Arabia and Israel were solely based on non-political matters.

Last week, Israeli officials also confirmed that Bin Salman had secretly visited Tel Aviv in September. The suggestion was vehemently denied by Saudi officials who insist that settling the Palestinian issue must take place before any normalization of relations.

Last month, leaked documents by the Twitter account Mujtahidd spoke of the country’s plans to “accept Israel as a brotherly state”, causing widespread controversy. The rumors were again denied by state officials. But recent months have witnessed an informal economic rapprochement between Riyadh and Tel Aviv, with former Saudi businessmen and former senior officials visiting Israel.

Israel has also supported the current blockade imposed by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt on Qatar. Tel Aviv has repeatedly called on Doha not to host prominent Palestinian figures, a view now shared by Riyadh and Abu Dhabi.

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20171026-israel-companies-in-talks-to-invest-in-saudi-arabias-smart-city/.

September 23, 2017

ISTANBUL (AP) — The Turkish parliament on Saturday renewed a bill allowing the military to intervene in Iraq and Syria if faced with national security threats — a move seen as a final warning to Iraqi Kurds to call off their Monday independence referendum.

The decree allows Turkey to send troops over its southern border if developments in Iraq or Syria are seen as national security threats. Turkish officials have repeatedly warned the semi-autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government in Iraq to abandon its plans for independence.

Kurds are dispersed across Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran and lack a nation state. Turkey itself has a large ethnic Kurdish population and is battling a Kurdish insurgency on its own territory that it calls separatist.

The bill read in parliament Saturday listed combating Kurdish militants in Syria and Iraq and the Islamic State group as national security requirements for Turkey. It also emphasized the importance of Iraq and Syria’s territorial integrity and said “separatism based on ethnicity” poses a threat to both Turkey and regional stability.

Speaking in parliament, Turkish Defense Minister Nurettin Canikli likened Monday’s vote in northern Iraq to a brick that — if pulled out — could collapse an entire “structure built on sensitive and fragile balances.” The resulting conflict could be global, he warned.

Osman Baydemir, a lawmaker from the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party or HDP — the third biggest group in parliament — called the bill “a war mandate” and “a proclamation of enmity towards 40 million Kurds.” A dozen parliamentarians from the party are behind bars for alleged links to terror groups.

The HDP voted against the mandate Saturday. All other parties, including the main opposition Republican People’s Party, voted for it. Earlier Saturday, the Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim called the referendum “a mistake, an adventure.” He said Turkey would take diplomatic, political and economic measures according to “developments on the ground.” He added a cross-border military operation was also an option.

The renewed mandate is a combination of two previous bills that are based on a constitutional article on the “declaration of state of war and authorization to deploy the armed forces.” The Iraq Bill was passed in 2007 to combat outlawed Kurdish militants in northern Iraq to prevent attacks in Turkey. The Kurdistan Workers’ Party or PKK has its headquarters in Iraq’s Qandil mountains. Turkey, the United States and the European Union consider it a terror organization.

The Syria Bill of 2012 was in response to mortar attacks by Syrian government forces on a Turkish border town. The combined bill was passed in 2014 as IS waged a deadly campaign in Kobani, the Syrian Kurdish town on the Turkish border. IS failed to take over the town and the victory strengthened Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units or YPG, who are now a key U.S. ally against IS in Syria. Turkey, however, considers them a terror group.

The mandate has allowed Turkey to launch a cross-border military operation into northern Syria with Syrian opposition forces in August 2016 to clear its border of IS and YPG. Turkey’s air force has also been bombing targets in northern Iraq and Syria.

The Turkish military, meanwhile, said additional units joined this week’s previously unannounced exercises near the Iraqi border. The chief of staff also met his Iraqi counterpart in Ankara to discuss the Kurdish referendum and border security.

October 11, 2017

The number of cargo vessels arriving at Hamad Port in Doha rose by 47.3 per cent in August, Qatar News Agency has reported.

According to the Ministry of Development Planning and Statistics, the figure was 162 vessels carrying around 1.3 million tons of goods. The ministry’s monthly report showed that in the same period the total number of vessels in all of Qatar’s ports was just over 600, carrying about 3.9 million tons.

The Director of Hamad Port, Abdul Aziz Al-Yafei, announced last month that the port authority plans to accommodate more than 1,000 vessels by the end of this year, and about one million containers. Al-Yafie explained that work is underway to make Hamad Port a major re-export hub in the region.

The Hamad Port only opened officially on 5 September. It aims to acquire 35 per cent of the total Middle East trade by next year.

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20171011-number-of-cargo-ships-arriving-in-qatar-rises-by-47/.

2017-10-12

KHOBAR – Hunched over platters of dates and Arabic coffee, Saudi women raring to drive once a government ban ends next June signed up for another revolution — to be the kingdom’s first female cab drivers.

King Salman last month decreed that women will be allowed driving permits, a historic reform that could put not just millions of women behind the wheel but potentially many more into the workforce.

Sensing a lucrative opportunity, ride-hailing company Careem says it plans to hire up to 100,000 female chauffers to lure new clients in the gender-segregated kingdom.

This week, the company invited AFP to its first recruitment session in the coastal city of Khobar, which attracted a diverse crowd — from housewives to working women — who already have foreign driving licences.

“For years I felt helpless. My car would be parked outside and I could not drive,” said Nawal al-Jabbar, a 50-year-old mother of three, sipping coffee from a thimble-sized cup.

A chorus of hoots and claps erupted in the auditorium as the women, who learned about the recruitment by word-of-mouth, watched news footage on a projector screen of last month’s royal decree.

“It felt like we had woken up in a new Saudi Arabia,” Jabbar said.

An instructor stood next to the screen, holding up a smartphone to show the inner workings of the app.

The firm plans to add a new “Captinah” button to the app next June that would allow customers to choose women chauffeurs. The option will only be available to other women and families, Careem spokesman Murtadha Alalawi said.

Around 30 women registered for the event in Khobar.

Many arrived unaccompanied by men, something not commonly seen in a country where male “guardians” have arbitrary authority to make crucial decisions on behalf of women.

– ‘Rite of passage’ –

“This is a rite of passage for women,” said Sarah Algwaiz, director of the women chauffeurs program at Careem, referring to the reform.

“For women to drive their own cars signals autonomy, mobility and financial independence.”

The Gulf kingdom was the only country in the world to ban women from taking the wheel, and it was seen globally as a symbol of repression.

For decades, hardliners cited austere Islamic interpretations to justify the ban, with some maintaining women lack the intelligence to drive and that allowing them to would promote promiscuity.

“Society portrays women to be strong when it’s convenient and weak when it’s convenient,” said trainee Jabbar.

“I say if you can depend on a female doctor to deliver a baby, then you can depend on a woman to drive a car.”

The lifting of the driving ban has been widely credited to 32-year-old Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who styles himself as a modernizer in the conservative kingdom, where more than half the population is aged under 25.

Prince Mohammed has cracked down on dissent while also showing a rare willingness to tackle entrenched Saudi taboos such as promoting more women in the workforce.

Becoming a chauffeur would mean “extra income”, said Banain al-Mustafa, a 24-year-old medical lab technician who obtained her license while she was studying in West Virginia in 2015.

“I drove for two-and-a-half years,” she said, including once on her own in a nine-hour road trip from New York to West Virginia.

“If I can drive there, why not in my own country?”

– Cultural backlash –

The reform is in line with the kingdom’s Vision 2030 program that seeks to elevate women to nearly one-third of the workforce, up from about 22 percent now.

Authorities have highlighted the economic benefits of the reform as the kingdom reels from a protracted oil slump; Saudi families would no longer need foreign chauffeurs, often a major source of financial strain.

Riyadh is moving to bring female driving instructors from abroad, local media reported, and Princess Nourah University said it will inaugurate a women’s only driving school.

Authorities this week warned against violations of the ban until it is formally lifted after a woman was filmed driving out of a luxury hotel in Riyadh.

Careem said it would wait for government regulations to be formally announced before putting female recruits behind the wheel.

Its rival Uber is reportedly planning a similar initiative to recruit female drivers.

The new Careem recruits in Khobar were seemingly unperturbed by pockets of resistance from men or sexist comments on social media over women driving.

“Look at how women’s abayas have evolved — different styles and colours — despite strong resistance,” Jabbar said, referring to the traditional black gown.

“After a while, even women drivers will become a new normal.”

Source: Middle East Online.

Link: http://www.middle-east-online.com/english/?id=85362.

Moscow (AFP)

Oct 5, 2017

Saudi Arabia signed on Thursday preliminary agreements to buy S-400 air defense systems and receive “cutting edge technologies” from Russia during King Salman’s landmark visit to Moscow, the Saudi military industries firm said.

The agreement was announced as King Salman, who is on the first official trip to Russia by a Saudi monarch, and Russian President Vladimir Putin held talks at the Kremlin.

Under the agreements, Saudi Arabia is set to buy S-400 air defense systems, Kornet anti-tank guided missile systems and multiple rocket launchers.

These agreements are “expected to play a pivotal role in the growth and development of the military and military systems industry in Saudi Arabia,” Saudi Arabian Military Industries (SAMI), the Sunni state’s military industries firm said.

“The memorandum of understanding includes the transfer of technology for the local production” of the Kornet anti-tank guided missile systems, advanced multiple rocket launchers and automatic grenade launchers.

“In addition, the parties will cooperate in setting a plan to localize the manufacturing and sustainment of parts of the S-400 air defense system,” SAMI said.

The two countries also agreed on the production in Saudi Arabia of the Kalashnikov automatic rifle and its ammunition as well as educational and training programs for Saudi nationals.

“These agreements are expected to have tangible economic contributions and create hundreds of direct jobs,” the company said.

They “will also transfer cutting edge technologies that will act as a catalyst for localizing 50 percent of the Kingdom’s military spending.”

Rosoboronexport, Russia’s state-owned arms exporter, had no immediate comment on the agreements.

Source: Space War.

Link: http://www.spacewar.com/reports/Saudi_Arabia_says_to_buy_Russia_S-400_defence_systems_other_arms_999.html.