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Aramco, Pensacola, Etc.

” Maj. Gen. Terrence J. McKenrick, US Army Central deputy commanding and Gen. Dhafer bin Ali Al-Shehri, Royal Saudi Land Forces northwest area commander, attend the Earnest Leader 17 closing ceremony held in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia on August 10, 2017.  “ U.S. Army photo by Master Sgt. Mark Hanson

Pensacola Shooting

After a Saudi graduate student opened fired on a U.S. Naval base Pensacola, with a handgun purchased inside Florida, condemnations rolled in across Twitter and the Kingdom’s op-ed pages.

The unanimity of the Saudi people, government, and King in condemning this cowardly criminal act, committed by a citizen of the Kingdom against a group of his colleagues at the military base, affirms that the Kingdom is a country of peace that believes in the right to life for every person on earth regardless of his affiliation. Abdullah bin Bakhit, Al-Riyadh, 12.10.2019

Editor of Okaz Jameel al-Dhiyabi, in a rare appearance on the paper’s op-ed pages, voiced similar comments on December 10.

Still, a few articles ventured slightly more conspiratorial interpretations about what had happened, in some cases coming close to echoing talking points in a recent Saudi government analysis paper leaked (likely by design) to the Washington Post.

Tweets… are subject to strict control from Twitter’s administration regarding their content. Those with terrorist and racist elements are hidden and the user’s account closed. So why wasn’t his account closed until after the crime was committed, and why these tweets were not announced until after the crime occurred? We can be sure that the perpetrator was like a time bomb, but it was a time bomb guided by elements who wanted to involve the Kingdom and its people in a terrorist crime, with the aim of branding them with extremism and terrorism. Muhammad Hassan Mufti, Okaz, 12.14.2019

On Twitter, some commentators were a bit bolder in their accusations – a not uncommon occurrence. In line with some takes that associated the shooter with the influences of the Muslim Brotherhood, some accused Al Jazeera of playing a role in radicalizing al-Shamrani:

Yes, the virus is still broadcasting #Pensacolashooting — عبدالرحمن الراشد (@aalrashed) December 8, 2019

Aramco IPO

Regarding the Aramco IPO, local commentary has been uniformly laudatory, highlighting the ends to which IPO revenues will be put and arguing that the IPO itself reflects the changing mindset and “way of doing business” laid out in some of the Crown Prince’s earliest commentary on the matter.

The IPO… is expected to provide adequate liquidity for the company’s owners [here, the Saudi government] and give it the financial leeway to expand important investments in oil and gas inside and outside the Kingdom, especially with positive announcements about reservoirs for gas in The Red Sea announced recently. It will also afford necessary liquidity for projects that are to be major economic engines, including: Al-Qidiyya, Neum, the Red Sea Islands, Al-Souda, Al-Ula, and Diriyah. These are all projects that need billions of riyals to invest, and will create hundreds of thousands of jobs [as well as] returns for the local economy and the state treasury. Muhammad al-Sa‘id, Okaz, 11.21.2019

#نجاح_اكتتاب_ارامكو يعني نجاح المشاريع الضخمة التي أعلنت عنها المملكة عبر صندوق الاستثمارات العامة : نيوم @NEOM القدية @qiddiya البحر الأحمر @TheRedSeaSA أمالا @WelcomeToAmaala — منصور الخميس 🇸🇦 (@MansourAlkhamis) December 11, 2019
Saudi Arabia does not have to sell a single share of “Aramco,” but the very idea expresses a different approach to state administration. It is something that everyone who visits Saudi Arabia now will notice and has visited before; a greatly changing country in all aspects of life and various activities. Abdel-Rahman al-Rashed, Asharq al-Aawsat, 11.28.2019

Another common theme was an effort to push back on Western skepticism regarding the IPO – particularly after several articles appeared in the Financial Times and New York Times expressing the challenges of securing the desired $2 trillion for the sale.

In all the Kingdom’s reforms, it faces no end of skepticism, as if the Saudis were unable to proceed with their projects until the end… [even after the close of the IPO] this doubt of the Saudi government’s ability to carry out this IPO was repeated in a thousand pictures and images. The international media scrambled… to prove that this offering is only an illusion, and that you, the Saudis, are doomed to failure.  Salman al-Dosary, Al-Sharq al-Aawsat, 12.8.2019

The article goes on to criticize several headlines related to the story.

“There is a direct relationship between improved governance and improved profits, and in the oil world we saw that in some of the most petroleum companies such as Sinopec, PetroChina, Statoil and many others… Proceeds from the sale of shares in Aramco will not go to the state treasury because it does not need this but rather the Public Investment Fund. This will enhance its investments, especially local ones, to encourage the private sector and create job opportunities.” Mazen al-Sudairi, Al-Riyadh, 12.12.2019

Other commentary, perhaps mindful of the Kingdom’s past history with volatile stock markets and IPOs, has cautioned that investing in Aramco shares should be a long-term

It is not for short speculative goals, and it is known that long investment is characterized by a greater degree of safety and less risk than short-term investments, and one of the fundamentals of investment is the realization that the assets invested in strong companies can generate continuous income for the investor and increase their value in the long run. Editorial, AlRiyadh, 12.12.2019


In unrelated news, one writer in Al-Watan lamented the limited impact of the Kingdom’s op-ed writers in comparison with online influencers.

There are strong indicators the ineffectiveness of opinion writers on influencing political, social or economic circles, or even in presenting a clear picture of the Saudi interior to external opinion. This may be due to current practices, either media as employment or writing as a hobby, rather than a professional media that relies on specialization in discussing thorny issues and topics. Opinion writing is still a timid attempt at some media professionalism and social responsibility. This timid movement is threatened by several factors, the most important of which were the opinion forums in the past, in which writings were posted anonymously or under pseudonyms, and social media at the moment. Awaji al-Naami, Al-Watan, 12.16.2019
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