Iran, Aramco, and Other Things
“How do we attack Saudi Arabia?” – Fahad al-Khamisi, Al-Eqtisadiah, 11.19.2019
Iran has been a consistent topic of discussion in recent weeks, owing to the framing of uprisings in Lebanon and Iraq as anti-Iranian revolts, protests within Iran itself, and lengthy investigations involving leaked documents that ran in the NYTand the Intercept this past week.
The protests within Iran were a “Red Card for the Mullahs” (Abu Taleb, Okaz, 11.19.2019) while the leaked documents “confirmed what was already known” about Iran’s nefarious activities (Abu Taleb, Okaz, 11.20.2019).
As Al-Riyadh put it in covering the findings, the leaks were:
nothing but evidence of what HRH Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud… said in an interview with The Atlantic magazine a year ago… in which he stressed that there are axes of evil in the region seeking to destabilize regional and international security and peace, namely Iran and the Muslim Brotherhood… Jasser al-Saqri, Al-Riyadh, 11.22.2019
[The documents] proved that the… Kingdom is subjected to an organized [effort] planned for many years, which even amounted to hold secret summits and intelligence conspiracies involving the three different parties united by hatred of Saudi Arabia, considering it a “common enemy” them… Salman al-Dosari, Al-Sharq al-Aawsat, 11.21.2019
Additionally in Aawsat, the suggestions that protests within Iran will undermine Iran’s ability to project power in the region or build popular support at home:
In my opinion, this wave will not uproot the regime for its willingness to commit massacres as it did in Syria in order to survive, but with this anger and protests will destroy the basis of support for the regime, or what remains of it, among its citizens. Even if he emerged unscathed, he became weaker than at any stage in the history of the Republic of the Ayatollahs. Iran has ended the revolution that once dominated everything at home and threatened everything abroad. Abdel Rahman al-Rashed, Al-Sharq al-Awsat, 11.23.2019
Discussion of Qatar in the Saudi press appears to be down amid rumors of some kind of reconciliation. Things haven’t quite halted online, though, where anti-Qatari sentiment still flares up from time to time.
For example, while a Fox News report from a fellow at FDD claimed to reveal Qatari prior knowledge of various Iran-linked attacks on Gulf shipping lanes over the summer, this report has been all but absent from Saudi outlets – where normally it would be the basis for much coverage and commentary.
This hasn’t stopped some online folks from sharing the news, however:
بعد تقرير Fox News عن علم #قطر المسبق بعمليات فيلق القدس الارهابية في مياه خليج عُمان، اعضاء في برلمانات اوروبية يطالبون بالتحقيق وقرروا ارسال اسئلة لوزارة الدفاع الفرنسية لمعرفة خطر تلك الانشطة على وجود القوات البحرية الفرنسية في الخليج. https://t.co/gOZrOIgchm — بن هباس 🇸🇦 (@5a1di) November 20, 2019
Likewise, comments from former Qatari Foreign Minister Hamad bin Jassim about how the rift had “harmed the region” sparked responses from Saudi commentators such as “Look what happened to Qatar between following Turkey and [promoting] Iranian hegemony!”
إن كنت تعتقد أن المقاطعة أضرت المنظمة، انظر إلى قطر كيف وصل بها الحال بين التبعية التركية، والهيمنة الايرانية، فاتك القطار! https://t.co/b2foGnzYAs — خالد المطرفي (@Almatrafi) November 22, 2019
Or bringing up a sexual harassment case settled against the Qatari ambassador in London:
كيسنجر ام صلال، بما انك مسجل في لندن كدبلوماسي في السفارة، ودنا لو تشرح لنا دورك في فضيحة الابتزاز الجنسي للموظفة البريطانية التي كسبت قضيتها ضدكم؟! هل امرت فهد المشيري لتنسيق حفلات الجنس الجماعي نيابة عنك؟! https://t.co/czvbHCu8Mq — مشعل الخالدي (@meshaluk) November 22, 2019
The past week did not bring great news for those organizing, or hoping to benefit from, the Aramco IPO. At home, though, commentary was still upbeat:
We say that the Aramco IPO indicators are very successful, and the goals are achieved successively. When the vision is achieved, the Kingdom will have an ideal economic sector to follow, and the average citizen and businessman will find before them all the motivating elements and facilities required to invest their savings in the ideal form. Editorial, Al-Riyadh, 11.11.2019
Not to mention the opportunities for the average citizen:
The details of the prospectus reflect the leaderships’ keenness that the citizens should be at the forefront in benefiting from the IPO. The circle of eligible beneficiaries has therefor been extended to include naturalized Saudi persons, including divorced Saudi women and widows with children from a non-Saudi spouse. Editorial, Al-Riyadh, 11.19.2019
Others discussed the ends to which IPO proceeds would be utilized:
[I]t is expected to provide adequate liquidity to the owners of the company [the Saudi government] and provide financial cover for… projects that are important economic drivers as: Al-Qidiyya, Neom, the Red Sea project, Al-Souda [mountains], Al-Ula, and Diriyah, all of which require billions of riyals to invest but will generate hundreds of thousands of jobs. This business will at in turn generate returns in favor of the local economy and the state treasury. Muhammad al-Sa’id, Okaz, 11.21.2019
Muhammad al-Sa’id, Okaz, 11.21.2019
Okaz has, as usual, featured a range of thoughts on various policies throughout the Kingdom.
On a proposed new university law, which will offer Saudi universities more flexibility in course offerings yet require them to come up with new sources of funding:
[W]e do not have the luxury of time in a rapidly developing world. Senior professors have dropped out of universities because of poor incentives and limited promotions, and we have wasted this rich experience and scientific expertise within the nation. These academics’ participation in university councils benefits the educational process by balancing the wisdom of the elders among them – so to speak – with the youth who are the mainstay of the future Ibrahim al-Katbi, Okaz, 11.23.2019
On youth unemployment, repeating a common trope that young Saudi men are hut by various policies designed to promote women’s employment – a reminder that equality always looks like oppression to somebody:
[T]he market was flooded with female elements without considering [their] educational qualifications, all under the name of career openness and the “feminization” project, to the detriment of the employment of young men who have been waiting around for phantom jobs, knowing since graduation that foreign workers are the ones who sit in government and service offices despite the availability of qualified Saudi staff capable of managing the work efficiently and competently. Al Sharif Khalid bin Zayed, Okaz, 11.22.2019
Muhammad Sa’id, Nov 21 – On housing, a major concern for young Saudi men, a note of encouragement for Housing Minister Majid al-Hogail, who once infamously called the Kingdom’s housing problem a “problem of thought” in suggesting that people needed to revise their expectations about appropriate housing:
I will continue to reiterate the statement of the Minister of Housing that the problem of housing is a “problem of thought,” a statement that was not accepted by the traditional thought of Saudi society and has been attacking for a… All these achievements [of Minister and Ministry] confirm that the new thinking to address the housing crisis has turned into realistic programs of action and enables the fulfillment of the aspirations and promises of leadership to society. Majid Qarub, Okaz, 11.22.2019
And the challenges of agricultural production for smallholders in the Kingdom’s rural areas:
But the picture there is not rosy for the olive producers and the road ahead is not only unpaved paved, but often impassable. Olive producers from farms and small and medium enterprises are victims of unfair competition with the owners of agricultural giants, whose owners, after the government’s decision to ban the production of animal feed, switched from the production of animal feed to olive cultivation. Abd-Al Latif al-Duwaihi, Okaz, 11.19.2019