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  • andrewmleber

Omnibus (May and June 2020)

Saudi Flag on mountainside, author photo, Ad-Dayr, Jazan, KSA (Oct. 2019)

It’s been more difficult than I thought to keep up with this, so this is a fairly haphazard dump of links to commentary for the past month or so.


3 years on from the start of the Gulf rift, double-header op-eds from leading Aawsat columnists Salman al-Dosari and Abdelrahman al-Rashed

What saddens Qatar is not only the isolation it has been living in for three years, but its inability to practice its previous policies. These were based on exploiting its relations with its neighbors in support of terrorist organizations and groups, endeavoring to destabilize security and stability in the region. Salman al-Dosari, Asharq al-Aawsat, 6.6.2020


 Qatar will not stop its hostile activity that has continued since the 1990s. It has not stopped even during the years of pretending of friendship and brotherhood. Doha will lie to the Americans, as it lied to the Kuwaiti mediator that it is ready to turn a blank page. All that it did last time was to transfer most of the groups hostile to the quartet, that it was hosting in Doha, to Istanbul, and there sponsored the budgets of their activities – but claiming that they left Doha! The unfortunate fact is that the Qatar system is a chronic, incurable disease, and hence the boycott is the least harmful option. Abdelrahman Al Rashed, Asharq al-Aawsat, 6.6.2020

See also complaints in Okaz about Qatar’s double-dealing at the UN (5/12) and questions of whether the Qatari government drives Al Jazeera’s coverage or vice versa (6/1).


There has been an uptick in discussions about how much patriotism might be too much patriotism on Saudi Twitter. I put some of this together in a thread already:

.@alekhbariyatv report on "phantom accounts" who "slander… threaten, dig up dirt on, all the way up to ganging up on and accusing of betrayal" any Saudi Twitter users whose views they disagree with – leading to ending "family or professional lives for many people." 🧵 (1/?) — Andrew Leber (@AndrewMLeber) June 15, 2020

Others have chimed in to criticize the use of patriotism as a weapon against other Saudi citizens online:

“Patriotism is one of the best and most noble values, and its finest manifestations are in deeds. But one of its most extreme and negative manifestations is leading its owners to install an Inquisition, out-bidding each other with accusations of treason. Here, patriotism loses its desired function as a fuel for building and defending the homeland, and it becomes a wrecking ball that breaks down the internal social fabric.” – Dr. Abdullah bin Khalid, Asst. Prof at Nayef U of Security Studies

الوطنية من أنبل القيم وأسماها، وأرقى ترجماتها تكون بالأفعال. لكن أحد أكثر تجلياتها المتطرفة سلبية وتدمير يقود بأصحابه لنصب محاكم التفتيش والتخوين والمزايدات. هنا تفقد الوطنية وظيفتها المرغوبة كوقود لبناء الأوطان والدفاع عنها، وتتحول إلى معول هدم يفتّت النسيج الاجتماعي الداخلي. — عبدالله بن خالد (@AbdullahKhaledS) June 15, 2020

“To clarify: I am against being attacked or abused by any citizen or official, and I do not support any account that does this, and this is my main objection to the “Crows of Twitter” (#غربان_تويتر). They turned into a Paparazzi against the citizen and the homeland, and if there is an error or mistake in me because of the many requests that I receive, please alert me to apologize.” – Saleh al-Osimi, linguistice professor at Imam University.

للتوضيح: أنا ضد التعرض بالتهجم أو الإساءة لأي مواطن أو مسؤول،ولاأؤيد أي حساب يقوم بذلك،وهذا اعتراضي الأساسي على #غربان_تويتر التي تحولت إلى Paparazzi باباراتزي ضدالمواطن والوطن،وإذا حدث مني سهو أو خطأ لكثرة ما يردني من منشن فأرجو تنبيهي للاعتذارعلناولكم الشكر#اللسانيات_الجنائية — أ.د.صالح بن فهد العصيمي (@salehosaimi) May 28, 2020

“The Crows of Twitter seek to take over the Twitter arena and delude their followers in claiming they are supported by the state. They framed the news report as an attack on the Saudi Tweeter. The episode was talking about betrayal, racism and plagiarism. Only the Crows, and those who received their Retweets, and [the Qatari regime] benefited.”

يسعى #غربان_تويتر للانفراد بالساحة التويترية ويوهمون متابعيهم بطرق مُبطنه أنهم مدعومين من الدولة حوروا تقرير الاخبارية بأنه هجوم على المغرد السعودي الحلقة كانت تتحدث : عن التخوين والعنصرية وانتحال صفة الدولة لم ينزعج الا #غربان_تويتر والمستفيدين من ريتويتهم و #تنظيم_الحمارين — أحمد بن ناقي (@Ahmadbinnaqi) June 16, 2020

“The people of the Kingdom are represented by 30 million lovers of coexistence, people of magnanimity and generosity on the ground, not a few racists whose hate on Twitter is driven by agendas and goals that offend and distort our values, our people, and our social peace. Our identity is all of Saudi Arabia, our first value is honoring guests, and our motto is coexistence!” – Haila al-Mushawwah, Okaz columnist

شعب المملكة يمثله 30 مليون من محبي التعايش وأصحاب الشهامة والكرم على أرض الواقع ، لا ثلة من العنصريين الكارهين في تويتر تحركهم الأجندات والأهداف المسيئة والمشوهة لقيمنا وشعبنا وسلمنا الاجتماعي. هويتنا جميعاً هي السعودية ، وقيمتنا الأولى إكرام الضيف ، وشعارنا التعايش! — هيلة المشوح (@hailahabdulah20) June 12, 2020

The controversy has reached off Twitter as well

We regret that some patriotic tweeters have reached the point of interstate wars and Twitter assassinations, outbidding each other in accusations of betrayal, even among themselves… From the view of security and sound advice, these “crows” should stop by themselves. Those who claim patriotism and defend the country should only be allowed to tweet explicitly in their real name, bearing legal responsibility, in the fight against fake accounts. Issa al-Ghaith, al-Watan, 6.15.2020

United States

Considerable discussion about the anti-racism, anti-police violence protests that followed the killing of George Floyd in the United States. I already summarized a lot of this here for AGSIW- yet there is far more coverage of the upcoming US election.

For a lot of commentators, the thought of a Trump loss in November is deeply concerning. In rough order of decreasing alarm… First, Muhammad Sa’id at Okaz.

It is important to understand the bitter bitterness of the American left, as it has lost its “dream” that exploded during the administration of President Barack Obama. The left and neoliberals believe that they are envoys to change the world and create it according to their vision, concepts and values, and whoever accepts those values “​​enters the club” and becomes an ally that is protected through their organizations and media. In their orbit, for example, is Turkey and the Brotherhood. Whoever rejects [the left] or adopts hostile projects, it starts wars [against them] and incites against them, and possibly carries out military assassinations. Muhammad Sa’id, Okaz, 6.1.2020
Biden is expected to issue a package of decisions in the coming days and weeks that will determine the features of US relations with the world and the Middle East, adopting an extreme leftist line and opposing conservative forces. Among the most important of them is the abandonment of traditional allies, despite the seriousness of this step on the political and economic track, and support for revolutions and protests and the forces of the left and the Brotherhood. These are trying to adopt another round of the so-called Arab Spring that the Arab peoples themselves have halted when they discovered that the protests were merely rearranging interests in the Middle East at the expense of its security and stability… Muhammad Sa’id, Okaz, 6.4.2020

And then Mishari al-Thaydi – one of more than a few commentators who continues to view Obama as the puppetmaster behind all US politics at present.

 Trump repeatedly opened fire against Obama, days after reports expressing Obama’s concern about the Justice Department’s decision to drop the case against former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn – considering that the rule of law in the country is in danger! This is an unfamiliar behavior from a former president, and according to media reports, questions are being raised about leaked calls that show Obama’s intention to spoil the Trump administration and “implicate” it in espionage cases… Our media must take into consideration what our true interests are, i.e. the interests of the Arabs who are opposed to seeing Obama in foreign policy… Asharq al-Aawsat, 5.20.2020
Trump’s victory in a second term is a disaster for the “globalist” Obama camp that leads an international cross-border alliance including many leftist currents and Muslim Brotherhood groups, in addition to Khomeinist groups (we always remember John Kerry’s defense of Iran and Ilhan Omar’s defense of Iran, Qatar, and Turkey .. for example). Asharq al-Aawsat, 5.29.2020
This contradiction will disappear when you know that the guiding star of the “Obama” American media is not to protect people from “Corona”, nor to achieve justice for police victims, but rather to inflame anything that would end the current American era and destroy it and sabotage it. Asharq Al-Aawsat, 6.1.2020

See also Thaydi’s breathless commentary on the social-media war over Trump (6/5) and the terrors of Antifa (6/3), as well as signal-boosting commentary from Al-Arabiya about “Obama’s revenge” (5/22). Or Salman al-Dosari for a more measured take on Twitter’s decision to label the President’s tweets (5/31).

From Tarek Humayd:

Trump’s “fall”, or his departure, means weakened strong ties with Saudi Arabia, the Emirates, and Egypt. This means that [opposition groups] want to record political losses against the moderate and influential countries, which these groups see as impeding their dream of the Arab Spring, and so they dream of a return Democrats, and Trump’s departure. Okaz, 6.4.2020

And a surprisingly measured take from Hani Dhaheri in Okaz

President Trump relied on projecting normalcy in the face of the Corona disaster instead of working to address it realistically. Tens of thousands of Americans die and lose their jobs every day while he chants “China is the reason … ask China.” This policy may succeed in normal times, but it has totally failed in times of major crisis. This was quickly reflected in the results of opinion polls related to the 2020 presidential elections, as it showed the lead of Democrat Joe Biden for the first time. Okaz, 5.31.2020


Complaints about the Hadi government amid the May donor’s conference:

It would be absurd if the legitimate government were relied upon entirely to make use of these grants and aid because it is not present in Yemen. Its representatives there are ineffective, with great suspicions raised about their military, administrative, and humanitarian performance. As for the international supervision of the Yemeni issue in all its aspects, it is not honest and we have seen it stand by and sometimes supported the Houthis in their sinking all opportunities for peaceful solutions, and their seizure of aid. Hamood Abu Talib, Okaz, 6.2.2020
And support for the Saudi government’s role in supporting Yemen: In order to achieve all its goals and aspirations, the Kingdom will not hesitate to throw its full political and humanitarian weight behind them. In addition, it invests through its international relations, urging donor countries to support Yemen and its people. This matter will need to increase global awareness of the nature of the humanitarian crisis in Yemen and what the situation has reached there, especially amid the Corona pandemic. Editorial, Al-Riyadh, 6.2.2020

To be expanded when I find more time…

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