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Riyadh Agreement and Aramco IPO (11/4 to 11/11)

Riyadh Agreement

One of the top stories for local media and commentary was the signing of the Riyadh Agreement, which “ended a three-month standoff that threatened to split the anti-Huthi bloc.” (Peter Salisbury, ICG). A wide range of commentary presented this is a major diplomatic triumph for the Kingdom:

Yemen could have been tossed into the unknown, but the patience and wisdom of Saudi Arabia on the Yemeni file has led to the historic Riyadh agreement that could pave the way for resolving the Yemeni crisis if [all parties] commit to its implementation. Hamood Abo Taleb, Okaz, 11.7.2019

And from Al-Riyadh, a sense that this provides Yemeni parties with an opportunity… but that the responsibility is theirs to “finish the fight” in re-taking the country:

Everyone agrees that the ball is currently in the Yemeni court in light of the sincere intentions of the solution to everyone. This agreement confirms that they can speak as one despite their various components, and that they can keep away from internal divisions and side battles far the main issue. It shows that they can join hands and cooperate to preserve the achievements of Yemen, its unity and its sovereignty, while rejecting Iran’s sectarian plans and putting Yemen’s interest above all else. Editorial, Al-Riyadh, 11.7.2019

In a few places, commentators made sure to note that the agreement (with the prominent participation of the UAE) put paid to past sniping on social media (covered here on this site) and suggestions that the KSA-UAE alignment was facing trouble.

The Riyadh agreement provides a framework for managing disputes between Yemenis proposes solutions for them. The ultimate goal is to end the coup situation represented by Houthis in Sana’a, and this requires uniting [Yemeni] ranks and integrating various capacities and energies! If politicians have played their part in sitting at the dialogue table and displaying wisdom in responding to calls for resolving disputes, media personalities and social media activists should demonstrate the same wisdom…. Khaled Al-Suleiman, Okaz, 11.7.2019

See also:

[T]he participation of Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed lays to rest and claim casting doubt on the coalition’s cohesion and its intent to save Yemen from its conspirators. Khalid al-Malik, Al-Jazirah, 6.11.2019

The usual crowd of nationalist commentators praised the agreement as signalling a new era in the conflict – and an example of the Kingdom’s effectiveness in international negotiations (vs the UN and others):

ما السر الذي يجعل وساطة الامم المتحدة تطيل من أمد الصراعات في الوقت الذي اثبتت فيه التجارب نجاح الوساطة السعودية في التوصل الى اتفاق توقع عليه الاطراف المتناحرة؟! الأمم المتحدة وسيط محياد أم طرف منحاز؟#اتفاق_الرياض — مشعل الخالدي (@meshaluk) November 5, 2019

While others used the occasion to blame Qatar and Iran for the original divisions:

#المجلس_الانتقالي اشترك في الهجوم عليه #الإخوان و #رجيع_الثورات ففشلا فشلاً ذريعاً اليوم بعد #اتفاق_الرياض يظهر العدو الحقيقي من كانوا يعملون لصالحه بهجومهم على المجلس وعلى الحلفاء. — منذر آل الشيخ مبارك (@monther72) November 6, 2019

Aramco IPO

The major story in terms of domestic policy (albeit with a significant international component) has been the finalizing of details for an Aramco IPO, which has been a long time coming. Commentary tended to present the IPO as a key step in the country’s economic transformation, but also as a great deal for Saudi investors:

It is our national company, and our ownership is in the full benefit of our Saudi economy, and achieves solidity in our path towards diversifying the sustainable economy away from the global fluctuations in oil prices, and thus we are transforming from a rentier society to a productive society… Do Saudi individuals subscribe or not? The answer here is clear from the above context, and through the incentives offered to Saudis only for free shares… Mohammed Sabaan, Okaz, 11.5.2019

And from the Kingdom’s main econ paper:

The Vision is the cornerstone of the entire domestic scene, as it encompasses all fields. In the past few years, it has attraced major investors seeking a stake in this huge economic project… [I]nvestors will have sustainable and growing dividends despite the volatility of oil prices [in the coming years]. In addition, there are real temptations for shareholders, including bonus shares for every 10 shares they buy on subscription, up to 100 bonus shares. This is also an important opportunity for anyone wishing to own shares of this giant. Editorial, Al-Eqtisadiyah, 11.4.2019

At times, this commentary has veered into the kind of boosterism that Anuj Chopra noted in his look at Saudis scrambling to raise cash to buy shares:

Aramco’s public offering through Saudi banks is a great opportunity for safe investment on a platter, which means putting Saudi Arabia’s most precious jewel in history with its people to make their profits directly, and this is a clear indication of the keenness of the decision maker to benefit The Saudi citizen before investing in the wealth of his country and be a true partner in the capabilities of his country… The matter does not need recommendations or economic advice. There is simply no company of this size profitability in the whole world, that can be so easily taken in hand. Whoever misses the IPO train will miss a great benefit that others are undoubtedly worthy of… Hani al-Dhaheri, Okaz, 11.6.2019

This boosterism has in turn attracted a fair number of scammers and suspicious Twitter accounts aimed at encouraging people to buy shares through their specific services…

أرامكو السعودية تستهدف بدء طرحها العام الأولي المزمع في 3 نوفمبر.#أرامكو #سعودي — Boost724 (@Boost724) October 30, 2019

Which has inspired warnings from social media commentators…

اتصالات مكثفة بارقام سعودية تتواصل مع ارقام المواطنين تدعي انها جهات استثمار وتدعوهم لدفع مبالغ تحت عنوان اكتتاب ارامكو…نصابين نصابين نصابين ولو تعلقوا باستار الكعبة…انتبهوا تكفون لا يوجد اكتتاب سوى عن طريق البنوك السعودية فقط والبنوك ماتتصل عليك ابداً — أحمد ميكافيلي🇸🇦 (@KsaBanker) November 6, 2019

And mockery from some of the Kingdom’s cartoonists:

#كاريكاتير ترويج الاحتيال.. — فهد الخميسي (@fahad_khamisi) November 1, 2019
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