Saudi Arabia Slams Iran’s Ongoing Deception over Nuclear Program

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Saudi Arabia Slams Iran’s Ongoing Deception over Nuclear Program

Tuesday, 12 November, 2019 – 12:45
King Salman bin Abdulaziz chairs a cabinet meeting in Riyadh. (SPA)
Asharq Al-Awsat
The Saudi government slammed on Tuesday Iran’s ongoing deception related to its nuclear program.

Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz chaired the cabinet meeting that was held in Riyadh.

The cabinet hailed the efforts of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in monitoring the program, condemning Tehran for its stalling and maneuvering in providing necessary information to the watchdog.

Iran must cooperate fully with the agency and respect IAEA inspectors, stressed the cabinet.

Turning to Yemen, it praised the signing of the Riyadh agreement last week between the legitimate government and Southern Transitional Council. King Salman sponsored the deal and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense, presided over the signing ceremony that was held in Riyadh.

Saudi Arabia continues to support all efforts to achieve the security and stability of Yemen, lauding the parties for prioritizing their nation’s and people’s interests.

The cabinet highlighted Crown Prince Mohammed’s remarks at the signing ceremony in which he said the Kingdom has been keen on aiding the Yemeni people since the eruption of their country’s crisis.

It continues to seek a political solution to the conflict according to the three references and it seeks an end to foreign meddling in its internal affairs and an end to the Iran-backed Houthi coup.

The Riyadh agreement is a major step forward in resolving the conflict, Information Minister Turki al-Shabanah said after the cabinet meeting.

King Salman also briefed the ministers on the telephone call he held with Jordan’s King Abdullah II and the message he received from Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmed al-Jaber al-Sabah.

The cabinet hailed the signing of an agreement between Saudi Arabia and the World Economic Forum to establish a Center for the Fourth Industrial Revolution in the Kingdom.

“The center will provide space for the development of the mechanisms, plans and applications of the Fourth Industrial Revolution in the Kingdom and will contribute to the adoption of technology and best practices in the region and the world,” read a statement after the inking of the deal.

PM Narendra Modi leaves for home after concluding visit to Saudi Arabia

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES OF INDIA)

 

PM Narendra Modi leaves for home after concluding visit to Saudi Arabia

PM Narendra Modi, held wide-ranging talks with Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz and powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, during which a Strategic Partnership Council was established to coordinate on important issues.

INDIA Updated: Oct 30, 2019 06:26 IST

Press Trust of India
Press Trust of India

Riyadh
Prime Minister Narendra Modi meets H.M. King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi meets H.M. King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.(PTI photo)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi concluded his visit to Saudi Arabia on Tuesday, during which he held extensive talks with the top Saudi leadership and addressed a key financial forum here.

Modi, who arrived here Monday night, held wide-ranging talks with Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz and powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, during which a Strategic Partnership Council was established to coordinate on important issues.

A memorandum of under standing was also signed to roll out RuPay card in the Kingdom – making Saudi Arabia the third country in the Persian Gulf after the UAE and Bahrain to introduce India’s digital payment system.

Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Raveesh Kumar tweeted, “Leaving with a marked upswing in bilateral relations. PM Narendra Modi departs from Riyadh after steering the India-Saudi relationship on a upward trajectory pointing towards greater collaboration in future.” Prime Minister Modi also delivered a keynote address at the high-profile Future Investment Initiative (FII), dubbed as ‘Davos in the desert’, where he pressed for the United Nations reforms while expressing regret over some “powerful” countries using the global body as a “tool” rather than an “institution” to resolve conflicts.

At the fort, he said that India will invest a USD 100 billion in oil and gas infrastructure to meet energy needs of an economy that is being targeted to nearly double in five years. He also sought investment from the oil-rich Saudi Arabia and other nations to boost supplies.

India’s relations with Saudi Arabia have been on an upswing over the last few years based on burgeoning energy ties. India’s bilateral trade with Saudi Arabia was at USD 27.48 billion in 2017-18, making Saudi Arabia its fourth largest trading partner.

This was Prime Minister Modi’s second visit to the country. During his first visit, King Salman conferred Saudi’s highest civilian award on him. The Crown Prince visited India in February 2019, giving a further fillip to the bilateral ties.

Saudi Arabia last month said that it was looking at investing USD 100 billion in India in areas of energy, refining, petrochemicals, infrastructure, agriculture, minerals and mining.

First Published: Oct 30, 2019 06:13 IST

Saudi King Salman Meets with Presidents of Nigeria, Kenya and UAE’s FM

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Saudi King Salman Meets with Presidents of Nigeria, Kenya and UAE’s FM

Wednesday, 30 October, 2019 – 12:30
Saudi King Salman receives the Nigerian president. SPA photo
Asharq Al-Awsat
The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Salman bin Abdulaziz, has held separate talks with the Nigerian and Kenyan presidents and UAE’s foreign minister.

In the meeting with Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, King Salman discussed ways of developing and enhancing bilateral relations between the two countries in all fields.

He also discussed with Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta bilateral ties and aspects of cooperation between the two states.

At the outset of his meeting with the King, UAE Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan conveyed the greetings of UAE President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan to the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, while the King sent his greetings to the President.

King Salman and UAE’s foreign minister reviewed deep-rooted fraternal relations between the two countries and issues of mutual interest.

Saudi Crown Prince MBS: A Partner We (No One) Can’t Depend On

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES)

 

A Partner We Can’t Depend On

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia long ago revealed his true character in impulsive and vicious actions.

Susan E. Rice

By Susan E. Rice

Ms. Rice was the national security adviser during President Barack Obama’s second term.

Image
A Yemeni child at the graves of schoolboys who were killed when their bus was hit by a Saudi-led coalition air strike in August. Credit  France Press — Getty Images

The crisis in United States-Saudi relations precipitated by the brazen murder of Jamal Khashoggi raises a critical question that the Trump administration plainly wants to avoid: Can the United States continue to cooperate with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman? The young prince’s almost certain culpability in Mr. Khashoggi’s killing underscores his extreme recklessness and immorality, while exposing him as a dangerous and unreliable partner for the United States.

No astute observer should be surprised to discover that Prince Mohammed is capable of such action. Yes, we may be shocked by how heinous Mr. Khashoggi’s murder was, and by how blatant the many lies told by the Saudis have been. Of course, many Americans, from Silicon Valley to the editorial pages of our leading papers, were snowed by the crown prince’s promises of reform and the deft marketing of his leadership. But, for those willing to see past his charm offensive, Prince Mohammed had already revealed his true character through numerous impulsive and vicious actions.

The deadliest exhibit is the war in Yemen, which has cost tens of thousands of lives and killed countless civilians, including children, because the Saudis arrogantly refuse to employ responsible targeting techniques. It has been a Prince Mohammed operation from the start.

The Saudi-led coalition in Yemen shares direct responsibility, along with the Houthi rebels and Iran, for the worst humanitarian crisis in the world, while the United States has continued shamelessly to provide support to their bloody war. Although the Obama administration initiated support to the coalition to help defend Saudi territory from Houthi incursions, it finally moved to curtail arms sales when the aims of the war expanded and the constraints we tried to impose were flouted.

At home, the crown prince has locked up civil society activists. He imprisoned for months hundreds of members of the royal family and other influential people in the Riyadh Ritz-Carlton and demanded they surrender huge sums of money and valuable assets in exchange for release. He has forced out rivals and close relatives, including former Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef. And, as the Khashoggi case suggests, he has undertaken a global purge of Saudi dissidents wherever they reside.

The crown prince kidnapped the Lebanese prime minister and denied it. He imposed a spiteful, full-blown blockade on neighboring Qatar, another important American partner, and has sought to goad the United States into conflict with Iran. Stung by two mildly critical tweets by the Canadian foreign minister, Prince Mohammed abruptly downgraded diplomatic ties with Ottawa, yanked 7,000 Saudi students out of Canadian universities and limited transport and trade links.

Image
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Credit Giuseppe Cacace/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

As this litany of lunacy shows, Prince Mohammed is not and can no longer be viewed as a reliable or rational partner of the United States and our allies. If we fail to punish him directly and target only those around him, the crown prince will be further emboldened to take extreme actions. If we do punish him, which we must, Prince Mohammed, petulant and proud, is equally likely to behave more irresponsibly to demonstrate his independence and exact retribution against his erstwhile Western partners. Either way, the Trump administration must assume that Prince Mohammed will continue to drive his country and our bilateral relationship over the proverbial cliff.

Unfortunately, King Salman seems unwilling or unable to rein in his rogue son. With critics cowed into submission and rivals pushed aside, there is no obvious alternative-in-waiting who might provide Saudi Arabia with sober, responsible leadership.

Absent a change at the top, we should brace ourselves for a future in which Saudi Arabia is less stable and more difficult to govern. In this scenario, the potential risks to American security and economic interests would be grave. The United States was wrong to hitch our wagon to Prince Mohammed, but we would be even more foolish to continue to do so.

Looking ahead, Washington must act to mitigate the risks to our own interests. We should not rupture our important relationship with the kingdom, but we must make clear it cannot be business as usual so long as Prince Mohammed continues to wield unlimited power. It should be United States policy, in conjunction with our allies, to sideline the crown prince in order to increase pressure on the royal family to find a steadier replacement.

We should start by leading the push for an impartial international investigation into Mr. Khashoggi’s killing. We must be consistent and public in our judgment that the United States believes the killing could not have occurred without Prince Mohammed’s blessing or, more likely, his order.

Next, we should terminate all military support for the misbegotten Yemen campaign and pressure the Saudis to reach a negotiated settlement. We should immediately suspend all American arms sales to the kingdom and conduct a careful, comprehensive review of any future deliveries, halting all but those we determine, in close consultation with Congress, advance United States national security interests.

Finally, we should stop following Prince Mohammed down blind alleys and bring a healthy skepticism to our dealings with him, particularly any that require relying on his word or judgment.

We need to stop privileging Jared Kushner’s relationship with the crown prince, and finally fill the vacant ambassadorship to the kingdom, to engage with a broader range of senior Saudi officials. President Trump’s inexplicable infatuation with Prince Mohammed must end, and he must recalibrate American policy so that it serves our national interests — not his personal interests or those of the crown prince.

Follow The New York Times Opinion section on FacebookTwitter (@NYTopinion) and Instagram.

Susan E. Rice, the national security adviser from 2013 to 2017 and a former United States ambassador to the United Nations, is a contributing opinion writer. @AmbassadorRice

READ 167 COMMENTS

As Trump cozies up to Saudi Arabia, the rule of law collapses further

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE GUARDIAN NEWS)

 

From the moment he laid his stubby hands on that glowing orb in Riyadh, Donald Trump signaled to the world what kind of leader he aspired to be. Bathed in a spectral light, standing alongside the Saudi King Salman and the Egyptian dictator, Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, the man formerly known as the leader of the free world smiled with self-satisfaction that he had arrived at his chosen destination.

Despite the object’s likeness to the orb of Saruman, this was no secret society of evil wizards. Instead, it was a brazenly open society of corrupt old men with a clear disregard for the rule of law, if not a cruel desire to brutalize their opponents.

The fact that they were standing in the Global Center for Combating Extremist Ideology was either an exercise in paper-thin deception or some kind of sick joke. It’s hard to express your disgust at Isis beheadings, as Trump has done, but feel nothing about the Saudi beheadings of 48 people in just four months this year.

Then again, we’re talking about Donald Trump’s feelings and his limitless capacity to lie. Of course it’s possible to condemn the “bloodthirsty killers”of Isis at the UN, and praise the “unbelievable job” of the death squads of President Duterte in the Philippines. He’s Donald Trump, a bear of very little brain who convinced himself that someone in China thinks he has a “very, very large brain”.

As a self-certified genius, Trump now finds himself in something of a Saudi pickle. The supposedly reformist crown prince Mohammed bin Salman was supposed to help him clean up the world by taking on Tehran. But Saudi Arabia can’t even clean up an Istanbul consulate after their own goons are alleged to have hacked to death a single troublesome journalist.

First Trump promised “severe punishment” for those responsible for Jamal Khashoggi’s death, albeit punishment that didn’t harm any arms contracts the Saudis were interested in. No matter that the Saudis can’t easily substitute another country’s weapons after spending gazillions of dollars on US ones. This commander-in-chief obviously knows his arms from his elbows.

Then Trump spoke to the crown prince, who pinky-promised he had nothing to do with the 15 men identified by the Turkish media as belonging to a grisly hit-squad, which reportedly included an autopsy specialist carrying his own bone saw. So the 45th president of the United States gullibly and dutifully bleated something about “rogue killers” and “very, very strong” denials. In what is surely a remarkable coincidence, Saudi sources leaked word that they were preparing to admit the killing, but insisted it was an interrogation that went wrong.

Interrogations tend to go wrong when they include someone armed with a bone saw.

To clear up this most unfortunate dismemberment, Trump sent his trusted former CIA chief, now the secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, on a fact-finding mission to Riyadh and Ankara. Pompeo’s approach to the facts was hardly inspiring. “I don’t want to talk about any of the facts,” he said. “They didn’t want to either, in that they want to have the opportunity to complete this investigation in a thorough way.”

 ‘I don’t want to talk about any of the facts’: Mike Pompeo on Jamal Khashoggi case – video

That would be an investigation by the crown prince into his own security detail inside his own consulate. Naturally, these things can take time. People are busy. Consulates are hard to find. Word from the palace takes time to write down on parchment scrolls.

Oh yes, and there’s this other thing we need to remember, Pompeo explained: money.

“I do think it’s important that everyone keeps in mind that we have a lot of important relationships – financial relationships between US and Saudi companies, governmental relationships – things we work on together all across the world. The efforts to reduce the risk to the United States of America from the world’s largest state sponsor of terror, Iran.”

If you’re thinking Trump himself is compromised by Saudi money, why, that’s no more true than the notion that he’s compromised by Russian money. But don’t take my word for it, take his.

“For the record, I have no financial interests in Saudi Arabia (or Russia, for that matter),” he tweeted, dismissing anything to the contrary as so much fake news. This is a touch embarrassing for the Donald Trump who told an Alabama rally in 2015 that he loved doing business with the Saudis. “They buy apartments from me,” he said. “They spend $40m, $50m. Am I supposed to dislike them? I like them very much!”

Of course, you’re only supposed to dislike the ones carrying the bone saws.

The Trump administration is not the first to bow and scrape to the Saudi power of oil and cash. But it is the first to surrender all pretense of upholding democracy and human rights – commonly known as American values – while making pathetic excuses for what is widely accepted to have been a barbaric murder. What is the moral difference between Iran sponsoring Hezbollah and the humanitarian disaster triggered by the Saudi attacks and blockade in Yemen?

They deserve one another, the house of Saud and the house of Trump. One is hotheaded enough to bomb Yemen into oblivion and blockade Qatar. The other is hotheaded enough to blow up historic alliances and international trade. Both have managed to look weaker by straining to look stronger.

Their incompetence is only matched their greed; their grand visions of global leadership look as genuine as Jared Kushner’s Middle East peace plan, or the official Saudi investigation into what happened to Khashoggi.

Like all pathological liars, they now find themselves caught in their own web of deceit and delusion. The crown prince was never a reformist, just as the reality TV star was never going to drain the swamp.

No number of expensive Saudi lobbying contracts will wash away the bloodstains. And no amount of Trump’s crazy-sounding tweets – about porn stars or Pocahontas – will distract from his disastrous undermining of American values. Like the catchphrases of an old standup comedian, Donald Trump’s stage act is losing its power to shock and awe.

After a couple of days of pesky questions about whether his friends decapitated a journalist, Trump had reached the limit of his very, very large brain. “Here we go again with, you know, you’re guilty until proven innocent,” he told the Associated Press. “I don’t like that. We just went through that with Justice Kavanaugh and he was innocent all the way as far as I’m concerned.”

If you’re still looking for an illustration of how the rule of law collapses, here’s one straight from the horses mouth. The bone-saw-wielding Saudis are as innocent as our own supreme court justice. At this point, a good lawyer might rest her case because this sucker just can’t stop talking.

Saudi-Iraqi Joint Statement: Opening Border Crossings, Developing Ports and Roads  

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Saudi-Iraqi Joint Statement: Opening Border Crossings, Developing Ports and Roads

Monday, 23 October, 2017 – 07:15
Saudi Arabia’s King Salman he speaks with Iraqi prime minister Haider Al Abadi in Riyadh on October 22, 2017. Saudi Press Agency via Reuters
Riyadh – Asharq Al-Awsat

Saudi-Iraqi ties have entered a new stage of cooperation and coordination in which the two countries signed on Sunday a minutes of establishing a Saudi-Iraqi Coordination Council (SICC).

The first meeting of the council was convened and it resulted in an agreement to open border crossings and develop ports, roads and border areas. They also agreed to review an agreement on customs cooperation and study bilateral trade.

The council expressed its satisfaction with the state of the oil market following an agreement between the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and non-OPEC producers. The SICC stressed the importance of participants’ full commitment to the agreement until its target is achieved.

“The Council was briefed on the results of the Kingdom’s participation in the Baghdad International Fair, which was a great contribution to economic and trade relations. The Saudi side also noted the level of welcome and hospitality enjoyed by the Saudi delegation from reception to departure,” a statement said.

They also agreed to develop private sector partnerships, inform businessmen of trade and investment opportunities and encourage the exchange of technical and scientific expertise and research.

The Iraqi side thanked the Kingdom for its initiative in studying the implementation of customs ports, which will facilitate bilateral trade.

The SICC announced the resumption of flights from the Kingdom to Iraq, the opening of a Saudi Consulate there, and the reopening of Saudi chemical manufacturing company SABIC’s office in Iraq.

In addition, it was agreed that Saudi Arabia will participate in exhibitions in Iraq, including the Baghdad International Fair, the Basra Oil and Gas Exhibition, and the Business and Investment Forum.

During the SICC’s first meeting, the two parties discussed its priorities for the next two years, implementation of its work and the formation of a working group. Its second meeting will be held in Iraq’s capital Baghdad in the presence of ministers and senior officials from both countries.

 

King Salman Stresses That Science And Knowledge Promote Coexistence

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Moscow – Asharq Al-Awsat

Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz stressed that science and knowledge are the basis for the renaissance of nations.

Tthey factor in through the formation of educated generations leading communities, promotion of tolerance and coexistence among peoples, and preservation of achievements of civilization.

In a speech delivered after receiving an honorary doctorate from the Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO), King Salman said that education and knowledge are the key promoting tolerance and coexistence.

“I am honored today to be with the scientists and scholars of the Russian Federation and I would like to express appreciation to the institute for granting me this doctorate,” he said.

“We proudly commend the efforts of our Islamic nation in different scientific fields. In the Kingdom, we give a lot of importance toward raising new generations capable of facing today’s challenges. I call on universities and scientific institutes in the two countries to communicate and cooperate in order to serve the Russian and Saudi people, and the whole world.”

MGIMO granted the king the doctorate in honor of his role in promoting peace and stability, and strengthening Saudi-Russian relations.

The celebration was attended by the king’s Saudi delegation, and Russian academics and officials presided over by the institute’s rector, Anatoly Torkunov, and Russian Minister of Education Olga Vasileva.

The institute is one of the most important educational institutes in Russia, and is internationally known in the diplomatic and international relations fields. In 1944, it was founded on the basis of the recently established School of International Relations of the Lomonosov Moscow State University.

In 2016, MGIMO signed a cooperation agreement with the Prince Saud Al-Faisal Institute for Diplomatic Studies at the Saudi Foreign Ministry.

The Guinness Book of World Records acknowledged MGIMO for the number of languages it teaches — 53.

Since its establishment, the institute has graduated more than 40,000 students in all fields, including 5,500 foreign students and some well-known politicians and journalists.

The institute was dubbed the “Harvard of Russia” by former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger because it educates so many of Russia’s political, economic and intellectual elite. It has the lowest acceptance rate and highest test scores of any university in Russia.

Russians and Saudis hold key talks on oil and Middle East

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SHANGHAI DAILY NEWS-SHINE)

 

Russians and Saudis hold key talks on oil and Middle East

RUSSIAN President Vladimir Putin hosted Saudi Arabia’s King Salman for talks at the Kremlin yesterday, cementing a relationship that is crucial for determining world oil prices and could be pivotal for resolving conflicts in the Middle East.

King Salman, the first sitting Saudi monarch to visit Russia, led a delegation to Moscow that agreed joint investment deals worth several billion dollars, providing much-needed investment for a Russian economy battered by low oil prices and Western sanctions.

On the political front, there was no sign of any substantial breakthrough on the issues that divide Moscow and Riyadh, including the fact that they back rival sides in Syria’s civil war.

However, there was no sign of any public discord either.

Briefing the media on the talks between Putin and King Salman, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov focused on the common ground between the two countries.

Lavrov said the two leaders had agreed on the importance of fighting terror, of finding peaceful solutions to conflicts in the Middle East, and on the principle of territorial integrity.

In a concrete expression of how ties are deepening, Saudi Arabia said it had signed a memorandum of understanding on the purchase of S-400 air defense systems from Russia’s state arms exporter.

The two leaders had a “friendly and substantial discussion based on a desire by Moscow and Riyadh to consistently grow mutually beneficial partnerships in all spheres,” Lavrov said at a briefing alongside his Saudi counterpart Adel al-Jubeir.

“We believe that new horizons have opened up for the development of our relations that we could not previously have imagined,” the Saudi foreign minister said. “Relations between Russia and Saudi Arabia have reached an historical moment,” said Jubeir.

Russia’s military intervention in the Syria conflict has brought about an acknowledgement in Arab capitals that it now has real clout in the Middle East.

Moscow and Riyadh worked together to secure a deal between OPEC and other oil producers to cut output until the end of March 2018, in an effort to push up world prices.

Women To Be Allowed Into Stadium’s As Saudi Arabia Promotes National Pride

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF REUTERS NEWS AGENCY)

 

Women allowed into stadium as Saudi Arabia promotes national pride, part of reform push

RIYADH (Reuters) – Saudi Arabia is celebrating the 87th anniversary of its founding this weekend with an unprecedented array of concerts and performances, including allowing women into King Fahd International Stadium in Riyadh for a Saturday evening operetta – a first in the conservative Islamic kingdom.

The festivities are part of a government bid to boost national pride and improve the quality of life for Saudis.

Also on offer is a concert in the Red Sea city of Jeddah featuring 11 Arab musicians, plus fireworks, air acrobatics and traditional folk dance shows.

The events are the latest entertainment sponsored by the government as part of the Vision 2030 reform program launched two years ago to diversify the economy away from oil, create whole new sectors to employ young citizens and open up Saudis’ cloistered lifestyles.

However in a country that adheres to the austere Wahhabi brand of Sunni Islam, which bans gender mixing, concerts and cinemas, the plan’s seemingly anodyne goals to empower women, promote sports and invest in entertainment have been criticized.

Saudi rulers are also starting to reform areas once the exclusive domain of the clergy, such as education and the law, and have promoted elements of national identity that have no religious component, or pre-date Islam.

They have increased National Day celebrations that were previously attacked by clerics as undermining religious feeling, and are promoting heritage sites, like Nabatean rock temples, once seen as embarrassing in the land of Islam.

Saudi flags and green billboards, often bearing the face of King Salman and his son Crown Prince Mohammed, have gone up across Riyadh this week, and at night skyscrapers are flooded in green light – the national color.

Companies from telecoms operators to furniture stores have launched patriotic-themed marketing campaigns offering discounts for the holiday weekend.

The General Entertainment Authority, the government agency organizing the National Day festivities, expects some 1.5 million Saudis to attend events in 17 cities over four days.

Vision 2030 reforms are intended to capture up to a quarter of the $20 billion currently spent overseas by Saudis, who are accustomed to traveling abroad to see shows and visit amusement parks in nearby tourist hub Dubai or further afield.

This weekend’s events, though, are free to the public.

Reporting By Stephen Kalin; Editing by Andrew Bolton

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Saudi Arabia and Israel Agree on Al Jazeera

http://truthtroubles.com/2017/08/11/saudi-arabia-and…ee-on-al-jazeera