Source: Council on Foreign Relations
A road trip among ordinary Saudis revealed high hopes, and hardly any worries, about the country’s new political era.
We must be doing 80 miles per hour on a rutted road outside the northwestern Saudi town of Ula. It is late and I am tired, but I’ve got one eye on the road and one eye on the dashboard indicator light signaling that the Chevy Tahoe in which I am traveling has low tire pressure. What would happen if this thing rolled over? Do I remember how to say, “I’m allergic to aspirin” in Arabic?
Abu Najib — our driver, whose name, like all of those in this article, has been changed — does not seem concerned. He just keeps weaving from one side of the road to the other, avoiding ruts and bumps. When we met 25 minutes ago, he offered a lame handshake and seemed unnaturally shy for a guy built like a tank. I break the ice when he quietly asks me my name and I deadpan, “Mohammed bin Salman.” He laughs, and for the next two days, Abu Najib, his buddy Mohammed, and I are in a running dialogue.
I am on a road trip through Saudi Arabia with six Americans that will take us to Jeddah, Ula, Hail, Riyadh, and Dammam before it is all over. Along for the ride with me are two retired professors, a publisher, a former pharmaceutical executive who also was once a successful local politician, a real estate developer, and a retired financial services executive. The organizer of their tour asked me to come along to lecture and answer questions about Saudi Arabia and the Middle East. READ MORE…
ISIS threat ‘is going to morph’ and possibly go underground in Iraq, says Maj.-Gen. Mike Rouleauread more
Government corruption provided Daesh and local militias with the umbrella they needed to seize power in Iraq, officials and lawmakers told Arab News on Thursday. They said Iraq’s security and political stability will remain threatened as long as corrupt officials continue to control the country’s assets. Iraq is high on the list of the most corrupt countries. The Iraqi Parliamentary Committee of Integrity told Arab News that the estimated value of “looted” amounts during the past 12 years has been more than $200 billion.read more
US companies are eager to strengthen bilateral cooperation with Iraq in all industrial sectors, especially in oil and gas, the Iraqi Ministry of Oil said on Thursday after US Ambassador to Iraq Douglas Silliman met with Iraqi Oil Minister Jabbar Al-Luaibi. Al-Luaibi invited US companies to take part in tenders called by the Iraqi ministry and said Iraq was preparing more favorable work conditions for foreign companies investing and doing business in Iraq, Oil Price reported. The two US supermajors, ExxonMobil and Chevron, already have operations in parts of Iraq. Exxon signed an agreement in 2010 with Iraq’s South Oil Company to redevelop and rehabilitate the West Qurna I Oilfield in southern Iraq.read more
Mr Al Abadi has faced internal pressures to postpone the elections for at least six months but is adamant they will go ahead. Iraqi prime minister Haider Al Abadi has assured the nation that parliamentary and provincial elections will be held in Iraq in May as scheduled. Mr Al Abadi has faced internal pressures from the State of Law Coalition and the Union of Sunni forces in addition to Kurdish parties to postpone the elections for at least six months, Al Hayat, the pan-Arab newspaper reported. But in his weekly press conference, the prime minister dismissed any doubts, saying, “The cabinet today reiterated that provincial and parliamentary elections will be held on 12 May 2018.,” Mr Al Abadi said. “There is no reason for delaying the elections.”read more
As Iraq celebrates the defeat of ISIS, the Sunni Arab community is confronting an identity crisis in the aftermath of the occupation. For some, accommodation with the Shiite-led government offers a new Iraqi nationalism. While unbridled joy has greeted the defeat of the so-called Islamic State across Iraq, the wreckage left behind includes severe trauma to Iraq’s Arab Sunnis – leaving the minority community facing what some say is an existential crisis. One metric by which to assess this is the numbers: Most of the 5 million displaced persons in Iraq are Sunnis. And most of the tens of thousands of Iraqis who were killed, raped, or kidnapped by ISIS jihadists are Sunnis. Nearly every city left in ruins by the fight to expel ISIS – from Fallujah and Ramadi to Mosul – is predominantly Sunni. Another metric is psychological: The community’s failure has been so acute – succumbing to nearly four years of brutal ISIS rule, and even sometimes welcoming ISIS, at first – that Iraq’s Sunnis are reeling like they haven’t for a century.read more