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…
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
Oil prices surged to 2-1/2-year highs and U.S. crude touched $60 a barrel in light trading volume on Tuesday, boosted by news of an explosion on a Libyan crude pipeline as well as voluntary OPEC-led supply cuts. Iraq’s oil minister said on Monday there would be a balance between supply and demand by the first quarter, leading to a boost in prices. Global oil inventories have decreased to an acceptable level, he added.read more
Iraqi Oil Minister Jabar al-Luaibi said on Monday (December 25, 2017) he was optimistic there would be a balance between supply and demand by the first quarter of 2018, leading to a boost in oil prices. The new contact will allow Zhenhua to receive a $3.5 fee for each barrel of crude produced from the oilfield, Ameedi said, and will serve as a model for all upcoming contracts with international companies. Jalal also said his company has plans to upgrade production from the Neft Khana oilfield near the Iranian border to 8,000 barrels per day from the current 2,000.read more
Iraqi Vice President Nouri al-Maliki told Rudaw during an interview in Baghdad on Thursday that the federal government has to help the Kurdistan Region to solve the problems it is facing including the ongoing financial crisis before “it is too late.” He called the events in Khurmatu since October 16 “ethnic cleansing” and one that they are following with great concern. Maliki served as Prime Minister of Iraq for two terms from 2006-2014. Under his tenure the central government cut the Kurdish share of budget in early-2014 over the KRG’s plans to export oil independent of Baghdad. He deployed the Iraqi security forces to the borders of the Kurdistan Region at least twice when he was the PM, and became the first senior Iraqi politician to threaten Kurdistan with the use of force against the Iraqi-opposed Kurdish vote on independence. In a wide-ranging interview, he told Rudaw presenter Ranj Sangawi that he wants both Iraq and the Kurdistan Region to get over what happened in the past, including the disagreement over the Kurdish vote.read more
Analysts have blamed Egypt’s autocracy for a recent attack that killed hundreds. But that’s not what’s motivating the violence. A few weeks ago, terrorists laid siege to a mosque in the small town of Bir al-Abd that lies just off the east-west road spanning the northern Sinai Peninsula. They killed 305 people and wounded many others. The photos from the scene were macabre—the stuff of Baghdad or Karachi, not Egypt. Until the attack on the al-Rawdah Mosque on November 24, the deadliest terror incident in Egypt occurred in 1997, when a group called al-Gamaa al-Islamiyya killed 57 people—most of them Japanese and British tourists—at the Temple of Hatshepsut near Luxor. The recent bloodletting in the Sinai is believed to be the work of Wilayat Sina, the Sinai branch of the self-styled Islamic State, though no one has claimed responsibility.read more