Leader: Foreign spies behind currency hype

Author : Admin | Thursday, April 19, 2018
Posted in category Iran, Iran News, Iran Press

Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Wednesday that foreign spies have been working behind the scenes to create a foreign currency crisis in Iran. “The role of foreigners and their intelligence services was obvious in the recent chaos in Iran’s currency market,” Ayatollah Khamenei said in a meeting with thousands of Intelligence Ministry staff in Tehran.

Leader: Enemies’ spy agencies have failed to harm Iran

Author : Admin | Thursday, April 19, 2018
Posted in category Iran, Iran News, Iran Press

Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei said on Wednesday that enemies have waged a large-scale intelligence war against Iran, but foreign spy agencies have failed in their attempts to inflict any harm on the country. Ayatollah Khamenei made the remarks in a meeting with Intelligence Minister Mahmoud Alavi and a group of the ministry’s employees in Tehran.

Iran replaces dollar with euro in financial reporting

Author : Admin | Thursday, April 19, 2018
Posted in category Iran, Iran News, Iran Press

The Iranian cabinet on Wednesday ordered all state-run organizations and companies to replace U.S. dollar with euro in reporting their financial statements. The government also put the central bank in charge of managing and announcing rial-to-euro exchange rate continually. The decision is made as part of the country’s effort to reduce its reliance on the U.S. currency.

Zarif to attend UN peacebuilding meeting in New York

Author : Admin | Thursday, April 19, 2018
Posted in category Eurasia, Iran, Iran News, Iran Press

Foreign Minister Mohammad-Javad Zarif is scheduled to leave Tehran for New York on Thursday to attend the UN General Assembly High-Level Meeting on Peacebuilding and Sustaining Peace on April 24-25, the Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qassemi has said.

Jordan elected vice president of Joint Arab Labor Organization

Author : Admin | Tuesday, April 17, 2018
Posted in category Middle Orient, Middle Orient News

Member of the Jordanian Chamber of Industry Muwaffaq Bani Hani, won the position of Vice President of the Joint Arab Labor Organization for its 45th session.

Palestinian Issue and Crises in Syria, Yemen and Libya on top of Agenda of Arab Summit in Dammam

Author : Admin | Tuesday, April 17, 2018
Posted in category Middle Orient, Middle Orient News

The 29th Arab Summit was expected to kick off in the Saudi city of Dammam on Sunday with the Palestinian issue and developments in Syria, Yemen and Libya on top of its agenda.

Keeping Iran nuclear deal in place vital for EU: Mogherini

Author : Admin | Tuesday, April 17, 2018
Posted in category Eurasia, Iran

The European Union has reiterated its strong and unequivocal commitment to the full implementation of the 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran by all sides, saying preserving the deal is vital for the EU.

Velayati says Iran will continue backing Syria

Author : Admin | Tuesday, April 17, 2018
Posted in category Iran, Iran News, Iran Press

Ali Akbar Velayati, a top foreign policy adviser to the Leader of the Islamic Revolution, said on Sunday that Iran is standing beside Syria. In a press conference after a meeting with a member of China’s Foreign Policy Advisory Committee, Velayati said, “The resistance front will be strengthened in future and Iran will continue supporting states member to this front more powerful than ever.”

Middle east events and news

Author : Admin | Monday, April 16, 2018
Posted in category Special Analysis

ISIS Supporters Threaten Putin, Russia, And The 2018 World Cup
Between March 31, 2018 and April 7, 2018, Islamic State (ISIS) supporters on Telegram shared several new posters in English, Arabic, and Russian, threatening terror attacks on Russian soil, and specifically targeting the 2018 FIFA World Cup to be held in Russia during the summer.
Al-Qaeda In The Islamic Maghrib (AQIM)-Affiliate In ‎Tunisia Calls For Attacks Against France, French Interests
On April 7, 2018, Al-Qaeda In The Islamic Maghrib (AQIM) via its media wing Al-Andalus released a statement on behalf of its affiliate group in Tunisia, the ‘Uqba Bin Nafi’ Brigade, threatening France and French interests while blaming France for the theft of natural resources in the country.
Post On Al-Qaeda-Affiliated Telegram Channel Incites Against France
On April 12, 2018, a Telegram channel associated with jihadi groups, including Al-Qaeda, that operate in Mali, called “Azawad will Not Bow to Anyone besides Allah” published a post inciting against France and calling for its destruction.
Former Taliban Ambassador To Pakistan: ‘Taliban Would Not Accept The Demands Of Any Country Unless The Foreign Forces Quit Afghanistan’
Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef, who was Afghanistan’s ambassador to Pakistan when the Taliban were in power in Kabul during 1996-2001, says in an interview that Pakistan has “increased pressure” on the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (the Taliban organization) to hold peace talks. (by memri org.)

Middle east events and news

Author : Admin | Monday, April 16, 2018
Posted in category Special Analysis

ISIS Urges Hay’at Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS) Fighters To Repent And Join Its Ranks
On April 11, 2018, the media office of the Islamic State (ISIS) province in Damascus, Syria, released a video urging the fighters of Hay’at Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS) to repent from the “acts of unbelief” it accused them of committing and calling on them to join its ranks.
Pro-ISIS Media Outlet Releases Poster Threatening NYC
On April 11, 2018, a pro-Islamic State (ISIS) media outlet published a poster on Telegram digitally edited to show man wearing a backpack at the High Street Brooklyn Bridge subway station, and behind him an explosive charge and the word “ISIS” scrawled on the wall.
On Telegram, Indonesian Pro-Islamic State Media Group Publishes Graphic Of Armed Militant Holding Pope Francis Hostage
On April 9, 2018, an Indonesian pro-Islamic State (ISIS) media outlet published on Telegram a graphic showing an armed militant holding Pope Francis hostage (by memri org).

Middle east events and news

Author : Admin | Monday, April 16, 2018
Posted in category Special Analysis

EXCLUSIVE: Pro-ISIS Group Publishes Article Urging Muslims In The West To Carry Out Attacks In Their Countries
On April 7, 2018, a pro-Islamic State (ISIS) Telegram channel published a brief article in Arabic titled “Increasing Motivation to Attack the Nations.”
EXCLUSIVE: Pro-ISIS Group Urges Operatives To Maintain Security Awareness So As Not To Be Captured Like The ISIS British ‘Beatles’
On April 5, 2018 and April 8, 2018, the “Al-Muhajireen Foundation,” a group of Islamic State (ISIS) supporters active on Telegram, published two posters in Arabic and English under the title “Security Alert” warning ISIS foreign fighters in Syria that they are in danger of being turned over to Coalition forces and urging them to exercise caution.
ISIS Supporters Launch Campaign To Renew Allegiance To Leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi
On April 2, 2018, Islamic State (ISIS) supporters launched a campaign on Telegram calling for Muslims to renew their pledge of allegiance (bay’ah in Arabic) to the ISIS leader, “Caliph of the Muslims” Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi.(by memri.org)

US says it has proof Syrian government responsible for chemical attack

Author : Mircea Birca | Saturday, April 14, 2018

imgThe United States has blamed the Syrian government for a deadly chemical weapons attack this month and slammed Russia for failing to stop its ally, President Bashar al-Assad, as Western allies considered military strikes on Syria.

While the prospect of US-led military action that could lead to a confrontation with Russia hung over the Middle East, the White House on Friday accused Syria of carrying out a toxic gas assault on April 7. Read the rest of this entry »

Egypt, UAE hold joint military training exercise in Red Sea

Author : Mircea Birca | Saturday, April 14, 2018
Posted in category Africa, Africa News, Eurasia, Eurasia News

Egypt and the United Arab Emirates have launched a joint military training exercise off Egypt’s eastern shores dubbed Khalifa 3, Egypt’s armed forces said in a statement on Tuesday.

Naval and air forces of the two countries will take part in the multi-day exercise at a Red Sea base in Egyptian territorial waters, Egyptian military spokesman Colonel Tamer El-Rifai said in a statement posted on the Egyptian military’s official Facebook page. Read the rest of this entry »

UN to ask Canada for sending helicopters to Mali sooner

Author : Mircea Birca | Saturday, April 14, 2018
Posted in category Africa, Africa News, Eurasia, Eurasia News

The United Nations is in talks with Canada on speeding up the deployment of six helicopters to shore up its peacekeeping force in Mali, a UN envoy said on Wednesday.

Mahamat Saleh Annadif said Canada will send the helicopters in August but that the mission needs them in June, when Germany pulls out of the mission with its fleet. Read the rest of this entry »

Somalia to halt UAE funding for troops as relations sour

Author : Mircea Birca | Saturday, April 14, 2018
Posted in category Africa, Africa News, Eurasia, Eurasia News

As relations with the United Arab Emirates sour over the seizure of millions of dollars in cash, Somalia announced on Wednesday it would end UAE funding for its armed forces.

Defence Minister Mohamed Mursal’s comments to reporters came shortly after the UAE condemned what it called an “illegal” move by Somalia to seize $9.6m from an aircraft at the Mogadishu airport over the weekend. Read the rest of this entry »

Trump tells Russia to prepare for US missiles

Author : Mircea Birca | Wednesday, April 11, 2018

imgUS President Donald Trump warned Russia Wednesday to brace for American engagement in Syria after a suspected chemical attack killed dozens of people.

“Russia vows to shoot down any and all missiles fired at Syria. Get ready Russia, because they will be coming, nice and new and ‘smart!’” Trump said on Twitter.

“You shouldn’t be partners with a Gas Killing Animal who kills his people and enjoys it!” he added, referring to Syria’s Bashar al-Assad. Read the rest of this entry »

New military operation to combat IS launched by Libya’s Presidential Council

Author : Mircea Birca | Wednesday, April 11, 2018
Posted in category Africa, Africa News, Eurasia, Eurasia News

imgThe Presidential Council of Libya in Tripoli has announced the launch of a new military operation under the name Asifat Al-Wattan (The Nation’s Storm), which it says will be targeting terrorists across Libya.

The PC Head’s spokesman, Mohammed El Sallak, announced on Monday in a presser the kickoff of the military operation, which he said was ordered by the commander in chief of the army. Read the rest of this entry »

257 dead as military plane crashes in Algeria’s worst air disaster

Author : Mircea Birca | Wednesday, April 11, 2018
Posted in category Africa, Africa News, Eurasia, Eurasia News

Algeria suffered its deadliest ever air catastrophe on Wednesday when a military plane crashed near the capital, killing 257 people on board, mostly army personnel and their family members, officials said.

An AFP photographer at the scene saw the charred wreckage of the plane after it caught fire in a field near the Boufarik airbase, 30km south of Algiers, from where it had taken off.

Hundreds of ambulances and dozens of fire trucks with sirens wailing rushed to the scene of the crash, in an uninhabited area where one person was injured on the ground by debris. Read the rest of this entry »

19 killed in clashes between UN and militia in CAR capital

Author : Mircea Birca | Wednesday, April 11, 2018
Posted in category Africa, Africa News, Eurasia, Eurasia News

The Central African Republic, one of the world’s poorest and most unstable countries, was rocked on Wednesday after 19 people, including a UN soldier, were killed and more than 100 wounded in clashes between peacekeepers and militias in a flashpoint Muslim enclave of the capital.

Bangui’s bloodiest flareup in two years brought hundreds of angry residents of the PK5 district to the base of the United Nations mission, MINUSCA. Read the rest of this entry »

Middle east events and news

Author : Admin | Tuesday, April 10, 2018
Posted in category Special Analysis

Article In ISIS Weekly Al-Naba’ Praises Attack In Trèbes, ‎France, Notes Impact Of ‘Lone Wolf’ Operations
Issue 125 of the Islamic State (ISIS) weekly Al-Naba’, released online on March 29, 2018, praised the March 23 terrorist attack in the town of Trèbes in southern France. ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack, which killed four, and was carried out by 26-year-old Redouane Lakdim.
Al-Shabab: We Killed 59 Ugandan Soldiers In Southern Somalia Attack
On April 1, 2018, the Shahada news agency, affiliated with Al-Shabab Al-Mujahideen, claimed that 59 Ugandan troops had been killed in an Al-Shabab attack on two military bases in the towns of Bulo Marer and Golwein in the Lower Shabelle district in southern Somalia.
Video Clip Produced By Al-Qaeda Supporters Celebrates French Deaths In The Sahel
On April 2, 2018, a Telegram channel operated by Al-Qaeda supporters released a short clip celebrating the deaths of French soldiers killed in the Sahel region since 2013, when France launched its intervention against jihadi forces in Mali.(by memri.org)

Middle east events and news

Author : Admin | Tuesday, April 10, 2018
Posted in category Special Analysis

EXCLUSIVE: ISIS Gaining Strength In Somalia
Against the backdrop of the losses taken by the Islamic State (ISIS) in Syria and Iraq, there have in recent months been indications that the organization’s peripheral branches are growing stronger, for example, in Afghanistan, Somalia, and Libya. Official ISIS media bodies are covering them more intensely, and the branches are becoming more active. ISIS leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi himself has referred in his speeches to the fighters of these ISIS branches, including Somalia.
Hamza Bin Laden Lashes Out At Founder Of Saudi Arabia, ‎Accusing Him Of Allying With U.S., Allowing It To ‘Occupy’ ‎Country
On March 31, 2018, Al-Qaeda’s media wing Al-Sahab released the sixth installment of a video series by Hamza bin Laden, the son of Osama bin Laden, that focuses on Saudi Arabia. The series has so far focused on the modern history of Saudi Arabia, during which Hamza has criticized its founder, the late King Abd Al-Aziz, of betraying Muslims and collaborating with Western powers.(by memri org.)

Top Houthi Official Mohammed Ali Al-Houthi Threatens To Continue Shelling Aramco, Jeopardizing The NEOM Project

Author : Admin | Thursday, April 5, 2018
Posted in category Middle Orient

Houthi leader Mohammed Ali Al-Houthi, president of “the Revolutionary Committee of Yemen,” warned the British, the Europeans, and the Americans: “Stop your support of Saudi Arabia so that it will stop bombing us. If you continue, we will continue to shell Aramco and other vital facilities.” (by memri org)

Putin to Moscow International Security Conference: Despite its defeat, Daesh retains its destructive potential

Author : Admin | Wednesday, April 4, 2018
Posted in category Eurasia, Eurasia News

Russian President Vladimir Putin said that despite its military defeat, Daesh (ISIS) retains its significant destructive potential, as it can change its tactics and launch attacks in different countries and regions in the world. In a message to the participants in the 7th Moscow International Security Conference, which kicked off on Wednesday with the participation of delegations from 95 countries including Syria, the Russian President said that other extremist groups also present a big threat to the world.

Rouhani warns against unwanted foreign forces in Syria

Author : Admin | Wednesday, April 4, 2018
Posted in category Eurasia, Iran

President Hassan Rouhani has warned of the consequences of the presence of unwanted foreign forces in Syria, insisting on Iran’s long-held policy that the Syrian crisis cannot be resolved militarily.

Russia expected to invest over $50b in developing Iran’s oil, gas fields

Author : Admin | Wednesday, April 4, 2018
Posted in category Eurasia, Eurasia News, Iran

Russian companies are expected to invest over $50 billion in development of oil and gas fields in Iran, Tass reported quoting Russian presidential aide Yuri Ushakov as saying on Monday.

King receives invitation to attend Arab Summit in Saudi Arabia

Author : Admin | Wednesday, April 4, 2018
Posted in category Middle Orient, Middle Orient News

His Majesty King Abdullah II, on Tuesday received an invitation from the Saudi King Salman Bin Abdul Azizi Al Saud to participate in the Arab Summit scheduled to be held in Dhahran city on April 15.

Erdogan to host Syria summit with Rouhani, Putin on April 4

Author : Admin | Monday, April 2, 2018
Posted in category Eurasia, Eurasia News

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will host a trilateral summit on Syria on April 4 with the participation of his Iranian and Russian counterparts Hassan Rouhani and Vladimir Putin, the Turkish Presidential Press Office said in a statement on March 31.

Middle east events and news

Author : Admin | Monday, April 2, 2018
Posted in category Eurasia, Special Analysis

Days After Father’s Appointment As Tehreek-e-Hurriyat Chairman, Paytm Employee Joins Kashmiri Jihadi Group Hizbul Mujahideen
Just days after Mohammad Ashraf Sehrai took over as interim chairman of separatist Kashmiri group Tehreek-e-Hurriyat (TeH), his son joined the Pakistan-backed jihadi group Hizbul Mujahideen. On March 19, 2018, Mohammad Ashraf Sehrai replaced Syed Ali Shah Geelani as chairman of TeH.
Uzbek Group In Syria Imam Al-Bukhari Brigade (KIB) ‎Denounces U.S. Terrorist Designation, Condemns U.S. ‎‎’Double Standard’‎
On March 25, 2018, the Uzbek group Katibat Al-Imam Al-Bukhari (“Imam Al-Bukhari Brigade,” KIB) released a statement on its Telegram channel condemning the recent U.S. terrorist designation of the group, while lashing out at the U.S. for not coming to the aid of Syrians and for employing a double standard in such designations.(by memri.org).

Middle east events and news

Author : Admin | Monday, April 2, 2018
Posted in category Eurasia, Special Analysis

EXCLUSIVE: Al-Qaeda In The Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) Leader Condemns Infighting Between Jihadi Groups In Syria, Says It Will Lead To Distrust In Jihad
On March 27, 2018, Al-Andalus, the media arm of Al-Qaeda In The Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), released an audio recording in which the group’s leader Abu Mus’ab Abd Al-Wadoud condemned the infighting between jihadi groups in Syria, saying it is harming jihad and damaging to Islam.
EXCLUSIVE: Telegram Channel With Turkish WhatsApp Number Fundraises For Jihadis In Syria In English, German, And Arabic
A Telegram channel says it is “giving aid to those in need.” The channel lists a WhatsApp number with a Turkish country code for donations to fighters in Syria.
EXCLUSIVE: French ISIS Media Operatives Urge Supporters To Emulate The Latest Attacker In The South Of France
On March 23, 2018, the Islamic State (ISIS) claimed responsibility for a terror attack perpetrated earlier that day in Trèbes, France, in which four people were killed. ISIS supporters responded by immediately celebrating the news of the attack. The organization’s media operatives often use such opportunities to increase calls to its supporters to emulate attacks. (by memri org).

Middle east events and news

Author : Admin | Saturday, March 31, 2018
Posted in category Eurasia, Special Analysis

Al-Qaeda Fighters In Syria Call To Establish Al-Qaeda Branch In Russia And Call On Muslims To Attack Targets There
On March 6, 2018, in a message posted on a Telegram channel, Al-Qaeda fighters in Syria addressed Muslims in Russia and called on Al-Qaeda leader Dr. Ayman Al-Zawahiri to support the creation of an Al-Qaeda group in Russia.
Hurras Al-Din, New Pro-Al-Qaeda Organization In Syria, Presents Its Official Flag
On March 13, 2018, the Hurras Al-Din Telegram channel published a photograph of the organization’s official flag. The Hurras Al-Din organization was established in late February 2018, by several pro-Al-Qaeda factions in northern Syria. According to a report on a pro-Al-Qaeda Telegram channel, the new organization comprises more than 1,300 fighters. (by memri org).

Middle east events and news

Author : Admin | Saturday, March 31, 2018
Posted in category Eurasia, Special Analysis

Saudi Court Begins Trial Of Six ISIS Members Accused Of Planning To Kill Foreigners From U.S., Denmark, And France
On March 15, 2018, the Saudi daily newspaper Al-Sharq Al-Awsat reported that a court in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, had begun hearing the case of six Saudi members of the Islamic State (ISIS) accused of shooting at a Danish citizen and planning to kill U.S. citizens in the city of Tabouk, Saudi Arabia, of planning to kill a French woman in Tayma’a province, and of planning to kill a secret service agent and a former government official in other locations.
Al-Qaeda Leader Ayman Al-Zawahiri: Al-Baghdadi Rejected Our Proposal To Join Forces Against The U.S.
On March 18, 2018, Al-Sahab, the Al-Qaeda media outlet, published the first part of the tenth episode of “The Islamic Spring” lecture series featuring the leader of the organization, Ayman Al-Zawahiri. This episode was published about a year and a half after the ninth episode was released. The first episode in the series was released in September 2015.
EXCLUSIVE: On Telegram, ISIS Supporters Discuss Permissibility Of Joining Enemy Military, Police Forces To Receive Training
On March 6, 2018, several members of an English-language pro-Islamic State (ISIS) Telegram group discussed whether it was permissible to join an enemy military or police force only to receive training.(by memri org)

Middle east events and news

Author : Admin | Saturday, March 31, 2018
Posted in category Eurasia, Special Analysis

Terrorists Have Been Using Bitcoin For Four Years, So What’s The Surprise?
As the value of Bitcoin has reached new highs, there has been a major increase in attention to it, including news articles and TV specials – along with concern from governments worldwide that terrorist groups are using digital wallets to send and receive funds in Bitcoin, the decentralized peer-to-peer cryptocurrency created in 2009. With ISIS’s physical caliphate crumbling along with its own once-heralded economy made up of its own currency and banks, utilizing Bitcoin as a backup financial plan is now in play.
The Islamic State’s Struggle To Prevent Desertion And Win Back Those Who Have Left
Faced with enormous pressure from the global coalition, and following its defeats on the battlefield, recently numerous Islamic State (ISIS) fighters who operated in Syria and Iraq have deserted. Some have returned to their families in Syria and Iraq. Others, from countries outside the Middle East, have either left for other countries in the region or returned home. At first taking an aggressive stance on this phenomenon, ISIS made various approaches to those who have left and appealed to them to return.(by memri org.)

SAUDI ARABIA: BEYOND THE INSTITUTIONAL REFORM

Author : Admin | Wednesday, March 28, 2018

The recent visit in the United Kingdom and the USA of Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman brought to the attention the complex recent evolution of Saudi Arabia, especially the economic and social reforms that are bound to influence not only the country itself, but also the region and the world.

Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, also known as MbS, born 31 August 1985, is also First Deputy Prime Minister, President of the Council for Economic and Development Affairs and Minister of Defense. He has been described as the power behind the throne of his father, King Salman, who appointed him Crown Prince in June 2017.

The crown prince’s visit to the United States comes to mark 75 years of the U.S. – Saudi relationship, as well as 80 years since the first discovery of oil in the Arab peninsula.

Besides the meeting at the White House and with the political leadership, the three-week, seven-city trip to the U.S., in which Prince Mohammed travelled with an entourage of officials and business leaders, included meetings with senior leaders of corporations such as Google, Apple, General Electric and Uber, as well as Hollywood producers. Besides Washington, the cities of Boston, New York, Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles were included in the program, as well as Houston where the Saudi prince hopes to lure more of the U.S. oil sector to Saudi Arabia,

A day after the White House visit, the State Department has approved three arms sales to Saudi Arabia, worth more than $1 billion dollars. The deals include 6,000 Raytheon TOW-2 anti-tank missiles worth $670 million, $106 million in helicopter support and $300 million worth of vehicle parts. The sale is not yet final, and the deals also must be approved by Congress.

According to senior U.S. officials, the Washington administration would be lobbying for $35bn in deals for US companies.

While supported by a strong and costly PR campaign, the U.S. visit – as well as the preceding visit of the crown prince to the United Kingdom – also marked the effects generated in the West and among the business circles by the economic and social reforms included in the “Saudi Vision 2030”[1], the strategy coordinated by Mohammed bin Salman.

“Saudi Vision 2030”: a long road away from oil

“Vision 2030”, Saudi Arabia’s plan to diversify its economy away from its dependence on oil, is one of the cornerstones of crown prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud’s political agenda. Its first details were announced on 25 April 2016. “Vision 2030” envisages increasing the private sector’s share of economic output to 65%, developing alternative sources of government revenue, and reducing dependence on public spending.

Based on a report by the consulting firm McKinsey, the vision has three main pillars:  the status of the country as the “heart of the Arab and Islamic worlds”; the determination to become a global investment powerhouse; and finally to transform the country’s location into a hub connecting the 3 continents (Asia, Europe, Africa).

The main targets of the “Vision” are the following:

  • Move from being the 19th largest economy in the world into the top 15.
  • Increase the private sector’s contribution from 40 per cent to 65 per cent of GDP.
  • Increase foreign direct investment from 3.8 per cent to the international level of 5.7 per cent of GDP.
  • Raise the share of non-oil exports in non-oil GDP from 16 per cent to 50 per cent.
  • Increase non-oil government revenue from SAR 163 billion to SAR 1 trillion.
  • Increase the number of pilgrimage visitors from 8 million to 30 million annually.
  • Localize over 50 per cent of military equipment spending by 2030.
  • Increase Saudization in the oil and gas sectors from 40 per cent to 75 per cent.
  • Increase the Public Investment Fund’s assets from SAR 600 billion to more than SAR 7 trillion.The vision’s policy implementation mechanisms take shape in 13 programs: Government Restructuring, Strategic Directions, Fiscal Balance, Project Management, Regulations Review, Performance Measurement, Saudi Aramco Strategic Transformation, Public Investment Fund Restructuring, Human Capital, National Transformation, Strengthening Public Sector Governance, Privatization, and Strategic Partnerships. Several of these projects are quite broad, while others focus on specific topics. The subcomponent programs will commence in a phased approach over the next decade. The first and most significant initiative so far is the National Transformation Program (NTP), which gained attention as the umbrella project for many of the other items listed previously. The NTP essentially replaced the 10th five-year development plan. The program outlines 178 objectives and 340 targets related to public finance, investment policy, jobs, privatization, exports, the business environment, the role of women, energy, mining and health care.A new vision of the old plans?The name is also familiar in the region: Qatar has a National Vision 2020, and Bahrain, Kuwait and Abu Dhabi each have a Vision 2030. Oman has a Vision 2020, and is working on its Vision 2040.While diversification has been an economic policy priority since the 1970s, the implementation of successive initiatives has usually fallen short of the targets. Government spending, almost exclusively underwritten by oil revenues, remains the engine of economic growth. Twice as many Saudis are employed in the public sector as in the private sector. However, there have been some diversification successes: developing infrastructure and non-oil sectors (albeit largely energy-based industries such as petrochemicals and plastics); establishing new industrial cities at Jubail and Yanbu (centered around petrochemical production facilities); moving oil production further up the value chain from crude to refined; and increasing the number of Saudi nationals – especially women, albeit from a low base – working in the private sector. As part of the reform plan, Saudi Arabia is also stepping up plans to develop a civilian nuclear energy capability. Saudi Energy Minister Khalid Al-Falih said in October 2017 that the nuclear program would start by building two reactors, each producing between 1.2 and 1.6 gigawatts of electricity.As the Saudis pursue the technology needed to undertake the ambitious project, they are expected to play potential rivals against one another, reminding their American counterparts that China, Russia and France are also capable of filling their needs (the U.S., South Korea, Russia, France and China are bidding on a multibillion-dollar tender to build the country’s first two nuclear reactors). However, according to sources close to the Saudi government, it would be virtually impossible for the Saudi government to accept terms that are less than what ex-president Obama offered the Iranians, namely the possibility of future enrichment.The “crown jewel”: the Aramco IPOThe kingdom was considering listing about 5 percent of Aramco in 2018 in a deal that could raise $100bn, if the company is valued at about $2 trillion as hoped. The crown prince relies on the IPO to transform the Saudi Public Investment Fund (PIF) into a $2trn sovereign wealth fund, one of the most important changes of the “Vision 2030” reform process.Executives of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) were working hard to convince Saudi officials to trade oil giant Saudi Aramco on Wall Street, rather than rival bourses in London, Hong Kong and elsewhere.Foreign interestsIndustry sources said that Chinese state-owned oil companies PetroChina and Sinopec (part of a state-run consortium including China’s sovereign wealth fund) have written to Saudi Aramco to express an interest in a direct deal, willing to take the whole 5 percent, or even more, alone. Saudi Aramco was also evaluating a private placement of shares to a Chinese investor as a precursor to an international IPO, which could be delayed beyond 2018. But allowing China to buy 5 percent would effectively mean cancelling the IPO altogether, which is an unlikely outcome.Saudi oil exports could also receive a boost through a separate supply pact with the state-run China National Offshore Oil Corp, which is starting a new 200,000bpd plant in southern China.Sovereign wealth funds from South Korea and Japan, which are major buyers of Saudi oil, were also interested in acquiring a stake in Aramco. Also, Russia’s sovereign wealth fund RDIF was keen to invest in the Aramco IPO.Risks of delayOn the other hand, the plan created public misgivings that Riyadh is relinquishing its “crown jewels” to foreigners cheaply at a time of low oil prices. Some Aramco employees would like the whole idea to be shelved. Internal disagreements between what some advisers recommend and what the crown prince wants have delayed several key decisions about the IPO.Another option includes selling some stock immediately to so-called cornerstone investors, such as China, and then selling shares on the local bourse as well as an international stock exchange, with New York, London and Hong Kong in the running.Positive reactions from international financeAl-Khudairy will take over in April as the non-executive chairman for Goldman in the country, subject to regulatory approval, and become regional adviser for the Middle East and North African markets. The banker will help to further bolster Goldman’s presence in the kingdom and make principal investments in the country.Among other deals in Saudi Arabia, Goldman Sachs Inc. was among the companies chosen to help arrange the sale of a dollar-denominated bond, as the country prepares to borrow the equivalent of $31 billion this year to bridge an expected budget deficit and fund growth plans after its economy shrank last year. Goldman Sachs also advised Kingdom Holding on its Saudi Fransi stake purchase and is also advising Saudi British Bank on its merger talks with Alawwal Bank.Other global investment banks are also bolstering their operations in Saudi Arabia to take advantage of business opportunities arising from the state’s plan for privatizations and investments in non-oil related sectors. Deutsche Bank AG has said it’s expanding in the kingdom as the outlook for bond and stock sales improves, while Citigroup Inc. recently won its first local advisory mandate since returning to Saudi Arabia after a 13-year absence.Structural disadvantages of the country such as weak institutions, inefficient bureaucracy and significant gaps between the labor force required by the labor market and the current educational system are seen by many experts as hindering some of the growth prospects of the country and as risk factors for the successful implementation of the “Vision 2030.”The proposed Saudi economic expansion also necessitates building the infrastructure for a new industrial economy that will consume much of the proposed investment fund without assurances that it can generate sustainable revenues. Judging by the expansion of the Saudi development infrastructure over the past five decades, the need for expatriate personnel, including highly paid executives and skilled specialists, will increase exponentially. Privatization will also increase dependence on foreign skilled labor, despite the unattractiveness of the Saudi work environment, because Saudis lack the necessary skills and motivation to do manual or strenuous work.Previous reform programs have repeatedly lagged behind targets also because of the necessary fiscal and labor-market policies. Policies intended to cut the structural fiscal burden and reduce reliance on government spending, could be seen as undermining the implicit social contract, understood in Saudi Arabia as a series of informal pacts between the government and key constituencies including the wider royal family, business elites, influential clerics and the general public. Economic drawbacksThe scope of privatization efforts is increasing, but the flow of deals and bids has almost completely halted. MbS and his team seem to have lost focus on the economic future of the country, choosing instead to continue the embargo against Qatar and an anti-corruption campaign that undermines the unity of the Saud family.Oil discovered in 1938 fuelled state-led development that shaped the rentier state where the government, clergy, and population agree to coexist under a symbiotic social contract.In this system, the people render political acquiescence to the monarchy in exchange for a subsidized life, while the clerics support the House of Saud for the price of religious semi-autonomy. Traditionally, oil revenues funded public sector jobs, provided free education, reduced the cost of living, etc. Despite repeated attempts to modify this dynamic, the country’s economic and social models remain much the same today as they did four decades ago. Yet changes in global energy markets and expansion of the Saudi population indicate that this way of life may soon end. The new vision is essentially a way to modify the social contract while preserving royal power.Patronage is a crucial impediment for the Saudi state to overcome in implementing Vision 2030 successfully. Patronage plays a central role in shaping the Saudi political system and economy and in creating opposition to political change. The implications are more far reaching than simply creating rent seeking attitudes. Patronage shapes the structure of the government, influences education and employment choices, defines the relationship between the people and the state, and limits the monarchy’s autonomy.Political and social complications
  • Another main risk factor for the “Vision 2030”, as the kingdom prepares to shift from a “rentier” to a production-based economy (and eventually a knowledge-based one), is the fact that a more inclusive and participatory political system necessary for economic development is still missing. One without the other will not be possible, yet political reform does not seem to be factored into the grand vision.
  • The uncertainty over the sale of 5 percent of Saudi Aramco, more than two years after Mohammed bin Salman announced the plan, is just one example of how his ambitions on the economic front remain unfulfilled. The “National Transformation Program 2020”, which is intended to run alongside “Vision 2030”, has already had to be substantially changed to make it more focused. Attempts to implement politically sensitive reforms, such as scaling back benefits and subsidies, have been delayed and reversed in the face of public disquiet, suggesting the crown prince has not yet built up enough political capital to push them through.
  • The shift is further complicated by most of the citizens’ continued expectations of state patronage. Citizens have become used to viewing the state (by extension, the monarchy) as providers. The state had in the past reinforced that by providing expansive social programs and direct cash transfers of the oil wealth to keep locals quiet. MbS’ willingness to put an end to Saudi Arabia’s rentier political economy as a regime survival strategy will likely be one of the risks arising from “Vision 2030.”
  • One of the major risks associated with “Vision 2030” is that it could break the social contract in place between the government and the population, which historically relies on heavily subsidized public utilities, state employment, and free education and healthcare. For decades, Saudi Arabia has functioned as a so-called “rentier state”, depending on oil revenues to ensure its paternal-distributional model toward its constituencies. Often described as a series of informal pacts between the Al Saud and the society, including the wider royal family, business elites and the influential clerics, the social contract is at the core of political equilibrium within Saudi Arabia. The “Vision 2030” economic diversification plan could potentially undermine the social contract as an incentive to political behavior, which might provoke some discontent among the wider population.
  • Saudi Arabia’s privatization program will take longer than expected, delaying the kingdom’s grand plan to be diversified out of the oil business by 2030. Among the issues that may affect this process there is the frustrating bureaucracy, a lack of legal framework that mollifies investors, and an unorganized implementation of “Vision 2030” altogether.
  • The fear of upsetting this balance means such efforts are often diluted or deferred, or reversed when oil prices rise. The most dramatic example in recent years was seen in the Saudi response to the Arab uprisings of early 2011, when the government increased its spending by 25 per cent over the previous year, including around $130 billion of announced social spending, higher pay and bonuses for public-sector workers.
  • “Vision 2030” also implies a degree of social liberalization to enable the growth of the entertainment and tourism industries, as well as extensive reforms to the education system, traditionally a stronghold of Saudi Arabia’s religious clerics. If followed through, this would transform relations between the state and its citizens, politically and socially as well as economically, and also the government’s partnership with the clergy.
  • On the economic side, Riyadh cannot realistically compete in labor-intensive manufacturing industries, as low wages do not appeal to Saudis accustomed to high-paying public sector jobs. The petrochemical sector is already well developed and has little room to absorb more workers. The same thing goes for mining, which also does not require a large workforce. Even if Saudi Arabia further develops its health care sector, it would be virtually impossible for it to become a medical hub because other facilities elsewhere in the region, such as in Lebanon and Jordan, are already far more advanced and readily accessible. Likewise, banking and finance require specialized training, and it is doubtful that the kingdom can carve a niche in this very competitive regional sector.
  • Economic and political risk factors
  • Among other deals, Saudi Arabian hospital operator Al Hammadi Co. for Development & Investment is close to hiring Goldman to advise on merger talks with National Medical Care Co. Jabal Omar Development Co. also hired Goldman Sachs to advise on a potential merger with Umm Al Qura Development.
  • Goldman is also among the major banks likely to be appointed to manage the Saudi Aramco IPO.
  • Some of the first positive reactions for the “Vision 2030” came from international finance, with Goldman Sachs Group Inc. planning to deploy its own money in the kingdom for the first time. According to Wassim Younan, Goldman’s chief executive for the Middle East and North Africa, in order to identify such opportunities, the bank is hiring veteran banker Ammar Al-Khudairy, who previously oversaw Morgan Stanley’s operations in the country.
  • According to Saudi Aramco, a range of options, for the public listing continue to be held “under active review”, but no decision has been made and the IPO process remains on track.
  • Industry sources also pointed out to disagreements between senior government officials, with some pushing only to list Aramco locally or to delay the IPO beyond 2018 when they hope oil prices will stabilize at $55 to $60 a barrel.
  • The proposed timetable for the Saudi Aramco IPO, which had been scheduled for 2018, seems to be slipping, since the very benefits that would flow from an international listing (more transparency, more accountability for management, the discipline imposed by independent shareholders) are precisely the issues that present some of the biggest challenges.

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U.S. delegation to visit Erbil, Baghdad to agree redeploying Kurdish troops in disputed regions

Author : Mircea Birca | Friday, March 23, 2018

The spokesperson for the Arab tribes in Nineveh has disclosed news about a visit by a delegation from U.S. to each of Baghdad and Erbil to agree on the redeployment of the Kurdish troops in disputed regions.

“U.S. delegation will visit Baghdad and Erbil next week to discuss redeploying of Peshmerga troops, along with federal forces,” Mazahim al-Howeit was quoted as saying by Radio Sawa website. Read the rest of this entry »

Iraq denounces Turkish strikes on Kurdistan

Author : Mircea Birca | Friday, March 23, 2018

Iraq on Thursday denounced Turkish airstrikes on anti-Ankara, Kurdish fighters’ locations in the north of the country that left a number of civilians dead.

In a statement, the foreign ministry spokesperson, Ahmed Mahgoub, said “The Iraqi foreign ministry denounces the continuation of aggressions and transgressions upon Iraqi borders by the Turkish Read the rest of this entry »