ARABIALINK Daily News – Excerpts from International Media Reports
/Provided as a service from the Saudi-US Trade Group, Washington, DC/
Fares Bugshan | 12/29/11
Although small shares of Saudi Arabia’s adult population own businesses or plan to open them soon, Gallup surveys in 2011 reveal these shares are even smaller outside the three major cities of Riyadh, Jeddah, and Dammam. Saudis living in these major cities are twice as likely as their counterparts in the rest of the country to be business owners (9% vs. 4%) and have plans to open a business in the next 12 months (4% vs. 2%). The differences in their ambitions may lie in the diverse challenges they face in becoming business owners and their attitudes.
The overall Saudi budget balance remained in surplus driven by elevated oil prices and production. The rally in oil prices coupled with the increase in oil production brought revenues up by 49.7 percent to reach SR1.11 trillion in 2011, propelling the fiscal balance higher into a surplus of SR306 billion (or 14.0 percent of GDP) compared to a surplus of SR88 billion in 2010. Expenditures hit a new record as a series of royal decrees were announced in Q1, 2011, amounting to an estimated SR400 billion in supplementary spending, with around SR110 billion most likely to have been spent in 2011, the national Commercial Bank (NCB) said in Saudi Arabia’s budget report released late on Monday. SAUDI NEEDS $74 OIL TO BALANCE BUDGET: Saudi Arabia will need a breakeven crude oil price of $74 per barrel to generate the funds required to meet its widening expenditure next year, Jadwa Investment said on Tuesday, AFP reports. EXPORT CRUDE WILL AVERAGE $92: Riyadh-based securities company Jadwa has predicted that Saudi export crude will average $92/barrel in 2012 amid falling prices for benchmark crudes due to a weakening global economy, Platts reports.
Saudi Arabia is pressing ahead with a long-awaited plan to open up its stock market to foreigners and is now hoping to formalize its rules by January 15, a source with knowledge of the matter told Reuters.
Oil Price Falls as Saudis Trump Iran Threat: ASSOCIATED PRESS
Oil prices fell on Wednesday, as Saudi Arabia said it will offset any loss of oil from a threatened Iranian blockade of a crucial tanker route in the Middle East. In New York benchmark crude fell $1.15 to $100.19 a barrel. Brent crude fell 90 cents to $108.37 a barrel in London.
Saudi Arabia Will Let Women Seek Office, Vote Freely In 2015: DETROIT FREE PRESS
AP | 12/29/11
Women in Saudi Arabia will not need a male guardian’s approval to run or vote in municipal elections in 2015, when women will be allowed to seek office for the first time, a Saudi official said Wednesday.
An Exclusive Movie Theater for Women: SAUDI GAZETTE
Amal Al-Sibai | 12/29/11
Women can have all the fun now as they have an exclusive 154-seat movie theater all to themselves. The first ever movie theater ‘Aspire Ladies Cinema’ for women, in the Middle East, was opened in Doha in June, early this year. It was much appreciated by women from Qatar and other neighboring countries
The Obama administration has signed with Saudi Arabia an agreement Congress approved in 2010 to sell Boeing F-15 fighters to the Gulf ally, according to a U.S. official.
New Commerce Minister Honors Alireza: ARAB NEWS
Tawfiq Al-Rabiah, the new Minister of Commerce and Industries, honored on Tuesday outgoing Minister Abdullah Zainal Alireza at The Ritz-Carlton here at a function attended by former ministers, head of Saudi chambers and businessmen.
Oracle to Support Saudi Municipality with IT Services: EXECUTIVE BIZ
Oracle has recently been selected by Makkah Municipality, located in Saudi Arabia, to enhance e-services and automate operational processes. The firm was also chosen to help maximize overall service equality.
Saudi Arabia will donate fuel to Yemen, throwing a second lifeline in six months to its impoverished southern neighbour to prevent a shortage there from escalating into chaos, industry sources said on Thursday.
Saudi Aramco Denies Interest in Frac Tech Intl: STEEL GURU
Saudi Aramco has denied that it was competing for a stake in US based Frac Tech International, a company that operates technology used extensively in North America to free up trapped oil and natural gas.
IRAQ: THE LOST OPPORTUNITY
Now that U.S. troops have left Iraq, Americans are taking stock of the staggering price of this nine-year war of choice, in blood (nearly 4,500 Americans dead, 33,000 wounded), in fractured relations worldwide and in monetary terms (nearly $1 trillion in direct spending; several times that when counting the fivefold increase in oil prices, the long-term cost of caring for veterans and wounded, and the replacement of weapons and equipment — a total that may top the cost of World War II). An additional casualty is the loss of a mechanism for enforcing nonproliferation agreements, though how this might have changed the course of subsequent events — in Iran, for example — cannot be known, Jessica T. Matthews (Carnegie/Washington Post) writes.
UNDERSTANDING THE IRAQ CRISIS: We were all wondering how long it was going to take after the withdrawal of American troops for Iraq to face its first major political crisis. But I seriously doubt that anyone would have dared to predict that it would begin even before the very last U.S. soldiers had crossed the borders with Kuwait. Nevertheless, here we are. While the American media was running endless stories about the “end of the Iraq war,” the Iraqis were busy gearing up for the next round. Make no mistake about it: the current crisis, manufactured by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki for reasons that only he knows for sure, is of seminal importance for Iraq, Ken Pollack (Brookings) writes. IRAQ AFTER THE U.S.: WHO’S WHO?
The US troop surge in 2007 helped quiet Iraq’s bloody civil war. But it failed to deliver on what US officials and officers said was crucial for Iraq’s future at the time: sectarian reconciliation. Rather than forging a new national identity out of the horrors of Iraq’s war, Iraq’s Shiite and Sunni Arabs and ethnic Kurds sullenly retreated to their own sectarian corners, and the country’s political parties remain vehicles for ethnic or sectarian interests. The next year is probably going to be the most crucial for determining the future of Iraq since the US-led invasion of 2003, as Iraq’s various political factions compete for power and influence without foreign troops getting in the way. Here are a few of the major players, Dan Murphy (CSM) writes. HOW TO SAVE IRAQ FROM CIVIL WAR: Iraq today stands on the brink of disaster. President Obama kept his campaign pledge to end the war here, but it has not ended the way anyone in Washington wanted. The prize, for which so many American soldiers believed they were fighting, was a functioning democratic and nonsectarian state. But Iraq is now moving in the opposite direction — toward a sectarian autocracy that carries with it the threat of devastating civil war, Ayad Allawi, Osama Al-Nujaifi and Rafe Al-Essawi (NYT) write.
IRAN: CAN IRAN CLOSE THE STRAIT OF HORMUZ?
Mark Thompson (Time – Battleland) discusses Iran capability to close the Strait. “Iran has constructed a navy with considerable asymmetric and other capabilities designed specifically to be used in an integrated way to conduct area denial operations in the Persian Gulf and SoH, and they routinely exercise these capabilities and issue statements of intent to use them,” Jonathan Schroden writes in a recent report for the Pentagon-funded Center for Naval Analyses. “This combination of capabilities and expressed intent does present a credible threat to international shipping in the Strait.” Not so fast, other experts maintain. “We believe that we would be able to maintain the strait,” Marine General James Cartwright, then-vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Congress last year. “But it would be a question of time and impact and the implications from a global standpoint on the flow of energy, et cetera, [that] would have ramifications probably beyond the military actions that would go on.”
SYRIA: ARAB LEAGUE NEEDS TO TELL THE TRUTH
The hopes of Syrians for an end to the criminal repression by the regime of Bashar al-Assad now depend on the Arab League and the observer force it dispatched to the country this week. It is a very thin reed. The observers were originally meant to number 500, but have been pushed down to 150; 66 had arrived in the country by Wednesday. Their chief, Gen. Mustafa al-Dabi, is a former intelligence director for Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, who himself is under international indictment for crimes against humanity, The Washington Post Editorial Board writes.
TURKEY: TURKEY AIR STRIKE KILLS 35 NEAR KURDISH VILLAGE
An air strike by Turkish warplanes near a Kurdish village close to the border with Iraq has left 35 people dead, officials say. One report said that smugglers had been spotted by unmanned drones and were mistaken for Kurdish rebels. (BBC).
ISRAEL: U.S., ISRAEL DISCUSS TRIGGERS FOR BOMBING IRAN’S NUCLEAR INFRASTRUCTURE
Eli Lake (Daily Beast) comments on recent Obama administration discussions. When Defense Secretary Leon Panetta opined earlier this month that an Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities could “consume the Middle East in a confrontation and a conflict that we would regret,” the Israelis went ballistic behind the scenes. Michael Oren, Israel’s ambassador to Washington, lodged a formal diplomatic protest known as a demarche. And the White House was thrust into action, reassuring the Israelis that the administration had its own “red lines” that would trigger military action against Iran, and that there is no need for Jerusalem to act unilaterally.
EGYPT: TRIAL OF HOSNI MUBARAK RESUMES IN EGYPT
State TV carried live footage of Mr. Mubarak’s arrival at the court on Wednesday. Wearing a black tracksuit and covered with a blanket, he was taken on a stretcher from an ambulance to a waiting room. He was earlier flown to the police academy by helicopter from a Cairo military hospital, where he has received treatment for a heart condition. Proceedings were delayed because lawyers representing the families of the nearly 840 protesters killed during the 18-day uprising demanded that the presiding judge, Ahmed Refaat, and two other judges be replaced. (BBC Middle East).
ANALYSIS: WHAT WOULD A HAMAS-FATAH AGREEMENT MEAN?
There are repeated efforts to forge a unity agreement of some sort between Hamas and Fatah, leading to a new “unity government” for the Palestinian Authority. Such a coalition was briefly in force in 2007 after the Saudi-sponsored Mecca Agreement. It quickly broke down into violence and led to the Hamas coup in Gaza. What would it mean today? Elliott Abrams asks.
OPINION: REBUILDING AMERICA’S STOCK OF POWER
“My sense of what America’s strategic course needs to be rides closely to Charles Kupchan’s thinking — but his neatly drawn pillars distract I think from the dire situation America finds itself in today,” writes Steve Clemons as he breaks down Kupchan’s piece in Democracy.
OPINION: DRIVE FOR US DOMINANCE IN REGION SETS STAGE FOR IRAN ATTACK
The Cold War definitely imposed limits on American initiative in the Middle East that effectively disappeared 20 years ago. From this perspective, the big problem with the Islamic Republic is not that it is irrevocably and aggressively anti-American (it is not). The problem is that the Islamic Republic refuses, as a matter of both principle and strategic interest, to accept and endorse American dominance in the region, write Flynt and Hilary Mann Leverett (Race for Iran).
UNITED STATES: IN N DAKOTA, A GREAT DIVIDE OVER OIL RICHES
Sure enough, money is flowing by the barrelful into Mountrail County, transforming a tiny community once proudly situated in the middle of nowhere into an unexpected oasis of prosperity at the heart of the nation’s biggest oil play, NYT reports. No other county in the state has had a bigger jump in the number of households earning more than $100,000, which spiked to 21 percent from 6 percent during the last decade, according to an analysis of census data. But much like the crude below, the benefits have spread unevenly, often as a result of decisions made long ago.
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