Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Senators slam lack of Arab support

by Hilary Leila Krieger from The Jerusalem Post

Close to 80 senators - including all those running for president - signed a letter calling for greater Arab support for the peace process ahead of the international conference the US is planning for November ... Israel has been pressing for Saudi representation at the meeting, which so far has no official list of invitees. A Saudi presence is seen as significant because of the legitimacy it would confer on the proceedings in the wider Arab community, as well as provide a boost to Israeli aspirations for normalized relations with its regional neighbors. The letter also calls for Arab countries to "recognize Israel's right to exist and not use such recognition as a bargaining chip for future Israeli concessions" and to "pressure Hamas to recognize Israel, reject terror and accept prior agreements, and isolate Hamas until it takes such steps." But those very stipulations would derail the effort to get the Saudis on board by setting preconditions and criticizing Saudi efforts at mediation between Fatah and Hamas, the Arab American Institute argued on its Web site.

Senate agrees to audit war contracts

by Khadijah Rentas from The Columbia Missourian

Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., a former auditor, co-sponsored the initiative introduced in July by Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va ... Money mishandling related to the wars has led to investigations that resulted in criminal charges for briberies, kickbacks and money laundering. In July, the House Armed Services Committee heard from Defense Department officials who said the department had 90 ongoing criminal investigations of contractors and government personnel. The department recovered more than $10 million from investigations, according to the report from the principal deputy inspector of the Department of Defense, Thomas Gimble. According to documents presented to the committee by Gimble, all cases of war profiteering and contract corruption originated in Afghanistan, Iraq, Kuwait, Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

Kingdom Overhauls Judiciary; Independence of Courts Stressed

by P.K. Abdul Ghafour from Arab News

Spelling out the salient features of the new judicial laws, an official statement said they allow formation of special commercial, labor and administrative courts. The Court of Grievances will work as an independent body and will report directly to the king. The Supreme Judiciary Council will look into personnel affairs of judges. The judicial affairs now onward come under the authority of the Supreme Court, which will supervise implementation of Shariah and the laws issued by the king, the Saudi Press Agency said ... In other news, Interior Minister Prince Naif has ordered the release of Saudi Guantanamo returnees to celebrate Eid with their families. The Saudis, who were detained, have to return for trial.

Analysis: Yemen, Jordan hope for nuclear power

by Derek Sands from UPI

The government of Yemen is planning to build five nuclear power plants over 10 years, according to news reports from Sanaa. Work would start in 2009, and they would supply a total of 5,000 megawatts to the country, at an estimated cost of $15 billion ... For its part, Jordan has long expressed an interest in nuclear power as well. At the end of August, Minister of Education and Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research Khalid Touqan told King Abdullah that nuclear power would provide Jordan with 30% of its power by 2030, according to the state-run news agency Petra. And the U.S. Embassy in Amman on Sept. 16 announced that it would help Jordan reach that goal ... Regional heavyweights Egypt, Saudi Arabia, as well as the other Gulf Cooperation Council countries -- Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates -- have expressed interest in nuclear power.

Saudi Arabia Keen on Free Trade With Canada

from Arab News

In tourism, Canada is fast becoming a destination of choice for Saudi tourists, bringing not only revenues for the Canadian economy, but contributing also in strengthening the cultural ties between the two countries. According to the Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency (SAMA), Saudis spend a staggering $25 billion abroad each year. There is huge scope for cooperation in the field of education. He foresees that the numbers of Saudi students coming to Canada will more than double during the few coming years. There are currently only 3,000 Saudi students studying at Canadian universities compared to 15,000 in the US. The Saudi Council of Ministers has recently expanded the King Abdullah Scholarship program to include for the first time countries such as Canada and seven European countries. The number of scholarships has been increased to 20,000. The 2007 Saudi budget allocated SR100 billion to education.

WASHINGTON DIARY: The powers that be

by Dr Manzur from The Daily Times

The exile of Nawaz Sharif is not the first and the only occasion when Saudis have meddled in Pakistani politics. Saudi Arabia contributed towards the destabilisation of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto by financially supporting Jamaat-e-Islami and other religious outfits. At one point Bhutto came out openly against Saudi intervention when Saudis donated a large amount to Jamaat-e-Islami. Saudi intervention in Pakistani affairs increased over time. During Zia-ul Haq’s period it pumped huge amounts of money into Afghan jihad and Pakistani religious madrassas. By aggressively interjecting Wahabi Islam into Pakistan, Saudis have aided the communalisation of Pakistani society; sectarian violence has been closely associated with Saudi supported madrassas. Other than madrassas, Saudis have been very loyal to the Pakistani military. As a matter of fact, it plays a proxy role when the US does not want to be seen as intervening directly. Therefore, Saudi Arabia’s role in Pakistani politics has to be examined very closely.

Are We Winning the "War on Terror"?

by Reuel Marc Gerecht fom The New Republic

One quick remark about democracy in the Muslim world: Support it ... Also, we can try apprising the Saudi government regularly about what Saudis are doing overseas. There is no good reason why the State Department doesn't publish every three months a public translated compilation of Saudi-supported religious material and missionary activity. If they are funding Wahhabi programs in Europe, America, Central Asia, and the Middle East, then everyone should know it, in detail. If Saudi hands are behind the spread of anti-Semitic material throughout the Muslim world, highlight it. We absolutely need engagement with Muslims, of all stripes. And we shouldn't argue any differently with Muslims in the Middle East than we do with Frenchmen and Germans. Many Westerners, especially on the left, are prone to treat Muslims like children, pulling punches whenever things get invidious. The Bush administration has often done this (less so, however, than earlier administrations).