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Saudi Arabia Has A Comprehensive Plan Of Reforms & Moves Any Form Of Terrorism.

*** With Obama As Its President, The UNSC Summit On Sept. 24 Unanimously Voted For A Resolution Calling For A World Free Of Nuclear Weapons

*** On Sept. 25 Obama And His Western Allies Attacked Iran For Having Hidden A Second U-Enrichment Facility, This Time Near The Holy City Of Qom; PM Brown Said Tehran Had Shown Nothing But 'Serial Deceptions For Many Years' - The Big Powers Gave Khamenei And Ahmadi-Nejad Till End-2009 To Come Out Clean On The Nuke File, Or Face Crippling UNSC Sanctions'

*** But The G-20 Summit Meeting At Pittsburgh - Its Third Since Late 2008 - Again Failed To Come Up With A New Global Order; Protectionism Now Is A Big Disease As Every Economy Wants Out Of The Recession Before The Others

JEDDAH - King Abdullah ibn Abdul-Aziz on Sept. 23 inaugurated the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) - a multi-billion-dollar graduate research institution which he hopes will compare with the best in the world. Located in the Red Sea coastal area of Thuwal 80 km north of Jeddah, the KAUST gives the world a view of what Saudi Arabia will look like in the years to come: male and female researchers rubbing shoulders, females driving their cars (for the first time in Saudi history), and the Wahhabi morality police are kept far out of the campus.

The inauguration ceremony, attended by a galaxy of Arab and Muslim rulers, Western leaders and Nobel laureates, was timed with Saudi Arabia's National Day, the 79th year since the kingdom was founded, and the Id al-Fitr feast which marked the end of the holy fasting month of Ramadan. Among those present were Lebanese PM Fu'ad Siniora and PM-designate Sa'd Hariri.

Notable among the would-be absentees who surprised the Arabs by showing up was Syria's Alawite/Ba'thist President Bashar al-Assad, who later had a separate meeting with King Abdullah and shook hands with PM Siniora. Almost immediately, a block on formation of a Beirut cabinet was off for the US/EU and Saudi-backed March 14 coalition (see news10LbSauSyrHaririSep7-09). All the other members of the Iran-led axis of anti-US/anti-Israel forces in the Greater Middle East (GME) were absent from the Thuwal celebrations.

Talking to the Saudi-owned pan-Arab TV al-Arabiya on Sept. 23, Saudi analyst Jamal Khashoggi (editor of al-Watan daily), said the kingdom had gone all the way in its efforts at detente with Iran which had succeeded in the early 1990s under then President Ali-Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani and the late 1990s under President Muhammad Khatami. But, he said, those efforts failed under Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad who on June 12 was re-elected to a second term in a vote his reformist rivals charged was grossly rigged by the IRGC.

In his inaugural speech, the reformist King Abdullah renewed his call for Arab reconciliation to include Syria, which is part of the axis. On Sept. 23 Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Mu'allem was in Paris trying to persuade the French to back Assad's position on a UN court's trial of the killers of Lebanon's ex-PM Rafiq Hariri. Syria and Hizbullah are said to be implicated in this case.

King Abdullah's moves in recent years have featured an initiative for total peace between the Arabs and Israel, efforts to combat any form of Islamic terrorism, be that from the Sunni (Neo-Salafi) or Shi'ite (Ja'fari) side, including a new campaign against drugs and arms trafficking across the Arab Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) area (see news11SauPeacePlanSep12-09), with the now IRGC-ruled Iran accused of involvement (see news12GCC-GlblDrugs&ArmsTradeSep21-09).

KAUST's Interim Executive VP Nathmi al-Nasr talks about turning dreams into reality in Saudi Arabia, with the goals of transforming the world's largest crude oil producer into a big exporter of solar energy and discovering the secrets of growing wheat on land irrigated with salt water. Dr Nasr says if the KAUST is able to make such breakthroughs, it would "change not only the Saudi economy but the map of the world" (see omt13SaudiProspSep28-09).

The challenge of Neo-Salafi terrorism, however, remains a major problem in Saudi Arabia. The Aug. 27 attempt by a Neo-Salafi jihadi (holy warrior) to kill Assistant Interior Minister for Security Prince Muhammad ibn Nayef showed that the roots of terrorism were still strong and had gripped the Saudi society. It is difficult to give specific reasons for this phenomenon. But it is obvious that the general atmosphere in the kingdom has contributed to the development and deepening of a culture which promotes extremism and violence and rejects co-existence with others.

Al-Qaeda's 9/11 attacks in the US, in which 15 of the 19 jihadi hijackers were unemployed young Saudis belonging to the middle class, came as a warning for Riyadh to speed up reforms across the board. But King Abdullah's reforms have been resisted internally.

Contributing to the problem was the Wahhabi religious order which, until a few years ago, blocked any efforts to tackle important cultural, political, economic and social issues and to learn lessons from big crises such as the Gulf wars and 9/11. Jeddah-based lawyer and columnist Dr Khaled al-Nuwaiser says: "We have to be aware that the [Neo-Salafi] terrorist industry is continuing production and the counselling [system of trying to convert jihadis back into normal Saudi citizens] may help confront its products but will not stop the industryWe must have a comprehensive strategy to root out the problem by destroying the factories of terrorism".

A highly-placed APS source in Jeddah says King Abdullah does have such a comprehensive strategy, "with a plan to be executed gradually, but this will take time". The source says that, in parallel, King Abdullah "is counting on a plan being prepared by reformed Wahhabi religious scholars to modernise the entire establishment". But, he adds, "this, too, will take time and a lot of patience".

A long period of interference by intolerant Wahhabi scholars has prevented effective participation by enlightened individuals in the building of civil society organisations and caused negligence in a methodical way. They have caused the shrinking of society into special interest groups as well as contradiction between what is said and what is done on the ground. All these have added to the problem. Another major reason is the introversive characteristic of Saudi society. Dr Nuwaiser notes: "Considering itself something special' and fearing loss of identity, the Saudi society has been opposing proposals aimed at overall development".

Other factors which promoted terrorism were unemployment and an educational system not catered to the needs of development and the prevalence of a fanatic Wahhabi way of thinking imposed on society, preventing it from thinking outside set limits - a religious order monopolising thought in Saudi society during the last decade, causing resistance to change. This has had a negative impact on Riyadh's development plans because there could not be any real progress without enlightened thinking.

As a result, development plans produced what was not desired. Dr Nuwaiser, whose columns are widely read among liberals and advisers to King Abdullah, says: "Now is the time to look for effective solutions to eradicate a culture which has produced terrorists. We want solutions based on a comprehensive strategy and not temporary responses to specific situations solutions which can hit the problem at its roots and not ones which deal only with the symptoms".

Nuwaiser adds: "Our youths are badly in need of developing a culture of dialogue and mutual thinking. They need advice in order to control explosive feelings. Youths who are prevented from entering [job] markets and on whose faces all doors are closed have no chance of co-existing with others. We have to understand that some of these youths have beenattracted by [Neo-Salafi] terrorist groups. We have to open new avenues and opportunities for youths in order to help them practice their hobbies and fulfill their desires in fine arts, drama, clubs, fora and all other areas considered important for human nature. A suitable atmosphere should be created for these young men to enjoy mental, spiritual and cultural stability, and make them feel they are not sidelined. It is the only way to prevent them from being enticed by the terror groups".

Those who blow themselves up have reached the stage of mental emptiness. Dr Nuwaiser says: "Our educational system needs an immediate overhauling in order to play an effective role in solving the problem, instead of remaining one of the causes of the problem Expanding the base of popular participation in the decision-making process is another important area This could be done by developing existing political institutions and creating new ones. We should establish new civil society organisations in order to meet the needs of the people. Awaiting society's endorsement for major decisions will further complicate problems".

An important lesson can be drawn from experience of the late Abdul-Aziz "Ibn Saud", founder of the Saudi kingdom. He made big and bold decisions at times when the country was passing through difficult situations. He did not wait for society to approve the decisions because he believed it was he who led society, not the other way round.

The reforms under King Abdullah are remarkable. So is the success achieved by the Saudi security forces under Second Deputy PM and Minister of Interior Prince Nayef, who has won international acclaim. These leaders now are focusing on efforts to root out the terror problem.
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Publication:APS Diplomat News Service
Geographic Code:7SAUD
Date:Sep 28, 2009
Previous Article:Bin Laden Warns US.
Next Article:The New University - KAUST.

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