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Category Archive: Opinions & Editorials

Another Smooth Transition

26 January 2015 | comments (0) | Opinions & Editorials | by

Abdulateef Al‐MulhimAbdulateef Al‐Mulhim, Commodore, Royal Saudi Navy (Retired)

Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman ascended to the throne on Jan. 23. His assignment came in smooth transition following the demise of King Abdullah. King Salman is not new to world. He is recognized as a seasoned and respected politician.

People well-versed with the political history of Saudi Arabia know fully well that King Salman had been active since the 1960s. He could be seen in the photographs with King Faisal and remained a confidante of King Khalid. During the reign of King Fahd, he was assigned several important responsibilities. King Salman is undoubtedly a very familiar face in the world of international and regional politics.

While late King Abdullah will be dearly missed, it is heartening to see King Salman as the 7th Saudi king. King Salman will continue to lead the Kingdom on the road to progress and reforms as envisioned by late King Abdullah.

As mentioned above, King Salman’s leadership skills had become obvious at the very initial stages of his career. He remained the emir of Riyadh region for decades and personally supervised the transformation of the capital city from a modest town to a world-class metropolis.

The smooth transition of power has once again put western speculations to rest. This writer always feels amazed at Western fixation with the succession process of Saudi Arabia. Western analysts actually tend to ignore the social and historical aspects of Saudi Arabia making it difficult for them to understand the process correctly.

The Saudi royal family has been a part of local society for hundreds of years and every tribe and every family in the Kingdom has made direct contributions to the establishment of Saudi Arabia. And it is still common for many Saudis to hear their grandparents’ stories of their own fathers and grandfathers having direct contact with members of the Al-Saud family many years before the establishment of modern Saudi Arabia. The Al-Saud royal family enjoys a continued and strong popularity that only Saudis can truly understand.

The Al-Saud presence in Arabia did not come out of the blue nor did the family ascend to the thrown through a sudden military coup. It was Al-Saud family members and common Saudis who worked hand-in-hand until the day King Abdulaziz bin Abdulrahman founded modern day Saudi Arabia in 1932. And it is very important that the western press know that the Saudi royal succession is one of the smoothest and most transparent transitions in the world.

For us Saudis, as long as it is a Saudi royal family member at the helm, we get a good night’s sleep. We’ll let others worry about analysis. For the past 60 years, some of the western media pundits have been talking about Saudi Arabia’s stability as if we were in a civil war. The doors of the king, crown prince and all the Saudi provinces’ governors are open to all Saudis and we have never felt that there is a contact gap between the ruler and the ruled.

Written by Abdulateef Al‐Mulhim. Another Smooth Transition reprinted with permission of Arab News and Abdulateef Al‐Mulhim.

King Abdullah And The Genuine

23 January 2015 | comments (1) | Opinions & Editorials | by

Abdulateef Al‐MulhimAbdulateef Al‐Mulhim, Commodore, Royal Saudi Navy (Retired)

In the early hours of Friday morning my wife called me on the phone and she was crying like a baby…Yes like a baby. I did not ask why she was crying because I was simply crying myself for the same reason and so did millions of Saudis, expatriates living in the Kingdom and millions around the world. The tears are genuine and sincere…. Custodian of The Two Holy Mosque King Abdullah is dead.

Since the day Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz became king on August of 2005, he set the country’s progress in motion with massive mega projects, social reforms, political reforms and most important his efforts to bring the whole world together through open dialogue between all faiths. King Abdullah was not only the man of the year, but rather he was the man of the decade. And not just in Saudi Arabia, but throughout the world. Hours after his death I received many e-mails from different parts of the world from people I had never met or knew. The late King Abdullah was simply an international icon. He was a man of wisdom and vision that looked beyond the horizon. The whole world is mourning him with genuine tears. Saudi Arabia and what happens inside it is the whole world’s concern. It is one of the most influential countries in the world.

After the official announcement of the death of King Abdullah, it was announced that Crown Prince Salman is the king and Deputy Crown Prince Muqrin the crown prince. The simple transparent announcement signaled a smooth transition of power in Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia now has a new king and a new crown prince. Both of them are very highly talented politicians and leaders. Prince Salman, now the king, has been the governor of Riyadh province for decades and Riyadh is known to be the most populated city and most government offices are located there. This gave him a very valuable experience in civil management and later on when he became the crown prince and the minister of defense. In addition he is very well known in the international arena.

He is known in Saudi Arabia and the Arab world to be one of the top historians with knowledge of many details about the history and people.

As for Crown Prince Muqrin, he started his life as a fighter pilot and was put to different challenges at a very early stage of his life. He is highly educated and held many military positions. His positions in the military taught him patience and determination. After leaving the military, he became the governor of Hail province and later the governor of Madinah. Also he held the position of the director general of Saudi Intelligence Agency.

Crown Prince Muqrin is known to be one of the top astronomers. He is a star who is in love with the stars.

Saudis and many observers around the world are confident that the drive to modernize and develop Saudi Arabia will continue and its foreign policy as a peace loving country will stay the course. Saudis are confident about the future of their Kingdom and the smooth transition showed again the stability of Saudi Arabia and it also reflected the strong bond and the open relation between the ruler and the ruled.
We pray to Allah to grant our late King Abdullah the highest place in Heaven and give our new King Salman and Crown Prince Muqrin the strength to take the country to new heights. We all wish many years of prosperity for the Kingdom under King Salman’s leadership.

Written by Abdulateef Al‐Mulhim. King Abdullah And The Genuine reprinted with permission of Arab News and Abdulateef Al‐Mulhim.

Trip Down Memory Lane

20 January 2015 | comments (0) | Opinions & Editorials | by

Abdulateef Al‐MulhimAbdulateef Al‐Mulhim, Commodore, Royal Saudi Navy (Retired)

Just a few decades ago, if one asked any college student in the Kingdom or elsewhere in the world about his/her childhood hobbies, the answers would be more or less similar, like: Stamp collecting or reading. Times have changed so much that today’s generation might not be very much aware of a postage stamp. Of course, posting letters is no longer in vogue, as we have e-mails that don’t need any stamp or envelopes.

In the good old days, we used to write letters to friends to stay in touch. We would go the post office, buy a stamp and paste it on an envelope and would then submit it at the post office. At the other end, the friend would read the letter and would keep the stamp safe with him. These days, we don’t even need to purchase stamps to even remit funds. Everything is being done online. Postage stamp has become a thing of the past. Even officials at the post office use a machine to print a stamp-like impression on the envelope. In other words, postage stamps have almost disappeared from our lives.

Does anyone of you remember the traveler’s checks? When was the last time you saw somebody with a traveler’s check? Oh, pardon me for not realizing that many of you have no idea what a traveler’s check is all about. These checks have been around for more than 200 years. It is a preprinted, fixed amount check with the bearer’s signature on it. You buy them from the bank and are acceptable worldwide. However, with the introduction of credit cards and debit cards after 1990, these checks started to slip into oblivion. Some would argue that postage stamps and traveler’s checks had been around for a long time and with the advancement in technology, their disappearance is justified. Agreed, but what about the floppy diskette? It was introduced just in the 1970s. Within three decades, we no longer see those square-shaped objects. They are only mentioned in course books with an illustration.

Oh, I forgot, where would you find a typewriter? Sure not at a bookstore. They are found either in your father’s old trunk or may be in a museum. Honestly, when was the last time someone mentioned the word, typewriter? Of course I will not talk about rotary phone, can opener, videotapes, cassettes, music records and let us not forget the sextant. I am a former sailor and it breaks my heart to see today’s naval officers completely unaware about the sextant. By the way, the sextant is an instrument used to determine the angle between a celestial object and the horizon, which is known as the object’s altitude and it is used to determine a ship’s or a plane’s position.

There many things that have disappeared from our lives and we will never see those again. The word will see more inventions and more things will be discovered and we as humans will resort to the use of new equipment. One day, we will forget the older ones. It is said that the world is becoming more civilized but with all these new inventions, why the world does not try to make other things disappear from our lives such as hatred, prejudice, social inequality, poverty and corruption etc.

Or most importantly, why don’t we make wars and conflicts disappear from our lives. It is a shame that we spend billions in medical research labs to discover or invent medicine and drugs that save people’s lives and cure illnesses, then we spend more funds to invent destructive weapons that kill people. Can you imagine planet earth without wars?

Written by Abdulateef Al‐Mulhim. Trip Down Memory Lane reprinted with permission of Arab News and Abdulateef Al‐Mulhim.

Keeping Our Desert Clean

19 January 2015 | comments (0) | Opinions & Editorials | by

Abdulateef Al‐MulhimAbdulateef Al‐Mulhim, Commodore, Royal Saudi Navy (Retired)

This week mid-term break starts for all students in the Kingdom. Many of them will go abroad with their friends and families to explore different parts of the world. Many others who will be staying in the Kingdom are most likely to head to the desert to camp for a few days.

Sandy beautiful deserts cover more than 30 percent of Saudi Arabia. If it rains properly during the months of October or November, a huge area of the desert will turn green. There are some areas, where green desert plans can grow as high as one meter. Desert camping is part of the Saudi society and now many expatriates spend time in the desert. The largest sand desert in the Kingdom is the Rub Al-Khali (Empty Quarter), which covers an area of 650,000 square kilometers and it is the largest continuous sand body in the world. The second largest sand body is the Great Nafud, which has one of the most spectacular transverse sand dunes that can reach up to 120 meters. The sand of Nafud is reddish in color unlike the yellowish hue in other deserts. Then there is the Al-Dahna, which stretches from north to the south. There are other smaller deserts in the Kingdom and spending few days in these deserts is a good retreat, away from the noisy cities.

Desert has a very fragile environment because the plants, insects, lizards, rodents, snakes, birds, and everything else is highly dependent on each other for survival in the harsh environment. This is the reason behind the disappearance of larger animals, which used to roam around before the human interference with nature. Now, the Saudi government is declaring some parts of the desert as protected areas and it is normal to see gazelle, oryx and even small wild animals. The bottom line is that the desert environment is very fragile and we are not helping.

Every year, hundreds of thousands of people in the Kingdom camp around in the deep parts of the desert and they erect tents. The campers take with them all the needed material. But many leave their campground leaving behind tons of waste, which contains many poisonous or harmful materials such as plastic containers or metallic substances such as food cans.

These materials when consumed by lizards or insects cause their deaths. In addition to that, when metallic things are left behind, they become rusty and affect the natural lifecycle in the desert. So, it is very important for people to treat the desert with respect. Many people see the desert as a vast wide area but at the end it will be full of leftover of garbage and other harmful materials. Campers must take with them garbage bags and collect any materials, which are harmful to the desert. It is true that some of the leftover is considered consumable by the rodents or insects but is very easy for any driver along any Saudi highway going through the desert to see the sun’s reflections on plastic, glass bottles or metallic cans. Making the desert dirty is easy but cleaning it is almost impossible. So, it is important to keep our deserts clean. Not just for the insects or lizards but also for future generations.

Written by Abdulateef Al‐Mulhim. Keeping Our Desert Clean reprinted with permission of Arab News and Abdulateef Al‐Mulhim.

United Against Terrorism

12 January 2015 | comments (0) | Opinions & Editorials | by

Abdulateef Al‐MulhimAbdulateef Al‐Mulhim, Commodore, Royal Saudi Navy (Retired)

Last week, two terrorist attacks made the headlines. The incidents took place in two different countries, carried out by two different groups with the same ideology. The first one occurred in the city of Arar, northern Saudi Arabia and the second in the French capital, Paris.

Terrorist attacks are very difficult to predict. It is humanly impossible to watch the movements of terrorist elements. If you foil 99 attempts but one succeeds then the game is over. In other words, terrorists always bank on the 100th attempt. That is why; fighting terrorism is an uphill task and needs the combined efforts of the international community.

This is exactly what Custodian of The Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah told a group of 36 newly-assigned ambassadors to the Kingdom in August last. He said that if all countries around the world took serious stand against terrorism, then it would reach many countries around the world. So, what happened in Arar and Paris?

On the cold early morning of Jan. 5 in Saudi Arabia’s northern city of Arar three Saudi border guards were patrolling part of the more than 800 km Saudi-Iraqi borders, which is protected through the most advanced technological control systems in the world. The Saudi borders are equipped with cameras, heat-sensing devices, advanced radars, barbed wires, trenches and security personnel. This makes the Saudi- Iraqi border almost impenetrable. It is said that once in a while, Saudi border guards encounter somebody trying to cross over from Iraq with the intention of smuggling contraband or even someone who wants to escape the chaos. And every time it is dealt with in the normal standing order. But on that morning, four persons, who were easily spotted and intercepted, approached the border. When they were told to identify themselves, they opened fires. An exchange of fire took place during which one of the terrorists detonated an explosives belt wrapped around his body. All the four terrorists were killed. Three border guards also lost their lives and two were injured. Ironically, the attackers and the victims were all Muslims. Is it an irony? No, it is terrorism at its best.

Around 4,000 km away from Arar on Jan. 7, three terrorists whose names indicated that their faith was Islam, attacked the French satirical magazine building, Charlie Hebdo. The terrorist escaped and when it was clear that it was hard for them to hide, they took some hostages at a kosher market. Ironically, many Muslims shop at the kosher grocery.

At the end of the rampage, more than 14 people were killed including three terrorists. Later on, it was announced that two of victims killed by the terrorist attack were Muslim French policemen.

There are no words to describe the grief caused by these two incidents. The whole world must join hands to fight terrorism and its root causes. I will stop for now but it is good to know that both Saudi Arabia and France have always cooperated in fighting terrorism. And it was Saudi Arabia who was one of the first to denounce the incident that took place in the City of Lights, Paris. Speaking of Saudi denouncement of the terrorist attack in Paris, it will be the topic of my next column.

Written by Abdulateef Al‐Mulhim. United Against Terrorism reprinted with permission of Arab News and Abdulateef Al‐Mulhim.

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