Aramco ExPats

Category Archive: Opinions & Editorials

Drug Trafficking: Nip the Evil in the Bud

15 April 2014 | comments (0) | Opinions & Editorials | by

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

Every now and then we read reports about security officials thwarting attempts to smuggle narcotics into the Kingdom. The trend shows that these substances are in demand here. The big question is: What measures are being taken to check this menace?

One is really surprised at the audacity of these drug traffickers. The world knows the strict punishments meted out to such people in Saudi Arabia and yet they make such attempts. Drug trafficking is punishable by death or at least life imprisonment. Before we move further, let us look back at the alcohol prohibition period in the United States.

Since the 1800s some people were trying to pass a law prohibiting the sale or consumption of alcohol in many different parts of America. State after state, the law was passed until it became a national act in 1920 when the 18th Amendment was passed. At that time thousands of agents were hired to enforce the law. However, in 1933 the prohibition ended when the 21st Amendment was passed legalizing the consumption of alcohol. The prohibition didn’t stop people from drinking but it boosted illegal production, transportation and distribution of alcohol and in the process there was an increase in organized crimes. During that time alcohol was given nicknames such as Tennessee Shoes for its bad smell. In other words, as long as there are consumers, there will be producers and suppliers. Just few days ago, the Saudi security forces foiled attempts to smuggle more than 22 million amphetamine tablets worth SR1 billion ($260m). Is this the biggest drug bust in the world? I really don’t know the answer to this question. But why do we witness such incidents in the Kingdom?

Saudi Arabia is a very huge country with borders stretching thousands of miles bordering eight countries. Saudi Arabia has one of the most stable economies in the region and its citizens always have enjoyed high incomes and this is what drug dealers usually look for. Just like the South American drug cartels whose eyes are always on the American payday.

The first step to check this menace is to thoroughly study the depth of all aspects of the problem. After that a comprehensive long-term national strategy is required because this problem cannot be eradicated overnight. We need a plan to reduce it by percentage each year and look for ways to know as to why the market for drugs is thriving in the Kingdom. Without a concrete plan it would be like mopping the floor every time water overflows from a bathtub. If one needs a permanent solution, the faucet has to be turned off.

In addition to that we must stop blaming others. It is true that there are people, countries and organizations that would like to harm the social fabric of the Saudi society but we must realize that drug trafficking is a real business for many around the globe.

In Afghanistan, the hard drugs’ market is almost $9 billion a year. That equals to almost the Jordanian national annual budget. So, it is business and if Saudi Arabia is a good market, they will continue to come over and try to cross our borders. Or, do they need to cross the Saudi borders? In the last mega drug bust, there were five Saudi nationals arrested during the operation. Drug trafficking shouldn’t be looked at as a foreign conspiracy because if we look at it from this perspective, then we will be providing the young drug addicts with an excuse who will end up blaming others. The Saudi drug enforcement agents are fully equipped to thwart any drug smuggling bid and they are very dedicated to their jobs but at the end of the day it is the duty of the family members to watch over their children’s behavior.

Staying up late for no reason and doing poorly at school are signs, which have to be watched carefully. Today’s children are different from the past. Their needs and behaviors are different due to the presence of many ways of communications and easy mode of transportations. At the end of the day, it is the individual who is behind the drug trafficking. If you don’t do drugs, then the smugglers will not try to sneak into your country and will look for other options.

Drugs don’t harm only the addict but affects the whole society. And it is your future that can be harmed by drugs. Drug traffickers don’t use it and neither their children, so, why should you?

Written by Abdulateef Al‐Mulhim. Drug Trafficking: Nip the Evil in the Bud reprinted with permission of Arab News and Abdulateef Al‐Mulhim.

A Day at an American University

13 April 2014 | comments (0) | Opinions & Editorials | by

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

A few months ago, I received an invitation to lecture at Bridgewater University, which is located in the suburbs of Boston. The visit, though brief, brought back many memories.

Last year, the National Council on US-Arab Relations had organized a forum in Washington, D.C. I had the honor of taking part in that event where I met a young talented Iraqi-American professor, Dr. Jabbar Al-Obaidi. He has been helping building bridges between people from diverse ethnic backgrounds.

The minute I arrived in Boston, I was met with the genuine Bostonian hospitality and was given the honor to exchange ideas with very intelligent faculty members. I was surprised to learn that Bridgewater was probably the only American university with no Saudi students even though it is well known for its high standard of education. Initially the university was established as a schoolteachers’ training institute.

Established in 1840, it is one of the oldest schools not only in the United States but also in the world. Around 12,000 students, both local and foreign, are enrolled at the varsity. The campus is beautifully designed with impressive buildings. I fell in love with the library.

Before the lecture, I was invited as a guest speaker at a 45-minute discussion on a local TV channel. During the discussion, hosted by Obaidi and Dr. Michael Kryzanek, we exchanged views on a host of issues. Truth be told, that discussion helped me with my lecture, as I got the chance to gauge my hosts’ views and the current issues under discussion in that specific area.

The brief stay at the university was reminiscent of my student life at the State University of New York, Maritime College.

Most of the young people across the world usually nurture a dream of attending schools in the United States. The American schools, undoubtedly, are cultural melting pots. American system of education has made learning fun and enjoyable. In the morning you are in the classroom, at a social event in the afternoon, watching some sports event in the evening and at night you find yourself surrounded by friends at some casual get-together.

In American schools one meets people from around the world speaking different languages with different accents and different cultures. In addition to that, one could see people attending religious events at different places of worship and engaging in multi-cultural chats.

But, what about my lecture and what was it about? I spoke in general about the Middle East. It was about democracy and prosperity. It was my first visit to Bridgewater and I hope I lived up to their expectations. For the information of the readers, I gave the lecture when I was still suffering from jet lag and the resultant sleeping disorder.

Written by Abdulateef Al‐Mulhim. A Day at an American University reprinted with permission of Arab News and Abdulateef Al‐Mulhim.

What if We Leave Afghans Alone?

10 April 2014 | comments (0) | Opinions & Editorials | by

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

Prior to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in December 1979, this landlocked country largely remained away from media spotlight. It all started in 1973 when Daoud Khan overthrew King Zahir Shah in a bloodless coup to become the first president of Afghanistan. That kicked off a series of coups and countercoups. In April 1978, the communist People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan took over. In September the following year, President Nur Taraki was assassinated in a coup orchestrated by Hafizullah Amin, who assumed presidency. In the December of 1979, Soviet Special Forces assassinated him. In the aftermath Babrak Karmal became president and subsequently Soviet troops entered the rugged terrains of Afghanistan and the rest is history. Since then this country has always remained in the news.

Afghans have earned praise from across the globe for defying Taleban by going to vote in droves. Several deadly clashes were reported but the Afghans appeared determined to exercise their right to choose their leadership. I wonder what if Afghanistan had been left alone after the Soviet invasion.

In the aftermath of the Soviet invasion, Afghanistan became the final battleground for the Soviet Union and the United States. The world was divided into two blocs, the eastern and the western due to which many other players got involved in the conflict that proved to be the final round of the then lingering Cold War. Had the world not interfered then, the Soviets would have pulled out within a few years. The USSR was on the brink of a financial collapse. There would have been destruction and collateral damage but not of the magnitude that we witness today.

Above all there would have been no Taleban or Al-Qaeda and who knows maybe 9/11 would have never taken place. In other words, we turned a peaceful country into the most dangerous place on earth where apparently people just want to fight. It became a place where Muslims are fighting among each other, attack other Muslim countries and when possible attack non-Muslims. Ironically many of the dead westerners killed by Taleban in Afghanistan were there to help the Afghans and wanted to show the world the other side of the story and expose the Taleban. In other words, the world only saw the dark side of Afghanistan.

Until the 1970s, Afghanistan used to be a beautiful country with advanced social and political cultures. All you need is to look at the old photos of Afghanistan and its people and you will see beautiful clean streets, modern hospitals and university campuses. Now, Afghanistan is at a crossroads. It is only the Afghans who can bring back security and stability to their country. It is impossible to run the clock backward but it is never too late to rebuild a country, although this needs an iron will. Those Afghans who are fighting along the Taleban side must realize that they can never achieve anything through coercive measures.

Afghanistan is a country with people from diverse ethnic backgrounds. It is a country with fertile lands and enough water for irrigation and has large deposits of minerals such as iron and copper. Afghanistan can go back to the good old days, the days of stability and prosperity. At the end, I wish the world leaves Afghanistan alone to deal with its internal problems. As a matter of fact, the world’s superpowers should leave smaller and poorer countries alone. The US and the then USSR lost tens of thousands of their finest young men and women in the aftermath of their interventions in Vietnam and Afghanistan.

There still are chances for Afghanistan to become an effective member in the international arena. The internal disputes between various tribes and factions will only bring more bloodshed. The more stable Afghanistan, the faster the country can be rebuilt.

It is imperative that the next Afghan president focuses on rebuilding the country’s civic and economic infrastructure. The Afghan people can do it and the whole world is ready to extend a helping hand. But the Afghans are the ones who must take the first step.

Written by Abdulateef Al‐Mulhim. What if We Leave Afghans Alone? reprinted with permission of Arab News and Abdulateef Al‐Mulhim.

Hajer Club and the Palm Tree

6 April 2014 | comments (0) | Opinions & Editorials | by

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

Hajer Football Club in Al-Ahsa is considered one of the oldest clubs in the Kingdom. And it is the first and probably the only sports club in the Kingdom that used the image of a plant on its badge. The club since its establishment around the year 1949 used the palm tree as its emblem. The palm tree has been Al-Ahsa’s trademark for thousands of years.

Al-Ahsa Oasis is considered to be the largest oasis in the world and used to have the highest numbers of natural springs in the world. The water in Al-Ahsa is still bubbling since prehistoric times. The location of Al-Ahsa is considered one of the most unique in the Kingdom. It is in close proximity to all Gulf states and two major Saudi cities — Riyadh and Dammam and it has three big cities, Hofuf, Mubaraz and Alayoun and 10 villages. Al-Ahsa is one of the few cities that can be accessed by plane, car and train. Many historians believe that Al-Ahsa has been inhabited since 4000 BC. It used to be one of the largest cities in the world about 1,000 years ago. It has one of the richest histories in the area. It came in the international economic news when Al-Ghawar, which is the world’s largest oil field, was discovered in 1948.

This past weekend, Al-Ahsa celebrated the achievement of Hajer Football Club when it was elevated to the Saudi Football Premier League, which is named after its sponsor, Abdulatif Jameel. The achievement is hailed because most of the players are very young and are school students who are playing in professional secondary league called after its sponsor, Rika’a. The league consists of 16 teams from around the Kingdom and when the season started many of the sports fans and analyst expected the team to lose every match and go to the lower league. All sports fans were taken in for a surprise. They became the top team even though they had a rough start at the beginning.

Football in the Kingdom is taken very seriously and it is the national sport. But what pushed Hajer Football Club to the spotlight is the fact that its managers are very young and highly educated and the players are very young and they still go to schools. The top manager is Sami Al-Mulhim and he is one of the most talented football club managers. He was chosen only a year ago at a time when the team was not doing so good. He reportedly told the team that there is nothing required of them except that they should not move to the lower league. With careful planning, determination from the players and enthusiastic fans, the team simply gave its best performance and the players brought back the fond memories of the glory days of the club. Hajer Club’s name is chosen from the ancient name of Al-Ahsa, which for thousands of years remained an economic hub. The area and its people were known for their talents and love for handicrafts. It is one of the most populated areas in the Kingdom with the highest number of villages. Some of these villages are bigger than many towns and many of them are surrounded with lush green sceneries. The scenery from Jabal Al-Gharah (mountain) is breathtaking with millions of palm trees across 360 degrees of beautiful horizon. At the end of the day, Al-Ahsa is in for a big celebration for such big achievement by their young football players.

Written by Abdulateef Al‐Mulhim. Hajer Club and the Palm Tree reprinted with permission of Arab News and Abdulateef Al‐Mulhim.

A Wise Royal Move

1 April 2014 | comments (0) | Opinions & Editorials | by

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

On Feb. 23, 2013, my article titled “Saudi stability and royal succession” was published in Arab News. Truth be told, I wrote that article after reading several reports and commentaries on Saudi Arabia published in the aftermath of the Arab Spring.

Most of the material was produced by westerners or by analysts of this region but based in the West. Western media outlets carried those analyzes. All of them had three things in common. They were very nicely written in a flowery language using attractive vocabulary; they contained the element of drama and last but not the least they were way off the course. During the past few days, a similar exercise is being carried out in the wake of the recent decision on the royal succession. It is ironical for the past six decades; the style and tone of such reports have not changed a bit. Perhaps writing about Saudi Arabia is seen as a very sensational thing.

Last Thursday, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah issued a decree naming Prince Muqrin as the deputy crown prince. The decree says Prince Muqrin, the youngest son of the Kingdom’s founder King Abdul Aziz, is next in line to ascend the throne after King Abdullah and Crown Prince Salman, deputy premier and minister of defense. It says Prince Muqrin will be appointed crown prince in the absence of a crown prince and named king of the country in the absence of both the king and the crown prince. To many of the people who know the Kingdom very well, this is a very clear, simple and transparent approach to a very delicate issue.

There were no surprised reactions from the Saudis but interestingly many western analysts and people living outside the Kingdom unnecessarily started expressing their astonishment. Since the day King Abdul Aziz founded Saudi Arabia, it remains the only country in the region, which has always experienced a smooth transition of power. And Saudis have always been informed of the succession process and who is who in the line of succession. This is not the case in many Arab countries where people usually grope in the dark over the issue of succession. Prince Muqrin is one of the most qualified politicians not only in Saudi Arabia but also in the region with a very impressive track record. As a former Royal Saudi Air Force pilot, many of the people who have worked with him will tell you about his leadership qualities and his close relations with his seniors or people under his command. He always had a smile on his face even after a rough ride in one of the most advanced fighter jets. After leaving the air force, he held many important positions like the head of the Saudi intelligence, governor of Hail and then Madinah. After serving as Madinah governor he was appointed as the adviser to King Abdullah. Apart from his official responsibilities, he is one of the most experienced astronomers with extensive knowledge about stars. So, as far as it goes for the Saudis about this latest succession, it is another sunshine day and it is business as usual.

Since the 1940s many countries in the region have witnessed violent coups and government ousters. Many of the countries were ruled by dictators who ruled their countries for life even though they were called republics and no one knew who is next in line. In Saudi Arabia, on the other hand, ties between the rulers and the ruled have always remained smooth but the Kingdom’s domestic issues always fascinate western analysts. We Saudis take this as a compliment.

Written by Abdulateef Al‐Mulhim. A Wise Royal Move reprinted with permission of Arab News and Abdulateef Al‐Mulhim.

Aramco Travel Club

Have You Joined?

Learn More
  • Travel around the world with your fellow ExPats.
  • All trips organized through a professional travel agency.
  • Activities like Scuba Diving, RV trips, Skiing, Cruises, and more!

Become a Member Today!