December 29/14

Bible Quotation for today/If You Don't Have A Sword Sell Your Coat & Buy One
Luke 22/35-38: "Then Jesus asked his disciples, “When I sent you out that time without purse, bag, or shoes, did you lack anything? Not a thing, they answered. 36 “But now, Jesus said, whoever has a purse or a bag must take it; and whoever does not have a sword must sell his coat and buy one. For I tell you that the scripture which says, ‘He shared the fate of criminals, must come true about me, because what was written about me is coming true. The disciples said, Look! Here are two swords, Lord! That is enough! he replied."."

Latest analysis, editorials from miscellaneous sources published on December 28-29/14
Jordan’s ISIS Dilemma/Mshari Al-Zaydi/Asharq AlAwsat/December 28/14
Will we survive the oil crisis/Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Al Arabiya/December 28/14

Lebanese Related News published on December 28-29/14
Army Says New Measures Aimed at Protecting Arsal Residents after Dispersing Demo
Lebanon: 365 days of holidays
Hizbullah's Abou Zaynab Steps Down as Christian Ties Official
Future-Hezbollah talks 'covered all points': MP
Much-Anticipated Talks between Aoun, Geagea to Kick Off at Beginning of New Year
Salam Calls for Patience, Vows to Activate Cabinet's Productivity
Residents of Bekaa Valley Demand to Take Up Arms against Gunmen
Al-Rahi Tours Bekaa Villages, Offers Condolences to Families of Executed Servicemen

Rai decries 'shameful' lack of security in Bekaa

Family of slain Zahle man briefly block east Lebanon road

Miscellaneous Reports And News published on December 28-29/14
Search Halted for Missing AirAsia Plane as Night Falls
McCain meets Barzani, commends Peshmerga efforts against ISIS
U.S.-led forces launch 13 strikes in Syria, Iraq
Ranking Senator: US Congress may suspend funds to UN if it 'takes over' peace process
Assad expresses interest in Moscow consultations on Syria peace
ISIS killed nearly 2,000 people in 6 months: monitor
Syrian opposition not received any formal peace initiatives: Coalition president
Houthis seek tribal arbitration in dispute with Ahmar tribe
Iran: Hamas leader Masaal set to visit Tehran
Gunmen kill policeman in Egypt's Alexandria
Iranian soldiers seen in photos ‘on Israel-Lebanon border’
Europe is in favor of recognizing a Palestinian state, Abbas claims
Yemen general escapes deadly ‘Qaeda’ blast
Salafist Nour Party sets sights on quarter of Egypt’s parliamentary seats: official
Bahrain Shiite Opposition Says Its Chief under Arrest
Boko Haram militants stage attacks in northern Cameroon
Obama: Longest war in US history is ending

Jihad Watch Site Latest Posts
Islamic State blows up church on the day after Christmas
Jihadis kill 14: “We targeted the enemies at a time they were celebrating Christmas”
Netanyahu: Iran increasing efforts to deepen jihad activities in West Bank
Independent: Churchill’s family begged him not to convert to Islam
Mona Eltahawy has to pay restitution in AFDI ad vandalism case

California: Muslim arrested in mosque vandalism
Jihadis call for attacks on UK airlines to “crush the enemy’s economy”
Acquittal of the Guilty
Nigerian Muslim leader: “Islam stands for peace,” Boko Haram un-Islamic
Muslima from Australia goes to Islamic State, spouts hate for non-Muslims
Muslim from Australia: “Martin Place was just the beginning for you dogs”
German Finance Minister: “People are right to fear Islamist terrorism. But not Islam”

God Bless Mohamad Chatah’s Soul
Elias Bejjani/Published on December 27/13, The Day Mohamad Chatah was assassinated
Once again the Iranian-Syrian Evil Of Axis Criminals brutally assassinate a patriotic, peaceful and intellectual Lebanese dignitary. Today, in occupied and oppressed Lebanon, the former Lebanese minister Mohamad Chatah was murdered in a massive car bomb blast that killed also and seriously injured tens of innocent citizens in Lebanon’s capital, Beirut. Mohamad Chatah, the courageous outspoken 62 years old moderate academic and noble political figure strongly believed in a free and sovereign Lebanon, dialogue, the language of reason, and in the right to different views and political stances. Sadly, this morning, Chatah joined all the other patriotic and heroic Lebanese martyrs who with faith and devotion fell while struggling to reclaim Lebanon’s confiscated independence, sovereignty and freedoms.
There is no doubt that the Assad dictatorship intelligence and the terrorist Hezbollah Iranian militia are behind this horrible crime, as they were with evilness and shame accountable for all other similar crimes that occurred since 1960 and targeted Lebanese patriotic leaders, clergymen, officials and politicians. It is worth mentioning that Chatah’s assassination took place three weeks before the long-delayed opening of a trial of five Hezbollah suspects indicted for the 2005 bombing that killed former Lebanese PM Rafik al-Hariri with 21 other individuals. The Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL), trial is due to start next month in Hague. The suspects are all prominent Hezbollah military members. Meanwhile this terrorist Iranian organization has strongly refused to cooperate with the court, alleging it is politically motivated. In my capacity as a Canadian – Lebanese Human Rights Activist and political commentator, I strongly and with the harshest terms condemn this barbaric and terrorist crime and call on the free world countries to help the Lebanese people and its patriotic and peaceful leaders by all available means and resources to reclaim Lebanon’s independence that is confiscated by Hezbollah, the Iranian-Syrian Axis of Evil military proxy Deepest sympathies are extended to the families and friends of those killed in today, and all wish for a speedy recovery to all the injured. May the souls of all those innocent victims that were killed today rest in peace.

Army Says New Measures Aimed at Protecting Arsal Residents after Dispersing Demo
Naharnet/The army announced Sunday that its new, strict measures on the roads leading to the outskirts of the border town of Arsal are aimed at protecting the residents, in the wake of a demonstration protesting the move. “The military institution has stressed that the army's new measures on the roads leading to the mountains are aimed at protecting Arsal's residents from the movements of the terrorists,” state-run National News Agency reported. Earlier on Sunday, troops dispersed demonstrators who blocked the road in Arsal's Ain al-Shaab to protest tight security measures set to be implemented at the beginning of the new year. Media reports said that around 200 people blocked the road with burning tires to protest the measures that the army intends to implement in the town in order to suppress gunmen from al-Qaida-linked al-Nusra Front and the Islamic State group who are entrenched in the outskirts of Arsal on the porous Syrian-Lebanese border.
Arsal municipal chief Ali al-Hujeiri and Sheikh Mustafa al-Hujeiri, who is also known as Abu Taqiyeh, also called on the owners of stone crushing plants to protest in Wadi Hmeid the army's measures in the town. Mustafa al-Hujeiri is wanted by Lebanese authorities on charges of belonging to al-Nusra Front. NNA had reported on Saturday that the army informed the residents of Arsal that “as of January 1, Syrian and Lebanese nationals will not be able to cross into the outskirts of Arsal through the Wadi Hmeid checkpoint without prior approval from the army intelligence.”“Any person seeking to head to the outskirts of the town should file a request at the army intelligence branch in the Bekaa to be granted the necessary approval.”

Hizbullah's Abou Zaynab Steps Down as Christian Ties Official
Naharnet/Hizbullah politburo member Ghaleb Abou Zaynab has stepped down as the party's point man on relations with Christian parties. “I have relinquished the duties related to the Christian file and I have not resigned from Hizbullah,” Abou Zaynab told al-Jadeed television on Sunday, clarifying earlier media reports. “I'm still on the course of jihad under the directions of Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah,” the party's secretary-general, Abou Zaynab added. The man, who was in charge of dialogue with Christian parties for the past 14 years, took part Friday in a Hizbullah delegation that offered Christmas greetings to Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi in Bkirki.
Abou Zaynab is known to have close ties with the Free Patriotic Movement, Hizbullah's main Christian ally, and in 2006 he played a big role in forging the landmark memorandum of understanding between the two parties. He was also part of the Hizbullah delegation that attended the Vatican ceremony that promoted Patriarch al-Rahi to become a member of the elite College of Cardinals -- the body that advises the pope in the governance of the Catholic Church and elects his successor should he die or resign.

Al-Rahi Tours Bekaa Villages, Offers Condolences to Families of Executed Servicemen
Naharnet /Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi toured on Sunday several Bekaa towns to offer his condolences to the families of Arsal captives, who were executed by Islamist gunmen recently.“We have to preserve coexistence and rise above crimes and conspiracies,” al-Rahi said from the residence of Mohammed Hamiyeh, who was executed by the al-Qaida-affiliate al-Nusra Front in September, in the village of Talia in the Bekaa. Al-Rahi stressed that he Lebanese have to grant their full support to the army and the security agencies “that protect us and maintain our security.”“Despite all the difficulties we are passing through in Lebanon a divine hand is protecting us as if we are living a miracle.” Four captives have been executed so far, two by al-Nusra Front and the others by the Islamic State group, and the jihadists have threatened to kill the remaining hostages unless there is a deal to free Islamist prisoners in Lebanon. IS and Nusra militants briefly overran the northeastern border town of Arsal in early August. Sixteen policemen and soldiers are still being held by al-Nusra, and nine by IS. Al-Rahi then headed to the town of Bazzaliyeh to offer condolences to the family of slain hostage Ali al-Bazzal, who was executed in December by al-Nusra Front. “We are responsible for the blood of martyrs who have fallen on the altar of the homeland,” the patriarch stressed. He expressed belief in the “Christian-Muslim unity and cooperation in order to form one Lebanese weave.”Al-Rahi later deplored the security breaches in the Bekaa, saying: “It's a shame that the area became a loose ground for aggressors.”

Family of slain Zahle man briefly block east Lebanon road

The Daily Star/BEIRUT: The family of a 24-year-old man who was shot and beaten outside a hospital last week temporarily closed a vital road in Zahle Sunday, one day after the victim succumbed to his wounds. The family of Hasan Ouraibi closed down the road linking the towns of Taanayel and Chtaura in the West Bekaa district of Zahle.  They shut the road to protest the failure of security forces to arrest the gunmen behind the killing, who allegedly work for Pierre Fattoush, a powerful businessman and the brother of MP Nicolas Fattoush. The family reopened it later in the day. Lebanese Forces Leader Samir Geagea slammed the measures taken by the family, saying that the road closure in Zahle “is something shameful and very dangerous.”In a statement released by his office, Geagea called on security forces in general, and the Army in particular, to halt any attempts at road closures. “What is happening is unacceptable by all standards, so the state must move very quickly to remedy the situation,” he concluded. Ouraibi was shot on Thursday and died at the American University Hospital in Beirut two days later. According to Al-Jadeed, Ouraibi was shot in his testicles before being repeatedly kicked by three men from the Khoury family after he fell to the ground. Ouraibi's uncle accused Wajih Khoury, a member of a security detail hired by Pierre Fattoush, of firing the shot, while his brothers Charbel and Fadi participated in the attack. Less than two weeks ago, more than a dozen gunmen loyal to Fattoush assaulted an Al-Jadeed reporter and a cameraman as they were wrapping up a report about a controversial cement plant owned by the businessman.  Wajih Khoury was one of the alleged perpetrators. He was briefly detained over involvement in the assault against the news crew in Zahle, but An-Nahar newspaper reported that he was later released. Justice Minister Ashraf Rifi called Saturday on Judge Samir Hammoud to carry out investigations to reveal the identities of the perpetrators of Thursday’s attack.
Residents of Ouraibi’s hometown of Shmestar, near Zahle, bid him farewell during a funeral procession Saturday.

Europe is in favor of recognizing a Palestinian state, Abbas claims
By KHALED ABU TOAMEH \ 12/28/2014/Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said on Saturday that the Palestinians feel they are in a position of strength “because the world is standing with us.” In a message to Fatah activists in Nablus, Abbas said that the parliaments and governments of important countries in Europe have voted in favor of recognizing a Palestinian state. He pointed out that only nine countries opposed the Palestinian statehood bid at the United Nations General Assembly in 2012. Abbas said that in light of worldwide support, the Palestinians felt strong enough to go to the Security Council and ask for a resolution that sets a timeline for an Israeli withdrawal to the pre-1967 lines. “Despite the challenges, pressure and conspiracies, we are in a very strong political position,” Abbas said. “The world is on our side.”He hinted that the Palestinians would join more international organizations and treaties, including the International Criminal Court, if the proposed resolution is foiled at the Security Council. “We take our decisions at the appropriate time and in a way that serves our national interests,” he added. “Therefore, we chose to join a number of international organizations and treaties. We have also left the door open for joining other bodies.”

Lebanon: 365 days of holidays
Dec. 27, 2014/The Daily Star
Throughout 2014, Lebanon experienced waves of political tension and several alarming episodes of civil strife. It was a year full of multilevel verbal offensives as well as physical violence and unrest in the streets, from tit-for-tat kidnapping to road-blocking protests of various kinds. March 14 and March 8 politicians fired verbal salvoes at each other; Michel Aoun and Samir Geagea traded accusations of paralyzing the country; Aoun also attacked practically every political faction; and the tense situation in Tripoli and Arsal generated unending wars of words, and occasional violence on the ground. But immediately before the Christmas and New Year’s holidays, a new set of dramatic developments took place. The Future Movement and Hezbollah launched a process of dialogue, leading Christian political figures were busy exchanging greetings and visits; Hezbollah sent a high-level delegation to pass on Christmas greetings to the Maronite patriarch; and the families of soldiers and security personnel kidnapped by jihadis abandoned their open-ended protest in Downtown Beirut. Tripoli and the southern suburbs of Beirut might have set a record for the number of Christmas trees on display. In the end, nothing of huge significance has taken place to explain this sudden change in the political climate, and the same players went from drowning the Lebanese in tension for more than 11 and a half months, to suddenly drowning them in goodwill. If this is the case, Lebanon’s spiritual authorities should declare 365 days of holidays, because it appears that only this factor – respect for religious occasions – has produced the kind of climate that nearly everyone wants to see throughout the entire year.

Iran: Hamas leader Masaal set to visit Tehran
By JPOST.COM STAFF \ 12/28/2014
Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal is reportedly set to visit Iran, according to the Islamic Republic's semi-official Fars news agency Saturday. Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Amir Abdollahian told Fars of the impending trip by the Qatar-based Hamas leader, but refrained from announcing a set date. Hamas has denied previous reports that Iran invited the Islamists group's exiled leader to Tehran amid a rift between the two over the Syrian civil war that started more than three years ago. The Iranians suspended their ties with Hamas after the Islamist movement refused to support the regime of President Bashar Assad. Iran has been Assad's main ally during Syria's ongoing civil war. However in the interview with Fars on Saturday, the Iranian deputy foreign minister downplayed the deterioration of ties between his country and Hamas, saying the "relationship between Hamas and the Islamic Republic of Iran have never been cut." He added that Iran, "the Islamic countries and the region's public opinion will never leave the oppressed Palestinian people alone." The Fars report came after a previous one in Lebanese daily As-Safir, which cited a senior official discussing Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah as playing a key role in mediation efforts between Tehran and Hamas.

Assad expresses interest in Moscow consultations on Syria peace
By MICHAEL WILNER \ 12/27/2014 18:05.
WASHINGTON – Embattled Syrian president Bashar Assad has expressed a willingness to participate in “preliminary consultations” hosted by Moscow that might lead to peace talks with his opposition, according to state-run Syrian television reports aired on Saturday.
Responding to the reports, however, the moderate Syrian opposition supported by Western powers, rejected the offer. Broadcasters quoted a source at Assad’s foreign ministry, as saying “Syria is ready to participate in preliminary consultations in Moscow in order to meet the aspirations of Syrians to find a way out of crisis.”Opposition, on the contrary, said there was no initiative to explore. “Russia does not have a clear initiative,” opposition leader Hadi al-Bahra said from Cairo on Saturday, “and what is called for by Russia is just a meeting and dialogue in Moscow with no specific paper or initiative.” Moscow supports Assad in the war and has pushed for a settlement that would keep the long-time ruler in power in Damascus. Washington, supporting moderate opposition forces since 2012, says Assad has lost all legitimacy, committed war crimes and cannot retain power in any final peace agreement. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said this month he wanted Syrian opposition groups to agree among themselves on a common approach before setting up direct talks with the Damascus government. Lavrov did not, however, specify which opposition groups should take part.
*Reuters contributed to this report.

Ranking Senator: US Congress may suspend funds to UN if it 'takes over' peace process
By HERB KEINON \ 12/27/2014 21:44
There will be a “violent backlash” by Congress against the UN, including suspended funding, if it tries to “take over the peace process,” visiting US Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) said Saturday night alongside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem.
Graham, a staunchly pro- Israel senator whose name has been bandied about as a possible 2016 presidential contender, said there would be a violent pushback in the new Republican-controlled Congress “if there’s any effort by the UN Security Council to set the terms of peace negotiations, avoiding direct talks. President [Barack] Obama in 2011 said the United Nations was not the right venue when it came to discussing the peace process in reaching a two-state solution. I agree with what President Obama said in 2011.”
Graham is expected to take over as chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on the Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs, which deals with funding issues.
Graham, who is also expected to continue as a member of the powerful Armed Services Committee, said, “Any effort by the French, the Jordanians or anyone to avoid direct negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians over the peace process, anyone who tries to take this to the UN Security Council, there will be a violent backlash by Congress that could include suspending funding to the United Nations.” Congress, he said, “will not sit back and allow the United Nations to take over the peace process.”
His words came a day after lead PLO negotiator Saeb Erekat said in an al-Arabiya interview that the Palestinians would bring their proposal for a full IDF withdrawal to the pre-1967 lines by 2017, to a vote in the Security Council by Monday.
In that interview, Erekat also likened Israel to Islamic State, and Netanyahu to the Islamic State leader. Erekat said the war against Islamic State was a just war, then he added that just as Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al Baghdadi “considers himself the leader of the ‘Islamic State,’ Benjamin Netanyahu heads the ‘Jewish State.’” “There is no difference between the crime of laying an American or Western journalist on the ground and beheading him, and between a criminal who lays Muhammad Abu Khdeir on the ground and burns him alive,” he said in reference to the murder of the east Jerusalem youth this summer, which was condemned wall-to-wall by Israeli political leaders, with Netanyahu calling the teen’s father to offer his condolences.
Netanyahu, at the outset of his meeting with Graham, said Israel was faced with two “great challenges.”
The first, he said, “comes from the Palestinians. The chief Palestinian negotiator, Saeb Erekat, has compared Israel to ISIS [Islamic State].
This is the same Palestinian Authority that joins hands with Hamas, incites constantly against Israel, the kind of incitement that has led to an attack that we witnessed just two days ago of a Molotov cocktail thrown at a little girl, and I commend our security forces for apprehending the terrorists. But the same Palestinian Authority is going to try to bring to the UN Security Council a resolution that seeks to impose on us conditions that will undermine our security. And I want to assure you that we will stand firmly and reject such a dictate. We always have; we always will.”
Graham assured Netanyahu that while the international community “seems to be a bit confused,” Congress “clearly sees the difference between the tactics of Hamas and the democracy called Israel.”
The other great challenge facing Israel, Netanyahu said, comes from Iran, which he noted on Saturday carried out a military drill on Saturday with a “suicide drone” near the Strait of Hormuz.
Netanyahu told Graham, who has hammered Obama over the last number of years over foreign policy issues ranging from the attack on the US embassy in Benghazi to Washington’s policy on Iran; “I don’t have to convince you, Senator, that the most important task before us is to prevent this dangerous regime from having nuclear weapons. And I believe that what is required are more sanctions, and stronger sanctions. And I welcome your leadership in this effort. I think this is something that is important for the peace of the world. You know, there are moments in history when nations have to stand firm. Israel stands firm on both sides, and on both issues.”
The Obama administration is opposed to tightening sanctions against Iran at this time, following November’s extension of the negotiations with Tehran over its nuclear program.
Graham said that while he would “love nothing more than a diplomatic solution to the Iranian nuclear ambitions” and supported the administration’s efforts to bring about a peaceful solution to the issue, “sanctions are what got Iran to the table, and it will be the only thing that brings them to a deal that we can all live with.”
Graham said that in January, when the new Congress takes office, there will be a vote on the bipartisan Kirk-Menendez bill, which says if Iran walks away from the table, sanctions will be reimposed, and if Iran cheats regarding any deal, sanctions will be reimposed.
“It is important to let the Iranians know that from an American point of view, sanctions are alive and well.”
He also said that further legislation will be put forward mandating that if there is a deal between the world powers and Iran, it will have to come to Congress for its approval before sanctions can be permanently lifted.
“You will see a very vigorous Congress, when it comes to Iran,” Graham said. “You will see a Congress making sure sanctions are real and will be reimposed at the drop of a hat. You will see Congress wanting to have a say about any final deal.”
In addition to meeting Graham, Netanyahu is scheduled later this week to meet with another politician whose name has been raised as a possible 2016 Republican presidential candidate: Indiana Governor Mike Pence, who is currently touring the country.

Jordan’s ISIS Dilemma
Mshari Al-Zaydi/Asharq AlAwsat
Sunday, 28 Dec, 2014
War is war, with blood, wounds, captivity, bereavement, anxiety, deception, resolution and reluctance.
It has been like that throughout history, from the time of bows and spears to the age of F-16 fighter jets and Tomahawk missiles.
We have all heard about the international coalition which has been cobbled to fight the Tatars of our time, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). The coalition which consists of the US, Saudi Arabia, UAE and Jordan is committed to fighting the militants affiliated with Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, the leader of ISIS.
In recent comments about the international coalition, King Abdullah II of Jordan said it is the duty of Muslims and Arabs, before anyone else, to fight ISIS to protect their countries and people from the radical group and to safeguard Islam from the taint of its brutal acts.
Fighting ISIS is a worthy and necessary national duty. The Arabs who are performing this duty are carrying out a vital service, rather than merely complementing the US military forces that are participating in this battle. Jordan has no choice but to fight this war in order to protect itself. Even if the Americans and others would backtrack, Jordan would have no choice but to continue fighting. It is true that the international coalition has provided strategic depth and an umbrella for Jordan, but we must all focus on strengthening our efforts against this dangerous group, rather than seeking to de-legitimatize the war on ISIS.
I say this in response to those who tried to use the capture of the Jordanian pilot by ISIS as a pretext to rebuke the Jordanian state for fighting ISIS. The terrorist group claims to have downed the Jordanian F-16 fighter jet with a heat-seeking missile it fired from the city of Raqqa, the so-called seat of its “Caliphate”. However the Americans have roundly denied ISIS’s claims, saying that the fighter jet crashed due to mechanical failures.
The capture of First Lieutenant Muadh Al-Kasasbeh by ISIS has shocked the Jordanian street. This is not to suggest that the incident has intimidated them but rather that it has come as a complete surprise. Until his captivity, the war had no Jordanian victims. Therefore, the war has now revealed its other ugly face to the people of Jordan. The Jordanians’ response to the capture of one of their own was extremely emotional, particularly after ISIS released footage showing him surrounded by a group of its militants. Social networking sites were inundated with campaigns in solidarity with Kasasbeh and people on Twitter used the hashtags “Be an eagle” and “we are all Muadh Al-Kasasbeh” to signal their support.
It is normal for the family of the captive to appear in the media and issue appeals and for the Jordanian military to issue statements demanding calm. It is also normal for the Jordanian monarch to monitor the case of his captured pilot personally.
So how will ISIS deal with the captured pilot? Will it treat him as it usually treat its captives? Or will it be smarter this time and try to use him as a bargaining chip?
Many in Jordan sympathize with ISIS. These include Mohamed Al-Shalabi, known as Abu Sayyaf, who in a statement following the incident questioned what interest Jordan has in fighting ISIS, praising the Islamist group. “Kasasbeh’s fate depends on the leaders of ISIS who will reportedly swap him for Sajida Al-Rishawi whom Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi, may Allah have mercy on his soul, sent on a mission before she was arrested, and Ziyad Al-Karbuli, an ISIS member,” Shalabi claimed.
The brave Kingdom of Jordan needs assistance and support in order to protect it from ISIS abroad and its agents at home

Will we survive the oil crisis?
Sunday, 28 December 2014
Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Al Arabiya
The Saudi government, like the rest of the oil exporting countries, has lost 50 percent of its daily revenues ever since the price of the barrel dropped below $60. This shocker is only momentary. The Saudi government is wealthy enough to compensate for the shortfall and reduce some expenses, allowing the stock market to be minimally affected and the problem to pass. But no, in reality, the problem hasn’t passed – it hasn’t even begun and it will resurface one day. This is not a prophecy but a realistic reading of the situation.
“What's the value of money if it's not spent on building a society capable of standing on its feet tomorrow without oil?”Logically thinking, will we be able to survive if the oil price drops to $30 or less and if such a situation prolongs for the next decade or longer?
In this scenario, government revenues will not be enough to cover state employee wages and will therefore be incapable of subsidizing the prices of rice, bread, water and power and the funding of universities, hospitals, trade industries and transport. The government would then consume its saved financial reserves and increase its local debt while those with hefty bank accounts will transfer their funds to foreign banks.
The abyss
So shall we wait until we reach the edge of the abyss to reform the situation? Or isn’t this the best time for such reforms, with a currently stable political situation and the government having around a trillion dollars in savings and not being in debt?The Saudi government’s recent steps are temporarily an acceptable solution but they are based on the strategy of waiting for the oil market to recover and for the barrel price to rise again to a $100. However, it is not unlikely that the current oil plunge last for years, especially with the booming shale industry, among other factors. In this case, will Saudi Arabia – which currently operates with an annual state budget of $230 billion – still operate in the future with a state budget worth $100 billion or less? I think managing the state with such low funds is impossible without radical economic changes. The best news to come out of this has been the decrease in oil revenues, and I am not saying this sarcastically. This decrease is what may lead us to understand the potential catastrophe and force is to think up a strategy now, rather than later.
Huge oil revenues have corrupted our capability to plan a present and a future free of oil resources. These easy revenues have become the best means to satisfy people at the expense of something else - there are dozens of universities and hundreds of thousands of students, but without any real prospects to find productive jobs.
What's the value of money if it's not spent on building a society capable of standing on its feet tomorrow without oil or with smaller oil revenues? Can any of us suggest a practical vision on how to fund daily services when financial deposits end and oil prices are still low? It's only when we see a single plan that shows us how to do so that we will be convinced we are on the right track no matter what the future holds. The government will need to change its philosophy and management style and it needs to grant its apparatuses and officials more responsibility and then harshly hold them accountable if they fail. Many successful, wealthy countries are not oil-rich, such as South Korea, Singapore, Malaysia and Finland. Most Arab oil-rich countries are incompetent because they are addicted to their easy free resources.
The difference begins within each person. For example, the construction of Saudi Arabia’s Princess Noura bint Abdulrahman University in Riyadh is more luxurious than that of Britain’s Cambridge University, but the students of the former mostly become teachers after graduating - within the context of the government's support for them - and the rest go home and don't get a job. Therefore, the decrease of revenues is a positive chance to reconsider many things. The abundance of oil won't last, and if oil prices continue as such for more than a decade, we'd reach the tough point of having a state unable to finance the needs of most people. By then, the population, job seekers and those in need of education and healthcare will have increased.
So is it possible to test the state’s capabilities by managing the country with less than $100 billion?