Are our better halves ready for the change?

18/01/20

If you have read my previous articles, you will have sensed I am a pure optimist at heart, and I hope I will always continue to be an optimist. I write on what I think, and at times I write based on my gut feeling on where I think we are heading in this fourth industrial revolution in terms of work and education.
As a certified leadership coach, I always make my clients write down the top 10 core values they live by. I then ask them to remember an incident that made them angry or upset and see if it touched negatively on any one of their written values and 99 percent of the time they got upset or angry because the incident touched negatively one or more of their written core values. We, humans, tend to get upset from anything that threatens our values or beliefs which pushes us to act or react in ways we can’t explain. I encourage my readers to try to use this technique every time they get upset from anything and they don’t understand why they did what they did. There is always a deeper reason for every action we do.
For me, one of my core values is respect, especially at work, as well as respecting others’ intelligence and treating them as colleagues rather than subordinates. I never force my thoughts on anyone, as we are all unique and, though we might differ, we are still professional colleagues and have respect for one another.
As an advocate of women’s empowerment I must confess that there is one thing I do not take easily and that is when women are not seen as serious contributors in the workplace and are treated as followers rather than leaders, despite the fact that they are capable of leading.
I enjoyed reading Sheryl Sandberg’s book “Lean In,” which I said in multiple international interviews and podcasts that this book should have instead been named “Squeeze In.”
Women all over the world bear the heavy burden of constantly proving themselves worthy of a position or promotion, and must squeeze in to prove themselves. In a way the burden has somewhat been self-inflicted by some women on themselves. Sometimes women are comfortable taking the back seat and not wanting to lead, which is fine if that is truly what they want and they are not forced to be followers.
In changing times, especially in Saudi Arabia where we have the Vision 2030 reform plan that calls for increasing female participation in the workforce, it is our patriotic duty as Saudi women to help in developing our national economy in any way we can.
It is time for Saudi women to get out of our comfort zone and take our place side-by-side with our better halves in driving our economy forward. But wait, what do our better halves think of this? Are they ready for women to lead the way? Are they ready to serve the country alongside women? Are they willing to give women the chance they truly deserve to become leaders in the workforce? So many questions that need answers but, in all fairness, we Saudi women have to patiently give our better halves time to grasp this change and adapt to it.
In the meantime we Saudi women need to work hard as our Western counterparts have done for so long but were only able to have a few Fortune 500 companies led by women.
2030 is just around the corner, and we need to start seeing capable women in top leadership positions in our very own top 500 companies like Saudi Aramco, SABIC, and STC to name a few. As a true optimist, I think we will see this change happening in less than five years from now. What do you think?

Dr. Taghreed Al-Saraj is a best-selling Saudi author, an international public speaker and an entrepreneurship mentor.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Arab News’ point-of-view

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Entertainment: The future of Saudi Arabia’s non-oil economy

13/01/20

The Quality of Life Program (QLP), a major component of the Saudi Vision 2030 reform plan, aims to improve people’s lifestyles by developing an ecosystem to support and create new options that boost citizens’ and residents’ participation in cultural, environmental and sports activities.
The QLP aims to create jobs, diversify economic activity, and raise the status of Saudi cities so that they rank among the best in the world. One of the program’s main objectives is to develop and diversify entertainment opportunities, including electronic games facilities, family entertainment centers, water parks, cinemas, theme parks, zoos, aquariums, botanical gardens, public parks, theaters and an opera house.
To support the QLP, the government created the General Entertainment Authority (GEA) in 2016 for the purpose of organizing and developing the entertainment sector and support its infrastructure in Saudi Arabia.
With the support and cooperation of various government sectors and private entities, the GEA has managed to improve quality of life in the Kingdom. It has also managed, in a very short time, to diversify and enrich entertainment experiences nationwide.
The great success of Riyadh Season is a good example of the GEA’s outstanding ability to enhance the entertainment industry in the Kingdom, as evidenced by the 10.3 million people who visited the festival. Riyadh Season was able to generate more than SR1 billion ($267 million) for the GEA, and indirect revenues via the Saudi payments system Mada exceeded SR4 billion during the official period of the festival (Oct. 15 to Dec.15, 2019).
Riyadh Season was not only successful in attracting visitors to the capital, but also in creating 34,700 direct jobs and 17,300 indirect (seasonal and volunteer) jobs for Saudi men and women. Riyadh Season’s success is expected to be replicated in the series of current and upcoming festivals in the Kingdom.
I believe that Saudi Arabia can easily establish a strong entertainment industry that can support and diversify the economy, especially as the government is striving to reduce dependence on oil. A strong entertainment industry in the Kingdom will be able to support the growth of the gross domestic product, improve local content, support small and medium-sized enterprises, increase foreign direct investment and create jobs.

Talat Zaki Hafiz is an economist and financial analyst.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Arab News’ point-of-view

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Abe will see a transformed Kingdom on historic visit

11/01/20

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s visit to Saudi Arabia this weekend comes at a time of both challenges and opportunities for the Kingdom and Japan.

The Japanese prime minister’s visit takes place against a backdrop of rising tensions in the Middle East. During Abe’s last visit, in 2013, our two countries agreed to strengthen defense and security cooperation. We welcome Japan’s commitment to supporting the freedom of navigation for commercial shipping in the region. Open and safe shipping routes are critical for both our economies. A stable and secure Middle East is a shared priority.

This year will see Saudi Arabia host the G20 for the first time. My first year as ambassador in Tokyo coincided with the Japanese presidency of the G20. As the many Saudi visitors to Japan in the last year will testify, Japan did a superb job and set a high standard for future presidencies. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has said he wants to continue Japan’s good work, in particular by promoting multilateral consensus.

For the world’s media, the main G20 leaders’ meeting in November will be the focal point of our presidency. But the G20 program goes well beyond the leaders’ meeting and the year presents chances for us to strengthen our wider relationship. The many other G20 events, which will take place across the year in all four corners of the Kingdom — such as the C20 on culture, the Y20 on youth, and the B20 on business — will give Japanese visitors the chance to experience the breadth and depth of Saudi Arabia for the first time. People-to-people connections are vital as we deepen the relationship between our two countries.

It has never been easier for a Japanese business to enter the Saudi market, or for a Japanese tourist to visit the Kingdom.

Nayef Alfahadi

I am excited that Prime Minister Abe will this weekend have the chance to see for himself a Kingdom that has transformed since his last visit. Under the stewardship of King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed, Saudi Arabia is undergoing huge change, anchored in our ambitious Vision 2030 reform program. The Kingdom is becoming more economically diverse, more socially open, more culturally confident, and more welcoming to the world.

Traditionally, the relationship between Saudi Arabia and Japan has been underpinned by energy, with Saudi Arabia supplying 40 percent of Japan’s energy needs. And Japan will always be able to rely on Saudi Arabia as a responsible and reliable energy exporter. But we have much bigger ambitions for the relationship. With the changes we have made over the past three years, it has never been easier for a Japanese business to enter the Saudi market, or for a Japanese tourist to visit the Kingdom. Whether Japanese businesspeople want to set up shop in our country or Japanese tourists want to see our incredible world heritage sites, our message is: Come to Saudi Arabia and make the most of the new opportunities. Japanese visitors can be sure of a warm welcome.

It has been my great honor to represent my country in Japan over the past year. I was privileged to witness the ascension to the throne of Emperor Naruhito and the beginning of the era of “Reiwa,” or “beautiful harmony.” In the coming year, Japan will host the Olympic Games and I know they will be a spectacular success.

The year 2020 also marks the 65th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Saudi Arabia and Japan. In the years since 1955, our relationship has grown in importance for both countries and it continues to do so.

There will be much to discuss during Abe’s historic visit. On the Saudi side, we are excited at the prospect of working with the prime minister to further strengthen our friendship with one of our oldest and most trusted allies.

  • Nayef Alfahadi is Ambassador of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to Japan
Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Arab News’ point-of-view

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How Saudis view Japan

11/01/20

Cordial business, trading and cultural relations have long existed between the Arab world and Japan, one of the region’s most important economic and diplomatic partners.

A major part of Japan’s energy imports come from the GCC, and the numerous Arab countries import manufactured goods and electronic equipment from Japan.

Japan’s commitment to prioritize the peace and stability of the region means that the Arab world is a destination for significant Japanese financial investments.

Against this background, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is visiting Saudi Arabia as part of a tour to explain Tokyo’s plans to send Self-Defense Forces (SDF) personnel to the region.

Preparations are also underway in Saudi Arabia for the G20 leaders’ summit, which will take place in Riyadh in November, following the highly successful event held in Osaka, Japan, in June 2019.

While there may be growing Saudi-Japanese ties at the level of politics and government, how much can Saudis be expected to be familiar with a culture that is thousands of miles away and, on the surface of things, so foreign to the culture and geography of the Middle East?

Arab News recently engaged the market-research firm YouGov to conduct a poll in across 18 countries, including Saudi Arabia, to uncover views of Arabs about Japan, its international relations and domestic politics.

The study revealed a high level of not only understanding, but also appreciation of Japan and its people.

Saudi respondents’ first impressions of the Japanese were that they were organized (51 percent,) hardworking (50 percent) and technical (42 percent). Other words used to describe the Japanese culture were punctual, respectful and creative.

The Arab News-YouGov study revealed a high level of not only understanding, but also appreciation of Japan and its people across 18 countries, including Saudi Arabia.

Faisal J. Abbas

More than half of Saudis (51 percent) polled said they view Japan as the most neutral mediator of a possible peace deal between Israel and Palestine.

An impressive 64 percent of Saudis also correctly identified Japan as belonging to the G20, while 59 percent said it is a member of the G7.

The survey found that 56 percent of Saudis know that Japan is one of the top five economies of the world, while 31 percent know that the country was in the top 10 globally.

In the survey, 10 percent of Saudi respondents said they had visited Japan, but 77 percent said they intended to travel there in the future. Mount Fuji volcano would top the list of places to visit for most Saudis.

The high-speed bullet train proved to be a popular choice among 61 percent of Saudis questioned, followed by sushi (46 percent), Japanese manga and cosplay culture (45 percent) and traditional arts such as the tea ceremony (44 percent).

The survey also suggested that Saudis were widely familiar with products made by the technologically advanced nation, with many correctly identifying Sony, Sega and Muji as Japanese brands.

Our goal at Arab News is to bring a better mutual understanding of both of our rich cultures and become a trusted communication channel where our friends in Japan can rely on us for credible information and insightful analysis.

Through Arab News Japan, we are providing a content mix that blends original reporting from both the Middle East and Japan as well as a Japanese translation of some of our most important news and views.

The pan-Arab poll marks the first step in that journey.

  • Faisal J. Abbas is the editor in chief of Arab News. Twitter: @FaisalJAbbas
Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Arab News’ point-of-view

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King Salman affirms Saudi Arabia’s solidarity with Australia over the bushfire crisis

10/01/20

RIYADH: King Salman called Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Thursday to express his solidarity with the country during its bushfire crisis.

He confirmed the Kingdom’s readiness to provide assistance so Australia could overcome the disaster.

The king also expressed his condolences to the prime minister and families of the deceased, wishing the injured a speedy recovery.

He said Saudi Arabia and its people shared the pain of Australians.

Morrison expressed his thanks and appreciation to King Salman and to the Saudi people for their empathy.

The catastrophic bushfires have killed at least 26 people and  destroyed more than 2,000 homes.

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Comoros inaugurates Saudi-funded road network

27/12/19

  • The SFD has financed over seven projects in Comoros, home to around 820,000 citizens
  • The SFD is one of the largest contributors to sustainable development aid

DUBAI: A new road network, fully supported by the Saudi Fund For Development (SFD), has been inaugurated in Comoros Islands on Friday.

Azali Assoumani, President of the Union of the Comoros Islands, joined government officials and the Saudi Arabian Ambassador to the Comoros to inaugurate the new road network that will provide faster and more efficient movement of people and goods, as well as better access to markets in urban centers.

The new roads include a 23-kilometer Airport-Qalawa stretch on Grande Comore Island, as well as the 12-kilometer Dundee-Langoni road in Anjouan Island.

The SFD has financed over seven projects in Comoros, home to around 820,000 citizens, valued in total at more than $80 million. The projects have supported different sectors in the island country, including transportation, health, education and potable water sectors.

Comoros’ Assoumani praised the Kingdom’s contributions and support of the country’s development plans at the inauguration.

Ibrahim Al-Turki, an advisor to SFD said: “The SFD and the Government of Comoros have a long history of working together. Our efforts aim to improve the quality of life for the people of the Comoros, and to ensure the development of small and medium enterprises (SMEs)’s through facilitating their access to new markets.”

The SFD is one of the largest contributors to sustainable development aid, promoting stability and prosperity since 1975. The SFD has financially contributed to more than 1000 international development projects through loan and grant mechanisms.

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Second day of Riyadh’s MDL Beast music festival draws 150,000 visitors for blazing performances

22/12/19

The second day of the MDL Beast music festival attracted about 150,000 visitors, with big-league DJs playing for the mammoth crowd on Friday. (Supplied)

JEDDAH: The second day of the MDL Beast music festival kicked off with more impact than the opening gig, attracting 150,000 visitors on Friday.

Bandana-wearing people filed in with excited grins, ready to enjoy the best electronic music from around the world.

Total attendance to the festival’s first two days exceeded 280,000 visitors, and it is expected to continue witnessing massive crowds on its third and last day.

Neon Future Aoki

@steveaoki

Riyadh!!!! 150,000 people! A night all of us will never forget! Shukran Saudi Arabia 🇸🇦🇸🇦🇸🇦 this was magical! ❤❤❤ @MDLBeast

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The festival’s star-studded list of performances includes the big-league DJs Steve Aoki and J. Balvin, who performed their sets in five stages that attracted fans of different sorts who were free to dance to their hearts’ desire.

The ‘Big Beast’ stage was the main attraction of the festival, pulling in the biggest crowd even on the second day, and with good reason. The stage opened with Dish Dash hyping up the crowd, and followed by Camelphat.

The second day of the MDL Beast music festival attracted about 150,000 visitors, with big-league DJs playing for the mammoth crowd on Friday. (Supplied)

J Balvin, whose piece ‘Me Gente’ is the most remixed song of all time, also had the audience running to the stage when his name announced.

David Guetta meanwhile opened his stage appearance with the line: “Tonight we are going to celebrate the present and the future,” followed by a roar of cheers from the crowd.

“He is my most favorite DJ, I can’t believe I saw him perform live,” said Mohammad Harthi.

The night concluded with a collaboration stage that brought together iconic names in the industry, Steve Aoki and David Guetta, whose performances worked up the crowd, and managed to get a promise from Aoki to come back on the last day of the festival.

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Saudi Aramco leads fight against methane

22/12/19

Saudi Aramco spends a big proportion of its research and development budget on measures to counter the environmentally damaging effects of the oil and gas business. (Shutterstock

Saudi company is more efficient in both current emissions and its targets for future reduction
DUBAI: Saudi Aramco has emerged as the most effective energy company in the world at mitigating emissions of the atmospheric pollutant methane from natural gas operations, according to consulting firm Thunder Said Energy.

A research survey put Aramco, the world’s biggest listed company, at the top of a table that included all the big energy groups.

The Saudi company was about six times more efficient than US energy giants Exxon Mobil and Chevron, in both current emissions and targets for future reduction, as a proportion of its gas production.Equinor, the state energy company of environmentally conscious Norway, ranked second in the survey.

Thunder Said’s Rob West, an expert in energy economics, said that controlling methane emissions was a crucial aspect of the move to decarbonize global energy supplies, in which gas is playing an increasingly important role. Methane, a much more powerful greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide (CO2), is released in the gas production and transportation process.


Saudi Aramco became the world’s most valuable public company this year with a stock offering launch in December. (AP)
“Scaling up natural gas is the largest decarbonization opportunity on the planet. But this requires minimizing methane leaks. Exciting new technologies are emerging,” West said. Global gas demand will treble by 2050 as producers and consumers seek cleaner alternatives to coal and oil.

Aramco, the biggest oil exporter, has huge quantities of natural gas, which it has identified as a key area of expansion for domestic supply and export in the form of liquified natural gas. “We basically look at natural gas as an area for growth for the company,” Khalid Al-Dabbagh, Aramco’s chief financial officer, said in an investor call in the run-up to its successful IPO this year.

Aramco spends a big proportion of its research and development budget on measures to counter the environmentally damaging effects of the oil and gas business, including advanced technology to reduce pollutants in energy products.

Although most environmentalists have focused their attention on CO2 as the main contributor to global warming, and hence to damaging climate change, some experts regard methane as a far more serious threat.

There is far more CO2 in the atmosphere, but methane is up to 120 times more powerful as a warming agent and takes longer to leave Earth’s atmosphere. “Methane accounts for around 25 to 30 percent of all the warming occurring on the planet,” West said, while around a quarter comes from fossil fuel production.

“Mitigating methane emissions is becoming crucial for tackling net emissions.”

While methane leaks at all stages of the natural gas production process, almost half is emitted during the upstream phase. Sensors, drones and even satellites are being increasingly used to detect these emissions. Aramco stopped “flaring” gas years ago.

“The world will need superior methods to mitigate methane. In the developed world, this will be necessary for operators wishing to demonstrate low carbon credentials, and preserve their access to customers and capital markets,” West said. “The other way for investors to lower methane emissions may be to favor companies with low methane emissions and targets to improve.”

This article was first published in Arab News

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Arab News contributor listed among top sports columnists

Time: December 19, 2019

RAZAN BAKER
  • Razan Baker among the 30 sports columnists nominated for an award by the International Sports Press Association (AIPS)

JEDDAH:  Arab News sports columnist Razan Baker has been listed among the top 30 sports columnists in the world by the International Sports Press Association (AIPS) for its Sports Media Awards.

The list of the top submissions in the AIPS writing category was announced on Tuesday. The three finalists are set to be announced on Jan. 15.

“I am overwhelmed with happiness, this is is my first international recognition,” Baker told Arab News, adding: “It means a lot to me in my journey in sports media.”

Baker was nominated for her Arab News column titled “How sport can bring communities together and attract investment,” where she explained how sports could unite locals and expatriates and develop a sense of belonging in cities.

Baker said: “It is always my pleasure to reflect on motivational and inspiring events or people in sports, and this is a great incentive for me to move on and do my best in this field.”

Baker is a member of the board of directors at the Saudi Bowling Federation. She is also a specialist in corporate social responsibility in sports.

She said that being close to people, and seeing how they grow and how sport impacts their lives, their lifestyles and their journeys is what she likes the most about what she does.

“It is always interested in reflecting on the changes the country is going through thanks to Vision 2030,” Baker said.

According the AIPS press release, the Sports Media Awards have received a huge number of articles this year.

“The several pieces received brought the eye of sports journalism to new places, giving voice to many more professionals than last year,” the AIPS said.

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Iran’s child soldiers and the world’s silent complicity

17/12/19

A newly recruited teenage Houthi fighter takes part in a gathering in the capital Sanaa to mobilize more fighters to battlefronts to fight pro-government forces in several Yemeni cities, on February 2, 2017. (Photo by MOHAMMED HUWAIS / AFP)

After the victory of the so-called Islamic revolution in Iran in 1979, the theocratic regime that seized power — usurping the rights of the Iranian people — adopted several sectarian strategies that reflected its extremist ideology.

The regime focused on brainwashing and adopted Orwellian indoctrination tactics to serve its new policies. These moved from theory to practice during the early post-revolutionary phase via educational curricula in schools and colleges, as well as revolutionary admonition assemblies, during which the Iranian people were castigated by regime clerics for any perceived deviation from the regime’s harsh ideological worldview. This totalitarian regime developed swiftly and the clerics soon felt the need to go beyond Iran to test the effectiveness of their policies regionally. The Iran-Iraq War provided an appropriate opportunity for this, and it also allowed the region to observe the reality of the new Iranian ideology and the regime’s policies.

One of the most prominent examples of how the regime used indoctrination during the Iran-Iraq War was its use of children as human shields or cannon fodder, with countless young boys from the ranks of the poor sent to the frontline to fight. Many were, infamously, used to run across minefields placed along the Iran-Iraq border so that Iranian troops would be able to cross safely after them. This was seen by the regime as a cost-effective way to minimize military casualties and damage to military equipment, while the children of the poor were viewed as expendable “collateral damage.” Before leaving for the battlefront, these children were each presented with a cheap key on a ribbon to hang around their necks, and were told it was the “key to paradise” that would allow them to enter heaven as glorious martyrs.

Despite the passing of decades, it is despicable that, even now, the regime in Tehran feels unashamed to admit perpetrating such horrific crimes against innocent children. It regularly and proudly airs footage on state TV and publishes photographs in its official newspapers showing child soldiers, who are lavished with praise for their “heroic” acts and “martyrdom” during the eight-year war with Iraq.

Apparently inspired by this criminal abuse of children, Hezbollah has followed in the Iranian regime’s footsteps, indoctrinating children with extremist ideology and training them from a young age to take up arms and fight in battles that serve the Iranian regime and its expansionist project across the Middle East. Anyone who has watched Hezbollah’s media propaganda will have observed children being indoctrinated and exploited.

This indoctrination has not been confined to Iran and Lebanon, but has also spilled over into other areas as the Iranian regime spreads its extremist ideology. This includes Yemen, where the Iranian-backed Houthis routinely use children — some of them shorter than the guns they carry — to fight in battles in Yemen itself and on the Saudi-Yemeni border. A UN report issued in 2015 suggested that more than 1,500 Yemeni children had been forcibly conscripted, while activists in the country assert that the real number is far higher.

With Iran’s regime we are dealing with an ideological project of infinite cruelty and depravity

Dr. Mohammed Al-Sulami

As elsewhere, the horrific but undeniable reality of the Houthis’ use of child soldiers is well documented by video and TV footage and regular reports from the country. In a recent BBC Arabic documentary, a reporter approaches a massive military vehicle guarded by a child no older than 14 years of age (and possibly far younger), sitting in the back beside a mounted machine gun that dwarfs him. When the reporter asks the child why he is there, the boy replies: “I don’t know; they asked me to do so.” The reporter attempts to prompt the boy, asking him: “Are you here to defend your homeland?” The child hesitates, clearly not understanding the question, before mumbling, “Yes.” Children are also used to clean barracks and guard checkpoints, with the Houthis even attempting to defame the Arab coalition with the lie that it is responsible for these crimes.

Dozens of Houthi child soldiers have been captured by the forces of the legitimate Yemeni government during battles in Yemen or in fighting along the Saudi-Yemeni border. As in all cases of the use of child soldiers, this exploitation of children is purely the doing of those cruel enough to use them in such a cynical way.

As all these cases underline, with Iran’s regime we are dealing with an ideological project of infinite cruelty and depravity, which has no difficulty in sending children to die so long as this serves its objectives. All these factors show that the regime’s fate is a foregone conclusion. Anyone who can support such conscription and exploitation of children, whether through threats, rewards or punishments and usually a mixture of all three, does not fear punishment in this life or the next, and is wholly indifferent to all the international covenants and treaties that condemn such horrendous acts. Despite these facts, however, international bodies and human rights groups concerned with protecting children remain shamefully silent and passive on Iran’s criminal behavior.

The Iranian regime’s exploitation of children in Yemen and elsewhere needs to be exposed and this requires concerted action to bring such heinous practices to light. While international bodies remain silently complicit about this evil — contradicting their slogans about caring for and protecting children — it is essential to expose Iranian behavior before global public opinion in the admittedly slender hope that this might move the world’s conscience to reject complicity in such Iranian criminality and to bring those responsible to trial.

• Dr. Mohammed Al-Sulami is Head of the International Institute for Iranian Studies (Rasanah). Twitter: @mohalsulami

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Arab News’ point-of-view

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