By Diana Marwan Al-Jassem
Fighting terrorism and corruption will be Saudi Arabia’s focus in 2010, analysts say.
Saudi Arabia witnessed several important events last year, the politically most important among which was the war that broke out in the Saudi-Yemen border on Nov. 5. Infiltrators from Yemen attacked and tried to seize villages within the Saudi border. By Nov. 17, the Kingdom’s army successfully defeated the rebels, who were already involved in a deeper conflict with the Yemeni government. The Saudi government then announced all major operations complete, while minor ganged conflicts still remain today.
Saudis expressed pride in their army and the way the government professionally handled the conflict. They however fear more conflicts and terrorist attacks in 2010.
“We saw how the Ministry of Interior succeeded in thwarting terrorist operations in Jizan, but this war was unexpected to us as Saudi citizens, and we do not know what we may suffer in 2010,” said Ahmad Bukhari, a 28-year-old engineer working in a private construction company.
Analysts say terrorists may attempt more attacks in 2010, not only in Saudi Arabia, but also in several other countries like Pakistan and Yemen.
“Recent suicide bomb attacks show that Al-Qaeda is still a threatening force. So we do expect such attempts in the Kingdom,” said Dr. Waheed Hashem, Saudi political analyst and associate professor at King Abdulaziz University.
“I expect Saudi security forces to uncover any new terrorist plots. Shiites will try to get a hold in Saudi politics. The Houthi conflict is really a Shiite desire to enter into Kingdom’s politics.”
Wars aside, Saudi Arabia also launched the first intellectual initiative to combat poverty in April 2009 under the theme “National Intellectual Initiative Against Poverty”.
The initiative was a brainchild of Trad Al-Asmari, a noted figure in Saudi media, a poet and a member of the Jeddah Council for Development Work. He started an online campaign in this regard. The initiative intended to minimize the percentage of poor people in the Kingdom as statistics show that the number of people below the poverty line has been steadily increasing.
“Poverty is threatening Saudis and non-Saudis alike. This initiative uses several methods to directly attack poverty and the reasons behind it. We have already started the first phase of the project, a ‘knowledge bank’ that will be a collection of ideas and suggestions from people,” said Al-Asmari.
“But the project has been stopped temporarily because many officials do not cooperate.”
According to Al-Asmari, there are several reasons for poverty and solving this problem requires a deeper study of the society on different levels instead of focusing only on the financial aspect.
The year 2009 ended with the aftershocks of the Nov. 25 Jeddah flood disaster that killed over 130 people. Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Abdullah, warned the country against corruption and ordered the set up of a committee to investigate the truth behind the cause of the disaster. Several analysts blame poor civil infrastructure for the fatal impact of the rain and floods.
“I believe our government is trying its best to uncover the criminals. It is working hard to develop Jeddah and the other cities of the Kingdom,” said Khaled Abu Rashed, authorized arbitrator in the Saudi Ministry of Justice and vice president of the Paris-based International Justice Organization.
“In 2010, all perceptions would change. The investigation committee is working hard to know the truth. Citizens, especially the victims, should not to be silent when they witness law violation, bribery or corruption,” he said. – SG