Arab Politics, Lebanon

Saudi Arabia Slapping Siniora’s Wrist?

sinioraAbd al-Rahman al-Rashid pens a curious editorial in Asharq al-Awsat (via FLC) about the misspent foreign aid that Saudi Arabia has been doling out. After bashing Nabih Berri’s abusive treatment of Fouad Siniora and discussing the inevitable squabbles that will surround the billion dollar gift that KSA is planning for Gaza, al-Rashid takes aim, oddly, at Siniora’s government:

ومهما كان المستفيد فإن على متعهد المعونة السعودية، وغيرها من المساعدات الموعودة، أن تكشف بشكل تفصيلي وعلني عن المستفيدين منها، حتى يعرف أنها تحقق الغرض منها، بإيصالها للمتضررين المحتاجين، وبالسرعة القصوى، بخلاف المعونة السعودية في لبنان التي مر عامان عليها ولم ينفق إلا القليل منها. فقد صرفت الحكومة اللبنانية معظمها على حاجاتها. وهو أمر غريب، ولا أعتقد أن الجانب السعودي منحها هدية للحكومة، بل للناس المتضررين من الحرب، وعلى السنيورة إعادة الأموال إلى المتبرع بها.

[Translation: “Whoever the beneficiary may be, it is incumbent upon the one in charge of [disbursing] the Saudi gift and any other promised aid, to reveal in a detailed and public fashion the beneficiaries of the aid so that it may be known that its purpose was achieved… in contrast to the Saudi aid in Lebanon, of which little has been spent over the past two years. The Lebanese government has spent most of it on its own needs. This is a puzzling matter, and I don’t think that the Saudis granted it as a gift to the [Lebanese] government, but rather for the people affected by the war, and Siniora is responsible for returning the funds to their donor.“]

What to make of this? Are the Saudis slapping Siniora’s wrist? If so, why, and particularly now, when he is looking for a graceful exit strategy from the PM’s office? Some may suggest that this has something to do with the Saudi-Syrian reconciliation, but it seems a bit too heavy-handed. For insight, I turned to my good friend Alex, from Syria Comment, a veritable expert on the subtle and not-so-subtle messages conveyed by Saudi newspapers.  Here is what he had to say:

I see it as part of the series of opinion pieces in Asharq, QN.

Check out the other one by their stupid editor [Tareq Alhomayed] who insists on seeing everything in his own favorite way … now he sees Syria and Iran panicking and therefore they will cause Lebanon some future pain:

For the coming months expect Asharq to be engaged in trying to influence the Lebanese elections by tarnishing the reputation of Aoun, Hizbollah and of course Syria and Iran.

The difference between Tareq and Abdel Rahman, is that Abdel Rahman always finds some creative issue through which he can deliver an indirect blow to the bad guys, whereas Tareq is more straightforward.

Any thoughts? Are the Saudis letting Siniora hear the branch creak? Or is this Asharq’s attempt at even-handedness?


8 thoughts on “Saudi Arabia Slapping Siniora’s Wrist?

  1. There is absolutely no way this can be seen as a “some creative issue through which he can deliver an indirect blow to the bad guys”. There is no wayu this would have been allowed to pass if the Saudis didn’t want it to read exactly as it reads.

    Its not subtle and its a public rebuke for making them look bad. Needless to say they will still support M14 but this was a message saying don’t push your luck because we can leave you twisting.

    Posted by mo | February 24, 2009, 1:02 pm
  2. Dear mo

    I once had a discussion with one of Asharq’s editors where I told him how disappointed I was for his newspaper’s role as Saudi Arabia’s propaganda outlet (against Syria). He insisted that no one ever tells the opinion writers what to write.

    I believe him when it comes to regular opinion page writers, although they all know what the newspaper’s general limitations are.

    It is true that Abdel Rahman is closely connected to the Saudi royal family and you are right that he MIGHT have been only the messenger in this particular article. But not necessarily. He is independent enough to make his own conclusions.

    Posted by Alex | February 24, 2009, 1:31 pm
  3. I am as perplexed as you are. I thought everyone liked Siniora. Perhaps he just means what he says? Joshua

    Posted by Joshua | February 24, 2009, 5:37 pm
  4. Alex,

    No, not necessarily, you are right.

    But considering Saudi support for M14 and considering we are at the cusp of a major election campaign, I honestly think its too much of a coincidence to come out now. Even if it had been written independently, allowing it to be published must be considered a warning by itself imho.

    Posted by Mo | February 24, 2009, 6:12 pm
  5. All this is in preparation for the time after the election , bad mouthing Siniora today will make it more possible for Hariri to become Prime minster if M14 win the election.

    Posted by norman | February 25, 2009, 7:55 pm
  6. This is a comment from Champress on what Asharq alawsat is focusing on:

    من باب التذكير نلفت الانتباه إلى أن ثمة أصوات يعلوها الغبار ويلفها الصدأ ماتزال تنفخ في النار لإشعال الفتنة انطلاقاً من وسائل إعلام سعودية …
    اليوم على سبيل المثال استحضرت صحيفة الشرق الأوسط السعودية المندوب الأمريكي السابق في الأمم المتحدة سيء الذكر جون بولتون لتنشر على لسانه التالي :
    [ ليس لديّ أي شك بتورط سورية وأعتقد أن المحققين واثقون أيضاً من تورطها في قتل الحريري والحوار مع دمشق تهديد للمحكمة ].
    واليوم أيضاً تستحضر صحيفة الحياة السعودية القاضي السيء الذكر ديتلف ميليس المتفق على أنه كبير المزورين في قضية الحريري .. تستحضر هذا المبعد عن التحقيق لتنشر على لسانه وبإصرار من مندوبة الحياة ما تقول أنه تأكيد من ميليس على تورط سورية بقتل الحريري.
    لا تعليق على هذا السلوك سوى ان بعض الكتبة المستأجرين لم يستلموا كلمة السر حتى الآن – كما يبدو – وهذه الأصوات اليوم وغداً كما كانت بالأمس هي أصوات يعلوها الغبار .. ويلفها الصدأ ..

    Either there are elements in KSA who are not on the same page with King Abdullah, or … Asharq and Alhayat have not been updated yet on new Saudi Syrian relations …

    Maybe things are not final yet. Let’s check on Asharq Alawasat in few weeks.

    Posted by Alex | February 26, 2009, 7:22 pm


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