Abd 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:
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?