DOHA: Qatar’s beIN media group on Wednesday stepped up its campaign against alleged Saudi-backed piracy, launching a website exposing what it says is wide-scale theft of its programmes.The “reveal all” beoutq.tv website went live with the aim of holding the pirate operation to account, a statement said.“What started out as a concerted and targeted campaign against beIN has now morphed into the largest commercial theft that’s ever been seen in the world of sport and entertainment,“ Tom Keaveny, beIN’s managing director in the Middle East region, said in the statement.“This Saudi-supported plague of piracy represents an existential threat to the economic model of the industry.”The website details programmes being illegally broadcast in more than 20 countries, a timeline of events and points the finger at several prominent Saudi figures under the headline: “The Saudi State-Supported Piracy of World Sport and Entertainment”.BeIN has previously alleged that since August 2017 a vast and sophisticated Saudi bootlegging network known as “beoutQ” had been transmitting its stolen programmes via Riyadh-based satellite provider Arabsat.In October, beIN launched a compensation claim worth US$1 billion against the Saudi piracy channel while Qatar filed an action at the World Trade Organization. But no progress has been reported so far.FIFA and the English Premier League said they were preparing to take legal action in Saudi Arabia against the pirates.Saudi Arabia has denied the claims and even said the piracy was operating out of Cuba.BeIn’s website launch was backed by the Confederation of African Football (CAF) and another service provider, Eleven Sports.The CAF said in a statement that only it holds the rights to matches played in its competitions and “strongly condemned” beoutQ’s “major piracy operation”.It added it would “take all necessary” steps if any of its matches were pirated.London-based Eleven, which has rights in the UK to football matches from major European leagues including Spain’s La Liga and Italy’s Serie A, tweeted that it stood “shoulder-to-shoulder” with the Qataris.“Piracy is one of the greatest threats to the future of the sports and entertainment industry and we stand against it in all forms,“ said Eleven Sports.The latest beIN move comes amid a 19-month economic and diplomatic boycott of Qatar by Saudi Arabia and its allies which accuse Doha of backing terrorism and seeking closer ties with rival Iran.Qatar has refuted the claims.The website was launched on the day the Italian Supercoppa is played in Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea city of Jeddah, which beIN has called on to be moved elsewhere because of the piracy issue.And on Thursday Qatar and Saudi Arabia meet in a politically charged Asian Cup football match in the United Arab Emirates, which backs Riyadh in the diplomatic dispute. — AFP [...]
by HUSSEIN IBISH
Saudi Arabia has been pleased by its reinvigorated partnership with the US during the administration of President Donald Trump.
But the Saudi leadership has put itself in danger of becoming a partisan flashpoint in US politics, which would be disastrous for both countries.
Democrats taking control of the US House of Representatives seem set to use several controversies involving Saudi Arabia to attack Trump’s foreign policy.
The murder by Saudi agents of the Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi in October, the devastation inflicted by war in Yemen and a government crackdown on Saudi activists including women’s rights advocates, are all likely to be topics for Trump’s Democratic critics in coming months.
Some Republicans have expressed objections, too. Trump allies like Senators Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Marco Rubio of Florida have used criticism of Saudi Arabia to try to push the president to adopt a traditionally internationalist foreign policy.
As a result, a sturdy alliance between two countries based on mutual global interests is turning into a bond between partisans fighting for political advantage.
The danger is that changing political circumstances in either country could weaken an alliance that both countries need.
Trump’s first trip overseas in 2017 began with several days in Riyadh, in which the Saudi government successfully appealed to his vanity and love of pomp.
Since then, Trump has often boasted about billions of dollars in new Saudi weapons contracts, while Saudi leaders celebrate Trump’s withdrawal from the nuclear deal with their arch-enemy Iran, and tough new sanctions against Tehran.
Both sides have contrasted their warm relationship with the chill that characterised former President Barack Obama’s second term.
To understand what’s at stake, it’s helpful to recall the alarm that some Israelis have expressed about Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s similar bear hugs with Trump.
Netanyahu’s strong affiliation with US Republicans and his hostility to Obama challenges the traditional credo that the US-Israeli relationship should never be cast as partisan.
That’s why the main US pro-Israel lobby, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, has recently cultivated Democrats in an effort to offset Republican efforts to cast their party as Israeli’s only true friend, and to push back against criticism of Israel on the left wing of the Democratic Party.
But Israel is protected by powerful US political constituencies on both the left and the right that value the partnership.
Saudi Arabia doesn’t enjoy that advantage. Oil companies and defence contractors may push for exchanges like weapons sales, but no one could confuse those initiatives with an
abiding commitment to Riyadh’s
And with House Democrats and internationalist Republicans preparing to pile on in the coming months, 2019 is likely to be a rough year for Saudi Arabia in Washington.
Wisdom would counsel reaching out to Democrats, as some of Israel’s biggest American supporters are.
While there have been some Saudi efforts to do that, others are falling right into the trap of seeing conservative Republicans as allies and liberal Democrats as threats.
Some prominent Saudi media organisations even took the bizarre step recently of attacking two young Muslim women, both liberal Democrats, who were just elected to the US House of Representatives.
Saudi articles, talk shows and tweets condemned the new congresswomen, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, as sympathisers of the Muslim Brotherhood, which is part of the religious right of the Islamic world and opposes the Saudi royal family.
The logic appears to be that those who are not with Trump are in the thrall of Saudi Arabia’s two main regional antagonists, Iran and Qatar, and should be seen as threats.
If this line of attack spreads, it could well become a self-fulfilling Saudi prophecy.
The Obama administration did not abandon the alliance with Saudi Arabia in favour of a partnership with Iran, as is sometimes alleged. But Trump seems driven to do the opposite of whatever he thinks his predecessor championed.
If he’s able to persuade Americans to think of the alliance with Saudi Arabia as a link to his own administration rather than as the continuation of six decades of consistent US foreign policy, Democrats may take the same attitude in the future when it comes to Riyadh.
A nightmare for Saudi Arabia would be for Democrats to start mistakenly believing that their own foreign policy agenda, supposedly inspired by Obama, would mean rejecting the partnership with Riyadh and opening up a new cooperative dialogue with Tehran.
That would be a disaster for the US, too. Yet serious people on both sides are inadvertently promoting it, and what was once an absurd scenario is becoming disturbingly plausible. — Bloomberg
This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.
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DUBAI (Dec 20): Around the world, high oil prices tend to accelerate the shift to renewable energy and electric vehicles. In Saudi Arabia, they have... [...]
Delegates say a consensus is emerging around an overall cut of around 1m barrels a day, although the figure isn’t final
VIENNA • Saudi Arabia proposed a moderate oil-production cut from OPEC and its allies that would nudge the market back into balance, seeking to walk a fine line between preventing a surplus and appeasing US President Donald Trump.
“We, in the kingdom, are going to be advocating something adequate to balance the market,” Energy Minister Khalid Al-Falih told reporters at the opening session of the group’s meeting in Vienna yesterday. A cut of about one million barrels a day (bpd) from the whole group should be adequate and “certainly we don’t want to shock the market”.
Events in the Austrian capital weren’t the only story yesterday. As ministers sat down at the headquarters of the OPEC, Russian Oil Minister Alexander Novak flew to St Petersburg to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin to decide on their country’s contribution. If the group’s most important ally in the broader OPEC+ coalition decides to make a sizeable cut, the cartel will follow up.
Saudi Arabia is equally prepared for a deal or no-deal situation, Al-Falih said. “If everybody is not willing to join and contribute equally, we will wait until they are.”
Oil fell after the remarks, losing US$2.90 to US$58.66 (RM244.61) a barrel at 10:37am in London yesterday.
Saudi Arabia, OPEC’s de facto leader, has made clear that it won’t shoulder the burden of trimming production alone. In private conversations, delegates said a consensus was emerging around an overall cut, including Russia, of around one million bpd, although all cautioned the figure wasn’t final.
The wait for Moscow signals how much OPEC has changed since 2016 when Saudi Arabia and Russia ended their historic animosity and started to manage the oil market together. The alliance has transformed OPEC into a duopoly in which Russia, which isn’t a formal member of the cartel but part of the production cuts alliance, is asserting its power.
While Middle Eastern producers are desperate to reverse the recent slump in prices to pay for government spending, sensitivities are different in Russia, where the government is running a budget surplus and a weak ruble mitigates the impact of lower prices. The government is concerned about the impact of higher prices on Russian consumers, stoking discontent with economic policy, according to one Kremlin official.
A day of preliminary talks in the Austrian capital on Wednesday concluded with a panel led by Saudi Arabia and Russia recommending an output reduction lasting six months, but the committee didn’t discuss how big any cuts should be. Al-Falih said his preference was for a reduction extending into the third quarter.
The group may agree a formal cut of under a million bpd, Nigeria’s Oil Minister Emanuel Kachikwu said in a TV interview yesterday morning.
OPEC is also contending with vociferous opposition from the US president, who’s taken to using his Twitter account to berate the group’s policies and sees low oil prices as key to sustaining America’s economic growth.
While ministers met in OPEC’s Vienna headquarters on Wednesday, Trump tweeted that the “world does not want to see, or need, higher oil prices!”
“I’m cautiously optimistic that a deal gets done, but the devil will be in the detail,” said Mohammad Darwazah, a director at Medley Global Advisers. “How OPEC communicates this to the market may be just as important as what gets done.”
Although Russia, the largest producer in the wider group known as OPEC+, agreed to a cut in principle, the eventual size of their contribution remains undefined and will be key to putting together the final deal.
In private conversations earlier this week, OPEC delegates said that Saudi Arabia had favoured a Russian cut of about 300,000 bpd, but Moscow was seeking a smaller reduction of about 150,000, said people familiar with those talks. Those differences persisted after Wednesday’s meeting, OPEC delegates said.
Russia’s second-largest oil producer, Lukoil PJSC, is ready to comply with any request from the Kremlin but hopes output cuts won’t be necessary, said CEO Vagit Alekperov.
“I hope that maybe these measures won’t be necessary,” he said in an interview with Bloomberg Television in Vienna. An oil price around US$60 suits the needs of producers and consumers, and it should remain at that level in January, he said. If Russia does agree a cut, it would take three to four months to fully implement it, he said.
Iran is currently subject to US sanctions and as such won’t participate in any curbs, the country’s Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh said.
The last time the OPEC+ group agreed to curtail output, in late 2016, it settled on a combined 1.8 million-bpd reduction.
In preparatory meetings ahead of this week’s summit, delegates had said a cut of as much as 1.3 million bpd next year is needed as demand growth slows and US shale production surges.
Resolving the group’s internal differences and convincing a sceptical oil market that they’re serious about preventing a new supply glut in 2019 would require ministers to conclude weeks of debate and settle on a final figure.
“Some countries will struggle because their economies are very constrained” and Nigeria itself could only manage a small cut, Kachikwu said.
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LONDON • Saudi Arabia is pumping more crude than at any time since its first barrel was extracted 80 years ago, responding to pressure from US President Donald Trump to keep driving oil prices lower.
Saudi daily output reached 11.2 million barrels a day, from 10.8-10.9 million barrels earlier this month, according to a person familiar with the matter, who asked not to be identified because the data is private.
While Brent crude, the global benchmark, already tumbled as much as 33% since early October, Trump a week ago tweeted: “Thank you to Saudi Arabia, but let’s go lower!”
The surge in Saudi supply comes two weeks before the kingdom and its allies in the OPEC+ group meet in Vienna to set policy for 2019. Negotiations have already started and will likely intensify later this week at the Group of 20 (G-20) summit in Buenos Aires, where the leaders of Saudi Arabia and Russia and their oil ministers are scheduled to meet. The two nations are the world’s biggest crude exporters.
“In the past, G-20 summits have provided the opportunity to negotiate informally the broad contours of the production agreements that OPEC+ members have later ratified,” Amrita Sen, chief oil analyst at Energy Aspects Ltd in London, said in a note to clients.
Brent fell last week to a one-year low of US$58.41 (RM244.76) a barrel, down from a four-year high of US$86.74 in early October. Prices have slumped as the US, Saudi Arabia and Russia increase supply close to a record, at a time when traders are fretting about slowing growth in demand in emerging markets, particularly in Asia.
Trump has repeatedly used Twitter to ask Saudi Arabia and other OPEC members to boost production. In January, Saudi production was below 10 million barrels. More recently, Trump has compared lower oil prices to a tax cut and a tool to keep inflation low, giving the US Federal Reserve the opportunity to stop raising interest rates.
Saudi output has also been rising as the kingdom seeks to ensure enough supply as Iranian exports slump following the re-imposition of US sanctions.
Buyers of Saudi crude ordered more barrels in early October to guard against a sudden plunge, although in the end the US administration granted more waivers than anyone was expecting.
It’s unclear whether Riyadh plans to keep boosting output and a Saudi oil official declined to comment. The surge this month also means that the kingdom is effectively setting a high baseline for any future cut in output.
Saudi Arabia has already said it supports a drop in output and has pledged to reduce oil exports by 500,000 barrels a day in December, compared to November.
Key decision makers will be at the G-20 summit in Buenos Aires later this week, in a meeting that may well decide the direction of oil prices in 2019. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Salman and Russian President Vladimir Putin, who have been working together to manage the oil market for the past two years, both plan to be in the Argentinian capital.
“Both have a common interest in seeing a production cut to mitigate the potential future surplus created by the mismatch between the rise in OPEC+ output and the volume of waivers issued for Iranian oil,” Jeffrey Currie, the head of commodities research at Goldman Sachs Inc, told clients in a note.
Resisting Trump’s desire for lower oil prices would require the Saudi crown prince to go against the White House, just after the president publicly backed him following the killing of Saudi national and Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.
Khalid Al-Falih and Alexander Novak, the Saudi and Russian energy ministers, are also scheduled to travel to Buenos Aires, according to people familiar with their plans. Their presence reinforces the impression that Saudi Arabia and Russia will try to reach a deal before the OPEC meeting a few days later.
“We believe OPEC+ countries will come to an agreement despite recent tweets from the US arguing for lower oil prices,” Currie wrote.
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RIYADH • A Saudi royal advisor and a senior intelligence official played key roles in the mission that ultimately led to the killing of government critic Jamal Khashoggi and authorities will seek the death penalty for five people who confessed to the murder.
Eleven people out of the 21 held in the case have been charged over Khashoggi’s murder at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct 2, deputy attorney general Shaalan Shaalan said in a televised news conference on the case.
Crown Prince Mohammed Salman, who runs the day to day affairs of the world’s top oil exporter, had no knowledge of the mission, he added.
The killing of Khashoggi has provoked a global outcry and tarnished the reputation of the 33-year-old young prince.
Saudi Arabia stuck by its earlier narrative that the Washington Post columnist was killed after a mission to abduct him went awry. The deputy chief of intelligence ordered that Khashoggi be brought back to the kingdom, Shaalan said. The team killed him after the talks failed and his body was handed to a collaborator in Turkey, he added.
Asked whether Saud al-Qahtanti, an aide to Prince Mohammed, had any role in the case, Shaalan said a royal adviser had a coordinating role and had provided information.
The former advisor is now under investigation, the prosecutor said, declining to reveal the names of any of those facing charges.
The prosecution “demands the death penalty for those who ordered and executed the killing and they’re five people”, he said.
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WASHINGTON (Nov 15): The US Treasury imposed sanctions on 17 Saudi officials on Thursday for their role in the killing last month of Jamal Khashoggi... [...]
DUBAI • Saudi Arabia’s purchase of a stake of about US$2 billion (RM8.14 billion) in Tesla Inc is only the latest high-profile investment by its sovereign wealth fund since 2016.
The Public Investment Fund (PIF) built up less than 5% stake in the electric carmaker in recent months, according to a person familiar with the matter, just as Elon Musk considers taking the company private. PIF’s move comes as it seeks to turn into a US$2 trillion powerhouse and help diversify Saudi Arabia’s oil-dependent economy. Here’s a selection of PIF’s recent investments and holdings:
PIF invested US$3.5 billion in US rideshare company Uber Technologies Inc in June 2016.
PIF MD Yasir Al-Rumayyan took a board seat at the San Franciscobased company after the deal, which valued Uber at US$62.5 billion. At the time it was the biggest infusion of cash into Uber from a single investor.
The fund announced plans in October 2017 to invest about US$1 billion in Virgin Group’s space companies, Virgin Galactic, The Spaceship Co and Virgin Orbit. PIF also holds an option to invest an additional US$480 million in Virgin’s space services.
Saudi Arabia plans to support the ventures’ plans for human spaceflight and launching satellites into orbit, and may cooperate with Virgin to create a space-centric entertainment industry in the country.
PIF agreed to commit US$20 billion in May 2017 to an infrastructure investment fund with Blackstone Group LP, the world’s biggest private-equity manager.
Blackstone plans to raise the same amount from other investors and with leverage, the New York-based asset manager expects to have more than US$100 billion in purchasing power for infrastructure projects, primarily in the US.
Saudi Arabia and SoftBank Group Corp announced the first close of an almost US$100 billion technology fund, the largest ever, in May 2017 secured from backers led by PIF and the Japanese company.
PIF didn’t disclose the size of its investment, but Crown Prince Mohammed Salman said he might invest up to US$45 billion in the fund over five years. Apple Inc, Qualcomm Inc, Foxconn Technology Group and Sharp Corp also put in capital.
Separately, PIF also owns stakes in some of Saudi Arabia’s biggest companies on behalf of the government, which include Saudi Basic Industries Corp, Saudi Basic Industries Corp, Saudi Telecom Co, National Commercial Bank, Saudi Arabian Mining Co and Samba Financial Group. — Bloomberg
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KUALA LUMPUR (Aug 7): Former Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak claimed that Saudi Arabia will be taken by surprise following Malaysia’s move to... [...]