“If you want to be big in the Middle East, you need to be in Saudi—full stop.”

-Ronny Froehlich, German entrepreneur, in his company’s new office in Riyadh. The growing number of startups in Riyadh is set to rival neighboring Dubai. [bloomberg.com]



Pompeo, Saudi Counterpart Prince Faisal bin Farhan Meet in Washington Wednesday


US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan in Washington Wednesday to discuss Iran, Yemen, and other issues of mutual interest. [more]




Weaker Demand for Oil as Coronavirus Spreads, Pushing Prices Down

Domestic energy subsidies may be targeted by Saudi authorities.

Saudi Arabia and other oil producing nations that form the OPEC+ group are seeking common ground on how to keep oil prices from tumbling further in the face of weak demand from the spread of the Coronavirus. [more]




Al-Ula Planners, Developers Keen to Keep Historic Beauty of Site Intact with Millions Expected Annually

Elephant Rock near Al-Ula, Saudi Arabia.

Planners and developers working on making Saudi Arabia’s Al-Ula UNESCO heritage site easier and more enjoyable to visit are keen to keep intact the natural beauty and wonder of the site, the UAE-based The National reports, citing an interview with Francesca Arici, the site’s chief planning officer. [more]




Saudi Aramco Sees Increased Number of Cyberattacks since Late 2019

Jafurah deposits are estimated to hold 200 trillion cubic feet of wet gas, Reuters reports.

Saudi Aramco has seen an increase in attempted cyber attacks since the final quarter of 2019 and has successfully repelled all of them so far, according to a Reuters report, which cited comments from an interview with chief information security officer Khalid al-Harbi. [more]



Global oil demand set to see first quarterly decline in over 10 years, IEA says

Via Holly Ellyatt in cnbc.com : Demand is now expected to fall by 435,000 barrels a day (b/d) in the first quarter of 2020, down from the same period a year ago, and marking the first quarterly contraction in more than 10 years, the IEA said in its monthly oil market report Thursday.

Saudi Arabia prepares for Valentine’s Day

Via Rawan Radwan in arabnews.com : Love is in the air and hearts and flowers are everywhere as the Kingdom prepares to celebrate the once “haram” Valentine’s Day tomorrow. As recently as three years ago it would have been unthinkable — Saudi Arabia’s feared religious police saw to that.

No coronavirus cases detected in Saudi so far - ministry

Via Aarti Nagraj in gulfbusiness.com : According to the latest update, the coronavirus death toll has reached 1,115, with confirmed cases in China alone standing at 44,653. Outside of China, 395 confirmed cases have been reported in 24 countries, including eight in the UAE, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).



Netflix screening ‘big boost’ to Saudi filmmakers

“Six Windows in the Desert,” a series of short films created by Saudis, will make its Netflix debut on Thursday, streaming in 190 countries. After buying...[via arabnews.com]


Saudi Officials Hold Talks with US Special Envoy for Syria

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan bin Abdullah has met with US Deputy Assistant Secretary for Levant Affairs and Special Envoy for Syria Joel...[via aawsat.com]


More Than A Dozen Saudi Oil Firms Book Hefty Losses In 2019

A total of 14 Saudi companies in the energy sector booked hefty losses last year, Middle East Monitor reported on Wednesday, quoting analysts who had...[By Tsvetana Paraskova via oilprice.com]


Trekking to the Most Beautiful Wadi in the Middle East

Wadi Lejab is this magical spot somewhere on the map of the Al-Raith mountains in Saudi Arabia. After driving for 2 days from Riyadh, we...[By Eva zu Beck via youtube.com]


Inaugural Saudi Cup To Be Televised On FS1

Live coverage of the inaugural Saudi Cup airs Saturday, Feb. 29 at noon Eastern on FS1. The field for the Saudi Cup, the world's richest...[via paulickreport.com]


Can I Fly to Riyadh? Emirates Air to Limit Access to Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia suspended entry for nationalities holding tourist visas and coming from: Greater China, Iran, Italy, Korea, Japan, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Philippines, Singapore,...[By Layan Odeh via bloomberg.com]


Sports minister launches Saudi Games, Kingdom’s largest sporting event

The event will feature 40 games with the participation of 35 sports federations in 18 venues within Riyadh....[via arabnews.com]


Aramco Is Said to Start Early Preparations for Overseas Listing

The world’s largest publicly traded company is in discussions with Wall Street banks to draw up scenarios for a second listing overseas, according to the...[By Matthew Martin, Dinesh Nair, and Ishika Mookerjee via bloomberg.com]


China Virus

Coronavirus deaths, cases leap in China; markets shiver

The Chinese province at the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak reported a record rise in deaths and thousands more cases on Thursday under a new...[By Winni Zhou and Dominique Patton via reuters.com]



For the first time in 9 years, two nation states are going toe-to-toe in Syria

It is "a whole new level of state-on-state conflict," said Charles Lister, senior fellow at the Middle East Institute. "And given Erdogan's domestic considerations, it's...[By Nick Paton Walsh via cnn.com]



Haftar’s forces in Libya ban U.N. flights to embattled capital

The U.N. earlier warned flight restrictions by commander Khalifa Haftar’s forces known as the Libya National Army (LNA) were hampering humanitarian and mediation efforts in...[By Ayman al-Warfalli and Ulf Laessing via reuters.com]



Distressed-Debt Funds Team Up as Lebanon Bonds Plunge to Records

Investors are pondering what shape a default might take, with the crisis-ridden nation’s government wrangling over whether to continue servicing its liabilities....[By Netty Idayu Ismail via bloomberg.com]



Iran’s Economy Is Bleak. Its Stock Market Is Soaring

The run-up in Iranian equities perversely stems from the country’s status as an international pariah. With hardly any outside investment trickling into the country, and...[By Peter S. Goodman via nytimes.com]



NATO plans expanded training mission in Iraq

NATO is to expand the Western alliance’s training mission in Iraq, partly in response to U.S. calls do more in the Middle East. At a meeting...[By Martin Banks via defensenews.com]


ASG Analysis

Perspective: Geopolitical Trends to Watch in MENA in 2020

We see the potential for growing geopolitical instability in the Middle East and North Africa this year, a continuation of last year’s trend. There are bright...[via albrightstonebridge.com]



Iranian Digital Influence Efforts: Guerrilla Broadcasting for the Twenty-First Century

In pursuit of foreign and domestic information dominance, Iran began operating Facebook and Twitter sockpuppets as early as 2010. As the United States and Iran...[By Emerson T. Brooking and Suzanne Kianpour via atlanticcouncil.org]



Commentary: Afghanistan: “Peace” as the Vietnamization of a U.S. Withdrawal?

U.S. policymakers may be taking the current peace effort in Afghanistan seriously and believe it could actually succeed. At best, it is a well-intentioned attempt...[By Anthony H. Cordesman via csis.org]


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