Iran behind attacks on Saudi oil sites, UN report finds

The September 2019 attack, which temporarily halted half of Saudi crude oil production, was “unquestionably” sponsored by Iran. (Reuters)
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Updated 02 July 2020

Iran behind attacks on Saudi oil sites, UN report finds

  • The report comes with the Iran arms embargo set to expire on Oct. 18, 2020

JEDDAH: A new UN report has confirmed Iran’s role in the attack on Saudi Aramco facilities last September.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres presented the report to the Security Council in a video conference on Tuesday.

The report comes with the Iran arms embargo set to expire on Oct. 18, 2020

Guterres told the council that the report highlights the Iranian regime’s aggressive approach in destabilizing the region through military and financial support of armed militias in Yemen, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon.

The September 2019 attack, which temporarily halted half of Saudi crude oil production, was “unquestionably” sponsored by Iran, Defense Ministry spokesman Col. Turki Al-Maliki said during a news conference in the wake of the attack.

The report examines the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 2231, through which the UN endorsed the Iran nuclear deal in 2015.

In recent years, tensions in the region have been escalated by Tehran, a state-sponsor of terrorism. Attacks against oil tankers, sophisticated and synchronized attacks against oil facilities in the Kingdom, and Iran’s supply of arms to Yemeni militias have all played a role.

Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Ministry welcomed the report and said “it leaves no doubt for the international community about Iran’s hostile intentions towards the Kingdom in particular, the Arab region and wider world in general.”

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan said the UN report is a reminder to the international community to take a firm stance against the Iranian regime’s aggression and terror.

“The details and facts laid out in the UN report reinforce our support for a continued ban on arming the Iranian regime, and confronting its developing nuclear and ballistic programs,” he said.

The Kingdom’s permanent representative to the UN, Abdallah Al-Mouallimi, said: “The report proves Iran’s involvement in the attacks on Saudi Arabia. The report is also evidence of Tehran’s violations of international resolutions.”

Al-Mouallimi said the Kingdom has warned of the security consequences of the arms agreement, which ignores Iran’s regional expansion and legitimate Saudi security concerns.

The envoy welcomed the cooperation of international partners that have realized long-term concerns about Iran’s expansionism.

Bahrain’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs praised the UN report,saying it demonstrated the dangerous role Iran is playing in sabotaging and destabilizing the security and stability of the region by supporting, financing, training and arming terrorist organizations, including the Houthi.

Iranian support for the militia is a reflection of Tehran’s desire to spread chaos and violence in the region, it said.

Hamdan Al-Shehri, a political analyst and international relations scholar, told Arab News that Saudi Arabia has repeatedly presented evidence highlighting the threat Iran poses to the region and the world.

“Iran has supplied the Houthis and other terrorist militias with weapons including ballistic missiles and drones that have posed a threat to the stability of the region for years. The UN embargo on a regime with a militia mentality and ideology, that poses a major threat, must be extended. We can’t deny the fact that lifting the embargo will allow Iran to continue its supply of arms to its militias and increase regional disorder,” he said.

He said Saudi Arabia’s letter to the UN Security Council is a call by the Kingdom to highlight the threat the regime poses, not just to the region but also the world.

“The ball is in the UN’s court. Failure by the global community and international organizations to unite against the aggression, especially now after the findings of the report clearly implicate Iran, will allow Iran to continue its advance,” he said.

He added: “If the UN Security Council and international organizations do not act on the report to condemn and take action against a regime of such terroristic ideologies, then what’s the purpose of these organizations?”

The analyst also said that the Kingdom could not be blamed for any reaction to Iranian aggression if international organizations continue to stay silent and fail to hold the country accountable.

Al-Mouallimi said that in the face of repeated attacks, Saudi Arabia has exercised restraint, even in cases where the source of attacks was clear.

On Sept. 14, 2019, the Saudi Defense Ministry said that 18 drones and three missiles were launched against the Abqaiq, the world’s largest oil-processing facility, but that the missiles fell short of the target. Four cruise missiles struck the Khurais oil field.

Jeddah center of Japan’s TeamLab promises an inspiring art space for Saudis

Updated 22 September 2020

Jeddah center of Japan’s TeamLab promises an inspiring art space for Saudis

  • Agreement between KSA and Tokyo-based technology group envisions region’s first digital-art museum
  • TeamLab Borderless Jeddah is in line with Kingdom’s Vision 2030 reform strategy and Quality of Life program

DUBAI: Japan’s TeamLab Borderless has brought to life the idea of a world of digital art without boundaries, a museum where art installations can move from one room to another and come alive in different parts of the world simultaneously.

Artworks such as these will be seen in Saudi Arabia, now that its Ministry of Culture has announced plans for a space in Jeddah to exhibit interactive digital artworks created by the Tokyo-based technology group.

TeamLab Borderless Jeddah, scheduled to open in 2023, will feature an array of interconnected artworks created by a group of physicians, CGI animators, engineers and mathematicians.

Kudo Takashi, TeamLab’s communications manager and brand director, said the plan is to create an art space in Jeddah that is positive and futuristic. “What we create isn’t something we can explain through words,” he told Arab News Japan.

Japan’s TeamLab looks to explore the world “beyond borders,” merging both arts and technology to create their Borderless exhibitions around the world. (Via TeamLab/Supplied)

Takashi said growing up in the UAE, he developed a deep appreciation and love for Arab countries, which inspired him to bring innovation to the region’s art landscape.

Formed in 2001, TeamLab sees itself as an international art collective. Its first permanent exhibition, TeamLab Borderless, opened at Tokyo’s Mori Museum in 2018.

The artworks are displayed across a 10,000-square-meter space. Another permanent exhibition opened in Shanghai, China, in November last year.

TeamLab museums are known for their interconnectivity between installations in different locations. Takashi said entering any of these is like entering a unified digital world.

“There’s no boundary between the visitors and the artwork. If you’re standing inside our space, some flowers will (start to) bloom around you. If you touch them, you’ll activate them,” he added.

Borders are mere “illusions,” Takashi said, adding: “Despite our age, location or background, we’re able to connect. As humans we naturally find a way to connect.”

This is apparent in TeamLab’s art, where if a visitor touches a piece in Tokyo it will be affected in Shanghai, demonstrating how interconnected the installations are.

Most of TeamLab’s work is programmed to respond to light, sound and touch. One piece, “Hopscotch for Geniuses: Bounce on the Water,” involves visitors hopping on shapes that appear on the ground, activating images and depictions of fish, insects and other animals.

Japan’s TeamLab looks to explore the world “beyond borders,” merging both arts and technology to create their Borderless exhibitions around the world. (Via TeamLab/Supplied)

Another piece, “Multi-Jumping Universe,” allows people to direct the flow of light and music around them simply through their own movements.

The Jeddah location is near Al-Balad, the city’s old town and a UNESCO World Heritage site.

There are plans for a children’s section, the objective being to inspire the next generation of artists through its exhibits.

The children’ sections at several of TeamLab’s other museums include experiences such as the Sketch Aquarium that highlight the power of imagination.

Children are invited to color in drawings of sea creatures, scan the artwork and then watch as their colored art piece floats in a virtual aquarium.

TeamLab Borderless Jeddah is in line with Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 reform strategy and Quality of Life Program, which intends to diversify the country’s economy through cultural and artistic ventures.

Saudi artists will be involved in the project, and arrangements for a similar exhibition in Riyadh are in the pipeline.

Takashi said TeamLab’s aim is to “explore the new relationship between humans and their world,” adding that in the 20th century people entered a new digital era that changed their relationship with the world and others.

The idea behind the installations, Takashi said, is to create an extension of people’s imagination and creativity.

TeamLab’s website puts it this way: “Within the digital domain, art is able to transcend physical and conceptual boundaries. Digital technology allows art to break free from the frame and go beyond the boundaries that separate one work from another.”

Takashi said it is important to consider the feelings and emotions that art installations can evoke in visitors.

“Human beings aren’t logical creatures. Groups can be controlled through logic, but as individuals they can be very emotional,” he added.

In order to elicit feelings and emotions in their patrons, however, TeamLab Borderless installations utilize different software and programs that the company created together with various hardware.

“In Japan’s Borderless, we use over 470 projectors and over 520 high-spec PCs,” Takashi said, adding that the technology is set in place to create a higher dimension in the immersive experience, something the organization is looking to expand on.

Explaining that the shift in perspective from 2D to 3D enhances how we experience art, he said: “We understand the world not just through our eyes and brains; the process is also physical and emotional.”

Japan’s TeamLab looks to explore the world “beyond borders,” merging both arts and technology to create their Borderless exhibitions around the world. (Via TeamLab/Supplied)

TeamLab has reconstructed many ancient Asian drawings using today’s technologies, and it is a sign of the times to come, he added.

Much of TeamLab’s work is inspired by Japanese traditions of immersive technology-based environments and workplaces, symbolized for instance by Takashi Murakami’s postmodern art movement Superflat, which combines the flatness of commercial graphic design and characters from popular Japanese anime and manga (animation and comics) with the influences of fine art.

Takashi maintains that good designs are those that can be used by everyone. “If you’re the only person who can understand a design, it isn’t good,” he said.

As for the relationship between art and design, he said: “If I compare what’s art and what’s design, design is the answer and art is the question.”

He believes that the right answer is always changing. “A good business model or answer may (have been) the correct answer in the 18th century, but not in the 19th century, due to the industrial revolution,” he said.

TeamLab’s aim is to create the questions, and for visitors to find the answers within the interactive artworks displayed in its installations.

Takashi said the overarching question that TeamLab is trying to answer is: “The borderless world is very beautiful, right?”

TeamLab also has a special section for children, which will be implemented at Borderless Jeddah to inspire the next generation of creatives. (Via TeamLab/Supplied)

Art may seem “weird,” but it is simply expanding on the questions asked, and the answer is in “global feelings,” he added.

Summing up the purpose of the Borderless exhibitions, Takashi said it is neither geographical nor political — the key idea is to understand the relationship between humans and the world.

He said TeamLab is “lucky to find good partners in Saudi Arabia who could understand what we’re talking about.” Equally, he is excited about the TeamLab projects that will be announced in the coming year.

Twitter: @DianaFarahANJP