06/04/2016, 17.03
SAUDI ARABIA
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Saudi crown prince’s confession of failure in Syria and Yemen, censorship or hacking?

Al Watan purportedly cited Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef’s bitterness towards the US, Turkey and other allies for failing to live up to their commitment. Although no official statement has been issued to deny the article’s content, it was taken down within three hours.

Riyadh (AsiaNews) – The Al-Watan newspaper online on Thursday cited Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef as saying that the Saudi-led action “in Syria and Yemen” was a failure, and that Saudi Arabia would have to compromise. However, as soon as the news item appeared it was taken down but without any official denial of its veracity.

In a country where freedom of the press means "faithfully" publishing the statements of the country’s political leaders, the incident remains a mystery.

The statement attributed to the Saudi heir came at the end of this week’s meeting of Gulf States leaders. On the sidelines of the summit, the crown prince supposedly said that Operation Decisive Storm, the code name given to the Saudi-led intervention in Yemen, “has lasted too long because of allies’ failure to live up to their commitment.”

Speaking about the Syrian conflict, he is cited as saying, “We were supposed to remove the Assad regime with Turkish and US help, and we relied on their promises, which, sadly, were not fulfilled. The Arab world witnessed many armed clashes in the last two years.”

If the statement is true, it would be the first major admission of defeat.

The news item remained online for three hours, and thousands were able to read it across the Arab world before it was taken down. The paper’s website was also shut down for “technical reasons”.

The affaire took another twist the next day after the paper was back online, when it said that its website had been hacked with false statements attributed to Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Naif.

The question is whether the paper was censored or hacked. Given the bitterness prevailing in Saudi Arabia over Syria and Yemen, the statement sounds plausible.

Now all eyes are on Saudi attitudes towards stalled peace talks over Syria and Yemen. The issue is whether the Saudi-backed Syrian opposition, and the Yemeni government-in-exile will take a softer line. (PB)

(Pictured Al Watan screen page before it was removed )

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