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93 items tagged "Saudi Arabia"

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Egyptian court rejects deal to cede islands to Saudi Arabia

Category: News
Created on Tuesday, 21 June 2016 11:47
Sanafir and Tiran islandsAn Egyptian court has struck down an agreement between Egypt and Saudi Arabia, which would have seen two strategic Red Sea islands transferred to Saudi control.
 
News of the deal, struck earlier this year between Cairo's cash-strapped government and Riyadh, provoked angry protests by Egyptians, who saw the agreement as a blow to national sovereignty.
 
Under the agreement, announced in April, the Sanafir and Tiran islands - which are located off the coast of Eilat in southern Israel - would have been ceded to Saudi Arabia. The two islands provide Israel's only access to the Port of Aqaba; it was an Egyptian blockade of that passage which helped spark the 1967 Six Day War. Israel had apparently been notified of the deal.
 
Egyptian officials defended the agreement by noting that both islands had been under Saudi control until 1950, when Riyadh asked Cairo to "protect them" from Israel. They were captured during the Six Day War and handed to Egypt under its 1979 peace treaty with Israel.
 
But the court was unimpressed, and rejected the deal according to reports Tuesday.
 
Egypt's government can still appeal the ruling in a higher court, which it is likely to do - though that may risk renewed protests.
 
The government of President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi is desperate for Saudi aid as it continued to struggle with a shattered economy and growing debts, following years of instability after the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak in 2011, and his Islamist successor Mohammed Morsi in 2013.

Saudi Arabia says all those executed received a fair trial

Category: News
Created on Wednesday, 06 January 2016 09:18
fair trialSaudi Arabia's mission to the United Nations on Monday defended the execution of 47 men, including prominent Shiite cleric Nimr al-Nimr, saying all of the accused had been granted fair trials.
 
"The kingdom of Saudi Arabia reiterates that all convicted persons were granted fair and just trials without any consideration to their intellectual, racial or sectarian affiliation and that the final rulings against them was reached based on their own criminal and illegal actions," said a statement from the Saudi mission quoted by AFP.
 
Riyadh’s envoy to the UN also said the decision to break off relations with Iran should have no impact on peace efforts in Syria and Yemen.
 
"From our side, it should have no effect because we will continue to work very hard to support the peace efforts in Syria and Yemen," Saudi Ambassador Abdallah al-Mouallimi told reporters, according to AFP.
 
Saudi Arabia cut off diplomatic ties with Iran on Sunday after protesters ransacked and set fire to the Saudi Embassy in Tehran over the execution of al-Nimr.
 
It was followed by Bahrain, which said Monday that it is cutting its diplomatic ties with Iran and called upon Iranian diplomats to leave the kingdom within 48 hours.
 
Despite the Saudi envoy’s claim that all those executed received a fair trial, Saudi Arabia is notorious for its violations of human rights and specifically those of women, employing a religious police whose job is to enforce Islamic Sharia law.
 
Yet despite its violation of human rights, Saudi Arabia holds a seat on the UN Human Rights Council, being one of several countries with questionable human rights records to win seats in this body.
 
Saudi Arabia's envoy to the UNHRC was in September selected to head an influential panel on human rights, despite Riyadh's own poor track record for human rights issues.

After Saudi Arabia, Bahrain cuts ties with Iran

Category: News
Created on Wednesday, 06 January 2016 09:01
King Hamad bin Isa al-KhalifaBahrain said Monday that it is cutting its diplomatic ties with Iran and called upon Iranian diplomats to leave the kingdom within 48 hours.
 
Isa al-Hamadi, the Bahraini minister of media affairs, made the announcement on Monday, one day after Saudi Arabia similarly gave Iran 48 hours to remove its diplomatic mission from Riyadh.
 
Sudan has also severed relations with Iran, and the UAE has downgraded its diplomatic team.
 
Tension between Iran and Saudi Arabia are high after attacks Saturday on the Saudi embassy in Tehran and another Saudi diplomatic team in the northeastern city of Mashhad. The Iranians attacked the Saudi embassy following the Saudi decision to execute Shi'ite religious figure Nimr al-Nimr along with 46 other convicts, on terrorism charges.
 
Bahrain News Agency (BNA) said that “after the cowardly acts inflicted on our brethren at the Saudi embassy in Tehran and the consulate in Mashhad – which represent a flagrant violation of intentional treaties and grave sectarian policies – we cannot be silent about nor accept [an Iranian diplomatic presence].”
 
Iran's foreign ministry accused Saudi Arabia of using the assault on its embassy in Tehran as a pretext to fuel tensions.
 
"Iran ... is committed to provide diplomatic security based on international conventions. But Saudi Arabia, which thrives on tensions, has used this incident as an excuse to fuel the tensions," Iran's foreign ministry spokesman Hossein Jaberi Ansari said in televised remarks on Monday.
 
However, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir accused Iranian authorities of being complicit in the attack on the embassy, and said that documents and computers were taken from the embassy building.
 
He claimed that the Saudi diplomats in the embassy sought help from the Iranian foreign ministry when the building was stormed, but their requests were ignored three times.
 
The secretary-general of the Gulf Cooperation Council, Abdul Latif bin Rashid Al Zayani, also condemned the attacks against the Saudi embassy, adding that Iranian authorities bear full responsibility for failing to protect the diplomats.
 
The Saudis said Sunday that their own diplomatic staff had been evacuated from Tehran and was on their way back to the kingdom.
 
Nimr was accused of inciting violence and leading anti-government protests in the country's east in 2011. He was convicted of sedition, disobedience and bearing arms.

Iran blames America, Britain and 'Zionists' for Nimr execution

Category: News
Created on Wednesday, 06 January 2016 08:48
Nimr al-NimrIran has found the guilty parties in Saudi Arabia’s execution of prominent Shiite cleric Nimr al-Nimr: The United States, Israel and Britain.
 
This bizarre comment was made on Sunday by Brigadier General Mohammad Reza Naqdi, commander of the Basij militia of Iran's Revolutionary Guards.
 
Naqdi declared that Sunni and Shiite Muslims alike will avenge Nimr’s blood and in particular take revenge against the main factors responsible for his death: the UK, the U.S. and the Zionist entity.
 
Speaking at a conference in Iran, Naqdi blasted the Saudi regime and said that it has done nothing besides kill Muslims and carry out massacres.
 
He also attacked human rights organizations which publish messages on behalf of killers, terrorists, and drug smugglers, but in this case they remain silent.
 
The execution of Nimr along with 46 other people, which also included dozens of Al-Qaeda members, stirred sectarian anger over the weekend, including a march by hundreds of Shiite Muslims in Saudi Arabia's eastern province.
 
As well, angry Iranian protesters stormed Saudi Arabia's embassy in Tehran in the early hours of Sunday, smashing furniture and starting fires before being removed by police.
 
On Sunday, Saudi Arabia retaliated for the attack on its embassy by cutting diplomatic ties with Iran and requesting that all members of Iran’s diplomatic mission leave Saudi Arabia within 48 hours.
 
Earlier on Sunday, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei blasted Saudi Arabia over the execution, saying, “The hand of God will take vengeance against Saudi leaders.”

Iran: Angry Protesters torch Saudi embassy

Category: News
Created on Monday, 04 January 2016 10:45
Protesters torch Saudi embassyAngry Iranian protesters stormed Saudi Arabia's embassy in Tehran in the early hours of Sunday, smashing furniture and starting fires before being removed by the police, Reuters reports.
 
The protesters gathered outside the embassy to protest against Saudi Arabia's execution of Nimr al-Nimr, a prominent cleric from the kingdom's Shiite minority, on terrorism charges that Iran said were unjustified.
 
They then broke into the building and lit fires inside before being cleared by police, the ISNA news agency reported.
 
Images shared on social media appeared to show protesters smashing furniture inside the embassy, according to Reuters.
 
Later images showed police in full riot gear guarding the premises as firefighters doused the building. ISNA said Tehran's police chief was on the scene to restore calm.
 
On Saturday, Iran's foreign ministry spokesman Hossein Jaber Ansari strongly condemned Riyadh for executing Nimr despite repeated Iranian requests for clemency.
 
"The Saudi government supports terrorist movements and extremists, but confronts domestic critics with oppression and execution... The Saudi government will pay a high price for following these policies," he said.
 
"The execution of a figure like Sheikh al-Nimr, who had no means to follow his political and religious goals but through speaking out, merely shows the extent of irresponsibility and imprudence."
 
Parliament speaker Ali Larijani also condemned Nimr's death, saying Riyadh would not emerge "easily from the quagmire they created by the martyrdom of this great sheikh."
 
Shiite Iran and Sunni Saudi Arabia are major rivals in the Middle East and are arrayed on opposing sides in several regional conflicts.
 
Nimr was a driving force of the protests that broke out in 2011 in Eastern Province, where the Shiite minority of Saudi Arabia complains of marginalization.
 
He was arrested in 2012, with the Interior Ministry describing him as an "instigator of sedition".
 
More than 20 Shiites were killed in protests between 2011 and 2013 in the Shiite district of Qatif, with three of them killed in protests in the two days after Nimr's arrest.
 
Saudi Arabia is notorious for its violations of human rights and specifically those of women, employing a religious police whose job is to enforce Islamic Sharia law.
 
One of the most notorious practices in Saudi Arabia is the ban on women driving, which has been targeted by a long-standing campaign which has urged women to defy the ban
 
Yet despite its violation of human rights, Saudi Arabia holds a seat on the UN Human Rights Council, being one of several countries with questionable human rights records to win seats in this body.
 
Saudi Arabia's envoy to the UNHRC was in September selected to head an influential panel on human rights, despite Riyadh's own poor track record for human rights issues.

Saudi execution of Shi'ite cleric sparks outrage

Category: News
Created on Monday, 04 January 2016 10:24
Sheikh al-NimrSaudi Arabia's execution Saturday of a prominent Shi'ite cleric and 46 other men prompted outrage in parts of the Middle East, with Iran warning Riyadh would pay a "high price."
 
But several Saudi allies offered their support after Riyadh implemented death sentences against cleric Nimr al-Nimr, Shiite activists and Sunnis accused of involvement in Al-Qaeda attacks.
 
Iran's foreign ministry spokesman Hossein Jaber Ansari strongly condemned Riyadh for executing Nimr despite repeated Iranian requests for clemency.
 
"The Saudi government supports terrorist movements and extremists, but confronts domestic critics with oppression and execution... The Saudi government will pay a high price for following these policies," he said, quoted by the official IRNA news agency.
 
"The execution of a figure like Sheikh al-Nimr, who had no means to follow his political and religious goals but through speaking out, merely shows the extent of irresponsibility and imprudence."
 
Parliament speaker Ali Larijani also condemned Nimr's death, saying Riyadh would not emerge "easily from the quagmire they created by the martyrdom of this great sheikh."
 
All Iran's seminaries will be closed Sunday to protest Nimr's execution, with a demonstration expected in the Grand Mosque of Qom, the heart of Shiite faith in Iran, the ISNA news agency said.
 
The Basij student militia connected to Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards called for a demonstration Sunday afternoon in front of the Saudi embassy in Tehran.
 
Shiite Iran and Sunni Saudi Arabia are major rivals in the Middle East and are arrayed on opposing sides in several regional conflicts.
 
Nimr was a driving force of the protests that broke out in 2011 in Eastern Province, where the Shiite minority of Saudi Arabia complains of marginalization.
 
He was arrested in 2012, with the Interior Ministry describing him as an "instigator of sedition".

Saudi Grand Mufti says ISIS are 'Israeli soldiers'

Category: News
Created on Sunday, 03 January 2016 08:40
Abdul Aziz Al-AsheikhSheikh Abdulaziz Al-Asheikh, the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, issued a whopper of a conspiracy theory on Monday, claiming that Islamic State (ISIS) jihadists are actually "Israeli soldiers."
 
Speaking to the Saudi Gazette, Asheikh said ISIS members are "harming" Islam and Muslims.
 
"They cannot be considered as followers of Islam. Rather, they are an extension of Kharijites, who rose in revolt against the Islamic caliphate for the first time by labeling Muslims as infidels and permitting their bloodletting," said Asheikh.
 
The Grand Mufti then spoke about ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi's threat against Israel made in an audio recording on Saturday, in which al-Baghdadi said, "Palestine will not be your land or your home, but it will be a graveyard for you."
 
"This threat against Israel is simply a lie. Actually, Daesh (ISIS) is part of the Israeli soldiers," claimed Asheikh.
 
Ironically Jürgen Todenhöfer, the only Western journalist allowed into ISIS territory, reported this week that the jihadists revealed to him during his 10-day stay among them that the IDF is the only army they fear.
 
Asheikh's claims echo those made by the Iranian semi-official Fars News Agency back in October, when it claimed an IDF colonel had been captured fighting for ISIS in Iraq. The conspiracy theory was patently false, not least of all from the absurd dog tag number the paper listed for the supposed soldier.
 
Iranian officials have long claimed Israel and the US created ISIS, with Brig. Gen. Mohammad Reza Naqdi, head of Iran's Basij paramilitary force, just last month claiming Israel was behind the lethal Paris attacks, as opposed to ISIS. Asheikh's comments would seem to show that while Iran and Saudi Arabia are fierce Shi'ite-Sunni rivals, they unite in blaming Israel for ISIS.
 
While ISIS is an enemy, rather than a tool, of Israel, the brutal jihadist group does have support from a large swath of Israel's Arab population.
 
ISIS supporting terrorists have on a number of occasions tried to attack Israel from within, including several homegrown ISIS cells.
 
A poll last month found that 18.2% of Arab Muslim citizens of Israel do not consider ISIS to be a radical terrorist organization, and that they are not ashamed of the brutal jihadist group. That figure jumped to 28.1% among Arab citizens who are supporters of the radical Islamic Movement in Israel.

Iranian Weapons Ship Bound For Yemen Seized in Oman

Category: News
Created on Tuesday, 06 October 2015 12:07
HouthisThe Saudi-led coalition said on Wednesday it had seized an Iranian fishing boat in the Sea of Oman loaded with weapons destined for Shiite rebels it is fighting in Yemen, AFP reports. 
 
A coalition statement said that the vessel was intercepted on Saturday and that 14 Iranians and weapons including anti-tank shells were found on board.
 
It said that papers found on board the boat showed that it was registered to an Iranian and was licensed for fishing by the Iranian authorities.
 
It listed the weapons seized as 18 anti-armored Concourse shells, 54 anti-tank BGM17 shells, 15 shell battery kits, four firing guidance systems, five binocular batteries, three launchers, one launchers' holder and three batteries.
 
Saudi Arabia and its coalition allies have repeatedly accused their Shiite rival Iran of arming the Houthi rebels who control parts of Yemen including the capital.
 
But despite operating an air and sea blockade for the past six months, they have not previously come up with any evidence.
 
Wednesday's announcement comes with relations between Riyadh and Tehran at a new low amid a war of words over a deadly stampede at this year's hajj in which at least 239 Iranian pilgrims were killed.
 
Tehran accuses Riyadh of serious safety lapses and has questioned its fitness to continue organizing the annual Muslim pilgrimage.

Will Islam's Holiest Site be Taken From Saudi Arabia?

Category: News
Created on Wednesday, 23 September 2015 12:52
Mecca crane collapseThe unusual crane collapse last Friday at the Grand Mosque in Mecca has apparently sparked a fallout in the Muslim world regarding its holiest site, as senior Egyptian religious figures called for Saudi authority over the site to be changed.
 
The collapse killed 107 people and wounded 238 at the holiest site in Islam which houses the Kaaba cube Muslims pray towards, and it ironically took place on September 11, caused by high winds and a sandstorm. It came just two weeks before the Hajj pilgrimage, and has led Saudi Arabia to bar the Saudi Binladin Group from new projects - the Group is owned by the family of Osama bin Laden.
 
Sheikh Salman Mohammed, an adviser of Egypt's Ministry of Religious Endowments, told Iran's semi-official Fars News Agency that Saudi Arabia's sole authority over the Grand Mosque where the Kaaba is located needs to be changed.
 
"Many mistakes have been made during the Hajj ceremony in recent decades and the bloody Friday incident was not the first case and will not be the last either; therefore, unless a revolution doesn’t take place in the administration and management of the Hajj ceremony in Saudi Arabia, we will witness such incidents in future too," said Mohammed to the news site.
 
Fars, which has an anti-Saudi bent, wrote that Mohammed's criticism follows on the criticism of several other Muslim leaders and politicians "demanding the change of authority in charge of running Hajj rituals from Riyadh to a collection of Muslim states."
 
Also cited in the report was Professor Ashraf Fahmi of Egypt's Al-Azhar University, which is associated with the influential Al-Azhar Mosque.
 
Fahmi called on Saudi Arabia to "admit its mistakes" in managing the Hajj pilgrimage, and to change its administration of the event.
 
Virtually since the beginning of Islam there has been a sharp and bloody divide between Sunni and Shi'ite streams, with Iran currently being the most powerful Shi'ite state and a fierce rival of Saudi Arabia. The presence of the religious sites in Mecca has given Saudi Arabia a certain prestige in the Muslim world that apparently is being challenged in the criticism over the crane collapse.
 
New Mecca debacle
 
The crane accident came during Binladin Group's work on a massive construction project to expand the area of the Grand Mosque by 400,000 square meters (4.3 million square feet) to allow up to 2.2 million visitors at once, according to Gulf News.
 
However, falling cranes are not the only worries of the millions of Muslim pilgrims arriving in Mecca.
 
On Thursday morning a massive fire at a local hotel caused 1,028 Asian Muslim pilgrims to be evacuated.
 
According to an official statement by the Saudi government, the fire took place in an 11-story hotel in the Al-Azizyiah neighborhood of Mecca.
 
Two pilgrims were wounded in the fire, but civil defense teams managed to rescue them.
 
The statement pointed out that the hotel was licensed to accommodate Muslim pilgrims arriving as part of the Hajj, possibly further raising tensions regarding Saudi Arabia's authority over the Hajj pilgrimage.

Saudi Arabia Blasts Iran's 'Aggressive Statements'

Category: News
Created on Sunday, 02 August 2015 13:15
Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-JubeirSaudi Arabia's foreign minister, Adel al-Jubeir, on Monday denounced what he called "aggressive statements" by Iran, intensifying the verbal sparring between the regional rivals after a global deal on Tehran's nuclear program, AFP reported.
 
On Sunday, Iran's foreign ministry spokeswoman accused Saudi ally Bahrain of making "unfounded allegations" to foment "tension in the region", after the interior ministry in Manama said it had detained two men accused of trying to smuggle weapons from Iran.
 
"This does not represent the intentions of a country seeking good relations," al-Jubeir said of the Iranian comments.
 
"These statements are escalating and they are many," he charged, according to AFP.
 
Also Sunday, Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said in Kuwait that "some countries... want conflict and war in this region", a direct reference to Saudi Arabia without naming the kingdom.
 
Zarif dismissed as "baseless" Bahrain's claims about the weapons, calling the timing of the announcement an attempt "to prevent any progress in cooperation" with Gulf states.
 
Jubeir said recent comments by Iranian officials show their interference in the region and are "unacceptable to us".
 
The back and forth between Iran and Saudi Arabia illustrates the concern among Arab countries by the deal with Iran.
 
Riyadh and its fellow Sunni-dominated neighbors accuse their Shiite regional rival Iran of meddling in Bahrain, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen.
 
The Sunni states have also been expressing their concern about the terms of the deal with Iran, warning that a final agreement could allow Iran to keep the technologies needed to produce nuclear weapons.
 
Saudi Arabia’s opposition to the deal was so great that in May, when Saudi King Salman decided not to attend a summit at Camp David with U.S. President Barack Obama, the move was seen as a snub of Washington due to the talks with Iran.
 
After the deal between Iran and the West was signed, al-Jubeir publicly warned Iran not to use the nuclear deal to pursue "adventures" in the Middle East, advising it to use the deal to improve its own economic situation. 

Nuclear Arms Race: Saudi Source Reveals Plan for the Bomb

Category: News
Created on Wednesday, 29 July 2015 19:31
Jamal-KhashoggiWhile US President Barack Obama claimed he prevented a nuclear arms race in the Middle East when he presented the Iran deal last Tuesday, a key source in Saudi Arabia laid bare that claim by expressing the country's sense of urgency to acquire its own nuclear weapon.
 
Jamal Khashoggi, head of the Saudi Al Arab news channel that is owned by a prince of the ruling Saudi royal family, and who previously was the media aide to Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the US, Prince Turki al Faisal, revealed that Saudi Arabia may be going nuclear very soon.
 
"I think Saudi Arabia would seriously try to get the (nuclear) bomb if Iran did. It's just like India and Pakistan. The Pakistanis said for years they didn't want one, but when India got it, so did they," Khashoggi told Reuters on Tuesday.
 
The statement confirms the warnings by experts, who said that the Saudis will likely rush to obtain a nuclear weapon feeling threatened by the Iran nuclear deal, which critics warn will pave the Islamic regime's path to a nuclear arsenal. Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shi'ite Iran have long been key rivals vying for influence in the region.
 
If Saudi Arabia were to go for a nuclear bomb it would likely face international sanctions, but it remains unclear if the Saudi economy could actually be threatened given the global dependence on Saudi oil; Saudi Arabia is the leading oil exporter in the world.
 
"I'm sure Saudi Arabia is ready to withstand pressure. It would have moral standing. If the Iranians and Israelis have it, we would have to have it to," said Khashoggi regarding Saudi ability to withstand sanctions, arguing that the oil export would protect it from pressure.
 
Strengthening that argument is past evidence, as back in 1973 a Saudi oil embargo proved incredibly detrimental to the global economy, meaning global powers may be loathe to try and pressure Saudi Arabia for fear of a trade backlash.
 
Saudi nuclear deals
 
Saudi Arabia has been actively working to obtain nuclear power, recently signing nuclear deals with France, Russia and South Korea in preparation of building its own nuclear facilities; the Saudi nuclear deal with Russia was signed just last month.
 
Those deals come after the Saudi nuclear organization, the King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy (KACARE), back in 2012 recommended installing 17 gigawatts of nuclear power in the Gulf state. No concrete plans have yet been released for implementing that suggestion, but the new nuclear deals may see that change soon.
 
However, there may be difficulties in turning a potential Saudi nuclear program into a nuclear arms program.
 
Karl Dewey, the Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear analyst at IHS Janes, told Reuters, "it's very technically challenging to obtain the fissile material needed for a weapon and with the enhanced safeguard measures of the model additional protocol, the risk of detection is great."
 
Dewey was referencing a protocol on inspections in the Iran deal that would likely be a condition for a Saudi nuclear program.
 
Despite that appraisal, Iran has been covertly receiving nuclear weapons technology from North Korea, and Saudi Arabia would potentially be able to similarly get its hands on such technology as well, possibly from Pakistan.
 
Also, Iran has adamantly said that international inspectors will not be allowed in its covert military facilities where it is said that nuclear weapons testing is being conducted, a precedent that may have impact on Saudi Arabia's standing.
 
Iran will gain nuclear technology and over $100 billion in sanctions relief from the deal, and in ten years limitations on its program will be lifted allowing it to breakout to a nuclear arsenal in no time.
 
In an apparent admission of of how the deal will allow Iran to have nuclear weapons, and recognition that the Saudis are likely to do so as a result of the deal as well, US Secretary of State John Kerry reportedly offered the Saudis a nuclear umbrella back in March.
 
Given Khashoggi's statements, it would appear the Saudis are more interested in having their own nuclear weapons to deter their rival Iran, rather than being reliant upon the US.

Hamas Delegation Visits Saudi Arabia

Category: News
Created on Tuesday, 28 July 2015 19:56
Khaled Meshaal met Saudi King SalmanHamas leader Khaled Meshaal, met Saudi King Salman during a pilgrimage to Mecca, in a rare encounter since a two-year rift, state news agency SPA reported Saturday.
 
It said Meshaal headed a Hamas delegation on a two-day visit for the mini-pilgrimage to the Muslim holy city of Mecca in the west of the kingdom.
 
"The delegation offered Eid greetings" to King Salman during prayers at the Grand Mosque, SPA said, referring to the feast which started Friday following the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.
 
It said they also "praised the positive stance of the kingdom's leadership towards the Palestinian cause."
 
A Hamas statement said the delegation, including Meshaal's deputy Mussa Abu Marzuk, also met Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef and Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman , the king's son and defense minister.
 
Ties between Hamas and Riyadh deteriorated after the kingdom threw its support behind the Egyptian army's 2013 ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi and its crackdown on his Muslim Brotherhood.
 
The exiled Meshaal has been based in Doha since he abandoned his base in Damascus in 2012 after the group sided with Syrian rebels against President Bashar al-Assad.
 
But the rise of Islamic State (ISIS) may have brought the two together, according to reports Thursday, as Hamas has been battling the rival Islamist group from within Gaza, and Saudi Arabia faces threats from the terror group over its version of Islamic Sharia law, which ISIS insists is not strict enough. 

Saudis Sign Nuclear Agreement With Russia

Category: News
Created on Saturday, 20 June 2015 09:30
Saudis Sign Nuclear AgreementAmid speculation by experts that a nuclear deal with Shi'ite Iran might force its Sunni rival Saudi Arabia to buy a nuclear weapon, likely from Pakistan, Saudi Arabia on Thursday signed a nuclear agreement with Russia.
 
Al Arabiya reported that six agreements were signed Thursday between the Saudis and the Russians, including one on the "peaceful use of nuclear technology."
 
The report did not detail the specifics of the deal, but it would apparently indicate Saudi Arabia's desire to become a nuclear power even as Iran is reportedly working to build a nuclear arsenal under the guise of a "peaceful" nuclear program, ahead of a June 30 deadline for talks with world powers.
 
The move showing increased ties between Russia and Saudi Arabia may also indicate how the Saudis are moving further from the US, as its traditional ally in Washington is poised to reach a deal allowing its rival Iran to continue developing its nuclear program.
 
In an apparent admission of allowing Iran to have nuclear weapons, US Secretary of State John Kerry reportedly offered the Saudis a nuclear umbrella back in March.
 
Saudi ambassador to Russia Abdulrahman Al-Rassi was quoted by the paper saying on Thursday that Russia plays an "important" role vis-a-vis Iran, adding that Moscow is working in the UN Security Council to "maintain stability and security in the world."
 
"I think that Russia is feeling this responsibility and we always hope and talk with Russian officials on the Iranian issue or other (issues). I do not think that Russia’s interest is in the instability in the region and this is certain," said Al-Rassi.
 
Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman met with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday in Moscow after arriving the night before in an official visit, showing the high level interaction between the two states.
 
Meanwhile sources told Reuters that the oil ministers of Russia and Saudi Arabia are to discuss a cooperation agreement on Thursday at an economic forum in St Petersburg.
 
The Russian interest in Saudi oil may come partially as a result of intense international sanctions pressure leveled due to Russia's invasion of Crimea and military involvement in Ukraine.

Three Beheaded in Saudi Arabia

Category: Islam
Created on Saturday, 13 June 2015 11:10
Three BeheadedSaudi Arabia on Tuesday beheaded a Syrian drug trafficker and two Saudis convicted of murder, despite concerns raised by rights' experts that trials are not conducted fairly in the kingdom.
 
Their cases bring to 97 the number of executions of locals and foreigners carried out in the conservative Muslim kingdom this year.
 
That compares with 87 for all of 2014, according to AFP tallies.
 
The Syrian, Mohammed Hussein Abdulkareem Halwani, was executed in Jubail, on the kingdom's Gulf coast, after a court found him guilty of smuggling methamphetamines, the interior ministry said.
 
The ministry, in statements carried by the official Saudi Press Agency, named the two Saudis executed as Hussein al-Qahtani and Jibran al-Qahtani.
 
They were convicted of separate murders with firearms and were put to death in Abha, in Asir region, the ministry said.
 
Under the Gulf state's strict Islamic sharia legal code, drug trafficking, rape, murder, armed robbery and apostasy are all punishable by death.
 
But Christof Heyns, a UN special rapporteur whose mandate includes extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, told AFP last month that "it seems that many of these trials are in secrecy and that lawyers are not available and they do not comply with the standards of fair trial."
 
The Saudi interior ministry has cited deterrence as the reason for carrying out the punishment.

Saudi Arabia Looks for New Executioners, Beginners Welcome

Category: Islam
Created on Saturday, 30 May 2015 09:54
New Executioners Beginners WelcomeJob openings have emerged in Saudi Arabia on Friday for aspiring executioners looking to become the star of regular Sunday morning beheadings.
 
While beheadings are the trademark of Islamic State (ISIS), an expose by the Daily Mail Friday reveals that it is Riyadh - not Raqqa - which is looking to increase its public executions within the realm of the official judicial system.
 
An advertisement on the official Saudi Arabian civil service website promotes the rare openings, as the role of executioner is usually passed from father to son.
 
The legalized killers will be known as "religious functionaries," given a free scimitar and training, and then be responsible for "execution orders according to Islamic Sharia rules."
 
They will also be responsible for amputations for theft and stoning adulterers.
 
A full 89 people have been executed so far in Saudi Arabia in 2015, already surpassing the 2014 total of 87, according to the news site.
 
The executions are made a local event, with Riyadh residents encouraged to take their children to see the spectacle in "Chop Chop Square" in the capital.

Suicide Bomber Lethally Strikes Saudi Shi'ite Mosque

Category: News
Created on Saturday, 23 May 2015 21:11
Suicide Bomber -Saudi Shiite MosqueA suicide bomber detonated during Friday prayers in a Shi'ite mosque located in the eastern part of Saudi Arabia, murdering several people and wounding dozens of others, reports Reuters.
 
The attack occurred at the Imam Ali mosque in al-Qadeeh village, located in the Qatif governorate where the Sunni-majority country's Shi'ite minority largely resides.
 
A witness told the paper he saw a massive blast and put the casualties at roughly 30 people. Over 150 people were said to be praying at the mosque during the attack.
 
According to eyewitnesses speaking to Middle East Eye, at least five people died in the attack and 20 others were wounded, with other reports putting the number of the dead higher between 15 and 20.
 
It remains unclear what group was behind the bombing.
 
Saudi Arabia has been leading a coalition of Arab states opposing the Houthis, an Iran-backed Shi'ite militia, in their conquest of neighboring Yemen.
 
The coalition has been conducting airstrikes to check the advance of the Houthis.
 
The Houthis' conquest in Yemen is part of a wider array of moves by Shi'ite Iran to obtain a regional hegemony via terror proxies, and clearly demonstrates the Shi'ite and Sunni tensions fueling many regional conflicts.

Saudis to Buy Nukes from Pakistan - US Officials

Category: News
Created on Sunday, 17 May 2015 14:53
Nuclear cloud - US NavySaudi Arabia is trying to purchase nuclear weapons from Pakistan, according to senior US officials.
 
Saudi Arabia has expressed concerns over the way nuclear negotiations with Iran are being run. It has said that it fears the final agreement would allow Iran the capability of developing nuclear weapons, either by ignoring its obligations or by waiting a few years until the terms are over. Should that happen, Riyadh would want its own nuclear weapons.
 
The Sunday Times revealed that a senior US official has said that he believes that Saudi Arabia is now beginning to build up a nuclear arsenal, first by purchasing pre-made weapons: "There has been a longstanding agreement in place with the Pakistanis and the House of Saud has now made the strategic decision to move forward." However, the official also stated that the US does not believe that "any actual weaponry has been transferred yet."
 
Analysts fear that, should both Iran and Saudi Arabia develop nuclear programs, other regional countries such as Turkey and Egypt would do so as well.
 
Saudi Arabia has funded much of Pakistan's nuclear program. It is believed that Saudi defense ministers have even received access to the latter's nuclear facilities, while Pakistan's own prime ministers are barred from the sites.

Obama Hails Friendship with Saudi Arabia as King Skips Summit

Category: News
Created on Friday, 15 May 2015 15:35
Barak ObamaPresident Barack Obama on Wednesday hailed America's "extraordinary friendship" with Saudi Arabia as he hosted skeptical Gulf leaders for a summit beset by disagreements and royal no-shows, AFP reports.
 
Describing "an extraordinary friendship and relationship that dates back to Franklin Roosevelt and King Faisal," in the 1940s, Obama heaped praise on two the powerful Saudi princes who visited the Oval Office.
 
"We are continuing to build that relationship during a very challenging time," Obama said, a nod to conflagrations in Yemen, Syria and Iraq that have reverberated across the Middle East.
 
Obama praised his guests Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef and Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, for their work on counterterrorism, which he described as "absolutely critical" to the United States.
 
During the meeting, the Saudi Crown Prince lauded "the strategic and historic relationship" between the two countries.
 
The meeting precedes a summit at Camp David, in which the Gulf states will be seeking assurances from Obama that he is ready to push back against Iranian proxies, in particular in Syria, even if it causes turbulence in sensitive nuclear talks.
 
They will also want assurances the nuclear deal between Iran and the West does not represent a broader "grand bargain" with Iran.
 
The summit did not get off to a particularly good start, with Saudi King Salman deciding at the last minute that he would skip the meeting in order to focus on the Yemen ceasefire and humanitarian aid effort.
 
The move was interpreted by many as a deliberate rebuff to Obama, but Saudi Arabia insisted the king did not intend to snub the President.
 
Tensions between Washington and the Gulf states over Iran has been high, with Arab governments repeatedly expressing their concern about the terms of a potential nuclear deal and warning that a final agreement could allow Iran to keep the technologies needed to produce nuclear weapons.
 
Saudi Arabia’s former Foreign Minister recently said that Iran should not be given “deals it does not deserve”.
 
The Arab concern over the deal with Iran is actually shared with Israel, as Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has repeatedly warned against the framework agreement.
 
The concern in Saudi Arabia over the nuclear deal with rival Iran is so great that a columnist in a Saudi-controlled government newspaper recently expressed support for Netanyahu’s warnings against a deal with Iran.

Saudi King to Skip Summit with Obama

Category: News
Created on Thursday, 14 May 2015 19:34
Obama-SalmanSaudi Arabia’s King Salman will skip a May 14 summit of Persian Gulf leaders with President Barack Obama, The Wall Street Journal reported on Sunday.
 
At the summit Obama is expected to offer the Gulf leaders reassurances over the efforts to reach a nuclear deal with Iran.
 
The decision marks a diplomatic snub from one of the top leaders in the region, and follows U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s visit to the Saudi capital last week, noted the report.
 
Saudi’s Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said in a statement on state media that the king decided not to attend the meeting, which will be hosted at Camp David.
 
The king instead would focus on the Yemen ceasefire and humanitarian aid effort, according to the statement. Saudi Arabia is currently leading an air offensive against Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen.
 
The Saudi Foreign Minister said that the king had delegated Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef to lead the Saudi delegation, which will also include Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and other senior officials.
 
Arab governments have been expressing their concern about the terms of a potential nuclear deal with Iran. The major Sunni states have warned that a final agreement could allow Shiite-dominated Iran, their regional rival, to keep the technologies needed to produce nuclear weapons.
 
Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister, Prince Saud al-Faisal, recently said that Iran should not be given “deals it does not deserve”.
 
The United Arab Emirates indicated last week that it would be seeking a written guarantee from the United States with regards to the threat from a nuclear Iran.
 
At Camp David, Obama is expected to try to reassure Arab Gulf allies, who remain suspicious over the Iranian nuclear deal pursued by his administration.
 
“We make clear that we remain concerned about Iran’s destabilizing actions in the region, and it is precisely because of those concerns that we believe it is so important that Iran not be allowed to have a nuclear weapon,” Kerry told reporters in Riyadh Thursday, according to The Wall Street Journal. “And we will continue to work with our friends and allies in the region to define America’s and the GCC’s security relationship going forward.”
 
Among leaders of the six GCC states, the rulers of Kuwait and Qatar have been confirmed for the Camp David summit.
 
Bahrain said Sunday that its King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa had opted not to attend. The Bahraini crown prince would lead the country’s delegation instead.

Iran Threatens Saudis After Aid Planes Blocked

Category: News
Created on Monday, 27 April 2015 10:06
Saudis PlanesAmid reports of a renewed Saudi offensive against Iranian-allied rebels in Yemen, Iran's news agency reported on Friday that Saudi Arabia had stopped Iranian aid planes from landing in Yemen. 
 
Not unexpectedly, a top Iranian official responded with threats directed at Saudi Arabia. Deputy Foreign Minister for Arab and African Affairs Hossein Amir Abdollahian warned on Sunday that the Saudi behavior and its siege of Yemen and preventing the dispatch of humanitarian aids "will not remain unanswered." 
 
"Saudi Arabia is not entitled to decide for others in the region," Abdollahian added.
 
Iran's FARS News Agency stated that Saudi fighter jets stopped Iranian planes carrying humanitarian aid on two straight days.
 
Sunday saw Saudi naval shelling and air-raids - at least five of them, Reuters reports – as the combat in Yemen, including ground battles, intensified. It has been about a month since a Saudi-led alliance initiated an offensive against Iranian-allied Houthi forces who have seized wide areas Yemen.
 
Saudi Arabia, still the world's top oil exporter, is an arch-adversary of Iran in the eastern Middle East. The Saudi kingdom is of the Sunni Muslim persuasion, while Iran is run by Shi'ite Muslims – and supports the Shi'ite Houthi advance across Yemen.
 
The Saudis are attempting to restore exiled Yemeni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi and prevent Yemen's becoming a chaotic Al-Qaeda terrorist state. Iran denies having given aid to the Houthis. 
 
In another bellicose gesture, Iran's naval chief said Iranian warships would remain in the Gulf of Aden for at least several months, in order to "protect shipping routes against piracy." The United States has deployed an aircraft carrier, a missile cruiser, and seven US warships near the Gulf, and has warned Iran not to send weapons to Yemen.
 
Israel and Saudi Arabia have shared interests in opposition to growing Iranian and Shi'ite influence, and reports of meetings between Mossad and Saudi intelligence officials are no longer surprising.

Yemen Rejects Iran's 'Peace Plan'

Category: News
Created on Saturday, 25 April 2015 12:50
Yemen’s Foreign Minister, Riyad Yassin, underlined on Sunday Yemen’s rejection of the “four-point peace plan” that Iran has submitted to the UN Secretary General and the President of the Security Council.
 
FM Yassin reiterated last week’s letter of total rejection of Iran’s “peace-plan,” by what is essentially Yemen’s government-in-exile. He added that “There is no room for us to discuss Iran’s proposal... Iran is involved in the situation which Yemen has reached.”
 
In rejecting Iran’s plan, Yemen’s UN Ambassador Khaled Hussein al-Yemeny last week wrote to the UN that “Iran has never been a neutral peace partner, as it is well-known that Iran has fomented the [Yemeni] sectarian [Sunni-Shiite] divide by creating, training, and arming the [Shiite] Houthi militias according to its [Iran’s] expansionist vision in our region.”
 
The Houthis follow a version of the Shiite Islamic religion, and reside mostly in the mountainous northern regions of Yemen. With Iran’s weapons and in an alliance with Yemen’s former-president Saleh, the Houthis swooped down into southern Yemen where the Sunni predominate. They now occupy an area in South Yemen with close to 12 million Sunnis.
 
The Yemeni UN Ambassador further urged “the UN Security Council to demand that the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran to stop its continued intervention in Yemeni affairs.”
 
Houthi fightersIran’s “peace plan” called for an immediate ceasefire, an end to all foreign attacks, humanitarian assistance, and a “national dialogue in view of the establishment of on an inclusive national unity government.”
 
In essence, Iran’s plan would have locked in its Houthi proxy’s military gains on the ground, while enabling Iran to militarily re-arm the Houthis.
 
Saudi Arabia, which is currently leading a aerial counterattack against the Houthis, is reported to have destroyed 80% of the Houthis’ weapons’ stores and have blockaded Iran from resupplying the Houthis. So, the Iranians appear to believe a massive military re-supply of Houthis is necessary under the guise of a “ceasefire plan.”

France Begins to Provide Weapons to Lebanon

Category: News
Created on Friday, 24 April 2015 12:03
Lebanese-army-in-arsal-The first French weapons from a $3 billion Saudi-funded program will arrive in Lebanon on Monday as allies seek to bolster the country's defenses against the Islamic State (ISIS) group and other jihadists pressing along its Syrian border, AFP reported Sunday.
 
Anti-tank guided missiles are set to arrive at an air force base in Beirut, overseen by French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian and his Lebanese counterpart, Samir Mokbel.
 
France is expected to deliver 250 combat and transport vehicles, seven Cougar helicopters, three small corvette warships and a range of surveillance and communications equipment over four years as part of the $3 billion program.
 
The program is being entirely funded by Saudi Arabia, which is keen to see Lebanon's army defend its borders against jihadist groups, particularly ISIS group and the Al-Qaeda-linked Al-Nusra, instead of leaving the job to Hezbollah terrorists who are backed by its regional rival, Iran.
 
The contract also promises seven years of training for the 70,000-strong Lebanese army and 10 years of equipment maintenance, noted AFP.
 
"This project is to help us re-establish a Lebanese army capable of responding to new security realities," a French defense official told the news agency.
 
Since the conflict in neighboring Syria broke out in 2011, Lebanon has faced mounting spill-over threats, first from the millions of refugees pouring across the border and increasingly from jihadists.
 
AFP noted that the sharp divisions between religious and ethnic communities in Lebanon have been deepened by conflicting views on the Syrian war, making the country difficult to work with when it comes to supplying weapons.
 
Hezbollah, which is a powerful political force in Lebanon, sent its fighters to support Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad, but many Lebanese still deeply resent the Assad regime which effectively colonized the country up to 2005.
 
Meanwhile, Israel remains concerned about any military assistance that might bolster a regional rival or fall into the hands of Hezbollah, which fought a short and brutal war against Israel as recently as 2006.
 
"The Lebanese army is already well-infiltrated by Hezbollah," an Israeli official on condition of anonymity told AFP. "But we understand the necessity of reinforcing the capacity of the Lebanese army."
 
Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah has repeatedly threatened Israel, saying that in the next war his rocket barrages would close Israeli sea and airports.
 
In addition to Syria, Hezbollah is also being deployed in increasing numbers in Iraq, as part of Iran's efforts to back Baghdad's Shiite-dominated government against a Sunni uprising led by ISIS.
 
More recent reports claimed Hezbollah fighters and "military advisers" have also been sent to back Houthi rebels in Yemen.
 
At the same time, Nasrallah recently admitted that his terrorist group is incapable of defeating Israel on its own.
 
In an interview with Syrian state TV, the Hezbollah leader explained that despite boasts by himself and other Hezbollah leaders about the group's capabilities, it is incapable of mounting a war against Israel independently.
 
"Are we supposed to lie to our people and ourselves, saying that we are capable of launching a war against Israel, wiping it off the map, and liberating Palestine? Hezbollah is incapable of doing this all by itself," Nasrallah told his interviewer, after being asked why Hezbollah is not using its "sophisticated weapons" to "open a new front" against the Jewish state.
 
"We have never made such claims. We are realistic," he continued.
 
"We are facing a real force," he added, in an unusual nod to the formidable adversary Hezbollah faces in the IDF.

Saudis: More than 500 Houthis Killed So Far

Category: News
Created on Saturday, 18 April 2015 05:56
HouthisMore than 500 Iranian-backed Houthi rebels have been killed in clashes on the border with Yemen since the Saudi-led air war against them began, the Saudi Defense ministry said Saturday, according to Al Arabiya, which cited the Saudi Press Agency.
 
It was the first reported death toll for the clashes since Saudi Arabia, heading an Arab military coalition, launched its first air strikes against the Houthis on March 26.
 
Meanwhile, the Saudi death toll doubled to six on Friday when three soldiers were killed and two wounded as mortar fire hit their observation post in Najran province, according to a ministry spokesman.
 
Three Saudi border guards were killed last week in an attack by the Houthis, who control parts of northern Yemen.
 
Speaking at a daily press briefing in the Saudi capital Riyadh, Defense Minisry Spokesman Brig. Gen. Ahmed Asiri said Sunday the coalition found evidence of Iranian support to the Houthi rebels. On Friday, two Iranian military officers advising Houthi rebels were captured in Yemen’s strategic southwestern port city of Aden, according to Al Arabiya News Channel.
 
Asiri said a total of 1,200 air sorties have been carried out by the 10-state coalition since the operation began 16 days ago.
 
Saudi Arabia is not at war with Iran, the kingdom’s Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al Faisal said on Sunday.
 
In a joint press conference with his French counterpart Laurent Fabius, who is in Riyadh to express support for the anti-Houthi colaition, Prince Faisal said the role the Iranians have played in Yemen “exacerbated the problem which led to an increase in violence in the country.”
 
"How can Iran call for us to stop the fighting in Yemen ... We came to Yemen to help the legitimate authority, and Iran is not in charge of Yemen," Prince Faisal said.
 
“Concerning Yemen, we are here to demonstrate our support, especially political, to the Saudi authorities,” Fabius told reporters.
 
The Houthis, allied with army units loyal to ex-president Ali Abdullah Saleh, have been fighting forces loyal to President Abdrabbu Mansour Hadi.

Saudi Arabia Pummels Houthis in Yemen; Flood of Refugees Begins

Category: News
Created on Wednesday, 08 April 2015 08:52
HouthisThe Saudi Arabia-led, nine-member Arab coalition has made great gains in Yemen Tuesday, according to Al-Arabiya, pummeling the Iran-backed Houthis in a series of airstrikes.
 
The coalition shelled the Houthi's Air Defense Brigade 630 near the al-Hudaydah overnight Monday, sources stated to the daily, as well as destroying a missile depot west of Sanaa.
 
164 civilians have died in the bombings in the past week alone, according to the Guardian - the latest casualties in the fallout from the Middle East's newest civil war.
 
The Arab coalition is mainly led by Riyadh, but also includes several Gulf allies, including Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Qatar, and Kuwait.
 
Saudi Arabia also says it has support from Jordan, Egypt, Sudan, Morocco and Pakistan.
 
Houthi rebels continue meanwhile their push southwards in Yemen, with fierce fighting breaking out in the key southern port city of Aden on Monday in a battle that sees Iran, via its proxy ,pitted against forces backed by Sunni states headed by Saudi Arabia. About 140 people were estimated to have died in Aden as of Monday night.
 
Meanwhile, the fighting in Yemen has created a flood of refugees, according to CNN, as several countries rush to evacuate their citizens out of the embattled country.
 
India has evacuated some 2,500 people from Yemen, most of them to Djibouti. China, too, has evacuated some 450 people, according to The Diplomat, mostly on frieght ships sent for that purpose.

Despite Rivalry with Iran, Saudis Welcome Nuclear Deal

Category: News
Created on Tuesday, 07 April 2015 10:07
King Salman - ReutersSaudi Arabia's government announced on Monday that it welcomes the interim deal between Iran and the P5+1 world powers over Tehran's nuclear program, Reuters reported. 
 
Iran and six world powers - the United States, Britain, Russia, France, Germany, and Chine - reached a framework agreement on Thursday which would effectively end Tehran's nuclear research for at least ten years and also gradually remove Western sanctions. 
 
In a statement issued at the end of a cabinet meeting in Riyadh, ministers said they hoped the final agreement, expected to be signed by the end of June, would rid the region of nuclear weapons. 
 
"The council of ministers expressed hope for attaining a binding and definitive agreement that would lead to the strengthening of security and stability in the region and the world," the statement read.
 
The Saudi government added the they hoped a final deal would ensure a "Middle East and the Arabian Gulf region free of all weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons."
 
The call for a demilitarization in the region may be an implicit reference to Israel, who is assumed to already have an arsenal of nuclear weapons. The Jewish state has also expressed its staunch opposition to the deal. 
 
Saudi Arabia, a Sunni Muslim kingdom thought of as a more moderate Arab state, considers Shiite Iran its biggest regional rival. For the past week and a half, the two have been duking it out in Yemen as Houthi rebels backed by Tehran try to take control of the country. 
 
Not coincidentally, the Saudi kingdom's statement also emphasized the need for "good neighborliness and non-interference in the affairs of Arab states." 
 
While the Saudis have now applauded the deal, expert Emily Landau told Arutz Sheva Monday that they are still "tremendously worried" over, not necessarily Iran's nuclear capacity, but the "broader implications on the overall strategic situation."

Houthis Could Turn Yemen into a 'Saudi Vietnam'

Category: News
Created on Saturday, 04 April 2015 08:23
destroyed-houses-near-sanaaOperation Decisive Force has taken Middle East observers by surprise. Only a week ago there were few indications Saudi Arabia was planning any war at all. Now, there are reports the Saudis will lead a ground invasion “within days” to bring down the Houthis.
 
When Arutz Sheva last spoke to Professor Yiftah Shapir of the Institute of National Security Studies, he was uncertain of how quickly Saudi Arabia might be willing to launch a ground offensive. With developments happening at a quick pace, Arutz Sheva asked if Saudi Arabia had any particular way to avoid what could become its own quagmire.
 
“If Saudi Arabia enters Yemen on the ground – my guess is that yes, they are in for a long lasting quagmire. I guess they know it. (Unlike the Americans – they were born and raised in the Middle East).”
 
History is behind that guess. Between 1962 and 1970, Egypt deployed 70,000 troops to Yemen to support a coup against the king. It failed, mostly because of Saudi intervention at the time. 10,000 Egyptians were killed during that war, and now the Saudis are the ones leading the way.
 
Saudi Arabia also conducted a limited incursion against the Houthis in 2009 that left over 100 Saudi troops dead and 470 wounded. The Houthis even managed to cross the Saudi border. That experience was limited, but this year’s operation is far more extensive against a Houthi army speculated to have a possible depth of 100,000 fighters. Even if those numbers are far less, Iranian or Hezbollah military advisers could help organize a strong anti-Saudi insurgency .
 
The pace of developments has made the ongoing Arab League summit in Sharm al-Sheikh far more interesting as well. Over the course of the summit, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi declared there would be the formation of a United Arab Force (UAF). While his words implied this would be a military force that would be long-lasting, Shapir does not see the formality of a UAF extending beyond the current operation in Yemen.
 
“As for the Unified Arab Army – I don't think it will ever exist – other than token units for propaganda purposes.”
 
In Shapir’s opinion, the Arab World’s track record indicates it would not be able to sustain such an organization.
 
“Just look not at the Arab world as a whole, or the Sunni world as a whole – look at the six members of the GCC. Have they ever managed to set up a real unified force? They have been talking of cooperation for the past two decades. Nothing came out (of it) because the mistrust between them was high.”
 
Mistrust might still be high. There is also the issue of where else a UAF would be applicable. In Libya, there are different groups of patrons supporting opposite sides of the civil war there. In Syria, it is far less clear that countries in the current Yemen coalition would be willing to contribute forces to a much more difficult mission against a far more equipped enemy (the Syrian government). Even ISIS might produce some major disagreements.
 
When asked if a Saudi-led ground invasion could produce the types of pressures at home other countries see – where high numbers of casualties turns public support against the war – Shapir could not see that as happening.
 
“The number of casualties is not a significant factor,” says Shapir. “I believe they will not do much on the ground; the expected casualties will be Yemeni civilians, in what is termed as ‘collateral damage.’”
 
Besides public pressure, Shapir does not see much empathy for those casualties coming from Riyadh once – or if – they actually do go in. Groups like the International Committee for the Red Cross and Human Rights Watch have tried to head the Saudis off at the pass as it were, expressing “concern” for civilian casualties on the very first day of the operation.
 
“The Saudis won't care… and they are not going to face any Goldstone in the aftermath.”

Saudi Arabia's 'United Arab Army' Aimed at Iran, Not Israel

Category: News
Created on Wednesday, 01 April 2015 11:43
United Arab Army Aimed at IranThe Arab League has never been known for the unity that other international alliances have projected. NATO was a strong, American-led alliance throughout the Cold War (and in many ways still today); the European Union, for all its diversity, has a unified foreign policy.
 
The Arab League on the other hand has been plagued by its members changing heads of state every few years or so in bloody revolutions. The League has split along different fault lines at several points in its history, and is now challenged by an inter-Arab conflict between pan-nationalists and pan-Islamists.
 
Make no mistake, Saudi Arabia bucks this trend.
 
Saudi Arabia is definitely responsible for much of the religious fanaticism in the modern Arab World (and made some definite financial contributions to teaching extremist Islam in Pakistan and Afghanistan). But today, Saudi Arabia is a fierce critic of the Muslim Brotherhood and despises ISIS. If not for Iran, it is difficult to gauge how much more aggressive the Saudis might be toward these groups. The Saudis have become the main financial backers for the economically troubled post-revolutionary Egypt.
 
The Saudis have combined their financial power with a status as the largest weapons importer in the world (recently passing India). After decades of stockpiling its modern arsenal, the Saudis are putting their power to the test in the invasion of Yemen. Operation Decisive Storm is not the first Saudi op in the last few years, but it has the most international legitimacy. It leads a coalition of at least 10 (possibly more) states in a fight against a Zaydi Shiite rebel group, the Houthis. While it is unknown if Iran has a lot of control over the Houthis' military moves, they have definitely received financial assistance and their public support. Iran has been the loudest critic of the Saudi-led operation.
 
The Saudis have now taken it one step further, announcing the creation of a "Unified Arab Force" (UAF for simplicity's sake). Arutz Sheva asked Professor Joshua Teitelbaum Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies if he saw this as more of a specific threat to Iran or something that Israel itself might need to worry about in the future.
 
"This is entirely aimed at Iran. Israel has nothing to fear from this," says Teitelbaum. "There is more positive here for Israel than negative."
 
The idea of a UAF of sorts has been floated for decades, only spurned by the lack of unity among Arab states.
 
"Yes, this happened during the lead-up to the Six Day War. But coordination in such matters is always problematic."
 
Outside of Israel, there was also little common cause or purpose for such a force. After Israel indisputably defeated an Arab alliance in 1967, prospects for that army became dim. Jordan refused to participate in the Yom Kippur War, which saw Israel pull off a historic "comeback" which saw it threaten both Cairo and Damascus as the sides agreed to a ceasefire.
 
The last time a country tried to have such a definitive military leadership role for Arabs was just before 1967 in Gamel Abdul Nasser's Egypt. Ironically, it was a 5-year long Egyptian deployment to Yemen that saw its military might begin to slip away. The Six Day War might have been a literal nail in his coffin when Nasser died a broken man in 1970.
 
This effort would have to be different. Although it is more multilateral, there is no telling if Saudi Arabia plans to keep the reins for itself. Critically speaking though, this force might not have become necessary if it were not for the White House's withdrawn policy from the region.
 
"It is still unclear how this unified command will really work. What is more significant is that the Arab states finally seem to be taking a stand against Iran, in a better-late-than-never policy. This comes out of a lack of faith in the United States and a willingness to fall behind Saudi Arabia as it takes the lead."
 
The next president might have a tough time putting the pieces back together, though it is not clear if the United States might already acknowledge it has been far too removed from the battles in the region. The US launched renewed airstrikes in a blitz of Tikrit last week, taking away the thunder of the Iranian-led effort to take the city from ISIS on the same day Saudi Arabia attacked Yemen.
 
Will the UAF have a future beyond fighting Iran's proxies in the Middle East? It is a good question. Israel might have little to fear from a joint Arab force, but could the Arab League propose to deploy it as a 'peacekeeping' attachment in the future (as Egypt proposed recently)? Arutz Sheva asked Professor Teitelbaum if he thought the League would want to include the idea in its Arab Peace Initiative.
 
"Good question. This is a long shot, but the idea might ripen. I don’t think there is an intention in this regard yet. But as much as Israel might be on the same side as Egypt and the GCC right now, Israel has a huge disregard for any international force."
 
"The only force that might be accepted by Israel would be some kind of NATO force," suggests Teitelbaum, "although that is a long shot as well."

Saudi-Led Ground Invasion of Yemen 'Within Days'

Category: News
Created on Wednesday, 01 April 2015 05:29
saudi troopsTroops from a nine-member Arab coalition led by Saudi Arabia could be marching into Yemen before the week is over. Meanwhile, an air campaign is eroding the Iran-backed Shi'ite Houthi defenses.
 
Saudi Arabia and Egypt have both mentioned the possibility of putting boots on the ground, according to CNN. On Saturday, Yemeni Foreign Minister Riyadh Yaseen said he expects coalition troops to be in Yemen "within days."
 
Arab leaders are gathered at Egypt's Sharm el-Sheikh for the Arab League summit and are reportedly drafting a resolution that will establish a joint Arab military force, and allow Yemen's President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi to request it to intervene on the ground in Yemen.
 
If the coalition does invade, the fight could be an intense one, and it may cross into Saudi Arabia.
 
Saudi-led airstrikes have targeted Houthi military posts and weapons depots in the capital city of Sana'a, smashed large anti-aircraft guns and hit infrastructure that links Sana'a with other major towns, a Saudi official said.
 
The operation – dubbed Decisive Storm – is being waged by a coalition that includes Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Jordan, Morocco, Egypt and Sudan.
 
Houthi rebels continue meanwhile their push southwards in Yemen, with fierce fighting breaking out in the key southern port city of Aden on Monday in a battle that sees Iran, via its proxy ,pitted against forces backed by Sunni states headed by Saudi Arabia.
 
Troops loyal to former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh were advancing on Aden on Monday to help the Houthis in their efforts to conquer the key port, reports Al Arabiya. Saleh's forces have been aiding the Shi'ites in recent months as they toppled the government and began seizing power.
 
Saleh's soldiers reached up to 30 kilometers (around 18 miles) from Aden, health officials told the paper, even as a Houthi brigade shelled civilian centers in the al-Dalea governorate, causing residents to flee their homes.

Iran-Backed Houthi Conquest Escalates at Strategic Port of Aden

Category: News
Created on Wednesday, 01 April 2015 05:09
Aden YemenThe Iranian-backed Shi'ite Houthi rebels continue their push southwards in Yemen, with fierce fighting breaking out in the key southern port city of Aden on Monday in a battle that sees Iran, via its proxy ,pitted against forces backed by Sunni states headed by Saudi Arabia.
 
Troops loyal to former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh were advancing on Aden on Monday to help the Houthis in their efforts to conquer the key port, reports Al Arabiya. Saleh's forces have been aiding the Shi'ites in recent months as they toppled the government and began seizing power.
 
Saleh's soldiers reached up to 30 kilometers (around 18 miles) from Aden, health officials told the paper, even as a Houthi brigade shelled civilian centers in the al-Dalea governorate, causing residents to flee their homes.
 
Intense fighting continued after having erupted in the Dar Saad district of Aden on Sunday, as Houthis attempted to push past forces loyal to President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi - who fled Aden last Thursday - and advance on Aden's northern gate, reports Al Jazeera.
 
Hadi supporters told the paper they had recaptured the Aden airport, after it was seized back and forth several times in a matter of days. Meanwhile fighting broke out in Aden's central Crater district, with the death toll in the port city reaching around 100 in recent days.
 
The battle has much larger regional implications, given that Aden controls the highly strategic Bab al-Mandab Strait, the access point to the Red Sea and ultimately Israel's southern port city of Eilat. The waterway is a key route for Israeli and European trade.
 
Saudi Arabia last Thursday launched Operation "Decisive Storm," a campaign of airstrikes targeting the Houthis and meant to check Iran's spread of influence on its border.
 
The Saudis are supported in the mission by Kuwait, Egypt, Sudan, Jordan, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain.
 
The Gulf state has made clear it will continue the airstrikes until Hadi is reinstated to power in Yemen.

Saudi Arabia: Yemen Airstrikes Will Continue Until Hadi Can Rule

Category: News
Created on Tuesday, 31 March 2015 17:54
Saudi Arabia- Yemen AirstrikesAirstrikes in Yemen led by Saudi Arabia will continue until Yemeni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, who left the country on Thursday, is able to rule, a Saudi military spokesman said on Sunday, according to Reuters.
 
"We will set the conditions necessary to allow the president and his government to run the country," said Brigadier General Ahmed Asseri, spokesman for the coalition, which includes Saudi Arabia and nine other Muslim countries fighting against Iranian-backed Houthi rebels.
 
"The Yemeni army was almost dismantled (by internal fractures after a 2011 uprising) ... one of the conditions is for them to take over. We will continue to attack the militias, we will keep them under pressure, until the conditions become very favorable for the army to take over," he said, according to Reuters.
 
Speaking to a small group of reporters after a regular media briefing in Riyadh, Asseri said the strikes had succeeded in stopping the Houthi advance on Aden and in putting pressure on the group across the country.
 
"We feel that day by day they lose ... we continue to put the pressure on them to stop them ... We believe the situation around Aden will be better and better, day by day," he was quoted as having said.
 
Fighters loyal to Hadi clashed with Houthi forces on Sunday in the suburbs of the port city, the absent leader's last major foothold in Yemen.
 
On Wednesday it was reported that Hadi had fled his palace in Aden due to the advance of the Houthis, though government officials denied the reports.
 
Airstrikes on Saturday night had targeted former Yemeni airforce planes the Houthis had moved from the national capital Sanaa to the al-Rubayi airbase, Asseri said. The base is located west of the central city of Taiz.
 
He added that Iran had helped the Houthis maintain some of the few jets Yemen possessed, which were used a week ago to target Hadi's headquarters in Aden. Very few were now left and they too would be destroyed, he said.
 
Asseri estimated there were between 25,000-30,000 regular Houthi fighters, but said numbers were far from stable.
 
It is believed that Iran is planning to use the Houthi rebels to take over Yemen and seize the key strategic port of Aden, which controls the entrance to the Red Sea and ultimately to the Israeli resort city of Eilat.
 
Iran has threatened that Saudi Arabia’s foray into Yemen would end up costing it dearly. The Saudi “aggression,” said Iran's Foreign Ministry, would “complicate the crisis in the country and kill opportunities for peaceful resolution of the crisis in the Arab country. The smoke of the war in Yemen will reach the eyes of the Saudis."

Nasrallah: Israel Should be Targeted, Not Yemen

Category: News
Created on Monday, 30 March 2015 08:42
Hassan Nasrallah-ReutersHezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah blasted Saudi Arabia for launching airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen.
 
Speaking in a televised speech, Nasrallah said the military campaign should be directed at Israel, not Yemen, adding that if the warplanes were directed towards Israel, Hezbollah would join in.
 
“If the war was against Israel we would have been partners in the war but not if it’s against an Arab peoples,” Nasrallah said, according to the website of the Lebanese newspaper Daily Star.
 
He denounced Saudi Arabia for leading a campaign against Yemen, but failing to take action against Israel over the decades-long conflict.
 
“The Palestinian people are still calling on you,” he declared , noting that a large portion of the population among the Palestinian Arabs are Sunnis and yet their calls for assistance were not met by unified force likes of the coalition organized against the Houthis.
 
He dismissed arguments supporting the coalition that it was reclaiming the legitimacy of Yemen's President Abed Rabbou Mansour Hadi, saying that these arguments should be used instead to justify action in “Palestine.”
 
Nasrallah rejected claims that Iran was threatening to intervene and control the region, as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan claimed on Thursday, saying they were “the biggest lie” and demanding “evidence that Yemen is occupied by Iran” to be presented.
 
On Wednesday night, Saudi Arabia and a coalition of regional allies launched a military operation in Yemen against the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels threatening the government there. Iran has threatened that Saudi Arabia’s foray into Yemen would end up costing it dearly.
 
Nasrallah said that there is a problem in Saudi Arabia's mentality in that it doesn't respect the will of free peoples. They regard everyone as followers and they can't have an independent will, he added.
 
Saudi Arabia’s “faulty policies” are opening up the region to Iranian influence. “You are pushing the people of the region to Iran,” he claimed, according to the Daily Star.

Saudi Arabia Ramps Up for Largest Campaign Since Gulf War

Category: News
Created on Sunday, 29 March 2015 10:19
Saudi Arabia air forceSaudi Arabia is the world's top weapons importer, eclipsing India in 2014 - those weapons will now be put to the test against Iran-backed Houthi Shi'ites in Yemen in its widest-reaching military campaign since the first Gulf War.
 
Yiftah Shapir of the Institute of National Security Studies (INSS) spoke to Arutz Sheva about what can be expected in the operation.
 
"The Saudi Arabian air force's capability on paper is very great: they've got Typhoons and specially-modified F-15s and the best ammunition in the world," said Shapir. "How much they're capable of doing though depends on the intelligence on their targets."
 
This is the third anti-Shi'ite intervention Saudi Arabia has made in the last seven years: a previous Houthi incursion into Saudi Arabia resulted in a small-scale war and ground invasion in 2009. Protests in Bahrain during the "Arab Spring" frightened the Saudis into thinking the country's Shi'ite majority would topple its Sunni elite, drawing Saudi tanks to Bahrain to police the streets.
 
For now, it is unknown if there is a plan for a ground invasion. As many Israelis might recall from the most recent war with Gaza, air strikes cannot accomplish the things infantry can.
 
"We know from experience from virtually everybody that airstrikes don't do much, especially on the first day," says Shapir. "Successful operations last longer, at least a month. It's tough to say what they're achieving. The capability of air strikes is very limited. If you don't enter with ground forces or the enemy expects you don't have the will to send those forces, it can have a negative effect on the campaign."
 
It should be noted that the Saudi military buildup was only widely reported within hours of the first Saudi airstrikes. Ground invasions are also more likely following a sustained air campaign making that invasion easier.
 
Shapir says the other capabilities that will be getting attention in this war are those of a largely untested Saudi navy.
 
"They have a strong navy in two theaters: the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf. They have quite a strong force with French-made frigates. But in practice, they have not been involved in any war."
 
Saudi Arabia has 50,000 personnel between the country’s two coastlines, including some 12,000 marines. The Saudis are using that navy now to block resupply from the Indian Ocean straight to Houthi forces on the western coast of Yemen. It was in fact the Houthi advance on the port city of Aden and their threat to major shipping lanes by the Red Sea that added to the urgency of military actions.
 
Egypt has already sent four warships to the area, apparently forcing Iranian ships in the area to retreat according to one report from Arab News.
 
The fact Egypt is involved at all might be surprising, and is likely only because Saudi Arabia has such a disproportionate leadership role in the fight that the Egyptians feel they can make the token contributions that other Arab states are making. But that is not because Egypt does not pack a punch of its own.
 
“Egypt has a lot to offer. They have a strong air force but the real question is how involved they really want to be with wars on two fronts of their own: Libya and the Sinai.”
 
On top of those fights, President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi’s regime seems more focused on domestic security and holding down the Muslim Brotherhood.
 
“This is the main preoccupation of the Egyptian military," says Shapir. "The Egyptian military is much more interested in internal war, with Egyptian security and the economy. The military also has their own interests.”
 
It would not be the first foray for Egypt in Yemen. Between 1962 and 1967, Egypt became bogged down in fighting an insurgency there when Gamal Abdul Nasser was in the midst of asserting Egypt as the leader of the Arab world. According to Shapir, a greater deployment in Yemen would not necessarily conjure up the same sorts of memories that Americans might have of Vietnam, but they would be similar.
 
As for the possibility that Saudi Arabia might be making a dry run at attacking other Iranian-backed groups in the region, Shapir does not see it. This is likely not as much a practice campaign for future conflict as it is the opportunity to send a message to the Iranians.
 
Yemen provides Saudi Arabia with problems regardless of the Houthi connection with Iran. Were the Houthis to be much less intimate with Iranian aid, they would still be viewed as a threat to an allied Sunni state right on Saudi Arabia's own border.
 
As much as the rest of the world is watching the conflict as an outgrowth of the rivalry with Iran, Shapir wanted to emphasize that there are still numerous issues exclusive to Yemen that Iran has no bearing on.
 
"I think it's a mistake to say it's a war against Iran. Yemeni forces act on their own interests. The may get a lot of support from the Iranians, but they operate on their own."
 
This should have bearing on the way Israelis see things. While it might be important to note Iran's influence in Yemen, there are separate conflicts there. For the Saudis, according to Shapir, there will still be an end-game when "they will have to come to terms with the Houthis because they are their neighbors.”

Saudi Ambassador: Iran Playing Key Role in Backing Houthis

Category: News
Created on Saturday, 28 March 2015 13:49
Houthi fightersSaudi Arabia’s ambassador to the United States on Thursday said that Iran has been playing a key role in backing the advance of Houthi rebels in Yemen, The Associated Press (AP) reported.
 
The ambassador, Adel al-Jubeir, said that Iranian Revolutionary Guard officers, as well as operatives from the Iran-backed Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah, are on the ground in Yemen advising the Houthis.
 
The comments were made as he briefed reporters in the Saudi embassy in Washington.
 
On Wednesday night,  Saudi Arabia and a coalition of regional allies launched a military operation in Yemen against the Houthi rebels, who took over the capital Sanaa several months ago and forced President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi to flee to the southern seaport Aden.
 
It is believed that Iran is planning to use the Houthi rebels to take over Yemen and seize the key strategic port of Aden, which controlsthe entrance to the Red Sea and ultimately to the Israeli resort city of Eilat.
 
On Wednesday it was reported that Hadi had fled his palace in Aden as well due to the advance of the Houthis, though government officials denied the reports.
 
Meanwhile on Thursday, Iran threatened that Saudi Arabia’s foray into Yemen would end up costing it dearly.
 
The Saudi “aggression,” said Iran's Foreign Ministry, would “complicate the crisis in the country and kill opportunities for peaceful resolution of the crisis in the Arab country. The smoke of the war in Yemen will reach the eyes of the Saudis."

Saudi Offensive Coincides with US Airstrikes in Tikrit

Category: News
Created on Friday, 27 March 2015 16:49
US Airstrikes in TikritEarlier this morning, Saudi Arabia launched a joint Arab League-Pakistani operation against Houthi rebels in Yemen called Operation Decisive Storm.
 
The Houthis are Zaydi Shiites, who the Iranian regime has begun to back with weapons and resources in their march across Yemen. This is the third Saudi intervention against the Houthis, but the timing has more regional significance than in the past.
 
Getting less attention right now is that the United States has also expanded its own airstrikes against ISIS in Tikrit, taking over more of the leadership role some have warned Iran had assumed in Iraq.
 
As the nuclear negotiations deadline looms and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has ramped up public pressure on the Obama Administration to be more aggressive with Iran, Arutz Sheva asked Yoel Guzansky of the Institute for National Security Studies if this was likely a coordinated set of simultaneous operations.
 
"I definitely agree with that assumption," said Guzansky, who noted that it was still an issue for the US because they had to coordinate their own operations with Iraqi forces on the ground  (who are also working with the Iranians).
 
The combined goal seems to be obvious. But the fact Saudi Arabia acted in such an overt manner and so abruptly comes as a surprise to Guzansky.
 
"This is a surprise because this is a country that tends to use diplomacy and its deep pockets to gain influence. But this isn't the first time they've done this: in 2009 they got involved with the Houthis in the north (of Yemen) and March 2011 they entered Bahrain. They put put their foot down then sending a message to Iran that 'This is it. This is a red line you don't cross.' Now, today they are looking to stop the advance of the Houthis on the ground and send a message to Iran."
 
Reports of the Saudi military build-up had barely been published when the kingdom launched its assault early this morning. With such a sudden deployment, the goals might be immediate for an operation of limited scope
 
"We need to ask ourselves what it wants. I think strategically it wants the Houthis back at the negotiating table (with the country's President). They hinted at this. Saudi Ambassador to the United States Adel al-Jubeir who declared the operation said they wish to get the Houthis back there after the Houthis refused to attend the summit the Saudis organized in Riyadh."
 
Saudi Arabia has invested millions in the government in the fallen regime in Yemen, aid that Reuters reported in December the Saudis had cut off. The major decision now, besides the ominous timing in relation to the nuclear negotiations with Iran, comes as Houthi rebels advance on the port city of Aden at the mouth of the Red Sea.
 
"I think the fall of the strategic port of Aden, if it falls (and it would have fallen in a matter of hours had it not been for this operation) would have meant that Yemen had fallen. It is the last strategic point in the country."
 
The President of the country is trying to maintain an image of strength, claiming he is leading the government's resistance in the city and denying rumors that he had fled the country by ship.
 
When asked if Iran was in a position to respond militarily to the Saudi operation, Guzansky called it "the million dollar question."
 
"If I had been asked yesterday, I would have said the Saudis were better off only threatening to wage war. I guess they didn't think it helped and they had to do something."
 
"My guess is Iran would continue to support the militias as they have in the past. Would they give them more support or money? Probably. It is good for them (Iran) to preoccupy the Saudis right in the Saudis' own backyard. It's of interest to Iran."
 
What should not be lost in this is that had the Houthis moved more slowly, there might not have been such an immense intervention on the part of Saudi Arabia and its allies to roll back Houthi advanced in the country.
 
"The Iranians might have preferred the Houthis went slower. The same thing happened to ISIS. They rushed in their conquest to control as much land as possible. It was too fast and ultimately counterproductive." The alarm bells that rang as a result created widespread support for intervention.
 
"It's a coalition of 10 Arab and Pakistani countries. That's not important on the ground but it is symbolically. The Saudis have political and diplomatic backing. They have legitimacy. The entire Arab and Sunni Muslim world is behind them."
 
So far, there is no expectation the Saudis will use ground forces like they did in 2009 when Houthi forces penetrated 50 kilometers into Saudi Arabia and killed a number of troops. As much as the Saudis might want to absolutely eliminate Iran's asset on the Iranian peninsula, they likely will not have the ability. Right now, Guzansky assumes that the Saudis will want to roll back Houthi gains rather than destroy them. 
 
"They know they cannot really turn back the clock on this. The Houthis are the strongest military force in Yemen."
 
"So far there are limited goals and limited tools: the air force, some naval forces surrounding Yemen to block reinforcements and of course the strategic goal to get them back to the negotiation table."

Iran: Saudis 'Will Pay for Invading Yemen'

Category: News
Created on Friday, 27 March 2015 16:13
saudi troopsIran threatened Saudi Arabia on Thursday, announcing that its foray into Yemen would end up costing it dearly.
 
The Saudi “aggression,” said Iran's Foreign Ministry, would “complicate the crisis in the country and kill opportunities for peaceful resolution of the crisis in the Arab country. The smoke of the war in Yemen will reach the eyes of the Saudis."
 
As a result of the Saudi participation in air strikes against rebel groups allied with Iran who have taken over the government and booted out the country's President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi – who fled for his life by ship from Aden this week – oil prices shot up Thursday, and markets in Asia sank. Similar drops in stocks are expected in Europe and the US as markets there open Thursday.
 
The Saudis on Wednesday decided to join a coalition fighting the Iran-backed Houthi rebels, who have basically taken control of the country.
 
"The operation is to defend and support the legitimate government of Yemen and prevent the radical Houthi movement from taking over the country," said Saudi ambassador to the U.S. Adel al-Jubeir, on Wednesday.
 
"We have a situation where you have a militia group that is now in control or can be in control of ballistic missiles, heavy weapons and an air force," he said, arguing that the Houthi advance could not be tolerated.
 
The Houthis have begun pushing south after conquering the capital city of Sanaa last September and overthrowing the government, replacing it with their own temporary government. Over the weekend they took control of the central city Taiz, moving farther south.
 
In a statement, members of the Gulf Cooperation Countries, which include Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar, and Kuwait – all Sunni Muslim countries who fear the advances on their borders made by the Iran-backed Shi'ite Houthis – said that the GCC “followed the dangerous development of events in the Republic of Yemen."
 
“We have exerted all possible efforts to end these Al Houthi criminal sinful aggressions against our people, which left deep wounds in each Yemeni home,” the group said in a letter to members. “We sought with all our power to reach a peaceful solution to get Yemen out from a dark tunnel that the coup Al Houthi orchestrators put the country in, to safeguard our people from the fire of chaos and destruction, and to avoid implicating the country into a war that will burn the entire land that the coup orchestrators sought and continue to seek its ignition."
 
“This sinful aggression executed by internal militias supported by forces from within who sold their conscience and are only concerned about their self-interests, and also supported by regional powers, whose objective is to dominate this country and to make it a base for their dominance in the region. This threat is not only menacing the security of Yemen only, but also the security of the entire region as well as the world peace and security,” the group said.
 
According to Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Marzieh Afkham, the Saudi action was a “dangerous move which is in violation of international responsibilities for respecting the sovereignty of countries” that would “would lead to spread of terrorism and extremism in the region.”

Saudi Arabia Launches Operation in Yemen

Category: News
Created on Friday, 27 March 2015 09:49
Operation in YemenSaudi Arabia and a coalition of regional allies have launched a military operation in Yemen against rebels threatening the government there, the kingdom's ambassador to the United States said Wednesday night, according to AFP.
 
"The operation is to defend and support the legitimate government of Yemen and prevent the radical Houthi movement from taking over the country," the ambassador, Adel al-Jubeir, was quoted as having told reporters in Washington.
 
Al-Jubeir said that for the moment the action was confined to airstrikes on various targets around Yemen, but that other military assets were being mobilized and that the coalition "would do whatever it takes."
 
The ambassador said he would not go into detail about the support being provided by Saudi Arabia's allies, but added "we consulted very closely with many of our allies and in particular with the United States.
 
"We are very pleased with the outcome of those discussions," he said, according to AFP.
 
"We have a situation where you have a militia group that is now in control or can be in control of ballistic missiles, heavy weapons and an air force," he said, arguing that the Houthi advance could not be tolerated.
 
News of the Saudi operation came a day after American officials revealed that Saudi Arabia had started deploying heavy military equipment on its border with Yemen.
 
The Houthis have begun pushing south after conquering the capital city of Sanaa last September and overthrowing the government, replacing it with their own temporary government. Over the weekend they took control of the central city Taiz, moving ever south.
 
One source from the U.S. government called the new buildup on the border "significant," saying the Saudis may be readying to launch airstrikes on the Houthis if they attack Yemeni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi in his refuge of the southern seaport Aden, a key strategic point controlling the entrance to the Red Sea and ultimately Eilat.
 
Hadi fled Sanaa for Aden in February, escaping from the Houthis, and earlier on Wednesday it was reported that he had fled his palace in Aden as well.
 
Government officials denied reports that the president fled the country and said he remains in Aden.
 
The State Department said it was in touch with President Hadi earlier in the day. It said he is no longer at the compound but could not confirm any "additional details" about his location.

Saudi Arabia: Columnist Stands with Netanyahu, Slams Obama

Category: News
Created on Thursday, 05 March 2015 19:25
Netanyahu speaking at U.S CongressA look at Saudi Arabia's news media shows that the Persian Gulf monarchy stands squarely behind Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's efforts Tuesday in Congress.
 
In an article in Monday's edition of the Saudi daily Al-Jazirah (no relation to the Qatar-based television network), columnist Dr. Ahmad Al-Faraj comes out strongly against U.S. President Barack Obama. "I believe that Netanyahu's conduct will serve our interests, the people of the Gulf," he writes, "much more than the foolish behavior of one of the worst American presidents."
 
The article was translated and disseminated to Western media by MEMRI, the Washington-based Middle East Media Research Institute.
 
Al-Faraj writes that Obama is working to sign a deal with Iran at the expense of America's longtime allies in the Gulf, and that Netanyahu's campaign against the deal is therefore justified and serves the interests of the Gulf states.
 
The article provides background regarding the speech and the tensions surrounding it. It states that Netanyahu "will devote his speech to expressing his firm objection to the signing of an agreement between the Obama administration and Iran on the nuclear issue. He hopes to convince the Congress members that he is right, which could delay the agreement."
 
It further mocks Obama for his behavior, saying he is "clearly furious – not because Netanyahu is intervening in an important matter that Obama hopes will bring him personal glory, but because House Speaker [John Boehner] did not consult with Obama before inviting Netanyahu, and Obama considers this a breach of established protocol…"
 
The Saudi columnist's main conclusion minces no words: "Since Obama is the godfather of the prefabricated revolutions in the Arab world, and since he is the ally of political Islam, [which is] the caring mother of [all] the terrorist organizations, and since he is working to sign an agreement with Iran that will come at the expense of the U.S.'s longtime allies in the Gulf, I am very glad of Netanyahu's firm stance and [his decision] to speak against the nuclear agreement at the American Congress despite the Obama administration's anger and fury. I believe that Netanyahu's conduct will serve our interests, the people of the Gulf, much more than the foolish behavior of one of the worst American presidents. Do you agree with me?"
 
The pressure-cooker of tensions between Saudi Arabia and the Obama Administration has been simmering for a while. A New York Times article of a year ago states that Saudi leaders were vexed already then at Obama "for failing to throw America’s military might behind their proxy war with Tehran in Syria… And the Saudis were flabbergasted last year when Mr. Obama reversed course at the last minute, calling off missile strikes against the Assad government for its use of chemical weapons."
 
The paper quoted a commentator for the Saudi-owned news network Al Arabiya as having written that Obama “has got it all wrong when it comes to Iran.” He accused the president of having a “new fondness” for the Iranians, calling this “the heart of the problem” in his relations with the Saudis.

Saudis Seek Greater US Role in Mideast as Obama Visits

Category: News
Created on Monday, 26 January 2015 13:15
Obama bowing to Saudi's kingNew Saudi King Salman is expected to use President Barack Obama's stopover on Tuesday to push for greater US involvement in resolving Middle East crises, analysts say.
 
Obama, accompanied by his wife Michelle, is cutting short a visit to India to convey his condolences after the death of ailing King Abdullah last Friday.  
 
Following the death, Obama in a statement paid tribute to the late king as a bold leader who made an enduring contribution to Middle East peace.
 
The American president praised Abdullah's "steadfast and passionate belief in the importance of the US-Saudi relationship."
 
But despite the longstanding strategic partnership between the world's biggest oil exporter and one of its major buyers, analysts say Riyadh has grown dissatisfied with what it sees as a lack of US engagement with the region's key issues.  
 
Anwar Eshki, chairman of the Jeddah-based Centre for Strategic and Legal Studies, said "divergences persist" between the two sides.
 
These differences include the battle against the Islamic State (ISIS) jihadist group, Yemen, Syria and Libya, Eshki said.
 
Saudi Arabia and its Gulf neighbors in September joined a US-led coalition conducting air strikes against ISIS in Syria.
 
Despite this cooperation, Riyadh thinks "it is necessary to eliminate the underlying reasons" that led to the emergence of ISIS, chiefly discrimination against Sunni Muslims in Iraq, Eshki said.
 
White House Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes said in New Delhi confirmed that Yemen's turmoil and the battle against ISIS would figure on the agenda.
 
"I'm sure that while we are there, they will touch on some of the leading issues where we cooperate very closely with Saudi Arabia," he said.  
 
"Clearly that would include the continued counter-ISIL campaign where the Saudis have been a partner and have joined us in military operations," he said, using another term for ISIS.
 
"That of course also includes the situation in Yemen where we have coordinated very closely with Saudi Arabia and the other countries."
 
Relations not ideal
 
Riyadh would like Washington to exercise more pressure to get the protagonists in both Yemen and Libya back to negotiations, Eshki said.
 
Libya has two rival governments and powerful militias are battling for territory.
 
In Yemen, on Saudi Arabia's southern border, President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi, a key US ally in the fight against Al Qaeda, tendered his resignation last week after Shiite militiamen kidnapped his chief of staff and seized key buildings.
 
Seen from Riyadh, US Secretary of State John Kerry has failed to achieve a breakthrough on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, 13 years after the kingdom launched its own initiative for peace with the Jewish state, Eshki pointed out.
 
Ties between Washington and Riyadh have not been at the ideal level in recent years, said Jean-Francois Seznec, a Middle East specialist at Georgetown University in the United States.
 
"The Saudis at all levels think that the Americans are no longer reliable," said Seznec.
 
However, he said the Saudis view in "a quite positive way" international negotiations with Iran and a potential agreement on Tehran's controversial nuclear program.
 
The US and four other permanent members of the United Nations Security Council face a June 30 deadline for a final deal with Iran.
 
Sunni-majority Saudi Arabia and Shiite-dominated Iran are regional rivals.
 
According to Seznec, the Saudis are convinced that if international powers reach an agreement with Tehran, the Saudis could then strike their own deal with Iran to "restore order" in the region, starting in Syria and Yemen.
 
Frederic Wehrey, of the US-based Carnegie Endowment for International Peace Middle East Program, said disagreements between Saudi Arabia and the United States are manageable.
 
"But the Saudis are still looking for greater collaboration and coordination," he said.

Saudi Arabia Gives the PA $60 Million

Category: News
Created on Saturday, 17 January 2015 15:28
60 MillionSaudi Arabia has provided $60 million in direct support for the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) budget, Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Egypt Ahmad Abdulaziz Qattan said Tuesday, according to the WAFA news agency.
 
Qattan reportedly said that the Saudi Fund for Development had transferred $60 million to the PA Finance Ministry’s bank account.
 
The Saudi diplomat noted in a press release that amount covers Saudi Arabia’s financial contribution to the PA’s budget for October, November and December 2014.
 
The total PA budget for 2014 was estimated at $4.21 billion with a $1.25 billion deficit; when the $350 million deficit in development budget is added, the total budgetary deficit reaches $1.6 billion, noted WAFA.
 
The Palestinian government received approximately $243 million in financial aid over the first four months of 2014 compared to $1.49 billion over the same period in 2013, the report added.
 
The PA has repeatedly asked for foreign donations, claiming it is on the verge of collapse due to a worsening financial crisis.
 
While blaming Israel for the PA’s financial woes, its chairman Mahmoud Abbas continues to spend six percent of the PA’s annual budget to pay $4.5 million a month to jailed terrorists and another $6.5 million to their families.
 
Most recently, Israel froze the transfer of tax revenues to the PA in retaliation for its bid to join the International Criminal Court. The move was slammed by the United States as one that “raises tensions”, and the PA’s chief negotiator said it was “collective punishment” and a “war crime”.

Saudi Arabia to Hamas: Stay Away from Iran

Category: News
Created on Wednesday, 24 December 2014 09:48
FlagThe Hamas-affiliated Al-Rai website reported on Monday that Saudi Arabia recently sent an angry message to the Hamas leadership over the group’s rapprochement with Iran, which Riyadh considers to be an enemy of the Sunni Muslim world.
 
According to the report, senior officials in the Saudi intelligence contacted Hamas leaders and asked them to stop all contact with the regime in Tehran, offering in exchange to place more significant pressure aimed at lifting the "blockade" of Gaza. Palestinian Arab sources who spoke to the website said that the Hamas leadership is considering the Saudi request and has yet to respond to it officially.
 
Just last week, a delegation from Hamas arrived for talks with Iranian officials on repairing ties between the two, local media reported.
 
The Iranian Tasnim news agency said the team was led by Hamas political bureau member Mohammed Nasr and included Osama Hamdan, who is in charge of international relations. Iran has been a key source of funds and weapons for Hamas.
 
Iran was once a stronger supporter of Hamas, but the two have been at odds over the uprising against Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad. As a result of Hamas’ refusal to support Assad in the uprising, an angry Iran reportedly stopped supplying the terror group with weapons.
 
Nevertheless, the two sides have been getting closer in recent months. The speaker of the Iranian parliament, Ali Larijani, recently boasted that Iran provided Hamas with the technology it has used to rain down rockets on Israel from Gaza.
 
Saudi Arabia also was not pleased with the policy of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, under ousted president Mohammed Morsi, who preferred an alliance with Iran over Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states, and it was one of the key factors that helped the Egyptian military oust Morsi.
 
Immediately after the army took power following Morsi’s removal, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states pledged about $12 billion to the Egyptian treasury.

Obama Pushing Saudi-Iranian Normalization for Nuclear Deal

Category: News
Created on Monday, 01 December 2014 03:32
Obama and Saudi King AbdullahAs talks on Iran's nuclear program reach their deadline today, and amid indications that America is trying to extend the talks yet again, new reports reveal that US President Barack Obama is urging Saudi Arabia to normalize relations with rival Iran in yet another sign of the White House's softly-softly approach to Iran.
 
According to the reports, during meetings in recent days with Saudi National Guard Minister Prince Miteb Bin Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz, Obama asked the senior official to improve ties with Tehran, according to the Saudi site Ilaph as cited by Yedioth Aharonoth.
 
A source in the Gulf state told the Arabic-language paper that his government feels the White House is pressing for an agreement with Iran, warning "let them try Tehran and pay the price."
 
The source claimed that Obama noted several times in meetings with Abdulaziz the need for openness towards Tehran in the near future, possibly indicating plans for American concessions on Iran's nuclear program.
 
Last Wednesday, 43 US Senators wrote to Obama expressing their alarm at reports he intends to bypass the Congress and force through a deal with Iran. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has revealed Iran is not abiding by interim conditions in refusing to answer questions on the military aspects of its nuclear program. 
 
Iran is likewise demanding to retain enough centrifuges to build 38 atomic bombs every year, a proposition raising fears of a regional nuclear arms race with such countries as Saudi Arabia, which could turn to Sunni allies such as Pakistan for nuclear weapons capabilities.
 
Shi'ite Iran and Sunni Saudi Arabia have been deeply divided for years over numerous regional issues, particularly the conflict in Syria, in which Tehran has backed the Damascus government and Riyadh has been a leading supporter of the largely Sunni rebels.
 
Obama visited Saudi Arabia in March and told King Abdullah that the United States would not accept a “bad deal” with Iran, after Saudi Arabia expressed its disappointment with the interim deal that was signed between Iran and the six world powers last November.
 
A senior adviser to the Saudi royal family said after the deal was signed that his country was deceived by its American ally in the agreements, and will pursue an independent foreign policy in response.

Saudi FM Slams Israel, Pledges $500 Million to Gaza

Category: News
Created on Saturday, 16 August 2014 17:56
Saudi Foreign Minister Saud Al-FaisalOn the heels of reports that Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) promised funds to Hamas in order to procure the current 72-hour ceasefire, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal openly pledged $500 million to "rebuild" Gaza.
 
Speaking at an Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) meeting in Jeddah on Tuesday, al-Faisal accused Israel of trying "to wipe off Palestinian existence," and blamed the world for supporting "Israel's savagery against the people of Gaza."
 
Calling for Arab unity at a time when internecine bloodbaths are raging throughout the Middle East, al-Faisal urged the Arab nations to stand together on "one line" to oppose Israel.
 
"Divisions among Islamic nations are causing civil strife, leading Israel to repeat its crimes," said al-Faisal, recommending Arab countries "support all Egyptian efforts to stop the aggression."
 
"The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia considers the Palestinian cause its primary cause," boasted the Saudi foreign minister, announcing that his country would provide $500 million in funding to "rebuild" Gaza.
 
While reports of Saudi funding to promote the ceasefire noted the money was conditional on usage for civilian projects and not the rebuilding of terror tunnels, no system of checks and balances has been presented. Additionally, Hamas routinely uses civilian buildings, schools and hospitals as weapons caches, booby-traps and rocket launch sites.
 
Further, the Palestinian Arab Sawa news agency revealed Sunday that Hamas paid two-months of salary in full that morning to its terrorist "military wing," the Al-Qassam Brigades. It is suspected the sudden unexpected infusion of cash was likely given by Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
 
"Peace" - or no survival
 
Taking a slightly more threatening tone in his rhetoric, al-Faisal continued saying "Israel must understand that the only solution for its survival is peace with the Palestinians."
 
"Israel isn't embarrassed to conduct terror on every level in order to achieve its goals, while ignoring laws, religious commandments and humanitarian considerations," charged the Saudi foreign minister.
 
It should be noted that Israel launched Operation Protective Edge in response to a rapid escalation in Hamas rocket fire on its civilian centers, and has agreed to numerous humanitarian ceasefires while taking pains to warn civilians before conducting airstrikes.
 
Concerning al-Faisal's comment on religious commandments, Chairman of the Bnei Akiva Yeshivas and head of Yeshivat Or Etzion, Rabbi Haim Druckman, stated last month that the operation falls under the category of milchemet mitzvah (war of commandment), given that it is a war to defend Israel from attack.
 
"This is a holy war by all accounts, a war of salvation and for the existence of Israel in its homeland," clarified Rabbi Druckman.

Saudi Arabia to Expel Non-Muslims who 'Disrespect' Ramadan

Category: Islam
Created on Friday, 04 July 2014 21:50
S A Expel Non-MuslimsSaudi Arabia on Thursday threatened to expel non-Muslim foreigners who eat, drink or smoke in public during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, which begins this weekend, AFP reports.
 
The interior ministry urged non-Muslims to "respect the feelings of Muslims by refraining from eating, drinking or smoking in public places, streets and at work."
 
"They are not excused for being non-Muslim," said the statement, which was carried by the SPA state news agency.
 
"Labor contracts stipulate respect for Muslim rites,” the statement added.
 
"Those who violate (that)... will face the necessary measures, including terminating work contracts and being deported," it said.
 
Oil-rich Saudi Arabia, which applies a strict version of Sharia Islamic law, hosts more than nine million foreigners, mostly Asians.
 
Saudi Arabia is notorious for its crackdown on anything it perceives as being anti-Islamic, including social media posts and websites.
 
The Kingdom recently introduced a series of new laws which define atheists as terrorists.
 
Lashes are a common punishment in the kingdom for offenses such as insulting the King, blasphemy, or even insulting members of one’s own tribe.

Saudi Arabia Bans Books by Pro-Brotherhood Authors

Category: News
Created on Wednesday, 04 June 2014 09:18
BooksSaudi authorities have banned the sale of books by two Islamist authors known to be sympathetic to the Muslim Brotherhood, Al Arabiya reports, citing the London-based Arabic daily Al-Hayat.
 
The Saudi-owned paper said it has confirmed information that books authored by Saudi cleric Salman al-Odah and his Kuwaiti counterpart Tariq al-Suwaidan were ordered to be removed from the bookstores.
 
Hussein al-Ghamdi, manager of a bookstore in Jeddah, told Al-Hayat that he received orders from the Saudi religious police to remove the books of Odah and Suwaidan from the shelves “immediately.”
 
Ghamdi said he complied with the order, which he said could be reversed in the future.
 
He described Odah and Suwaidan’s books as “popular.”
 
Both Odah and Suwaidan are popular especially in the Gulf region. On Twitter, Odah has more than 4.7 million followers while Suwaidan has almost 3 million, according to Al Arabiya.
 
The move is the latest in a campaign by the Saudi authorities to fight terrorism and prevent Saudi nationals from going to Syria to take part in the fighting there.
 
In early March, Saudi Arabia blacklisted the Muslim Brotherhood and two Syrian jihadist groups as terrorist organizations, ordering citizens fighting abroad to return home within 15 days or face imprisonment.
 
The move came two days after Saudi Arabia, along with Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates, recalled their ambassadors from Qatar, which supports Islamists groups in the region and was a backer of the Brotherhood.

Saudi Arabia to Crack Down on 'Anti-Islamic' Social Media Posts

Category: Islam
Created on Tuesday, 03 June 2014 18:28
Anti-IslamicSocial Media PostsSaudi authorities are cracking down on social media, the Saudi Gazette reports Monday, and are in the process of reviewing the Anti-Cybercrime Law to allow legal proceedings to be filed against social networking sites for allowing accounts which promote adultery, atheism, and homosexuality. 
 
The Saudi Anti-Cybercrime Law was enacted by royal decree on March 26, 2007. According to the Gazette, the law - like many cyber-security laws enacted since the rise of the internet - aims "to ensure information security, protection of rights pertaining to the legitimate use of computers and information networks."
 
But it also functions as a "big brother" over the Saudi people to enforce Riyadh's harsh interpretation of Sharia law, with a clause also seeking "the protection of public interest, morals, and common values."
 
According to the New York Times, roughly half of the estimated 23.7 million people living in Saudi Arabia use the internet, and an estimated six million use Facebook. 
 
The internal review on conduct on social networking follows Saudi cleric Sheikh Abdullah al-Mutlaq's strong condemnation of women and men chatting on the internet, after he said "the devil would be present when women talk to men” in that context during a fiery speech last week. Mutlaq is a member of the Saudi Council of Senior Scholars - Saudi Arabia's highest religious body - and the remarks could have lasting political and legal ramifications if acted upon. 
 
Press freedom advocacy group Reporters Without Borders has classified Saudi Arabia as among the most repressive countries in a global ranking on news and information censorship; in 2014, it ranked as the 164th most free country from a total of 180. 
 
But the announcement not only highlights Saudi Arabia's iron fist on its press; it shows a dominant trend of social media crackdowns in the Middle East, particularly in Turkey. 
 
In March, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan limited access to Twitter after it had been used to spread a torrent of anonymous leaks implicating his inner circle in corruption.
 
Turkey's NATO allies and international human rights groups strongly criticized the ban, as well a subsequent block of video-sharing website YouTube, causing the ruling to be overturned in April. 
 
The social media bans follow the lead of other fundamentalist countries - including Iran, where Facebook, Google Plus, and Twitter are blocked. 

Why the Saudis and Muslim Brotherhood Hate Each Other

Category: Op-Eds
Created on Wednesday, 28 May 2014 11:48
Saudis and Muslim BrotherhoodSaudi Arabia was once a haven for Muslim Brotherhood leaders who fled persecution in Egypt, Syria, Jordan and Iraq. Now the Saudis are pouring money into Sisi's regime in order to destroy them.
 
When the revolt against Mubarak broke out towards the end of January 2011, it was expected that the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) would gain control of Egypt. The Saudis did not hesitate to express their opposition to this possible outcome. In June 2012, when Muslim Brotherhood candidate Muhammed Morsi became the president of Egypt, he tried to calm the Saudis, but to no avail, and they supported General Sisi when he deposed Morsi in July 2013. 
 
Since Morsi's fall from power, Saudi Arabia has granted Sisi billions of dollars to support him in preventing Morsi from returning to the presidential office. Saudi Arabia has also come out publicly against the position of the US which called for Sisi to reinstate Morsi.
 
Saudi opposition to the "Brothers" can be seen in its willingness to hand over members of the movement who escaped to Saudi Arabia after Morsi was deposed, when the Egyptian regime began to search out Muslim Brotherhood activists after defining the movement as a terrorist organization. The obvious question is why the Saudis hate the Muslim Brotherhood so much, even though both groups are devout Sunnis, and why it chooses to help the secular Sisi supporters.
 
This question becomes even more acute considering past relations between the Saudis and the "Brothers". Once Saudi Arabia was a safe haven for many of the Muslim Brotherhood leaders who fled persecution in Egypt, Syria, Jordan and Iraq.
 
There are several answers to this question that, together, form a synergetic whole.
 
1. The name "al-Ikhwān" – "the Brothers" – was, at the start of the 20th century, the name of the militia of Ibn Saud, the founder of the Saudi Arabian dynasty. This was a cruel militia that sowed panic among the tribes of the Arabian Peninsula, and ended the rule of Sherif Hussein Bin Ali, King of the Hejaz. When Hassan al-Banna  founded the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt in 1928, he took the name of Ibn Saud's militia and added the adjective "Muslim", to emphasize that the Egyptian members of the organization were truly Muslim, as opposed to Ibn Saud's army.
 
Ibn Saud did not forgive this treachery to his dying day in 1953.
 
2. Saudi Arabia is a tribal country, where religion makes the tribal cohesion even stronger, through laws, rules and tradition, whereas the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood believes that religion takes the place of tribal-family loyalties which should disappear from politics entirely. The Muslim Brotherhood's policy allows it to enlist people from all sectors and turn members into a developing civilian society that is culturally self-sufficient, while the Saudi model depends on a closed family group which cannot absorb people from outside its framework.
 
3. Islam in Saudi Arabia is institutionalized. The Sharia scholars and legal arbiters have been inseparable from the regime since the founding of the kingdom, and all their legal writings - books, treatises and decisions - are meant to strengthen the regime and give it religious legitimacy. In contrast, the religious approach of the "Brothers" is inherently oppositionary and intended to enable anti-institutional activities in the countries in which the organization functions - Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Iraq, Israel, among others. The Palestinian branch of the "Brothers" created a terror organization, Hamas. All the religious writings of the MB scholars is intended to justify their struggle against the governments of the countries in which they reside. It is impossible to bridge the gap between Saudi institutionalized Islam and the MB's revolutionary Islam.
 
4. The organizational model of the "Brothers" allows them to expand their activities and influence to other countries, including those without a Muslim majority, such as Israel, Europe and the USA. In contrast, the family organizational model of the Saudis is limited to Saudi Arabia and the Arab Emirates, and its influence can only reach outside those countries by buying supporters and involving itself financially in  efforts to spread Islam.
 
The fact that the "Brothers" can expand their influence and presence to new communities causes the Saudis and the Emirates to feel that they are losing the contest for supremacy.
 
5. The Saudi approach to Islam is "Salafist", which sanctifies the original, glorious past of Islam as a religion whose states are ruled by uncompromising . religious tenets.  The Saudis view the "Brothers" as a modern political movement that has transformed Islam into a pragmatic ideology willing to reach compromises with other prevalent civilian ideologies, even those that oppose Islam or do not hold its beliefs.  The official positive attitude of the "Brothers' to the Egyptian Copts, for example, infuriates the Saudis.
 
6. The lslamic legal system prevalent in Egypt is the Hanfit system, whereas the one prevalent in Saudi Arabia is the fundamentalist and extreme version of the Hanbal system, known as Wahhabism. Since the Hanfit system is less stringent than Wahhabism, the "Brothers" are seen by the Saudis as lacking respect for Islam.  Wahhabists, for example, force a woman to cover her face with a niqab when going outside in public, forbid her from going out without a male family member as escort, prevent her from driving and working in most professions. The Hanfists, on the other hand, allow a woman to go out by herself, uncover her face, drive and work in any respectable field. The Saudis have no religious expectations from the Egyptian military, but the irreverent attitude of the "Brothers" angers them.
 
7. In Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates there are quite a few people who are not connected to the tribal system and the ruling families, so that the "Brother's" ideology is suited to their way of life and thinking. They would like to see the Saud famiy ruling the country and the ruling families in the Emirates exchanged for a non-family-tribal cadre. The rise of the "Brothers" to the position of Egyptian president encouraged this trend and spread suspicion among the ruling families  who fear that the "Brother's" ideology may threaten the stability of their regimes. Dhahi Khalfan Tamim, the head of the Dubai police, said that the danger the "Brothers" pose to the Emirates is greater than that posed by Iran.
 
8. During the twentieth century, an economic rift developed between Saudi Arabia and the Emirates on the one hand, and the poor populations of Egypt and other Arab countries, people who are the natural breeding ground for the "Brothers".  The stark contrast between the wealth of the Arabian Peninsula and the poverty, neglect, backwardness, diseases and ignorance in the other Arab lands created envy, hate, suspicion and intrigues between the two sides.
 
Evening papers in Arab countries portray the Saudis and leaders of the Emirates as grotesquely fat and round, an image not divorced from reality. Undoubtedly, the "Brothers'" popularity with the vast Arabic masses is much greater than that of the ruling House of Saudi, a situation which causes the Saudis much discomfort. 
 
In a cartoon, a typical Palestinian Arab in Khan Yunis says to the Saudis: "You are all traitors" because of their silence on what is going on in Gaza. The artist? Omia Jucha, wife of one of the heads of Hamas, Rami Saad.
 
9. The Peninsula countries have had a symbiotic relationship with the West for decades. They supply the West with oil and gas, while the West protects them from external threats, such as Russia, Arab nationalism of the Gamal Abdul Nasser kind and the undercover activities of the Baath regimes of Syria, Iraq and Iran. To the Muslim Brotherhood, the West is the main enemy of the Middle Eastern nations: the British conquest of Egypt in the last quarter of the 19th century, the British and French conquest of the Levant after WWI, the establishment of the State of Israel, materialism, theft of natural resources, political hegemony and permissiveness that pervade the western media and reach every home in the Middle east are viewed by the "Brothers" as a Western attack on Islamic culture, policies and economic interests.
 
The contrast between Muslim Brotherhood's attitude towards the United States and that of the Arabian Peninsula exacerbated the tension between the two sides.
 
10. Jerusalem remains the central point in the conflict between the "Brothers" and Saudi Arabia, although this dispute is not waged in public and must be read between the lines. The "Brothers" made their views on Jerusalem clear on May 1, 2012, in a speech by MB leader Sheikh Safwat Hijazi to hundreds of thousands of supporters during Morsi's presidential election campaign: "We have seen the dream of the Islamic Caliphate, the Land of the Caliphate, come to pass - Allah willing - the group (MB, ed.) and its party. We have seen the great dream that we all dream of,  the 'United Arab Nations'.  The 'United Arab Nations' will return, Allah willing, by this man's hand, with the help of his party. And the capital of the 'United Arab Nations' will be Jerusalem, Allah willing (loud approval from the crowd). Our capital will not be Cairo, nor Mecca nor Medina, Allah willing, and our slogan will be "Millions of shahids march on Jerusalem" (as the crowd fanatically shouts the slogan).
 
Another instance of Jerusalem's centrality to the MB occurred in 2001 when the leader of the Northern branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel, Sheikh Raad Salah, announced his  intention of bringing water from the Zamzam well in Mecca to Jerusalem, in order to stress Jerusalem's holiness and its connection to Mecca. When the Saudis heard of his plan, they kept him from attending the Haj. They did not offer an explanation, but everyone knew why he was not allowed to reach Mecca.
 
In general, the Saudis hardly mention Jerusalem, and when they do, it is to say that it must be returned to the Palestinians. This keeps them from being seen as Zionists, but it seems as if they fear that if Jerusalem becomes the capital of a Palestinian state, it will become the focus of Islamism rather than Mecca. The Palestinian Arab leader might call himself "Guardian of the El Aksa Mosque", a title that overshadows the Saudi king, who is "Guardian of two holy places.
 
It is important to note that the rivalry between the Hijaz center of Islam with Mecca as its holy city and Medina its capital, and the political center in Greater Syria (Alsham) with Damascus as its capital and Jerusalem its holy city, broke out in the seventh century, almost 1400 years ago. That was when the first Umayyad Caliph, Muawiya ibn Abi Sufyan, moved the capital from Medina to Damascus. Later on, in 682 C.E., he chose Jerusalem as an alternative for the Haj because of a revolt that broke out in Mecca, preventing Syrian pilgrims from attending the Haj.  The great Islamic arbiter Ibn Taymiyyah (d. 1328), whose decisions are adhered to by the Saudi Wahhabists, lowered the level of Jerusalem's importance and holiness to that of every other Islamic city, because he knew that its "holiness" was only the result of a political, ethnic and personal dispute. The rivalry between the two centers - the Hijaz Mecca and the Alsham Jerusalem continues to this day, and adds to the tension between the Muslim Brotherhood and Saudi Arabia. 
 
Egypt has Salafist groups which are growing and spreading; their Islamic practice and way of life is becoming similar to that of the the Saudis. They oppose the "Brothers" and cooperate with Sisi and his security forces against the "Brothers". Thus, the "Muslim Brotherhood" in Egypt and the Hamas, its cohort in Gaza, find themselves caught between the hammer of Sisi and his security forces and the anvil of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Emirates. This is one of the main factors behind Hamas' search for ways to go back to cooperating with the PLO.
 
The abyss separating the countries of the Arabian Peninsula, except for Qatar, and the "Muslim Brotherhood" is wide and deep, and the developments of the past three years in the Middle East have only served to make it wider and deeper.  
 
 
Dr. Mordechai KedarDr. Mordechai Kedar
Dr. Mordechai Kedar is a senior lecturer in the Department of Arabic at Bar-Ilan University. He served in IDF Military Intelligence for 25 years, specializing in Arab political discourse, Arab mass media, Islamic groups and the Syrian domestic arena.

Obama's Kiss of Death to Saudi Arabia

Category: Op-Eds
Created on Friday, 02 May 2014 18:53
Saudi Arabias Crown Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud escort President Barack ObamaThe kiss-of-death (In Italian: Il bacio della morte) is the sign given by a mafia boss to a family-mob-member that signifies that the specific family-mob-member has been marked for death.  Marlon Brando, playing Don Corleone, made it famous in the "Godfather" movies. 
 
Obama has just given the Saudis a kiss-of-death, and the Saudis know it.
 
As a backdrop to recent events, on May 19, 2011, President Obama spoke concerning his war on Muammar Qaddafi:
 
“Unfortunately, in too many countries, calls for change have thus far been answered by violence.  The most extreme example is Libya, where Muammar Qaddafi launched a war against his own people, promising to hunt them down like rats... 
 
"But in Libya, we saw the prospect of imminent massacre, we had a mandate for action, and heard the Libyan people’s call for help.  Had we not acted along with our NATO allies and regional coalition partners, thousands would have been killed.  The message would have been clear:  Keep power by killing as many people as it takes.”
 
During the first three days of the US attack against Qaddafi in 2011, the US  fired 124 precision Tomahawk missiles (costing 1 million dollars a piece), flew hundreds air sorties, and instituted a no-fly zone against Qaddafi.
 
On to much more recent events. On Friday, March 28, 2014, while about to leave for Saudi Arabia, Obama opined on his failure to attack Assad when the Syrian ruler gassed over a thousand people to death:
 
“It is, I think, a false notion that somehow we were in a position to, through a few selective strikes, prevent the kind of hardship we’ve seen in Syria. It’s not that it’s not worth it.
 
"It’s that after a decade of war, the United States has limits.
 
"And it’s not clear whether the outcome, in fact, would have turned out significantly better.
 
"To look at a country like Syria and see how it’s been torn apart, to see the humanitarian crisis that’s taking place, surely, that is not consistent with any reasonable interpretation of what Islam is all about, to see children starving or murdered, to see families having to abandon their homes.”
 
After the Saudi meetings, Voice of America reported:
 
1) Topping the list of concerns is Iran - a rival of Saudi Arabia.
 
2) The Saudis also have grievances about Obama's decision to not follow up on his threats to strike at the Syrian government after its poison gas attack in a Damascus suburb last year, and what the Saudis see as Washington's reluctance to arm Syrian rebels.
 
3) The White House says that while the U.S. and Saudi views have - in the words of one senior official - “not been exactly aligned,” there is no fundamental split in the relationship between the United States and Saudi Arabia.
 
And here are a few observations:
 
1) The Saudis didn’t raise the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  In fact, by the Arab League’s recent “10 No’s” vote a couple of days before, the Saudis turned Obama’s pre-condition of “Israel-Surrender-'West-Bank'-First, then form Arab-Israel alliance against Iran-second” on its head.
 
The Saudis in effect made their pre-condition Obama’s neutering of their Shiite Iranian monster first and last.  Once Iran is dead and buried, the Saudis will talk about the Palestinian Arabs. The Saudis had de facto protected Israel’s flank by pushing the maximalist Arab League position which thus insured that Abbas couldn’t compromise on an inch (not that he would have anyway).
 
2) The Saudis will now be convinced that Obama is lying through his teeth on everything concerning Iran.  Obama says, “It’s not clear whether the [Syrian] outcome, in fact, would have turned out significantly better.”  Obama may be able to lie to American’s about ObamaCare, but he’s not going to sell the Saudis the same lying rug for a fifth time.
 
3) In 2011, Obama dropped 124 unmanned Tomahawks on Qaddafi in 3 days before he had barely killed even a thousand people, but in 2014, after Assad had murdered 120,000 Sunnis like “rats,” we hear that “It’s that after a decade of war, the United States has limits.” 
 
Obama has confirmed the Saudis worst fears, no matter how one looks at it. If Obama is telling the truth, America is finished in the Middle East, and can’t defend the House of Saudi; but if Obama is lying, he is lying so badly, it’s hard to contain one’s laughter.
 
40 Obama reiterated over and over - before he was elected - that he’s not a “Muslim.”  However, he seems to present himself as an absolute authority on what “Islam” is all about, and especially about the specific meanings of Iran’s various anti-nuclear “fatwas” - the ones that no one has ever seen!  Nevertheless, Obama explains to us, benighted infidels, that Assad and Iran’s murdering of 200,000 Sunnis in Syria and having Shiite Muslim snipers “shoot-to-maim-not-kill” Sunni Muslim children, “is not consistent with any reasonable interpretation of what Islam is all about, to see children starving or murdered, to see families having to abandon their homes.” 
 
Is Obama really serious about that statement?  Is he saying, “Islam is only about murdering Jews and Christians, but not other Muslims”?  Can it be that he doesn’t watch the news? He has dropped his golf-handicap a couple of strokes.
 
Obama is so busy 24/7/365 trying to push Israel into 1967-Auschwitz Borders that will irrevocably weaken the Jewish State, that he doesn’t think of anything else.
 
In conclusion, this is the way the Saudi's see it: Either Obama is so delusional that he really believes what he is saying, or Obama is the biggest fabricator the world has ever seen.  Either way, the Saudis now see Obama as an Iranian-stooge, and realize that they have to face a nuclear-Iran without any U.S. defense.
 
And this is the way the Israeli's see it: Any Obama security guarantees for either the “peace” process or Iran are either total lies, or totally worthless because “It’s that after a decade of war, the United States has limits.” For Obama, after he creates a “West Bank” Palestinian state and/or if Iran develops a nuclear bomb, saving 6 million Jews will be outside “the United States’ limits.”
 
Israel is going to have to face Iran without the U.S., and possibly with Obama defending Iran by giving Iran a head’s-up warning when Israel launches any attack.
 
mark langfanMark Langfan
The writer, who specializes in security issues, has created an original educational 3d Topographic Map System of Israel to facilitate clear understanding of the dangers facing Israel and its water supply. It has been studied by US lawmakers and can be seen at www.marklangfan.com

Saudi Arabia Orders 'Anti-Islamic' Website Closed

Category: Islam
Created on Sunday, 20 April 2014 12:27
british-muslimA Saudi court in Jeddah has ordered the permanent closure of a liberal website for publishing what was perceived as “anti-Islamic content”, Al Arabiya reported on Sunday, citing the Saudi news website Sabq.
 
According to Sabq, a number of Saudis had demanded the closure of the Saudi Liberal Network for posting stories and comments that are considered against religion and morality.
 
The website said the court’s decision “prompted good reactions by many of those who had called for such an action and had filed lawsuits against the network and its members,” according to Al Arabiya.
 
In August last year, a court sentenced the founder of the website Zaef Badawi to seven years and three months in jail in addition to 600 flogs “for establishing a liberal website and adopting the liberal thinking and insulting Islam,” Sabq reported.
 
A higher court later overturned that decision and ordered a retrial by a different court.
 
Saudi Arabia, which is notorious for its violations of human rights, recently introduced a series of new laws which define atheists as terrorists.
 
Lashes are a common punishment in the kingdom for offenses such as insulting the King, blasphemy, or even insulting members of one’s own tribe.
 
Despite its less than stellar human rights record, the kingdom recently won a seat on the UN Human Rights Council, being one of several countries with questionable 

U.S. Blasts Saudis for Barring American-Israeli Reporter

Category: News
Created on Wednesday, 26 March 2014 07:53
056f534057d551c349211be2f22d88d8The United States on Tuesday slammed Saudi Arabia for refusing a visa to a an American journalist working for Israeli media who planned to cover President Barack Obama's visit to the kingdom, AFP reported.
 
The Jerusalem Post’s Washington bureau chief, U.S. citizen Michael Wilner, was the only journalist to be denied a visa to Saudi Arabia to cover Obama's brief visit on Friday, according to AFP.
 
In response, deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes told reporters that Washington was "very disappointed by the Saudi decision."
 
"It certainly should not be the case that the affiliation of a journalist should in any way count against their ability to do their job, just because they work for The Jerusalem Post," Rhodes said.
 
Rhodes said that the White House made clear its concerns to Saudi Arabia.
 
The Jerusalem Post, in an editorial quoted by AFP, said that top U.S. officials, including national security adviser Susan Rice, personally appealed to the kingdom to issue a visa but to no avail.
 
A spokesman for the Saudi embassy in Washington did not immediately return a message seeking comment.
 
The White House Correspondents Association said that the refusal of the visa to Wilner, who planned to travel directly to Saudi Arabia, was "outrageous."
 
"The denial is an affront not only to this journalist, but to the entire White House press corps and to the principle of freedom of the press that we hold so dear," it said, according to AFP.
 
Like most Arab countries, Saudi Arabia has no formal relations with Israel, but Iran, the Saudis’ rival, has claimed that Israel and Saudi Arabia are conducting secret contacts.
 
In late December the semi-official Iranian Fars news agency claimed that a Saudi Arabian delegation had flown to Israel for meetings with high-ranking Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.
 
Israel did not respond to the report.
 
Two weeks earlier, an Iranian report claimed that the head of the Saudi intelligence service met with several senior Israeli security officials, including the head of the Israeli Mossad, in Geneva on November 27.
 
An earlier Fars report said that Israel and Saudi Arabia had teamed up to launch a virus against Iran’s nuclear program.
 
Last month, Prince Turki al-Faisal, the former head of the Saudi intelligence services, complimented Justice Minister Tzipi Livni at the international security conference in Munich. In December, the same Prince Turki Al-Faisal met and spoke with MK Meir Sheetrit of Livni’s Hatnua party and with Itamar Rabinovich, formerly Israel’s ambassador to the United States.
 
The Saudis insist, however, that they will not recognize Israel or hold contacts with it as long as it refuses to accept the Arab Peace Plan which Riyadh introduced in 2002.
 
The plan says that 22 Arab countries will normalize ties with Israel in return for an Israeli withdrawal to the indefensible and narrow pre-1967 borders and Israeli acceptance of the "right of return" for millions of descendants of Arabs who fled pre-state Israel, effectively bringing an end to the Jewish state.

US Hiding Report on Radical Saudi School Textbooks

Category: News
Created on Tuesday, 25 March 2014 14:19
KoranUS President Barack Obama stands poised to visit Saudi Arabia later in the month, to discuss "countering violent extremism" among other things. However, a report has revealed the US has kept secret an extensive study of Saudi textbooks, traditionally rife with Islamic extremism, since the end of 2012 - casting doubts over the seriousness of the administration to tackle the root causes of Islamic extremism.
 
The study, commissioned in a reported $500,000 State Department contract in 2011, was the most comprehensive ever commissioned. Completed in late 2012, the findings with their implications on radical indoctrination and anti-Semitism have been kept hidden from the public.
 
However, a new report published by the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a Washington-based think-tank, quoting sources familiar with the hidden study, notes Saudi textbooks still “create a climate that fosters exclusivity, intolerance, and calls to violence that put religious and ethnic minorities at risk.”
 
Michael Posner, Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor in Obama's first term when the study was commissioned, told The Daily Beast that the option was always open to publish the study, even if that wasn't the original intention.
 
“We commissioned the study to assess and evaluate the content of the textbooks with the intention of sharing our findings with the Saudi government and with the option, depending on the findings, of making it public if the problems persisted,” Posner remarked.
 
Posner noted the security dangers associated with Saudi Arabia's traditionally hateful textbooks, given that such learning materials radicalize the next generation. Alarmingly, the textbooks aren't only used in Saudi schools; they are sent free of charge to Muslim schools worldwide, including in the US.
 
"Jews are pigs and monkeys"
 
“Among the references that were most offensive were commentaries that linked Christians and Jews to apes and pigs,” Posner revealed. “If those references are still in some textbooks then the problem hasn’t been solved.”
 
An example of the anti-Semitic content in Saudi textbooks was revealed in a 2006 cable from the US embassy in Riyadh. Disclosed on WikiLeaks, the cable reports that an eighth grade textbook reads "God will punish any Muslim who does not literally obey God just as God punished some Jews by turning them into pigs and monkeys.”
 
This is not the first time that the standards of the Saudi education system have been brought up in a questionable light; in February it was revealed that education departments in several regions banned female employees and visitors who do not wear a face veil from entering girls’ schools.
 
More recently, Saleh Al-Fawzan, a member of the Saudi Council of Senior Scholars, claimed on Saudi TV that the sun revolves around the earth, quoting the Koran as his source.
 
A possible factor behind US reservations in exposing Saudi textbooks could be attempts to avoid exacerbating the growing rift between the two countries. The widening gap in relations is seen in part as stemming from Obama's spoken support for the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, which is opposed by the Saudis, and Obama's limited response to the ongoing Syrian war.

The Obama Interview that 'Launched a Thousand' MANPADS

Category: Op-Eds
Created on Wednesday, 19 March 2014 09:02
Obama-00A recent January 27, 2014 New Yorker interview of direct, Obama-vetted quotes by President Obama himself describing his Middle East policy is bound to cause a titanic battle between Saudi Arabia and Iran.
 
The specific President Obama quoted statement in the New Yorker interview was:
 
"If we were able to get Iran to operate in a responsible fashion—not funding terrorist organizations, not trying to stir up sectarian discontent in other countries, and not developing a nuclear weapon—you could see an equilibrium developing between Sunni, or predominantly Sunni, Gulf states and Iran in which there’s competition, perhaps suspicion, but not an active or proxy warfare."
 
In short, Obama has officially abandoned America's seventy-year-old, "Iron-clad" Roosevelt policy of absolute US protection of Saudi Arabia and instead has adopted a policy of "Let Iran annihilate Saudi Arabia and all the Sunnis."  In this single directly quoted sentence, Obama set into motion tectonic forces which will burst into a full blown regional hot war between the Iran-Axis and Saudi Arabia and all the Sunnis. 
 
The reason for this is that the Saudis knew from the get-go that Obama had stacked the deck against the Saudis in favor of Iran.  The Saudis know Obama has simultaneously sanctioned Iranian nuclear weapons and stripped the Sunni kingdoms of the American conventional protection.  The first byproduct of Obama's policy that the Wall Street Journal reported is that the Saudis are now arming the rebels with Chinese “MAN-Portable-Anti-aircraft Defense Systems," or MANPADS.  
 
There are 6 reasons that show that Obama's real policy is "Let the Iranians annihilate the Sunnis."  More importantly, they show why Obama’s newly-stated policy is attractive to Republican Isolationists who threaten the very existence of the Unites States of America.
 
1.  Obama's condition that, "If we were able to get Iran to operate in a responsible fashion" is as likely to happen as Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei agreeing in writing to let the Jews rebuild the Temple Mount and raze Al-Aska Mosque.
 
Imagine if Roosevelt had said to Churchill in 1940, "If Hitler and his Nazis start behaving, the Nazis and the British will kill each other off, balance-up and contain each other inside Europe." 
 
Moreover, it proves to the Saudis once again, that Obama is an Iranian stooge.  It proves Obama knows he's lying through his teeth and is just perpetrating the same sub rosa Pro-Iranian fraud he's been perpetrating on the Saudis since he first took office.  It proves Obama is quietly watching Iran murder Syrian Sunnis, and isn't lifting a finger or meaningfully arming the Syrian Rebels.  The Saudis surely have concluded that if Obama would blithely watch Iran murder over 200,000 Syrian Sunnis, Obama would let Iran murder millions of Saudi Sunnis.  And after Obama has watched Iran swallow the Sunnis' oil reserves whole and control 65% of the world’s oil reserves, then there's Obama's next victim: Israel.
 
2. Obama has officially adopted an explicit US Policy of Iranian nuclear "containment." 
 
Obama's disastrous Geneva-Iran nuclear deal aside, the second part of Obama's interview quote has Obama explicitly declaring a new "containment" policy of a nuclear Iran.  Again back to the interview's directly quoted Obama:
 
"And so I think each individual piece of the puzzle is meant to paint a picture in which conflicts and competition still exist in the region but that it is contained, it is expressed in ways that don’t exact such an enormous toll on the countries." 
 
Obama's explicitly stated "But that is contained" phrase exposes his Iranian Zero-nuclear policy for the scam it always was.  Does Obama think that the Saudis only ride camels and can't read English?  And when Obama's two  sentences are read together it means total war to the Saudis.
 
3. The Persian Gulf's "Black Gold Triangle" holds virtually all the Middle East's oil.
 
All Middle East oil sits under a triangle divided in thirds between the Saudis, Iran and Iraq.  Obama gave Iraq to Iran and hence Iran already controls 2/3 of the Gulf's "Black Gold Triangle" oil.  The only 1/3 left is Saudi Arabia.  Iraq and Iran have already threatened a concerted oil price war against the Saudis.  With the Iran-Iraq combined reserves, Iran's cash flow will decimate the Saudis just when the Saudis need the funds to defend Sunnis. 
 
All of the Saudi Arabian oil is sitting in the Saudi eastern provinces that have Shiite majorities. Iran doesn't have to invade the entire country of Saudi Arabia to control 100% of Saudi's oil.  All it needs to take is the 5% of Saudi Arabia sitting on the western part of the Gulf.  Iran will first sweep the western Persian Gulf, "liberate" their fellow Shiites, and hold the whole 65% of the world's oil and economies hostage. Iran's post-Sunni Kingdoms' invasion's diktat will be simple: Buy our oil at pre-invasion prices, and have 'peace' for now, or start a war for the "despotic-colonialist" Saudis, and destroy your economies for decades if not centuries to come.  Which will Obama (and the Chinese) choose??
 
4. Sunnis are divided and the Iranians and Shiites are unified.
 
Iran's population of 60 million alone dwarfs the Saudis of 20 million.  The Iranians have been on a war footing for years and have built a substantial conventional order of battle compared to the Saudis. When coupled with the Shiites of Iraq, the relative ratios get even uglier.  All the Sunni kingdoms are fractured and are already under heavy Iranian pressure. Obama and the Russians are both arming Iraq, which is Iran's puppet, and hence they have both been arming the Saudis' arch-enemy.  And, to make matters worse, Obama has done nothing to stop the Iranian-backed Shiite Houtis to Saudi Arabia's south in Yemen.
 
5. The topographic asymmetry of Iran's Zagros Mountains in the eastern Persian Gulf versus the flatness of the western Persian Gulf protects Iran and hopelessly exposes the Saudis.
 
Any conventional Sunni attack westward against Iran through the Zagros Mountains is impossible.  But contra-wise, the western portion of the Persian Gulf that comprises Saudi Arabia and all the Sunni kingdoms is flat and could be overrun by Iran in mere days.
 
6. An Iranian nuclear-umbrella would paralyze any American response to an Iranian conventional invasion of Eastern Saudi Arabia, while nothing would stop the Iranians from using nuclear weapons offensively first. 
 
A more likely Iranian nuclear strategy would be to conventionally attack the Saudis and hold the nukes as a paralyzing counter to an American attempt at a conventional counter-attack.  Imagine if Saddam Hussein had had nuclear weapons when he attacked and occupied Kuwait.  Even the elder President Bush would have balked at deploying the 500,000 US troops to neighboring Saudi Arabia necessary to re-take Kuwait.  So, if the Iranians had even a small nuclear arsenal, and Iran swept the Persian Gulf coast, they would have an instant check-mate against any US convention re-invasion. 
 
And, where exactly would the Americans land troops to re-take Saudi Arabia?  In Western Saudi Arabia?  In Mecca and Medina?  Any attempted American conventional thrust through the Islamic holy places would surely bring Nuclear Armageddon and expose US troops to mass-annihilation.  Meanwhile, the Chinese would be protecting Iran at the UN and cutting a 50-year Sino-Iranian oil deal.
 
In sum, Obama’s unmistakable, undeniable fealty to Iran has pushed the Saudis over the Rubicon.  And, there's no turning back.
 
For more information, please visit www.marklangfan.com
 
 
mark langfanMark Langfan
The writer, who specializes in security issues, has created an original educational 3d Topographic Map System of Israel to facilitate clear understanding of the dangers facing Israel and its water supply. It has been studied by US lawmakers and can be seen at www.marklangfan.com

Saudi Cleric Claims: The Sun Revolves Around the Earth

Category: Islam
Created on Wednesday, 19 March 2014 08:06
The Sun Revolves Around the EarthWe have all been taught at school that the Earth revolves around the sun, but, according to a senior Saudi cleric, we’ve been misled.
 
In fact, Saleh Al-Fawzan, a member of the Saudi Council of Senior Scholars, recently claimed in a televised interview that not only does the Earth not revolve around the sun, the opposite is true.
 
Al-Fawzan’s proof for his claim that the sun revolved around the Earth is none other than the Koran. The interview aired on Saudi Channel 1 and was translated by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI).
 
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In the interview, the host asks Al-Fawzan, “Allah says in a Koranic verse: ‘And the sun runs towards its stopping point. That is the determination of the All-Powerful, the All-Knowing.’ Does the sun revolve around the earth?”
 
Saleh Al-Fawzan replies by saying, “There is no doubt about it. The Koran says: ‘The sun runs…’ Nevertheless, they say that the sun stands in place and the Earth moves. This contradicts the Koran.”
 
“Ignoring the Koran and adopting modern theories is not something a Muslim can do. A Muslim must follow the Koran,” he adds.
 
In another recent science-related claim by Muslims, an Iranian cleric declared that famed Jewish scientist Albert Einstein was not Jewish at all.
 
In fact, said Ayatolla Mahadavi Kani, Einstein was a Shiite Muslim who converted to Islam and got the idea for his Theory of Relativity from Islam.

Saudi Arabia Blacklists Muslim Brotherhood and Syrian Jihadists

Category: News
Created on Thursday, 13 March 2014 00:12
Muslim Brotherhood during a protest in Cairo -ReutersSaudi Arabia on Friday blacklisted the Muslim Brotherhood and two Syrian jihadist groups as terrorist organizations, ordering citizens fighting abroad to return home within 15 days or face imprisonment, AFP reports.
 
The move represents a major escalation against the Brotherhood of deposed Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi and indicates rising concern in Riyadh over the potential risks to domestic security of Saudi extremists fighting in Syria.
 
Riyadh staunchly supports Sunni-led rebels battling to overthrow Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad but has long feared blowback from radical jihadist groups, particularly after a spate of attacks by a local Al-Qaeda franchise from 2003 to 2006.
 
Friday's move came two days after Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates recalled their ambassadors from Qatar, which supports Islamists groups in the region and was a backer of the Brotherhood.
 
A list published by the interior ministry designates as terrorist organizations the Brotherhood, Al-Nusra Front, is Al-Qaeda's official Syrian affiliate, and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), a jihadist group fighting in both Syria and Iraq.
 
Also blacklisted are Shiite Muslim rebels known as Huthis in northern Yemen and "Hezbollah inside the kingdom," a reference to a little-known Shiite group in` overwhelmingly Sunni Saudi Arabia.
 
The interior ministry, in a statement carried by state media, said it will prosecute anyone backing these groups "financially or morally", or who express sympathies for them or seek to promote them through media and social networks.
 
It also forbids "participation in, calling for, or incitement to fighting in conflict zones in other countries."
 
A month ago, Saudi King Abdullah decreed jail terms of up to 20 years for belonging to "terrorist groups" and fighting abroad.
 
Saudis fighting abroad were given a 15-day ultimatum Friday to return home or face imprisonment.
 
Prison also awaits anyone calling for demonstrations or taking part in them, the ministry said.
 
A video released this week featured a testimony from a Saudi who fought in Syria, and who shed light on the inter-rebel civil war that has been raging in the country.
 
In recent months, three powerful rebel alliances – among them Islamist groups - have teamed up to ISIS, which they have warned is even worse than Bashar Al-Assad’s regime.
 
Former Saudi Internet celebrity Suleiman Al-Subaie, known as “Sambateek,” revealed in a television interview that “all the (rebel) factions have begun to accuse one another of heresy. Each faction would accuse the other of heresy in order to fight it.”
 
The regime used to be the only target, but now there is no fighting against it. All the factions are fighting one another. I advise the young people there to leave if they can,” he added.

Saudi Arabia Blacklists Muslim Brotherhood, Syrian Jihadists

Category: News
Created on Friday, 07 March 2014 15:24
Saudi Arabia Blacklists Muslim BrotherhoodSaudi Arabia on Friday blacklisted the Muslim Brotherhood and two Syrian jihadist groups as terrorist organizations, ordering citizens fighting abroad to return home within 15 days or face imprisonment, AFP reports.
 
The move represents a major escalation against the Brotherhood of deposed Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi and indicates rising concern in Riyadh over the potential risks to domestic security of Saudi extremists fighting in Syria.
 
Riyadh staunchly supports Sunni-led rebels battling to overthrow Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad but has long feared blowback from radical jihadist groups, particularly after a spate of attacks by a local Al-Qaeda franchise from 2003 to 2006.
 
Friday's move came two days after Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates recalled their ambassadors from Qatar, which supports Islamists groups in the region and was a backer of the Brotherhood.
 
A list published by the interior ministry designates as terrorist organizations the Brotherhood, Al-Nusra Front, is Al-Qaeda's official Syrian affiliate, and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), a jihadist group fighting in both Syria and Iraq.
 
Also blacklisted are Shiite Muslim rebels known as Huthis in northern Yemen and "Hezbollah inside the kingdom," a reference to a little-known Shiite group in` overwhelmingly Sunni Saudi Arabia.
 
The interior ministry, in a statement carried by state media, said it will prosecute anyone backing these groups "financially or morally", or who express sympathies for them or seek to promote them through media and social networks.
 
It also forbids "participation in, calling for, or incitement to fighting in conflict zones in other countries."
 
A month ago, Saudi King Abdullah decreed jail terms of up to 20 years for belonging to "terrorist groups" and fighting abroad.
 
Saudis fighting abroad were given a 15-day ultimatum Friday to return home or face imprisonment.
 
Prison also awaits anyone calling for demonstrations or taking part in them, the ministry said.
 
A video released this week featured a testimony from a Saudi who fought in Syria, and who shed light on the inter-rebel civil war that has been raging in the country.
 
In recent months, three powerful rebel alliances – among them Islamist groups - have teamed up to ISIS, which they have warned is even worse than Bashar Al-Assad’s regime.
 
Former Saudi Internet celebrity Suleiman Al-Subaie, known as “Sambateek,” revealed in a television interview that “all the (rebel) factions have begun to accuse one another of heresy. Each faction would accuse the other of heresy in order to fight it.”
 
The regime used to be the only target, but now there is no fighting against it. All the factions are fighting one another. I advise the young people there to leave if they can,” he added.

New Saudi Law: 20 Years for Belonging to Terrorist Groups

Category: News
Created on Wednesday, 05 February 2014 20:22
Saudi security forces -AFPSaudi King Abdullah on Monday decreed jail terms of up to 20 years for belonging to "terrorist groups" and fighting abroad, AFP reported.
 
The new law comes as part of Saudi Arabia’s struggles to deter Islamist Saudis from becoming jihadists.
 
"Taking part in combat outside the kingdom, in any form" will be punished by jail terms of between three and 20 years, said the decree published by state news agency SPA.
 
Similar sentences will be passed on those belonging to "extremist religious and ideological groups, or those classified as terrorist organizations, domestically, regionally and internationally," the decree said, according to AFP.
 
Supporting such groups, adopting their ideology or promoting them "through speech or writing" would also incur prison terms, the decree added.
 
Rights group Amnesty International sharply criticized the new legislation, saying it could be used to suppress peaceful political dissent because the law used an "overly vague definition of terrorism".
 
"The Saudi Arabian authorities are seeking legal cover to entrench their ability to crack down on peaceful dissent and silence human rights defenders," Amnesty's Said Boumedouha said in a statement quoted by AFP.
 
Saudi Arabia set up specialized terrorism courts in 2011 to try dozens of nationals and foreigners accused of belonging to Al-Qaeda or being involved in a wave of bloody attacks that swept the country from 2003.
 
As part of its efforts to fight terrorism, the kingdom last year opened a luxury rehabilitation center in Riyadh, featuring counseling, spa treatments and exercise for convicted Al-Qaeda terrorists.
 
Scores of Saudis are believed to have joined Islamist extremists fighting in Syria, where Riyadh is a strong backer of the nearly three-year rebellion against the regime of President Bashar Al-Assad.
 
The Saudis have reportedly been providing the rebel groups that are considered to be moderate with anti-tank missiles.
 
Last week it was reported that the U.S. Congress had approved funding for light arms for the moderate rebel groups in Syria.

Livni Receives Compliments from Saudi Official

Category: News
Created on Sunday, 02 February 2014 23:42
Prince Turki al-FaisalJustice Minister Tzipi Livni received compliments on Friday from none other than the former head of Saudi intelligence, the Walla! news website reports.
 
The incident took place at the international security conference in Munich, where Livni was taking part in a panel with the chief Palestinian Authority (PA) negotiator, Saeb Erekat. In the audience was, among others, Prince Turki Al-Faisal of Saudi Arabia.
 
During the panel discussion, Walla! reported, Livni and Erekat argued over the issue of mutual recognition of Israel and the future Palestinian state. Livni explained that ending the conflict between the sides must be based on mutual understanding that each country is a national solution for one of the nations.
 
Erekat, for his part, said the Israeli demand that the PA recognize Israel as a Jewish state is unacceptable because, he claimed, he represents the Biblical Canaanites who “lived in the region 5,500 years before Joshua Bin-Nun came and burned my hometown Jericho.”
 
Livni also stressed the importance of security arrangements, according to Walla!, saying that "we will have to be able look at the citizens of Israel in the eye and say that Judea and Samaria will not become a copy of Gaza."
 
Erekat responded by telling Livni that “no one is persecuting you”, to which the Justice Minister responded by outlining the various terrorist attacks that have taken place recently.
 
As she finished speaking, Walla! said, the Saudi prince got up and told Livni, “I understand why you are the Israeli negotiator.”
 
Livni responded by saying, “I wish you could sit with me on stage and talk about it." The Saudi official did not respond to her invitation, the report noted, but at times during the event was seen sitting next to and speaking with former defense minister Ehud Barak, who was in attendance as well.
 
This was not the first time that the Saudi prince openly spoke with Israeli officials. In December, the same Prince Turki Al-Faisal met and spoke with MK Meir Sheetrit of Livni’s Hatnua party and with Itamar Rabinovich, formerly Israel’s ambassador to the United States.
 
In recent months there have been reports, mostly by Iranian media outlets, that Israel and Saudi Arabia are strengthening their ties.
 
In late December the semi-official Fars news agency claimed that a Saudi Arabian delegation had flown to Israel for meetings with high-ranking Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.
 
Israel did not respond to the report.
 
Two weeks earlier, an Iranian report claimed that the head of the Saudi intelligence service met with several senior Israeli security officials, including the head of the Israeli Mossad, in Geneva on November 27.
 
An earlier Fars report said that Israel and Saudi Arabia had teamed up to launch a virus against Iran’s nuclear program.
 
A recent report in the British Sunday Times claimed that Israel and Saudi Arabia may team up to fight Iran if talks between Iran and the West fail to curb Iran’s nuclear program.
 
Saudi Arabia later denied the report, clarifying it "has no relations or contacts with Israel of any kind or at any level.”
 
Both Israel and Saudi Arabia were among the staunchest international opponents to the deal between Western powers and Iran to scale back elements of Tehran's nuclear program.

Egypt Overtaking Saudis As Most Conservative

Category: Islam
Created on Friday, 17 January 2014 09:33
women covering their facesA recent survey of 7 Muslim-majority Middle Eastern countries has revealed conflicting viewpoints in Saudi Arabia, a country that doesn't let women drive and is often considered one of the most repressive nations in terms of women's rights.
 
While nearly 2 out of 3 in Saudi Arabia think women should cover all but their eyes in public, nearly 50% say women should choose how they dress. The latter figure is close to the response in more liberal Lebanon with its large Christian population, and is far more permissive than Iraq, Pakistan or Egypt.
 
Mansoor Moaddel, lead author of the survey published by the Middle Eastern Values Study at the University of Michigan, claims to CNN that the results show Saudia Arabia has "a considerable liberal leaning."
 
"Saudi has had a religious government for a long time," stated Moaddel. "People tend to develop an oppositional attitude."
 
While Saudi Arabia recently allowed its first female lawyer, the nation's religious police enforcing Sharia law have a far from stellar record on women's rights. In March 2002, religious police stopped schoolgirls from escaping a burning school in Mecca because they were not wearing headscarves and black robes, nor were they accompanied by a man. As a result, 15 girls died and 50 were injured.
 
Moaddel argues that Egypt is the most conservative of the Muslim nations, as only 14% there said women should choose their dress, the lowest results among the 7 nations.
 
Furthermore, 19 in 20 Egyptians said a women should be required to obey her husband, the highest result in that question.
 
The findings back research last November which placed Egypt the lowest in the Arab world in terms of women's rights, with Saudi Arabia coming in third worst. A UN report last April found that 99.3% of Egyptian women and girls had been sexually harassed.
 
However, Moaddel assesses the Egyptian position as being sexist without relation to Islam. "The problem with Egypt is not just religion, it is an intellectual trend," said the researcher, adding "Egyptians have become more sexist in the past decade. They have become less religious, less supportive of Sharia (Islamic law), but on the issue of gender, more conservative."
 
The survey found that the generally agreed mode of dress for women in public among the 7 Muslim nations consisted of a tight white headscarf covering everything but the face.
 
Interviews with 2,005 people in Saudi Arabia and at least 3,000 in each of the 6 other countries made up the data for the survey.

Two Saudi Women Detained for Driving

Category: Islam
Created on Friday, 13 December 2013 11:08
Saudi driversSaudi activists said on Wednesday that police have detained two women in Riyadh caught breaking an official ban on females driving.
 
The activists told The Associated Press (AP) that the women were stopped Wednesday afternoon and taken to a local police station where their male relatives were also called in.
 
A long-standing campaign aimed at getting the Saudi Arabian driving ban lifted has recently urged women to defy the ban. In recent situations where women were caught driving, their male relatives were asked to sign statements saying they would not allow the women to drive again.
 
The activists, who spoke on condition of anonymity out of concern for their security, said that Wednesday's detentions are unique because the women have been detained hours longer than usual without being released.
 
Many women have driven since the campaign was launched in 2011, some of them have posted videos of them doing so, and many have been arrested and forced to sign a pledge that they will never drive again.
 
Last year, a Saudi women’s rights activist filed a lawsuit against the country’s interior ministry over the ban.
 
The grand mufti of Saudi Arabia recently claimed that the ban on women driving in the conservative Gulf state protects society from "evil".
 
Human rights group Amnesty International has released a scathing report which levels harsh criticism against Saudi Arabia, accusing it of failing to live up to its pledge to improve human rights.
 
Despite Saudi Arabia’s many violations of human rights, it was recently accepted to the UN Human Rights Council, being one of several countries with questionable human rights records to win seats in this body.

Jordan Elected to UN Security Council

Category: News
Created on Saturday, 07 December 2013 17:57
UN Security CouncilThe UN General Assembly on Friday elected Jordan to the Security Council seat that Saudi Arabia rejected in an unprecedented act, reports The Associated Press.
 
Jordan was elected to the two-year term on the council with 179 "yes" votes in the 193-member General Assembly, according to the report.
 
Jordan was selected by Arab countries and endorsed by Asian nations.
 
Saudi Arabia stunned the diplomatic world by rejecting the Security Council seat on October 17, less than 24 hours after it was elected.
 
The Saudi Foreign Ministry accused the Security Council at the time of failing to end the Syrian and Israeli-Arab conflicts and to convene a conference on creating a Mideast zone free of weapons of mass destruction.
 
One of the reasons for the Saudi decision to reject the Security Council seat may have been to send a message to the United States. Relations between Washington and Riyadh have reportedly been strained since the U.S. backed away from military action against Assad over recent alleged chemical weapons attacks.
 
Most recently, Saudi Arabia has voiced criticism over the deal reached between Iran and the West over its nuclear program.
 
A senior advisor to the Saudi royal family said after the deal was signed that his country was deceived by its American ally in the agreements and will pursue an independent foreign policy in response.
 
Russian President Vladimir Putin has taken advantage of the tension between the Saudis and the Americans and called Saudi King Abdullah last month, perhaps signaling a shift towards alignment with the Russians.
 
Jordan will join four other newcomers - Chad, Nigeria, Lithuania and Chile - to the Security Council on January 1.
 
After it rejected the Security Council seat, Saudi Arabia won a seat on the UN Human Rights Council, being one of several countries with questionable human rights records to win seats in this body.

Saudi Arabia: Muslim Authority Threatens War Over Temple Mount

Category: News
Created on Tuesday, 03 December 2013 08:24
Visiting the Temple MountSaudi Arabia's highest religious council, the Majlis al-Ifta’ al-A’ala, has threatened a "religious war" over any attempts to implement equal prayer rights for Jews on Jerusalem's Temple Mount.
 
The Temple Mount is Judaism's holiest site, the site of two Jewish Temples and where some Jewish traditions state the world began. It is also the site of the large "Al Aqsa" Islamic complex, which is built on top of the ruins of the Jewish Temples. The site itself is administered by the Waqf Islamic trust.
 
In measures Jewish activists decry as discriminatory, only Muslims may pray or carry out any other religious rituals on the Mount. Jews who attempt to pray are regularly arrested. Just yesterday the Mount was closed to Jews after a Jewish group sang songs in honor of the festival of Hanukkah, in response to harassment by Muslim extremists at the site.
 
The council condemned what it said were "Israeli attempts to split the Al Aqsa Mosque" by implementing alternate prayer arrangements for Jewish and Muslim worshippers, as well as by establishing a fixed area for Jewish worship.
 
In an announcement issued on November 30th, the council alleged that "the occupation authorities [i.e. Israel] are trying to create a Jerusalem 2.0", and went on to claim that the Israeli government is trying to "complete the construction of a museum at the foot of the Al Aqsa Mosque". That latter allegation echoes claims by Palestinian Authority media that the Israeli government plans to build a large complex - complete with a "Jewish museum" - near the Mughrabi Gate.
 
Israel has not officially responded to the claims, according to Israel’s Channel 2 News, but similar claims have been made in the past by Muslim extremists to encourage riots and other violence against Israeli police and Jewish worshippers.
 
The council continued by alleging that the ultimate aim of the Israeli government was "to facilitate a breakthrough at the holy Al Aqsa Mosque and to defile it in an intensive way through the settlers [referring to Jewish worshippers - ed.], and by providing them with security".
 
It further warned that "the offensive activity against the holy Palestinian [sic] sites, and first and foremost the holy Al Aqsa Mosque, will turn the region into a ticking time bomb and trigger an imminent religious war", and declared that "the Al Aqsa Mosque, will all its corridors and expanses, and every part of it - both over and underground - is the absolute right of the Muslims alone, and the city of Jerusalem will remain Islamic and Arab".
 
The threat was likely a response to a bill, tabled by Israel's Religious Affairs Minister Rabbi Eli Ben-Dahan, which would put an end to discriminatory practices on the Temple Mount and instate shared prayer arrangements similar to those in effect at the Cave of the Patriarchs (Me'arat Hamachpela) in Hevron.
 
That bill has received angry responses from Muslim parliamentarians and Islamist leaders in Israel, as well as from Islamist groups and the Palestinian Authority, who demand exclusive rights of prayer for Muslims on the Mount, and regularly deny any Jewish claims to Jerusalem in general, and the Temple Mount in particular.
 
Antiquities groups have also condemned the Waqf over the systematic destruction of ancient Jewish artifacts at the site - something they say is part of an overall attempt to "Islamize" the Temple Mount and erase any trace of the Jewish Temples there.
 
At the same sime, Majlis al-Ifta’ al-A’ala condemned the alleged decision by the Angolan government to ban Islam and close all mosques in the African country. In the days since that report initially surfaced, however, the Angolan government has denied the claims.
 
In a statement some may consider ironic given its aggressive opposition to equal prayers rights on the Temple Mount, the council said that "the religion of Islam is religion of the way of the King [i.e. God], of reconciliation and of co-existence, and is the religion of the Lord of the universe, who respects humanity and not terrorism or extremism".

Saudi Cleric: Women Driving Ban Protects Against Evil

Category: Islam
Created on Friday, 29 November 2013 16:43
Women will be issued a restrictive form of licenseThe grand mufti of Saudi Arabia has said a ban on women driving in the conservative Gulf state protects society from "evil", AFP reported on Thursday.
 
Sheikh Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah al-Sheikh, in a speech delivered Wednesday in the western city of Medina, said the issue of giving women the right to drive should not be "one of society's major concerns."
 
The kingdom's most senior cleric called for "the matter to be considered from the perspective of protecting society from evil" which, according to him, included letting women drive.
 
His comments came as activists said they had been assured by Interior Minister Prince Mohammed bin Nayef that authorities were reassessing the controversial Saudi ban on women drivers.
 
"Rest assured that the issue is being discussed, and expect a good outcome," the minister was quoted as saying by activists who met him.
 
The absolute monarchy is the only country in the world where women are barred from driving, a regulation that has drawn condemnation from the international community.
 
Prince Mohammed stressed that the ban was "a matter to be decided by the legislative authority", the activist, Aziza al-Yusef, told AFP.
 
Saudi Arabia has an all-appointed consultative Shura Council, with no elected parliament. The council makes recommendations to the government, but the king remains the absolute legislator.
 
"We expect a royal decree that gives us this right," Yusef said.
 
A long-standing campaign aimed at getting the Saudi Arabian driving ban lifted has recently urged women to defy the ban.
 
Many women have driven since the campaign was launched in 2011, some of them have posted videos of them doing so, and many have been arrested and forced to sign a pledge that they will never drive again.
 
Last year, a Saudi women’s rights activist filed a lawsuit against the country’s interior ministry over the ban.
 
Last month, at least 16 women were stopped by police during a driving protest day and were fined and forced along with their male guardians to promise to obey the kingdom's laws.
 
In addition to the driving ban, Saudi women are forced to cover themselves from head to toe and need permission from a male guardian to travel, work and marry.
 
Human rights group Amnesty International recently released a scathing report which levels harsh criticism against Saudi Arabia, accusing it of failing to live up to its pledge to improve human rights.

Obama Calls Saudi King Amid Tense Relations

Category: News
Created on Thursday, 28 November 2013 13:17
Obama- Saudi King
 
Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz received a phone call on Wednesday from U.S. President Barack Obama during which the two leaders discussed bilateral ties and regional issues, the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported.
 
The phone conversation came days after the United States and other major world powers signed an interim deal with Iran about its nuclear program and amid tensions in relations between the Americans and the Saudis.
 
Saudi Arabia initially said that the interim deal on Iran's nuclear program could be a step towards a comprehensive solution – and hoped it could lead to the removal of weapons of mass destruction from the Middle East.
 
Later, however, a senior advisor to the Saudi royal family said that his country was deceived by its American ally in the agreements and will pursue an independent foreign policy in response.
 
The advisor, Nawaf Obaid, told a think tank meeting in London "we were lied to, things were hidden from us. The problem is not with the deal that was struck in Geneva but how it was done.”
 
The Saudi call for independent policy comes after an interview appeared last Friday in which Saudi Arabia’s UK ambassador, Prince Mohammed bin Nawaf bin Abdulaziz, said his country would not "sit idly by" if the West failed to stop Iran's nuclear program.
 
Relations between Washington and Riyadh have reportedly been strained since the U.S. backed away from military action against Syria over President Bashar Al-Assad’s alleged chemical weapons attacks.
 
Russian President Vladimir Putin called the Saudi King Abdullah earlier this month, perhaps signalling a shift towards alignment with the Russians.

Saudis 'Lied To' by US, Pursue Independent Policy

Category: News
Created on Wednesday, 27 November 2013 06:10
Obama- Saudi king
 
Despite initial positive statements by Saudi Arabia on the Iran nuclear deal reached Sunday in Geneva, a senior advisor to the Saudi royal family said that his country was deceived by its American ally in the agreements and will pursue an independent foreign policy in response.
 
The advisor, Nawaf Obaid, told a think tank meeting in London "we were lied to, things were hidden from us. The problem is not with the deal that was struck in Geneva but how it was done," reports The Telegraph.
 
On Sunday, just after the deal which gave Iran around $7 billion in sanctions relief in return for promises to enrich uranium at lower levels, among other things, revelations showed that US President Barack Obama's administration had been holding secret negotiations with Iran for the past 6 months.
 
The report detailing the secret negotiations added that the talks were kept hidden even from America's allies until recently.
 
Obaid said Saudi Arabia knew about the secret talks with Iran, which occurred through a channel in Oman, but was not directly briefed by the US.
 
The Saudi call for independent policy comes after an interview appeared last Friday in which Saudi Arabia’s UK ambassador, Prince Mohammed bin Nawaf bin Abdulaziz, said his country would not "sit idly by" if the West failed to stop Iran's nuclear program.
 
Israeli leaders have similarly expressed strong criticism of the Iran deal and left the option of a military strike open. While the security interests of the two nations seem to be aligned on this issue, Saudi Arabia denied reports of diplomatic contact with Israel - which the Gulf state does not officially recognize - leading to cooperation on a possible strike.
 
As for the shape Saudi independent policy may take as the nation's US ties grow tense, Russian President Vladimir Putin called the Saudi King Abdullah earlier in the month, perhaps signalling a shift towards alignment with the Russians.
 
Russia just recently sealed a $4 billion arms deal with longtime US ally Egypt, designed to provide Egypt with parity to the IDF. That deal will reportedly be partially funded by oil-rich Saudi Arabia.
 
Furthermore, it has been reported in the past that Saudi Arabia could acquire a nuclear weapon quickly from Pakistan if it felt pressed to do so by Iran's nuclear program.

Iran-linked Group Claims Saudi Arabia Mortar Bombings

Category: News
Created on Friday, 22 November 2013 08:15
Terrorists brandish RPG in GazaSix mortar bombs landed in a remote part of Saudi Arabia near the Iraq and Kuwait border on Thursday. The attack, still under investigation, was claimed by the Iraqi Shi'ite militia group Al Mukhtar Army, which is closely aligned with Iran.
 
Watheq Al-Battat, founder and leader of Al Mukhtar Army, said the bombings were "a warning message to Saudis to tell them that their border stations and patrol are within our range of fire," reports BBC.
 
The clash highlights the rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran, a rivalry that could potentially turn nuclear given Saudi Arabia's reported intention to obtain nuclear warheads from Pakistan should Iran break the nuclear threshold. 
 
Tensions between the two nations have been raised over the war in Syria. Sunni-majority Saudi Arabia backs the Sunni rebels, while Iran and Shi'ite terrorist groups such as Al Mukhtar support President Bashar Assad's regime.
 
The connection between Al Mukhtar and Iran was made very clear in an interview Al-Battat gave on an Iraqi TV station. The interview, which aired October 23, was translated by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI).
 
In the interview Al-Battat said that were a war to break out between Iraq and Iran he would side with Iran against his own country. He added that he would fight for the "Infallible Imam," Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, no matter what.
 
When asked if Iran was behind Al Mukhtar, Al-Battat responded that in terms of politics, "our authority is the leader, Ali Khamenei." 
 
According to Al-Battat his terrorist organization boasts 23,600 "martyrdom-seekers," has international members from Syria, Egypt and Iran, and even members in Sweden.

'No Woman No Drive'

Category: Women rights
Created on Sunday, 27 October 2013 14:29
Hisham FageehJust days after Saudi Arabia's Interior Ministry threatened to use force to stop women violating a ban on female drivers, one man has come up with a creative way to protest the laws, which rights groups have slammed as discriminatory.
 
Hisham Fageeh, who describes himself as "an artist and a social activist", released an accapella rendition of Jamaican reggae singer Bob Marley's single "No Woman No Cry."
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Entitled "No Woman No Drive", the tongue-in-cheek song includes lyrics mocking a recent statement by a prominent Saudi cleric that women shouldn't drive because it could make them infertile.
 
But Fageeh's humorous song has a serious point. 
 
Saudi Arabia has been repeatedly criticized by human rights groups for its poor human rights record.
 
A recent report by Amnesty International accused the Gulf Kingdom of failing to live up to any of its commitments to improve human rights, and said that the Saudi regime had instead escalated its persecution of minorities, women and political dissidents in recent years.
 
The report also noted that the Gulf Kingdom has consistently ranked "as one of the top five executioners in the world, with executions taking place based on summary trials and 'confessions' extracted under torture."
 
Ironically, Saudi Arabia recently refused a seat on the United Nations Security Council, citing the Council’s failure to act against Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad’s crimes against humanity.

Saudi Woman Drives Car Despite Ban

Category: Women rights
Created on Friday, 18 October 2013 08:35
Muslim WomenWomen in Saudi Arabia are not allowed to drive cars, but that certainly hasn’t stopped one Saudi woman from driving and even posting an online video documenting it.
 
The video, posted in Arabic to the internet on October 7, was translated into English by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI).
 
“I'm driving my car on a street near my home, and I see people looking at me without any disapproval. It is as if we [women] have been driving for a long time,” the woman says in the clip.
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“This is not the first time that I am driving, and I will continue to do so,” she stresses. “Usually I drive when I have things to do, such as taking my daughter to school, which is in the neighborhood I live in. I have often driven to my daughter's school to take her home, and although there are many people there, nobody has reprimanded me for driving.”
 
The woman notes that she is “better protected when driving, and I prefer it to walking. When I walk, I face harassment, such as people honking their horns at me, but when I drive, there is no trouble at all.”
 
“We [women] are waiting to be allowed to drive, and Allah willing, we will not have to wait for long,” she concludes.
 
The video was posted to the internet as part of a long-standing campaign aimed at getting the Saudi Arabian driving ban lifted and which has urged women to defy the ban.
 
Many women have driven since the campaign was launched in 2011 and many have been arrested and forced to sign a pledge that they will never drive again.
 
The campaign, which spread through Facebook and Twitter, was the largest mass action since November 1990, when 47 Saudi women were arrested and punished after demonstrating in cars.
 
No law specifically forbids women in Saudi Arabia from driving, but the interior minister formally banned women from doing so after that protest.
 
Last year, a Saudi women’s rights activist filed a lawsuit against the country’s interior ministry over the ban.

Saudis, Gulf States 'Shocked' By Obama-Rouhani Chat

Category: News
Created on Tuesday, 01 October 2013 08:18
Obama -Saudi king
 
Israelis are not the only ones concerned with the apparent warming of relations between Iran and the United States; Saudi Arabia has leveled sharp criticism against U.S. President Barack H. Obama for conducting a phone conversation with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.
 
That conversation, which took place last Friday, will be taken the wrong way by Iran, Saudi officials said. Saudi journalist Abdel Rahman Rashad said that he has spoken to government officials who said that they expect the U.S. to take a much tougher stance against Iran, lest Tehran take advantage of what it sees like American “softness” to continue and even expand its nuclear program.
 
“If the Americans do not take the necessary steps against Iran, the states of the Middle East will have to deal with a nuclear Iran,” Rashad wrote in an op-ed in the London-based Arabic a-Sharq a-Awsat newspaper.
 
“The phone call between Obama and Rouhani shocked the Gulf states, Jordan, Turkey, Israel, and other countries,” he wrote.
 
According to the New York Times, Obama and Rouhani "agreed to accelerate talks aimed at defusing the dispute over Iran’s nuclear program and afterward expressed optimism at the prospect of a rapprochement that would transform the Middle East."
 
According to the Iranians, it was Obama that sought to speak to Rouhani, but Rahman said it did not matter who sought to speak to whom.
 
“What is important to know is what stands behind the conversation and how deep the ties are between America and Iran.”
 
The Suaids are very concerned about Iran's acquisition of nuclear weapons, fearing they will be aimed at the Sunni country by an aggressive Shi'ite competitor. At a recent meeting of the Gulf Cooperation Council, Former Saudi intelligence chief Prince Turki al-Faisal said that Iran could threaten to attack Saudi Arabia – and thereby interfering with shipments of oil to the West – if it achieved nuclear weapons. This, he said would increase the chance of war, conventional or otherwise.
 
"Any threat to our interests or security will force us to use all available options to defend our interests, and national and regional security," Faisal was quoted as saying by the Al-Arabiya news channel. "The mounting escalation and persistent tensions might end up in an adventure with unpredictable consequences or in an unwanted military confrontation."
 
Iran has warned Western governments that it will close the strategically vital Strait of Hormuz at the mouth of the Gulf, a strategic choke point for much of the world's oil supplies, if they press ahead with sanctions against its key crude exports.
 
"Iran must not fuel this conflict and must not threaten us when we commit to international decisions," Faisal said. "It must safeguard the security of the Strait of Hormuz and that of the world energy supply."

50 Lashes for Twitter Insult

Category: Islam
Created on Tuesday, 20 August 2013 10:25
Twitter icon - AFP
If you're planning on taking up a hobby as an internet troll, Saudi Arabia is probably somewhere to avoid.
 
A 30 year-old Saudi national was apparently sentenced to 50 lashes for insulting members of his own tribe on the Twitter microblogging site. 
 
According to the Riyadh Bureau website a group of tribesmen from a village near the city of Medina - Islam's 2nd holiest site - lodged a complaint against the man at a local police station, providing screenshots as proof. They asked the police to ban him from "harming" and insulting them, and to punish him for the offending tweets.
 
In his defense, the "suspect" said he had not meant to offend anyone from his village, and was simply responding to a columnist on Twitter.
 
But in spite of his protestations the man was found guilty and sentenced to lashes for breaking the "Anti e-Crimes Act" by committing a “criminal act that damages the bonds of cohesion and disturbs tribal peace,” according to the Arabic-language Al Watan newspaper.
 
He was also ordered to sign a pledge not to repeat the "offense."
 
Social media is viewed with deep suspicion throughout much of the Arab world as it is notoriously difficult to sensor, allowing dissidents and political opposition groups to communicate more freely and sometimes in anonymity.
 
There are an estimated 4 million active users of Twitter in Saudi Arabia alone.

Obama Double-Cross Sent Saudi Arabia to Putin

Category: Op-Eds
Created on Sunday, 11 August 2013 14:43
Obama - Putin
Obama cancelled his summit with Putin over Snowden. But, maybe not.
 
I posit Obama cancelled his meeting with Putin because the entire moderate Sunni bloc was tired of Obama's double-crossing and stealthy pro-Iranian alliance, and made Putin an offer he couldn't refuse.
 
Saudi Arabia will order billions of dollars in Russian arms purchases for moderate Sunni countries such as itself and Egypt.  But, most importantly, Saudi Arabia will become a critical an ally of Russia to stop Putin's greatest nightmare, a waxing Sunni extremist arc on his southern-western flank mixed with a nuclear Iran to his south-east.
 
In short, through Obama's betrayal of Egypt and Saudi Arabia, America has lost as allies the two ultimate pillars of Arab stability: Egypt and Saudi Arabia.
 
Reuters just reported that
 
"Saudi Arabia has offered Russia economic incentives including a major arms deal and a pledge not to challenge Russian gas sales if Moscow scales back support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Middle East sources and Western diplomats said on Wednesday.
 
"The proposed deal between two of the leading power brokers in Syria's devastating civil war was set out by Saudi intelligence chief Prince Bandar bin Sultan at a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow last week, they said."
 
This is nothing short of a watershed event which will turn the entire Middle East up-side- down.
 
First, the monetary benefit to Russia,  and the concomitant monetary detriment to the United States and Great Britain are unimaginable.  Russia will gain countless billions, and American weapons companies and thousands of American jobs will disappear.  With the revitalized cash flow to its weapons builder's, Russia may even produce weapons which will be tactically and strategically superior to American weapons.
 
This disappearing American qualitative edge induced by Saudi money funding Russian "R and D" will have cataclysmic practical effects on America's order of battle everywhere in the world.
 
Second, past the money issue, Saudi Arabia can offer Putin something more precious than rubies. Saudi Arabia can offer itself and the entire moderate Sunni bloc as Russia's common ally against Islamic extremism.  Russia can form a strategic alliance bounded by Syria to the north, Saudi Arabia to the south and east, and Egypt to the West with Jordan gluing them all together.  Post-Assad all these moderate Sunnis countries represent Putin's best, and only, hope to stop the radical Islamism of the Levant and Mesopotamia.
 
Finally, Saudi Arabia's greatest asset that will clinch the Arab-Russian alliance is that the Saudis offer Putin a sea of southern stability, while Iran guarantees a cancerous growth of nuclear hegemony which will shortly existentially threaten Russia herself.
 
Putin wasn't whistling Dixie when then-Secretary of Defense Dr. Robert Gates said  "that Russian Prime Minister Putin once told him Iran was Russia's greatest threat, SecDef noted that Russia could plug into the new [missile-defense] system."
 
If Putin believed Iran was Russia's "greatest threat" before she had an atomic bomb, just imagine the apocalyptic threat Iran would represent if she gained an arsenal uranium and plutonium bombs. Putin could very well have been employing a "keep friends close, enemies closer" strategy with Iran.
 
Saudi Arabia and Russia have the exact joint cause to worry that Iran represents an existential threat to both of them.  Obama clearly doesn't remotely share Russia and Saudi Arabia's alarm about a nuclear Iran.  In fact, Obama's call for a bi-lateral Iran-US summit tipped Obama's hand to Putin, who felt that Obama had already sanctioned Iran's acquisition of a bomb, and everything else was a side-show.
 
As for Israel, Israel's weakness in caving in to the Arab extremist demands of the false peace-process has only given oxygen to the extremist forces that Russia and the moderate Sunnis want to destroy.  To the Saudis and the Russians, a Palestinian Arab state will be a nucleus of instability which will topple Jordan on its way to undermining and destroying the last pillar of Arab Muslim moderation: Saudi Arabia.
 
America has missed the boat.
 
mark langfanMark Langfan
The writer, who often writes on security issues, has created an original educational 3d Topographic Map System of Israel to facilitate clear understanding of the dangers facing Israel and its water supply. It has been studied by US lawmakers and can be seen at www.marklangfan.com

Saudi Arabia Arrests Two Terror Suspects

Category: News
Created on Saturday, 10 August 2013 19:16
Soldiers from the Saudi special forces File-ReutersSaudi Arabia arrested two men suspected of plotting terror attacks on Thursday, and a Saudi official said the arrest is connected to the recent closure of Western embassies in the region.
 
According to the official Saudi Arabian SPA news agency, the two suspects were planning suicide attacks in the Kingdom. They were arrested for exchanging information about imminent suicide attacks in the region.
 
The two, one from Chad and the other from Yemen, are being interrogated after their arrest in relation to conversations they had on social media forums with terrorists abroad, a Security Spokesperson of the Ministry of Interior told SPA.
 
One of the suspects, the Chadian national, was deported from the country but had returned to Saudi Arabia with a passport from another country, according to SPA.
 
Local authorities had monitored the e-mails of the two suspects on social networking websites, which included messages of hatred and incitement, according to the report. It became clear from the items seized from them, including computers and mobile telephones, that they were communicating with groups abroad either through coded e-mails or identifiers through social networking websites.
 
They exchanged information on suicide operations that were to take place in the region, according to SPA.
 
A spokesman for the Saudi Interior Ministry, Maj. Gen. Mansour al-Turki, told Al Arabiya later Thursday that the arrests were connected with the general warning for the Middle East issued by the United States this week, which saw 20 embassies in the region closed over concerns that a terror attack was imminent.
 
The official said the investigation of the suspects was still ongoing.
 
Reports this week indicated that the Obama administration’s decision to close the diplomatic missions and issue a worldwide travel alert resulted from intercepted electronic communications in which the head of Al-Qaeda in Pakistan ordered the leader of its affiliate in Yemen to carry out an attack.
 
Yemen said on Wednesday it had foiled an Al-Qaeda plot to blow up oil pipelines and seize some of the country's main ports. It also emerged on Wednesday that the intercepted communication was, in fact, a conference call between Zawahiri and the heads of several Al Qaeda branches in the Middle East and North Africa.
 
At least 12 terrorists were killed on Thursday in American drone strikes in Yemen.

Saudi Arabian Airlines Defends Discrimination Against Israelis

Category: Islam
Created on Saturday, 20 July 2013 17:24
Air linesThe director general of Saudi Arabian Airlines on Friday defended his company’s decision to discriminate against Israeli citizens by refusing to fly them from U.S. airports even when passengers are simply looking to transfer in Saudi Arabia to another country, Al Arabiya reports.
 
Earlier this week, the New York Post reported that the airline’s website asks for citizenship when booking a ticket but has no option on a drop-down menu for anyone holding an Israeli passport.
 
The discovery was made by the office of Public Advocate and mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio which conducted a recent telephone sting on the Mideast nation’s airline.
 
When a member of de Blasio’s staff called the airline pretending to be an Israeli citizen trying to fly from JFK to Mumbai, India, on Saudi Arabian Airlines, he was told it was impossible, reported the New York Post.
 
The caller told the booking agent that he couldn’t find Israel as an option on the website.
 
The booking agent asked, “Do you have any other passports, other than the Israeli passport?”
 
When the caller said he didn’t, the agent put him on hold to check with a supervisor. The agent later informed the caller that he wouldn’t be welcome.
 
“Since you have Israeli nationality, you will not be allowed to go on Saudi Airlines,” the agent said.
 
De Blasio condemned the Saudi airline’s decision not to allow Israelis on board and said that it was “racial discrimination.” He warned that he would work to ensure the Saudi airlines does not land in American airports.
 
“No city in the world has closer ties to Israel than we do, and yet Israeli citizens are being discriminated against right here at JFK [airport]. It’s not only illegal; it’s an affront to who we are,” De Blasio said, according to the New York Post.
 
He added that he “will act to make sure they’re excluded from United States airports, starting with JFK” if the airline does not change its policy.
 
“We won’t stop with just exposing these practices. We’ll pursue this with authorities in Albany and in Washington until Israeli nationals’ rights are respected,” he emphasized.
 
The airline’s director general, Khalid al-Melhem, explained the discrimination policy by noting there is no political relationship between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Israel.
 
“If there is an absence of political relations between [Saudi Arabia] and any other country, we will not allow that country’s citizens into the kingdom,” Melhem told the Saudi Al-Watan newspaper.
 
“[Diplomatic relations] also apply to transit passengers… in case the plane is delayed, the passenger will have to enter the country; and at that point, it would be very difficult to let him into [Saudi Arabia] if there are no diplomatic relations,” he added.
 
Two years ago, the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) asked Delta Air Lines to end a 'Sky Team' alliance with Saudi Arabian Airlines, saying it would lead to discriminatory practices against Jewish travelers. The request was made after it was reported that Jews and Israelis or passengers carrying any non-Islamic article of faith would not be able to fly code-share flights from the U.S. to Saudi Arabia under the partnership.
 
Delta later issued an official statement saying that it does not support discriminatory policies based on race, religion, gender, nationality, or age. 
 
The airline also explained the terms of its agreement with the Saudi carrier are limited to booking services and "simply allow passengers to book tickets on multiple carriers."

Saudis Aiming Missiles at Israel and Iran

Category: Reports
Created on Friday, 12 July 2013 09:29
Chinese ballistic missile - ReutersSaudi Arabia is targeting both Israel and Iran with powerful ballistic missiles, new satellite photography shown by military experts to the British Telegraph suggests.
 
Images analyzed by experts at IHS Jane's Intelligence Review has revealed a previously undisclosed surface-to-surface missile base deep in the Saudi desert, with capabilities for hitting both countries, the Telegraph reported on Wednesday.
 
Analysts who examined the photos spotted two launch pads with markings pointing northwest towards Tel Aviv and northeast towards Tehran, according to the report.
 
The pads are designed for Saudi Arabia's arsenal of lorry-launched DF 3 missiles, which have a range of 1,500-2,500 miles and can carry a two-ton payload.
 
The base, believed to have been built within the last five years, gives an insight into Saudi strategic thinking at a time of heightened tensions in the Gulf.
 
While Saudi Arabia does not have formal diplomatic relations with Israel, it has long maintained discreet back channel communications as part of attempts to promote stability in the region.
 
The two countries also have a mutual enemy in Iran, though, which has long seen Saudi Arabia as a rival power in the Gulf. Experts fear that if Iran obtains a nuclear weapon, Saudi Arabia would seek to follow suit.
 
Analysts at IHS Jane's told the Telegraph that the kingdom is currently in the process of upgrading its missiles, although even the DF3, which dates back to the 1980s, is itself potentially big enough to carry a nuclear device.
 
The missile base, which is at al-Watah, around 125 miles southwest of the Saudi capital, Riyadh, was discovered during a project by IHS Jane's to update their assessment of Saudi Arabia's military capabilities.
 
It serves as both a training and launch facility, with the missiles stored in an underground silo built into a rocky hillside, according to the Telegraph. To the north of the facility are two circle-shaped launch pads, both with compass-style markings showing the precise direction that the launchers should fire in.
 
The Chinese-made missiles, which date back to the 1980s, are not remotely-guided and therefore have to be positioned in the direction of their target before firing.
 
"One appears to be aligned on a bearing of approximately 301 degrees and suggesting a potential Israeli target, and the other is oriented along an azimuth (bearing) of approximately 10 degrees, ostensibly situated to target Iranian locations," said the IHS Jane's article quoted by the Telegraph.
 
While the lorry-launched missiles can theoretically be fired from any location, the idea of having pre-planned directional markers is to ensure that they can be deployed in accurate fashion as quickly as possible, said Allison Puccioni, an image expert at IHS Jane's.
 
"There is a marked out spot for the launch truck to park in, which will facilitate an expedited launch," she told the Telegraph.
 
Robert Munks, deputy editor of IHS Jane's Intelligence Review, told the newspaper, “Our assessment suggests that this base is either partly or fully operational, with the launch pads pointing in the directions of Israel and Iran respectively. We cannot be certain that the missiles are pointed specifically at Tel Aviv and Tehran themselves, but if they were to be launched, you would expect them to be targeting major cities.
 
"We do not want to make too many inferences about the Saudi strategy, but clearly Saudi Arabia does not enjoy good relations with either Iran or Israel," he added.
 
Officials at the Saudi Embassy in London did not get back with a response when contacted by The Telegraph. The Israeli Embassy in London said. "We have no comment on this matter."

Syrian Rebels: We've Received Heavy Weapons from Saudis

Category: News
Created on Friday, 21 June 2013 07:46
Al Nusra terrorist in Raqa - ReutersThe first delivery of heavy weapons has arrived on Syria’s front lines following President Barack Obama’s decision to put Western military might behind the official opposition, rebels told the British Daily Telegraph on Wednesday.
 
The sources told the newspaper that Russian-made “Konkurs” anti-tank missiles had been supplied by America’s key Gulf ally, Saudi Arabia. They have already been used to destructive effect and may have held up a promised regime assault on Aleppo, the report said.
 
A handful of the missiles were already in use and in high demand after opposition forces looted them from captured regime bases.
 
More have now arrived, confirming reports that the White House has lifted an unofficial embargo on its Gulf allies sending heavy weapons to the rebels.
 
Last week, the White House said it would send military support to Syria’s opposition after concluding that President Bashar Al-Assad’s regime had used chemical agents against them.
 
Unlike rocket-propelled grenades, the Konkurs – Contest in English – can penetrate the regime’s most advanced tanks, Russian-made T72s, noted the Telegraph.
 
“We now have supplies from Saudi Arabia,” a rebel source said. “We have been told more weapons are on their way, even higher-end missiles.”
 
At the G8 this week, Russian President Vladimir Putin condemned the West’s attempts to send arms to the opposition, even though he did not rule out fulfilling existing arms contracts with the regime.
 
On Syria’s front lines, rebels are already using Russian missiles to destroy the regime’s Russian tanks, the Telegraph reported.
 
Thanks to Russian backing over the last half century, Syria’s army was the best equipped in the region, and its captured bases have handed a limited number of anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles to the opposition.
 
But the number of Konkurs missiles seen in videos escalated at the beginning of this month, tangible evidence of the new Saudi supply line, noted the newspaper.
 
Assad warned this week that Europe will “pay the price” if it arms Syrian rebels. European Union foreign ministers agreed at the end of May to lift an arms embargo in order to supply weapons to Syrian rebels, but British Foreign Secretary William Hague said at the time that "no immediate decision" would be made on sending arms to the rebels.
 
“If the Europeans deliver weapons (to rebels), Europe’s backyard will become a terrorists’ place and Europe will pay the price for it,” Assad told the German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.
 
He said that chaos in Syria would result in "the direct export of terrorism to Europe”, adding, "Terrorists will return to Europe with fighting experience and extremist ideologies."
 
Referring to statements that his regime has used chemical weapons on rebels, Assad said, "If Paris, London and Washington had only one piece of evidence backing up their allegations, they would have unveiled it to the world.

Three Saudis Imprisoned for Plotting to Kill Americans

Category: News
Created on Wednesday, 24 April 2013 08:13
Saudi security forces -AFPAn anti-terror court has sentenced three Saudis to six years in prison each for plotting to kill American nationals at the height of a campaign of Al-Qaeda attacks in the kingdom between 2003 and 2006, a witness said, according to AFP.
 
The court in Riyadh issued its ruling late on Sunday, said a witness at the hearing during which two other men were acquitted.
 
The three convicted were found guilty of having "supported the actions of the deviant group and planned the assassination of seven Americans in the kingdom," the court ruled, using the official term to designate Al-Qaeda.
 
It said they also planned to enter Iraq "to carry out terrorist acts", according to AFP.
 
Saudi courts started in July 2011 to try hundreds of suspects for the wave of Al-Qaeda attacks which rocked the country from 2003 until 2006 when authorities launched a massive campaign of arrests targeting the jihadist network.
 
Around 3,000 suspects are being tried or due to go on trial, according to Saudi authorities.

Saudi Arabia’s Lack of Swordsmen Kills Ancient Execution Method

Category: Islam
Created on Tuesday, 19 March 2013 12:13
Islamic swordThe Saudi Arabia government may be forced to drop its ancient death sentence of beheading by the sharp blade of a sword, due to a lack of skilled swordsmen, Egyptian media report.
 
There have also been incidents in which the swordsmen were late, a Saudi newspaper complained.
 
At least 69 people were beheaded in 2012, according to the international Human Rights Watch (HRW) organization, which noted in a 2012 statement, “Saudi Arabia has no penal code, so prosecutors and judges largely define criminal offenses at their discretion... Rape, murder, armed robbery, drug trafficking and even suspected ‘sorcery’ are punishable by death under Saudi Arabia’s Islamic law.”
 
Under present consideration is a change to using firing squads as the new method of execution in the kingdom, according to a report published last week by Ahram Online.
 
Representatives from the Ministries of Justice, Health and the Interior comprised a committee that confirmed the change would not violate Shari’a (Islamic) law, the Al-Youm Saudi daily newspaper wrote. “This solution seems practical, especially in light of shortages in official swordsmen or their belated arrival to execution yards in some incidents.”
 
Last week seven men were put to death for the crime of armed robbery in the southern city of Abha, according to the Saudi Press Agency (SPA), but none were beheaded; they were all shot by a firing squad -- the first time such an execution has been carried out in the kingdom. So far 23 people have been executed in Saudi Arabia this year, AFP reported.

Saudi Arabia Orders Walmart to Build ‘Mechitzeh’ Gender Wall

Category: Islam
Created on Thursday, 07 March 2013 11:41
WalmartIn Saudi Arabia, Walmart stores have been ordered to build a gender separation wall -- actually a mechitzeh – to divide men and women in the workplace.
 
The idea is an ancient one, dating back far beyond Islam to Biblical times when G-d first Commanded the People of Israel to form a quorum for certain prayers solely from a group of ten adult males. 
 
The new rule, issued by Labor Minister Adel Faqih, was confirmed by Abdullatif al-Sheikh, head of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, the Al Arabiya news network reported.
 
The separation barrier is required to be a minimum of 1.6 meters (5 feet, 3 inches).
 
Another restriction placed upon merchants in the kingdom focuses on who can sell what, and where.
 
In June 2011, authorities clamped down on lingerie shops, ordered owners to fire any sales personnel who were not Saudi females. The rule was later extended to cosmetic outlets as well.
 
The commission, known on the street as the “Mutawa” or “religious police,” claimed that women said they felt uncomfortable buying personal items from males, prompting the initiative. 
 
The Mutawa accused the country’s labor ministry of failing to promote a safe work environment for women, saying many had complained of harassment.
 
According to the country’s labor ministry, it was expected the order would open up some 44,000 jobs for Saudi women, whose unemployment rate currently stands at 30 percent.
 
However, it was not clear what would happen to any sales women who are citizens of other countries. There have been numerous reports, documented by the international Human Rights Watch organization, of extreme abuse of female domestic foreign workers by their Saudi employers.

Saudi Arabia’s most wanted Qaeda man killed in Yemen

Category: News
Created on Tuesday, 22 January 2013 17:05
Al Qaeda second man in Yemen Saeed al-Shihri wa killed Al Arabiya correspondent reported reutersThe Saudi national, Saeed al-Shahri, who previously claimed to be al-Qaeda’s second-man in Yemen, was killed, an Al Arabiya correspondent reported Tuesday.
 
Shahri fought in Afghanistan and spent six years in the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, before being released in 2007. 
 
After his release he was transferred to one of Saudi Arabia’s famous “rehabilitation” institutes.
 
However, less than one month after being discharged, he left for Yemen and established another radical Islamist organization.
 
According to an Al Arabiya correspondent, Shahri’s family said he was severely injured after a joint Yemeni-U.S. operation targeting al-Qaeda members in Yemen in the second week of December, 2012.
 
After falling into a coma, Shahri was later declared dead and was buried in Yemen.
 
Al-Qaeda seized several southern Yemeni towns during the chaos of last year’s popular uprising, but were driven into nearby mountain areas by the army’s summer offensive. They have retaliated with bombings and assassinations of Yemeni officials in the capital Sana’a and elsewhere.
 
Washington considers the Yemen branch of al-Qaeda to be the world’s most dangerous offshoot of the terror network, and has sent advisors to Yemen to assist the government in its campaign.

Saudi Women Protesters Arrested, Spark Arab Spring II?

Category: News
Created on Monday, 21 January 2013 14:58
womens-rightsA group of protesting Saudi Arabian women were arrested earlier this month, prompting a groundswell of outrage that may ultimately result in a sequel to the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings.
 
In what is seen as a new phenomenon in the kingdom, a ripple of outrage has begun following the arrests that came in response to demonstrations protesting the detention of male family members.
 
The incident, which took place in the town of Buraida, was reported by CNN, which quoted Saudi activists who said the kingdom has been trying to silence the women. Buraida is the provincial capital of Qassim Province, a conservative area of the country in which the detention of women is seen as a red line not to be crossed.
 
Mothers, daughters, sisters and wives had gathered to demand rights denied to their male relatives by the Board of Grievances.
 
A female Saudi journalist covering the story, Iman Al Qahtani, told CNN that she was stopped by Saudi secret police – the Mubahith – when she tried to gain access to those who had been arrested, and was warned to leave town.
 
The Amnesty International human rights organization documented the incident, calling in a statement for the release of the 18 women and 10 children who were arrested and detained. “There is no way the Saudi Arabian authorities can justify detaining people if they have simply peacefully exercised their rights to freedom of expression and assembly,” said Phillip Luther, Middle East and North Africa AI program director.
 
Thus far, just seven women have been released. But the incident may have finally brought a new ‘Arab Spring’ to the kingdom, having also inspired a groundswell of demonstrations in support for the women from protesters as far away as Riyadh, the capital, and even in Mecca,  the religious center of the country.
 
Such protesters have included men, many of whom are related to thousands of inmates being held with no access to lawyers and  without trials in connection with ‘counter terrorism’ sweeps throughout the kingdom. They are beginning to chant a new slogan around the country: “The people call for the liberation of the prisons.”

Missiles for Rebels May Spell the End of Assad

Category: News
Created on Thursday, 29 November 2012 06:29
Syrian army helicopter being hit by a ground-to-a - AFP-youtubeSyrian rebels downed an army helicopter for the first time on Tuesday with a newly-acquired ground-to-air missile, in what a watchdog said could be a turning point in the 20-month-old conflict, AFP reported.
 
Another bad sign for Syrian President Bashar Assad is Russia’s sudden change of heart, indicating that Moscow realizes it is supporting a loser even though it voted against Tuesday’s United Nations General Assembly resolution condemning Assad’s brutal suppression.
 
Previously standing side-by-side with Syria, a large purchaser of Russian-made weapons, Russia now claims it only has a "working relationship" with the Syrian president and insists special ties were a thing of the past.
 
Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev of Russia, which has backed Damascus throughout the conflict, said in France that "there are no special or privileged relations with President Assad.”
 
Rebels have turned the tide against Assad, not for the first time, with this week’s successful battles for control of the commercial hub of Aleppo, while another car bomb hit a regime security post near Damascus. The death toll on Tuesday was 105, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
 
The helicopter that the surface-to-air missile downed was strafing civilians near besieged northwestern base 15 miles west of Aleppo, last garrison in government hands between Syria's second city and the Turkish border.
 
"It is the first time that the rebels have shot down a helicopter with a surface-to-air missile," said Rami Abdel Rahman, director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
 
Amateur footage posted by activists on YouTube showed a helicopter plunging to the ground in a ball of flames as rebel fighters shouted: "We hit it; G-d is greatest."
 
The Observatory said the missile was part of a consignment newly received by the rebels that had the potential to change the balance of military power in the conflict.
 
Little more than a week ago, the rebels seized tanks, armored vehicles, artillery, 120mm mortars and rocket launchers when they took the government forces' sprawling Base 46, about 12 kilometers (eight miles) west of Aleppo.
 
The rebels, a mix of military defectors and armed civilians, are vastly outgunned but analysts say they are now stretching thin the capabilities of Assad's war machine and its air supremacy by opening multiple fronts.
 
This was evident again on Tuesday, with a car bomb killing at least two soldiers at a military police checkpoint at near Damascus as the regime pursued insurgents south of the capital.
 
In a battle in the north, 70 soldiers were killed or captured, and the rebels seized six 23mm cannons, rocket batteries and other weapons and ammunition.
 
The source of the missiles that the rebels have obtained is not known, but Saudi Arabia and Qatar are prime candidates.
 
Saudi weapons have been seen at rebel bases, and The New York Times has reported that more fighters are arriving across the border from Saudi Arabia to join Syrian rebels.
 
Saudi and Qatar are Sunni-ruled monarchies and oppose Sunni Muslims in Syria being ruled by Assad’s minority Alawite sect.

King of Saudi Arabia 'Clinically Dead'

Category: Reports
Created on Wednesday, 28 November 2012 07:34
saudi arabia king abdullahThe king of Saudi Arabia, King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz, is clinically dead, reports the daily Al-Sharq il-Awsat.
 
His reported brain death occurred following complicated back surgery that took place in Riyadh on November 17 at the National Guard's King Abdulaziz Medical City, according to the report, and the king's aides claimed he is in good health.
 
Nevertheless, medical sources told the newspaper the monarch's condition was “expected to change soon.”
 
Abdullah has been upon the throne since 2005. The crown has passed down through a line of sons since the death in 1953 of the founder of the kingdom, Abdulaziz Ibn Saud.
 
The king's brother, Crown Prince Salman, defense minister of Saudi Arabia, reassured the nation and members of the Gulf Cooperation Council meeting Riyadh “good news that he is well and in good health.” Thirteen years his junior, Salman also “reassured” Saudis about the monarch's health the day before at a cabinet meeting, according to the SPA state news agency.
 
But Salman gave no details on Abdullah's condition, nor any information on when he might be discharged from the hospital.
 
Salman's statement Tuesday on Saudi state television was aimed at settling concerns over the stability of the nation, the world's biggest exporter of oil.
 
Saudi Arabia holds more than a fifth of world petroleum reserves. Home to the city of Mecca, Islam's holiest city, the country is also the biggest U.S. ally in the Gulf region.
 
On Tuesday, the Saudi stock market index dropped to a 10-month low, closing 1.3  points lower.
 
In the event of his death, King Abdullah has named Salman as heir apparent, a move made in June following the death of Crown Prince Nayef bin Abdulaziz.

Saudi Woman Sues Ministry Over Driving Ban

Category: Women rights
Created on Wednesday, 14 November 2012 19:55
women covering their facesA Saudi women’s rights activist said on Monday she has filed a lawsuit against the interior ministry over a decree banning women from obtaining driving licenses in the ultra-conservative kingdom, AFP reported.
 
Nassima al-Sadah is the third woman to file such a lawsuit this year over the rule, which enforces a traditional ban on women driving in the male-dominated Muslim nation.
 
“I filed the lawsuit against the traffic department of the interior ministry at the Dammam court” in Eastern Province, she told AFP.
 
Previously, Manal al-Sharif became a national symbol of women’s rights in the kingdom after she was arrested last year for defying the ban. Rights activist Samar Badawi had also filed a similar lawsuit, claiming she was repeatedly denied after applying for a driving license in Eastern Province.
 
In June 2011, women activists launched a Women2Drive campaign on social media networks, with many defying the ban and posting videos of themselves driving.
 
The following June, activists cancelled plans to get behind the steering wheel on the first anniversary of their campaign, opting instead to petition King Abdullah to lift the restrictive ban, AFP reported.
 
Their campaign, which spread through Facebook and Twitter, was the largest mass action since November 1990, when 47 Saudi women were arrested and harshly castigated after they drove cars in a convoy around the capital city of Riyadh until being stopped by law enforcement authorities.
 
Women in the kingdom who have the means hire drivers, while others must depend on the goodwill of their husbands or male relatives.
 
They are also obliged to be veiled in public and cannot travel unaccompanied.

Saudi Grand Mufti: Cooperating with Foreign Media 'Major Crime'

Category: Islam
Created on Monday, 12 November 2012 07:55
Abdul Aziz Al-AsheikhSaudi Arabia’s Grand Mufti issued a religious edict prohibiting Arabs from contacting or cooperating with foreign media outlets seeking to “spread chaos and strife in Muslim lands”, Al-Arabiya reported. 
 
Sheikh Abdul Aziz Al-Asheikh told worshipers during a Friday sermon held in a mosque in the capital Riyadh that people should not contact foreign media outlets to “divulge the country’s secrets or address various matters” because these outlets “are only concerned with dividing people and striking the unity of the nation.” 
 
He said doing so was tantamount to “treason and major crime.”
 
The Grand Mufti, whose words hold a great deal of weight as he is considered to be the highest religious authority in the kingdom, warned against covering up or sheltering criminals who threaten the country’s security saying, “It is not permissible and is considered betrayal and assistance to the enemies of Islam.”
 
“A believer has to help keeping security, that of his nation and community, and protecting his religion,” he said, as quoted by the Saudi daily newspaper Okaz.
 
According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, "No foreign or local journalists are granted access to the Eastern Province, where protesters have been calling for political reforms and greater rights for the Shiite minority since February 2011." Additionally "international news outlets operating inside its borders limit their reporting in order to maintain accreditation."
 
As censorship has tightened in response to the anti-Western protests that have spread throughout the Muslim World, Human Rights Watch reported that, "The Ministry of Culture and Information heavily censored print and broadcast media. Internet critics crossing vague 'red lines' faced arrest."
 
In March, Sheikh Abdul Aziz Al-Asheikh declared it was “necessary to destroy all the churches of the region."
 
While the Mufti insisted that the time that the “justice system in Sadi Arabia is fair,” he nonetheless went on to say that, “all matters related to justice should be reviewed by Shariah courts as God the Almighty said in the Holy Quran."

10 Killed, 50 Injured in Saudi Truck Explosion

Category: News
Created on Thursday, 01 November 2012 18:33
Truck ExplosionA truck transporting fuel exploded Thursday in the Saudi capital of Riyadh, killing approximately ten people and wounding some 50 others, Al-Arabiya reported.
 
The explosion took place at a busy intersection in the eastern part of Riyadh when the driver hit a bridge on top of Shaikh Jaber road.
 
The accident damaged several vehicles and nearby houses, Al Arabiya added.
 
At this time, no official statistics have been released regarding the exact deaths and injuries. The civil defense controlled the fire of the explosion.

Home of Mohammed's Wife Turned into a Public Toilet

Category: Islam
Created on Sunday, 28 October 2012 23:08
Home of Mohammeds Wife Turned into a Public ToiletThree of the world’s oldest mosques are about to be destroyed in Medina as Saudi Arabia embarks on a multi-billion-dollar expansion of Islam’s second holiest site, according to the British Independent. The house of Mohammed's first wife, Khadijah, has already been replaced with a public toilet block, it reports.
 
The disregard for Islam’s early history is due to the Saudi regime’s adoption of Wahabism, an austere stream which scorns all forms of idol worship, including shrines and pilgrimages to graves, the paper explains.
 
Work on the Masjid an-Nabawi in Medina, where the prophet Mohammed is buried, will reportedly start once the annual Hajj pilgrimage ends next month. When complete, the development will turn the mosque into the world’s largest building, able to take in 1.6 million worshippers.
 
But there are fears that the redevelopment of the Masjid an-Nabawi is "part of a wider drive to shift focus away from the place where Mohammed is buried," the newspaper says. "The spot that marks the Prophet’s tomb is covered by a famous green dome and forms the centerpiece of the current mosque. But under the new plans, it will become the east wing of a building eight times its current size with a new pulpit."
 
Historic sections of Mecca and Medina have been bulldozed to make way for gleaming shopping malls, luxury hotels and enormous skyscrapers. The Independent quotes the Washington-based Gulf Institute, which estimates that "95 per cent of the 1,000-year-old buildings in the two cities have been destroyed in the past 20 years."

Most illicit arms in Syria go to Islamists

Category: Reports
Created on Tuesday, 16 October 2012 10:22
Weapons secretly shipped to Syria at the behest of Saudi Arabia and Qatar go to hardline Islamic rebel groups AFPThe majority of weapons secretly shipped to Syria at the behest of Saudi Arabia and Qatar go to hardline Islamic rebel groups rather than more secular organizations favored by the West, The New York Times reported Monday.
 
Citing unnamed officials, the newspaper said this was the conclusion reached in classified reports presented to President Barack Obama and other senior officials.
 
This situation has prompted officials to voice frustration over the fact that there is no central clearinghouse for the shipments and no effective way of vetting the groups that receive them, the report said.
 
Because of this, Central Intelligence Agency Director David Petraeus traveled secretly to Turkey last month in a bid to steer the supply effort, the report said.
 
The CIA has not commented on the trip.
 
Petraeus’s goal was to oversee the process of “vetting, and then shaping, an opposition that the U.S. thinks it can work with,” the paper quoted an unnamed Middle Eastern diplomat as saying.
 
The CIA has also sent officers to Turkey to help direct the aid, but the agency lacks good intelligence about the many rebel figures and factions operating in Syria, The Times noted.

Saudi Arabia eyes field work guidelines for religious police

Category: Islam
Created on Thursday, 04 October 2012 09:44
The Haia surveil the Kingdom ReutersSaudi Arabia’s Consultative Assembly has urged the kingdom’s religious police authority, commonly referred to as the Hai’a, to set up field guidelines for its members and define the cases in which they can intervene to enforce the Islamic law.
 
Members of the Hai’a, who often patrol the streets to enforce dress codes, gender separation and behaviors believed to be commended by the Islamic Sharia, have come in many cases under controversy for reportedly overstepping their duties to breach citizens’ basic civil liberties. 
 
Surah Council member, Khdeir al-Qurashi, told AlArabiya.net that the council's recommendation sought to assist the Hai'a in order to better perform its mission. 
 
“The recommendation was proposed by Maj. Gen. Abdullah Salol, and its goal was to help the Hai'a perform its job as required. All employees have a work guideline that they follow, and it is necessary that the employees of the Hai'a have their own guideline to avoid some of its members doing mistakes. religious police
 
“In order to avoid exaggerating the small mistakes of the Hai'a and to recognize its services to the society, the (Shura) Council saw that this recommendation would provide for general guidelines for its work.”
Qurashi added that setting up such guidelines would not be difficult because Islam “is clear and its prohibitions are few.” 
 
“All matters are allowed unless banned by a clear text, and this is why it would be easy to identify things that are prohibited.”
 
“The new system will set a mechanism for the field work of the committee’s men which hands over some of their specializations to other state bodies, such as arrests and interrogations,” al-Hayat daily quoted religious police chief Sheikh Abdullatiff Abdel Aziz al-Sheikh as saying, AFP reported. 
 
Agents of the body known as the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice will also be banned from carrying out “searches without prior approval from the governor,” he said according to an AFP report. 
 
Okaz Daily also reported that the religious police agents will be prohibited from “standing at the entrances of shopping malls to prevent the entry of any person,” referring to attempts by agents to ban women who do not comply with the Islamic dress code and unmarried couples from entering malls.
 
Relatively moderate Sheikh, appointed in January as the new chief of the religious police, has raised hopes that a more lenient force will ease draconian social constraints in the Islamic country.
 
Two weeks into his post, Sheikh banned volunteers from serving in the commission which enforces the kingdom's strict Islamic rules.
 
In April he went further, prohibiting the religious police from “harassing people” and threatening “decisive measures against violators.”
 
In June, Sheikh came out strongly against one of his men who ordered a woman to leave a mall because she was wearing nail polish.
 
The woman had defied the orders as she filmed her argument with the policeman and posted it on YouTube.

Saudis Threaten to Shoot Down Iran-Bound Israeli Planes

Category: Reports
Created on Friday, 10 August 2012 07:26
F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter jetSaudi Arabia has informed Israel in recent weeks that it will shoot down any Israeli planes that fly over its airspace on their way to or from Iran. A report in Yediot Achronot Thursday said that the Saudis have made it known that they will not allow their airspace to be used for any attack on Iran's nuclear facilities by Israel, the U.S., or any other country.
According to the report, the Saudis transferred the message to Israel via senior officials in the administration of U.S. President Barack H. Obama. The officials had just recently returned from talks in Israel with senior members of the government.
IDF intelligence, the report said, had identified four air routes that could be used to attack Iran – one of them over Saudi Arabia. The Saudi route would have Israeli fighter jets flying south, turning into Saudi territory for a short time, and then exiting into the Persian Gulf and Iran.
As a result of the warning, the report said, Israeli officials are now concerned that they will have to figure out a way to avoid a battle with the Saudi air force if the southern route is chosen. Although Saudi pilots are not known for their skills, the country has a wide array of sophisticated defensive and offensive systems and weapons, thanks to massive American arms sales.
However, some Israeli officials were doubtful that the message had been the idea of the Saudis' alone, saying that message was part of the ongoing pressures by American officials to prevent Israel from attacking Iran without Washington's permission.

Saudi Arabia to amend rules governing religious police chasing people

Category: News
Created on Tuesday, 17 July 2012 07:25
religious policeSaudi Arabia will make amendments to rules governing religious police chasing people, a newspaper reported on Monday. 
 
A group of procedures to govern the country’s Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice Commission’s chasing of people will soon be released, head of the commission, Abdul Lateef al-Sheikh, told al-Watan newspaper. 
 
Despite a ruling, three months ago, completely banning the commission from chasing people, including culprits and suspects, a recent incident of police chasing causing the death of a family man has created an outcry in the country.
 
The death of Abdul Rahman al-Ghamdi when he was driving his car with his family, and the injury of his young children shocked the Saudi public, and questions arose on whether the ban was in fact effective.

Egyptian president’s visit to Saudi Arabia to return balance to region

Category: News
Created on Saturday, 14 July 2012 15:11
Mursi ended his first night in the Kingdom by heading to Mecca and performing Umrah. (Reuters)Saudi Arabia welcomed with open arms the first Egyptian president elected after the January 25 revolution when he visited Jeddah on Wednesday, the Saudi Crown Prince and Minister of Defense, Salman bin Abdul Aziz, was the first to greet President Mohammed Mursi who was accompanied by a delegation of senior officials.
 
Mursi’s visit to Saudi Arabia comes after more than three weeks of his becoming the new president. Observers described this visit as a sign of the strength of Saudi–Egyptian relations, and a real commitment on Egypt’s part of wanting to build a new future in the region after a difficult year, especially since Egypt represents a strong political presence, along with the Saudi kingdom, as they are two active poles of balance in the Arab region.
 
President Mursi, who met King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz at the Royal Court in al-Salam Palace in Jeddah, described the talks between both sides as encouraging and fruitful.
 
The Iranian courtship with Saudi Arabia
 
Dr. Fahd Khuraiji, professor of political media at King Saud University, said Mursi’s visit to Saudi Arabia took place in a timely manner and amid special circumstances. He told Al Arabiya that both nations have special relations and an old strategic partnership. The political outcome of this visit was shown in the recent statement of the current chairman of the parliament of Iran, which can be described as flattering for the Kingdom.
 
Khuraiji added that “Saudi - Egyptian relations were not affected by anything. They are old and strong relations, and the Egyptian president’s statement prior his visit about the security of the Gulf is an honest reflection on the strength of relations between the two countries. This visit will bring back balance to the region since both are active in regional peace projects.”
 
Later on Wednesday night, the Egyptian president held talks with Saudi Crown Prince Salman on some economic and political issues. They discussed Saudi investment in Egypt and how to give more opportunities for Egyptian workers in the kingdom. 
 
Egyptian sources stated that Crown Prince Salman suggested increasing the visits between officials and businessmen from both countries to enable them to discuss various projects and strengthen communication.
 
Economic cooperation
 
Saudi investments in Egypt are estimated at about $27 billion. According to Egyptian sources, Mursi pledged to remove obstacles that Saudi investors may be facing in Egypt and work to resolve their cases quickly, expressing his care to create an attractive environment for investments in Egypt.
 
Hassan al-Subhi, the managing editor of economic op/eds in the Saudi newspaper al-Madina believes that Mursi’s visit to Saudi Arabia gave a boost to Saudi investors in Egypt. He said told Al Arabiya: “The new Egyptian president’s plan to revive his country’s economy represents a resilient catalyst for Saudi investors in Egypt to increase their investments, especially with the engagement of the Egyptian president in the maintenance of security and stability of these investments.”
 
Subhi added: “The economic cooperation between Saudi Arabia and Egypt is long-standing and a part of this cooperation includes granting opportunities for Egyptian workers which represents an adjacent market providing the booming economic Saudi market, with trained and professional workers in various fields, especially since the Saudi market still requires more workers in the handicrafts and construction field.”
 
President Mursi ended his first night in the Kingdom by heading to Mecca and performing Umrah. The Governor of Mecca province, Prince Khalid al-Faisal received Mursi upon his arrival and a group of Egyptian expats lined up in the arenas of the Grand Mosque to greet their new president.
 
Back to Egypt
 
The Egyptian newspapers highlighted yesterday special headlines related to this visit, including political statements for Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi after his meeting with Saudi King. These statements listed that Saudi Arabia supports the doctrine of the Sunnis and the Jemaah Islamiah, and that Egypt protects it. The Egyptian president said that Saudi Arabia and Egypt represent the modern Sunni Islam, and added that the Saudi leadership and people, were always in the heart of Egypt and vice versa, adding that Saudi Arabia has always been loyal to Egypt.
 
The Egyptian President concluded his visit to Saudi Arabia, by a meeting with the Egyptian community, in the Egyptian consulate in Jeddah, in a gathering attended by more than 500 people representing different segments of the Egyptian sectors. The meeting focused on supporting the investment of the Egyptian community in Egypt, particularly regarding the agricultural and reclamation projects, and the cultivation of three million acres in the Northern Coast and Upper regions as well as the Western Sahara and Sinai.
 
President Mursi then went to Medina to visit the Prophet's Mosque to offer prayers there, before leaving to Egypt at five p.m. 
 
He is scheduled to travel next Sunday to Ethiopia to attend the African summit to be held in Addis Ababa.

Saudi Bomb Plot Terrorist Convicted in Texas

Category: News
Created on Thursday, 28 June 2012 18:56
Khalid Ali-M AldawsariA Texas court has convicted a Saudi Arabian national of plotting to build and use a bomb in an attack against America's south.
 
The 22-year-old terrorist, Khalid Ali-M Aldawsari entered the United States in October 2008 from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia legally on a student visa to study chemical engineering at Texas Tech University in Lubbock. His tuition and living expenses were paid by a Saudi industrial company. In early 2011, he transferred to nearby South Plains College, and switched to a business major instead.
 
He was arrested in February 2011 after federal agents had discovered bomb-making supplies after secretly searching his off-campus  apartment near Texas Tech. They also found his journal handwritten in Arabic, detailing a bomb plot, and declaring it was "time for jihad," according to court documents.
 
The agents had obtained a warrant to conduct the secret search in which they found chemicals to create explosives, along with wiring, a “hazmat” suit and clocks. The Saudi national had also obtained instructional videos and made a list of targets to attack, ranging from the Dallas home of former President George W. Bush, to  nuclear power plants and the homes of three former soldiers stationed at the Abu Ghraib prison.
 
The goal: to carry out jihad. U.S. President Barack Obama was notified of the plot prior to Adawsari's arrest.
 
One of the chemicals he tried to purchase was a large amount of phenol, which can be used to make explosives but can also be used for other things. The would-be terrorist also bought bottles of sulfuric and nitric acids, both of which when combined with phenol produce the explosive TNP, similar to TNT. Aldawsari kept the recipe in emails and journal entries, authorities said.
 
In the amounts Aldawsari had purchased, the combined chemicals would have produced approximately 15 pounds of explosives, enough to create an attack similar to at least one of those that blew up the London subway in July 2005, killing and wounding scores of people.
 
The Carolina Biological Supply of Burlington, NC reported the suspicious $435 order on February 1, 2011 to the FBI. On the same day, shipping company Conway Freight likewise notified the FBI and Lubbock police as well, because it appeared the order was not intended for a commercial destination.
 
"This is something Mr. Aldawsari has been planning for a very, very, very long time,” federal prosecutor Jeffrey Haag said during his closing arguments Wednesday.
 
His defense attorney Dan Cogdell acknowledged in court that he had intent, but argued that he never succeeded in attacking anyone. “He's a failure academically. He's a failure at relationships,” Cogdell offered.
 
Aldawsari was found guilty in federal court in Amarillo on charges of purchasing chemicals online and attempting to create and use a weapon of mass destruction. The Saudi terrorist is facing a sentence of life in prison and is scheduled for sentencing on October 9.

Saudi Arabia to pay salaries of Syrian opposition fighters

Category: Reports
Created on Sunday, 24 June 2012 07:26
Saudi Arabia will pay the salaries of the rebelSaudi Arabia is set to pay the salaries of the rebel Free Syrian Army to encourage mass defections from President Bashar al-Assad’s forces, Britain’s Guardian newspaper reported on Saturday.
 
The payments would be made in either U.S. dollars or euros -- which would mean a rise in salaries as the Syrian pound has fallen sharply in value since the revolt started 16 months ago, the broadsheet said.
 
The idea was first proposed to Saudi Arabia by Arab officials in May, the Guardian reported, citing sources in three Arab states and adding that the plan has also been discussed with U.S. officials. 
 
However a spokesman for the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs offered no comment to Al Arabiya on such claims, suggesting the topic is likely to be addressed at the joint GCC-EU council and ministerial meeting set to take place in Luxembourg on Monday.
 
The Guardian also claims that Turkey has allowed the establishment of a command center in Istanbul co-coordinating the supply of weapons to the rebel fighters in Syria, staffed by more than 20 mainly Syrian nationals.
 
The report comes amid a crisis between Turkey and Syria after Damascus confirmed that it shot down a Turkish fighter jet that it said had violated Syrian airspace.
 
The Guardian said Turkey sees weapon supply lines as crucial to the defense of its border with its former close ally Syria, with Syrian forces edging closer in an attempt to stop guns crossing the border into the hands of rebel fighters.
 
The Guardian says its reporters witnessed weapons being transferred across border from Turkey into Syria in early June.
 
According to the report, Turkey has given the green-light to establish a command center in Istanbul, to coordinate with opposition leaders within Syria. It is alleged that 22 people have been recruited to run the center, most of them Syrian nationals.
 
On Friday, Ankara denied allegations in a New York Times report, citing U.S. officials and Arab intelligence sources, that Turkey was among a number of countries shipping weapons to Syrian rebels over the border.
 
The New York Times also reported that the CIA was on location in south Turkey assisting allies in the distribution of weapons amongst opposition fighters.
 
“Turkey does not ship weapons to any neighboring country, including Syria,” foreign ministry spokesman Selcuk Unal said.
 
The neighbors’ relations are already strained over outspoken condemnation by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Syria’s bloody crackdown on protests against Assad’s government.
 
Turkey is hosting more than 30,000 Syrian refugees living in camps near the border, according to foreign ministry figures, as well as army defectors including 12 generals.
 
Increasing concern
 
Meanwhile as evidence mounts of Islamic militant forces among the Syrian opposition, senior U.S. and European officials are increasingly alarmed by the prospect of sophisticated weapons falling into the hands of rebel groups that may be dangerous to Western interests, including al-Qaeda.
 
In an interview with Reuters, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta articulated U.S. worries that shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles, also known as MANPADS, could find their way onto the Syrian battlefield.
 
Intelligence experts believe that hundreds, if not thousands, of such weapons were looted from arsenals accumulated by late Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi, and are floating on the Middle East black market.
 
“I think it’s fair to say that we have a concern about the MANPADS coming out of Libya,” Panetta said in the Thursday interview. “We’ve had an ongoing view that it was important to try to determine where these MANPADS were going, not only the concern that some of them might wind up in Syria but elsewhere as well,” he said.
 
Panetta added that he had seen no direct intelligence yet that such missiles had made their way to Syria. He did not specifically cite the rebels as potential recipients.
 
But other U.S. and allied officials voiced that concern, while saying they had no evidence that Syrian rebels had yet acquired MANPADS.
 
Qaeda joining rebels
 
The urgency of Western concerns stems as much from the recipients of the weapons as the weapons themselves. High-level sources at multiple national intelligence services report increasing evidence that Islamic militants, including Qaeda and its affiliates and other hard-line Sunni groups, had joined forces with opponents of the government of President Bashar al-Assad.
 
Bruce Riedel, a former CIA officer who has advised President Barack Obama on counter-terrorism policy, said that Qaeda and other militants were “deeply engaged” with anti-Assad forces. He cited public pronouncements by senior Qaeda figures, including the group’s leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, that urged Sunni rebels in Syria to kill members of Assad’s Alawite Muslim minority.
 
A western government source said that al-Nusrah, a “spinoff” from Qaeda’s Iraq-based affiliate, was responsible for at least some atrocities that have occurred in Syria. The source said the group publicly confirmed its role in killings.
 
Worries that sophisticated weapons could make their way to the wrong kind of Syrian rebels are one reason Washington remains wary of deeper U.S. involvement in the fighting.
 
“It stands to reason that if any Middle Eastern nation is even considering giving arms to the Syrian opposition, it would take a measured approach and think twice about providing arms that could have unintended consequences,” a U.S. official said.
 
Nonetheless, U.S. and allied officials say their Saudi and Qatari counterparts have discussed how MANPADS could be used by Assad opponents to bring down Russian-made helicopters the Syrian army is using to redeploy its troops rapidly between trouble spots.
 
But such missiles also could be used against other targets, including civilian airliners, one reason for the U.S. and allied concern.
 
After the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan, the CIA, with Saudi backing, provided sophisticated shoulder-fired Stinger missiles to Islamic militants seeking to oust Soviet troops.
 
The missiles played a significant role in the Soviets’ ultimate defeat in Afghanistan. But they also became a major headache for U.S. and western counter-terrorism agencies when anti-Soviet militants morphed into anti-Western militant factions including Qaeda.
 
U.S. providing non-lethal support
 
 
Some prominent U.S. Republicans are urging a big step-up in U.S. aid for Assad’s opponents, including arms deliveries and even possible U.S. military involvement.
 
At a conference on Thursday hosted by the website Bloomberg Government, U.S. Senator John McCain suggested that the Obama administration’s cautious policy regarding the Syrian rebels was “shameful” and urged a major escalation in U.S. involvement.
 
“So what do we do? First of all, we stand up for them. Second of all, we get them weapons. Third of all, we establish a sanctuary with our allies - no boots on the ground, no boots on the ground - and use our and our allied air power to protect that zone and we help these people in a fair fight,” McCain said.
 
At the same conference, however, Representative Mike Rogers, the Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, warned: “We are just really not in a good position today to fully identify all of the groups, all of the factions, who’s winning that leadership fight,” he said.
 
The United States is understood to be supplying non-lethal support to Assad’s opponents, such as financing and communications gear, possibly including monitoring equipment. The Times said that the Obama administration has held back on providing rebels with intelligence information, such as satellite photographs, on the activities of Assad’s forces.
 
Riedel warned that Qatar authorities might not be too choosy about which Syrian rebels they are willing to supply with arms, though they would try to avoid giving them directly to Qaeda.
 
“I don’t think that Qatar and the Saudis are as concerned as we are about surface-to-air missiles,” Riedel added.

Saudi Arabia approves $430 million in new aid to Egypt

Category: News
Created on Saturday, 09 June 2012 07:18
Saudi Arabia said on Friday it had approved $430 million in project aid to Egypt and would allow Cairo to use a $750 million line of credit to import oil products.SaudiArabia currency
 
The aid, to be provided by the Saudi Fund for Development, is part of a package that Saudi Arabia announced a year ago to support the country’s cash-strapped economy in the wake of an uprising that ousted President Hosni Mubarak.
 
The uprising chased away tourists and foreign investors, two of Egypt’s main sources of foreign currency, and economists have said the country will need a minimum of $11 billion over the next year to stave off a balance of payments crisis and a potential devaluation of its currency.
 
Saudi Arabia earlier this month transferred a separate $1.5 billion to Cairo as direct budget support.
 
The new aid will finance three projects in Egypt worth $230 million, Ambassador Ahmed Kattan said in a statement emailed by the Saudi embassy in Cairo.
 
It includes $60 million to supply drinking water to the Cairo district of Nasr City, $80 million to renew and replace irrigation pumps and $90 million to build seed storage silos.
 
The fund will also place $200 million in revolving credit in a bank account to help Egyptian small- and medium-sized enterprises, the statement said.
 
Another $750 million line of credit to finance Saudi exports to Egypt will be exempted from a requirement that it be used to buy non-oil products.
 
“Egypt has been exempted from importing $750 million worth of non-oil products from Saudi Arabia ... based on the severe oil-products shortage faced by Egypt,” Kattan said in the statement. “Oil will continue being exported to Egypt in batches as soon as possible.”
 
Saudi Arabia deposited $1 billion in Egypt’s central bank on June 2 and transferred $500 million to buy Egyptian T-bonds on June 4, Egyptian Finance Minister Mumtaz al-Saeed said this week.
 
Egyptian financial newspaper al-Mal said on Tuesday the Saudis would buy seven-year bonds carrying a coupon of 5 percent.

Saudi Arabia Warns Iran: 'Don't Interfere in Unity with Bahrain'

Category: News
Created on Thursday, 24 May 2012 08:18
Protesters flee riot police in BahrainSaudi Arabia is warning that its move to strengthen unity ties with its smaller Gulf neighbor, Bahrain, is a sovereign affair between the two countries, according to the Kuwait News Agency. The Saudis are hoping to counter the growing influence of Iran in the region through a proposal for greater unity with five other Persian Gulf monarchies – Bahrain among them.
 
King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa has welcomed the proposal, but many of his population -- the majority of which is comprised of Shi'ite Muslims -- have not. A number of other Gulf states also have expressed reservations.
 
As a result, Gulf leaders decided last week to delay a decision on the matter for the time being.
 
The proposal by the two nations to establish a union is one that others should not interfere with, noted Arab League secretary-general Nabil al-Araby. In a statement issued Monday, al-Araby said pointedly that the decision is “a sovereign affair” of the two countries and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), and “no other country has the right to interfere.”
 
The remark appeared to aimed specifically at Iran, who was told to reconsider its position on Bahrain. The Islamic Republic was also warned to stop its media campaigns and “provocative statements” and refrain from interfering in Bahrain's internal affairs.
 
Tens of thousands of Shi'ite protesters last week lined the main highway of Manama, the capital of Bahrain to denounce the proposal. The Shi'ites have long been stirred up against their Sunni rulers, and egged on by Shi'ite Iran.
 
Bahrain's government has been working to integrate its defense and foreign affairs with Saudi Arabia, which provided strong assistance to its smaller neighbor during the violent 15-month Arab Spring uprising that began last year. Those protests and clashes have continued
to rock the country, creating a destabilized environment that has required an ongoing infusion of troops and funds from the island nation's neighboring benefactor.
 
Bahrain, which hosts the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet, is also a member of the six-nation GCC.
 
The island was once a part of Iran, prior to its capture in 1861 by Great Britain, when it became a British protectorate, although for hundreds of years under the rule of the Al Khalifa monarchy. The UK placed the issue of Bahrain's status before the United Nations in 1960, requesting international arbitration, and in 1971, the island gained its independence as a sovereign nation.

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