U.S. Keeps Saudi Arabia’s Worst Secret

1395740809274.cachedBy Eli Lake:

The most comprehensive study of Saudi textbooks ever commissioned by the U.S. government was completed at the end of 2012, but to this date the State Department has kept it from the public.
As President Obama prepares for his first visit of his second term to Saudi Arabia, pressure is mounting on the State Department to publish the most comprehensive U.S. government study of the Kingdom’s textbooks.

While the study has been finished since the end of 2012, it has nonetheless been kept from the public, according to a new report by the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a center-right think tank in Washington.

The report, shared with The Daily Beast ahead of publication Tuesday, says, “The State Department is in possession of a uniquely exhaustive set of recent findings about incitement in Saudi Arabia’s education system, findings that it has declined to release for public consumption.”

The textbook study itself, according to current and former U.S. officials, presents a mixed picture. While it praises the Saudis for making some reforms and removing the most offensive language from textbooks, it still found there was room for improvement.

State Department officials say the study of Saudi textbooks was never meant to be released to the public. The president of the non-profit that wrote the study told the Daily Beast the same.

But others disagree. Michael Posner, who served as Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor for Obama’s first term said the State Department always had the choice to publish the textbook study.

“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 told the Daily Beast.

Posner declined to discuss the contents of the unpublished Saudi textbook study in the interview. But he spoke about the problem of Saudi textbooks in more general terms.“Among the references that were most offensive were commentary that linked Christians and Jews to apes and pigs,” Posner said. “If those references are still in some textbooks then the problem hasn’t been solved.”

While the content of Saudi textbooks on the surface may appear to be a less urgent issue for the U.S.-Saudi relationship than counter-terrorism, the security of oil fields or Iran’s quest for a nuclear weapon, the Kingdom’s support for Islamic extremism has been a quiet priority for U.S. policy makers since 9/11. Saudi textbooks are not only used in Saudi schools, but they are also sent free of charge to Muslim schools all over the world, including in the U.S.

Often these textbooks promote the kind of religious chauvinism embraced by Sunni terror groups like al Qaeda. A June 12, 2006 cable from the U.S. embassy in Riyadh disclosed by WikiLeaks highlights this kind of bigotry. It says an eighth grade textbook for example says, “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 cable says the textbooks reviewed by the U.S. embassy in Saudi Arabia were borrowed by U.S. diplomats from children in part because the Saudi government was reluctant to share them.

A June 16, 2008 WikLeaks cable from the U.S. embassy in Saudi Arabia notes that Saudis were making a “good faith effort” to reform their textbooks, but nonetheless expressed disappointment over “continued occurrences of intolerant language in the textbooks we reviewed.”

Current and former U.S. officials say the State Department in 2011 commissioned the International Center for Religion and Diplomacy (ICRD), a non-profit that promotes religious tolerance, to evaluate Saudi textbooks in 2011 in part because earlier efforts were never comprehensive. The Foundation for Defense of Democracies said the initial contract for the study was for $500,000.

Douglas Johnston, the president and founder of ICRD said that he recommended against publishing the results of the study.  “We strongly suggested it should not be published because they are making great progress on this. We can achieve a lot more if we pursue this outside the public domain.”

Read more at The Daily Beast

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http://iiit.org/AboutUs/Agreements/ICRD/tabid/109/Default.aspx

 

 

Saudi Arabia and the Muslim Brotherhood

gh23By Joseph Puder:

Reuters reported on March 7, 2014 that Saudi Arabia had formally designated the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) as a terrorist organization. Apparently the Saudis view the MB with a great deal of suspicion and mistrust, seeing the organization as too “republican” and anti-monarchist.

According to the Qatari Daily News, the Hamas regime in Gaza was also designated as a terrorist organization by the Saudis. Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have followed suit, thus exposing Qatar as the only Arab Gulf state to support the Muslim Brotherhood. Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Bahrain have all recalled their ambassadors from Qatar, accusing Qatar of failing to abide by the agreement not to interfere in each other’s affairs.

The ambassadors’ crisis has to do with a Cairo tribunal decision to freeze the assets of the Palestinian Hamas terrorist organization and bar it from Egyptian territory. Hamas is allied with the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, and linked to the attacks in Egypt.

The Saudi-Qatari rift is connected to the very different attitude each country has toward the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Gaza. Whereas the Saudi regime supported the coup against President Muhammad Morsi, and sought to reinforce the military-dominated government that followed, Qatar has continued to back the Muslim Brotherhood.

The Saudis and the Emiratis were swift in their support of the military coup in Egypt in July, 2013, that deposed Muslim Brotherhood President Muhammad Morsi. Both Gulf States pledged billions of dollars in support of General Abdul Fattah Al-Sisi, the military chief that lead the takeover. Ironically, Morsi’s first foreign visit as President of Egypt, in July, 2012, was to Saudi Arabia, where he pledged that his MB government would not seek to export the revolution beyond its own borders. He assured the Saudis that Egypt would not encourage opposition to their regime nor provide support for Islamist regimes.

The Saudis, always mistrustful of Egyptian intentions, were skeptical of Morsi’s assurances. The Saudis have had a long struggle with the revolutionary and socialist oriented regime of Egypt’s dictator Gamal Abdul Nasser, who had hoped to export his revolutionary, socialist, Arab-nationalist, and anti-western creed throughout the Arab world. In the mid-1960’s Egypt and Saudi Arabia fought a proxy war in Yemen. One of the underlying fears held by the Saudi royals was that Nasser’s intentions were to depose them and take over their oil fields.

In the Middle East where the adage “my enemy’s enemy is my friend” is often realized, the Saudi royal family provided various forms of support to the Muslim Brotherhood in the 1950’s and 1960’s. Political asylum was granted to its leaders, and they helped to fund various Islamic charities in which the MB played a major role. Nasser, in 1954, decreed the dissolution of the Muslim Brotherhood and ordered its supreme guide, Hasan Al-Hodeibi, arrested along with other leaders and members of the MB. In October, 1954, an attempt on Nasser’s life while he delivered a speech in Alexandria resulted in a mass roundup and trial of thousands of MB members. Some MB leaders were sentenced to death and others to life imprisonment.

Sayed Qutb, the ideological leader of the MB, turned against the leadership in Muslim states. He invoked the practice of “takfir,” branding some Muslim regimes as “infidels,” and thus legitimizing their violent overthrow, aimed particularly at Nasser’s regime. In 1966, he was executed by Nasser orders.

It is worthwhile to note that not only did the MB receive support early on from the Saudis, but the Eisenhower administration tried to cultivate them as well, to act as a lever against Soviet Communism in the Cold War era.

Read more at Front Page

The Double-Edged Sword of Jihad

LIBYAby :

Islamic nations are again learning that the jihad is a volatile instrument of war that can easily backfire on those who preach it; that “holy war” is hardly limited to fighting and subjugating “infidels”—whether the West in general, Israel in particular, or the millions of non-Muslim minorities under Islam—but can also be used to fight “apostates,” that is, Muslims accused of not being Islamic enough.

In an unprecedented move and following Egypt’s lead, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain recently withdrew their ambassadors from Qatar, largely due to its Al Jazeera propaganda network which, since the ousting of the Muslim Brotherhood, has been inciting chaos in the region.

According to a March 7 Reuters reports, “Saudi Arabia has formally designated the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization, in a move that could increase pressure on Qatar whose backing for the group has sparked a row with fellow Gulf monarchies….  Saudi Arabia and the UAE are fuming over Qatar’s support for the Muslim Brotherhood, and resent the way Doha has sheltered influential cleric Yusuf Qaradawi, a critic of the Saudi authorities, and given him regular airtime on its pan-Arab satellite channel Al Jazeera.”

Qaradawi, of course, has been an Al Jazeera mainstay for many years, regularly preaching jihad against Israel and other “infidels”—telling millions of Muslim viewers to “obey the prophet, even if he tells you to kill.”

Back then, Qaradawi was not a problem for the Gulf States.

However, since the Egyptian June 30 Revolution saw the ousting and subsequent banning of the Muslim Brotherhood, and ever since the Brotherhood’s supporters—chief among them Qaradawi, through his Al Jazeera program—have been inciting violence in the region, especially in Egypt and Syria, the jihad is spinning out of control; and the Gulf monarchs know that, if not contained and directed, it can easily reach them.

Read more at Front Page

Saudi terrorism list raises question about Islamic Front

A fighter from the Islamic Front holds an assault rifle while a fellow fighter looks through a hole in a wall inside a damaged school in Idlib, Feb. 4, 2014. (photo by REUTERS/Loubna Mrie)

A fighter from the Islamic Front holds an assault rifle while a fellow fighter looks through a hole in a wall inside a damaged school in Idlib, Feb. 4, 2014. (photo by REUTERS/Loubna Mrie)

By Abdallah Suleiman Ali:

Yesterday [March 7], Saudi Arabia made a preliminary terrorism list that included the names of many organizations and movements inside and outside the kingdom.

Adopting that list was part of the February royal decree that criminalized anyone fighting outside Saudi Arabia. The decree ordered forming a commission to prepare a list of currents and movements that qualify as terrorist groups, thus criminalizing belonging or sympathizing with them.

The commission is composed of representatives from the ministries of interior, justice, Islamic affairs, and foreign affairs, the Council of Grievances office, the investigating committee and the prosecutor’s office. The commission explicitly named some organizations and movements — such as al-Qaeda, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, al-Qaeda in Yemen, al-Qaeda in Iraq, Jabhat al-Nusra, the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), Hezbollah within the Kingdom, the Muslim Brotherhood organization and the Houthi group.

However, the commission’s list contained vague terms that rendered the list very hard to interpret and subject to many variations. That may have been intentional in order to leave maneuvering room and flexibility for Saudi authorities regarding some organizations with which the kingdom has strong ties, especially in the Syrian arena. Perhaps the most prominent of those is specifically the Army of Islam, and generally Jabhat al-Nusra.

It is not clear whether the terrorism list encompassed the Islamic Front. The Islamic Front was not mentioned on the list, which may suggest that it was excluded from the terrorism label and that Riyadh will continue to fund the front’s components, especially the Army of Islam, led by Zahran Alloush. But the commission asserted that the list encompasses “every organization that is similar to these organizations in thought, word, or deed” and “all organizations contained in Security Council resolutions and international bodies” and “known as terrorist and practice violence.” That indicates that the Saudi decision left room for many organizations and movements that are not mentioned on the list by name, whereby it is up to the discretion of Saudi political leadership to classify some groups as terrorist at the proper time and in the way that serves Saudi interests.

Read more at al Monitor

Egypt Joins Other Arab States In Pulling Ambassador From Qatar

By gmbwatch:

US media has reported that Egypt joined three other Arab states last Thursday in withdrawing its ambassador from Qatar over its support of the Muslim Brotherhood. According a New York Times report:

Egypt

Egypt

March 6, 2014 CAIRO — Egypt on Thursday became the fourth Arab state in two days to pull its ambassador from Qatar over its support for Islamists around the region, including the deposed Egyptian president, Mohamed Morsi, and his supporters in the Muslim Brotherhood.

After the withdrawal of envoys from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, Egypt’s statement formalizes a breach between Cairo and Doha that began shortly after the military ouster of Mr. Morsi last summer. Its move adds to Qatar’s sudden isolation in the region and reinforces the alliance binding Egypt’s new military-backed government to the other oil-rich Persian Gulf monarchies.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain were deeply apprehensive about the potential influence on their own populations of either democratic or Islamist leadership in Cairo. Since the Egyptian military removed Mr. Morsi, the conservative gulf states have donated billions of dollars to support the new government, just as Qatar had spent heavily to try to prop up the previous Islamist one.

Egyptian state news media declared Thursday that most of the Arab world had now repudiated Qatar, asserting that Doha must now decide whether it would stand on the side of ‘Arab solidarity’ or against it.

Read the rest here.

The GMBDW has been comprehensively covering the increasing pressure faced by the Muslim Brotherhood in the Gulf countries including:

  • The withdrawal by Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates of heir envoys to Qatar
  • The troubles of Global Muslim Brotherhood leader Youssef Qaradawi who has been antagonizing Gulf rulers with his increasingly strident criticisms.
  • The trials of Muslim Brotherhood leaders and cadre in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
  • The actions taken by Saudi Arabia of late against the Muslim Brotherhood.
  • The increasingly difficult situation faced by the Muslim Brotherhood in Kuwait.

In a Featured Story, the GMBDW reported yesterday on the Saudi decision to designate the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization, noting that the decision did not appear to prevent two well-known leaders in the Global Muslim Brotherhood from attending a recent conference of the Saudi Muslim World League.

************

That last embedded link includes the following important observation:

However, research by the GMBDW suggests that while clearly targeting the Muslim Brotherhood in the Gulf, the move by Saudi Arabia may not reflect the Kingdom’s abandoning of support for the wider Global Muslim Brotherhood. Saudi media has reported on the conclusion of last week’s global conference sponsored by the Muslim World League (MWL) titled ““The Islamic World, Problems and Solutions” which among other things, proposed the institution of the King Abdullah Islamic Solidarity Prize. Established in 1962 as a means for the propagation of Saudi “Wahabbi” Islam. Muslim Brothers played an important role in its founding and the League has always been strongly associated with the Brotherhood. US government officials have testified that MWL has in the past been linked to supporting Islamic terrorist organizations globally. According to the MWL’s own reporting, two leaders in the Global Muslim Brotherhood were in attendance at last weeks conference.

  • Ahmed Al-Rawiidentified as the head of the Islamic Waqf in Britain (aka Europe Trust), was said to have discussed the issue of Muslim Minorities. Dr. Al-Rawi is the current head of the Europe Trust, the endowment/funding arm of the Federation of Islamic Organizations in Europe (FIOE), and a former FIOE President. FIOE, in turn, is the umbrella group representing the Muslim Brotherhood in Europe and known to have received funding from the MWL.
  • Issam Al-Bashiridentified as President of the Islamic Fiqh Council in Sudan, was said to have addressed the participants at the conference which he thanked for “their interest in supporting projects of Islamic solidarity.” Dr. Bashir has held numerous positions associated with the global Muslim Brotherhood including as a former director of the UK charity Islamic Relief, a member of the European Council for Fatwa and Research, and as a former Minister of Religious Affairs in the political party of Hassan Al-Turabi, formerly closely tied to the Brotherhood.

The presence of two important leaders in the Global Muslim Brotherhood at an important Saudi conference invoking the name of King Abdullah suggests that the Saudi regime either not understand the GMB fully or may in fact be prepared to prepared to allow continued support of the GMB while attempting to limit or destroy the Brotherhood presence in the Gulf.

 

 

 

Saudi Arabia Threatens to Lay Siege to Qatar: Cooperation or Confrontation?

Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah

Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah

By David Hearst:

Saudi Arabia has threatened to blockade its neighbouring Gulf State Qatar by land and sea unless it cuts ties with the Muslim Brotherhood, closes Al Jazeera, and expels local branches of two prestigious U.S. think tanks, the Brookings Doha Center and the Rand Qatar Policy Institute.

The threats against the television station Al Jazeera, Brookings Institute and the Rand Corporation, were made by the Saudi Foreign Minister Saud bin Faisal in a foreign minister’s meeting of the Gulf Cooperation Council in Riyadh last week, according to a source who was present. Bin Faisal said only these acts would be sufficient if Qatar wanted to avoid “being punished.”

News of the threats to shut down the Brookings and Rand Corporation think tanks in Doha will embarrass the U.S. president Barack Obama, who is due to visit Riyadh at the end of month. His Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker was in Abu Dhabi on Sunday, where she told AP that she will tell officials from the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Qatar that closer economic cooperation with Washington is a bridge to building deeper security ties.

The Saudi royal family were enraged and threatened, in equal measure, by the role Al Jazeera played in the first years of the Arab Spring , which saw fellow potentates deposed in popular revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt . They are now equally upset at the sympathetic coverage the Doha-based television station gives to the opposition, secular and Islamist, in Egypt. Three journalists from Al Jazeera, its Egypt bureau chief Mohamed Fahmy the Australian correspondent Peter Greste and Egyptian producer Baher Mohamed appeared in court in Cairo last week accused of “joining a terrorist group, aiding a terrorist group, and endangering national security.” A fourth journalist, from Al Jazeera Arabic, Abdullah al-Shami is being tried in a separate case.

The military backed government in Egypt accuse Al Jazeera of providing a platform for the supporters of the ousted president Mohamed Morsi, and the now outlawed Muslim Brotherhood. “Journalists are not terrorists,” Fahmy shouted from the cage in the courtroom.

Read more at Huffington Post

Also see:

Saudi Arabia designates Muslim Brotherhood as terrorist group: Interior Ministry

 

Supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood and ousted Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi shout slogans against the military and interior ministry, while gesturing with four fingers, during a protest in front of riot police outside a police academy, on the outskirts of Cairo January 8, 2014. CREDIT: REUTERS/AMR ABDALLAH DALSH

Supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood and ousted Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi shout slogans against the military and interior ministry, while gesturing with four fingers, during a protest in front of riot police outside a police academy, on the outskirts of Cairo January 8, 2014.
CREDIT: REUTERS/AMR ABDALLAH DALSH

(Reuters)Saudi Arabia has formally designated the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist group, official Saudi television reported citing a statement by the Interior Ministry.

The kingdom has also designated Nusra Front and the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, whose fighters are battling Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, as terrorist organizations.

Friday’s move appeared to enforce last month’s royal decree where Riyadh said it would jail for between three and 20 years any citizen who fought guilty of fighting in conflicts abroad.

The kingdom’s authorities want to deter Saudis from joining rebels in Syria and posing a security risk once they return home.

Riyadh also fears the Brotherhood, whose conservative Sunni doctrines challenge the Saudi principle of dynastic rule, has tried to build support inside the kingdom since the Arab Spring popular revolutions in the Arab-speaking world.

In Egypt, the Brotherhood, which won every election following the toppling of long-time ruler Hosni Mubarak in 2011, has been driven underground since the army deposed President Mohamed Mursi, a longtime member of the group that also endured repression in the Mubarak era.

The army-backed government in Cairo designated the Brotherhood as a terrorist group in December after accusing it of carrying out a suicide bomb attack on a police station that killed 16 people. The Brotherhood condemned that attack and denies using violence.

Saudi Arabia’s Islamic religious authorities have previously spoken out against Saudi fighters going to Syria, but the Saudi Interior Ministry estimates that around 1,200 Saudis have gone there nonetheless.

Saudi Arabia: The Middle East’s Real Apartheid State

356-saudi-450x320by :

There is a country in the Middle East where 10 percent of the population is denied equal rights because of their race, where black men are not allowed to hold many government positions, where black women are put on trial for witchcraft and where the custody of children is granted to the parent with the most “racially superior” bloodline.

This Apartheid State is so enormously powerful that it controls American foreign policy in the Middle East even as its princes and princesses bring their slaves to the United Kingdom and the United States.

That country is Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia abolished slavery in 1962 under pressure from President Kennedy, who accomplished what the Ottoman Empire and the League of Nations had not been able to, but that hasn’t stopped its citizens from selling castrated slaves on Facebook or its princes from beating their black slaves to death in posh London hotels.

The Saudis had clung to their racist privileges longer than anyone else. When rumors reached Mecca that the Ottoman Empire might be considering the abolition of African slavery and equal rights for all, the chief of the Ulema of Mecca issued a fatwa declaring “the ban on slaves is contrary to Sharia (Islamic Law)… with such proposals the Turks have become infidels and it is lawful to make their children slaves.”

But Saudi Arabia’s oil wealth eventually made slavery economically unnecessary. Early on, African slaves worked for foreign oil companies which paid their masters, but they were a poor fit for the oil economy. The Kingdom no longer needed agricultural slaves and pearl drivers; it needed trained technicians from the West and international travel made it cheaper to import Asian workers for household labor and construction than to maintain its old trade in slaves.

The Saudis replaced the 450,000 slaves of the 1950s with 8.4 million guest workers. These workers are often treated like slaves, but they are not property and are therefore even more disposable than the slaves were. Exact numbers are hard to come by, but Nepal alone reported 265 worker deaths in Saudi Arabia in a single year.

Human Rights Watch has described conditions for foreign workers in Saudi Arabia as resembling slavery.

Meanwhile the three million Afro-Saudis are denied equal rights, prevented from serving as judges, security officials, diplomats, mayors and many other official positions. Afro-Saudi women are not allowed to appear on camera.

“There is not one single black school principal in Saudi Arabia,” the Institute for Gulf Affairs, a Saudi human rights group, reported.

Kafa’ah, equality in marriage, is used to establish that both sides are free from the “taint” of slave blood. The blood of Takruni, West African slaves, or Mawalid, slaves who gained their freedom by converting to Islam, is kept out of the Saudi master race through genealogical records that can be presented at need.

Challenges to the Kafa’ah of a marriage occur when tribal members uncover African descent in the husband or the wife after the marriage has already occurred. The racially inferior party is ordered to present “proof of equality” in the form of family trees and witnesses. If the couple is judged unequal, the Saudi Gazette reported, “Children’s custody is usually given to the ‘racially superior’ parent.”

These Saudi efforts at preventing their former slaves from intermarrying with them have only accelerated their incestuous inbreeding. In parts of Saudi Arabia, the percentage of marriages among blood relatives can go as high as 70%.

Read more at Front Page

Bandar bin Sultan’s Botched Syrian Intervention

by Hilal Khashan
Middle East Quarterly
Winter 2014

In an untypically abrasive speech, Saudi King Abdullah welcomed the ouster of Egypt’s president Muhammad Morsi, stating: “Let the entire world know that the people and government of the Saudi kingdom stood and still stand today with our brothers in Egypt against terrorism, extremism, and sedition.”[1] However dramatic, this apparent shift from Riyadh’s traditional accommodation of perceived enemies, such as the Muslim Brotherhood and its regional affiliates, to a more daring foreign policy is too little too late to reverse the decline of its regional power. And nowhere was this weakness more starkly demonstrated than in Riyadh’s botched Syrian intervention, led by its most celebrated diplomat—Prince Bandar bin Sultan.

A Broken Tradition of Cooptation

The foundations of Saudi foreign policy were laid under historical circumstances that were completely different from today’s political situation. From the 1930s to the early 1950s, Western presence in the Middle East was quite strong with the region enjoying geopolitical homeostasis. The rise of radical regimes in Egypt, Syria, and Iraq, coupled with Moscow’s growing involvement in the region, did not seem to threaten Riyadh’s domestic and international stance, and the intensifying U.S.-Saudi relations, cemented by mutual commitment to combating communism, steered the kingdom through the region’s periodic upheavals well into the late 1970s.

 

Saudi King Abdullah (l) meets with President Obama in Washington, June 29, 2010. Riyadh has been openly critical of U.S. policy in the Middle East and has sent unmistakable signals of its displeasure. Most Saudis worry that a vacillating and unserious commander-in-chief in Washington may leave them twisting in the region’s political winds.

This self-assurance played a central role in the Saudi royal family’s nonconfrontational approach and its preference for quiet diplomacy.[2] Military weakness, equilibrium, and calming situations were seemingly the three pillars of Riyadh’s foreign policy orientation. The royals ruled out asserting the kingdom as a military power and, thanks to oil wealth and religious significance, chose to make it a cornerstone of the regional balance of interests.[3]

The Iranian revolution and subsequent regional developments, notably the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990 and the recent Arab upheavals, undermined this delicate balance of interests and made Riyadh’s accommodative policy increasingly untenable. Things came to a head during the 2011 Shiite uprising in Bahrain, which the Saudis feared might spread to their own territory. Having helped to quell the restiveness in the tiny neighboring kingdom, Abdullah enlisted the services of Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the former veteran ambassador to Washington, to take Saudi foreign policy in a more assertive direction.

The Prince of Sensitive Missions

Son of the late Saudi crown prince Sultan bin Abdulaziz al-Saud (d. 2011), Bandar began his political career in 1978 as King Khaled’s personal envoy to Washington bypassing Ambassador Faisal al-Hegelan.[4] He quickly impressed President Jimmy Carter by enlisting the support of Sen. James Abourezk (Democrat, S. Dakota) in the toss-up vote on the Panama Canal treaty, and his subtle diplomacy paved the way for Congress to pass the Saudi F-15 package shortly thereafter.[5] In 1986, Bandar entered the limelight as a result of his involvement in the Iran-Contra scandal and, four years later, played an instrumental role in convincing hesitant Saudi royals to invite U.S. troops into the kingdom to cope with the consequences of the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. Since then, he has served as a vital liaison between Washington and Riyadh. In 2005, upon the completion of Bandar’s 22-year stint in Washington, King Abdullah appointed him to lead the country’s National Security Council.

Bandar’s advice was sought in large part due to the mounting evidence that implicated Iran, Syria, and Hezbollah in the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister, Rafiq Hariri, Riyadh’s ally in Beirut. Following the July 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah and the latter’s crippling of the Fouad Seniora government, Bandar convinced Abdullah to invest in creating a Sunni militia to operate under the command of Hariri’s son Saad. This fateful but ill-studied decision undermined Bandar’s credibility when, in 2008, Hezbollah’s militiamen stormed west Beirut and effortlessly dismantled Saad’s militia in a matter of hours. Bandar had evidently failed to appreciate the strength of Hezbollah or the ineptitude of Hariri’s leadership.

The Saudi royal family is seriously concerned about the turn of events in the region and the possibility of demands for political reform such changes might initiate. With more than two-thirds of its tribally and religiously heterogeneous population alien to the austere Wahhabi doctrine,[6] there is very little in common between the Najd-originated ruling Wahhabi dynasty and its Shiite subjects in the oil-rich eastern province or Shafii and Maliki Sunni Muslims in Hijaz. Likewise, the kingdom’s southern subjects mostly belong to Yemeni tribes where Shiite Ismailis and Zaydis proliferate.

Nevertheless, this failure did not deter Abdullah from calling on Bandar again in July 2012 to head the Saudi intelligence apparatus. The Saudi king had already become disturbed about the course of events in Syria and Bashar Assad’s refusal to leave office. He may have thought that Bandar, who knew how to deal with Saddam Hussein, could work some magic with Bashar. In turn, mindful of Bandar’s deep unease with regional Shiite ascendancy, Tehran’s state-controlled media dubbed him the “prince of terrorists.”[7]

President George W. Bush meets with Saudi ambassador to the U.S., Prince Bandar bin Sultan (r), at the Bush ranch, August 27, 2002, in Crawford, Texas. Many Americans noted at the time the seeming supplicant position of their president. In 2005, King Abdullah appointed Bandar to lead the Saudi national security council.

President George W. Bush meets with Saudi ambassador to the U.S., Prince Bandar bin Sultan (r), at the Bush ranch, August 27, 2002, in Crawford, Texas. Many Americans noted at the time the seeming supplicant position of their president. In 2005, King Abdullah appointed Bandar to lead the Saudi national security council.

Read more 

Global Terrorism and Saudi Arabia: Bandar’s Terror Network

Saudi spymaster Bandar bin Sultan

Saudi spymaster Bandar bin Sultan

By Prof. James Petras, h/t @El_Grillo1

Saudi Arabia has all the vices and none of the virtues of an oil rich state like Venezuela.  The country is governed by a family dictatorship which tolerates no opposition and severely punishes human rights advocates and political dissidents.  Hundreds of billions in oil revenues are controlled by the royal despotism and fuel speculative investments the world over.  The ruling elite relies on the purchase of Western arms and US military bases for protection.  The wealth of productive nations is syphoned to enrich the conspicuous consumption of the Saudi ruling family.  The ruling elite finances the most fanatical, retrograde, misogynist version of Islam, “Wahhabi” a sect of Sunni Islam.

Faced with internal dissent from repressed subjects and religious minorities, the Saudi dictatorship perceives threats and dangers from all sides:  overseas, secular, nationalists and Shia ruling governments; internally, moderate Sunni nationalists, democrats and feminists; within the royalist cliques, traditionalists and modernizers.  In response it has turned toward financing, training and arming an international network of Islamic terrorists who are directed toward attacking, invading and destroying regimes opposed to the Saudi clerical-dictatorial regime.

The mastermind of the Saudi terror network is Bandar bin Sultan, who has longstanding and deep ties to high level US political, military and intelligence officials.  Bandar was trained and indoctrinated at Maxwell Air Force Base and Johns Hopkins University and served as Saudi Ambassador to the US for over two decades (1983 – 2005).  Between 2005 – 2011 he was Secretary of the National Security Council and in 2012 he was appointed as Director General of the Saudi Intelligence Agency.  Early on Bandar became deeply immersed in clandestine terror operations working in liaison with the CIA.  Among his numerous “dirty operations” with the CIA during the 1980s, Bandar channeled $32 million dollars to the Nicaragua Contra’s engaged in a terror campaign to overthrow the revolutionary Sandinista government in Nicaragua.  During his tenure as ambassador he was actively engaged in protecting Saudi royalty with ties to the 9/11/01 bombing of the Triple Towers and the Pentagon.  Suspicion that Bandar and his allies in the Royal family had prior knowledge of the bombings by Saudi terrorists (11 of the 19), is suggested by the sudden flight of Saudi Royalty following the terrorist act.  US intelligence documents regarding the Saudi-Bandar connection are under Congressional review.

With a wealth of experience and training in running clandestine terrorist operations, derived from his two decades of collaboration with the US intelligence agencies, Bandar was in a position to organize his own global terror network in defense of the isolated retrograde and vulnerable Saudi despotic monarchy.

Read more at Global Research

Also see:

From Saudi Arabia with Terror: Controversy Highlights Saudi Ties to Chechen Jihad

Exclusive to the Religious Freedom Coalition
Andrew E. Harrod, PHD explores the feud between Vladimir Putin and Prince Bandar bin Sultan

Given that the “Chechen groups that threaten…the games are controlled by us,” Saudi Arabia’s intelligence chief Prince Bandar bin Sultan allegedly promised to “guarantee to protect the Winter Olympics” to Russian President Vladimir Putin during an August 2013 Moscow visit.  Even if untrue, this story surrounding Bandar’s visit raises disturbing questions about ongoing Saudi ties to Chechen jihadists.

Prince of terror?

Prince of terror?

According to reported leaks, Bandar’s comments came in the context of various offers designed to induce Russian abandonment of its Syrian client Bashar al-Assad, currently embattled by Saudi-supported rebels.  The Bandar controversy from August remains ominous given ongoing attacks by Chechen jihadists across Russia.  A December 29, 2013, Volgograd train station suicide bombing, for example, killed 18, only to be followed the next day in the city by a trolleybus suicide bombing claiming an additional 16 lives.

Volgograd is a key transportation hub on the way to Russia’s volatile Caucasus region including Chechnya and the Black Sea city of Sochi, where the 2014 Winter Olympics will open on February 7. Doku Umarov, Chechen “emir” of the terrorist Imarat Kavkaz (IK or Caucasus Emirate), called in a July 3, 2013, online videofor the games’ disruption. Umarov condemned the Olympics as “satanic dances on the bones of our ancestors.”

Past evidence suggests that Bandar could have made a veiled threat concerning Chechen jihadists to Putin.  Chechens seeking independence from Russia following the Soviet Union’s 1991 dissolution were initially largely secular.  Yet jihadist groups through the years such as those from Al Qaeda “have increasingly sought to co-opt the Chechen movement as their own,” Islamism scholar Lorenzo Vidino has noted.  As a result, the Russian military estimated in 2003 that Arabs were about one-fifth of Chechnya’s some 1,000 active fighters, providing the Chechens with most of their expertise in communications in mine laying.

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See also:

Do the Saudis really control the terrorists they court? by Paul Sperry

Al-Qaeda vs. Al-Qaeda Lite in Syria

syria-al-qaidaBy Ryan Mauro:

Don’t get too excited by the headlines of a new “revolution” in Syria against Al-Qaeda. The offensive is led by the Islamic Front, a Salafist coalition backed by Saudi Arabia with the explicit goal of instituting Sharia. These are not the saviors of Syria’s Christian minority and other opponents of Islamism.

Al-Qaeda will soon be facing a two-front offensive. The Islamic Front is mounting the fiercest challenge to Al-Qaeda’s Syrian affiliates yet. The Iraqi military and local tribes are preparing an offensive to retake Fallujah.

This is bad news for Al-Qaeda, but good news for Syrian Islamists as a whole. The non-Al-Qaeda Islamists are waging this fight for two reasons: Power and branding. A representative of the Islamic Front explained what triggered the battle:

ISIS denies reality, refusing to recognize that it is simply another group. It refuses to go to independent courts; it attacked many other groups, stole their weapons, occupied their headquarters, and arbitrarily apprehended numerous activists, journalists and rebels. It has been torturing its prisoners. These transgressions accumulated, and people got fed up with ISIS. Some of those people have attacked ISIS’s positions, but ISIS was first to attack in other places, bringing this on itself.

The difference has nothing to do with ideology; in fact, the Islamic Front spokesperson never even mentioned Sharia or democracy. The bottom line is that Al-Qaeda is thuggish and doesn’t play well with others.

The second reason for the “revolution” against Al-Qaeda is PR. The Syrian opposition says Al-Qaeda’s presence is good for the Assad regime. It prevents the West from arming the rebels and alienates Syrians that might otherwise oppose Assad. By confronting Al-Qaeda, the Islamic Front and other Islamists can present themselves as moderate; like the Syrian equivalent of Iraq’s Awakening movement.

The Islamic Front is a proxy of Saudi Arabia. It was organized by the Saudi government, is stridently Salafist, and is led by a man whose father is a Saudi cleric. The Saudis hired Pakistanis to train 5-10,000 of them.

Basically, the Islamic Front is Saudi Arabia’s way of consolidating control over the Syrian rebellion and turning into a more cohesive force. The Saudi objective is to have a Salafist force that, unlike Al-Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood, is not its enemy.

Joshua Landis points out that there is very little separating Al-Qaeda from the Islamic Front’s leader, Zahran Alloush. He even has tried to work with Jabhat al-Nusra, one of Al-Qaeda’s affiliates. He is no friend to Syria’s minorities, directly calling for the murdering of Shiites and Allawites. Christians are widely seen as pro-Assad, so we should expect a similar attitude towards them.

The Saudis made this force out of the shattered remains of the Supreme Military Council, the “moderate” group that the U.S. hoped would become the main rebel force. The SMC was often called the “Free Syria Army,” though it has rivals also working under that banner. The chances of that happening went from slim to none after dozens of brigades affiliated with the SMC split to join the Islamic Front.

Now, the Islamic Front is the dominant rebel force. It numbers around 45,000 and that tally will grow as it wins victories on the ground. In contrast, Al-Qaeda’s affiliates total around 15,000 and many of them are foreign fighters. There are at least 7,000 foreigners in Syria backing the rebels, up to 2,000 of which are from Europe.

Read more at Front Page

Foreign Jihadists in Syria: Tracking Recruitment Networks

Syrian rebels2
BY AARON Y. ZELIN

Thu, December 26, 2013

Monitoring jihadist social-media networks reveals where fighters are coming from, where in Syria they are fighting, and how best to stem their continued recruitment in countries such as Saudi Arabia, Libya, and Tunisia.

The clandestine nature of the various networks responsible for sending Sunni fighters into Syria makes it difficult to ascertain exactly how many foreigners have entered the war and from which countries. Yet social-media sources affiliated with jihadists often post death notices for slain fighters, providing a unique, though incomplete, picture of where they are being recruited and where in Syria they fought. Tracking and analyzing these notices can help broaden Washington’s understanding of foreign recruitment networks, the largest of which appear to operate in Saudi Arabia, Libya, and Tunisia.

HOW MANY HAVE BEEN KILLED?

Since the Syrian uprising turned into an armed rebellion, jihadists have announced the deaths of more than 1,100 fighters on their Twitter and Facebook accounts and, to a lesser extent, on password-protected forums. Although other foreigners have been killed in Syria, their deaths were reported by non-jihadist rebels, Western media, or Arabic media and are not included in this assessment. The figures below also exclude foreigners who have fought on the Assad regime’s side.

To be sure, the information gleaned from jihadist sources is self-reported, and some data might therefore be suppressed for political reasons, especially reports of Iraqi involvement. That said, it still offers a worthwhile snapshot of an otherwise murky world.

The most striking revelation in the latest data is the huge rise in overall death notices. Previously, jihadist sources had posted only 85 such notices as of February 2013, and only 280 as of June. In other words, the vast majority of the more than 1,100 notices have come in the past half year.

WHERE ARE THEY COMING FROM?

Arabs dominate the list of foreign jihadists who have died in Syria, and nine of the top ten countries represented are from the Arab world.

Death notices have mentioned fifty different nationalities in all, including twenty in Europe or elsewhere in the West. Yet Westerners make up only a miniscule amount of the total.

One of the most important trends in the past half-year is the rise in both the total number of Saudi foreign fighters and the number of Saudis killed (which far outpaces all other national groups). Only some 20 percent of the 1,100 death notices state group affiliation, so this data provides only a small window into which groups foreigners are joining. Of these, however, the vast majority name Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham — the two militant opposition groups designated as terrorist organizations by the United States. Other fighters were also reported to be members of Jaish al-Muhajireen wal-Ansar, Harakat Ahrar al-Sham al-Islamiyya, Katibat Suqur al-Izz, Liwa al-Umma, and Harakat Sham al-Islam, among others.

More than 60 percent of the notices offered more specific information about the fighter’s town or province of origin, providing insight into certain foreign networks. For instance, fifteen fighters were described as hailing from the Saudi province of al-Qassim, and it is possible that they came from the provincial capital of Buraydah, as the notices for twenty-two other fighters indicated. The largest network in this data set is from Riyadh, however, raising questions about whether the Saudi government is being duplicitous and/or looking the other way regarding significant jihadist activity in its capital.

Read more at Clarion Project

Aaron Y. Zelin is the Richard Borow Fellow at The Washington Institute.

Hizballah Leader Bashes Saudi Arabia Over Syria

Inside the Saudi 9/11 coverup

2013 9/11 Memorial Ceremonies PoolBy Paul Sperry, New York Post, December 15, 2013 (H/T Pamela Geller)

After the 9/11 attacks, the public was told al Qaeda acted alone, with no state sponsors.

But the White House never let it see an entire section of Congress’ investigative report on 9/11 dealing with “specific sources of foreign support” for the 19 hijackers, 15 of whom were Saudi nationals.

It was kept secret and remains so today.

President Bush inexplicably censored 28 full pages of the 800-page report. Text isn’t just blacked-out here and there in this critical-yet-missing middle section. The pages are completely blank, except for dotted lines where an estimated 7,200 words once stood (this story by comparison is about 1,000 words).

A pair of lawmakers who recently read the redacted portion say they are “absolutely shocked” at the level of foreign state involvement in the attacks.

Reps. Walter Jones (R-NC) and Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.) can’t reveal the nation identified by it without violating federal law. So they’ve proposed Congress pass a resolution asking President Obama to declassify the entire 2002 report, “Joint Inquiry Into Intelligence Community Activities Before and After the Terrorist Attacks of September 11, 2001.”

Some information already has leaked from the classified section, which is based on both CIA and FBI documents, and it points back to Saudi Arabia, a presumed ally.

The Saudis deny any role in 9/11, but the CIA in one memo reportedly found “incontrovertible evidence” that Saudi government officials — not just wealthy Saudi hardliners, but high-level diplomats and intelligence officers employed by the kingdom — helped the hijackers both financially and logistically. The intelligence files cited in the report directly implicate the Saudi embassy in Washington and consulate in Los Angeles in the attacks, making 9/11 not just an act of terrorism, but an act of war.

9781410207418_p0_v1_s600.jpgThe findings, if confirmed, would back up open-source reporting showing the hijackers had, at a minimum, ties to several Saudi officials and agents while they were preparing for their attacks inside the United States. In fact, they got help from Saudi VIPs from coast to coast:

LOS ANGELES: Saudi consulate official Fahad al-Thumairy allegedly arranged for an advance team to receive two of the Saudi hijackers — Khalid al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi — as they arrived at LAX in 2000. One of the advance men, Omar al-Bayoumi, a suspected Saudi intelligence agent, left the LA consulate and met the hijackers at a local restaurant. (Bayoumi left the United States two months before the attacks, while Thumairy was deported back to Saudi Arabia after 9/11.)

SAN DIEGO: Bayoumi and another suspected Saudi agent, Osama Bassnan, set up essentially a forward operating base in San Diego for the hijackers after leaving LA. They were provided rooms, rent and phones, as well as private meetings with an American al Qaeda cleric who would later become notorious, Anwar al-Awlaki, at a Saudi-funded mosque he ran in a nearby suburb. They were also feted at a welcoming party. (Bassnan also fled the United States just before the attacks.)

WASHINGTON: Then-Saudi Ambassador Prince Bandar and his wife sent checks totaling some $130,000 to Bassnan while he was handling the hijackers. Though the Bandars claim the checks were “welfare” for Bassnan’s supposedly ill wife, the money nonetheless made its way into the hijackers’ hands.

Other al Qaeda funding was traced back to Bandar and his embassy — so much so that by 2004 Riggs Bank of Washington had dropped the Saudis as a client.

The next year, as a number of embassy employees popped up in terror probes, Riyadh recalled Bandar.

“Our investigations contributed to the ambassador’s departure,” an investigator who worked with the Joint Terrorism Task Force in Washington told me, though Bandar says he left for “personal reasons.”

FALLS CHURCH, VA.: In 2001, Awlaki and the San Diego hijackers turned up together again — this time at the Dar al-Hijrah Islamic Center, a Pentagon-area mosque built with funds from the Saudi Embassy. Awlaki was recruited 3,000 miles away to head the mosque. As its imam, Awlaki helped the hijackers, who showed up at his doorstep as if on cue. He tasked a handler to help them acquire apartments and IDs before they attacked the Pentagon.

Awlaki worked closely with the Saudi Embassy. He lectured at a Saudi Islamic think tank in Merrifield, Va., chaired by Bandar. Saudi travel itinerary documents I’ve obtained show he also served as the ­official imam on Saudi Embassy-sponsored trips to Mecca and tours of Saudi holy sites.

Most suspiciously, though, Awlaki fled the United States on a Saudi jet about a year after 9/11.

As I first reported in my book, “Infiltration,” quoting from classified US documents, the Saudi-sponsored cleric was briefly detained at JFK before being released into the custody of a “Saudi representative.” A federal warrant for Awlaki’s arrest had mysteriously been withdrawn the previous day. A US drone killed Awlaki in Yemen in 2011.

HERNDON, VA.: On the eve of the attacks, top Saudi government official Saleh Hussayen checked into the same Marriott Residence Inn near Dulles Airport as three of the Saudi hijackers who targeted the Pentagon. Hussayen had left a nearby hotel to move into the hijackers’ hotel. Did he meet with them? The FBI never found out. They let him go after he “feigned a seizure,” one agent recalled. (Hussayen’s name doesn’t appear in the separate 9/11 Commission Report, which clears the Saudis.)

SARASOTA, FLA.: 9/11 ringleader Mohamed Atta and other hijackers visited a home owned by Esam Ghazzawi, a Saudi adviser to the nephew of King Fahd. FBI agents investigating the connection in 2002 found that visitor logs for the gated community and photos of license tags matched vehicles driven by the hijackers. Just two weeks before the 9/11 attacks, the Saudi luxury home was abandoned. Three cars, including a new Chrysler PT Cruiser, were left in the driveway. Inside, opulent furniture was untouched.

Democrat Bob Graham, the former Florida senator who chaired the Joint Inquiry, has asked the FBI for the Sarasota case files, but can’t get a single, even heavily redacted, page released. He says it’s a “coverup.”

Is the federal government protecting the Saudis? Case agents tell me they were repeatedly called off pursuing 9/11 leads back to the Saudi Embassy, which had curious sway over White House and FBI responses to the attacks.

Just days after Bush met with the Saudi ambassador in the White House, the FBI evacuated from the United States dozens of Saudi officials, as well as Osama bin Laden family members. Bandar made the request for escorts directly to FBI headquarters on Sept. 13, 2001 — just hours after he met with the president. The two old family friends shared cigars on the Truman Balcony while discussing the attacks.

Bill Doyle, who lost his son in the World Trade Center attacks and heads the Coalition of 9/11 Families, calls the suppression of Saudi evidence a “coverup beyond belief.” Last week, he sent out an e-mail to relatives urging them to phone their representatives in Congress to support the resolution and read for themselves the censored 28 pages.

Astonishing as that sounds, few lawmakers in fact have bothered to read the classified section of arguably the most important investigation in US history.

Granted, it’s not easy to do. It took a monthlong letter-writing campaign by Jones and Lynch to convince the House intelligence panel to give them access to the material.

But it’s critical they take the time to read it and pressure the White House to let all Americans read it. This isn’t water under the bridge. The information is still relevant today. Pursuing leads further, getting to the bottom of the foreign support, could help head off another 9/11.

As the frustrated Joint Inquiry authors warned, in an overlooked addendum to their heavily redacted 2002 report, “State-sponsored terrorism substantially increases the likelihood of successful and more ­lethal attacks within the United States.”

Their findings must be released, even if they forever change US-Saudi relations. If an oil-rich foreign power was capable of orchestrating simultaneous bulls-eye hits on our centers of commerce and defense a dozen years ago, it may be able to pull off similarly devastating attacks today.

Members of Congress reluctant to read the full report ought to remember that the 9/11 assault missed its fourth target: them.

Paul Sperry is a Hoover Institution media fellow and author of “Infiltration” and “Muslim Mafia.”