Aleppo siege marks dramatic upheaval on Syrian battlefield

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CNN, by Tim Lister, Feb. 7, 2016:

The images from Aleppo, Idlib and Syria’s border with Turkey can be described in one word: despair.

Tens of thousands of people have fled the relentless bombing and shelling that has paved the way for dramatic battlefield gains by the regime of President Bashar al-Assad and its allies. Hundreds of thousands more remain trapped, awaiting their fate with trepidation.

In the space of a few weeks, the Syrian battlefield has been transformed, the balance of forces pulverized and the prospects for peace talks — already dark — virtually extinguished. Another tide of displaced civilians converge on the Turkish border, trapped by the advance of regime forces.

Last week, the regime of Bashar al-Assad, supported by Iranian and Lebanese Shia militia, severed the main road from Aleppo to the Turkish border, a narrow corridor through which the rebels and NGOs alike moved supplies. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reports that several villages in the area were hit by airstrikes on Sunday.

A defining battle for Aleppo, Syria’s largest city before the war, seems imminent. Regime forces and their allies on the ground, supported by Russian bombers in the air, are tightening the noose around the eastern half of the city, still held by a coalition of rebel groups. It’s estimated some 320,000 people still live, or subsist, there — under continual bombardment.

Shortages of diesel and food are reported, but many people simply don’t dare or can’t afford to leave. One civil defense worker told the Guardian newspaper: “They think, ‘We can die in our own homes, we don’t need to go to other places to die.’ “

Russian revolution

Beyond the humanitarian catastrophe that looms, the plight of Aleppo symbolizes the rapid transformation of the Syrian battlefield since the regime, Iran and Russia came together. For much of 2015, Assad’s forces were on the defensive, as rebel groups consolidated and took major towns in Idlib, the Aleppo countryside and began to attack regime strongholds in Latakia.

It was the very real possibility of regime collapse that prompted Russian intervention in September. Russian airstrikes and Iranian militia have since bolstered regime troops and reversed the tide. Aleppo is their most prized target.

“Should the rebel-held parts of the city ultimately fall, it will be a dramatic victory for Assad and the greatest setback to the rebellion since the start of the uprising in 2011,” says Emile Hokayem in Foreign Policy.

The Institute for the Study of War says a successful regime offensive around Aleppo would “shatter opposition morale, fundamentally challenge Turkish strategic ambitions and deny the opposition its most valuable bargaining chip before the international community.”

Rebel groups have made desperate appeals for help in defending the city.

The notoriously fractious resistance groups are declaring alliances to bolster their collective resistance. One of the most important groups, Ahrar al Sham, announced at the weekend: “We extend our hands to all factions of the Syrian revolution … and we announce our acceptance for unity with them without any prerequisites.”

But even briefly united, they can’t shoot down planes, and they don’t have T-90 tanks.

Since Russia began its air campaign, most of its strikes have been on cities and towns held by the rebels in western Syria. The aim: to link regime-held territory from the capital to the coast. These are not areas where ISIS has much of a presence; al Nusra, Ahrar al Sham and elements of the Free Syrian Army are the main groups.

Resistance has been fierce, but the sheer scale of the assault has gradually pried one town after another — or rather their ruins — from rebel hands.

In the process, senior rebel commanders have been killed in Homs, Idlib and Aleppo provinces.

Some commentators believe that the Assad regime and Russia set out to hoodwink the West by agreeing to the Geneva peace process while stepping up their military campaign, to create “facts on the ground” that would vastly change the balance in the negotiations.

“Their ultimate objective is to force the world to make an unconscionable choice between Assad and ISIS,” says Hokayem. For now, ISIS is waiting out the battle for Aleppo and watching its rivals get pummeled. It is crowing that it is the only real defender of Sunni Muslims against the Shia-dominated forces now on the offensive.

The Syrian Kurds, whose attitude toward the Assad regime might be described as ambivalent, also appear to be taking advantage of the situation, chipping away at rebel-held villages north of Aleppo. According to diplomats in the region, they are being encouraged by Russia — keen to antagonize Turkey at any opportunity.

For Aleppo, read Grozny

Some analysts compare Russian President Vladimir Putin’s strategy in Syria with the Russian campaign in Chechnya in 1999, which he directed as Prime Minister. All opposition figures were marked as terrorists, and Russian forces destroyed cities such as Grozny in which insurgents lived, as well as the insurgents themselves. By some estimates, 80% of Grozny was rendered uninhabitable. Human Rights Watch published a report on the Chechen campaign in 2000 entitled “Welcome to Hell” and accusing Russian forces of egregious human rights violations.

Putin pursued an exclusively military solution against the Chechen insurgency, and ultimately it worked. It took six years and an unknown number of Russian military casualties, but today acts of resistance in Chechnya are few and far between, and the republic is run by a Putin loyalist.

The same approach is apparent in Syria. After his meeting with Putin at the United Nations in September, U.S. President Barack Obama said of the Russians’ view of the rebels: “From their perspective, they’re all terrorists.”

But Chechnya is not the only precedent.

Jihadists, some of them from the Caucasus, have threatened to turn Syria into another Afghanistan for the Russians. While they may be driven from territory they hold, they are unlikely to be driven from Syria and could revert to insurgency tactics such as ambushes, assassinations and suicide bombings.

To some analysts, the regime advance will only radicalize what remains of rebel forces in Syria. Hokayem speaks of a “widespread and understandable feeling of betrayal in the rebellion, whose U.S.-friendly elements are increasingly losing face within opposition circles.”

Last month, Osama Abu Zeid, a senior adviser to the moderate Free Syrian Army, complained that “the U.S. is gradually moving from a neutral position toward being a partner in crime as it allows Assad and his allies to kill Syrians.”

Several rebel groups, as well as Turkish officials, blame Washington for the failure to establish a “safe-haven” inside Syria last year. Some in Washington take the same view.

In an Op-Ed for The Washington Post, two former senior officials, Nicholas Burns and James Jeffries, urge the Obama administration to “dramatically expand funding for the moderate Sunni and Kurdish forces that pose an alternative to Assad’s government and the Islamic State” and “reconsider what it has rejected in the past: the creation of a safe zone in northern Syria to protect civilians, along with a no-fly zone to enforce it.”

But they acknowledge that “defending the zone, preventing it from being overwhelmed by refugees, grounding it in a convincing legal justification and keeping out jihadist groups would be daunting tasks.”

Europe’s next nightmare

The United Nations estimated Friday that 40,000 people have already been displaced by the fighting in Aleppo. But the current exodus is by no means the first since the Russian air campaign began. In just three weeks in October, the United Nations reported the displacement of 120,000 people from Aleppo, Hama and Idlib. Nor will it be the last.

Turkey — which already has 2.5 million Syrian refugees on its soil — says it is close to capacity. The European Union is pouring cash ($3.3 billion) into a vastly expanded program to house refugees in Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon, trying to forestall another surge of refugees across the Mediterranean. But it may not be enough.

Some EU officials see Europe’s expensive and divisive refugee crisis as an intended consequence of Russian policy.

“Putin likes to cast himself as a man of order, but his policies have brought more chaos, and Europe is set to pay an increasing price,” says Guardian columnist Natalie Nougayrède.

A ‘painful year’

The main supporters of the rebels in northwest Syria — Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar — are now short of options. They could send weapons across the border into Idlib, but the province is largely controlled by al Nusra.

They seem unlikely to walk away from a struggle in which they have invested so heavily and watch their Shia enemies — Hezbollah, the Alawite-led regime, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard — claim victory.

Fabrice Balanche at the Washington Institute speculates they may try to “set up a new rebel umbrella group similar to Jaish al-Fatah, and/or send anti-aircraft missiles to certain brigades…(or) open a new front in northern Lebanon.”

“The question is, do Riyadh and Ankara have the means and willingness to conduct such a bold, dangerous action?” Balanche asks.

It is hard to find anyone who believes the situation in Syria will get better before it gets much worse.

“The conditions are in place,” says Hokayem, “for a disastrous collapse of the Geneva talks — now delayed until late February — and a painful, bloody year in Syria.”

Also see:

The Truth about Huma Abedin that Media Matters Doesn’t Want America to See

The Associated Press

The Associated Press

Breitbart, by Lee Stranahan, Jan. 18, 2016:

“Still don’t believe Media Matters functions as a propaganda machine to aid and abet Hillary Clinton’s political aspirations? Just  read its response to a Vanity Fair article titled Is Huma Abedin Hillary Clinton’s Secret Weapon or Her Next Big Problem?

The left-wing attack machine wasted no time in posting an article with false information and smears in order to protect the Clinton campaign.

Hillary Clinton has stated publicly that she helped “start and support” Media Matters, and that organization has consistently come to Clinton’s aid with a consistent campaign of misinformation, half-truths and smears of her critics that can then get repeated by the mainstream media.

The Vanity Fair article must have sent shockwaves through the Clinton camp. It’s rare to read mainstream press criticism of Huma Abedin.

Instead, mainstream adoration for Huma by the media is often so over the top that even other outlets are forced to say something. For example, after Abedin’s husband, disgraced former New York congressman Anthony Weiner, was once again caught sexting with other women as he ran for mayor of New York City, New York magazine published a piece so gushing that it led the Atlantic to write an article titled New York Magazine Has a Crush on Huma AbedinNew Republic chimed in and said that “Abedin always gets good press, but this piece takes it to a new level” and cited this description of Huma as an example of New York’s Silliest/Creepiest Huma Abedin Descriptions:

She wore bright-red lipstick, which gave her lips a 3-D look, her brown eyes were pools of empathy evolved through a thousand generations of what was good and decent in the history of the human race.

Despite the fawning coverage she has received, there are many unanswered questions about Abedin, especially given her complete access to Hillary Clinton, one of the most powerful people in the world, a former Secretary of State and possible future president. As Vanity Fair’ William Cohan writes in his piece:

Over the years Huma has served in several positions, with increasingly important-sounding titles. She has been Hillary’s “body woman,” her traveling chief of staff, a senior adviser, and a deputy chief of staff when Hillary was secretary of state. Now, based in Brooklyn, she is the vice-chair of Hillary’s 2016 presidential campaign.

The Facts about Huma Abedin and Abdullah Omar Nasseef

To his credit, Cohan’s Vanity Fair piece on the secretive Abedin confirms a number of facts that have been reported by conservative media for a couple of years but have been twisted and convoluted by the mainstream media.

For example, the Vanity Fair article flatly lays out the information that Huma Abedin was an assistant editor at a publication called the Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs from 1996 until 2008. He writes:

When (Huma) Abedin was two years old, the family moved to Jidda, Saudi Arabia, where, with the backing of Abdullah Omar Nasseef, then the president of King Abdulaziz University, her father founded the Institute of Muslim Minority Affairs, a think tank, and became the first editor of its Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs, which stated its mission as “shedding light” on minority Muslim communities around the world in the hope of “securing the legitimate rights of these communities.”

It turns out the Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs is an Abedin family business. Huma was an assistant editor there between 1996 and 2008. Her brother, Hassan, 45, is a book-review editor at the Journal and was a fellow at the Oxford Center for Islamic Studies, where Nasseef is chairman of the board of trustees. Huma’s sister, Heba, 26, is an assistant editor at the Journal.

Not one statement is actually controversial because they can all be confirmed by simple research that refers to primary sources. In other words, you don’t need to reference conservative media in any way to determine the truth about the Abedin family and their connections to Abdullah Omar Nasseef.

As the masthead of this 1996 issue of the Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs shows, Huma Abedin was an assistant editor at Journal. Down the masthead you can see the name of Abdullah Omar Nasseef.

Because of the smear tactics used by Media Matters and repeated by the mainstream media, this point cannot be stressed enough: this is a primary source showing Abedin was an Assistant Editor of the Journal. It’s not a right-wing theory, a conservative fever dream, Islamaphobia nonsense or anti-Muslim fear-mongering. It’s a fact, a cold hard fact shown on the Journal’s masthead at the site where the Journal itself publishes.

Because it’s such it’s an easily verified fact, it should not be a significant breakthrough that the mainstream publication Vanity Fair published the truth about Huma Abedin’s clear and indisputable connection to the Journal and Naseef.

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The Saudi-Iran spat: What comes next?

Supporters of Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr burn posters of King Salman of Saudi Arabia against the execution of Shi’ite Muslim cleric Nimr al-Nimr in Saudi Arabia, during a demonstration in Kerbala January 4, 2016. REUTERS/Ahmed al-Husseini.

Supporters of Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr burn posters of King Salman of Saudi Arabia against the execution of Shi’ite Muslim cleric Nimr al-Nimr in Saudi Arabia, during a demonstration in Kerbala January 4, 2016. REUTERS/Ahmed al-Husseini.

American Enterprise Institute, by Michael Rubin, Jan. 4, 2016:

Make no mistake: Saudi Arabia should be condemned without reservation for the execution of Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, perhaps the country’s most prominent Shi‘ite cleric.

The murder is, alas, the sign of more trouble to come as Muhammad Bin Nayyef — Saudi Arabia’s crown prince and interior minister — consolidates control against the backdrop of King Salman’s growing dementia. Nayyef is a sectarian warrior who seldom finds a fire upon which he cannot pour gasoline. There was also cynicism involved in the timing, coming so soon after Saudi Arabia implemented new austerity measures. That so many diplomats in Europe, Washington, and the United Nations also blessed Saudi ambitions to a leadership post on the United Nations Human Rights Council simply convinced Riyadh that they could get away with murder.

That does not mean the Islamic Republic of Iran is blameless. While they have now named the street on which the Saudi Embassy in Tehran sits for Nimr, they did nothing for Nimr during his imprisonment. Nor does Iran have the moral high ground on either religious freedom or executions. Indeed, Iran’s rate of executions in 2015 was an order of magnitude above Saudi Arabia’s. Even as Saudi Arabia is wrong for arresting and executing Nimr, there can be zero tolerance for the sacking and burning of embassies, a practice that has become all too common inside Iran. Iran’s refusal to protect diplomats on its territory risks far more than Saudi-Iranian peace, but rather threatens the mechanism of modern diplomacy.

So what comes next? Nothing good, especially at a time when American diplomatic influence is at its nadir. It’s not simply that neither side trusts the United States. Rather, both Riyadh and Tehran believe that the United States is actively supporting the other side. So here’s a quick look at the crystal ball:

  • That Syria peace process in which Secretary of State John Kerry is engaged? Fahgettaboudit. At the very least Iran and Saudi Arabia are going to take their proxy war in Syria to a new level. That’s the best scenario. The worst is that Iran moves to undercut security in Bahrain and takes its proxy conflict to Iraq, which has quietly been making amends with Riyadh.
  • Nuclear proliferation? Expect Saudi Arabia to pursue that off-the-shelf bomb from Pakistan. And if Riyadh gets a nuclear capability, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps — which continues to oppose the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action — is simply going to push forward with Iran’s nuclear capability, an easy move since Kerry designed his deal to leave Iran with an industrial program and a $100 billion cash infusion to boot.

So what should the United States do? Unfortunately, there’s no magic solution at this point, but here’s a few places to start:

  • President Obama argued that the United States could have more influence by working with the UN Human Rights Council than by ignoring it. All evidence is to the contrary, however. The Council is a parody of human rights advocacy and gives moral inversion UN imprimatur. It’s time to cut off all funding and support for the Council until human rights abusers like Saudi Arabia are purged from them.
  • Condemn, in unequivocal terms, the murder of Sheikh Nimr and the persecution of anyone on the basis of their religion. Demand that Iran release Saeed Abedini, an Iranian-American pastor imprisoned simply because he is a Christian. Free the Bahai men, women, and children from Iranian prisons. Demand Tehran account for the missing Iranian Jews.
  • Crack down on Iran’s ballistic missile program. Desperation is seldom a successful negotiation tactic, as Obama and Kerry might realize if they had any experience in the private sector. By allowing Iran to cheat on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action and the UN Security Council Resolution which encoded it, Obama and Kerry are only convincing regional states that they must take matters into their own hands.

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Listen: 

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Dr. Sebastian Gorka discusses the risk of war between Iran and Saudi Arabia with Stuart Varney:

Keane: Saudis Don’t Believe Obama Admin Would Defend Them in Conflict with Iran

Washington Free Beacon, by Aaron Kliegman, Jan. 5, 2015:

Gen. Jack Keane said on Tuesday that Saudi officials have told him they believe the United States under the Obama administration would not defend Saudi Arabia if it came into conflict with Iran and are waiting for a new American president to take office.

Keane, who is a former Vice Chief of Staff for the U.S. Army, told Fox News host Bill Hemmer that the Iran nuclear deal and American disengagement from the Middle East, among other factors, have all contributed to the perception in Riyadh that Washington is trying to create a new strategic partnership with Iran at the expense of Saudi Arabia and other U.S. allies in the region.

“I can tell you for a fact because I’ve spoken to Saudi officials, they believe that the United States during this [Obama] administration … would not defend them if they got into a conflict,” Keane said. “And that’s a fact. They are waiting for this administration to go.”

Keane made this statement while analyzing the ongoing Saudi-Iranian feud that has reached new heights after Saudi Arabia cut off diplomatic ties with Iran on Sunday, which was extended the next day to include all flights and trade.

These moves were triggered when Iranian protestors attacked the Saudi embassy in Tehran on Saturday, which was in response to the Saudi government executing a prominent Shiite cleric who had been calling for a new regime in Riyadh. Events of the past few days escalated the ongoing competition between the two Middle Eastern powers for geopolitical influence, a rivalry fueled in part by strong ethnic and religious differences.

sunni-shiaIran is a mostly Persian, Shiite country while Saudi Arabia is Arab and sees itself as the vanguard of Sunni Islam.

But the dispute goes beyond these factors, according to Keane. He argued on Fox News that seeing the Saudi-Iranian spat as simply a Sunni versus Shia conflict is a “superficial understanding of what’s taking place.”

“This is Iran seeking regional domination,” Keane continued. “They have control and influence over four countries already – that’s Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and Yemen. And they are seeking to undermine the Sunni Arab countries in the region.”

Keane believes the “accelerant” for this increasingly tense strategic environment has been the nuclear deal struck this summer between the United States, along with five other world powers, and Iran.

“That has been done at the expense of our Arab allies in the region.”

Keane added that the Obama administration’s “overall policy of disengagement from the region” has led to the Saudis’ alienation with the United States, “which began politically with Iraq in 2009, militarily in 2011, and one thing after another. Not dealing with the Syrian issue early on in 2012, when his national security team had recommended arming and training the Syrian rebels, not responding to the chemical [red] line that was crossed over by [Syrian president] Assad’s regime.”

Analysts have also cited the lack of U.S. action in supporting former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak when he was ousted from power in 2011 as an important turning point in the downturn in relations between Riyadh and Washington. Mubarak was close to the Saudi government, and Saudi leaders were furious with the Obama administration over its handling of the Arab Spring in Egypt. Mubarak was also a strategic ally of the United States.

Beyond American policy, Keane told Hemmer that the other important cause of growing Saudi aggression to counter Iranian expansion is the new leadership in Riyadh.

The general described how Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, who came to power in January of 2015, and his son and deputy crown prince Mohammad bin Salman Al Saud, who is also Minister of Defense and rose to prominence after his father took the throne, have both taken a more aggressive posture toward Iran.

“That is why military action has taken place in Yemen against the Iranians. They were willing to push back very aggressively to do that.”

Keane added that Saudi Arabia’s recent decision to form a 34-nation coalition to fight terrorism is also the result of the Saudi leaders’ outlook on the region.

The Execution of Nimr al-Nimr and Obama’s Failed Policy in the Middle East

saudi protestorsNational Review, by Tom Rogan, Jan.4, 2016:

Without a doubt, the unlawfully shed blood of this innocent martyr will have a rapid effect and the divine vengeance will befall Saudi politicians.”

That was how Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, responded to Saudi Arabia’s execution Saturday of a Shiite cleric, Nimr al-Nimr. Since then, Iranian protesters have — with their government’s permission — attacked the Saudi embassy in Tehran, and Saudi Arabia has cut diplomatic relations. Further escalation is likely.

wasn’t just any Saudi cleric. As I explained last year, he was a transnational representative of Shiite populism against Saudi oppression. But where the cleric was a powerful political activist in life, his execution makes him a martyr: a divine embodiment of Shiite theology and politics. To Shiite observers, Nimr al-Nimr’s execution echoes that of the ultimate Shiite martyr, Husayn ibn-Ali, at the seventh-century Battle of Karbala.

But Iran isn’t alone in threatening retaliation. Former Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki — who is engaged in a never-ending power struggle in Baghdad — warned that the execution would bring down the Saudi royal family. This political reaction reflects the deep scale of Shiite populist anger and illuminates the risk of unrestrained escalation. Other actors, such as the Lebanese Hezbollah, are reacting with fury as well.

Yet we must remember that this execution wasn’t ordered just because the Saudis hated a cleric. Instead, the execution was motivated by Saudi Arabia’s regional political agenda. More specifically, as I explained last month, recent Saudi actions prove the government’s exceptional concern about two active developments: Iranian expansionism and America’s relative retreat from the Middle East.

In recent months, the Saudis have witnessed both President Obama’s acquiescence to Iran’s nuclear-deal non-compliance and his decision to yield to Russia and allow Assad to remain in power. This perceived betrayal of U.S. commitments to Saudi Arabia has meant the collapse of U.S. influence with reliable partners such as the Saudi foreign minister, Adel al-Jubeir.

In short, by subordinating Saudi Arabia’s concerns to his legacy project with Iran, President Obama has eviscerated America’s tempering influence against Saudi sectarian paranoia. And by executing Nimr al-Nimr, Saudi Arabia has deliberately attacked the Iranian revolutionaries in a highly emotive way. The Saudis know the Iranians will retaliate, but they’re so concerned about showing resolve to Iran that such concerns have been overwhelmed.

Khamenei’s threat to Saudi politicians deserves special scrutiny, because we cannot assume the danger is limited to Saudi Arabia. After all, in 2011, Iranian leadership ordered the assassination of Adel al-Jubeir, who was then the Saudi ambassador to the U.S., The person they hired to carry out the murder — actually a U.S. informant — warned that the attack would kill other innocent diners. Their operations officer responded: “f*** ’em.” That Iran faced no meaningful consequences for the 2011 bomb plot — an act of war on America — also fuels the threat.

The U.S. must take a number of urgent steps. First, it should warn Iran in multiple forums that any attack — whether direct or indirect — on U.S. interests will meet U.S. reprisals. Considering that Khamenei is desperate to retain the economic rewards of his nuclear-deal Ponzi scheme, there is an opportunity for deterrence to influence his behavior, at least in the short term. Second, as I asserted recently, the U.S. must pressure the Saudi government not to execute Nimr al-Nimr’s young nephew, who is also in Saudi prison awaiting execution. If the younger al-Nimr is executed, the escalatory dynamic may become uncontrollable as Iranian hard-liner passions boil over. Don’t believe me? Recall how the hard-liners’ theological zeal manifested itself during the Iran–Iraq War: in the use of children as mine-clearance devices.

Of course, some will welcome escalation here, assuming it means Iranian and Saudi extremists will kill each other off. But that’s a very dangerous delusion. Aside from the moral consequences of a regional war between Iran and Saudi Arabia (think Syria’s immense suffering plus refugees, multiplied by at least five), the first casualty of escalation would be political moderation. The rot in political Islam would catalyze, terrorists would find ever-multiplying recruiting swamps, and America would face ever-increasing danger. Regional anarchy would not be containable in our globalized world.

Obama-administration officials must urgently reassess their Middle East policy. Absent credible U.S. influence, a great crisis is brewing.

— Tom Rogan is a writer for National Review Online and Opportunity Lives, a panelist on The McLaughlin Group, and a senior fellow at the Steamboat Institute. He tweets @TomRtweets. His homepage is tomroganthinks.com.

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Also see:

Iran / Saudi Feud Begins to Boil

iran 1Iran Truth, Jan. 4, 2015:

Saudi Arabia cut off diplomatic ties to Iran, saying Iran must act like “a normal country” instead of “a revolution.”  The remarks came after an Iranian mob, allegedly made up of protesters, attacked the Saudi embassy.  The attack was in reprisal forSaudi Arabia’s execution of a Shi’ite clericSheikh Nimr al-Nimr, as part of a wave of executions allegedly aimed at crippling terror organizations within the Kingdom.  The Sheikh had accused the Saudi government of mistreating Shi’ites, and called for the secession of the eastern part of the country.  Others among the 47 executed included alleged al Qaeda leaders.  Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz Al Sheikh, Saudi Arabia’s top religious leader, said that the executions were “a mercy to the prisoners” because it would keep them from further damaging their souls via evil acts.

Although Iran says that a top police official went to the mob attacking the Saudi embassy to disperse it, the suspicion that the mob was a proxy by Iran’s government is highly credible.  Iran still celebrates as a national holiday the Iranian Revolution’s mob overrunning of the American Embassy in 1979, when the hostages seized and held for more than a year were used by the new Islamic Republic of Iran in an attempt to extort the United States.  In that environment, even without official organization the citizens of Iran know that mob attacks on the diplomatic enemies of their government will be welcomed and praised as authentic examples of the spirit of the revolution.  Saudi Arabia’s comments about Iran needing to act like a normal nation instead of a revolution are meant in that context.

The feud between the two nations has both ancient roots and contemporary flash points.  Saudi Arabia sees itself as the leader of the Islamic world as a whole, because it contains the holy city of Mecca and most of the important scenes of the life of Muhammad, the founder of the Islamic religion.  However, it sides with the Sunni view of the proper leadership of Islam, a civil war between factions of the Islamic world that began hundreds of years ago shortly after Mohammed’s death.  Sunnis followed a claim that the leadership of the Islamic world should fall to those with the greatest degree of education and investment in the religious ideology.  Shi’a Islam believed that only blood descendants of Muhammad ought to lead Islam.  This led to a series of murders and bloodshed among the generation immediately after Muhammad, capped by the Battle of Karbala in the 61st year of the Islamic calendar, or A.D. 680.  The Shi’ite faction lost and their leader, Hassan ibn Ali, was killed.  The Shi’ite holy festivals of Ashura and Arba’een commemorate this defeat, and are still today marked by huge pilgrimages with self-flagellation and self-cutting by the pilgrims.

In terms of the current flash points, Iran and Saudi Arabia are backing opposite sides in a regional conflict dominated by the wars in Syria and Yemen.  Iran has beendeveloping a series of Shi’a militias ideologically loyal to its particular vision of that faith as a means of exerting its influence to dominate a crescent of the Middle east from Yemen and Afghanistan to the Levant.  The Saudi government officially bans support to terrorist groups, but has been allowing its citizens to route money through Kuwait to radical Sunni groups including al Nura Front and the Islamic State (ISIS).  Saudi Arabia is also leading a coalition of regional nations against Iran’s proxies in Yemen, the Houthis, a band of Shi’ite tribes bent on replacing the admittedly corrupt and inefficient government there.

Saudi Arabia has diplomatic allies who are backing its play.  Bahrain, which happens also to be the headquarters of the United States Fifth Fleet, has joined Saudi Arabia in suspending diplomatic relations with Iran.  The UAE has downgraded its relationship.  Sudan has also cut off Iran.

Although Iran is framing its immediate conflict with Saudi Arabia as over what it describes as politically-motivated executions, Iran has executed three times as many persons as Saudi Arabia in recent years.  Many of these, possibly thousands of them, are of political dissidents opposed to the existing regime.  By contrast, Saudi Arabia executed fewer than fifty in the end-of-year purge.

Outside of the realms of diplomacy and war, the conflict also has ramifications for the global price of oil.  However, rising oil prices may be offset by the entry of Iran’s oil reserves into the global markets pending the full implementation of the Iran nuclear deal.

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Also see:

The Salafis’ Daddy Warbucks: Saudi Arabia

ksFrontpage, by Rachel Ehrenfeld, December 17, 2015:

The first-ever global meeting of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) network of some 200 jurisdictions over the weekend in Paris “to discuss actions…to combat the financing of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) …and to combat the financing of terrorism ” will probably make the participants feel good, but will do little to cut-off state sponsorship of the fast growing radical Islamist movement.

The development of new technologies and encryption of online communications, financial transactions and other non-traditional methods to transfer money present serious obstacles to monitoring funding of large number of terrorists and their supporters.  But the most important obstacle is the West’s decades-long willful blindness to name and shame Saudi Arabia as the biggest terror financier, as well as the Saudis’ role in the development and spread of opaque Sharia finance institutions and Islamic charities.

Thus, Germany’s Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel‘s recent condemnation of Saudi Arabia’s ongoing funding of the spread of radical Islam in the West was surprising. “Wahhabi mosques all over the world are financed by Saudi Arabia. Many Islamists who are a threat to public safety come from these communities,” he told Bild am Sonntag, the largest-selling German Sunday paper. Even more unexpected was his statement: “We have to make clear to the Saudis that the time of looking away is over.”

The Saudi role in fostering Islamic terrorism is no secret. Before it came under some criticism after the al Qaeda’s 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the Saudi Kingdom used to openly brag about its large donations to build, maintain and supply mosques, Islamic centers and madrassas, stocking them with Wahhabi Imams and ulemas (religious teachers) and covering expenses such as salaries, pensions, and “terrorcare” that included hospitals and other public services.

Directed by Muslim Brotherhood advisors who championed the oxymoron ‘Political Islam’ to deceive the infidels, the Kingdom funded Western tax exempt Islamic organizations engaged in dawah (proselytization for Islam). Among them were networks of charitable organizations that provide financial aid to prisoners (including non-Muslims to lure them to Islam) in Western jails, lavishly funded academic chairs in Middle East Studies in universities around the world, student-exchange programs and spending many millions of dollars to increase Saudi political influence in the West — even contributing $100 million to coordinate and assist the United Nations international counterterrorism efforts.

Saudi efforts to bring Wahhabi Islam to global dominance began in earnest in 1962, with the establishment of the first international Saudi charity, the Muslim World League (MWL). Influenced by exiled Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood members, then-Crown Prince Faisal bin Abdul Aziz used growing oil revenues to fund MWL, which in turn established many other Islamic charities and nonprofits that helped directly and indirectly create the global jihadist movement. Successive Saudi kings have created additional “charitable” organizations to fund the worldwide spread of Wahhabism and have on occasion organized several national campaigns encouraging their subjects to support Sunni terror organizations outside the country, including the PLO, Hamas and al Qaeda. Thus it would be wrong to distinguish between contributions to radical Sunni organizations by the Saudi theocratic monarchy, its government and its wealthy subjects.

But Saudi support for terrorism extends much beyond direct deposits to openly radical elements. Direct financing of terrorist activities is but one of several means to further their agenda.

Indeed, little has changed since then-Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Stuart Levey’s testimony before the Senate Finance Committee in 2008 that Saudi Arabia is “serious about fighting Al Qaeda in the kingdom[but] the seriousness of purpose with respect to the money going out of the kingdom is not as high” (emphasis added).

The spread of Salafist radical groups, such as the global Hizb utTahrir, Tablighi Jamaat, and ISIS proves the effectiveness of the decades-long, $2 trillion’s worth of Saudi funding to indoctrinate Muslims everywhere, creating a large base of followers ready for further radicalization of what the West has erroneously labeled “self-radicalization.”

Saudi Arabia’s role in initiating and fomenting worldwide Muslim riots to curtail Western free speech has been mostly ignored. However, Muslims riots following the October 2005 publication of the Muhammad cartoons in Denmark’s largest daily, Jyllands-Posten, began only after Saudi Arabia recalled its ambassador to Denmark; after Sheikh Osama Khayyat, imam of the Grand Mosque in Mecca, praised on national Saudi television the Saudi government for its action; and after Sheikh Ali Al-Hudaify, imam of the Prophet’s Mosque in Medina, called “upon governments, organizations and scholars in the Islamic world to extend support for campaigns protesting the sacrilegious attacks on the Prophet.” The Saudi-controlled Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) initiated and coordinated Muslim rioting worldwide after the Danish Muhammad cartoon publications.

Moreover, to wield more control over Muslim communities worldwide, better orchestrate “spontaneous demonstrations,” and better allocate funds for them, the Saudi-backed OIC established the clerical International Commission for Zakat (ICZ) on 30 April 2007. Previously, there were more than 20,000 organizations that collected zakat. Now, however, the Islamic clerics’ centralized “expert committee” based in Malaysia also supervises and distributes zakat funds globally. Yet, President Obama and his former Secretary of State and current Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, describe Malaysia as a “moderate Muslim country” and Saudi Arabia as an ally.

The public outrage and rejection of Saudi King Salman’s offer to fund 200 new mosques for more than 800,000 new Muslim refugees in Germany, and the Vice Chancellor’s statement: “We have to make clear to the Saudis that the time of looking away is over” point in the right direction. But don’t hold your breath. Germany, the United States and the rest of the West have been turning a blind eye to Saudi funding of thousands of mosques, madrassas and Islamic centers that have propagated radical Islamic ideology for decades and are unlikely to face reality anytime soon.

***

The War on Radical Islam: America’s Next Steps to Confronting Jihad

AP

AP

Breitbartby FRED GEDRICH, 9 Dec 2015:

The recent terrorist attack on innocents attending a Christmas Party at a county social services center in San Bernardino, California, is another chilling reminder of radical Islam’s long reach. This soft target terrorist attack in a Western-nation urban setting follows a similar attack plan in Paris, France a few weeks earlier.

It should serve as a wake-up call to Western nations that these jihadi attacks are not limited to Central Asia, the Middle East, and the North and Sub-Saharan Africa killing fields, but also places where peace-loving people work, play, and celebrate. Now, more than ever, it is imperative to identify, define, counter, and eliminate this threat before more innocent lives are lost.

President Obama appropriately referred to the 14 people killed and 21 others injured as “part of our American family.” They were white and black, Latino and Asian, immigrants and American-born, moms and dads, and sons and daughters. In sum, the victims are the heart and soul of America.

U.S. Federal agents identified the victims’ killers as Syed Rizwan Farook and his wife, Tashfeen Malik. The pair reportedly had varying reported ties to, and/or sympathies with, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and other radical Islamic terror groups. They were Sunni Muslims and, although Farook was born an American citizen, each traces their family roots to Pakistan. The jihadist pair reportedly stockpiled assault weapons, ammunition, and pipe bombs in their California home – and used their home as a place to plan to launch their attack and kill innocent people.

U.S. President Barack Obama and his former secretary of state and putative successor Hillary Clinton and others continue to refrain from labeling these atrocities as the work of radical Islamists and continue insisting Islam is a religion of peace – while many political opponents and a majority of Americans take an opposing view.

It is important for Americans to have a discussion on the growing influence of Islam and the nature of the radical Islamic threat emanating from within it which produces the likes of ISIS and al Qaeda movement operatives and sympathizers. A good start for those who want to evaluate the radical Islamic threat would be to consider the following:

  • According to Pew Research Center, there are about 1.6 billion Muslims representing 23 percent of the total global human population. 62 percent of Muslims reside in the Asia-Pacific region; 20 percent in the Middle East and North Africa; 16 percent in Sub-Saharan Africa; 3 percent in Europe; and less than 1 percent in North and South America. On a national basis, Muslims comprise the majority population in 49 countries, with Indonesia having the largest number. The United States has about 3.4 million Muslims, with California having the largest population.
  • The 2015 Global Terrorism Index, produced by the Institute for Economics and Peace with assistance from the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Response to Terrorism, reported an 80 percent increase in the number of terrorism-related deaths over the previous year, with terrorists in five Muslim majority countries – Iraq, Nigeria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Syria – accounting for 78 percent of the 32,685 terrorism-related fatalities. It lists Nigeria’s Boko Haram, an affiliate of the Islamic State, as the world’s deadliest terror group.
  • The 2015 U.S. State Department Annual Report on Terrorism lists 59 Foreign Terrorist Organizations which, among other things, threaten U.S. nationals and U.S. national security. Forty-four of them (75 percent) have radical Islamic ties.
  • The 2015 U.S. State Department Annual Report on Terrorism lists three Muslim majority countries of Iran, Sudan, and Syria as its three designated state sponsors of terror. Iran is a Shiite Muslim religious dictatorship.
  • The International Centre for the Study of Radicalization and Political Violence and New York-based Soufan Group reported an estimated 20,000 foreign fighters from almost 80 countries have traveled to Iraq and Syria to fight with radical Islamic extremist groups. About 75 percent are from Arab Sunni Muslim countries, with the greatest number from Tunisia. An estimated 25 percent are from Western countries. Many of these fighters return from the battlefield ready to partake in jihad in their own countries.
  • In 2015, Federal Bureau of Investigation Director James Comey stated that his agency has ongoing investigations into the radicalization of young Muslim men in all 50 states.

In his speech to the nation and the world after the San Bernardino terrorist attack, President Obama outlined his four-step strategy to destroy ISIS, focusing on the carnage that the ISIS radical Islamic terror group is inflicting on the peoples of Iraq and Syria. However, many critics believe the enunciated strategy is not a significant departure from what is already being done by the U.S. and its allies.

Many Americans wonder what specific steps President Obama can further take to educate the American public and counter the radical Islamic threat at home and abroad. A few suggestions follow.

One, acknowledge that most of the world’s terrorism attacks emanate from countries with majority Muslim populations, and from individuals and groups within Islam who become radicalized.

Two, explain the difference between Islamists and jihadists from the overall Muslim population. An Islamist is any Muslim who wants to impose and enforce Shariah – whether by violent or nonviolent means. A jihadist is an Islamic terrorist. The Muslim Brotherhood, which gestates Islamists, uses mostly non-violent means to create Shariah-compliant constitutions, though it has collaborated with violent groups to achieve its means, as it did in Egypt during the Arab Spring.

Three, explain that Shariah Law is incompatible with the U.S. Constitution and other Free World laws in that it totally subordinates women and mandates many other human rights violations, such as relegating non-Muslim minorities to a much lower legal status than Muslims and dispensing cruel and unusual punishment. It also rejects freedom of speech and conscience and mandates aggressive jihad until the world is brought under Islamic hegemony.

Four, recognize that the U.S. is facing an international army of non-state jihadists who move about and act with impunity, using international laws of warfare and/or state gun control laws to their advantage. Jihadists were easily able to obtain weapons to use in France which reputedly has the strictest Western gun laws, and California, which arguably has the strictest laws in the United States.

Five, direct Federal agencies to reincorporate radical Islamic awareness training into curriculums. Such training has been phased out mostly due to dubious political correctness and suppressing awareness decisions by the Bush and Obama administrations. An excellent training tool is the New York Police Department’s Radicalization in the West: The Homegrown Threat.

Six, do not engage in a military conflict overseas unless U.S. national security is threatened and Congress approves. This did not happen in Mr. Obama’s Libyan military intervention. Duly elected representatives of the American people should be the ones debating, making war decisions and setting legal war parameters, not a small group of administration officials, U.N. and NATO representatives and bureaucrats with varying security interests and agendas.

President Obama has sought to minimize the threat posed by radical Islam during his presidency. However, evidence presented above strongly suggests there is a rising problem within the domain of Islam that needs to be addressed by freedom-loving people everywhere – which threatens innocent people gathering in places like the Bataclan concert hall in Paris, France to enjoy a musical evening, or a group in San Bernardino, California expecting to participate in a joyous Christmas event. As the president approaches his last year in office, he has a chance to lead the effort to reverse the gains made by ISIS and other radical Islamists. For the sake of the Free World and humanity, let’s hope he does. Many lives depend on it.

Fred Gedrich is a foreign policy and national security analyst. He served in the U.S. departments of State and Defense.

Video: Deborah Weiss on the OIC and Freedom of Speech

oic-erasing-freedom-of-speech-edited-1Deborah Weiss speaking at an ACT! for Canada event in Montreal on Nov. 17,  2015:

Part One:

Part Two:

  • Quebec Bill 59 to combat hate speech
  • Criminal prosecutions for denigrating Islam in Europe
  • The state of free speech in America – political correctness and self-censorship
  • Influence of Muslim Brotherhood front groups on National Security and public policy
  • CAIR’s Lawfare against media spokespersons and Hollywood

Part Three:

  • Obama administration’s censoring of National Security and Counterterrorism Training materials
  • The terrorist attacks on Danish cartoonist Kurt Westergaard , Theo van Gogh, Charlie Hebdo, Pamela Geller’s draw Muhammad contest in Garland Texas
  • Definition of terrorism
  • Multiculturalism
  • Upholding Judeo-Christian values

Q&A:

Deborah Weiss is the author of the Center for Security’s recently published monograph, “The Organization of Islamic Cooperation’s Jihad on Free Speech” (Civilization Jihad Reader Series) (Volume 3) She is also a contributing author to “Saudi Arabia and the Global Islamic Terrorist Network” and the primary writer and researcher for “Council on American Islamic Relations: Its Use of Lawfare and Intimidation.” You can find more of her articles and speeches at her website www.vigilancenow.org

 

Saudi Arabia braces for ISIS

Muslim pilgrims circle the Kaaba and pray at the Grand mosque during the annual haj pilgrimage in the holy city of MeccaIntersec, Nov. 23, 2015:

Jeff Moore investigates the growing influence of ISIS in Saudi Arabia, the rise of incidents, the different cells and what the future holds for the Kingdom

While Saudi Arabian forces battle it out with Houthi rebels in Yemen in their most intense conventional fighting since Operation Desert Storm, a domestic irregular threat looms over the kingdom: ISIS. ISIS has launched several small but effective attacks against Saudi Arabia in the past, and authorities have shut down several cells. None of this is surprising since the head of ISIS, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, called on Muslims in November 2014 to attack the Saudi government and kill Shia Muslims. These threat variables spell trouble for both Saudi Arabia and the entire Peninsula.

In March and April this year, Saudi authorities arrested 93 members of an ISIS cell that aimed to attack the US embassy in Riyadh with a car bomb. This cell also plotted to attack Saudi security forces, residential compounds and prisons, presumably to free their jailed cohorts. Authorities said that the group further meant to enflame Sunni-Shia relations.

On 22 May, during Friday prayers, a suicide bomber attacked the Shia Ali b. Abi Talib Mosque in Al Qudaih, near Qatif, Najd Province. The explosion killed 21 and wounded 102. The Najd Province of ISIS (central Saudi Arabia) claimed responsibility, and it was apparently ISIS’ first attack in thecountry, though officials believe it might have staged an attack in Eastern Saudi in 2014.

The next week on 29 May – again during Friday prayers – a suicide bomber dressed in women’s clothing attacked the Shia Imam Hussein mosque in Dammam. As the bomber was parking his car, a security team hailed him and he detonated his device, killing four. The Najd Province of ISIS claimed responsibility.

On 3 July, a group of Saudi security officials were in Taidf serving an arrest warrant on an ISIS suspect, Yousif Abdulatif Shabab al-Ghamdi, when they came under fire. One official was killed, and al-Ghamdi got away. Three suspects were arrested and had in their possession laptops, ISIS flags, and silencers.

The Ministry of Interior (MoI) said on 18 July that it had arrested 431 people belonging to four ISIS cells over the past few weeks, many of which were linked to the Shia mosque attacks. These cells were planning attacks on a variety of targets and were also making suicide bombs.

On 6 August, an ISIS suicide bomber detonated his explosives in the mosque of an elite Saudi security force based in Abha, Asir province. The blast, which occurred during noon prayers, killed 15 and wounded 22.

ISIS’ target was the Special Emergency Force (SEF), a counter terrorism unit under the Public Security Directorate, which falls under the MoI. SEF has 13 base camps throughout Saudi Arabia to react to various terrorist scenarios.

ISIS said its operative from Hijaz province of ISIS carried out the SEF bombing against a monument of the apostate. Hijaz refers to the South-Western area of Saudi Arabia, which is close to Yemen, and this appears to be the first time this particular branch of ISIS has been mentioned in open sources.

Later that month, on 23 August, gunmen – possibly belonging to ISIS, say investigators – shot at a police patrol in Jeddah in a drive-by shooting that wounded one.

On 16 September, police conducted raids against ISIS safe houses in Riyadh and Dammam. They arrested three and killed two. The militants had in their possession firearms, scores of ready-made IEDs, and cellphones.

On 30 September, police arrested a Syrian man and Philippine woman in Al-Fayah district, Riyadh, for running a makeshift suicide bomb factory. Aside from defusing two bombs on site, they also found bomb-making equipment, two suicide vests, a machine gun and ammunition.

On 1 October, masked gunmen killed four in two attacks in Al-Shamli, Hail province. The first attack was on a police post where a policeman and two civilians were shot. The second was on a policeman at a traffic station. One of the attackers shouted ISIS slogans during the attack.

On 3 October, police raided two terror hideouts in Dhahran, arresting seven after an exchange of gunfire.

A analysis of these incidents reveals six takeaways. First, those carried out by the Najd group indicate that ISIS is expanding operations in the Arabian Peninsula, and that it’s specifically targeting Saudi Arabia. Since the spring, Saudi authorities have arrested or detained 540 people associated with ISIS cells on Saudi soil. Statistically speaking, since and including March, that’s approximately 77 people arrested each month up to early October. This demonstrates a significant ISIS presence in the Kingdom.

Second, the weapons and target sets demonstrated in these incidents are telling. In each case, light infantry weapons and IEDs were the norm. They are all sustainable for terror and insurgency operations (bombings, raids, ambushes, assassinations, etc.)

ISIS targeting so far has been aimed at the Saudi police/MoI (patrols, stations, and mosques), Shia mosques, a prison, the US embassy, and residential compounds, presumably foreign. These are typical for a movement that’s aiming to destabilise society, embarrass a government, drive out foreigners and inspire silent supporters as demonstrated in scores of other insurgency zones such as Iraq, Southern Thailand, Colombia and Northern Ireland.

The targeting of Shia mosques is designed to enflame existing Sunni-Shia tensions and drive a wedge between the two groups, triggering chaos and bloodshed. ISIS is trying to win Sunni hearts and minds by destroying Shias. It’s an effective destabilisation method that has shown results in Iraq, Syria, Pakistan, and Yemen.

Third, these attacks demonstrate good terrorist and insurgent skillsets. The SEF bombing in particular proves that ISIS has the prowess to target, infiltrate, and successfully strike one of Saudi Arabia’s most elite counter terror units, so these operatives are to be taken seriously.

Fourth, calling the Saudi government “apostates” reveals that ISIS is directly challenging it as the traditional purveyor of Islam. The term “apostate” or munafik, is one of the worst insults in Islam. In layman’s terms, it means, “you are not a ‘real Muslim,’ and you should be eliminated for this terrible sin.” This ‘takfir ideology’ is common to al Qaeda (AQ), ISIS and political Islamist groups. To purely spiritual conservative and moderate Muslims, it’s a haram (forbidden) concept.

The reference to the Hijaz province of ISIS is significant, too. Hijaz is home to Mecca and Medina, the geographic center of gravity of Islam. With this phrase, not only is ISIS making a direct administrative challenge to Saudi’s governorship over these essential sites, it also indicates that ISIS has some kind of operational entity there.

Combined, the Hijaz and apostate factors tell Saudi Arabia, “We, ISIS, are imbedded in your heartland, you are false Muslims, and we are the solution.” This is a powerful challenge because ISIS’ political warfare resonates with millions, especially the more politically inclined Islamists.

Fifth, based on the geographic spread of ISIS-related attacks and arrests, it’s apparent that it has a demonstrated presence throughout Saudi Arabia. ISIS is in the Kingdom’s East, West-Southwest, North central and the capital – and these are just the known points of ISIS activity.

Sixth, the fact that ISIS has given geographic names to its groups suggests that it has an organised structure inside Saudi – cells, at the very least – that focuses on carrying out attacks in specific regions. If the cells are mature and networked, a worst case scenario would be a Peninsula or Saudi-wide insurgency with roots deep inside Islamist sects of Sunni Islam prolific to the area.

Simply put, a terror campaign or insurgent movement is obviously afoot in Saudi. Such a scenario isn’t so far fetched. It has happened before.

Saudi Arabia fought a war against AQ from 2003-07 where the latter’s operatives had infiltrated the military and police, making it easier to attack scores of Saudi citizens, foreigners, and government personnel with bombings, assassinations, and ambushes.

Next door in UAE, a group called al-Islah with alleged links to the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood sought to overthrow that government by trying to launch attacks against it in 2012. Authorities stopped these from happening and arrested 94 suspects. They convicted 68 for sedition in July 2013. A number of these had also set up a shadow government parallel to UAE’s real government from the local level all the way up to the national level. This is a classic insurgent political maneuver.

More recently, on 2 August, the UAE announced that it had arrested 41 people trying to overthrow the government and establish a caliphate. Whether it was ISIS or not remains an open question, but it sounds like it. What other group in the Middle East is currently establishing a caliphate? Not AQ, not its franchises, and not the Brotherhood.

What happens next? Additional attacks, most likely. ISIS said so in a statement released shortly after the SEF bombing. Furthermore, AQ carried out more than 40 attacks during its 2003-07 campaign in Saudi Arabia, and ISIS has proven more aggressive and bloodier than its rival. To suppose it won’t increase its operational tempo in Saudi Arabia and/or the rest of the region ignores recent history and mounting indicators and warnings.

This is not to say, however, that Saudi Arabia and its neighbors are weak and ripe for the picking. They have, in recent years, increased their counter terror and counter insurgency prowess, and they’ve decisively stopped past terrorist campaigns and shut down insurgent movements. But there’s no guarantee of success.

ISIS has made solid progress in Syria, Iraq, Libya, Tunisia, and other parts of the Middle East and North Africa. It knows it needs to continue this momentum to keep attracting recruits. A dramatic and/or a high casualty attack operation in the Arabian Peninsula would do just that.

For these reasons, a strike on a major population centre, a critical military installation, key infrastructure, or even an assault matching the Grand Mosque seisure in 1979 cannot be ruled out. The latter would be in line with ISIS’ accusatory “apostate” rhetoric.

Regardless of the target, however, dangerous times are returning to the Kingdom and the Peninsula, and they’re here to stay until Riyadh demonstrably ramps up its counter politico-religious warfare activities. ISIS excels in political warfare, propaganda, and recruiting. Its brand of Islamist jihad and call to revolution is dramatically appealing, particularly in the Middle East. For Saudi Arabia to be effective, it has to directly confront the Islamist jihadi ideology and correct it, in part by rallying the global ummah, the world population of Muslims. So far, Saudi Arabia has done none of this.

Jeff Moore, Ph.D., is the chief executive officer of Muir Analytics, which assesses threats from insurgent and terror groups against corporations. He is a renowned terrorism and insurgency subject matter expert, and he is also the purveyor of SecureHotel.US, which analyses terror risks against hotels, worldwide.

The New Cold War: The Russia-Shia Alliance VS the Islamic State

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin (2nd R) meets with Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani (2nd L) on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, September 28, 2015. REUTERS/Mikhail Klimentyev.

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin (2nd R) meets with Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani (2nd L) on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, September 28, 2015. REUTERS/Mikhail Klimentyev.

By Brian Fairchild, October 31, 2015

The New Cold War:

In late-September 2015 Russia and Iran launched a clandestine strategic military campaign to support Syria’s Bashar al-Assad.  Russia’s bold move took the West by surprise and changed the balance of power in the Middle East in Russia’s favor.  It will go down in history as the milestone depicting Russia’s first aggressive military action outside of its own sphere of influence since the fall of the Soviet Union, and, when viewed from a global strategic perspective, will be remembered as the first clear sign that a New Cold War had erupted between the US and Russia.

Russia’s Middle Eastern campaign is formed around the new “quadrilateral alliance”, which has divided the region into two sectarian blocs:  the Russian-led Shia Muslim alliance, which forms a powerful “Shia Crescent” stretching from Iraq, through Iran and Syria, to Lebanon, and the Sunni Arab bloc led by Saudi Arabia with minimal backing by the United States.

Thus far, Russia’s campaign has been executed seamlessly. Upon entering Syria clandestinely, Russian forces immediately deployed sophisticated surface to air missile defense batteries as well as top-of the-line jet fighters to protect Russian and Syrian forces from the US coalition.  Once air defenses were in place, Moscow began a barrage of airstrikes targeting anti-Assad rebels in order to re-establish and consolidate Assad’s power.  The airstrikes were subsequently integrated with ground operations carried-out by Syrian military units, Iranian Quds forces, Shia militia from Syria and Iraq, and Hezbollah fighters.  There are also credible news reports that Cuban Special Forces have joined the fray for the first time since Cuba’s proxy wars in Angola and central Africa in the 1970’s on behalf of the Soviet Union.

The Russia-Shia Alliance and its Effect on Iraq, Jordan, and the Kurds:

Iraq:

In tandem with its military campaign, Russia launched a diplomatic campaign that has been just as effective.  Iraq is the geographical base for US coalition operations against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, but American influence in Iraq has steadily diminished over the past year.

In early October 2015, Iraq secretly established a new Russia-Iran-Syria-Iraq intelligence center in the middle of Baghdad that surprised and angered American military commanders.  Worse, after Russia’s increasingly effective Syrian air campaign, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi called for Russia to begin unilateral airstrikes against the Islamic State in Iraq.  The Pentagon became so alarmed by the possibility that Russia might get a strategic foothold in Iraq that on October 21, 2015, it dispatched Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph Dunford to Baghdad to deliver an ultimatum to the Iraqi leadership.  Dunford told the Iraqi Prime Minister and Defense Minister that Iraq had to choose between cooperating with Russia or the US.  Upon his departure from Baghdad, General Dunford told the media that he received assurances that Iraq would not seek Russian assistance, but just three days later, Iraq officially authorized Russian airstrikes in-country.

Jordan:

On that same day, another of America’s most dependable allies, the Kingdom of Jordan, announced its agreement to create a new Russian-Jordanian military coordination center to target the Islamic State and that this center would go well beyond just a formal information exchange.  According to Jordan’s Ambassador to Russia:

  • “This time, we are talking about a specific form of cooperation — a center for military coordination between two countries. Now we will cooperate on a higher level. It will not be just in a format of information exchange: we see a necessity ‘to be on the ground’ as Jordan has a border with Syria”

The Kurds:

Moscow is attempting to undermine US relations with the Kurds.  Since the rise of the Islamic State, the US has sought to provide anti-Islamic State military support to the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) in northern Iraq via the Iraqi central government, but the Iraqi government has no desire to see the KRG gain additional power in the north so this mission has been largely ineffective.  The US has had a measure of success providing limited support to the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), but has balked at providing full support because any support whatsoever angers Turkey due to contacts between the YPG and the Kurdish Worker’s Party (PKK), a separatist organization, that seeks to overthrow the Turkish government.  On October 29, 2015, Turkish president Erdogan demonstrated this anger when he vehemently criticized US support for the YPG and stated that Turkey would attack the YPG on the Iraqi side of the border if it attempts to create a separatist Kurdish administrative zone.  Because Turkey is a NATO ally, Turkish threats cause the US significant political and diplomatic problems, but they will not deter Putin from moving to organize and utilize Kurdish forces in pursuit of his goals; in early October, he went out of his way to show disdain for Turkey and NATO by allowing his Syrian-based jets to illegally invade Turkish airspace.

No Kurdish group is happy with the current situation of getting limited support from the United States to fight the Islamic State, but all of them have expressed interest in cooperating with Russia.  Significantly, Sergey Ivanov, the head of the Kremlin administration, specifically urged cooperation between the Syrian Kurdish militia and the US-backed YPG.

The Russia-Shia Alliance and the Islamic State:

The Shia composition of the quadrilateral alliance is extremely significant because it plays directly into the Islamic State narrative.  The Islamic State and the majority of the world’s Muslims are Sunni, but in the heart of the Middle East, the Shia governments of Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon, with Russian support, dominate, and these countries surround the Islamic State’s new “caliphate” on three sides.  Understanding this strategic disadvantage, the Islamic State knows that it must muster as much international Sunni support as possible to survive, so it carries-out a relentless policy to polarize the international Sunni population against the Shia.

The chance to remove Bashar al-Assad, who represents the Shia Alawite sect, was the primary reason the Islamic State moved to Syria from Iraq, and removing al-Assad from power served as its initial rallying cry to the global Sunni community.  It was this rallying cry that created the dangerous “foreign fighter” phenomenon that subsequently brought more than 30,000 radical Sunni Muslims from around the world to the new caliphate.

The Islamic State repeatedly emphasizes in its official publications and statements its contention that Shia Muslims are not true Muslims and must be eradicated, and, in these communications, it refers to Shia Muslims as “Rafidah” (rejecters).  But of all the Shias in the world, the Islamic State has a particular hatred for the Shia Iranians, who are Persian rather than Arab, and who ruled Islam during the ancient Safavid (Persian) empire, which the Islamic State regards as religiously illegitimate.  It therefore refers to Iranians as the “Safavid Rafidah”.

Moreover, the Islamic State accuses the US and Russia of being modern day “crusaders” who have joined forces with the Iranians to destroy Sunni Islam, a contention made clear on March 12, 2015, when its spokesman Abu Mohamed al-Adnani stated:

  • The Safavid Rāfidah (Shia Iranians) today have entered a new stage in their war against the Sunnis. They have begun to believe that it is within their power to take areas of the Sunnis and control them completely. They no longer want a single Muslim from the Sunnis living in the empire they desire…O Sunnis…if the Islamic State is broken…then there will be no Mecca for you thereafter nor Medina…Sunnis! The Crusader-Safavid (Christian-Iranian) alliance is clear today.  Here is Iran with its Great Satan America dividing the regions and roles amongst each other in the war against Islam and the Sunnis…We warned you before and continue to warn you that the war is a Crusader-Safavid was against Islam, and war against the Sunnis…”

The Shia Alliance and the Saudis:

Saudi Arabia considers itself to be the leader of the world’s Sunni population and the custodian of Islam’s two most holy places:  the mosques of Mecca and Medina where the prophet Muhammad received Allah’s revelations.  Because Iran is the Kingdom’s religious and regional nemesis the Islamic State’s anti-Shia narrative resonates greatly among many Saudis who are increasingly alarmed at Iran’s growing military influence and power.  In a letter signed by 53 Saudi Islamic scholars in early October 2015, the clerics lashed out at Iran, Syria and Russia and echoed the main points made by the Islamic State:

  • “The holy warriors of Syria are defending the whole Islamic nation. Trust them and support them … because if they are defeated, God forbid, it will be the turn of one Sunni country after another”

Saudi King Salman was willing to allow this unofficial letter to be published because it permitted the Saudi government an indirect manner to issue a warning to Iran, but as the Russian-Iran alliance continued to make military gains throughout October, the Kingdom’s anxiety was such that it decided to allow its Foreign Minister to issue the following direct warning to Iran:

  • “We wish that Iran would change its policies and stop meddling in the affairs of other countries in the region, in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Yemen…We will make sure that we confront Iran’s actions and shall use all our political, economic and military powers to defend our territory and people…”

Conclusion:

The New Cold War:

Just one month ago, the US was the only major military player in the Middle East, but that has all changed.  Russia’s aggressive and well-planned military campaign in Syria has tilted the balance of power in the region away from the US and toward Russia and its new Shia-dominated quadrilateral alliance.  As a result, the US plan to effect regime change in Syria is now impossible, but more importantly, US influence in Iraq is steadily diminishing, and thus, the number of options available to American military commanders to degrade the Islamic State are also diminishing.

Five days after Iraq rejected General Dunford’s ultimatum and authorized Russian airstrikes in Iraq, Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter ignored this fact in his testimony before the Senate’s Armed Forces Committee when he stated that the United States plans to increase the number of airstrikes in Iraq as well as direct action raids by US special operations forces in Iraq.

Unfortunately, such an increase in US military actions require Iraqi permission, and for the second time in a week, Iraq rejected the United States.  On October 28, 2015, Prime Minister al-Abadi’s spokesman told the media that Iraq has no intention of allowing increased American participation because:

  • “This is an Iraqi affair and the government did not ask the U.S. Department of Defense to be involved in direct operations…”

If Iraq enforces this restriction, and limits the US to only training and arming Iraqi forces while allowing Russia to conduct aggressive operations in-country, the situation could become untenable for the United States, further reducing America’s ability to degrade the Islamic State.

The Islamic State:

Once Russia consolidates Assad rule in Syria, Putin will undoubtedly use the new Russia-Shia alliance to move against the Islamic State.  Because the alliance dominates the geographical terrain on three sides of the “caliphate” and has demonstrated a willingness to engage in unified military air and ground operations, it is likely that Russian airpower and Shia ground forces will succeed in dismantling many Islamic State elements in Syria and Iraq.

Such success by the Russia-Shia alliance, especially if it forces the evacuation of the capital of the Islamic State’s “caliphate” in Raqqa, Syria, will further polarize and enrage radical Sunnis and likely increase the number of foreign fighters from Europe and the Middle East.  It will also likely result in more domestic lone jihad attacks in the US and Russia, a call the Islamic State has already made in its October 13, 2015 statement:

  • “…the Islamic State is stronger today than yesterday, while at the same time America is getting weaker and weaker…America today is not just weakened, it has become powerless, forced to ally with Russia and Iran…Islamic youth everywhere, ignite jihad against the Russians and the Americans in their crusaders’ war against Muslims.”

If the Islamic State experiences set-backs and defeats in Syria and Iraq such defeats would likely motivate it to launch mass casualty attacks in the United States and Europe in order to prove to its followers that it remains relevant. Mass casualty attacks in tandem with increased lone jihad attacks would make an already bad domestic security situation, grave.

On October 23, 2015, FBI Director Comey revealed that the FBI is pursuing approximately 900 active cases against Islamic State extremists in the United States and that this number continues to expand.  Comey added that should the number of cases continue to increase, it won’t be long before the FBI lacks the adequate resources to “keep up”.   Europe, too, faces grave security challenges.  A few days after Comey’s revelations, the head of MI5, Britain’s domestic intelligence service, stated that the terror threat in the United Kingdom from the Islamic State and al Qaeda is the highest he has “ever seen”.

Brian Fairchild was a career officer in CIA’s Clandestine Service.  He has served in Asia, Southeast Asia, Europe, the Arabian Peninsula, and Afghanistan.  Mr. Fairchild writes periodic intelligence analyses on topics of strategic importance.

Vladimir Putin’s real target: The world’s oil supply

The Washington Times – October 14, 2015:

It’s the oil, stupid.

That’s what Russian President Vladimir Putin is really up to in Syria.

In the early 1970s, President Richard Nixon succeeded in pushing the Russians out of the Middle East. Today they’re back with a vengeance, thanks to President Obama’s policy of precipitous withdrawal from the region and overall neutering of American power.

Since Mr. Putin began his significant military deployment to Syria, observers have tried to get a handle on his motives — from propping up his ally, Syrian President Bashar Assad, to using the intervention as a distraction from his Ukrainian intervention, to weakening NATO to satisfying the goals of the Russian Orthodox Church, to re-establishing a long-term strategic foothold in the Middle East.

All of these motives may be true. But they miss his far bigger gambit: seizing control of the majority of the world’s oil.

Some, including Mr. Obama, have dismissed Mr. Putin’s moves as ill-conceived and a sign of weakness. But Mr. Putin has never been naive or aimless. He coldly pursues Russia’s national interests, and right now, its overriding interest is in reviving the Russian economy, which has been gutted by economic sanctions and cheap oil, and positioning Russia to be the globe’s oil overlord.

Cheap oil has most irritated Mr. Putin, which is why his Syrian adventure is really about directly threatening the nation doing Moscow the most harm — Saudi Arabia — by encircling it with the new Russian-led alliance of Iran, Iraq and Syria, and gaining control over the natural gas pipeline that originates in Iran and runs through all three countries.

This explains Mr. Putin’s new “intelligence-sharing” alliance with Tehran, Baghdad and Damascus, ostensibly to track the Islamic State, or ISIS, but really directed against Riyadh and the competing Saudi-Qatar-Turkey pipeline. Mr. Putin has long held the European gas market hostage to Russia’s reserves. Rather than permit the Iran-Iraq-Syria pipeline to threaten that control, he intends to grab effective control over it, thereby suffocating Saudi oil interests and seizing an even fiercer stranglehold over the European energy market.

He is going to decimate the Mother of all Oil Producers.

In the face of a glut a year ago, the Saudis raised output by 1 million barrels a day, well above their quota, to create an even bigger surfeit — partly to undermine U.S. shale producers.

The subsequent low oil prices have sent the Russian economy into a death spiral. The oil and gas sector accounts for 70 percent of total Russian exports, 52 percent of federal budget revenues and 16 percent of its gross national product. The Russian economy contracted by 2.2 percent in the first quarter of 2015, and by a devastating 4.6 percent in the second quarter. The value of the ruble has dropped by a staggering 50 percent.

As energy investor Gary Siegler puts it, “The Russians experience this as an economic war” — which to Mr. Putin is indistinct from a military one, so he has now joined both battles.

Under the pretext of defeating ISIS, Mr. Putin has sent Russian special forces into Syria and Iraq and is preparing to introduce up to 150,000 ground troops. The elite troops are not there to simply provide security but to call in airstrikes and carry out covert missions against the western-backed, anti-Assad rebels, so that eventually Mr. Putin can argue accurately that the choice in Syria is between Mr. Assad and ISIS. Pick one.

The Russian campaign against ISIS also puts the lie to Mr. Obama’s fairytale claim that he’s fighting the terrorists aggressively; Moscow is accomplishing in a few weeks what Mr. Obama hasn’t been willing to accomplish in over a year.

Further, Russia’s air defense missiles are in Syria for a purpose other than the mere protection of the Assad regime. When Washington was given less than an hour’s warning that the Kremlin was imposing, in effect, a no-fly zone in Syriaand Mr. Obama had no response, Mr. Putin pressed on, ordering Russian warships in the Caspian Sea to fire long-range cruise missiles. These are warning shots to his deeper target, Riyadh.

Russia is surrounding Saudi Arabia with weapons, combat troops and alliances, including with Egypt and Israel, designed to make Riyadh an offer it can’t refuse: cut production so prices rise or else.

After all, once those 150,000 Russian combat troops are on the ground inSyria and northern Iraq, they’ll be there to stay. They’ll secure the Iraqi oil fields — which produce 4 million barrels a day — and the pipeline territory for Russia, thereby gaining even greater leverage over oil production and prices.

(Incidentally: Donald Trump was derided for arguing that the United States should have seized Iraq’s oil as repayment for its liberation. How ironic if Russia ends up controlling that oil.)

The Saudis know they can’t count on Mr. Obama. They watched as he betrayed America’s longstanding ally, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, and believes Mr. Obama has already betrayed them by legitimizing Iran as a threshold nuclear power.

The Saudis now see Russia on their doorstep, perhaps preparing to carve up Iraq with Iran, destabilize them and the oil supply, or even to join Tehran in prosecuting a hot war against Riyadh in order to allow the vast eastern Saudi oil fields to come under Iranian and Russian control.

Russia’s power play is working, as oil prices have ticked up recently. But Mr. Putin will not be satisfied with small victories. He’s in this for all the marbles.

Control the oil, control the global economy. And right now, Russia is poised to do both.

Monica Crowley is online opinion editor at The Washington Times.

***

Putin’s Challenge – Russia’s not on defense

Also see:

Yale Establishes Islamic Law Center Thanks to $10M from Saudi Sharia-Banker, Alleged Bin Laden Financier

Amr Dalsh / REUTERS

Amr Dalsh / REUTERS

Breitbart, by JORDAN SCHACHTEL, Sep. 13, 2015:

Saleh Abdullah Kamel, a Saudi banker who is now worth billions of dollars thanks to his success with Sharia-compliant financing, has donated $10 million to Yale University as part of a successful effort to build an Islamic Law Center at the Ivy League school.

“Mr. Kamel’s extraordinary generosity will open up exciting new opportunities for Yale Law School and for the entire university, said Yale President Peter Salovey. “The Abdullah S. Kamel Center for the Study of Islamic Law and Civilization will enhance research opportunities for our students and other scholars and enable us to disseminate knowledge and insights for the benefit of scholars and leaders all over the world.”

Professor Anthony Kronman, a new co-director of the Islamic Law Center, said of the school’s new addition:

“The contemporary challenges of Islamic law are broadly relevant to political events throughout the entire Islamic world and those are developments that are watched by a much larger audience of people who in many cases have not much knowledge at all of the history and traditions of Islamic law.”

“It’s the responsibility of universities to teach and instruct and that obligation applies with particular force where an issue or a subject tends to be viewed in an incomplete or inadequate or even caricatured way. There the responsibility to teach and enlighten is even stronger,” he added.

Noticeably left out of the press release is the fact that Mr. Kamel’s Dallah Al Baraka Group, for which he is the Chief Executive, has been investigated by U.S. officials for bankrolling al-Qaeda’s operations worldwide.

Moreover, the bank was founded by former al-Qaeda chief Osama Bin Laden along with a group of Sudanese jihadists, the State Department has alleged, according to the Wall Street Journal.

And in the 1998 New York City trials of al-Qaeda members, witnesses testified that Mr. Kamel’s bank had previously transferred hundreds-of-thousands of dollars to al-Qaeda to help them buy an airplane, the report stated.

Additionally, Kamel’s father’s name appears on the “Golden Chain,” a list of alleged al-Qaeda funders that was confiscated by Bosnian authorities after raiding an al-Qaeda front group in 2002.

The new Yale Islamic Center becomes the latest of many Saudi-funded influence operations on American university campuses throughout the continental United States. Some more notable Saudi-funded campus outfits include the $20 million Prince Alwaleed Islamic Studies Program at Harvard University and the $20 million Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at Georgetown University. More Saudi-backed Professorships and Islamic Centers have made their way to Columbia University, Rice University, the University of Arkansas, University of California in Los Angeles, the University of California/Berkeley, and countless other institutions.

Also see:

University president Peter Salovey added that the gift, announced once day before the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, was particularly timely because of the “changing relationship between the United States and states in the Middle East.”

Saudi Arabia Offers to Build 200 Mosques for Syrians in Germany

saudiwhitehousegovphotoFrontpage, by Daniel Greenfield, Sep. 10, 2015:

Saudi Arabia, which doesn’t permit the construction of churches but finances a mosque construction spree in the land of the infidel, will not be taking in Syrian refugees. Even though they are fellow Muslims. It will however offer to build 200 mosques in Germany for their use.

It’s a kind offer. The only proper way for Europe to reciprocate would be to send a million soccer hooligans to Saudi Arabia and then offer to build facilities to teach them of the importance of trashing the country and abusing any native they come across.

Of course the Saudis aren’t stupid enough to fall for that one. Not even if the soccer hooligans bring along the occasional woman and child to use as emotional human shields while battering their way into a country they hate in every possible way aside from its social services.

Only Westerners are stupid enough to fall for that one.

Saudi mosques have played a key role in the rise of Islamic terrorism in the West. Just think of the explosive wonders that something short of a million migrants and all the mosques they can Allah Akbar in will accomplish in Germany.

Maybe the next Caliph of the Islamic State will even shout Allah Akbar while beheading some local infidel with a German accent. Maybe that Islamic State will even be in Hamburg.

Why is it that so few people ask themselves why the Saudis are willing to build 200 mosques for these “poor, desperate refugees”, yet won’t take a single one in?

It’s the same answer to the question of why so many Muslims claim to care about “Palestinians” to the point of genocide, yet won’t take them in and give them citizenship.

These aren’t refugees. They’re armies.

Don’t take it from me. Take it from Turkey’s Erdogan, the man more popular among German Muslims than he is among his own oppressed people. Here’s the poem that the formerly secular Turkish state sent him to jail for, before it became an Islamist hellhole of minarets, Erdogan palaces and crumbling shopping malls.

“The mosques are our barracks, the domes our helmets, the minarets our bayonets and the faithful our soldiers.”

Saudi Arabia just offered to build 200 barracks for the 800,000 soldiers invading Germany.

Saudi Arabia: The World’s Greatest Hypocrite

yh (2)Frontpage, by Raymond Ibrahim, August 19, 2015:

Saudi Arabia recently preached to the international community about the need to confront “intolerance, extremism and human rights violations.”

If this sounds surreal, consider the following excerpts from a July 26 report in the Saudi Gazette (emphasis added):

Saudi Arabia has reiterated its call on the international community to criminalize any act vilifying religious beliefs and symbols of faith as well as all kinds of discrimination based on religion.

Saudi Arabia wants Western cartoonists, comedians, and others—people who represent only their individual selves—to stop mocking the religious beliefs and symbols of Islam, even as the Arabian kingdom’s own institutionalized policy is to vilify and discriminate against the religious beliefs and symbols of all other faiths.

Not a single non-Muslim worship building is allowed there; the highest Islamic authority decreed that it is “necessary to destroy all the churches of the region.”  Whenever Christians are suspected of meeting in a house for worship—or as one Saudi official once complained, “plotting to celebrate Christmas”—they are arrested and punished.

Any cross or other non-Muslim symbol found is confiscated and destroyed. Anyone caught trying to smuggle Bibles or any other “publications that have prejudice to any other religious belief other than Islam” can be executed.

In 2011, a Colombian soccer-player “was arrested by the Saudi moral police after customers in a Riyadh shopping mall expressed outrage over the sports player’s religious tattoos, which included the face of Jesus of Nazareth on his arm.”  In 2010 a Romanian player kissed the tattoo of a cross he had on his arm after scoring a goal, causing public outrage.

And yet, Saudi Arabia has the unmitigated gall to ask the West—where Islam is freely practiced, where mosques and Korans proliferate, and where Muslims are granted full equality—to cease “discrimination based on religion.”

Continues the Saudi Gazette:

Addressing an international symposium on media coverage of religious symbols based on international law, which started in this French city on Saturday, a senior Saudi official said the Kingdom emphasized years ago that the international community must act urgently to confront ethnic, religious and cultural intolerance, which has become widespread in all communities and peoples of the world.

Meanwhile, back in the real world, few countries exhibit as much “ethnic, religious and cultural intolerance” as does the Arabian kingdom.  Along with the aforementioned discrimination and intolerance against all other religions, Saudi Arabia is notoriously clannish and racist.

Ten percent of the population is denied equal rights because of their race; back men are barred from holding many government positions; black women are often put on trial for “witchcraft”; castrated African slaves are sold on Facebook in the birthplace of Islam and its princes are known to beat their black slaves to death. Human Rights Watch has described conditions for foreign workers in Saudi Arabia as resembling slavery.

Worse of all is if you’re black and Christian.  After 35 Christian Ethiopians were arrested and abused in prison for almost a year, simply for holding a private house prayer, one of them said after being released: “They [Saudis] are full of hatred towards non-Muslims.”

This is unsurprising considering that the Saudi education system makes it a point to indoctrinate Muslim children with hatred, teaching that “the Apes are the people of the Sabbath, the Jews; and the Swine are the infidels of the communion of Jesus, the Christians.”

According to Saudi novelist Hani Naqshabandi, “Our religious institutions do not give us room to exercise free thought….  They [Saudi institutions] said that the Christian is an infidel, a denizen of hell, an enemy to Allah and Islam.  So we said, ‘Allah’s curse on them.’”

Again, bear in mind that all this is official Saudi policy—not the “free expressions” of individuals, which the Saudis are condemning as creating “ethnic, religious and cultural intolerance” around the world.

The Saudi Gazette goes on to quote one Abdulmajeed Al-Omari, “a senior Saudi official.” Speaking at a recent international symposium in France which hosted representatives from 16 European nations, he said that Western “freedom of expression without limits or restrictions” areabuses [that] bred intolerance, extremism and human rights violations…”

Again, it bears reemphasizing that in the West individuals are free to express themselves.  And it’s just that—expression, not action (as in murder, terrorism, rape, enslavement, church bombings, or the slaughter of “apostates”).

As for Western governments, thanks to political correctness, not only do they discourage freedom of expression but honest, objective talk concerning Islam is suppressed (hence every Western leader maintains that ISIS “has nothing to do with Islam,” AKA, “the religion of peace”).

Meanwhile, it is precisely Islamic teachings that breed “intolerance, extremism and human rights violations,” and not just in Saudi Arabia but all throughout the Muslim world.  And it is precisely these teachings that prompt Western peoples to criticize Islam, including through cartoons.

None of this is enough to embarrass the Saudis from their farce:

Al-Omari said the Saudi participation in the symposium falls in line with its efforts to support the principles of justice, humanity, promotion of values and the principles of tolerance in the world as well as to emphasize the importance of respecting religions and religious symbols.

Actually, because of Saudi Arabia’s absolute lack of “justice, humanity, promotion of values and the principles of tolerance,” even the U.S. State Department lists the home of Islam and Muhammad as one of eight “Countries of Particular Concern.”

Thus in ultra-hypocritical manner, Saudi Arabia asks the international community to stop exercising freedom of expression—even as it openly and unapologetically persecutes, discriminates, and violates the most basic human rights of non-Muslims and non-Saudis on a daily basis.

It still remains to determine which is more surreal, more unbelievable: that Saudi Arabia, which tops the charts of state-enforced religious intolerance and ethnic discrimination, is calling on the West “to confront ethnic, religious and cultural intolerance,” or that the West deigns to participate in such disgracefully hypocritical forums.