U.S. Keeps Saudi Arabia’s Worst Secret

1395740809274.cachedBy Eli Lake:

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

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

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

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

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

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

“We commissioned the study to assess and evaluate the content of the textbooks with the intention of sharing our findings with the Saudi government and with the option, depending on the findings, of making it public if the problems persisted,” Posner told the Daily Beast.

Posner declined to discuss the contents of the unpublished Saudi textbook study in the interview.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

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

Often these textbooks promote the kind of religious chauvinism embraced by Sunni terror groups like al Qaeda. A June 12, 2006 cable from the U.S. embassy in Riyadh disclosed by WikiLeaks highlights this kind of bigotry. It says an eighth grade textbook for example says, “God will punish any Muslim who does not literally obey God just as God punished some Jews by turning them into pigs and monkeys.”

This cable says the textbooks reviewed by the U.S. embassy in Saudi Arabia were borrowed by U.S. diplomats from children in part because the Saudi government was reluctant to share them.

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

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

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

Read more at The Daily Beast

pp tweet

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

 

 

Saudi Arabia and the Muslim Brotherhood

gh23By Joseph Puder:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read more at Front Page

UAE, Saudis Lash Out at U.S. Gov’t and Orgs Supporting Islamists

UAE2BY RYAN MAURO:

The United Arab Emirates is protesting the State Department for its perceived support for a prosecuted jihadist, in a rare expression of diplomatic anger towards the U.S. Saudi Arabia is also demanding that Qatar shut down two U.S. organizations based in its territory for advancing the Muslim Brotherhood cause.

The UAE is angry over a  human rights report that criticizes it for preventing citizens from forming political parties. It mentions Ahmed al-Dakki, also known as Hassan al-Diqqi, who formed a party named Ummah. The term refers to the collective body of Muslims around the world.

The State Department did not mention that the UAE justified its ban on al-Dakki’s party by pointing out that he leads an Islamist fighting force in Syria. He is a regional officer for the Ummah Conference and was seen in a video asking Muslims to donate weapons, money and fighters.

Al-Dakki works with Abdul Rahman Omeir al-Naimi, another member of his political party. In December, the U.S. Treasury Department sanctioned him because he’s part of the Al-Qaeda network.

He transferred at least $250,000 to Al-Shabaab (Al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Somalia) and around $600,000 to Al-Qaeda in Syria. At one point, he was transferring $2 million every single month to Al-Qaeda in Iraq. He also financed Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (its Yemen affiliate) and Asbat al-Ansar (an affiliate in Lebanon).

Read more at Clarion Project

 

Shifting Mideast Sands Reveal New Alliances

shifting.sands.middle.eastBy Jonathan Spyer:

A number of events in recent weeks cast light on the current intersecting lines of conflict in the Middle East. They reflect a region in flux, in which new bonds are being formed, and old ones torn asunder.

But amid the confusion, a new topography is emerging.

This was the month in which a long-existent split in the Sunni Arab world turned into a gaping fissure. On March 5th, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates announced that they were withdrawing their ambassadors from the Emirate of Qatar.

This decision was clearly a response to Qatar’s continued support and sponsorship of the Muslim Brotherhood movement. This movement is regarded as a subversive threat by the three Gulf states. They are worried by the Brotherhood’s capacity for internal subversion.

Qatar, by contrast, affords generous subsidies to its tiny citizen body, and has little to fear from potential internal unrest.  It continues to support the Brotherhood and to domicile key leaders of the Egyptian branch of the movement. The latter is now engaged in an insurgency against the Egyptian authorities.

Saudi patience was at an end. The removal of the ambassadors reflects this.

On March 7th, Saudi Arabia made the additional move of declaring the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization.  A Saudi researcher and former general, Dr. Anwar Eshki, was quoted on the Now Lebanon website as asserting that the decision was made with particular focus on the Egyptian Brotherhood, which is involved in “terrorist” activity.

In the same week, an Egyptian court banned all activities by the Hamas organization in Egypt, and referred to the movement as a “terrorist organization.”

The proximity of these announcements reflects the very close emergent alliance between Saudi Arabia and the de facto Sisi regime in Egypt, which is likely to become de jure following presidential elections later this year.

This alliance is the core component of an emergent dispensation in the Sunni Arab world which also includes UAE, Bahrain and Jordan, as well as the fragile West Bank Palestinian Authority of Mahmoud Abbas.

This alliance is set to emerge as the strongest element among the Sunni Arabs.

It is opposed both to the Iran-led, mainly Shia “resistance” bloc, and to what is left of the Qatar/Muslim Brotherhood alliance that just a short year ago was proclaiming itself the wave of the future in the Middle East.

The Hamas authority in Gaza has no buy into the new Saudi-Sisi bloc.  Formerly aligned with Iran, it put its bets on the Qatar/Muslim Brotherhood axis.

But this putative bloc was fatally damaged by the Sisi coup in Egypt of July 3rd, 2013, and by the departure of the Muslim Brotherhood-related Nahda party in Tunisia.

Hamas appears to be trying to find its way back to the Iranians.  Gaza’s “foreign minister” Mahmoud al Zahar and Iran’s parliament spokesman Ali Larijani both made statements this week suggesting that relations had returned to normal between Teheran and Hamas.

It is not clear what this actually means.  But Iranian funding to Hamas in Gaza was slashed following the latter’s failure to offer support to the Iranian client regime in Damascus. It is unlikely that Iran has either forgotten or forgiven.  Al-Zahar, in any case, is among those Hamas officials most closely supportive of Iran and his statements should not be taken as representing the movement as a whole.

Read more at PJ Media

Also see:

The Double-Edged Sword of Jihad

LIBYAby :

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read more at Front Page

Saudi terrorism list raises question about Islamic Front

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

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

By Abdallah Suleiman Ali:

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

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

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

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

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

Read more at al Monitor

Egypt Joins Other Arab States In Pulling Ambassador From Qatar

By gmbwatch:

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

Egypt

Egypt

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

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

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

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

Read the rest here.

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

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

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

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

That last embedded link includes the following important observation:

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

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

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

 

 

 

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

Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah

Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah

By David Hearst:

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

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

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

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

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

Read more at Huffington Post

Also see:

Saudi Arabia designates Muslim Brotherhood as terrorist group: Interior Ministry

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gulf States Tighten Screws on Qatar for Brotherhood Support

Qatar-HamasBY RYAN MAURO:

Qatar’s Arab neighbors are out of patience for its support of the Muslim Brotherhood. Three Gulf countries have withdrawn their ambassadors. The Qatari government will no longer be permitted to straddle both sides of the aisle. It must choose.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain recalled their ambassadors in what the New York Times calls “an extraordinary rebuke.” Their joint statement said Qatar supports “hostile media” and forces that “threaten the security and stability of the Gulf states,” referring to the Muslim Brotherhood and the Al-Jazeera network based in Doha.

The three Arab countries emphasized that they have tried to address Qatar privately to no avail. They stated they “have exerted massive efforts to contact Qatar on all levels to agree on a unified policy…to ensure non-interference, directly or indirectly, in the internal affairs of any member state.”

The statement contradicts press reports and statements from Brotherhood leaders indicating they were being expelled and moving to the United Kingdom. The British government said it doesn’t consider the Brotherhood to be an extremist group and is open to giving them asylum.

The diplomatic rift comes as the UAE prosecutes a Qatari citizen for being part of the Muslim Brotherhood branch in the country, named Al-Islah.

The Saudis are most aggressively confronting Qatar, threatening to essentially blockade the country by closing the airspace and border. If the UAE were to join in, Qatar would have no land access to the rest of the world and air travel would be greatly complicated. The Saudis are also undercutting Qatari and Brotherhood influence among the Syrian rebels.

Read more at Clarion Project

From Riyadh to Beirut, fear of Syria blowback

 (AP Photo/Mohammed Zaatari)

(AP Photo/Mohammed Zaatari)

AP, By BASSEM MROUE and AYA BATRAWY:

BISARIYEH, Lebanon (AP) — The once-tranquil, religiously mixed village of Bisariyeh is seething: Two of its young men who fought alongside the rebels in Syria recently returned home radicalized and staged suicide bombings in Lebanon.

The phenomenon is being watched anxiously across the Mideast, particularly in Saudi Arabia, where authorities are moving decisively to prevent citizens from going off to fight in Syria.

The developments illustrate how the Syrian war is sending dangerous ripples across a highly combustible region and sparking fears that jihadis will come home with dangerous ideas and turn their weapons against their own countries.

In Lebanon, where longstanding tensions between Sunnis and Shiites have been heightened by the conflict next door, the fear of blowback has very much turned into reality.

The social fabric of towns and villages across the country is being torn by conflicting loyalties and a wave of bombings carried out by Sunni extremists in retaliation for the Iranian-backed Shiite group Hezbollah’s military support of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

In the past few months, at least five Sunni men have disappeared from Bisariyeh, an impoverished, predominantly Shiite village in south Lebanon, and are believed to have gone to fight in Syria.

Two of them — Nidal Mughayar and Adan al-Mohammad — returned and blew themselves up outside Iranian targets in Beirut. The blasts, by Mughayar on Feb. 19 and al-Mohammad on Nov. 18, killed scores.

“He was a good man with a good heart, but it seems that people who have no conscience brainwashed him,” Hisham al-Mughayar said of his 20-year-old son.

As news spread in the village that Nidal was one of the bombers, angry Shiite residents marched to his parents’ home and set it on fire along with the family’s grocery and four vehicles.

“He destroyed himself and destroyed us with him,” said the father, as he took an Associated Press reporter on a tour of his torched, two-story house, much of its furniture reduced to ashes.

Concern about such radicalization has sent Mideast governments scrambling into action.

After years of often turning a blind eye to jihadists taking up arms abroad, Saudi Arabia is enacting new laws and backing a campaign to stop its citizens from joining Syria’s civil war. The intention is to send a clear message that those who defy the law are to fight to the death and are not welcome back.

The move, in part, reflects pressure from Saudi ally the U.S., which wants to see the overthrow of Assad but is alarmed by the rising influence of hard-line foreign jihadists — many of them linked to al-Qaida — among the rebels.

Many Saudis have been easy recruitment targets for jihadist organizations. Osama bin Laden and 15 of the 19 hijackers on 9/11 were Saudi. The oil-rich kingdom was among several nations that backed the anti-communist mujahedeen forces fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan in the 1980s, and Saudi fighters have traveled to other Muslim hotspots around the world since then.

More recently, at the urging of Saudi preachers and even judges, thousands of fighters from Saudi Arabia — home to a strict, puritanical strain of Sunni Islam — have joined the 3-year-old uprising against Assad, whose government is dominated by members of his Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shiite Islam.

Saudi officials said fewer than 3,000 Saudis are believed to be fighting in Syria, but analysts and other estimates put the figure as high as 15,000.

While Saudi Arabia continues to support opposition groups in Syria with weapons and other aid, King Abdullah issued a decree in the past month: Any citizen who fights abroad faces three to 20 years in prison. And anyone who incites people to join foreign wars can get five to 30 years.

“The Saudis are very much concerned about a repeat of the 2004 jihadist insurgency inside the kingdom, led at the time by Osama Bin Laden,” said analyst Bilal Saab, referring to a wave of militant attacks inside the country.

“It took time and a considerable amount of resources to counter the insurgency then. If it were to happen again in today’s regional environment where radicalization is on the increase, Saudi counterterrorism efforts will face even more formidable challenges,” added Saab, a senior fellow at the Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security at the Atlantic Council.

History is rife with examples of militants returning home from wars with radical intentions.

Read more 

 

Saudi Arabia: The Middle East’s Real Apartheid State

356-saudi-450x320by :

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

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

That country is Saudi Arabia.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read more at Front Page

IPT Video Report: NYC Pro-Morsi Rally Blasts Saudis as “Dirtier Than Jews”

Seismic Strategic Shifts Due to Easing of Sanctions Against Iran

Rouhani and PutinBY RYAN MAURO:

The easing of sanctions on Iran as part of the nuclear deal has prompted a major strategic shift in the region in favor of the terrorism-sponsoring regime, and Europe and Turkey are looking to cash in in it. The Middle East is split between three alliances and the one opposed to both Iran and the Muslim Brotherhood is now fracturing.

There is a Shiite alliance led by Iran; a pro-Muslim Brotherhood alliance led by Turkey and Qatar and a third alliance led by Egypt and Saudi Arabia that opposes both Iran and the Brotherhood. The first two alliances are coming together. The third is growing closer to Israel, Russia and China and further away from the U.S.

Governments and companies around the world are looking at Iran as an economic opportunity because of the nuclear deal. European investors are readying to do business at the earliest opportunity. Italy is moving quickly to trade with Iran and a delegation of major French companies will visit Iran next month.  Russia is negotiating a deal to buy 500,000 barrels of oil from Iran per day.

An analysis by Joseph Zaalishvili explains that a major energy deal is being forged that could bring together Europe, Iran and Turkey. The economic opportunity is an added incentive for Iran and Turkey to heal their relationship and, if it goes through, it is hard to see how meaningful sanctions on Iran will be maintained.

One of Europe’s major problems is its dependency on Russian natural gas. The Russian government is not afraid of using this dependency as a means of political pressure. This is a major consideration for Europe that other countries can exploit.

Zaalishvili points out that oil companies in Turkey, Azerbaijan and Georgia agreed on December 17 to develop a gas field for this purpose. By 2019, six billion cubic meters of gas will go to Turkey and 10 billion will go to southern Europe every single year.

Enter Iran. An Iranian state-controlled company owns 10% of the natural gas field. In addition, Turkey wants to act as a corridor for Iranian gas shipments to Europe. Turkey also wants to import more gas from Iran and its Iraqi allies. The end result is an Iranian-Turkish bloc that Europe depends on.

Meanwhile, the third alliance is weakening. Saudi Arabia hoped to transform the Gulf Cooperation Council into a Gulf Union, basically creating an Arab NATO consisting of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman and the United Arab Emirates.

Oman rejected the idea of a Gulf Union right off the bat. The country served as a secret staging ground for talks between the U.S. and Iran and wants to remain neutral.

This stance is best explained by a report that Iran has agreed to give Oman free oil and gas in about two years after a natural gas pipeline is built. In return, Iran gets a “strategic location on Musandam mountain” that allows it to threaten the Strait of Hormuz.

Read more at Clarion Project

Bandar bin Sultan’s Botched Syrian Intervention

by Hilal Khashan
Middle East Quarterly
Winter 2014

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

A Broken Tradition of Cooptation

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

 

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

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

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

The Prince of Sensitive Missions

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read more