Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Sunni monarchs back YouTube hate preachers: Anti-Shia propaganda threatens a sectarian civil war which will engulf the entire Muslim world

    Tuesday, December 31, 2013   No comments
Anti-Shia hate propaganda spread by Sunni religious figures sponsored by, or based in, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf monarchies, is creating the ingredients for a sectarian civil war engulfing the entire Muslim world. Iraq and Syria have seen the most violence, with the majority of the 766 civilian fatalities in Iraq this month being Shia pilgrims killed by suicide bombers from the al-Qa'ida umbrella group, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (Isis). The anti-Shia hostility of this organisation, now operating from Baghdad to Beirut, is so extreme that last month it had to apologise for beheading one of its own wounded fighters in Aleppo – because he was mistakenly believed to have muttered the name of Shia saints as he lay on a stretcher.

At the beginning of December, al-Qa'ida in the Arabian Peninsula killed 53 doctors and nurses and wounded 162 in an attack on a hospital in Sanaa, the capital of Yemen, which had been threatened for not taking care of wounded militants by a commentator on an extreme Sunni satellite TV station. Days before the attack, he announced that armies and tribes would assault the hospital "to take revenge for our brothers. We say this and, by the grace of Allah, we will do it".

Skilled use of the internet and access to satellite television funded by or based in Sunni states has been central to the resurgence of al-Qa'ida across the Middle East, to a degree that Western politicians have so far failed to grasp. In the last year, Isis has become the most powerful single rebel military force in Iraq and Syria, partly because of its ability to recruit suicide bombers and fanatical fighters through the social media. Western intelligence agencies, such as the NSA in the US, much criticised for spying on the internet communications of their own citizens, have paid much less attention to open and instantly accessible calls for sectarian murder that are in plain view. Critics say that this is in keeping with a tradition since 9/11 of Western governments not wishing to hold Saudi Arabia or the Gulf monarchies responsible for funding extreme Sunni jihadi groups and propagandists supporting them through private donations.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Glenn Greenwald: U.S., British Media Are 'Devoted Servants' To Government

    Monday, December 30, 2013   No comments
Journalist Glenn Greenwald did not hold back Friday in criticizing the media during a speech about his work with Edward Snowden.

Greenwald, who reported on the National Security Agency's secret domestic surveillance programs with the help of documents leaked by the former NSA contractor, spoke to the Chaos Communication Congress in Hamburg, Germany, via satellite from Brazil. According to Russia Today, he denounced journalists in the United States and Britain, accusing them of failing to challenge those in political power and of discrediting anyone who dared to do so.

“[W]e knew in particular that one of our most formidable adversaries was not simply going to be the intelligence agencies on which we were reporting and who we were trying to expose, but also their most loyal, devoted servants, which calls itself the United States and British media," Greenwald said.

He said that the NSA programs came to light "almost entirely without them and despite them." Their role as journalists, Greenwald claimed, "is not to be adversarial, their role is to be loyal spokespeople to those powerful factions that they pretend to exercise oversight."

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Al Qaeda-linked Yusuf Al Qadi and Osama Khoutub, who are among suspects in a major graft probe, has reportedly fled Turkey after the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) blocked a police raid on Wednesday as İstanbul police didn't comply with orders of prosecutors to detain several suspects in the second leg of the investigation

    Thursday, December 26, 2013   No comments
Gulen and Erdogan now at odds

The İstanbul Chief Public Prosecutor's Office has ordered the detention of 30 suspects, including a number of deputies and businessmen. The İstanbul Police Department, which saw an extensive purge of its top officers over the last week, has not complied with the order, however.

News reports suggest that when the list of 30 suspects leaked to media on Wednesday, some of the suspects took precautionary measures to avoid any allegation in case of a police raid to their houses and offices.

And some suspects fled Turkey, including al Qaeda's Turkey operatives Yusuf Al Qadi and Osama Khoutub after government blocked the investigation through newly appointed police chiefs who didn't comply with court decision.

Prosecutor Muammer Akkaş who was leading the second round of the probe was taken away from the case. “All my colleagues and the public should know that as a public prosecutor I was prevented from carrying out the investigation,” the prosecutor said in a statement on Thursday, adding that pressure had clearly been placed on the judiciary both from the Public Prosecutor's Office and the police, allowing an opportunity for suspects to destroy the evidence.

Akkaş said although he issued detention and search warrants for the suspects and relayed these to the İstanbul Police Department on Wednesday morning, the police department had not complied with his orders.

"By not implementing the court decisions, police chiefs committed a crime. An opportunity was given to suspects to take measures, escape or mitigate the evidence," he said.

Saudi businessman Al Qadi's assests was frozen in Turkey after he was named as financer of terrorism in international community. News reports point out that the al Qaeda suspect is allowed to enter Turkey freely and has access to high-level diplomats and security officials, including the Undersecretary of the National Intelligence Organization (MİT) Hakan Fidan.

According to claims, former Justice Minister Sadullah Ergin, who left his post on Wednesday in a major Cabinet reshuffle, asked İstanbul Chief Public Prosecutor to close the case.

Monday, December 23, 2013

The Home Secretary: revoked the British citizenship of 20 people this year to prevent the return of dual-nationals who have gone to fight in Syria

    Monday, December 23, 2013   No comments
Secret use of citizenship-stripping powers has been dramatically stepped up as Theresa May moves to prevent the return of dual-nationals who have gone to fight in Syria.

The Home Secretary has so far revoked the British citizenship of 20 people this year – more than in her previous two- and-a-half years combined.

She has removed the citizenship of 37 people since May 2010, according to figures collated by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism. Critics warned the practice could leave individuals at risk of torture and ill-treatment in their home countries.

Security sources are particularly alarmed because Syria’s proximity to Europe makes it easier for violent UK-based extremists to travel to and from the country.

A former senior Foreign Office official said it was an “open secret” that British nationals fighting in the Syrian civil war were increasingly losing their citizenship.

He told the Bureau: “This [deprivation of citizenship] is happening. There are somewhere between 40 and 240 Brits in Syria, and we are probably not as quick as we should be to strip their citizenship.”


Sunday, December 22, 2013

AKP corruption probe: Turkey's recent past is filled with political parties that were swept to power thanks to their promises to root out corruption in the country but which disappeared from the political scene due to claims of corruption and fraud in their own ranks

    Sunday, December 22, 2013   No comments
Corruption, a large and troublesome problem for Turkey, led to the demise of several governments in the past and analysts warn that the same fate might await the Justice and Development Party (AK Party), some of whose members have been targeted as part of a major bribery and fraud operation along with dozens of businessmen and bureaucrats, unless the party proves itself “clean.”
Turkey's recent past is filled with political parties that were swept to power thanks to their promises to root out corruption in the country but which disappeared from the political scene due to claims of corruption and fraud in their own ranks.

“Turkish people are very sensitive about corruption. They consider corruption to be ‘exploiting the poor and orphans.' Many political parties suffered losses in their votes and power due to claims of corruption and fraud. Furthermore, some others were shut down due to the same claims,” stated Nazlı Ilıcak, a veteran journalist, in remarks to Sunday's Zaman.

On Dec. 17, İstanbul and Ankara police staged dawn raids and detained over 50 people as part of a major investigation into claims of corruption and bribery. Among the detainees were bureaucrats, well-known businesspeople and the sons of three ministers. Allegations emerged that several ministers were also implicated in bribery. The suspects are accused of rigging state tenders, accepting and facilitating bribes for major urbanization projects, obtaining construction permits for protected land areas in exchange for money, helping foreigners to obtain Turkish citizenship through falsified documents, involvement in export fraud, forgery of documents and gold smuggling. There are also claims that the suspects illegally sold historical artifacts that were unearthed during excavations of the Marmaray underwater rail project that connects Europe and Asia.

The corruption and bribery investigation drew a harsh reaction from the AK Party and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan defined it as a “dirty operation” against the government. Twenty-nine senior police officials from the İstanbul and Ankara police departments who had been ordered by the prosecutor's office to conduct the investigation were immediately removed from their posts and two new prosecutors were appointed to the investigation. The removals and the appointment of new prosecutors led to comments from legal experts that efforts were under way to impede the investigation.

In addition, the graft investigation brought up questions about the government's ability to fight corruption.


Thursday, December 19, 2013

Masked Army: Jihadist Group Expands Rapidly in Syria

    Thursday, December 19, 2013   No comments
The sender was unidentified, but the young engineer knew who the email was from as soon as he opened the attachment. Beneath a picture of the brutally mutilated corpse of Muhannad Halaibna, a civil rights activist known throughout the northern Syrian city of Raqqa, was a single sentence: "Are you sad now about your friend?"

Mere hours later, the engineer and 20 other members of the Syrian opposition -- doctors, city council members and activists -- escaped from Raqqa into Turkey. They weren't fleeing Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime, but a new and terrible power that has no face and goes by many names. The official name of this al-Qaida branch, which has broken away from Osama Bin Laden's successors, is the "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS). "Daaisch" is the most common abbreviation of the group's name in Syria. "But we call them the Army of Masks," says Basil, the engineer who fled the country, "because their men rarely show their faces. They dress in black, with their faces covered."
In addition to civil rights activist Halaibna, the group's thugs have kidnapped hundreds of others in Raqqa, where Assad's army was driven out back in March. The jihadists seized the chair of the city council, the heads of the civilian opposition, an Italian Jesuit and six European journalists. Anyone who opposes the ISIS fighters, or who is simply considered an unbeliever, disappears.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Up to 11,000 Foreign Fighters in Syria; Steep Rise Among Western Europeans

    Wednesday, December 18, 2013   No comments
The International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation offers its latest assessment of how many foreigners are fighting in Syria's civil war, which countries they hail from, and other key data.

Since ICSR published its first estimate in April, the issue of foreign fighters in Syria has become a major concern for Western governments. More reports have emerged since, though few have accurately gauged the full extent and evolution of the phenomenon.

This ICSR Insight provides an update of our April estimate, offering the most comprehensive and richly resourced account of the Syrian foreign fighter phenomenon from open sources. Based on more than 1,500 sources, we estimate that up to 11,000 individuals from 74 nations have become opposition fighters in Syria -- nearly double our previous estimate. Among Western Europeans, the number has more than tripled from (up to) 600 in April to 1,900 now.

We estimate that -- from late 2011 to 10 December 2013 -- between 3,300 and 11,000 individuals have gone to Syria to fight against the Assad government. These figures include those who are currently present as well as those who have since returned home, been arrested or killed.

Based on the credibility of various sources, our own judgement, and the feedback we have received since publishing our April estimate, we believe the "true" figure to be above 8,500. This would mean that the numbers have nearly doubled since April, with a particularly steep increase among non-Arabs, especially Westerners.

While Arabs and Europeans continue to represent the bulk of foreign fighters (up to 80 per cent), we have identified individuals from Southeast Asia, North America, Australia, and (non-Arab) Africa. Overall, we believe that residents and citizens from at least 74 countries have joined militant opposition groups in Syria.

(For a more detailed explanation on sources and limitations, see further below.)

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Zarqawi’s Cubs: Extremist Syrian faction touts training camp for boys

    Tuesday, December 17, 2013   No comments
By Joby Warrick
At first glance, the training camp appears no different from the many others shown in propaganda videos posted by al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria. Hooded recruits in camouflage shoot at targets or march in formation under the black flag of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

But look closer and the “fighters” appear quite small. The tallest are barely chest-high to their instructors, and the shorter ones wear ill-fitting uniforms and appear to struggle under the weight of their weapons. A photo of the recruits without their hoods confirms that all of them are young boys.

They are “Zarqawi’s Cubs,” the youth brigade of Syria’s most fearsome Islamist rebel group and one of the newest manifestations of al-Qaeda’s deepening roots in rebel-controlled sections of the country. Building on earlier efforts to expand their influence in Syrian schools, radical Islamists appear to be stepping up efforts to indoctrinate and train children, some as young as 10, according to independent experts who have studied the phenomenon.

The establishment of the Zarqawi’s Cubs camp — revealed in a video posted last month by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS — is viewed as particularly worrisome because of the similarities to Iraq’s “Birds of Paradise.” That brigade was created a decade ago by the same terrorist group, in its earlier incarnation as al-Qaeda in Iraq, to train children for military missions, including suicide bombings.

“This is the future threat,” said Steven Stalinsky, executive director of the Middle East Media Research Institute, a Washington nonprofit organization that has tracked the exploitation of children by Syrian fighting groups over the past two years. “These are the children of al-Qaeda.”

U.N. agencies and human rights groups have accused multiple Syrian factions — including secularist rebels and pro-government militias — of recruiting children for military roles ranging from scouting to actual combat.

Researchers from Human Rights Watch interviewed boys as young as 14 who were used to transport weapons or serve as lookouts. Even younger children were put to work loading bullets into magazines for assault rifles, said Sarah Margon, acting director of the group’s Washington office.

“It’s something that children often do because their fingers are smaller,” Margon said. But such practical considerations aside, “for those looking to indoctrinate, it is a ripe setting for indoctrination,” she added.

The Obama administration last year imposed restrictions on some of its nonmilitary aid to Syria in part because of concerns about the use of child soldiers. Invoking a 2008 law forbidding assistance to countries that use child soldiers, the administration approved restrictions on certain types of nonmilitary aid to Syria as well as the Central African Republic, Burma, Sudan and six other countries, according to State Department documents.


Monday, December 16, 2013

Turkey admits export of rifles to Syria ‘for sports’; 47 tons of weaponry

    Monday, December 16, 2013   No comments
No weapons intended for war have been exported to Syria in 2013, Defense Minister İsmet Yılmaz has said, while acknowledging that weapons “without military uses” for use in sports activities have been exported to Syria, indirectly acknowledging a recent report by daily Hürriyet.
47 tons of weaponry

Turkey has sent over 47 tons of weaponry to the Syrian rebels since June, according to documents filed by the Turkish Statistics Institute (TÜİK) and also filed under the United Nations trade records, despite repeated denials from government ranks, daily Hürriyet reported over the weekend.

In September alone, 29 tons of military equipment was sent to opposition fighters, according to the same documentation.

The news report by Hürriyet had earlier noted that those pieces of military equipment were listed in the U.N.’s Comtrade database under code 9303: “Other firearms and similar devices that operate by the firing of an explosive charge, such as sporting shotguns and rifles, muzzle-loading firearms, revolvers, pistols and other devices designed to project only signal flares.”


Iraqi Deputy PM Hussain al-Shahristani welcomes recent deals between Turkey and the KRG, but stresses that Baghdad 'shouldn’t be marginalized'

    Monday, December 16, 2013   No comments
Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister for Energy Hussain al-Shahristani has welcomed recent agreements between Turkey and the Iraqi Kurdish administration on oil and natural gas exports to Turkey, provided that the central government in Baghdad is not marginalized in any such agreements.

“We support and seek to increase our oil and future natural gas exports to Turkey,” al-Shahristani told Anadolu Agency in an interview. “This is something that we seek to achieve.”

However, al-Shahristani stressed that the quantities of Iraqi oil exported to Turkey must be known to the central government, oil must be sold at international market prices, and revenues from oil sales must be channeled to the account of the Iraq Development Fund in New York, in line with previous U.N. Security Council resolutions.

Pope Francis says trickle-down economics do not help the poor, says he is not a Marxist, but defends criticism of capitalism

    Monday, December 16, 2013   No comments
"Never be afraid of tenderness"
In this exclusive interview, Pope Francis speaks about Christmas, hunger in the world, the suffering of children, the reform of the Roman Curia, women cardinals, the Institute for the Works of Religion (IOR), and the upcoming visit to the Holy Land

"The ideology of Marxism is wrong. But I have met many Marxists in my life who are good people, so I don't feel offended," Francis was quoted as saying. Defending his criticism of the "trickle-down" theory of economics, he added: "There was the promise that once the glass had become full it would overflow and the poor would benefit. But what happens is that when it's full to the brim, the glass magically grows, and thus nothing ever comes out for the poor ... I repeat: I did not talk as a specialist but according to the social doctrine of the church. And this does not mean being a Marxist."

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Radical Islamists embedded among the rebels in Syria are reportedly targeting foreign journalists for abduction

    Sunday, December 15, 2013   No comments
Radical Islamists embedded among the rebels in Syria are reportedly targeting foreign journalists for abduction. Instead of holding them for ransom, however, they use them as trump cards in their power struggles with more moderate rebel groups.

It was Sept. 16. The two Spaniards had almost made it to safety. Journalists Javiar Espinosa and Ricardo García, as well as their escorts, fighters with the Free Syrian Army, were hardly 15 minutes by car from the Turkish border when they were stopped at the last checkpoint within Syrian territory and abducted.

Some of their escorts were subsequently freed. From them, it is known that the men at the checkpoint were members of the extremist rebel group "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS).
The two Spaniards were a big catch for the radical Islamists. Since early last summer, ISIS and other extremist groups have apparently shifted their strategy and begun targeting foreign reporters for abduction. On Tuesday, Ayman Mhanna, executive director of the Beirut-based SKeyes Center for Media and Cultural Freedom, said that 20 foreign journalists are being held captive in Syria. Some of the missing journalists are in the hands of the regime, he added, but the majority are captives of extremist groups.

And these are not the only missing reporters. In addition to foreign journalists, Mhanna says, about 10 Syrian journalists have been kidnapped and are being held. Since fighting broke out in the spring of 2011, roughly 55 journalists have lost their lives in Syria.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Free Syrian Army Gen. Salim Idris fled to Qatar through Turkey, U.S. officials told the Wall Street Journal

    Thursday, December 12, 2013   No comments

Salim Idris
The top Western-backed Syrian rebel commander fled the country after Islamist militant fighters ran him out of his headquarters, U.S. officials said.
Free Syrian Army Gen. Salim Idris flew to the Qatari capital of Doha Sunday after fleeing to Turkey, the officials told the Wall Street Journal.

"He fled as a result of the Islamic Front taking over his headquarters," a senior U.S. official said.

An Islamic Front spokesman said Idris, an East German-trained electronics professor who was a Syrian army general until he defected to the rebel side in July 2012, fled to Turkey.

The New York Times said Idris flew temporarily to Doha but was now back in Turkey, where he has a house.

The 13-month-old U.S.-backed Syrian National Coalition, which supports the FSA, is based in Doha.

The Obama administration is urging Idris to return to Syria, the U.S. officials told the Journal.

The ultraconservative Islamic Front also took over key warehouses holding lethal and non-lethal weapons intended for moderate fighters in northern Syria, the White House said.

The warehouses were controlled by the Supreme Military Council, the moderate opposition umbrella group that includes the FSA and coordinates U.S. aid distribution, the White House said.


Wednesday, December 11, 2013

U.S., Britain suspend aid to north Syria after Islamists seize weapons store

    Wednesday, December 11, 2013   No comments
Nusra fighters transporting weapons and munitions
The United States and Britain suspended non-lethal aid to northern Syria after Islamist fighters seized Western-backed rebel weapons warehouses, highlighting fears that supplies could end up in the wrong hands and the general chaos engulfing the nation.

The rebel Free Syrian Army fighting President Bashar al-Assad said the U.S. and British moves were rushed and mistaken. "We hope our friends will rethink and wait for a few days when things will be clearer," FSA spokesman Louay Meqdad said.

The suspension underlines a crisis for the FSA leadership which needs international backing to reinforce its credibility and to stop its fighters joining powerful al Qaeda-backed Islamist militants who now dominate the war with Assad.

The United States and Britain have in the past offered radios, body armor, medical supplies, money and food to rebels fighting Assad, but a U.S. embassy spokesman in Turkey declined to give details of what supplies may have been halted.

Fighters from the Islamic Front, which groups six major rebel brigades and which said last week it had quit the FSA, seized headquarters of the Syrian Military Council, nominally in charge of the FSA, and weapons warehouses at the Bab al-Hawa crossing on Syria's northwestern border with Turkey.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a British-based anti-Assad monitoring group, said the Islamic Front had seized dozens of 'Shilka' anti-aircraft weapons and anti-tank rockets from the SMC arms stores in fighting on Friday and Saturday.

Saudi Arabia migrant expulsions: 'They beat us. I want to warn others not to go'

    Wednesday, December 11, 2013   No comments
Abdulla Shahmola trudges up the road leading from Addis Ababa airport to the outskirts of the city, his battered black suitcase balanced precariously on his head. Weariness and relief are etched into his delicate features as he heaves his heavy bag to the floor. "I have so many possessions that I had to leave behind in Saudi Arabia – a television, a bed, a fridge," he laments, adding that he is thankful to be back in Ethiopia.

Abdulla is one of hundreds of men, women and children steadily streaming from the airport cargo terminal, where up to 20 flights have been arriving daily from Jeddah and Riyadh since 13 November. A kilometre's walk from the hastily erected transit centre, which has been processing some 7,000 returning migrants each day, a small crowd, held back by federal police officers in blue military fatigues, waits anxiously for a glimpse of a loved one.

As of 8 December, 115,465 Ethiopians – 72,780 men, 37,092 women and 5,593 children, 202 of whom were unaccompanied – had returned from Saudi Arabia, according to government figures. The migrants, most of whom were in Saudi Arabia without work permits, were expelled after a tightening of labour regulations in March and the expiration of an amnesty for illegal workers on 4 November.

More than a million migrant workers from across Asia have been expelled from the kingdom as part of the crackdown, which is designed to get more Saudis into jobs and reduce the high unemployment rate.

The crackdown has triggered clashes in the capital, Riyadh, in which three Ethiopians were reportedly killed, sparking outrage in Ethiopia.

"They beat us," alleges Abdulla. He reaches into his pocket, pulls out his mobile phone and opens images of badly beaten Ethiopians, singling out one man whose throat appears to have been slit. His friends do the same, thrusting forward their mobiles. "I saw people killed. They are murderers," he hisses.

Monday, December 09, 2013

Whose sarin: The Syrian army is not the only party in the country’s civil war with access to sarin

    Monday, December 09, 2013   No comments
Seymour M. Hersh
Barack Obama did not tell the whole story this autumn when he tried to make the case that Bashar al-Assad was responsible for the chemical weapons attack near Damascus on 21 August. In some instances, he omitted important intelligence, and in others he presented assumptions as facts. Most significant, he failed to acknowledge something known to the US intelligence community: that the Syrian army is not the only party in the country’s civil war with access to sarin, the nerve agent that a UN study concluded – without assessing responsibility – had been used in the rocket attack. In the months before the attack, the American intelligence agencies produced a series of highly classified reports, culminating in a formal Operations Order – a planning document that precedes a ground invasion – citing evidence that the al-Nusra Front, a jihadi group affiliated with al-Qaida, had mastered the mechanics of creating sarin and was capable of manufacturing it in quantity. When the attack occurred al-Nusra should have been a suspect, but the administration cherry-picked intelligence to justify a strike against Assad.

In his nationally televised speech about Syria on 10 September, Obama laid the blame for the nerve gas attack on the rebel-held suburb of Eastern Ghouta firmly on Assad’s government, and made it clear he was prepared to back up his earlier public warnings that any use of chemical weapons would cross a ‘red line’: ‘Assad’s government gassed to death over a thousand people,’ he said. ‘We know the Assad regime was responsible … And that is why, after careful deliberation, I determined that it is in the national security interests of the United States to respond to the Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons through a targeted military strike.’ Obama was going to war to back up a public threat, but he was doing so without knowing for sure who did what in the early morning of 21 August.

Sunday, December 08, 2013

With Iran, Obama can end America’s long war for the Middle East

    Sunday, December 08, 2013   No comments

President Obama calling President Rouhani

By Andrew J. Bacevich, Boston University

Andrew J. Bacevich is a professor of history and international relations at Boston University and the author of “Breach of Trust: How Americans Failed Their Soldiers and Their Country.”
What Jimmy Carter began, Barack Obama is ending. Washington is bringing down the curtain on its 30-plus-year military effort to pull the Islamic world into conformity with American interests and expectations. It’s about time.
Back in 1980, when his promulgation of the Carter Doctrine launched that effort, Carter acted with only a vague understanding of what might follow. Yet circumstance — the overthrow of the shah in Iran, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan — compelled him to act. Or more accurately, the domestic political uproar triggered by those events compelled the president, facing a tough reelection campaign, to make a show of doing something. What ensued was the long-term militarization of U.S. policy throughout the region.

Now, without fanfare, President Obama is effectively revoking Carter’s doctrine. The U.S. military presence in the region is receding. When Obama posited in his second inaugural address that “enduring security and lasting peace do not require perpetual war,” he was not only recycling a platitude; he was also acknowledging the folly and futility of the enterprise in which U.S. forces had been engaged. Having consumed vast quantities of blood and treasure while giving Americans little to show in return, that enterprise is now ending.
Like Carter in 1980, Obama finds himself with few alternatives. At home, widespread anger, angst and mortification obliged Carter to begin girding the nation to fight for the greater Middle East. To his successors, Carter bequeathed a Pentagon preoccupied with ramping up its ability to flex its muscles anywhere from Egypt to Pakistan. The bequest proved a mixed blessing, fostering the illusion that military muscle, dexterously employed, might put things right. Today, widespread disenchantment with the resulting wars and quasi-wars prohibits Obama from starting new ones.
Successive military disappointments, not all of Obama’s making, have curbed his prerogatives as commander in chief. Rather than being the decider, he ratifies decisions effectively made elsewhere. In calling off a threatened U.S. attack on Syria, for example, the president was acknowledging what opinion polls and Congress (not to mention the British Parliament ) had already made plain: Support for any further military adventures to liberate or pacify Muslims has evaporated. Americans still profess to love the troops. But they’ve lost their appetite for war.


Saturday, December 07, 2013

Mass murder in the Middle East is funded by our friends the Saudis

    Saturday, December 07, 2013   No comments
Shi`a victims of suicide attacks
World View: Everyone knows where al-Qa'ida gets its money, but while the violence is sectarian, the West does nothing
Donors in Saudi Arabia have notoriously played a pivotal role in creating and maintaining Sunni jihadist groups over the past 30 years. But, for all the supposed determination of the United States and its allies since 9/11 to fight "the war on terror", they have showed astonishing restraint when it comes to pressuring Saudi Arabia and the Gulf monarchies to turn off the financial tap that keeps the jihadists in business.
Compare two US pronouncements stressing the significance of these donations and basing their conclusions on the best intelligence available to the US government. The first is in the 9/11 Commission Report which found that Osama bin Laden did not fund al-Qa'ida because from 1994 he had little money of his own but relied on his ties to wealthy Saudi individuals established during the Afghan war in the 1980s. Quoting, among other sources, a CIA analytic report dated 14 November 2002, the commission concluded that "al-Qa'ida appears to have relied on a core group of financial facilitators who raised money from a variety of donors and other fund-raisers primarily in the Gulf countries and particularly in Saudi Arabia".

Seven years pass after the CIA report was written during which the US invades Iraq fighting, among others, the newly established Iraq franchise of al-Qa'ida, and becomes engaged in a bloody war in Afghanistan with the resurgent Taliban. American drones are fired at supposed al-Qa'ida-linked targets located everywhere from Waziristan in north-west Pakistan to the hill villages of Yemen. But during this time Washington can manage no more than a few gentle reproofs to Saudi Arabia on its promotion of fanatical and sectarian Sunni militancy outside its own borders.


Friday, December 06, 2013

Don’t Sanitize Nelson Mandela: He’s Honored Now, But Was Hated Then: If we turn the late South African leader into a nonthreatening moral icon, we’ll forget a key lesson from his life: America isn’t always a force for freedom

    Friday, December 06, 2013   No comments
Now that he’s dead, and can cause no more trouble, Nelson Mandela is being mourned across the ideological spectrum as a saint. But not long ago, in Washington’s highest circles, he was considered an enemy of the United States. Unless we remember why, we won’t truly honor his legacy.

In the 1980s, Ronald Reagan placed Mandela’s African National Congress on America’s official list of “terrorist” groups. In 1985, then-Congressman Dick Cheney voted against a resolution urging that he be released from jail. In 2004, after Mandela criticized the Iraq War, an article in National Review said his “vicious anti-Americanism and support for Saddam Hussein should come as no surprise, given his longstanding dedication to communism and praise for terrorists.” As late as 2008, the ANC remained on America’s terrorism watch list, thus requiring the 89-year-old Mandela to receive a special waiver from the secretary of State to visit the U.S.

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Syrian rebels consider joining forces with regime troops to fight al-Qa’ida

    Thursday, December 05, 2013   No comments

The spectre is looming of a second Syrian civil war with the head of the opposition’s official forces declaring that he is prepared to join regime troops in the future to drive out al-Qa’ida-linked extremists who have taken over swathes of rebel-held territories.

General Salim Idris, the commander of the Free Syrian Army warned that in particular Isis (Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham), with thousands of foreign fighters in its ranks, was “very dangerous for the future of Syria” and needs to be confronted before it becomes even more powerful.

Western security agencies now believe that Syria poses the most potent threat of terrorism in Europe and the US from where hundreds of Muslims have gone to join the jihad. MI5 and Scotland Yard’s anti-terrorist branch recently tackled the first case of men sent from there specifically to carry out attacks in London.

One senior Western intelligence official stressed that the Syrian regime’s forces must be preserved for the battles ahead against the Islamists and the need to avoid the mistakes made in Iraq and Libya, where the army and police were disbanded with the fall of Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi, allowing terrorist groups to rise in a security vacuum.

The official held that talks between the regime and rebels set to take place in Geneva in January could be the beginning of the formation of an anti-al-Qa’ida front in Syria, along with a negotiated settlement to end the conflict which has claimed more than 117,000 lives so far and made millions refugees inside and outside the country.
Speaking in Istanbul, General Idris, a former officer in the regime’s army, said he and his associates were dropping the precondition that Bashar al-Assad must leave power before the Geneva meeting takes place. Instead they would be satisfied if his departure were to take place “at the end of the negotiation process” when General Idris will join forces with the remainder of the regime to mount an offensive against the Islamists.


Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Study: Muslim job candidates may face discrimination in Republican states

    Tuesday, December 03, 2013   No comments
A new study by Carnegie Mellon University found that in the most Republican states in the country, employers may be less likely to interview job candidates whose social networking profiles indicate that the applicants are Muslim.

As part of a social experiment, the researchers created four fictitious job candidates – each with a unique name that most likely points to someone who is male, U.S. born and Caucasian. The candidates had identical resumes. The researchers also created social network profiles for each of the candidates that revealed either his sexual orientation or whether he was a Muslim or Christian. All other information, including the profile photograph used for each candidate, was the same. The resumes, which did not mention the candidates’ online profile, were then sent out to more than 4,000 employers nationwide with job openings.

Readers should note that the study’s authors did not design the pool of open jobs to be representative of all jobs available in the country, or in Republican-leaning or Democrat-leaning states. The number of job vacancies varied from state to state, and overall, a smaller share of all open jobs was located in Republican states.'

Monday, December 02, 2013

Algerian daily al-Shorouq: “The Algerian security services have conducted a careful investigation into the networks which recruit Salafis to fight against Houthis in Yemen”

    Monday, December 02, 2013   No comments
The investigations have been carried out after three people were killed in Wadi al-Souf region in Yemen, it reported.

“There is information showing that certain sides in an Arab country recruit forces in Algeria and pay them huge sums of money up to $8,000 to use them in different conflicts,” the newspaper said.

Other media reports in November also said that Salafi Takfiris continue invasion of Houthi-populated areas in Northern Yemen, killing large groups of them recently.

The clashes broke out in Damaj region of the border province of Sa’ada in October when after several attacks by the Salafis, the Shiite Houthi fighters, who control much of the bordering province, accused their Sunni Salafi rivals of recruiting thousands of foreign fighters in preparation of a large-scale war, and raided the Salafis’ Damaj mosque which resulted in the death of one person and injury of seven others, al-Sharq al-Awsat newspaper reported.

According to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), about 200 to 600 people have been wounded so far.

The two sides declared ceasefire two weeks ago, but it lasted only for two hours.

Addressing the National Dialogue Conference in Yemen, Spokesman of Houthis Ali Al-Bakhiti said that after few hours the ceasefire was broken because Director of Salafis Training Center in Damaj Sheikh Ali Al-Bakhiti could not take control of his foreign armed rebels near Damaj.

Al-Bakhiti reiterated that the clashes are going on between the Houthis and the Salafis in Damaj.

Sectarian rivalry between Salafi Takfiris and Houthis is feared to ignite the fire of civil war in Yemen which is also influenced by foreign meddling, specially by Saudi Arabia.

The continued turmoil on several fronts in the country has risen the alarms of civil war in the country.

The recent events in Damaj have created concern among the Yemeni activists and analysts. “The main goal of these conflicts is feared to be igniting sectarian war,” Yemeni Rights Activist Ali Al-Deilami told FNA in November.

He blamed the Saudi media for the exacerbation of conflicts between Salafis and Houthis, and said publication of the remarks uttered by some Saudi muftis who call for Salafis’ Jihad against the Shiites is threatening and dangerous.

Deilami called on the Yemeni people to keep united against the foreign meddling which seeks to wage a sectarian war in the country.

Sa’ada province is the base for a long-running Houthi fight against the government. Complaining of social, religious and economic discrimination in Yemen, the Houthis fought several battles with government forces between 2004 and 2010, when a truce was announced.

Houthis have been holding demonstrations since June 9, when National Security guards opened fire on a group of protesters, killing 13 of them and wounding 100 others during a demonstration outside the headquarters of the National Security Intelligence Agency in Sana’a. They demand justice for those members of their community who were killed by regime forces.

The protesters were demanding the dismantling of the agency because of its involvement in the suppression of political activists under ousted dictator Ali Abdullah Saleh. The protesters were also demanding the release of the Houthis being held by the authorities.

Human Rights Watch has demanded an investigation into the killings.

Yemen’s Houthi population has long been protesting the oppression and discrimination by Yemen’s Saudi-backed government.

The Houthi movement draws its name from the tribe of its founding leader Hussein Badreddin al-Houthi.

Sunday, December 01, 2013

The Free Syrian Army began as a simple group of fighters battling Assad. But Ruth Sherlock, in Antakya, finds their mission is now making millions from bribery and extortion

    Sunday, December 01, 2013   No comments
The Free Syrian Army commander leant against the door of his four-wheel drive BMW X5 with tinted windows and watched as his men waded through the river on the Syrian border moving the barrels of smuggled petroleum to Turkey.
Feeling the smooth wedge of American bank notes he had just been given in exchange, he was suddenly proud of everything he had become.
In three short years he had risen from peasant to war lord: from a seller of cigarettes on the street of a provincial village to the ruler of a province, with a rebel group to man his checkpoints and control these lucrative smuggling routes.

The FSA, a collection of tenuously coordinated, moderately Islamic, rebel groups was long the focus of the West’s hopes for ousting President Bashar al-Assad.
But in northern Syria, the FSA has now become a largely criminal enterprise, with commanders more concerned about profits from corruption, kidnapping and theft than fighting the regime, according to a series of interviews with The Sunday Telegraph.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Dissenting deputy sent to disciplinary board resigns from ruling AKP

    Saturday, November 30, 2013   No comments
İdris Bal
The ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) Kütahya Deputy İdris Bal, who drew attention for his dissenting statements on several issues,  announced his resignation from his party on Nov. 30.

Bal was sent last week to the AKP’s Joint Disciplinary Board with the request of definite expulsion from both the party and the parliamentary group after he expressed views contrary to those of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on the latest test prep schools row.

“I am someone with backbone who stands upright. I won’t stay where I am not wanted,” Bal told reporters in the inner Aegean province of Kütahya where he is expected to make a speech during a rally. “They have cast all the smears possible, called me a ‘mole’. They raised all kind of obstacles to prevent me from making statements on television. I have been treated with all sorts of injustice. I resign from my party. I don’t want any party organization which does not want me,” Bal said.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Disillusionment Grows Among Syrian Opposition as Fighting Drags On

    Friday, November 29, 2013   No comments
DAMASCUS, Syria — In a terrace cafe within earshot of army artillery, a 28-year-old graduate student wept as she confessed that she had stopped planning antigovernment protests and delivering medical supplies to rebel-held towns.

Khaled, 33, a former protester who fled Damascus after being tortured and fired from his bank post, quit his job in Turkey with the exile opposition, disillusioned and saying that he wished the uprising “had never happened.”

In the Syrian city of Homs, a rebel fighter, Abu Firas, 30, recently put down the gun his wife had sold her jewelry to buy, disgusted with his commanders, who, he said, focus on enriching themselves. Now he finds himself trapped under government shelling, broke and hopeless.

“The ones who fight now are from the side of the regime or the side of the thieves,” he said in a recent interview via Skype. “I was stupid and naïve,” he added. “We were all stupid.”

Even as President Bashar al-Assad of Syria racks up modest battlefield victories, this may well be his greatest success to date: wearing down the resolve of some who were committed to his downfall. People have turned their backs on the opposition for many different reasons after two and a half years of fighting, some disillusioned with the growing power of Islamists among rebels, some complaining of corruption, others just exhausted with a conflict that shows no signs of abating.

But the net effect is the same, as some of the Syrians who risked their lives for the fight are effectively giving up, finding themselves in a kind of checkmate born of Mr. Assad’s shrewdness and their own failures — though none interviewed say they are willing to return to his fold.

Their numbers are impossible to measure, and there remain many who vow to keep struggling. Yet a range of Mr. Assad’s opponents, armed and unarmed, inside and outside Syria, tell of a common experience: When protests began, they thought they were witnessing the chance for a new life. They took risks they had never dreamed of taking. They lost jobs, houses, friends and relatives, suffered torture and hunger, saw their neighborhoods destroyed. It was all they could do, yet it was not enough.

What finally forced them to the sidelines, they say, were the disarray and division on their side, the government’s deft exploitation of their mistakes, and a growing sense that there is no happy ending in sight. Some said they came to believe that the war could be won only by those as violent and oppressive as Mr. Assad, or worse.

Such conclusions have been expressed by more and more people in recent months, in interviews in Damascus, the Syrian capital; Lebanon; and Turkey and via Skype across rebel-held areas in Syria. Many more fighters say they continue mainly because quitting would leave them feeling guilty toward other fighters.


Thursday, November 28, 2013

Row between Turkish government and Gülen heats up with new document

    Thursday, November 28, 2013   No comments
The row between followers of the Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen’s movement of and the Turkish government took another dimension after a daily revealed Nov. 28 that a decision from the National Security Council (MGK) recommending an action plan against the Gülen movement be signed by the government in 2004.

Government officials, however, wasted no time in making statements about the MGK decision and said it has never been enforced.

The decision made during the August 2004 National Security Council meeting includes a two-page section titled, “Measures that should be taken against Fetullah Gülen’s operations,” the daily Taraf reported Nov. 28.

“Legal regulations that introduce harsh sanctions should be adopted and an action plan [against the Gülen Movement] should be prepared,” says the decision, signed by the former President Ahmet Necdet Sezer, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, former Chief of General Staff Hilmi Özkök and current President Abdullah Gül, who was then foreign minister.

Tension between the government and the Gülen Movement, known in Turkish as “Cemaat” (community) or “Hizmet” (service), escalated recently after Erdoğan announced plans to abolish private examination prep schools (dershane), many of which are financed and run by Gülen’s followers. Erdoğan describes the group’s loud objections to his government’s plans as “a smear campaign.”

Although the Gülen Movement is thought to have had close relations with the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) until recently, the daily Taraf claimed the MGK document proved that a decision to “finish” the movement had already been made in 2004.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Turkish protesters: “Erdoğan, withdraw your al-Qaeda from Rojava”

    Monday, November 25, 2013   No comments

The Peace and Democracy Party’s (BDP) meeting in Istanbul’s Asian side district of Kadıköy in support of Syria’s Kurdish region Rojava turned violent on Nov. 24 because of the police’s move against a banner on a building.

Police and protesters became involved in reciprocal attacks when police officers removed a banner reading “[Turkish Prime Minister] Erdoğan withdraw your Al-Qaeda from Rojava” from a building on the way of rally.
Protesters, opposing the removal of the banner, tried to enter the building but met with police intervention, after which some protesters threw stones at the building and policemen, Doğan News Agency footage showed. The protesters hung the banner again after police left the building’s entrance.


Almost 80 percent of protesters detained as part of the Gezi Park protests were Alevis, according to daily Milliyet citing a report by Turkish security and intelligence authorities

    Monday, November 25, 2013   No comments
The daily reported that the authorities have prepared a comprehensive and detailed analysis of the anti-governmental protests spread across the country over summer, using detainees as samples.

More than 5,500 demonstrations or activities were staged within the framework of the country-wide movement dubbed “Gezi protests” that were prolonged for 112 days after being kindled in Taksim Gezi Park at the end of May, according to the analysis reported by daily Milliyet columnist Tolga Şardan Nov. 25.

The security forces’ study also sheds light on the characteristics of the protestors, by using more than 5,000 detainees’ personal data as samples to determine the profile of whole movement.
Seventy-eight percent of people detained were Alevis, the report said.

Also according to the analysis, only 12 percent of the suspects are “linked with political parties,” 6 percent of which are involved in “extremist leftist groups,” dubbed as marginal left groups by the Security Directorate. Some 4 percent of them also alleged to be working for “terrorist organizations and their legal organizations affiliated with them.”

Around 3.6 million people attended demonstrations while 5,513 of them have been detained by the police in the 80 provinces the protests erupted in. The Black Sea province Bayburt was reported to be the only province in which no protests were staged, the analysis revealed.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

P5+1 & Iran agree landmark nuclear deal at Geneva talks

    Sunday, November 24, 2013   No comments
Iran and six major powers agreed early Sunday on a historic deal that freezes key parts of Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for temporary relief on some economic sanctions.

The agreement, sealed at a 3 a.m. signing ceremony in Geneva’s Palace of Nations, requires Iran to halt or scale back parts of its nuclear infrastructure, the first such pause in more than a decade.


President Obama Makes a Statement on Iran

Friday, November 22, 2013

Turkey's Ruling AKP moves to expel dissenting deputy

    Friday, November 22, 2013   No comments
The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has launched the required procedural process for expelling a deputy who openly expressed views contrary to those of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan about plans for closing down test prep schools.

AKP Deputy Parliamentary Group Chair Ahmet Aydın, speaking to Anadolu Agency on Nov. 21, said deputy İdris Bal had been sent to the Joint Disciplinary Board of the party, with request of definite expulsion from both the party and the parliamentary group. The request came as a result of Bal's "remarks that have been published in the press and which have been against party policies.”

According to the regulations, Bal will not be able to participate in any party activities, including weekly parliamentary group meetings, until a final decision by the Board is announced. The decision will be made after Bal presents his defense.

Saudi's internal power struggle sends ripples across international borders: Post-coup Egypt is only the start of Saudi Arabia's problems abroad, and the root cause may be old-fashioned courtly manoeuvring

    Friday, November 22, 2013   No comments
The year is not ending on a high note for three men in the Saudi dynasty whose fingerprints were all over the military coup in Egypt – Prince Bandar, the current intelligence chief; Prince Muqrin, the intelligence chief he replaced, and an aspiring crown prince; and Khalid al-Tuwaijri, president of the royal court and the king's gatekeeper.

Bandar has become the target of rare criticism in the Saudi press. It is obliquely expressed, but it is unmistakably there. When the well-connected Saudi writer and journalist Jamal Khashoggi wrote in Al Hayat about "local and world intelligence men" no longer being able to change history, establish states or make new leaders, many of his readers understood that he was aiming that at Bandar.

The article continued: "It would be a mistake to defy the power of history with the illusion that the powerful can forge deals and plan the future away from the peoples whose divisions and lack of experience with democracy enabled local, regional and international forces to abuse them.

"Yet, these peoples continue to be in a state of liquidity and rage. They know what they want but they are confused about how to achieve it. What is certain is that they will not wait for a knight mounted on a white horse to lead them toward a new shining dawn. The one-man era is over."

By the standards of Saudi journalism, this is bold stuff. It's a reflection of the tensions between rival princes in the House of Saud and the policies that Bandar and his group, which include the current foreign minister, have been aggressively promoting. None of them are going well, and all are interconnected.

Egypt, which should have been pacified months ago, is still in a state of ferment. HA Hellyer, an Egypt analyst for the Royal United Services Institute who is sharply critical of President Mohamed Morsi's failures in office, describes the clearing of the pro-Morsi sit-ins in August as the most violent state-led crackdown against Egyptians in Egyptian modern history.

It is also expensive. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are bankrolling the paralysed state. Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the deputy prime minister of the UAE, dropped a bombshell during a visit by the Egyptian prime minister Hazem el-Beblawi by saying that Arab support for Egypt would not last long. The Emirati's latest tranche of aid of $3.9bn has been likened to giving blood transfusion to a patient who is bleeding continuously.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Prince Bandar bin Sultan, once famous in Washington for his cigars, parties and charm, is now Saudi Arabia’s point man, fighting Iran in Syria and denouncing the Obama administration

    Wednesday, November 20, 2013   No comments
When the prince was the ambassador he was the toast of Washington, and plenty of toasts there were. Bandar bin Sultan smoked fine cigars and drank finer Cognac. For almost 30 years as Saudi Arabia’s regal messenger, lobbyist, and envoy, he told amazing stories about politicians and potentates, some of which, surprisingly, were true. Washington journalists loved him. Nobody had better access to more powerful people in higher places, or came with so much money, so quietly and massively distributed, to help out his friends.

Over the years, Bandar arranged to lower global oil prices in the service of Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan and both the Bushes. At the behest of the CIA’s Bill Casey, and behind the back of Congress, Bandar arranged for the Saudis to bankroll anti-Communist wars in Nicaragua, Angola and Afghanistan. He was thick with Dick Cheney, and he was so tight with the George H.W. Bush clan—the father, the mother, the sons, the daughters—that they just called him “Bandar Bush.”

Now, the prince is a spy, or, more precisely, the master spy of the Middle East. He is the point man for a vast Saudi program of covert action and conspicuous spending that helped overthrow the elected Muslim Brotherhood government in Egypt and is attempting to forge a new “Army of Islam” in Syria. Without understanding the man and his mission, there’s no way, truly, to understand what’s happening in the world’s most troubled region right now.

Bandar’s goal is to undermine Iranian power: strip away Tehran’s allies like Assad and Hezbollah; stop the Shiite mullahs from acquiring nuclear weapons; roll back their regional designs; and push them out of office if there’s any way to do that.


Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif asking the world: “would you back down” from a step toward shaping your own destiney rather than letting others decide for you?

    Tuesday, November 19, 2013   No comments
Zarif asks the world: Would you back down from your right?

Monday, November 18, 2013

Amnesty slams Qatar migrant worker exploitation: Qatar’s construction sector rife with abuse, with workers employed on multi-million dollar projects suffering serious exploitation

    Monday, November 18, 2013   No comments
Construction companies in Qatar, which is experiencing a massive building boom ahead of the 2022 FIFA World Cup, are involved in widespread abuse of migrant workers, according to Amnesty International.

Qatar’s construction sector is rife with unacceptable working conditions for migrant labourers, according to a report released by Amnesty International on Sunday.

The report, titled “The dark side of migration: Spotlight on Qatar’s construction sector ahead of the World Cup”, details widespread abuse of migrant workers that the international human rights organisation claims often amounts to forced labour.

“We have met workers that have been unpaid for many, many months, up to nine months or a year in Qatar,” said James Lynch, Amnesty International’s researcher on migrant workers in the Gulf, in a film accompanying the report.

“Then they can’t leave the country because their employer won’t return their passports, won’t give them an exit permit, which is required under Qatari law, won’t buy them tickets,” he added.

These factors combined, he said, meant life in Qatar for many migrant workers was “deeply traumatic”.


Sunday, November 17, 2013

Israel, Saudi Arabia cooperating to plan possible Iran attack: Convinced that Iran is tricking the world over nuclear weapons, Israel and Saudi Arabia may work together to curb its ambitions

    Sunday, November 17, 2013   No comments
ONCE they were sworn enemies. Now Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency is working with Saudi officials on contingency plans for a possible attack on Iran if its nuclear programme is not significantly curbed in a deal that could be signed in Geneva this week.

Both the Israeli and Saudi governments are convinced that the international talks to place limits on Tehran’s military nuclear development amount to appeasement and will do little to slow its development of a nuclear warhead.

As part of the growing co-operation, Riyadh is understood already to have given the go-ahead for Israeli planes to use its airspace in the event of an attack on Iran.

Both sides are now prepared to go much further. The Sunni kingdom is as alarmed as Israel by the nuclear ambitions of the Shi’ite-dominated Iran.


Friday, November 15, 2013

Riots in Saudi Arabia: ‘The Kingdom expels the same people it exploited’

    Friday, November 15, 2013   No comments
Tensions have been simmering in Saudi Arabia over the past week. Hundreds of thousands of undocumented migrant workers have risen up against the ruling authorities, giving rise to scenes of rioting that the country has rarely seen.

The workers have been rioting over the recent wave of migrant expulsions from Saudi Arabia, which they claim is completely unjust, given the widespread exploitation many migrants have suffered at the hands of their Saudi patrons.

Violent clashes between security forces and migrant workers took place last Saturday in Riyadh, Jeddah, and Mecca. Three undocumented migrant workers died in the violence. Since November 4, the Saudi Arabian Interior Ministry has led a campaign to expel the country’s illegal migrant workforce. That decision triggered widespread rioting among the workers, of whom 20,000 have already been sent home.

It’s not the first time illegal migrant workers have been kicked out. 200,000 were expelled at the beginning of 2013, before the king offered a seven-month amnesty to allow undocumented migrants to get their legal status in order. The campaign’s supposed objective is to fight against the country’s unemployment rate, currently hovering at around 12%.

Foreign workers in Saudi Arabia are considered clandestine when they lack either a residency permit allowing them to work or a ‘sponsor’ [like other countries in the region, Saudi Arabia uses the ‘kafala’ system, according to which each worker must be taken charge of by a ‘kafil’, or a sponsor].


Thursday, November 14, 2013

Qatar loses clout amid fading Arab Spring

    Thursday, November 14, 2013   No comments
The gas-rich Persian Gulf state, which is slightly smaller than Connecticut, wanted to host world-class sporting events; to build a network of top-tier universities and museums; and to push, tweak and manipulate regional politics to reshape the Arab world to its liking.

At the moment, that last priority isn’t going so well.

If 2011 was the tiny state’s year for victory laps — its flag flying high alongside the Libyan rebels, as the revolution there raged with Qatari support; its satellite channel Al Jazeera praised among Egyptian protesters in Tahrir Square; and everybody wanting a bag full of Qatari cash — 2013 has been a year for losses.

Qatar is taking a beating as the Arab Spring revolts, which ushered in Islamist governments in Egypt and Tunisia and empowered upstarts across the region, yield to a reassertion of power by the region’s old heavyweights.

A military coup toppled Qatar’s allies in Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood, and the new military rulers have found funding and allies in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates — Qatar’s regional competitors.

Saudi Arabia also has publicly taken the lead on gulf support to Syrian rebels — a cause that Qatar was the first to champion — after the tiny state irked Western and Arab allies by sending aid to hard-line Islamists, analysts say.



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