Archive | Saudi Arabia

Saudi Zio-Wahhabi Kingdom of Terror

NOVANEWS
Former Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Says ‘Kingdom of Terror’ Spreading Islamism in Europe
Norway’s former ambassador to Saudi Arabia claims the Gulf kingdom has had “a tremendous influence on the spread of the Islamist ideology”, but fears that the West is turning a blind eye.

“That Saudi Arabia has had a tremendous influence on the spread of the Islamist ideology is quite clear,” said Carl Schiøtz Wibye, speaking to the Norwegian daily newspaper Aftenposten. “But apparently very few want to talk about it.”

In a new book, Kingdom of Terror, the diplomat claims that the Saudi state religion “is not even a religion, but a cult built on fanatical fantasies of a power-hungry desert preacher in the 1700s”.

The preacher in question is Muhammad Ibn Abd al-Wahab, founder of the Wahhabi branch of Salafi Islam. Salafism calls on Muslims to emulate the first three generations of believers, known as the salaf, who rode with Mohammed and conquered Jerusalem, Persia, and Spain.

Wibye alleges the Saudis have used their oil wealth to fund the spread of Wahhabism worldwide and argues that Norway must tackle it head on.

He suggests that one method of checking extremism might be to revive a Progress Party proposal to ban regimes which do not subscribe to the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights from funding religious and political institutions.

“To block the influence of Wahhabism, we must provide an overview of this ideology and weed out local influence wherever it comes from, be it through financial support, literature or videos by preachers who say terrible things online,” he said.

“In addition, we require that all imams should speak Norwegian, so we can better understand what is happening in the Muslim community in Norway.”

Wibye would not speculate on whether Saudi Arabia also funds Islamic State, as former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton alleged in a leaked 2014 email, saying that the theocracy’s “transactions are hidden”.

He also called for a ban on full-face veils in Norway. “The niqab is not part of Islam,” he claimed. “It is an interpretation that emerged in recent years … to keep women in their place.”

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Women’s gyms lay bare limits of Saudi reforms

NOVANEWS
Saudi women in black shrouds

By James M. Dorsey

A Saudi decision to license within weeks the kingdom’s first women-only gyms constitutes progress in a country in which women’s rights are severely curtailed. It also lays bare the limitations of Deputy Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman’s plan for social and economic reforms that would rationalise and diversify the kingdom’s economy.

Restrictions on what activities the gyms will be allowed to offer reflects the power of an ultra-conservative religious establishment and segments of society critical of the long overdue reforms that became inevitable as a result of sharply reduced oil revenues and the need to enhance Saudi competitiveness in a 21st-Century knowledge-driven global economy.

At least two years in the making, the licensing rules announced by Princess Reema bin Bandar, the vice-president for women’s affairs of the General Authority of Sports, the kingdom’s sports czar, focus on Prince Muhammad’s plans laid out in a document entitled Vision 2030. The plans involve streamlining government expenditure, including public health costs, in a country that boasts one of the world’s highest rates of obesity and diabetes.

… gyms would be licensed to focus on activities such as swimming, running and body-building but not for sports such as football, volleyball, basketball and tennis.

“It is not my role to convince the society, but my role is limited to opening the doors for our girls to live a healthy lifestyle away from diseases that result from obesity and lack of movement,” Princess Reema said in announcing the licensing.

Princess Reema, the kingdom’s first ever women’s sports official, hopes to open gyms in every district and neighbourhood in the kingdom. The move constitutes progress in a country that has yet to introduce sports in public girl’s schools and has no public facilities for women’s sports.

Commercially run gyms catering primarily to upper and upper middle class women as well as privately organised women’s sports teams have been operating in the kingdom in a legal nether land for several years.

Princess Reema indicated that gyms would be licensed to focus on activities such as swimming, running and body-building but not for sports such as football, volleyball, basketball and tennis.

The licensing rules are in line with a policy articulated in 2014 by Muhammad al-Mishal, the secretary-general of Saudi Arabia’s Olympic Committee. At the time, Mr Al-Mishal, responding to pressure by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), said women would be allowed to compete only in disciplines that were “accepted culturally and religiously in Saudi Arabia” and to a literal interpretation of the Qur’an. Mr Al-Mishal identified such sports as equestrian, fencing, shooting and archery.

The idea to de-emphasise team sports was intended to limit the potential of football becoming a venue of anti-government protest as it had in Egypt and elsewhere during the 2011 popular Arab revolts.

They are also in line with unrealistic hopes abandoned several years ago to emphasise individual rather than team sports in a men’s only national sports plan. The idea to de-emphasise team sports was intended to limit the potential of football becoming a venue of anti-government protest as it had in Egypt and elsewhere during the 2011 popular Arab revolts. It proved unrealistic, given that Saudi Arabia, like most nations in the region, is football-crazy. Saudi Arabia announced earlier this month that it would privatise five of the kingdom’s top football clubs.

Women’s sports is one litmus test of Saudi Arabia’s ability to tackle its social, political and economic challenges head on and move forward with Prince Muhammad’s outline of how the government hopes to diversify the economy, streamline its bloated bureaucracy and safeguard the Al Saud’s grip on power.

Vision 2030 identifies sports “as a mainstay of a healthy and balanced lifestyle” and promises “to encourage widespread and regular participation in sports and athletic activities”.

The licensing of women’s gyms is occurring even though Vision 2030 made no reference to facilities for women. The document also failed to even implicitly address demands by the IOC and human rights groups that women be allowed to compete freely in all athletic disciplines rather than only ones mentioned in the Qur’an.

The Washington-based Institute of Gulf Affairs, headed by Saudi dissident Ali al-Ahmed, reported in 2014 that up to 74 per cent of adults and 40 per cent of children are believed to be overweight or obese.

The report asserted:

Women in Saudi Arabia are being killed softly by their government. Not by public executions or brutal rapes and beatings, but by day-to-day restrictions imposed on them by their government… It must be understood that restrictions on women sports and physical activity have nothing to do with culture or religion, but rather, are fuelled by the ruling elite as a means to control the population. As long as the Saudi government continues to claim that such bans are a result of cultural and personal practices, women will continue to suffer a decline in physical and mental health, as well as their social, economic and political status.

It said that the restrictions amounted to “an almost completely sedentary lifestyle forced on women by the government through a de facto ban on physical education and sports participation for women that stems from the Wahhabi imperative of ‘keeping women unseen’”.

Saudi media have reported that lack of exposure to sun had led to vitamin D deficiency among 80 per cent of Saudi women.

A Human Rights Watch report concluded last year that “inside Saudi Arabia, widespread discrimination still hampers access to sports for Saudi women and girls, including in public education”.

The group noted that Saudi women were denied access to state sports facilities and barred from participating in national tournaments and state-organised sports leagues as well as attending men’s national team matches as spectators. Women have difficulty accessing the 150 clubs that are regulated by the General Authority, which organises tournaments only for men.

Human Rights Watch called on the Saudi government to demonstrate its sincerity by making physical education for girls’ mandatory in all state schools; ensuring that women can train to teach physical education in schools; establishing sports federations for women and allowing them to compete domestically and internationally; supporting women who want to compete in international sporting competitions on an equal footing with men; and allowing women to attend sporting events involving men’s national teams.

“Saudi authorities need to address gender discrimination in sports, not just because it is required by international human rights law, but because it could have lasting benefits for the health and well-being of the next generation of Saudi girls,” Human Rights Watch director of global initiatives Minky Worden said at the time.

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Massacring Men, Women & Children in Yemen… In the Name of Saving American Lives

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Revolution Newspaper

Yemen map

Map: revcom.us

Nawar al-Awlaki, 8 years old, one of nine children under 13 who were killed in Trump's raid in Yemen, January 29, 2017.
Nawar al-Awlaki, 8 years old, one of nine children under age 13 who were killed in the raid, January 29, 2017.

On January 29, in the pre-dawn darkness, Navy Seal Team 6 Special Forces and commandos from the United Arab Emirates were helicoptered into central Yemen, the small impoverished country at the tip of the Arabian Peninsula. They landed near a tiny farming village in the Yakla district of al-Bayda province. Plans for the attack were drawn up under President Obama, and now was launched by the Trump-Pence regime. It was reportedly the regime’s first military operation.

The U.S. military had “visited” this village before. In 2013, under Obama, a U.S. drone struck a wedding party there, killing 12 civilians.

On January 29, with U.S. drones flying overhead, 50 soldiers and their military dogs walked toward the village, supposedly on a mission to capture a “high value” member of Al Qaeda of the Arabian Peninsula and gather intelligence. The killing began when Sheikh Abdelilah Ahmed al Dahab’s 11-year-old son heard something and looked outside to see what it was. He was shot dead instantly. “No one thought that marines would descend on our homes to kill us, kill our children and kill our women,” al Dahab told the Bureau of Investigative Journalism (BIJ), which detailed what happened during this surprise U.S. assault.

Two tribal leaders and an 80-year-old also came out to find out what was happening. They, too, were executed. The Seals surrounded one of the several small brick homes that make up this village and opened fire indiscriminately, even gunning down those trying to escape. “The villagers say the 38-year-old mother of seven, Fatim Saleh al Ameri was fatally shot by special operators while trying to flee with her two-year-old son Mohammed. ‘We pulled him out from his mother’s lap. He was covered in her blood,’ said 11-year-old Basil Ahmed Abad al Zouba, whose 17-year-old brother was killed.” (BIJ)

Villagers began returning fire. Soon U.S. helicopter gunships arrived and shot at everything, including homes and people fleeing, BIJ reports. A missile hit Fahad Ali al Ameri’s home; his three-month-old daughter was killed in her crib. Members of the reactionary jihadist Al Qaeda of the Arabian Peninsula had been camped nearby and joined the battle, which raged for another two hours.

When the fighting ended, 25 Yemeni civilians were dead. Nine were children—from three months to 13 years old. Fourteen Al Qaeda members were reportedly killed along with one Navy Seal.

Among the dead, in what investigative journalist Glenn Greenwald described as “a hideous symbol of the bipartisan continuity of U.S. barbarism,” were:

Abdallah Mabkhout al Ameri, a subsistence farmer who was too old to work himself. He’d survived the 2013 wedding party massacre which had killed his eldest son. On January 29 he was killed “alongside his 25-year-old daughter Fatima and 38-year-old son Mohammed. Three of Mohammed’s four children also died—Aisha, 4, Khadija, 7, and Hussein, 5,” BIJ reports. “A further nine members of the extended family were killed.”

Another innocent victim, whose relatives had been executed by the U.S., was eight-year-old Nawar al-Awlaki. Her father, the Islamist Anwar al-Awlaki, an American citizen, was assassinated by an Obama-approved U.S. drone strike in 2011—and her 16-year-old half-brother, Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, also an American citizen, was executed by another U.S. drone two weeks after his father. Nawar was hiding inside when a bullet struck her in the neck. With no medical assistance possible given the U.S. assault, she bled out and died two hours later.

“It is true they were targeting [al-Qaida] but why did they have to kill children and women and elderly people?” Zabnallah Saif al-Ameri told BIJ. “If such slaughter happened in their country, there would be a lot of shouting about human rights. When our children are killed, they are quiet.”

Why Should Anyone Want U.S. Imperialism to “Succeed”?

Trump and his fascist minions immediately declared the Yemen slaughter “absolutely a success.” Why? Because, according to Trump’s press spokesman Sean Spicer, it “prevented future loss of life here in America.” Trump, who promised to kill the families of suspected “terrorists” during his campaign, issued a statement mourning the loss of life… of one American, a Seal Team 6 mass killer: “Americans are saddened this morning with news that a life of a heroic service member has been taken in our fight against the evil of radical Islamic terrorism.”

No one with a heart and a conscience should accept the sick, putrid logic of justifying mass murder for empire in the name of saving American lives—whether the crime is done by more “mainstream” Republicans or by Democrats like Obama or fascists like Trump.

Where does that logic lead? To justifying the hundreds of U.S. drone strikes in Yemen since 2002 which have likely killed well over 1,000 people, including civilians… to U.S. backing (under Obama and Trump) for Saudi Arabia’s barbaric terror-bombing campaign targeting markets, schools, hospitals, and residential neighborhoods—a bombing campaign that has caused most of Yemen’s 10,000 war-related civilian casualties… and to U.S. support for the Saudis’ land and sea blockade aimed at starving Yemenis into submission, a blockade which has already put more than 12 million people on the brink of starvation.

This is the logic of carrying out genocide and burning down the world to save America—in reality, to attempt to “save” American imperialism.

No one with a shred of concern for humanity should want any of this to succeed. Wishing for America to succeed is wishing for a murdering empire of global enslavement and oppression that threatens the planet and future of humanity to “succeed.”

No. We should welcome our rulers’ failures and defeats, because the actions they are carrying out are for imperialism and are totally unjust, totally immoral, and totally illegitimate. The failures and defeats of the rulers can weaken their hold on power and domination over the masses, and make it more difficult for them to carry out further crimes. And they heighten the possibilities for an actual communist revolution that could replace this criminal, outmoded system with something radically different and far better.

(For a deeper discussion of the centrality of internationalism and revolutionary defeatism, readers should dig into “Internationalism—Revolutionary Defeatism,” “Internationalism and an International Dimension,” and “Internationalism—Bringing Forward Another Way,” pp. 264-277 in Bob Avakian’s THE NEW COMMUNISM.)

As part of preparing the ground for a real revolution, there’s an urgent need for much more mass opposition (or “vehement opposition,” as Glenn Greenwald says, writing for The Intercept), to U.S. crimes around the world—crimes that the Trump-Pence regime is now threatening and preparing to escalate as a key part of its fascist agenda. Many thousands are rightly outraged by Trump’s lying, his deportations, his Muslim and refugee bans, his attacks on the press, and more. A question for you: Why shouldn’t you be equally outraged by, and protest just as vigorously, Trump’s crimes and abuses directed at the millions and potentially billions of people living outside U.S. borders?

 

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Trump Administration To Supply Saudis, Kuwait With $1.85 Billion In Arms

NOVANEWS

By Brandon Turbeville

While candidate Trump was rather harsh on the terrorist-financing Neanderthal government of Saudi Arabia, President Trump doesn’t seem as if he is going to be as tough. This is because, on Monday, January 23, the U.S. State Department announced the first arm sales of the Trump administration. In this announcement, it was revealed that $1.85 billion worth of material will be sold to both Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.

Approval of the arms deal must be approved by Congress before actually taking place.

As the Washington Post writes,

The sales, once finalized, will send $525 million in observation balloons to Saudi Arabia; $400 million in helicopter gunship parts and air-to-air missiles to Kuwait; and $400 million in maintenance support for Britain’s fleet of C-17 cargo jets. On Thursday, the day before Trump’s inauguration, the State Department notified Congress it was prepared to sell Kenya $418 million in propeller-driven close air support aircraft and their accompanying weapons but only publicly announced the deal Monday. The awkward-looking aircraft, known as the Air Tractor 802L, will likely be used by Kenyan forces to hunt the terrorist group al-Shabab.

This is despite the fact that the Saudis are launching a horrific war against Houthi rebels in Yemen where the Saudi aerial bombing campaign has killed a staggering number of civilians and has essentially destroyed most of the country. The Saudis have virtually reduced Yemen back to the Stone Age and created one of the worst humanitarian catastrophes in the world, even rivaling the crisis in Syria, which the Saudis have also been instrumental in creating.

To be clear, it appears this arms sale is a holdover from an agreement under the Obama administration which itself allowed for $40 billion in weapons transfers to take place. Still, it is worth noting that, while Trump routinely and rightly called out Saudi Arabia for supporting terrorism and generally acting as a leech on the money and military of the United States, President Trump appears to be continuing to supply the sustenance the feudal monarchy needs to survive.

We anxiously await the justifications provided for such a glaring contradiction in rhetoric versus actual policy from the Trump administration.

 

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Saudi Aramco picks Nazi-linked banker

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Image result for NAZI BANK CARTOON

Saudi Zio-Wahhabi Oil Co. (Aramco) has chosen the New York-based boutique investment Zionist bank Moelis & Co to advise on its initial public offering, reports say.

The sale of the world’s biggest oil company is the latest of several moves by the Saudi Zio-Wahhabi regime to generate revenues in the face of a gaping budget deficit.

Aramco had invited banks in January to pitch for an advisory position on what is expected to be the world’s biggest initial public offering.

JPMorgan, which has been Aramco’s commercial banker for years, and Michael Klein, a former star Citigroup banker, had been advising Saudi authorities on the IPO.

However, the kingdom’s decision to pick a small banker has surprised many observers. International business outlets such as Bloomberg and the Financial Times said the choice represents a coup for Moelis founded no earlier than 2007.

The IPO, which is predicted to raise about $100 billion, is set to yield millions of dollars in fees and push Moelis up in global investment bank rankings.

Last year, Moelis hired Shlomo Yanai, a retired Nazi military officer, to join the firm as a senior adviser. Yanai had earlier been offered the directorship of the Nazi Gestapo spy agency Mossad by Benjamin Naziyahu but he turned it down.

The oil giant’s initial public offering, holding $2 trillion in assets, is expected to take place in 2018 with an initial sale of a five-percent share.

According to Bloomberg, Aramco expects Moelis to help it select underwriters for the sale, make decisions on potential listing venues and ensure the IPO goes smoothly.

Saudi Zio-Wahhabi regime is currently dealing with a budget deficit of nearly $100 billion caused by a sharp slump in oil prices as well as Riyadh’s rising military expenditure. The kingdom emerged as the world’s third largest military spender in 2015 when it began its military campaign against Yemen.

Saudis Zio-Wahhabiregime have also been forced to introduce a series of austerity measures that include canceling of some bonuses offered to state employees and increasing of entry visa fees for residents and foreigners.

The ruling Saudi Zio-Wahhabi family will transfer the revenue from the sale of Aramco to the country’s public investment fund (PIF), which will then be tapped to purchase strategic financial and industrial assets abroad.

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Saud Zio-Wahhabi Dynasty Still Squandering in an Age of Austerity  

Al Saud Dynasty Still Squandering in an Age of Austerity

Saudi princes at a luxurious palace in Riyadh

Saudi princes at a luxurious palace in Riyadh

Although the Saudi government canceled a quarter of a trillion dollars’ worth of projects back home as part of a fiscal austerity program, workers hustled to finish bright blue landing pads for helicopters at the vacation compound and to erect a tent the size of a circus big-top where the king could feast and entertain his enormous retinue, The New York Times introduced its long article which details the Saudi regime’s financial crimes.

“The people have less money than before, but the royal family have the same,” said Prince Khalid bin Farhan al-Saud, a dissident member of the extended family living in Germany. “There is a lot of state money which is concealed from the budget, which is determined by the king alone.”

“The royal family’s fortune derives from the reserves of petroleum discovered during the reign of Salman’s father, King Abdulaziz ibn Saud, more than 75 years ago. The sale of oil provides billions of dollars in annual allowances, public-sector sinecures and perks for royals, the wealthiest of whom own French chateaus and Saudi palaces, stash money in Swiss bank accounts, wear couture dresses under their abayas and frolic on some of the world’s biggest yachts out of sight of commoners.”

The American newspaper added that while there are serious problems beyond the borders, it is the country’s economic troubles that risk roiling ordinary citizens if their own cradle-to-grave benefits are cut too much.

“Many royals are wary of any disclosures about their wealth that could provoke public criticism.”

The article also revealed that facing huge budget gaps, the government has cut public-sector pay along with subsidies, sending gasoline, electricity and even water bills higher.

“The kingdom has begun borrowing by the billions both at home and abroad. And hiring by the government — a large and sought after employer for Saudis — has been cut, instilling fear for the future in younger people who cannot find work.”

Source: The New York Times

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MSF paramedic, civilian first responders killed in Saudi Zio-Wahhabi double-tap airstrike in Yemen

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Image result for SAUDI WAR IN YEMEN CARTOON

Almost two dozen people, including civilian rescuers and an ambulance driver from an MSF-affiliated hospital, have reportedly been killed after Saudi-led coalition planes carried out repeated airstrikes on the same target in Sa’ada province, Yemen.

Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) confirmed the fatal air raids in Sa’ada, saying the “planes went back to bomb areas already hit.”

“An ambulance driver from an MSF hospital [was] killed,” the NGO wrote, explaining that the first responders at the scene had been trying to help those wounded in the first round of strikes.

The ambulance had just picked up the victims when a direct strike killed everyone inside it, said the director of the Jumhuriya Hospital in Sa’ada province, according to the New York Times.

Yemen’s Health Ministry has strongly condemned the coalition’s actions as a “heinous massacre” that first targeted a residential building in Sa’ada, Saba news agency reports, citing ministry spokesperson Dr. Nashwan Attab.

According to reports, at least 20 people were killed and another 35 wounded, in what the medics claim was a deliberate attack. Following the initial air raid in the Dhahyan district of Sa’ada, first responders rushed to the scene to care for the wounded. But the planes soon returned to strike again in an attempt to “completely eliminate the few remaining medical staff in the province,” Dr. Attab said.

WARNING! DISTURBING VIDEO, VIEWER DISCRETION IS ADVISED!

“There are still people under the rubble and it is difficult to get them as a result of targeting by Saudi aggression of paramedics and medical personnel in the region,” he added.

Earlier this week, MSF said that the Saudi coalition continues to engage civilian targets on the ground, in particular medical treatment facilities, noting that over 100 hospitals have witnessed attacks since the Saudi-led intervention began last March.

The constant bombing of health clinics in Yemen has created conditions in which locals fear for their lives and try to avoid hospitals at all costs, MSF said. The United Nations has criticized the Saudi-led bombing campaign in Yemen for the disproportionate number of civilian deaths and the destruction of infrastructure.

The UN estimates that the violence has resulted in a dramatic increase in civilian casualties, with more than 5,800 people killed in Yemen since March.

READ MORE:

Yemeni hospitals seen as targets, people ‘avoid them as much as possible’ – MSF

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King Salman has no issues with Trump

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Image result for King Salman CARTOON
By M K Bhadrakumar 

The US President Donald Trump must be a man with a queer sense of humour. He kept the call to King Salman of Saudi Arabia pending for his announcement on Friday to fully sink in – to the effect that the Saudi citizens will be subject to “extreme vetting” before being allowed to enter America.

Trump singled out Saudi Arabia as the only GCC country to be treated badly like this, on par with Afghanistan and Pakistan.  Finally, Trump made the call to Salman on Saturday. One would have liked to be a fly on the wall in the Oval Office. From all accounts, neither side showed fluster. The conversation was smooth as silk.

Salman is the Custodian of the Two Holy Places, and yet he didn’t raise the issue of Trump’s Muslim ban, which has created a world-wide uproar, including among non-believers.

Not only that, the accounts of the conversation suggest that Trump’s main purpose was to demand that Saudi Arabia should fund the ‘safe zones’ in Syria and Yemen – yes, Yemen, too, where the Saudis have been involved in a war of destruction. Simply put, Trump pricked the Saudi pride and 24 hours later asked Riyadh for money. Apparently, Salman agreed.

Thereupon, Trump and Salman agreed on the importance of making ‘joint efforts’ to erase the Islamic State from the face of the earth. The White House readout says,

  • The president requested, and the King agreed, to support safe zones in Syria and Yemen, as well as supporting other ideas to help the many refugees who are displaced by the ongoing conflicts.

The Saudi press agency initially omitted any reference to Salman’s commitment on the ‘safe zones’, but later put out an amended version to say, “The custodian of the Two Holy Mosques had confirmed his support and backing for setting up safe zones in Syria.” It nonetheless did not mention Yemen, where a Saudi alliance is waging a bloody military campaign against the Houthi group.

The Saudi version emphasised that Salman and Trump affirmed the “depth and durability of the strategic relationship” between the two countries. For Salman, it is crucially important to proclaim that Trump intends to continue with the strategic ties with Saudi Arabia. His main worry would be that without Trump’s support, Iran will steal a march over Saudi Arabia as the dominant Muslim power in the Middle East.

Curiously, Salman went on to invite Trump “to lead a Middle East effort to defeat terrorism and to help build a new future, economically and socially.” Plainly put, Saudi Arabia is petrified about a US retrenchment from the Middle East and is willing to overlook anything – even the humiliating blow of Trump’s Muslim ban – if only the American troops stayed on.

Salman’s fawning attitude in the face of Trump’s Muslim ban will put the Ummah in a quandary. Logically, Saudi Arabia ought to have reacted strongly in the same unequivocal manner in which Iran has reacted. No sooner than Trump announced a travel ban on Iranian nationals, Tehran imposed a reciprocal ban on US citizens. A foreign ministry statement said in Tehran on Saturday,

  • While respecting the American people and distinguishing between them and the hostile policies of the U.S. government, Iran will implement the principle of reciprocity until the offensive U.S. limitations against Iranian nationals are lifted.

Herein lies the secret of the western hegemony over Muslim Middle East. The bizarre truth is that the Gulf Arab regimes relish criticizing the US’s policies but cannot live without US military support because without that support they would collapse like a pack of cards. Besides, the Saudi elites keep their illegal private wealth in western banks and they own vast properties and business interests in the US. They travel to the US for fun as a permissive home away from their Wahhabi environs. In sum, they simply cannot afford to uphold self-respect and dignity as norms in their dealings with the Americans.

To be sure, Trump has put fear into the Saudi mind. What worries Salman most is Trump’s earlier stance that if the families of the victims of 9/11 attacks seek compensation from Saudi Arabia, he wouldn’t stand in the way. The finger has been pointed at important figures in the House of Saud for complicity in the 9/11 attacks.

But the Iranians have no such problem. They can insist on equal relationship and mutual respect from Washington because they owe Trump nothing. I can only echo Pakistani politician Imran Khan’s stirring call: “’Iran is an independent nation and other (Muslim) nations need to follow Iran against foreign pressures.” But then, Khan Saheb is asking too much.

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Liberals in Muslim world pay the price for Trump and Saudi-supported illiberalism

Donald Trump with fingers on buttons

By James M. Dorsey

US president Donald J. Trump’s fuelling of Islamophobia with his newly imposed travel ban as well as his war on the mainstream media feed an increasing trend towards supremacism and intolerance as well as restrictions on freedom of expression, media and religion across the Muslim world.

In doing so, the president’s moves complicate rather than fortify efforts to counter political violence by giving credence to ultra-conservative and jihadist narratives of war being waged by the West on Islam. The moves strengthen forces that propagate supremacist interpretations of the faith that are intolerant of non-Muslims and alternative Islamic worldviews.

Ultra-conservative beneficiaries

The ultra-conservative alliance buoyed by Mr Trump’s policies includes Saudi-backed ultra-conservative ideologies and governments that are beneficiaries of Saudi largess and opportunistically play politics with religion, as well as anti-Saudi jihadists.

Saudi largesse is part of a massively funded, decades-long soft power play by the kingdom designed to box in Iran by globally promoting an ultra-conservative, supremacist, intolerant strand of Islam. Mr Trump and Saudi King Salman discussed on 29 January the need to counter “Iran’s destabilising regional activities”. A Saudi readout of the call said the two men had identical views on the fight against terrorism.

Saudi-inspired ultra-conservatism as well as Iranian support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and sectarian groups elsewhere in the Middle East has fuelled widespread sectarianism, intolerance towards Muslim and non-Muslim minorities, and conservative rejection of alternative lifestyles and basic freedoms. The trend sparks a turn towards ultra-conservative piety among the discontented and elites alike in various Sunni Muslim majority countries.

Moreover, Mr Trump’s effort to create an alternative reality and the advice to the media of his far-right, strategic advisor, Steve Bannon, to “shut up”, beyond feeding the narrative of a Western war on Islam, reinforces efforts by the Saudis and others to restrict unfettered debate, particularly about sensitive religious issues, a cornerstone of any attempt to counter radicalism.

Bolstering intolerance and extremism

As a result, Mr Trump is lending, perhaps unwittingly, greater credence to increasingly influential long-standing notions propagated by Saudi Arabia and other Muslim governments as well as militant jihadist and non-jihadist groups that seek to criminalise blasphemy.

The fallout is evident in Saudi Arabia as well as elsewhere in the Muslim world. The kingdom imposes severe penalties on those that question its narrow interpretation of Islam. Secular bloggers in Bangladesh risk being hacked to death while jihadists slaughter those they think have deviated from the true path. The governor of the Indonesian capital Jakarta, a Christian of Chinese descent, has been charged with blasphemy for allegedly misquoting the Qur’an. Malaysia has banned distribution of Shi’i texts.

The electronic media regulator in Pakistan took two television shows of the air last year during Ramadan for discussing the country’s draconic blasphemy laws as well as the persecution of Ahmadis, a Muslim sect widely viewed as heretics. Writing in Dawn newspaper, Pakistani researcher Nazish Brohi warned that “the issue of blasphemy is destroying whatever strands of pluralism remain.”

The Saudi-backed effort to influence laws governing blasphemy and freedom of expression and religion in individual countries has culminated in a campaign by Saudi Arabia and other Muslim nations that have long sought to criminalise blasphemy in international law.

In the process, the effort has become part of the kingdom’s response to rising anti-Muslim sentiment and Islamophobia in the wake of attacks organised or inspired by the Islamic State (IS) group in Europe, the Middle East, North Africa and the United States, as well as mounting criticism of Saudi Arabia’s austere interpretation of Islam and massive violations of human rights.

The success of Saudi-inspired ultra-conservatism that feeds on like-minded worldviews such as Deobandism in South Asia and the opportunism of politicians and government is evident in the degree to which its core pillars of intolerance have become part of the fabric of key branches of government and the state in various Muslim nations.

“Blasphemy”-related abductions

The recent disappearance of five Pakistani social media activists, including a Singapore-based Pakistani IT worker on a visit home, is a case in point. The five, despite government denials, were widely believed to have been abducted with at least the connivance of elements of the state. The abductions were the latest blasphemy-related incidents to rock Pakistan in recent years.

The involvement of elements of the government in the abductions was seemingly confirmed when two of the five phoned home in recent days to say that they were in good health and that the police could be contacted for more details. One of the five, activist, poet and university lecturer Salman Haider, was released a day later with no details about where and by whom he had been held. “The disappearances themselves were not unusual – the net has been widening for a while and unreported, hushed-up incidents tend to lead to more. The disappeared who return become the silenced,” quipped prominent Pakistani columnist Cyril Almeida in an op-ed in Dawn.

Alljazeera reported that Ahmed Raza Naseer, one of the activists, was sitting with his brother at their shop in a small village just outside the central Pakistani town of Nankana Sahib, when a nondescript man holding a mobile phone to his ear walked in. He spent some time looking at their wares – mobile phones – before asking the brothers their names. After they answered, he asked which of them used a particular mobile phone number. When Ahmed replied that he did, he was told to stand up. The 27-year-old struggled to his feet – he has had polio in his right leg since he was a boy. “The man tells him to take his phone and come and sit in the car outside, where a sahab [important man] is sitting who wants to ask you some questions,” his younger brother Tahir, who was ordered to stay inside, told Aljazeera. That was the last time his family saw Ahmed.

Ahmed and the four others have since been accused by TV show hosts with close ties to intelligence and the military, pro-military and intelligence activists, and ultra-conservative Islamic scholars of having committed blasphemy.

Abdullah Cheema, an activist who identified himself as a member of a banned group, Hizb-ut-Tahrir, spokesperson for a group calling itself Civil Society of Pakistan, and an associate of Pakistan Defence, a pro-military and intelligence Facebook page with 7.5 million followers which advertises itself as an “authoritative platform for Pakistan military and international defence,” associated the disappeared with another Facebook page, Bhensa, which he asserted had published blasphemous materials.

A group calling itself the Elite Cyber Force of Pakistan has since taken control of the page, saying that “all blasphemous and offensive material has been removed”. Civil Society of Pakistan chairman Muhammed Tahir filed blasphemy charges against the five after they had been abducted.

Citing Pakistan Defence as the source of the blasphemy charges, Mr Cheema was supported on Neo News by Orya Maqbool Jan, a former government official, conservative talk show host, Urdu-language columnist and director of United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) projects for children’s’ rights and women’s development. “These [Facebook] pages… are extremely insulting to the Prophet, the Qur’an, Allah and Islam. They have made a joke out of this… Speaking in support of such criminals is a crime in itself,” Mr Cheema said on Mr Jan’s show.

Speaking to The Pakistan Daily, Mr Cheema asserted that “we firmly believe in freedom of expression but these blasphemous pages did not intend to initiate intellectual dialogues but deliberately posted hate and abuse against the Prophet Muhammad”. His words were echoed by Muslim scholar Khadim Hussain Rizvi, wearing a black turban that identifies him as a descendant of the prophet, in a sermon uploaded on YouTube on which he quoted from a Qur’an lying in front of him.

“The bloggers’ disappearance is its own issue. They should definitely be produced, but no one should try and hide their crimes, and their crimes are so heinous that no one should… say that they suffered injustice,” added Aamir Liaquat, one of Pakistan’s most well-known talk show hosts.

Pakistan’s media regulator, in a display of apparent contradictory trends within the Pakistan government, has since banned Mr Liaqat on charges of “hate speech” and “incitement to violence”.

The regulator’s action, however, constitutes a needle in a hay stack in a world in which the likes of Mr Trump and far-right European politicians fuel Islamophobia to the benefit of Saudi-backed ultra-conservative interpretations of Islam as well as their anti-Saudi jihadist offshoots. Even if silenced, the activists who were abducted bear witness to a vicious circle that aggravates rather than solves problems both in the West and across the Muslim world.

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‘No legitimate military objectives’: UN panel finds Saudi strikes in Yemen may amount to war crimes

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An expert UN panel investigating ten separate airstrikes by the Saudi Zio-Wahhabi led coalition in Yemen – in which at least 292 civilians died – has found that most were the result of an ‘ineffective targeting process’ or deliberate attacks on peaceful targets.

“In eight of the 10 investigations, the panel found no evidence that the airstrikes had targeted legitimate military objectives,” the 63-page report presented to the UN Security Council on Friday stated, which has been obtained by Reuters. “For all 10 investigations, the panel considers it almost certain that the coalition did not meet international humanitarian law requirements of proportionality and precautions in attack.”

“The panel considers that some of the attacks may amount to war crimes,” the experts said, echoing statements repeatedly made by independent observers since conflict broke out in the country two years ago.

The small subset of attacks, which took place between March and October last year, resulted in the deaths of over 100 women in children. Earlier this month, the UN humanitarian coordinator for Yemen, Jamie McGoldrick, estimated that more than 10,000 people have been killed in the war so far, with many of them the victims of air strikes.

Saudi Zio-Wahhabi UN Ambassador, Abdallah Al-Mouallimi, flatly denied responsibility, saying the coalition – which includes Gulf states such as Qatar and Kuwait – was “exercising maximum restraint and rigorous rules of engagement.”

The panel also stated that the alliance admitted that some of their airstrikes resulted in severe casualties, which was not the desired outcome.

“In some cases errors were acknowledged and responsibility accepted. Corrective measures including compensation to victims were taken,” the authors of the report wrote.

The UN panel said that although it was unable to travel to the bombing sites, it still “maintained the highest achievable standard of proof,”  and insisted the specific cases studied were part of a wider trend.

“The panel finds that violations associated with the conduct of the air campaign are sufficiently widespread to reflect either an ineffective targeting process or a broader policy of attrition against civilian infrastructure,” proclaimed the report. “All coalition member states and their allies also have an obligation to take appropriate measures to ensure respect for international humanitarian law by the coalition.”

The UN group also dismissed Saudi explanations that the devastating naval blockade of Yemen had been imposed because Iran was supplying Shia Houthi rebels with weapons.

“The panel has not seen sufficient evidence to confirm any direct large-scale supply of arms from the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran, although there are indicators that anti-tank guided weapons being supplied to the Houthi or Saleh forces are of Iranian manufacture,” said the report, which said 2,064 weapons seized on boats off the coast, had possible “direct” links with Iran.

The UN criticized the blockade for its “disproportionate impact” on civilians, saying the country, 90 percent of whose food supplies are imported, is on the verge of famine. Yemen was already one of the region’s poorest states before the current crisis, but according to the UN, 14.1 million people – over half of the population – are “food insecure,” and over two-thirds require humanitarian assistance, due to internal displacement, lack of medical supplies and clean drinking water.

Despite the devastating conclusions of the latest UN report, the US and UK, which are not directly taking part in the bombardment and blockade of Yemen, have avoided directly criticizing Riyadh, a longtime ally.

“We urge all sides to take steps to prevent harm to civilians. Ending the conflict in Yemen requires a durable cessation of hostilities and a comprehensive political solution,” the US State Department said in a statement.

The British mission to the UN, while refusing to comment on the specific incidents mentioned in the report said, “We take reports of alleged violations of international humanitarian law by actors in the conflict very seriously.”

Both the US and the UK have been major suppliers of arms to the Saudis. In September 2016, Reuters reports, the US Senate cleared the way for a $1.15 billion sale of tanks and other military equipment to kingdom. Saudi Zio-Wahhabi has also been buying arms from the UK – with estimated purchases at some 3.3 billion pounds. That includes more than 2.2 billion worth of warplanes, helicopters and drones.

Read more:

US soldier killed in Yemen raid on Al-Qaeda, local officials say women & children among casualties
Severely malnourished Yemeni children in urgent need of help filmed by RT Arabic (DISTURBING IMAGES)

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