Campaign against MBS, the Murderer of Khashoggi, in Los Angeles

September 21, 2021

By Staff

American “Freedom First” rights organization launched a campaign against Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman to condemn his behavior in oppressing his opponents atop of which is the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Turkey.

During the “Emmys 2021” festival in Los Angeles, the group staged a huge campaign against MBS in an effort to confront the attempts to polish his image in Hollywood.

The campaign included posters on walls and anti-MBS slogans placed on billboards and commercial vehicles.

Riyadh attempts to polish the image of its rulers in every possible way, and invests billions of dollars in different occasion for this purpose, whether in sports or arts, however, all such efforts are futile given its criminal behavior starting with the assassination of Jamal Khashoggi and not ending with the arrest of former Lebanese PM Saad Hariri, the US-Saudi-led war on Yemen, and the daily arrests of whoever voices rejection to its policies or even expresses his/her opinion.

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Another Look at 9/11: Ask Not ‘What Happened?’ but ‘Who Did It?’

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Philip Giraldi

September 16, 202

The evidence of Israeli involvement is substantial, based on the level of the Jewish state’s espionage operations in the U.S., Phil Giraldi writes.

The twentieth anniversary of 9/11 last Saturday has raised many of the usual issues about what actually happened on that day. Were hijacked airliners actually crashed into the twin towers of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon or was the damage in New York City attributable to explosives or even some kind of nuclear device? These are fundamental questions and the so-called “Truthers” who raise them have been inspired by their reading of the 585 page 9/11 Report, which is most charitably described as incomplete, though many would reasonably call it a government cover-up.

I have long believed that unless one actually sees or experiences something first hand the description of any event is no better than hearsay. The closest I came to “seeing” 9/11 was the panicked evacuation of a CIA office building, where I was working at the time. Another related bit of 9/11 narrative also came from two close friends who were driving into work at the Pentagon when they each independently observed what appeared to be a large plane passing over their cars and striking the building. I consider the sources credible but was it an airplane or a missile? And I was not there to see it with my own eyes, so I am reluctant to claim that my friends actually saw something that in retrospect might have been misconstrued.

Critics of the physical and engineering aspects of the accepted narrative certainly have a great deal of expert evidence that supports their case. The way the towers fell as well as the collapse of Building 7 nearby are suggestive of something other than the impact of an airliner near the top of the structure, but I am no expert in the science of the matter and have avoided expressing a view regarding it.

Apart from what happened, I have always been more intrigued by “Who done it?” I found the 9/11 Report to be conspicuously lacking in its failure to cover possible foreign involvement, to include the Saudis, Pakistanis and the Israelis. Indeed, President Joe Biden has taken steps that have resulted in the declassification and release of 16 pages of the notorious 28-page redaction of documents relating to any possible Saudi role. The document consists of interviews with Saudi student Omar al-Bayoumi, who reportedly helped support several hijackers.

The Saudis are being sued by 9/11 survivors, but it is unlikely that anything really sensitive will ever be exposed, as explained by investigative journalist Jim Bovard. Indeed, the documents released last Saturday did not demonstrate that the Saudi government itself played any direct role in 9/11, though it is clear that wealthy Saudis and even members of the Royal Family had been supporting and funding al-Qaeda. It is also known that that Saudi Embassy and Consulate employees in the U.S. had funded the alleged hijackers.

Friends who were in CIA’s Counterterrorism Center at the time of 9/11 tend to believe that the Saudis were indeed supporting their fellow citizens while in the U.S. but were likely not knowledgeable regarding any terrorist plot. They observed, however, that there was considerable evidence that Israel knew in advance about what was impending and may have even been instrumental in making sure that it succeeded.

The evidence of Israeli involvement is substantial, based on the level of the Jewish state’s espionage operations in the U.S. and also its track record on so-called covert actions simulating terrorist attacks designed to influence political decision making in foreign countries. But, of course, in reporting on the 9/11 tragedy no one in the mainstream media did pick up on the connection, inhibited no doubt by the understanding that there are some things that one just does not write about Israel if one hopes to remain employed. That is true in spite of the fact that the Israeli angle to 9/11 is without a doubt a good story, consigned to the alternative media, where it can be marginalized by critics as a conspiracy theory or the product of anti-Semitism.

In the year 2001 Israel was running a massive spying operation directed against Muslims either resident or traveling in the United States. The operation included the creation of a number of cover companies in New Jersey, Florida and also on the west coast that served as spying mechanisms for Mossad officers. The effort was supported by the Mossad Station in Washington DC and included a large number of volunteers, the so-called “art students” who traveled around the U.S. selling various products at malls and outdoor markets. The FBI was aware of the numerous Israeli students who were routinely overstaying their visas but they were regarded as a minor nuisance and were normally left to the tender mercies of the inspectors at the Bureau of Customs and Immigration.

The Israelis were also running more sophisticated intelligence operations inside the United States, many of which were focused on Washington’s military capabilities and intentions. Some specialized intelligence units concentrated on obtaining military and dual use technology. It was also known that Israeli spies had penetrated the phone systems of the U.S. government, to include those at the White House.

All of that came into focus on September 11, 2001, when a New Jersey housewife saw something from the window of her apartment building, which overlooked the World Trade Center. She watched as the buildings burned and crumbled but also noted something strange. Three young men were kneeling on the roof of a white transit van parked by the water’s edge, making a movie in which they featured themselves high fiving and laughing in front of the catastrophic scene unfolding behind them. The woman wrote down the license plate number of the van and called the police, who responded quickly and soon both the local force and the FBI began looking for the vehicle, which was subsequently seen by other witnesses in various locations along the New Jersey waterfront, its occupants “celebrating and filming.”

The license plate number revealed that the van belonged to a New Jersey registered company called Urban Moving Systems. The van was identified and pulled over. Five men between the ages of 22 and 27 years old emerged to be detained at gunpoint and handcuffed. They were all Israelis. One of them had $4,700 in cash hidden in his sock and another had two foreign passports. Bomb sniffing dogs reacted to the smell of explosives in the van.

According to the initial police report, the driver identified as Sivan Kurzberg, stated “We are Israeli. We are not your problem. Your problems are our problems. The Palestinians are the problem.” The five men were detained at the Bergen County jail in New Jersey before being transferred the FBI’s Foreign Counterintelligence Section, which handles allegations of spying.

After the arrest, the FBI obtained a warrant to search Urban Moving System’s Weehawken, NJ, offices. Papers and computers were seized. The company owner Dominick Suter, also an Israeli, answered FBI questions but when a follow-up interview was set up a few days later it was learned that he had fled the country for Israel, putting both his business and home up for sale. It was later learned that Suter has been associated with at least fourteen businesses in the United States, mostly in New Jersey and New York but also in Florida.

The five Israelis were held in Brooklyn, initially on charges relating to visa fraud. FBI interrogators questioned them for more than two months. Several were held in solitary confinement so they could not communicate with each other and two of them were given repeated polygraph exams, which they failed when claiming that they were nothing more than students working summer jobs. The two men that the FBI focused on most intensively were believed to be Mossad staff officers and the other three were volunteers helping with surveillance. Interestingly, photo evidence demonstrated that they had been seen “casing” the area where they were seen celebrating on the day before, indicating that they had prior knowledge of the attack.

The Israelis were not exactly cooperative, but the FBI concluded from documents obtained at their office in Weehawken that they had been targeting Arabs in New York and New Jersey. The FBI concluded that there was a distinct possibility that the Israelis had actually monitored the activities of at least two of the alleged 9/11 hijackers while the cover companies and intelligence personnel often intersected with locations frequented by the Saudis.

The dots were apparently never connected by investigators. Police records in New Jersey and New York where the men were held have disappeared and FBI interrogation reports are inaccessible. Media coverage of the case also died, though the five were referred to in the press as the “dancing Israelis” and by some, more disparagingly, as the “dancing Shlomos.”

Inevitably, the George W. Bush White House intervened. After 71 days in detention, the five Israelis were inexplicably released from prison, put on a plane, and deported. One should also recall that when the news of 9/11 reached Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was pleased, saying that “It’s very good. Well, not very good, but it will generate immediate sympathy.” It will “strengthen the bond between our two peoples, because we’ve experienced terror over so many decades, but the United States has now experienced a massive hemorrhaging of terror.” And, of course, it was conveniently attributable to Israel’s enemies.

The possible role of Israel in 9/11 was first explored in book form in 2003 by Antiwar.com editorial director Justin Raimondo in his The Terror Enigma, a short book focusing on Israeli spying and inconsistencies in the narrative that bore the provocative subtitle “9/11 and the Israeli Connection.”

Currently, the twentieth anniversary of 9/11 has inspired some others to take another look at the possible Israeli role. Ron Unz has recently completed an exhaustive examination of the evidence. He observes that 9/11 and its aftermath have shaped “the last two decades, greatly changing the daily lives and liberties of most ordinary Americans.” He asks “What organized group would have been sufficiently powerful and daring to carry off an attack of such vast scale against the central heart of the world’s sole superpower? And how were they possibly able to orchestrate such a massively effective media and political cover-up, even enlisting the participation of the U.S. government itself?”

Ron Unz answers his question, concluding that there is “a strong, perhaps even overwhelming case that the Israeli Mossad together with its American collaborators played the central role” in the attack. His argument is based on the noted inconsistencies in the standard narrative, plus an examination of the history of Israeli false flag and mass terrorism attacks. It also includes new information gleaned from Israeli journalist Ronen Bergman’s recent book Rise and Kill First: the Secret History of Israel’s Targeted Assassinations.

To a certain extent, Unz relies on a detailed investigative article written by French journalist Laurent Guyenot in 2018 as well as on an argument made by an ex-Marine and former instructor at the U.S. Army War College Alan Sabrosky in an article where he records how “Many years ago I read a fascinating discussion of the ‘tactics of mistake.’ This essentially entailed using a target’s prejudices and preconceptions to mislead them as to the origin and intent of the attack, entrapping them in a tactical situation that later worked to the attacker’s strategic advantage. This is what unfolded in the 9/11 attacks that led us into the matrix of wars and conflicts, present (Afghanistan and Iraq), planned (Iran and Syria) and projected (Jordan and Egypt), that benefit Israel and no other country — although I concede that many private contractors and politicians are doing very well for themselves out of the death and misery of others. I am also absolutely certain as a strategic analyst that 9/11 itself, from which all else flows, was a classic Mossad-orchestrated operation. But Mossad did not do it alone. They needed local help within America (and perhaps elsewhere) and they had it, principally from some alumni of PNAC (the misnamed Project for a New American Century) and their affiliates within and outside of the U.S. Government (USG), who in the 9/11 attacks got the ‘catalytic event’ they needed and craved to take the U.S. to war on Israel’s behalf…”

Economist and author Paul Craig Roberts has also been motivated by the anniversary to review the evidence and concludes “Circumstantial evidence suggests that 9/11 was a scheme of George W. Bush regime neoconservative officials allied with vice president Dick Cheney and Israel to create a ‘new Pearl Harbor’ that would generate support on the part of the American people and Washington’s European allies for a Middle Eastern ‘war on terror’ whose real purpose was to destroy Israel’s enemies in the interest of Greater Israel… This is the most plausible explanation, but, if true, it is not one that the U.S. and Israeli governments would ever acknowledge. Consequently, we are stuck with an official explanation long championed by the presstitutes that no one believes.”

Yes, an implausible explanation that no one really believes for the greatest national security disaster in America’s twenty-first century. And Israel gets yet another pass.

MBZ is performing a U-turn that could reshape the Middle East

Profile picture for user David Hearst

15 September 2021 10:57 UTC

David Hearst

David Hearst is co-founder and editor-in-chief of Middle East Eye. He says Middle East Eye is funded by “individual private donors” but he won’t name them. He said that his organisation is not funded by Qatar – or any other state or group – and is here to stay. He appears as a commentator on the Middle East for Al Jazeera English and Alaraby TV, TRT, Masr Al-Aan TV.

For years, Emirati foreign policy has been a disaster. Now, on the anniversary of the fundamentally flawed Abraham Accords, a rethink is underway

Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed is pictured in Berlin in June 2019 (Reuters)

The fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban has triggered an earthquake that has travelled across the Gulf. The tectonic plates that defined who did what to whom in the region are shifting. 

Alliances that only a year ago seemed to be set in concrete are cracking. The vacuum created by the US withdrawal from Afghanistan has been felt just as keenly in Riyadh, Abu Dhabi and Tel Aviv as it has in Kabul.

The clearest sign of swaying buildings and buckling tarmac are the pledges and significant amounts of money being promised by the de facto leader of the UAE to Turkey, states that are vigorous competitors for regional influence.

It is pragmatism, not a fundamental change of heart, that is causing the latest handbrake turn in Abu Dhabi’s foreign policy

And Turkey has not been the only sign of the apparent U-turn in UAE policy. Shortly after his recent meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Tahnoun bin Zayed, UAE Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed’s brother and security chief, flew to mend fences with Qatar.

Only a year ago, the UAE was urging Saudi Arabia not to lift the blockade of Qatar. This latest visit is a recognition that the blockade was a spectacular failure. Qatar has emerged as US President Joe Biden’s strongest partner in the Gulf, and the one on whom he depended for evacuating Afghans and communicating with the Taliban.

How different from the start of the blockade, when Qatar was painted as a refuge for terrorists and Islamists, and former US President Donald Trump tweeted his approval of the Saudi action. 

Billions promised

Erdogan is keeping the transcript of his recent telephone conversation with MBZ close to his chest. Only a trusted few know what the crown prince promised. According to my sources, MBZ offered Erdogan more than $10bn in investments.

Unlike the military side of the government of Sudan, or indeed President Kais Saied in Tunisia, Erdogan is not being made to wait long for the money to arrive. The Dubai-based courier Aramex is reportedly in talks to buy the Turkish delivery company MNG Kargo.

There is much secrecy in Ankara, but one thing is clear: the momentum for this reset is coming from Abu Dhabi. Erdogan is wary, and the foreign policy establishment in Turkey is sceptical. Both have good reason for caution.

UAE National Security Adviser Sheikh Tahnoun bin Zayed and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan meet in Ankara on 18 August 2021 (Turkish Presidency)
UAE National Security Adviser Sheikh Tahnoun bin Zayed and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan meet in Ankara on 18 August 2021 (Turkish Presidency)

This was the state that, according to Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, spent $3bn attempting (and very nearly succeeding) to topple Erdogan on 15 July 2016. Cavusoglu did not name the UAE, but it was clear who he was referencing when he mentioned “a Muslim country”.

The same state funds neoconservative Washington think tanks that regularly debunk Erdogan and his ability to sustain the lira. It competes for influence with Turkey in Syria, Yemen, Libya, the Horn of Africa, Egypt and Tunisia. It was the brains behind, and one of the funders of, the counter-revolution that toppled former Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi – and it has tried repeatedly to rearrange the furniture in Tunisia, Sudan and Yemen. Emirati planes at one point provided air cover for renegade general Khalifa Haftar’s ill-fated attempt to recapture Tripoli.The UAE’s military interventions have led to disaster – not stabilityRead More »

It has also created armies of “electronic flies” to condition public opinion through social media. The UAE’s interventions far beyond the Gulf have wreaked havoc throughout the Middle East. 

Turkey has long been on the receiving end of this. So why would a leopard on a mission to hunt down political Islam and render it extinct, change its spots? It is not a question that can be convincingly answered.

Nor is this the first attempt at a kiss and make up: the UAE made a similar overture to Ankara when it thought Hillary Clinton would become US president. When Trump won, this was instantly dropped. It is pragmatism, not a fundamental change of heart, that is causing the latest handbrake turn in Abu Dhabi’s foreign policy. The sceptics in Ankara are right to be cautious. 

Nevertheless, it could still be happening. The flood of signals coming out of Abu Dhabi towards Erdogan and Turkey mostly take place in private forums, and the message is consistent, even if you don’t believe it.

‘Strategic reassessment’

According to people with knowledge of these conversations, top UAE officials claim to be conducting a “strategic reassessment” of foreign policy.

It starts with Biden. The UAE noted two features of its changed relationship with Washington since his administration came to power: the first was a consistent message from the new US administration to “de-escalate” tensions in the Middle East. The second was the unpredictability of US foreign policy. 

The new policy, then, is apparently to spread influence through economic cooperation, rather than military intervention and political competition

This was surely already apparent under Trump, when he refused to bomb Tehran after Iran and its Iraqi proxies sent armed drones to cripple two Saudi oil facilities, temporarily halving crude production. If ever Saudi Arabia and the UAE felt unprotected by the US military umbrella, it was then.

Coupled with this, they claim, is a hard-headed assessment of what the UAE has actually achieved. Its interventions have indeed beaten the Muslim Brotherhood back as a political force in EgyptTunisiaYemenSyria, and partly in Libya. But the cost of the UAE’s secular jihad is enormous.

Three of these countries are in smoking ruins, and the other two, Egypt and Tunisia, are nearly bankrupt. What has MBZ gained for the billions of dollars he has invested in Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi?

The new policy, then, is apparently to spread influence through economic cooperation, rather than military intervention and political competition.

Saudi-UAE rift

They don’t say it, but when questioned, there is clearly also coolness with Riyadh. One emissary claimed that the UAE delayed its pullout from Yemen for a year to allow Saudi Arabia to end the war with the Houthis, but it is clear that Yemen is a sore point between the two military allies.

Saudi Arabia recently announced a series of moves to weaken Abu Dhabi, the latest being the pullout of Al Arabiya and parent media company MBC from Dubai. It has clamped down on tax-free goods from an Emirati free trade zone, as well as insisting that foreign multinationals base their headquarters in Riyadh rather than Dubai. There is a lot more sibling rivalry to the brotherly relations between the two Gulf countries these days.

MBZ meets Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Jeddah in 2018 (Bandar al-Jaloud/Saudi Royal Palace/AFP)
MBZ meets Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Jeddah in 2018 (Bandar al-Jaloud/Saudi Royal Palace/AFP)

Publicly, the UAE’s licensed political analysts are hinting at a different set of regional priorities. Political scientist Abdulkhaleq Abudulla tweeted that the main message from Washington was that the US would not defend the Gulf. “And the Arab Gulf states are at a crossroads; how should they adapt to the post-America Gulf stage?”

Spot the notable absences from this list: Saudi Arabia and Egypt, its closest allies in 2013.

Abraham Accords lose value

Abu Dhabi is not the only signatory of the Abraham Accords which is reassessing the value of a pro-US bloc in the Gulf. One year on from the signing in Washington, the Abraham Accords are losing their shine. A year ago, they seemed to have so much going for them. It was a marriage of brains and brawn, the military might and technological superiority of Israel with the dollars of the Gulf.UAE-Israel deal: Abraham accord or Israeli colonialism?Read More »

It was a way of bypassing the Palestinian conflict, without the need for messy, time-wasting things like negotiations, elections or popular mandates. The accords were a solution imposed from above – a fait accompli, which the Arab masses would have to live with.

But like the megacities of Saudi Arabia, the accords were built on shifting sands. 

They had two fundamental flaws. Firstly, they depended on individual leaders – not states – meeting at first in secret as their drivers. This means that when two key players were removed from the picture – Trump and former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – the project itself lost sponsorship and momentum. 

The other problem was that they were all about the relationship between regional states and the US. They did not address the fundamental problems of relations between the key regional actors themselves. 

The UAE’s motive for moving closer to Israel was to cement its relationship with Washington. Recognition of Israel was always a means to an end, not the end in itself. 

Bahraini Foreign Minister Abdullatif al-Zayani, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, US President Donald Trump and UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed sign the Abraham Accords in 2020 (AFP)
Bahraini Foreign Minister Abdullatif al-Zayani, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, US President Donald Trump and UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed sign the Abraham Accords in 2020 (AFP)

For Israel, on the other hand, the Abraham Accords were all about cementing its own security by increasing its regional influence. It fundamentally misread Arab intentions by conceiving of normalisation as a military and diplomatic safety net for its own continued existence.

Zvi Barel, writing in Haaretz, observed: “The kaleidoscopic shifting of international relations will require Israel to examine its place in the newly-forming alignment. The idea that there’s a pro-U.S. bloc that provides Israel with a military and diplomatic safety net and acts alongside it as an informal coalition against Iran, is beginning to fall apart.”

Regional realignment

The US not only supplied the carrots and sticks necessary to coerce states such as Sudan to join the accords, by removing it from its list of terrorist states. It was the very reason for the accords themselves.

The Emiratis, being quick off the mark, have seen the future shape of the post-oil world. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) has yet to reconcile himself to the US military absence. Maybe he will now that Biden has just withdrawn his Patriot missiles from the kingdom and lifted the bar imposed by two of his predecessors to confidential documents on allegations of Saudi government links to two of the 9/11 hijackers

It has taken eight long years for the penny to drop. But if indeed it has, this realisation presents a genuine opportunity to reshape a post-American Middle East

Unlike MBZ, MBS harbours personal grudges. He cannot forgive Erdogan for the role he played in keeping the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi on the agenda in Washington. In so doing, Erdogan permanently damaged MBS’s international reputation, making a repeat trip to London and the US impossible for the future Saudi king.

MBS’s psychology – for all its modernist patina of posing as a reformer – is still rooted in his Bedouin past. Being the future king, he considers and treats his people as his property. He is their lord and master. Deals with other states are made by him alone. He decides whether his kingdom will recognise Israel or whether, as is now the case, he could turn to Israel to provide him with missile defence systems.

Although all of these moves are brittle and by nature reversible, given that they are triggered by events outside the region and not within it, there could be light at the end of this dark, dark tunnel of permanent intervention. If regional actors themselves can establish a working relationship with each other – and no more than that is required – stability will not depend on a small group of despots. How will US disengagement shape the Middle East?Read More »

Relations between regional powers are more likely to represent state interests, rather than the personal ones of their leaders. That in itself would be progress, if indeed any of this comes to fruition. 

MBZ’s decision to reassess his foreign policy has to be genuine and not a temporary swerve. He is right to reassess his foreign policy. It has been a disaster, a complete waste of his money. It has weakened once strong states, such as Egypt, and caused massive refugee flows. 

It has taken eight long years for the penny to drop. But if indeed it has, this realisation presents a genuine opportunity to reshape a post-American Middle East.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Eye.David HearstDavid Hearst is co-founder and editor-in-chief of Middle East Eye. He is a commentator and speaker on the region and analyst on Saudi Arabia. He was The Guardian’s foreign leader writer, and was correspondent in Russia, Europe, and Belfast. He joined the Guardian from The Scotsman, where he was education correspondent.

Saudi Arabia Considering “Israeli” Made Military Systems

September 15, 2021

Saudi Arabia Considering “Israeli” Made Military Systems

By Staff, Agencies

At a time Palestine and its people are still suffering the apartheid entity’s brutality and occupation, Saudi Arabia has reached out to Tel Aviv about the possibility of procuring “Israeli”-made missile military systems.

In this context, Breaking Defense has learned that the Saudi step comes when the American systems the Kingdom has for so long relied upon have been removed.

Sources here have confirmed an AP report from the weekend that American THAAD and Patriot batteries have been quietly removed from Prince Sultan Air Base, located outside of Riyadh.

Although a withdrawal of air assets from the region had been expected for several months, it was unclear exactly when US assets would head elsewhere. Now, “Israeli” sources say, Saudi Arabia is seriously considering its alternatives.

Specifically, the Saudis are considering either the Iron Dome, produced by Rafael, which is better against short range rockets, or the Barak ER, produced by IAI, which is designed to intercept cruise missiles.

“Israeli” military sources told Breaking Defense that such a deal would be realistic, as long as both sides received approval of Washington; one source added that Saudi “interest in the ‘Israeli’ systems has reached a very practical phase.”

Those same sources say that the Saudis have had low-level talks with “Israel” for several years about such systems, but that the talks began to take on more energy once it became clear America would remove its air defense assets from the Kingdom.

SAUD-BACKED FORCES SHARE FOOTAGE FROM THE HOUTHIS’ RECENT ATTACK ON MOKHA PORT (VIDEO)

15.09.2021 

SOUTH FRONT

Saud-Backed Forces Share Footage From The Houthis’ Recent Attack On Mokha Port (Video)
Two screen grabs side by side from the footage released by the JF-WCY investigation committee.

The Houthis (Ansar Allah) carried out the September 11 attack on Mokha Port on the western coast of Yemen using two ballistic missiles and six suicide drones, an investigation committee run by Saudi-backed forces on the western coast of Yemen revealed on September 15.

At a press conference, Brigadier General Sadiq Doweed, co-chair of the Saudi-backed Joint Forces on the Western Coast of Yemen (JF-WCY), shared never-seen-before footage of the attack and showcased the wreckage of Houthi drones and missiles.

Brig. Gen. Doweed claimed that half of the suicide drones launched by the Houthis on September 11 were shot down before they could reach Mokah Port.

The wreckage and the attack footage suggest that the Houthis carried out the attack with Bader-1P precision-guided artillery rockets, which has a range of 150 km, and Samad-3 suicide drones, which has a range of 1,000 km. Both weapons can hit their targets with pinpoint accuracy as demonstrated during the attack on Mokah.

Saud-Backed Forces Share Footage From The Houthis’ Recent Attack On Mokha Port (Video)
The Badir-1P rocket. Click to see full-size image.

Saud-Backed Forces Share Footage From The Houthis’ Recent Attack On Mokha Port (Video)
The Samad-2 suicide drone. Click to see full-size image.

The JF-WCY acknowledged that the attack inflicted heavy losses on Mokah port. According to a report by the investigation committee, four residintal buildings, 14 offices, three warehouses, one observation tower, 23 vehicles, two patrol boats and two water tanks were damages or destroyed as a result of the Houthis’ attack.

Mokah port reopened last July after six years of closure. The attack took place a few minutes after the arrival of a delegation from the Saudi-backed Yemeni government to inaugurate the port.

The attack demonstrated the Houthis’ ability to strike any target within Yemen with extremely high accuracy. The Saudi-led coalition and its proxies appear to be unable to stop these attacks.

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عالم متحوّل… «إسرائيل» مجرد حاجز طيار وكيانات البترودولار ستختفي قريباً

 محمد صادق الحسيني

الخبر الآن هو سحب واشنطن لبطاريات پاتريوت من السعودية على رغم تزايد هجومات أنصار الله عليها.

‏ وأنّ الأميركيين يغادرون المنطقة نهائياً وإن بالتدريج على رغم خطورة التحولات.

ويقولون للعرب كما لليهود:

‏دبّروا حالكم بأنفسكم وكل واحد يقلع شوكه بأظافره…

البداية من أفغانستان والأمر سارٍ على سائر البلدان، وكذلك لبنان.

‏هذا هو لسان حال الدوائر الأميركية لمن يقرأ جيداً، الموازين في الميدان والتقارير في الكواليس.

والتي تقول :لن يطول الزمان الذي ستصبح فيه حتى القاعدة الأميركية المتقدمة المقامة على اليابسة الفلسطينية والتي اسمها «إسرائيل»، إلا وتكون على جدول الإغلاق مثلها مثل مئات القواعد الأميركية المنتشرة في العالم، وذلك في إطار تطبيق برنامج أو خطة أميركا أولاً..!

‏الكيان إلى زوال إذن ولو بعد لأي.

 وإمارات النفط والغاز والبنزين تختفي قريباً من خريطة الوطن العربي، بخاصة بعد تقرير اقتصادي للأمم المتحدة يتوقع إفلاسها في عام 2024.

وما سيسرع في ذلك انتهاء وظيفتها الكيانية التي استحدثت من أجلها.

باختصار مكثف: أميركا إذن تقرر تغيير عقيدتها العسكرية للمرة الأولى منذ الحرب العالمية الثانية. وتأخذ قرارها النهائي بسحب عديدها وعتادها من مراكز الانتشار العالمي لإعادة الحياة إلى دورة الاقتصاد الأميركي الداخلية الكاسدة.

والصين في المقابل تتقدّم بخطى حثيثة بناء على رؤية استراتيجية ثاقبة لوصل شرق الصين بشرق المتوسط بطريق سريع يمرّ عبر أفغانستان وإيران من دون وجود عسكري غربي.

في هذه الأثناء نشرت وكالة «أسوشيتد برس»: صوراً فضائية قبل أيام تظهر سحب واشنطن منظومات «باتريوت» من السعودية على رغم تواصل الهجمات من اليمن كما أشرنا.

من جهة أخرى فقد علم من مصادر أوروبية استخبارية رفيعة، بأن واشنطن أبلغت الدوحة قبل أيام عبر وزير خارجيتها بلينكن، بأنّ ملف أفغانستان سيتمّ نقله بالكامل إلى ألمانيا، وأنّ دور الدوحة سيتحول إلى دور لوجيستي محض.

واشنطن هذه كانت قد أبلغت تل أبيب عبر وزير خارجيتها بينيت وغيره بأنها لم تعد مهتمة في أي خطط قد تفكر بها تل أبيب ضد طهران أو سورية أو حتى لبنان، فهي لديها ما يكفيها من مشاكل داخلية ودولية، وتتجه بقوة نحو مضيق «مالاقا» وبحر الصين.

إن أسباب ما ذكر أعلاه يمكن وضعه في تقدير الموقف الذي يستنتجه كل من يطالع بدقة التقارير التي يتم تداولها في الكواليس والأروقة الخلفية على المستوى الدولي والتي تؤكد ما يلي:

1 ـ كان قرار القوى الخفية، التي قررت أن ترشح ترامب إلى الرئاسه يتلخص في استخدامه لإنهاء الوجود العسكري الأميركي في أفغانستان و»الشرق الأوسط» أولاً ومن مناطق أخرى في العالم لاحقاً بعد هزيمتها في كل الحروب التي شنتها منذ ما بعد الحرب العالمية الثانية.

2 ـ فشل ترامب في ذلك بسبب ضغوط مجموعات الضغط اليهوديه في أميركا، ومنعه من ذلك بحجة الخوف على أمن «اسرائيل».

3 ـ لكنه بقي مصراً على تنفيذ الانسحابات وهو يسألهم عما تريده «إسرائيل» لضمان أمنها ؟ فجاء الجواب: تطبيع مع الدول العربية/ اعتراف أميركا بيهودية الدولة/ نقل السفارة الأميركية إلى القدس/ الاعتراف بضم الجولان.

4 ـ تمّ ذلك ولكن القوى الخفية لم تتراجع عن قرار تصفية الوجود العسكري الأميركي تدريجياً في «الشرق الأوسط»/ غرب آسيا.

من هنا جاء تنفيذ قرار الانسحاب من أفغانستان على يد بايدن، الذي وصل إلى الحكم بموافقة نفس القوى الخفية التي جاءت بترامب.

5 ـ لا تراجع عن هذا القرار لأسباب استراتيجية تتعلق بالأمن القومي الأميركي على صعيد الصراع الدولي بين القوى العظمى.

6 ـ إذ إنّ الصراع لم يعد يقتصر على النواحي العسكرية وإنما اتخذ شكلاً اقتصادياً أكثر أهمية من الفترات السابقة.

فالصراع أصلاً اقتصادياً ينتج منه الصراع السياسي الذي يتحول، عند استحالة حسمه سياسياً إلى صراع عسكري…

هذا ما عرفه الجنرال الألماني كارل فون كلاوسيڤيتس بالقول «إنّ الحرب هي استمرار للسياسة بأدوات أخرى».

7 ـ إذن الصراع الاقتصادي الدائر بين روسيا والصين هو صراع وجودي بالنسبة لواشنطن. إذ لا يمكن لأميركا منافسة الصين اقتصادياً، على الصعيد الدولي بسبب شحّ الأموال الأميركية (النقدية) وتوفرها مع الذهب لدى الصين وروسيا والجزائر وإيران.

أي أن القوة العسكرية الأميركية لم تعد قادرة على تأمين المصالح الأميركيه من دون استثمارات أميركية ضخمة، كتلك التي قامت بها واشنطن بعد الحرب العالمية الثانية، أي خطة مارشال لإعادة إعمار أوروبا، والتي أدّت إلى استحواذ رأس المال الأميركي على ما يقارب 40 في المئة من الاقتصاد الأوروبي. وهذا هو سر سيطرة واشنطن على قرار أوروبا/ بواجهة حلف شمال الأطلسي.

8 ـ إذن لا بدّ لأميركا من إعادة بناء البنى التحتية الأميركية، بما في ذلك البنى التحتية العلمية والتكنولوجية، حتى تتمكن من الصمود، إلى حد ما، أمام التحدي الروسي الصيني الذي بات يفوقها بمراتب، والذي ستنضمّ إليه الهند، مضطرةً، في القريب من السنوات. وهذا يتطلب تقليص الوجود العسكري الأميركي في العالم.

 إنّ مجموع هذه التحولات الكبرى هي من سيسرّع في ضمور دور الحاجز الإسرائيلي الطيار، المقام على أرض فلسطين أولاً ومن ثم زواله في أقرب الآجال.

بعدنا طيبين قولوا الله…

Families of 9/11 Victims Expect Release of FBI Report on Saudi Role 

September 10, 2021

Families of 9/11 Victims Expect Release of FBI Report on Saudi Role 

By Staff, Agencies 

Families of the victims of the September 11 attacks who are suing the government of Saudi Arabia in a United States federal court in New York are expecting the US government to imminently release a key FBI report.

The 16-page report is an FBI summary and analysis of the agency’s long-running investigation into the activities of two of the September 11 hijackers, Saudi nationals, Khalid Al-Mihdhar and Nawaf Al-Hazmi.

In January 2000, the two Al-Qaeda operatives arrived in California where they were assisted by other Saudis. The FBI report, which may be redacted upon its public release, is expected to provide details of the FBI’s inquiry into who helped Al-Mihdhar and Al-Hazmi, according to a lawyer for the September 11 families.

“It’s unclear what other parts of the government may have known what was going on, but clearly, fairly high-level and mid-level Saudi officials working for the government were part of this conspiracy,” said Andrew ‘Duke’ Maloney, a lawyer with the law firm Kreindler LLP representing the September 11 families in the litigation against Saudi Arabia.

Now 20 years after the 2001 attacks that resulted in the deaths of nearly 3,000 people in New York City, Washington, DC, and Shanksville, Pennsylvania, the families’ lawsuit accusing the Saudi government of complicity is nearing a turning point. Either sufficient evidence to support the lawsuit will be presented to the court or it will fail to move forward.

The pending FBI report is an analysis by agents who looked into how Al-Mihdhar and Al-Hazmi, who spoke little English and had no independent resources when they arrived in the US, gained a foothold in Los Angeles and then in San Diego.

Lawyers for the September 11 families believe they can prove there was “a cabal” of Saudi government officials “who were conspiring with Al-Qaeda operatives.” The lawsuit’s goal is to win a financial settlement for the families of the victims of the attack.

Argued largely in private, behind closed doors and in secret filings, the factual underpinnings of the case could soon become public under an executive order by President Joe Biden.

After Biden was told by September 11 family members he would not be welcome at anniversary memorials usually attended by the president, Biden directed the Justice Department and other agencies to review and release still-secret FBI documents and evidence.

Biden’s order specifically directs the release of the 16-page report by the September 11, 2021 anniversary.

The report is likely to shed new light on what the FBI knows about several men connected to the hijackers, including Saudi nationals, Muslim leader Fahad Al-Thumairy and suspect Saudi spy Omar Al-Bayoumi, Maloney said.

A Saudi embassy official, Mussaed Ahmed Al-Jarrah, whose name had emerged previously as part of the legal proceedings, is believed to have provided assistance to the future hijackers, according to the families’ lawyers.

Of the 19 al-Qaeda hijackers, 15 were Saudis and from the beginning of multiple US inquiries in to the September 11 attacks, questions have swirled around the Saudi role.

French Court Sentences Rifaat Al-Assad to 4 Years in Prison

September 9, 2021

Source: Al Mayadeen

By Al Mayadeen

A French court sentenced Rifaat Al-Assad, Syria’s former Vice President, to four years in prison for “misappropriating public funds in Syria, laundering the spoils, and building a vast property portfolio in France with ill-gotten gains.”

Former Syrian Vice President, Rifaat Al-Assad, is sentenced to prison. 

The Court of Appeals of Paris sentenced Thursday 84-year-old former Syrian Vice President, Rifaat Al-Assad, to four years in prison for “misappropriating public funds in Syria, laundering the spoils, and building a vast property portfolio in France with ill-gotten gains” worth an estimated 90 million euros.

Al-Assad, who has been in exile since 1984, had a guilty verdict upheld against him by a French court for the abovementioned crimes, which he committed between 1996 and 2016. However, the verdict was announced in absentia, for the former Vice President did not attend the hearing.

The defense announced they would file an appeal before the Court of Cassation.

During the two trials, the defense asserted that the money was “completely legal,” noting that it was “massive aid” from Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince and later Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz, between 1980 and his death in 2015.

His French fortune includes two townhouses in chic Parisian neighborhoods, a stud farm, about 40 apartments, and a chateau. The French judiciary will confiscate all his immovable property.

These properties were owned by Rifaat al-Assad and his relatives through companies in Panama, Liechtenstein, and Luxembourg.

Al-Assad was also convicted of aggravated tax fraud, in addition to secretly employing domestic workers.

On the other hand, Al-Assad was acquitted of the crimes committed between 1984 and 1996 on legal grounds.

Yemeni Resistance Deals Heavy Blow To Aggressors: 16 Drones, Ballistic Missiles Target Saudi Depth

Yemeni Resistance Deals Heavy Blow To Aggressors: 16 Drones, Ballistic Missiles Target Saudi Depth

By Staff, Agencies

In yet another heroic achievement scored against the Saudi aggressors, the Yemeni resistance, represented by the Armed Forces, used 16 drones and ballistic missiles to hit targets deep inside Saudi Arabia in their latest operation, Yemeni Armed Forces Spokesman Brigadier General Yehya Saree announced.

“As part of confronting the crimes of [the Saudi-led] aggression against our country, our Armed Forces carried out the 7th Operation Balanced Deterrence, targeting vital facilities and military bases of the Saudi enemy,” Brigadier General Saree said in a televised statement on Sunday.

Saree explained that the operation targeted vital installations and military bases of Saudi Arabia, including Saudi Aramco facilities in Jeddah, Jizan and Najran regions, which he said were bombed with five Badr ballistic missiles and two Sammad-3 drones.

He added that Saudi Aramco facilities in Ras al-Tanura in the Dammam region, eastern Saudi Arabia, were also targeted with eight Sammad-3 drones and a Zulfiqar ballistic missile.

The spokesman stressed that Yemeni forces successfully hit their targets in both attacks.

In a statement on Saturday, Riyadh claimed that its air defenses had intercepted and destroyed three ballistic missiles and three explosive-laden drones launched towards Dammam, Jizan and Najran regions.

Yemen has been beset by violence and chaos since 2015, when Saudi Arabia and its allies launched a devastating war against the poorest Middle Eastern country to reinstall Yemen’s overthrown government of Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi in Sanaa and crush the Ansarullah resistance movement.

The war, accompanied by a tight siege, has failed to reach its goals and killed hundreds of thousands of Yemeni people, putting millions more at risk of starvation by destroying much of the country’s infrastructure.

The new operation came after the Yemeni Armed Forces repeatedly warned Saudi Arabia to stop the war and siege against the country or face larger and more extensive operations.

The Yemeni forces have stepped up their retaliatory attacks deep inside Saudi Arabia in recent months.

In his Sunday remarks, Saree said the new operation succeeded in achieving its goals, warning Saudi Arabia of the consequences of its continued military campaign against the Yemeni people.

He underlined that Yemen is entitled to carry out more military operations to defend itself and its people until the war and siege against the country come to an end.

“The Yemeni Armed Forces will continue their jihadist battle until the liberation of all the lands of the republic and the achievement of freedom and independence,” Saree affirmed.

Last month, UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Martin Griffiths said that about 5 million Yemenis are “just one step away” from succumbing to famine and related diseases.

“Ten million more are right behind them,” Griffiths warned.

According to Henrietta Fore, the executive director of UNICEF, one child dies every 10 minutes in Yemen from preventable causes, including malnutrition and vaccine-preventable diseases, which are the ramifications of the war on Yemen.

In another development, the spokesman for Yemen’s Ansarullah resistance movement affirmed the Yemeni people’s right to defend themselves so long as Saudi Arabia insists on continuing the war.

“Just as they insist on continuing their aggression and siege, our Yemeni people continue to defend themselves,” Mohammed Abdul-Salam tweeted on Sunday.

The latest operation against Saudi Arabia coincided with the liberation of the southern district of Rahba district by the Yemeni Army and allied popular committees, he said.

A security official in Marib Province told Yemen News Agency [SABA] that all the residents of Rahba can return to their homes and farms and practice their normal lives after the district was completely secured by Yemeni forces.

Repated Videos

Kingdom of Blood Thirsty Rulers: Another Saudi Detainee from Qatif Executed

September 6, 2021

Kingdom of Blood Thirsty Rulers: Another Saudi Detainee from Qatif Executed

By Staff

The Saudi regime committed yet another crime against opinion prisoners from Qatif eastern province as Adnan Mostafa al-Sharfa was pronounced executed upon a decree by the kingdom’s bloodthirsty rulers.

In allegations to justify the crime, the Saudi interior ministry claimed that al-Sharfa was smuggling weapons and attacking the security forces.

The ministry’s statement mentioned that the execution was carried out upon a royal decree.

The Saudi regime authorities seldom carries out the executions in an attempt to disguise its criminality, especially in the eyes of the western public opinion. saudi arabia executionsSaudiArabiaHumanRights

Two 9/11 Saudi Hijackers Helped By US-Based Network – Ex-FBI Agent

September 6, 2021

Two 9/11 Saudi Hijackers Helped By US-Based Network – Ex-FBI Agent

By Staff, Agencies

A former Federal Bureau of Investigation [FBI] agent involved in an investigation into the September 11, 2001 attacks said two of the hijackers received help from a US-based network of Saudis, including Omar al-Bayoumi who had ties to the Saudi government.

Danny Gonzalez, who worked on the still-classified FBI investigation ‘Operation Encore’ which focused on Nawaf al-Hazmi and Khalid al-Mihdhar who along with three other hijackers flew planes into the Pentagon, said he believes the pair were helped by a number of Saudi citizens including Bayoumi after they moved to San Diego in January 2001.

“19 hijackers cannot commit 3,000 mass murders by themselves,” Gonzalez told CBS News.

Bayoumi, who was working for the Riyadh government, helped al-Hazmi and al-Mihdhar move to San Diego and assisted them in finding an apartment and opening a bank account after, Gonzalez said.

The 9/11 Commission report released in 2004 found that Bayoumi was an “unlikely candidate for clandestine involvement” with extremists. It said there was “no credible evidence that he believed in violent extremism or knowingly aided extremist groups.”

But Gonzalez said the public would learn “a lot” if documents from ‘Operation Encore’, which began two years after the Commission’s report, were released, adding that the records would change the public’s understanding of the attacks.

Gonzalez said he can’t reveal certain classified information about the investigation per orders from the FBI.

His statements came as US President Joe Biden on Friday directed the Department of Justice to declassify some documents related to the attacks and release them over the next six months amid pressure from families and survivors who are suing the kingdom for its alleged complicity in the attacks.

Some of the documents which are set to be released pertain to “Encore.”

Commenting on Biden’s order, Brett Eagleson who lost his father Bruce in the Twin Towers attacks and has been an advocate for the victims’ families, said they would stay skeptical until the documents were released. 

“We are cautiously optimistic that we will get the documents we need, however our guard is still up,” Eagleson told DailyMail.com.

Some 3,000 people were killed in the attacks that targeted several locations across the US.

Saudi Arabia’s name came to the fore in discussions concerning the attacks after their occurrence, with investigators quickly concluding that 15 of the 19 hijackers involved in the raids were of Saudi origin.

The Riyadh regime, however, has managed to avoid any liability amid what the families of the victims, survivors and their lawyers denounce as Washington’s attempts to shield the kingdom from any comeuppance.

Back to the future: Talibanistan, Year 2000

Back to the future: Talibanistan, Year 2000

August 31, 2021

by Pepe Escobar for The Saker Blog and friends

Dear reader: this is very special, a trip down memory lane like no other: back to prehistoric times – the pre-9/11, pre-YouTube, pre-social network world.

Welcome to Taliban Afghanistan – Talibanistan – in the Year 2000. This is when photographer Jason Florio and myself slowly crossed it overland from east to west, from the Pakistani border at Torkham to the Iranian border at Islam qillah. As Afghan ONG workers acknowledged, we were the first Westerners to pull this off in years.

Fatima, Maliha and Nouria, at home in Kabul

Those were the days. Bill Clinton was enjoying his last stretch at the White House. Osama bin Laden was a discreet guest of Mullah Omar – hitting the front pages only occasionally. There was no hint of 9/11, the invasion of Iraq, the “war on terror”, the perpetual financial crisis, the Russia-China strategic partnership. Globalization ruled, and the US was the undisputed global top dog. The Clinton administration and the Taliban were deep into Pipelineistan territory – arguing over the tortuous, proposed Trans-Afghan gas pipeline.

We tried everything, but we couldn’t even get a glimpse of Mullah Omar. Osama bin Laden was also nowhere to be seen. But we did experience Talibanistan in action, in close detail.

Today is a special day to revisit it. The Forever War in Afghanistan is over; from now on it will be a Hybrid mongrel, against the integration of Afghanistan into the New Silk Roads and Greater Eurasia.

In 2000 I wrote a Talibanistan road trip special for a Japanese political magazine, now extinct, and ten years later a 3-part mini-series revisiting it for Asia Times.

Part 2 of this series can be found here, and part 3 here.

Yet this particular essay – part 1 – had completely disappeared from the internet (that’s a long story): I found it recently, by accident, in a hard drive. The images come from the footage I shot at the time with a Sony mini-DV: I just received the file today from Paris.

This is a glimpse of a long-lost world; call it a historical register from a time when no one would even dream of a “Saigon moment” remixed – as a rebranded umbrella of warriors conveniently labeled “Taliban”, after biding their time, Pashtun-style, for two decades, praises Allah for eventually handing them victory over yet another foreign invader.

Now let’s hit the road.

KABUL, GHAZNI – Fatima, Maliha and Nouria, who I used to call The Three Graces, must be by now 40, 39 and 35 years old, respectively. In the year 2000 they lived in an empty, bombed house next to a bullet-ridden mosque in a half-destroyed, apocalyptic theme park Kabul – by then the world capital of the discarded container (or reconstituted by a missile and reconverted into a shop); a city where 70% of the population were refugees, legions of homeless kids carried bags of cash on their backs ($1 was worth more than 60,000 Afghanis) and sheep outnumbered rattling 1960s Mercedes buses.

Under the merciless Taliban theocracy, the Three Graces suffered triple discrimination – as women, Hazaras and Shi’ites. They lived in Kardechar, a neighborhood totally destroyed in the 1990s by the war between Commander Masoud, The Lion of the Panjshir, and the Hazaras (the descendants of mixed marriages between Genghis Khan’s Mongol warriors and Turkish and Tajik peoples) before the Taliban took power in 1996. The Hazaras were always the weakest link in the Tajik-Uzbek-Hazara alliance – supported by Iran, Russia and China – confronting the Taliban.

Every dejected Kabuli intellectual I had met invariably defined the Taliban as “an occupation force of religious fanatics” – their rural medievalism totally absurd for urban Tajiks, used to a tolerant form of Islam. According to a university professor, “their jihad is not against kafirs; it’s against other Muslims who follow Islam”.

I spent a long time talking to the Dari-speaking Three Graces inside their bombed-out home – with translation provided by their brother Aloyuz, who had spent a few years in Iran supporting the family long-distance. This simple fact in itself would assure that if caught, we would all be shot dead by the Taliban V & V – the notorious Department for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, the Taliban religious police.

This is how bombed-out Kabul looked like in 2000

The Three Graces’ dream was to live “free, not under pressure”. They had never been to a restaurant, a bar or a cinema. Fatima liked “rock” music, which in her case meant Afghan singer Natasha. She said she “liked” the Taliban, but most of all she wanted to get back to school. They never mentioned any discrimination between Sunnis and Shi’ites; they actually wanted to leave for Pakistan.

Their definition of “human rights” included priority for education, the right to work, and to get a job in the state sector; Fatima and Maliha wanted to be doctors. Perhaps they are, today, in Hazara land; 21 years ago they spent their days weaving beautiful silk shawls.

Education was terminally forbidden for girls over 12. The literacy rate among women was only 4%. Outside the Three Graces’ house, almost every woman was a “widow of war”, enveloped in dusty light blue burqas, begging to support their children. Not only this was an unbearable humiliation in the context of an ultra-rigid Islamic society, it contradicted the Taliban obsession of preserving the “honor and purity” of their women.

Kabul’s population was then 2 million; less than 10%, concentrated in the periphery, supported the Taliban. True Kabulis regarded them as barbarians. For the Taliban, Kabul was more remote than Mars. Every day at sunset the Intercontinental Hotel, by then an archeological ruin, received an inevitable Taliban sightseeing group. They’d come to ride the lift (the only one in town) and walk around the empty swimming pool and tennis court. They’d be taking a break from cruising around town in their fleet of imported-from-Dubai Toyota Hi-Lux, complete with Islamic homilies painted in the windows, Kalashnikovs on show and little whips on hand to impose on the infidels the appropriate, Islamically correct, behavior. But at least the Three Graces were safe; they never left their bombed-out shelter.

Doubt is sin, debate is heresy

Few things were more thrilling in Talibanistan 21 years ago than to alight at Pul-e-Khisshti – the fabled Blue Mosque, the largest in Afghanistan – on a Friday afternoon after Jumma prayers and confront the One Thousand and One Nights assembled cast. Any image of this apotheosis of thousands of black or white-turbaned rustic warriors, kohl in their eyes and the requisite macho-sexy stare, would be all the rage on the cover of Uomo Vogue. To even think of taking a photo was anathema; the entrance to the mosque was always swarming with V & V informants.

Finally, in one of those eventful Friday afternoons, I managed to be introduced into the Holy Grail – the secluded quarters of maulvi (priest) Noor Muhamad Qureishi, by then the Taliban Prophet in Kabul. He had never exchanged views with a Westerner. It was certainly one of the most surrealist interviews of my life.

Qureishi, like all Taliban religious leaders, was educated in a Pakistani madrassa. At first, he was your typical hardcore deobandi; the deobandis, as the West would later find out, were an initially progressive movement born in India in the mid-19th century to revive Islamic values vis-à-vis the sprawling British Empire. But they soon derailed into megalomania, discrimination against women and Shi’ite-hatred.

Most of all, Quereishi was the quintessential product of a boom – the connection between the ISI and the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) party during the 1980s anti-Soviet jihad, when thousands of madrassas were built in Pakistan’s Pashtun belt. Afghan refugees had the right to free education, a roof over their heads, three meals a day and military training. Their “educators” were semi-illiterate maulvis who had never known the reformist agenda of the original deobandi movement.

On the Afghanistan-Iran border at Islam qilla

Reclined on a tattered cushion over one of the mosque’s ragged carpets, Qureishi laid down the deobandi law in Pashto for hours. Among other things he said the movement was “the most popular” because its ideologues dreamed that Prophet Muhammad ordered them to build a madrassa in Deoband, India. So this was Islam’s purest form “because it came directly from Muhammad”. Despite the formidable catalogue of Taliban atrocities, he insisted on their “purity”.

Qureishi dabbled on the inferiority of Hindus because of their sacred cows (“why not dogs, at least they are faithful to their owners”). As for Buddhism, it was positively depraved (“Buddha is an idol”). He would have had a multiple heart attack with Thailand’s Buddhist go-go girls, dancing topless at night and offering incense at the temple the morning after.

Doubt is sin. Debate is heresy. “The only true knowledge is the Koran”. He insisted that all “forms of modern scientific knowledge came from the Koran”. As an example, he quoted – what else – a Koranic verse (the Koran, by the way, in its neo-deobandi, Talibanized version, forbade women to write, and allowed education only up to 10 years old). I could not help being reminded of that 18th century French anonymous – a typical product of the Enlightenment – who had written the Treaty of the Three Impostors – Moses, Jesus and Muhammad; but if I tried to insert the European Enlightenment into (his) monologue I would probably be shot dead. Basically, Qureishi finally managed to convince me that all this religious shadow play was about proving that “my sect is purer than yours”.

Village elders in Herat

Play it again, infidel

Talibanistan lived under a strict Kalashnikov culture. But the supreme anti-Taliban lethal weapon was not a gun, or even a mortar or RPG. It was a camera. I knew inevitably that day would come, and it came on Kabul stadium, built by the former USSR to extol proletarian internationalism; another Friday, at 5 pm, the weekly soccer hour – the only form of entertainment absent from the Taliban’s Index Prohibitorum apart from public executions and mango ice cream.

Jason and me were lodged at the VIP tribune – less than 10 US cents for the ticket. The stadium was packed – but silent as a mosque. Two teams, the red and the blue, were playing the Islamically correct way – with extra skirts under their trunks. At half time the whole stadium – to the sound of “Allah Akbar” – run to pray by the pitch; those who didn’t were spanked or thrown in jail.

Jason had his cameras hanging from his neck but he was not using them. Yet that was more than enough for a hysteric V & V teenage informant. We are escorted out of the stands by a small army of smiling, homoerotic brotherhood, those who were then referred to as “soldiers of Allah”. Finally we are presented to a white-turbaned Talib with assassin’s eyes; he’s no one other than mullah Salimi, the vice-Minister of the religious police in Kabul – the reincarnation of The Great Inquisitor. We are finally escorted out of the stadium and thrown into a Hi-Lux, destination unknown. Suddenly we are more popular with the crowd than the soccer match itself.

At a Taliban “office” – a towel on the grass in front of a bombed-out building, decorated with a mute sat-phone – we are charged with espionage. Our backpacks are thoroughly searched. Salimi inspects two rolls of film from Jason’s cameras; no incriminating photo. It’s now the turn of my Sony mini-DV camera. We press “play”; Salimi recoils in horror. We explain nothing is recorded on the blue screen. What was really recorded – he just needed to press “rewind” – would be enough to send us to the gallows, including a lot of stuff with the Three Graces. Once again we noticed the Taliban badly needed not only art directors and PR agents but also info-tech whiz kids.

Carpet-weaving at the Herat bazaar

In Taliban anti-iconography, video, in theory, might be allowed, because the screen is a mirror. Anyway, later we would know from the lion’s mouth, that is, the Ministry of Information and Culture in Kandahar: TV and video would remain perpetually banned.

At that time, a few photo-studios survived near one of the Kabul bazaars – only churning out 3X4 photos for documents. The owners paid their bills renting their Xerox machines. The Zahir Photo Studio still had on its walls a collection of black and white and sepia photos of Kabul, Herat, minarets, nomads and caravans. Among Leicas, superb Speed Graphic 8 X 10 and dusty Russian panoramic cameras, Mr. Zahir would lament, “photography is dead in Afghanistan”. At least, that wouldn’t be for long.

The 11th century Ghazni minaret with, on the foreground, a Taliban military base

So after an interminable debate in Pashto with some Urdu and English thrown in, we are “liberated”. Some Taliban – but certainly not Salimi, still piercing us with his assassin’s eyes – try a formal apology, saying this is incompatible with the Pashtun code of hospitality. All tribal Pashtun – like the Taliban – follow the pashtunwali, the rigid code that emphasizes, among other things, hospitality, vengeance and a pious Islamic life. According to the code, it’s a council of elders that arbitrates specific disputes, applying a compendium of laws and punishments. Most cases involve murders, land disputes and trouble with women. For the Pashtun, the line between pashtunwali and Sharia was always fuzzy.

A Kuchi nomad caravan going south towards Kandahar.

The V & V obviously was not a creation of Mullah Omar, the “Leader of the Faithful”; it was based on a Saudi Arabian original. In its heyday, in the second half of the 1990s, the V & V was a formidable intelligence agency – with informers infiltrated in the Army, ministries, hospitals, UN agencies, NGOs – evoking a bizarre memory of KHAD, the enormous intel agency of the 1980’s communist regime, during the anti-USSR jihad. The difference is that the V & V only answered to orders – issued on bits and pieces of paper – of Mullah Omar himself.

Rock the base

The verdict echoed like a dagger piercing the oppressive air of the desert near Ghazni. A 360-degree panoramic shot revealed a background of mountains where the mineral had expelled all the vegetal; the silhouette of two 11th century minarets; and a foreground of tanks, helicopters and rocket launchers. The verdict, issued in Pashto and mumbled by our scared official translator imposed by Kabul, was inexorable: “You will be denounced in a military court. The investigation will be long, six months; meanwhile you will await the decision in jail”.

Once again, we were being charged with espionage, but now this was the real deal. We could be executed with a shot on the back of the neck – Khmer Rouge style. Or stoned. Or thrown into a shallow grave and buried alive by a brick wall smashed by a tractor. Brilliant Taliban methods for the final solution were myriad. And to think this was all happening because of two minarets.

To walk over a supposedly mined field trying to reach two minarets was not exactly a brilliant idea in the first place. Red Army experts, during the 1980s, buried 12 million mines in Afghanistan. They diversified like crazy; more than 50 models, from Zimbabwe’s RAP-2s to Belgium’s NR-127s. UN officials had assured us that more than half the country was mined. Afghan officials at the Mine Detention Center in Herat, with their 50 highly trained German shepherds, would later tell us that it would take 22,000 years to demine the whole country.

My objects of desire in Ghazni were two “Towers of Victory”; two circular superstructures, isolated in the middle of the desert and built by the Sassanians as minarets – commemorative, not religious; there was never a mosque in the surroundings. In the mid-19th century scholars attributed the grand minaret to Mahmud, protector of Avicenna and the great Persian poet Ferdowsi. Today it is known that the small minaret dates from 1030, and the big one, from 1099. They are like two brick rockets pointing to the sheltering sky and claiming for the attention of those travelling the by then horrific Kabul-Kandahar highway, a Via Dolorosa of multinational flat tires – Russian, Chinese, Iranian.

The problem is that, 21 years ago, right adjacent to the minarets, there was an invisible Taliban military base. At first we could see only an enormous weapons depot. We asked a sentinel to take a few pictures; he agreed. Walking around the depot – between carcasses of Russian tanks and armored cars – we found some functioning artillery pieces. And a lone, white Taliban flag. And not a living soul. This did look like an abandoned depot. But then we hit on a destroyed Russian helicopter – a prodigy of conceptual art. Too late: soon we are intercepted by a Taliban out of nowhere.

The commander of the base wanted to know “under which law” we assumed we had the right to take photos. He wanted to know which was the punishment, “in our country”, for such an act. When the going was really getting tough, everything turned Monty Python. One of the Taliban had walked back to the road to fetch our driver, Fateh. They came back two hours later. The commander talked to Fateh in Pashto. And then we were “liberated”, out of “respect for Fateh’s white beard”. But we should “confess” to our crime – which we did right away, over and over again.

The fact of the matter is that we were freed because I was carrying a precious letter hand-signed by the all-powerful Samiul Haq, the leader of Haqqania, the factory-cum-academy, Harvard and M.I.T. of Taliban in Akhora Khatak, on the Grand Trunk Road between Islamabad and Peshawar in Pakistan. Legions of Taliban ministers, province governors, military commanders, judges and bureaucrats had studied in Haqqania.

Haqqania was founded in 1947 by deobandi religious scholar Abdul Haq, the father of maulvi and former senator Samiul Haq, a wily old hand fond of brothels and as engaging as a carpet vendor in the Peshawar bazaars. He was a key educator of the first detribalized, urbanized and literate Afghan generation; “literate”, of course, in Haqqania-branded, Deobandi-style Islam. In Haqqania – where I saw hundreds of students from Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan indoctrinated to later export Talibanization to Central Asia – debate was heresy, the master was infallible and Samiul Haq was almost as perfect as Allah.

He had told me – no metaphor intended – that “Allah had chosen Mullah Omar to be the leader of the Taliban”. And he was sure that when the Islamic Revolution reached Pakistan, “it will be led by a unknown rising from the masses” – like Mullah Omar. At the time Haq was Omar’s consultant on international relations and Sharia-based decisions. He bundled up both Russia and the US as “enemies of our time”; blamed the US for the Afghan tragedy; but otherwise offered to hand over Osama bin Laden to the US if Bill Clinton guaranteed no interference in Afghan affairs.

Turn left for the Ministry of Foreign Relations – at the time only recognized by Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the UAE

Back in Ghazni, the Taliban commander even invited us for some green tea. Thanks but no thanks. We thanked Allah’s mercy by visiting the tomb of sultan Mahmud in Razah, less than one kilometer from the towers. The tomb is a work of art – translucid marble engraved with Kufic lettering. Islamic Kufic lettering, if observed as pure design, reveals itself as a transposition of the verb, from the audible to the visible. So the conclusion was inevitable; the Taliban had managed to totally ignore the history of their own land, building a military base over two architectural relics and incapable of recognizing even the design of their own Islamic lettering as a form of art.


All pictures taken from The Roving Eye Video Archives. Pepe Escobar, 2000

Ansarullah Urges US, Saudis to Prepare Plan to Retreat from Yemen after Afghanistan

August 31, 2021

Ansarullah Urges US, Saudis to Prepare Plan to Retreat from Yemen after Afghanistan

By Staff, Agencies

In the wake of America’s disgraceful withdrawal from Afghanistan after a futile war, a senior Yemeni official called on the United States and Saudi Arabia to draw up a plan for pullout from Yemen as well, warning that the Arab country will eventually turn into a “graveyard for the aggressors.”

Mohammed Ali al-Houthi, an Ansarullah official who is the chairman of the Supreme Revolutionary Committee of Yemen, made the remarks in a post on his Twitter account on Tuesday, after the US announced an end to chaotic withdrawal efforts from the airport in the Afghan capital, Kabul, effectively ending its two-decade-long occupation of the South Asian country.

“With the departure of the last American colonizers from Afghanistan, I call on the United States and its Saudi ally to leave Yemen too and devise a plan to that effect so that the Yemeni people can live in stability and away from occupation and guardianship,” Houthi tweeted.

“The Yemeni nation will never accept occupation and guardianship, no matter how long the conflicts and confrontations last. Yemen will be the graveyard of the aggressors,” he added.

Saudi Arabia launched a US-backed military aggression against Yemen in March 2015 in collaboration with a number of its allied states in a bid to return to power the former Riyadh-backed regime and crush the Ansarullah movement.

Now, the kingdom is stuck in a costly quagmire, with Yemeni forces conducting retaliatory operations against Saudi targets.

The US commander responsible for American troops in Afghanistan announced the end of the Afghan war on Monday afternoon, the deadline US President Joe Biden had set for the withdrawal.

General Kenneth McKenzie said that the US and its allies had evacuated 123,000 people during the 18-day airlift but conceded the military had not been able to rescue every American citizen or Afghan ally.

Enforced Disappearance: A Crime against Humanity Systematically Practiced by Saudi Arabia

August 31, 2021

Enforced Disappearance: A Crime against Humanity Systematically Practiced by Saudi Arabia

By the European Saudi Organization for Human Rights

On the International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearance, which is commemorated every year on August 30, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres stressed that, despite being “strictly prohibited by international human rights law in all circumstances, enforced disappearances continue to be used worldwide as a means of repression, intimidation and stifling opposition. Lawyers, witnesses, political opposition and human rights defenders are at particular risk of enforced disappearance,” he said. “This deprives families and communities of the right to know the truth about their loved ones, accountability, justice and reparations.”

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia practices enforced disappearance, on a large scale, especially against political detainees and opinion-makers through blatant circumvention and evasion. Most families of the victims are unaware of the fate of their relatives, after they have been detained on the street or in their workplaces, because they have been deprived the right to communicate with them and have no access to a lawyer.

In many cases, after a forced disappearance, that last for hours or days, officials at General Investigation Prisons allow the disappeared person a brief contact to inform his family of his whereabouts, only to return and disappear for periods lasting a year or more, during which he is tortured and denied the right to communicate with the outside world or access a lawyer.

In other cases, enforced disappearance extends without any information about the victim’s whereabouts or the reason for the arrest, for months or years. In light of Saudi Arabia’s intimidation policy against activists and human rights defenders.

The European-Saudi Organization for Human Rights documented the Saudi Arabian government’s use of enforced disappearance as a prelude to torture, extracting confessions, and in many cases the use of these confessions to issue death sentences.

Enforced disappearance is defined, according to the article II of the International Convention for the Protection of Persons from Enforced Disappearance, as “arrest, detention, abduction or any other form of deprivation of liberty by agents of the State or by persons or groups of individuals acting with the authorization, support or acquiescence of the State, followed by a refusal to acknowledge the deprivation of liberty or by concealment of the fate or whereabouts of the disappeared person, which deprives him of the protection of the law”.

During 2021, ESOHR monitored the practice of enforced disappearance by the security services against a number of detainees, including activists:

Abdullah al-Mubaraki:

On July 22, 2021, Al-Mabaheth forces arrested online activist Abdullah bin Awad al-Mubaraki from his home in Yanbu. The family does not officially know the reason for the arrest and news broke from the moment of the arrest. Despite attempts by the family to find out where he is, and to verify his whereabouts from the prisons of Yanbu, Medina and Jeddah, they have been unable to reach him. However, activists believe that the reason for his arrest stems from his expression of opinion, his participation in campaigns on social media to defend political and civil rights, and his opposition to government policies.

Lina al-Sharif

In late May 2021, officials from the Saudi State Security Presidency raided the Sharif family’s home in Riyadh, arresting Dr. Lina al-Sharif and taking her to an unknown location. Before her arrest, al-Sharif had been active on social media, discussing Saudi politics and defending human rights issues in Saudi Arabia.

Abdullah

On May 12, 2021, State Security forces arrested Abdullah Jilan, in Medina, after it stormed his mother’s house and searched him before taking him to an unknown location. Jilan was active on Twitter, calling for his right to work and fundamental freedoms in Saudi Arabia. So far, his fate and whereabouts remain unknown.

Najla Abd El-Aziz:

Saudi security forces arrested activist Najla Abdul Aziz Mohammed al-Marwan on July 20, 2021, from her home in the capital al-Riyadh. Najla is a young divorced woman and a mother of two children. According to reports, Saudi Arabia is still forcibly hiding her after more than a month in detention, and the family has no information about her.

Najla’s Twitter account shows that she welcomed and supported the call to demonstrate in conjunction with Arafa Day. A group of activists launched a hashtag called #Arafat_Day_protest, and called for participation in a campaign against the government’s policies and the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, with the goal of calling for the release of detainees, in addition to enabling young people’s right to employment, tax removal, and more.

ESOHR also monitored other arbitrary arrests. Local sources said victims were also subjected to enforced disappearance, including Sheikh Abdullah al-Shihri, who was arrested for tweets criticizing statements made by Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman. Among those reported missing are Reina Abdulaziz and Yasmine al-Ghafili.

Continuous Enforced Disappearances:

In addition, Saudi Arabia regularly hides individuals, with no information on their whereabouts for years.

In April 2016, preacher Suleiman al-Darwish disappeared during his visit to Mecca. His family does not know any details about the arrest or its reasons nor has it been officially informed of any information about his whereabouts. However, the Ministry of Interior posted his name on its website, which is dedicated to identifying the names and status of detainees. The statement indicated that he was “under investigation”, but his name was removed after a while.

Al-Darwish is still missing and despite the request from the UN Working Group on Enforced Disappearances for official information from Saudi Arabia on his whereabouts, his whereabouts remain unknown.”

Human rights organizations that received information in May 2012 confirmed to them that Al-Duwaish was transferred directly to the office of Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman after his arrest, where he beat him.

In August 2015, the Saudi government announced the arrest of Ahmad al-Mughassil in the Lebanese capital, Beirut. Since his arrest six years ago, the family has not been able to contact him or to know his whereabouts. Although Saudi Arabia announced the arrest, it did not announce where he was being held or the charges he is officially facing. Information the family received about the possible murder or death under torture raised concerns that the family could not get any information about his condition since his arrest.

In January 2020, Saudi security forces arrested Mohammed Al Ammar during a military raid in Qatif. The Saudi government announced the arrest of Ammar, who had been on wanted lists for years, but the family was unable to find out where he was, and they did not allow him any visits. In light of information about his severe injury during the arrest. Al-Ammar was not offered a trial, unless his whereabouts were known to be in enforced disappearance.

Hide as an introduction to unfair judgments:

Besides the cases in which individuals are still forcibly disappeared, detainees face harsh sentences, sometimes up to death, despite being subjected to enforced disappearance at the time of arrest. Among them is Mohammed Al-Shakhouri, who was forcibly disappeared by the Saudi government for three days after his arrest, and who was then able to communicate with his family in brief call, not being able to know what he was exposed to for eight months. The organization has also monitored executions of detainees including minors, despite violations there were subjected to including enforced disappearances, such as Abdelkrim al-Hawaj.

According to ESOHR, the Saudi government uses enforced disappearance for a variety of reasons. While in many cases concealment is used as a prelude to torture in order to extract confessions, it is used for reprisal motives that refuse to disclose definitively the status and location of the person forcibly disappeared and to intimidate the community and families.

The organization maintains that Saudi Arabia, through its practice of enforced disappearance, is committing a “crime against humanity” violating its domestic and international laws. And it recalls that no justification for the continuation of this crime can be invoked, as affirmed in the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance: “No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or the threat of war, internal political instability or any other exception, may be invoked to justify enforced disappearance.”

Saudi Court Sentences 83-Year-Old Hamas Leader to 15 Years in Prison

August 9, 2021

A former Hamas representative in Saudi Arabia was sentenced to 15 years in prison by a Saudi criminal court on Sunday.

Mohammed Al-Khudari was charged with “supporting Hamas”, his brother Abdel-Majed al-Khudari told Anadolu Agency, adding that the sentence included “clemency for half the term (seven-and-a-half years)”.

His son Hani Al-Khudari was also sentenced to three years in prison, he added.

It follows a mass trial against 69 Palestinian and Jordanian detainees accused of providing financial support to Gaza’s rulers.

Al-Khudari is an 83-year-old veteran Hamas leader who was responsible for managing the movement’s relationship with Saudi Arabia for two decades.

In February, Amnesty International said Al-Khudari had undergone surgery and was being treated for prostate cancer when the Saudi authorities arrested him and his son on April 4, 2019.

The rights group called on the Saudi king to ensure that “unfounded charges” against Al-Khudari and his son are dropped and that they are released.

There was no comment from Hamas on Sunday’s verdict.

The court on Sunday also issued various sentences against 67 other Palestinians and Jordanian prisoners, with some handed jail terms of up to 22 years, over alleged support for Hamas.

Dozens of Palestinians have been detained by Saudi authorities since February 2019, including businesspeople, academics, and students.

(The New Arab, PC, Social Media)

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Saudi Rebellion against MBS’ Tyranny, Prosecution Being Prepared

 August 8, 2021

Saudi Rebellion against MBS’ Tyranny, Prosecution Being Prepared

By Staff

Some Saudi princes are willing to file lawsuits against the Saudi crown prince Mohammad Bin Salman in US courts after he has confiscated their money and arrested members of their families without defined charges.

Rights groups uncovered, according to “Saudi Wikleaks”, that some Saudi princes made contracts with American legal companies to prepare judicial lawsuits to be filed against the crown prince, pointing to that the transformations in American policy as Joe Biden came to power, have pushed them to discuss their issues with the US Congress.

According to the same sources, the Congress members pledged to support those affected by MBS’ policies at the White House and in any place across the United States.

This issue rises in parallel with an uprising by the family of late Saudi King Abdulla bin Abdul Aziz inside the kingdom, as a new challenge MBS has to face.

Although he has arrested his cousins, the family decided to push former National Guard Minister, Mutab bin Abdullah to the forefront again, by appointing him the Chief of Secretaries of “King Abdullah Humanitarian Institution.”

No information was provided about this choice, and the decision coincided with a social media campaign that demanded releasing three detained princes, Turki, Faisal, and Mashaal.

Turki has been detained by MBS since the end of 2017 as part of the “Ritz Carlton” purge, while his two brothers, Faisal and Mashaal have only been detained since a few months ago.

In the same context, other documents revealed secret rebellion on the side of some Saudi princes against MBS’ tyranny in dealing with them.

The documents showed that a number of the Al Saud princes, who have been detained after King Salman and his son took power, have signed contracts with an American lobby to influence the ruling regime.

The lobbying company is called “Mercury Public Affairs”, and aims at pushing the American and British governments, and the European Union, to learn the whereabouts of the members of the Saudi royal family.

Among them is former crown prince Mohammad Bin Nayef, and Ahmed bin Abdul Aziz.

“Mercury Public Affairs” has made contacts with members of the Congress to demand pressuring the Saudi government to learn whether the detained princes are alive or not, and to present a clear accusations list that explains the reasons behind detaining them, then to release those who are not charged and unfreeze their financial assets.

هُيام «الضعفاء» بالنموذج الإسرائيليّ

الجمعة 30 تموز 2021

وليد شرارة

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لا تقيم إسرائيل اعتباراً فعلياً للدول الأعضاء في «نادي معجبيها»، مثل فرنسا (أ ف ب )

تأتي زيارة وزير الأمن الصهيوني، بيني غانتس، واجتماعه مع نظيرته الفرنسية فلورانس بارلي، ضمن مساعي حكومة الاحتلال إلى احتواء التداعيات السلبية لفضيحة برنامج «بيغاسوس» الذي أنتجته شركة «إن إس أو» الإسرائيلية، والذي استُخدم من قِبَل المغرب للتجسّس على هاتف الرئيس الفرنسي إيمانويل ماكرون، ورئيس وزرائه السابق إدوارد فيليب، و15 وزيراً ونائباً ومسؤولاً سياسيّاً. البيان الصادر عن وزارة الدفاع الفرنسية بعد الاجتماع، يشي برغبة في تجاوز التداعيات السلبية المذكورة، إذ يشدّد على ضرورة تقديم إسرائيل «التوضيحات التي تطلبها فرنسا، والأساسية بالنسبة إلى الثقة والاحترام المتبادل بين البلدين»، وإطلاع المسؤولين في هذا البلد «على مدى معرفة الحكومة الإسرائيلية بأنشطة زبائن إن إس أو». الارتباط العضوي بين الشركة المشار إليها والأجهزة الأمنية والعسكرية الصهيونية، لم يكن خافياً على العديد من الخبراء والصحافيين الفرنسيين، في السنوات الماضية، أي قبل «الفضيحة» الأخيرة. فهذا لوي إمبير في «لوموند»، يشير في مقالة بعنوان «برنامج بيغاسوس: مجموعة إن إس أو في قلب القوة الناعمة الإسرائيلية»، إلى أن «الشركة المنتِجة للبرنامج والحكومة الإسرائيلية تعملان يداً بيد لبناء تحالفات جديدة، وخدمة مصالحهما على المستوى الدولي». لم تكن الأجهزة الأمنية الفرنسية غافلة عن هذه الحقيقة، وطلب «توضيحات» من قِبَل رسميين فرنسيين يعكس حرصاً على الحفاظ على التعاون المتعاظم في الميادين التكنولوجية والأمنية مع الكيان الصهيوني، باعتباره مصدر إلهام في كيفية خوض «الحروب الجديدة»، الموجّهة أساساً ضدّ السكان والحركات الشعبية، نتيجة لخبراته المتراكمة في هذا المضمار في فلسطين المحتلّة ولبنان. هو «نموذج» يُحتذى بنظر قطاعات وازنة من النُّخب السياسية الفرنسية والغربية، وكذلك بالنسبة إلى زبائنه التقليديين من أنظمة فاسدة ومستبدّة في جنوب العالم، ومنه العالم العربي. لكن، وفي مقابل هذا الحرص على العلاقات مع «الدولة – النموذج»، فإن اللافت هو أن الأخيرة لا تقيم اعتباراً فعلياً للدول الأعضاء في «نادي معجبيها»، باستثناء الولايات المتحدة وروسيا والصين، كونها دولاً قادرة على ردّ الصاع صاعين في حال تجرّأت إسرائيل على استخدام منتجاتها التكنولوجية للتجسّس عليها.


حبٌّ من طرفٍ واحد


قيام إسرائيل ببيع برنامج «بيغاسوس» للمغرب لكي يستخدمه الأخير للتجسّس على المسؤولين الفرنسيين، يُعدّ تطوّراً يستحقّ التأمّل فيه، لأنه يكشف تحوّلاً في طبيعة التحالفات التي تنسجها تل أبيب وفي نظرتها الفعلية لِمَن تعتبرهم حلفاء من «الدرجة الثانية». محاولات إسرائيل للتجسّس حتى على أهمّ حلفائها، ليس بالأمر الجديد. جميعنا يذكر قضيّة الأميركي جوناثان بولارد الذي اعتُقل سنة 1985 بتهمة التجسّس على بلاده لحسابها. الجديد هو بيعها برامج تجسّس لدول أخرى تعمل على تطوير علاقاتها معها، كالمغرب مثلاً، دون التأكُّد من عدم استخدامها ضدّ حلفاء آخرين، كفرنسا مثلاً. يعزو فردريك مورو، الخبير الفرنسي في شؤون الدفاع، في مقابلة مع «لوموند»، عدم اكتراث إسرائيل لردّ الفعل الفرنسي أو الأوروبي تجاهها، إلى قناعتها بأنه سيكون في غاية الضعف. ولا شكّ في أن هذا الرأي يتضمّن الكثير من الوجاهة لأن التحوّلات البنيوية، السياسية والاجتماعية، التي شهدها الكيان الصهيوني في العقود الماضية، وطغيان التيارات الفاشية القومية والدينية على المشهد السياسي فيه، كان لها أيضاً أثر كبير على الفهم السائد للوضع الدولي وللتحالفات. العالم من منظور هذه القوى، بات غائباً أكثر من أيّ حقبة سابقة، وموازين القوى الفجّة هي التي تحكم تعامل أطرافه بعضها مع بعض، صراعاً وتقاطعاً وتحالفاً. إسرائيل لا تحترم إلّا الأقوياء، وهم في حالتنا الولايات المتحدة وروسيا والصين، وتتجنّب استفزازهم. أمّا الآخرون، فهي تتعاطى معهم، وكما أظهرت «الفضيحة»، وفقاً لأولوياتها الظرفيّة.

لم تَعُد قوّة إسرائيل «الناعمة» تستند إلى ادّعاءاتها بكونها «واحة ديمقراطية» في محيط من البرابرة

وما فعلته مع فرنسا، لن تتردّد في تكراره في المستقبل مع دول كالمغرب والإمارات والسعودية إذا اقتضت مصالحها المتغيّرة ذلك. لا تحالفات ثابتة، أو على الأقلّ تجنّباً للتأزيم، إلّا مع الأقوياء. هي لم تراعِ الاندفاعة الفرنسية غير المسبوقة حيالها في السنوات الماضية، والتي فصّلها الباحث والصحافي الفرنسي، جان ستيرن، في سلسلة مقالات على موقع «شرق 21» عن اللوبي الإسرائيلي في بلاده. فشركة «إلبيت» الإسرائيلية تساهم في إنتاج نظام «العقرب»، وهو في قلب استراتيجية القوات البرية الفرنسية في العقود القادمة، و»يسمح بتطوير قيادة رقمية واحدة تعتمد على وصلة مشتركة تسمح للجنود المنتشرين في الميدان وكذلك للأدوات العسكرية الجديدة، مثل الطائرات من دون طيار والروبوتات، بأن تكون متّصلة في وقت واحد لتستبق بالتالي ردود فعل العدو». أمّا الشركات الفرنسية العاملة في حقل التكنولوجيا الرقمية، فـ»جميعها تريد الموساد عندها»، بحسب العنوان الحرفي لإحدى مقالاته في السلسلة المشار إليها آنفاً، والتي يتحدّث فيها عن مدى إعجاب الشركات الخاصّة وصناعات الدفاع الفرنسية، بإنجازاته في المجالات التكنولوجية، خاصّة برنامج «بيغاسوس». وهذه المقالة نُشرت في 26 نيسان الماضي، أي قبل «الفضيحة»، ما يضعنا أمام هُيام من طرف واحد يقابله عدم اكتراث، إن لم يكن ازدراء من الطرف الآخر.



جاذبية نموذج السيطرة والتنكيل والقتل


لم تَعُد قوّة إسرائيل «الناعمة»، أي جاذبيتها، تستند إلى ادّعاءاتها بكونها «واحة ديمقراطية» في محيط من البرابرة و/أو الأنظمة المستبدة. فقدت هذه السردية الحدود الدنيا من الصدقيّة على نطاق الكوكب. جاذبيتها اليوم تستند إلى خبراتها ومعارفها في ميدان القوّة الخشنة، والتي اكتسبتها من خلال حربها المستمرّة على الشعب الفلسطيني وشعوب المنطقة وقواها المقاومة. وحتى كاتب صهيوني «معتدل» كيوفال هراري يعترف بذلك في مقالة كتبها بعنوان: «سنستطيع قرصنة البشر قريباً»، يعتبر فيها أن «الضفة المحتلّة هي حقل تجارب بالنسبة إلى الإسرائيليين حول كيفية بناء ديكتاتورية رقميّة. كيف نستطيع التحكُّم بـ2,5 مليون من السكان عبر استخدام الذكاء الاصطناعي والبيغ داتا والطائرات المسيّرة والكاميرات؟ إسرائيل رائدة في مجال الرقابة والسيطرة: تقوم باختبارات ميدانية، ومن ثم تصدّرها نحو بقية العالم». وعلى الغالب، فإن هذه الخبرات وما تتيحه من قدرات أمنية وعسكرية وتكنولوجية، لأطراف تعتبر الشعوب أو قطاعات معتبرة منها، مصدراً رئيساً للتهديد، هي بين أبرز الاعتبارات التي تُفسّر هيامها بالنموذج الإسرائيلي.

MBS Requests Spying on Ghassan Ben Jeddou, Several Figures

19 Jul 2021

By Al Mayadeen

Source: Le Monde

With Israeli spyware Pegasus exposed, Le Monde reveals that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman requested spying on several politicians and journalists in Lebanon: Who are they?

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Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman

The French daily Le Monde revealed Monday that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman asked to spy on several Lebanese journalists and politicians, including President Michel Aoun, through Israeli NSO’s spyware Pegasus.

Le Monde added in an investigation published today that several Lebanese political and media figures were victims of a spying attack on Saudi Arabia and the UAE’s behalf between 2018-2019.

Figures included former Prime Minister Saad Hariri, president of the Free Patriotic Movement Gebran Bassil, General Director of the Lebanese General Directorate of General Security Abbas Ibrahim.

The newspaper highlighted that bin Salman also asked Pegasus to spy “on Hezbollah MPs Hassan Fadlallah, and  Ali Fayyad, in addition to the head of Hezbollah’s liaison and coordination unit Wafiq Safa.”

The Saudi Crown Prince also requested to spy on Banque du Liban Governor Riad Salameh and former Minister of Finance Ali Hassan Khalil.

Le Monde also indicated that “Saudi Arabia and the UAE requested spying on two journalists: Ghassan Ben Jeddou and Ibrahim Al Amine.”

According to the newspaper, Pegasus is able to steal content from phones, including WhatsApp and Signal messages.

The Israeli NSO group is the developer of this spyware.

Today, several governments, organizations, media outlets, and unions condemned worldwide spyware attacks carried out through Israeli Pegasus spyware, which targeted activists, journalists, and politicians.

In January 2020, The Washington Post reported, in an extensive investigation, that the UAE and Saudi Arabia were spying on journalists and activists in London and Qatar, through the Israeli Pegasus spyware.

لماذا يتجسّس ابن سلمان و”إسرائيل” على غسّان بن جدو؟

21 تموز 2021

المصدر: الميادين نت

قاسم عز الدين

عصابة ذئاب الليل في الشركات الخاصة للاستخبارات الغربية تدخل إلى غرف النوم التي تستهويها، لكن هوس ابن سلمان وابن زايد و”إسرائيل” الذي مسّ شبكة صيد واسعة خصّ الإعلام والصحافيين الأحرار.

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لا ريب في أن اللائحة المسرّبة حالياً هي مجرّد عيّنة أولية عن مئات الأسماء في لبنان.

بقدرة قادر، تكشف مؤسسة “فوربيدن ستوريز” المغمورة في فرنسا، على لسان مديرتها لوران ريشار (الاسم الفرنسي يوحي باسم مذكّر)، عن تجسّس إسرائيلي على هواتف موالية ومعادية، من بينها هواتف 180 إعلامياً في أكثر من 50 دولة، لمصلحة ابن سلمان وابن زايد وغيرهما.

التسريبات التي عرضت بعضها صحيفة “لوموند” الفرنسية ونقلها الإعلام في لبنان، تذكر أسماء سياسيين ومسؤولين عديدين. ومن بين الإعلاميين، تخصّ غسان بن جدو وإبراهيم الأمين.

إعلام المقاومة الإنسانية الأممية

لا ريب في أن اللائحة المسرّبة حالياً هي مجرّد عيّنة أولية عن مئات الأسماء في لبنان، وربما أكثر. وقد تشمل كل الصحافيين وكل إعلاميي المقاومة ورافضي الغطرسة الأميركية والغربية والاحتلال الإسرائيلي والعدوان السعودي – الإماراتي على اليمن وفلسطين.

ثلاثي محور الحرب، الإسرائيلي – السعودي – الإماراتي، يجنّد في معركة التجسّس الأمنية (إضافة إلى عملاء الاستخبارات والأجهزة الأمنية) أكثر من ألف عميل في شركة “إن إس أو” منذ العام 2016، بينهم حوالى 200 صحافي.

ربما تستوقف بعضهم في تقاريرهم الاستخبارية، جريدة “الأخبار” بخطابها الداعم للمقاومة في بيئة اليسار العربي، وقناة “الميادين” التي شبّت عن التقوقع المحلي والإقليمي إلى مهنية إعلامية تمتد باتجاه مقاومة عالم الجنوب الأرحب. مهندس هذا المسار وربّان السفينة بشعار “مع الإنسان في كل مكان”، يُقلق الأجهزة الأمنية الإسرائيلية في المقام الأوّل، والتي تُطلق أيديها الاستخبارات الأميركية والغربية في أميركا اللاتينية وأفريقيا السمراء، فتسرح وتمرح بسردية الخرافات الأسطورية بين الناس الطيّبين.

ولعلّ أكثر ما يحبط التضليل والتلاعب بالعقول، المقاربة التي تعمل عليها “الميادين” بمهنية إعلامية ملتزمة في الخبر والتغطية والحوار وقراءة الأحداث والبرامج… لتقديم رواية تاريخية وثقافية إنسانية عقلانية.

شريكا “إسرائيل” في تحالف الحرب، ابن سلمان وابن زايد، المصابان بعصاب الرهاب المرضي، تقلقهما “الميادين” بتوجّهها فوق الاصطفافات البينية والاحتراب الداخلي، من أجل تحصين الجامع الوطني والقومي المشترك الذي ينمو على تبديده ابن سلمان وابن زايد في نفخ أوار حرب داحس والغبراء العرقية والمذهبية.

ثبات “الميادين” بعزيمة وأناة الصبر الاستراتيجي لإرساء مدرسة الحقيقة في الإعلام المهني الملتزم، يقضّ مضاجع العصاب النرجسي في الرياض وأبو ظبي، والذي توهّم لوهلة، تحت مظلّة ترامب ونتنياهو، أنه صار شاهين.

توسّع “الميادين” فاقم مأزقهم وكشف عن أياديهم الملطّخة بدماء الأطفال والأبرياء في اليمن وفلسطين، بمخاطبة قلوب العالم وعقولهم بلغة الضمير الإنساني ولسان اللغة العربية والإسبانية والإنكليزية الذي يخترق قبَب التوحّش الفولاذية.

عصابة ذئاب الليل تشوبها تباينات افتراس الضحايا

كيف استطاعت مؤسسة لوران ريشار الصغيرة في عالم الاستقصاء الإداري الكشف عن لائحة مستهدفين بالبرنامج الإسرائيلي “بيغاسوس” منذ العام 2016؟ ولماذا تحرّك على الأثر النائب العام الفرنسي ومنظمة “هيومن رايس ووتش” وتحالف 17 مؤسسة إعلامية من المرجح أن تتضاعف أعدادها؟

على الأرجح أنَّ جهات حكومية فرنسية وأميركية في وكالات الاستخبارات تشعر بوصول الموس إلى لحاها، إذ تتخطى شركة “إن إس أو” الإسرائيلية الخطوط العامة المتفق عليها بين الإدارات الغربية والشركات الخاصة التابعة لها.

يبدو أنَّ “إن إس أو” طفحت في اتفاقياتها مع ابن سلمان وابن زايد وغيرهما (المغرب مثلاً) عن الجامع المشترَك في ما يسمى “مكافحة الإرهاب”، والذي ترسم توجهاته الإدارات السياسية، وتوكل خطوطه العريضة إلى وكالات الاستخبارات والشركات الخاصة، ومن بينها “إن إس أو” الإسرائيلية.

كل وكالات الاستخبارات الحكومية الغربية باتت تعتمد منذ عقدين على خصخصة الدولة والأمن (بلاك ووتر) والاستخبارات أيضاً، بحسب النموذج الأميركي. شركات المعلوماتية والاستخبارية الخاصة التي تعمل لمصلحة شركات الاستثمار المتعددة الجنسية، تعمل كذلك مع وكالات الاستخبارات الحكومية بدعم من الإدارات الحكومية، وتبزّها أحياناً بالكفاءة والخبرة التقنية.

شركة “ويست بريدج”، الذراع الأميركية لشركة “إن إس أو”، فلحت مع “سي آي إي” في البيت الأبيض والكونغرس بدعم من ترامب وكوشنر، وتشاركت مع شركة الأسهم الأميركية الخاصة “فرانسيسكو بارتزز مانجمنت”. اتهمت سويسرا استخبارات “سي آي إي” واستخبارات ألمانيا “بي إن دي”، بالاستيلاء على شركة “كريبتو إي جي” السويسرية وشركة “أومنيسك” الأخرى. 

لم تظهر الاختلافات الكثيرة على السّطح، على الرغم من الدلائل والفضائح الأسبوعية، فحلّها الأخوي يجري داخل العائلة الواحدة، لكنّ اتهام الشركة الإسرائيلية باحتمال اختراق هاتف ماكرون وحكومته السابقة والحالية، يدق باب الخطر، وكذلك اتهام “ويتي ويب” باختراق “لوكهيد مارتن” وعدد من الأجهزة العسكرية الأمنية الأميركية لمصلحة “إسرائيل”، بالتعاون مع عملاء سابقين أميركيين وإسرائيليين.

من غير المحتمل أن تصل الحكومات الأميركية والغربية إلى معاقبة “إسرائيل” أو محمد بن سلمان ومحمد بن زايد في العائلة الواحدة، وليس بالضرورة أن تكون التسريبات في لبنان والمنطقة العربية موجّهة ضد “إسرائيل” والسعودية وأبو ظبي، فالدول الغربية معنية بالموافقة على عمليات الموساد “لحفظ أمن إسرائيل”.

قد تكون بعض أهداف التسريب تخويف بعض السياسيين وإسكات صوت بعض الإعلاميين. في كلِّ الأحوال، لم يحرّك غسان بن جدو دافع عرَضي طارئ لهندسة مدرسة “الميادين” الإعلامية، ولن يدفعه إنذار أو تلويح بتهديد إلى تغيير قيْد أنملة عما هو عليه، منتمياً إلى مبادئ وقناعات جُبل عليها مع الحليب وشبّ في تجربة الحياة، لكن عصابة ذئاب الليل تهاجم فريستها في العتمة الكالحة. وقد تخيفها شمعة نور أو نبرة صوت لا يرتعش من أشباح الظلام.

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Pegasus Project: Why I was targeted by Israeli spyware

The building housing the Israeli NSO Group is pictured in 2016 in Herzliya (AFP)
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Madawi al-RasheedMadawi al-Rasheed is visiting professor at the Middle East Institute of the London School of Economics. You can follow her on Twitter: @MadawiDr

20 July 2021 09:34 UTC

Madawi al-Rasheed

My work to expose the crimes of the Saudi regime led to a hacking attempt on my phone. Today, I am overwhelmed by feelings of vulnerability and intrusion

The Orwellian prediction finally came true. I knew it was only a matter of time before the Saudi regime tried to hack my phone, using Pegasus software manufactured by the private Israeli security company NSO Group.

This development highlights the consolidation of a new axis of evil: IsraelSaudi Arabia and the UAE have become a chorus of malicious powers aiming to stifle activism and the quest for democracy in the region. Israel provides knowledge; the others provide funds.

I have spent more than half my life writing, researching and teaching. You wouldn’t expect me to be hacked. But such professional activities are a crime in Saudi Arabia

The privatisation of the Israeli security apparatus, and the mushrooming of private companies founded by ex-defence and ex-Mossad agents, is a threat not only to Palestinians in Israel, Gaza and the occupied West Bank, but also to all Gulf citizens, with Israeli spyware sold to dictatorships across the Arab world.

In return, Israel gains access to the inner intelligence circles and deep states of the Gulf – enabling it to hold them hostage for a long time to come. Israel supports Gulf autocracies, thinking that this guarantees its own security forever. But Israel is wrong.

Normalisation with Israel is not only immoral because of the Palestinian plight; it is also an existential threat to all Gulf nationals seeking political reform in their own countries. The so-called “only democracy in the Middle East” has so entrenched its apartheid system that no propaganda can salvage it, and strong public objections to Arab regimes’ normalisation with Israel will only intensify in the months and years ahead.

Saga of surveillance

The UAE plays a key role in the saga of surveillance by Israeli private companies. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has fallen under the spell of Mohammed bin Zayed, his UAE counterpart. Forget the “tallest buildingbusiest airport and ministries of tolerance and happiness” – which are at the core of UAE propaganda – and remember that bin Zayed is bin Salman’s mentor.

The two are united by their hatred of democracy, political diversity, freedom of speech and human rights. Both are now key to an axis of evil overseen by malicious Israeli technology, whose alleged raison d’etre is to help governments catch criminals and terrorists. Yet, it is being used against peaceful activists.

Pegasus: How it hacks phones and spies for NSO clients

graphic

Forbidden Stories, a Paris-based NGO specialising in defending journalists and human rights activists, obtained more than 50,000 telephone numbers targeted globally by Israeli malware on behalf of NSO clients, mainly governments. They alerted various media outlets, and with the support of Amnesty International, launched the Pegasus Project.Pegasus: Khashoggi contacts among ‘thousands targeted by Israeli spyware

The findings showed that in April 2019, there was an attempt to hack my phone, but it was unsuccessful. While this is a relief, I am overwhelmed by feelings of vulnerability and intrusion.

To obtain evidence from the Pegasus Project, I had to submit the contents of my phone – in which my private and professional life was stored – to their technology team.

I sat in front of a computer screen for three hours, watching my virtual life travel to the Amnesty International lab, where a search for malware was conducted. I received evidence of the failed April hacking attempt the same day.

Controlling the narrative

As a British citizen of Saudi origin, I have spent more than half my life writing, researching and teaching. You wouldn’t expect me to be hacked. But such professional activities are a crime in Saudi Arabia, where the regime is determined to control the narrative about the past, present and future.

My crime is that I punctured this narrative, using academic research skills and access to Saudis whose voices remain muted. All my research has focused on giving a voice to the voiceless, which inevitably involves interviewing Saudis inside and outside the country. My debunking of official Saudi lies bothers the regime, which has spared no opportunity to tarnish my reputation, accusing me of being an agent of western governments, Turkey, Iran, Qatar, and previously Libya and Iraq.

Saudi government agents murdered Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul in October 2018 (AFP)
Saudi government agents murdered Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul in October 2018 (AFP)

In the 1990s, the regime targeted me with direct threats of violence – but with the advent of the internet, such threats have become virtual, propagated by regime agents. Hacking my phone is only the latest episode.

In 2014, my Twitter account was hacked in search of sensational scandals, and possibly clandestine plots with other Saudi exiles. The hackers must have been disappointed not to find any of this, but they did expose my private conversation with Sheikh Awad al-Qarni, a key Islamist figure who sent me greetings and asked me not to augment my criticism of the Islamist movement’s silence when prominent Saudi human rights leaders were detained.

Regime spies launched a campaign to discredit Qarni for sending a direct message to an unveiled woman, such as myself. Qarni has been in prison for several years.

Lives in danger

I never had anything to hide, as everything I knew was documented and published in books and articles. I had no secrets, but this was not the point. I cherished my privacy and loathed the Saudi intrusion into my life. I also worried about those who communicate with me from within the country, as their lives could be in danger.

Among the charges against Mohammed al-Otaibi, a human right activist, was storing my books and articles on his computer. He is still in prison. It is my responsibility to protect those who confide in me and want their voices to be heard.

While the April 2019 assault on my device was unsuccessful, I am sure there will be other attempts in the future

The murder of Jamal Khashoggi in October 2018 coincided with greater Saudi surveillance of exiles in Britain, Canada and elsewhere. The shock over the gruesome details of chopping up a peaceful journalist was compounded by fears of hacking. This was the first time exiles had heard of NSO helping the Saudis to hack the phone of a young exile based in Canada, Omar al-Zahrani, who had communicated with Khashoggi about establishing a media platform to debunk Saudi propaganda.

The financial cost of securing my phone was colossal, but it was worth it. While the April 2019 assault on my device was unsuccessful, I am sure there will be other attempts in the future.

Back in 2019, I was involved in discussions with other exiles in three countries about forming a political party, which could explain the attempt to infiltrate my phone at that time. The regime wanted more details about who would sponsor such a project – and who the culprits were. The project materialised on 23 September 2020,  the day the kingdom celebrates its national day, as a small group of activists, including myself, announced the establishment of the Saudi National Assembly (NAAS). Yahya Asiri, the general secretary, was hacked, and his name appears in the Pegasus files. 

Standing against oppression

I moved from academia to political activism because the Saudi regime committed heinous crimes, and the lives of exiles, including my own, were in danger. The Saudi regime targeted me when I was an academic, and again after I became an activist. Such attacks will surely continue in the months and years ahead.

In April 2019, I was also writing a book on state-society  relations. The villain was none other than bin Salman, who has detained hundreds of Saudis and precipitated the flight of scores more.

I was baffled by western media depictions of the prince as a modern reformer, while Saudi prisons were bulging with innocent prisoners of conscience, women were campaigning against discrimination, and a young diaspora was coming together around the globe. My book, The Son King, was definitely a faux pas.

How Israeli spy tech reaches deep into our lives

In 2019, a new virtual Saudi opposition-in-exile was beginning to be formed, standing against oppression and dictatorship. NAAS relies on social media to connect and exchange ideas, making it extremely vulnerable, as the murder of Khashoggi and the hacking of activists’ phones has demonstrated. In the wake of the Pegasus Project revelations, NAAS will surely revert to old methods of mobilisation, meetings and activism.

Thanks to Israeli malware, UAE complicity and Saudi intrusions, exiles will have to search for secure methods to share information and to mobilise. As many have taken refuge in the US, Canada, Britain and across Europe, these states have a responsibility to protect them from Saudi surveillance. Otherwise, there is a real risk the Khashoggi saga could be repeated.

Diplomacy must be activated to stop the axis of evil from spreading more fear, apprehension and possibly murder – and if that doesn’t work, sanctions should be pursued, at the very least in Britain, where two of the founders of NAAS reside.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Eye.

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ماذا بعد التشكيلة الوزاريّة الحريريّة الكيديّة… والاعتذار؟

*أستاذ جامعي – خبير استراتيجي
 العميد د. أمين محمد حطيط _

عندما رشّح سعد الحريري نفسه لرئاسة لحكومة بعد أن دفع عبر حلفائه حكومة حسان دياب للاستقالة وأفشل مصطفى أديب في مهمة تشكيل حكومة وفقاً للمبادرة الفرنسية، ظنّ الحريري أنّ الظرف مؤاتٍ له ولحلفائه في الداخل ومناسب لمن يعمل بإمرتهم في الخارج، مؤات لصياغة وضع يستفرد به مع حلفائه بحكم لبنان بواسطة «مجلس إدارة» يُقصي به الأكثرية النيابية عن الحكم عبر مصطلح اختصاصيّين ويرمّم عبره العلاقة مع السعودية ويستعيد موقعه وموقع أبيه في تلك المملكة الغاضبة عليه اليوم.

لكن حسابات الحريري اصطدمت بالواقع المركّب داخلياً وخارجياً، ففي الداخل واجه الحريري صلابة من رئيس الجمهورية الذي لم يؤخذ بالضغط والتهويل ولم يرعبه الحصار الاقتصادي الأميركي الضاغط، ولم يفتّ من عضده ما قام به البعض لإحداث انقلاب داخلي أو تحميله مسؤولية عرقلة تشكيل الحكومة وتسليم الأمر والحكم لسعد الحريري ومَن معه في الداخل ومَن يديره من الخارج.

لقد تمسّك رئيس الجمهورية بنصوص الدستور وأحكامه الناظمة لتشكيل الحكومة والتي تعطيه حق المشاركة الفاعلة في تشكيل الحكومة خلافاً لما أراده الانقلابيّون من عمل مغاير لروح النص الدستوريّ وحرفه، وأفشل سعيهم إلى جعل توقيع رئيس الجمهورية لمرسوم تعيين الوزراء وتشكيل الحكومة عملاً آلياً إلزامياً لا موقع لإرادة الرئيس فيه قبولاً أو رفضاً.

أما خارجياً فقد وجد الحريري أنّ رهانه على متغيّر ما في الموقف السعودي منه، هو رهان خاطئ وتأكد له بشكل قاطع أنّ الصورة التي عاشها يوم اعتقاله قبل 4 سنوات على ولي العهد السعودي لا تزال هي هي لا بل اشتدّت قسوة عليه. تأكد له ذلك بعد سلسلة من الوساطات الخارجية العربية والدولية فشلت كلها في حمل السعودية على مراجعة مواقفها من سعد الحريري الذي بات مطروداً من «نعيم مملكة الخير» ولم تفلح الوساطات الإماراتية أو المصرية أو الفرنسية أو الأميركية في ثني السعودية عن موقفها السلبي الحادّ منه والذي أبلغته للوسطاء والمتضمّن القول إنّ سعد الحريري شخص سعودي الجنسية أساء لوطنه مالياً وسياسياً وعليه أن يؤدي الحساب قبل أي تقييم آخر للعلاقة به، وبالتالي عرف جميع الوسطاء أنّ باب السعودية مقفل بوجه سعد إلى إشعار آخر إنْ لم يكن إغلاقاً أبدياً.

هذه الخيبة وفشل الرهانات دفعت سعد الحريري الذي كلف بتشكيل الحكومة بعد أن «فاز بأصوات تكاد لا تتعدّى نصف أعضاء مجلس النواب وليس فيهم إلا أقلية مسيحية جعلت البعض يطعن بما يسمّونه «الميثاقية» في التكليف لكون الكتلتين المسيحيتين الأساسيتين استنكفتا عن تسميته، هذه الخيبة حوّلت الحريري من سياسي مكلف بمهمة عاجلة تتضمّن تشكيل حكومة إنقاذ لبنان إلى «سائح سياسي» يهدر الوقت وهو يستمرّ باحثاً عن طرق ينقذ بها نفسه حاضراً ومستقبلاً، وبدل أن تشكل الحكومة في أيام قليلة وتنصرف إلى العمل أهدر الحريري ما يقرب من الأشهر التسعة سائحاً جوالاً في الخارج وزائراً ظرفياً للبنان بحيث أنه أمضى معظم المدة في بلاد الوساطات والاغتراب بعيداً عن لبنان وهمومه، مهلة قفز فيها الدولار الأميركي من 6500 يوم تكليف الحريري إلى 20000 ألف ليرة اليوم. وترسّخ أكثر الانهيار المالي والانهيار الاقتصادي وتهدّد الأمن والسلم الوطني، أما الحريري فقد كان باحثاً في سياحته السياسيّة عن رضا السعودية، ومرتاحاً إلى دعم حلفائه في الداخل الذين لهم حساباتهم الشخصية في الموضوع حسابات منعت الحريري عن الاعتذار.

لقد استفاد الحريري من خلوّ الدستور من نص على مهلة قصوى للتشكيل يسقط بعده التكليف، واستفاد من وضعه داخل طائفته باعتباره «الأقوى تمثيلاً فيها» بحيث لا يجرؤ أحد على قبول المهمة إنْ لم يرضَ الحريري بذلك، كما استفاد من خشية أطراف داخلية من فتنة سنية شيعية إذا أزيح الحريري من غير رضاه عن مقعد رئاسة لحكومة أو تشكيلها، كما استثمر في علاقات تربطه ببعض الخارج الذي يرى مصلحة في وجود الحريري رئيساً للحكومة، استفاد من كلّ ذلك واتخذ من التكليف والتشكيل رهينة بيده يبتز بها حتى يحقق مصالح له ولحلفائه على حساب المصلحة الوطنية ومصالح الشعب.

ومن جهة أخرى تكامل تصرف الحريري مع خطة بومبيو الموضوعة ضدّ لبنان، لا بل شكل في تصرفه ذاك الوجه الآخر للحصار الأميركي الذي ارتكز إلى فساد الطبقة السياسية اللبنانية وتسبّب معه بالانهيار الاقتصادي والمالي بعد الفراغ السياسي، وبعد 9 أشهر من المماطلة والتسويف واثر تنازلات كثيرة قام بها الطرف الآخر من أجل الإنقاذ، قدّم الحريري تشكيلة حكوميّة انقلب فيها على ما كان اتفق عليه خلال الوساطات السابقة ووضع رئيس الجمهورية بين حلين سيّئين أو سيّء وأشدّ سوءاً، حيث إنّ الموافقة على تشكيلة الحريري كما وردت من غير نقاش وتفاهم أو اتفاق مع الرئيس يعني تخلي الرئيس عن الصلاحية وإطاحة بالدستور وإنشاء أعراف جديدة غير دستورية في الموضوع، ثم من يضمن ألا يستقيل الحريري بعد تعيينه وأن يمتنع بعد ذلك عن تصريف الأعمال كما هي عادته ويستمرّ الفراغ السياسي الذي أسّس له الحريري قبل سنتين؟ أما رفض التشكيلة صيانة للصلاحيات وتطبيقاً للدستور والتسبّب باعتذار الحريري سيعني استمرار الفراغ مع احتمال تسارع الانهيار المتعدد الأشكال.

في المحصلة لم يكن سهلاً على رئيس الجمهورية اتخاذ القرار بالقبول مع هذه الهواجس، كما لم يكن سهلاً عليه رفض التشكيلة مع ما يعني دفع الحريري إلى الاعتذار، كما يشتهي الحريري نفسه لأنه يخرجه «بطلاً طائفياً» على أبواب الانتخابات النيابية. والحريري الذي أيقن أنّ السعودية لن تفتح بابها له يعرف أنّ الحكم بالنسبة إليه مستحيل مع غياب الرضا السعودي، وأنّ مهلة الأشهر الطويلة التي استهلكها لم يكن يعالج فيها العقبات الداخلية بل جلها كان من أجل معالجة الغضب السعودي.

وعليه نرى أنّ ما فعله الحريري من تقديم التشكيلة الوزارية إلى رئيس الجمهورية وبالشكل الذي حصل وما تبعها من مواقف وتصريحات أطلقها مع إعطائه الرئيس مهلة 24 ساعة للإجابة، إنما هو فعل كيديّ يشكل فخاً للرئاسة وكميناً للبنان كان يتوخى منه الحريري صنع بيئة الاعتذار ليخرج بطلاً، لأنه يعلم جازماً أن ليس ميشال عون قائد الجيش السابق ورئيس الجمهورية الحاضر وصاحب المواقف الصلبة، ليس ميشال عون من يُفرَض عليه شيء بالأمر الواقع وتطاح بصلاحياته الدستورية، لذلك كان ينتظر الحريري الرفض وكان يحضر للاعتذار المؤكد الذي تأخر سبعة أشهر.

والآن وقد حصل الاعتذار ووضع لبنان أمام خيارات صعبة تتراوح بين الطموح بالحلّ وبين الرعب من الانفجار، فإنّ السؤال كيف نتلمّس طريق الحلّ؟

اعتقد أنّ الحلّ السريع بعد كلّ ما حصل لن يكون إلا عن طريق إيجاد صيغة دستوريّة ما لتفعيل الحكومة الحالية، وفقاً لقاعدة «الضرورات تبيح المحظورات»، وتوكل إلى هذه الحكومة رعاية الشأن الاقتصادي لمنع الجوع، ومتابعة الوضع الأمني لمنع الانفجار، إجراء انتخابات نيابية قبل موعدها بأشهر عدة مع مبادرة رئيس الجمهورية بالموازاة مع ذلك لإطلاق حوار وطني يكون بمثابة مؤتمر تأسيسي لتحديد مستقبل لبنان. هذا إذا نظرنا إلى الأمور بجدّية وعقلانية… وإلا فلننتظر انفجاراً لا يصمد بعده إلا من هيّأ لنفسه ما يحميه ويمنع الأخطار العظمى من النيل منه.

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