The U.S. Has Always Backed Dictators. Trump’s Support for MBS is no Different

In his steadfast support for MBS, Trump is following a long tradition of US support for Arab autocrats, which in turn is used as the reason for violent terrorist organisations to target the US

By Madawi Al-Rasheed

December 14, 2018 “Information Clearing House” –   Last week, US President Donald Trump announced that the close US-Saudi partnership will continue, even after the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul and a CIA report that pointed the finger at Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman (MBS) as the one who ordered the killing.

A longstanding US tradition

The president’s statement cited a combination of geostrategic and economic reasons to justify continuing his close alliance with a regime that had practised utter brutality at home and abroad. Trump highlighted the lucrative financial dividends of this partnership to the US economy, based on MBS’s promise of $450bn investment, including $100bn-plus of arms purchases.

The president also asserted that Saudi Arabia was central to containing Iran’s expansion in the Middle East and achieving peace with Israel.

Despite its shockingly frank nature, the president’s statement does not represent a major departure from previous US foreign policy but rather maintains a longstanding principle of supporting Arab dictators for specific strategic and economic reasons. What is different from previous US presidents is Trump’s uncomfortably explicit calculus.

No previous US president has flagged hard cash as the rationale for maintaining close ties with and even support for the Saudi leadership.

But rhetoric aside, Trump is remaining faithful to a longstanding tradition of US foreign policy that privileges economic and strategic interests over moral and ethical issues, sometimes referred to as realpolitik.

In the past, the US has occasionally expressed concern over severe human rights violations by their proteges but few would seriously expect President Trump to be troubled by the crimes of the Saudi regime.

Even if he admits that no one should condone such a murder, he was apparently comfortable endorsing the far-from-credible Saudi explanation for what happened at the consulate. He even provided a possible exit strategy for the Saudis when he said that the murder could be the work of“rogue killers”, thus providing a potential out for MBS, the de facto head of state and the security apparatus in Saudi Arabia.

Empowering dictators

Trump’s latest statement, that business as usual with Saudi Arabia is to be maintained, even if MBS “may or may not” have ordered the murder of Khashoggi, is certainly shocking for some American audiences. But for Arabs in general and Saudis in particular, the statement was expected, to say the least.

It confirmed their strong belief that the US prefers to work with autocrats than encourage them to democratise or at least restrain themselves from suffocating their people with draconian measures ranging from detention to murder.

US support for Arab dictators has been asserted as the casus belli by the most violent terrorist organisations to target the US. Osama bin Laden’s justification for hitting the “far enemy”, namely the US that supports the Saudi regime only echoed previous slogans of Arab nationalists, socialists and pro-democracy forces that blamed the US for the excesses of their regimes.

In their logic, US support empowers dictators not only through the transfer of the technology of death, surveillance and torture, but also morally and globally.

Even Trump himself admitted that without US support, the Saudi regime will collapse in two weeks. Former US intelligence officer Bruce Riedel confirmed that without US and UK support, the Saudis will not be able to continue the war in Yemen.

The likes of Bin Laden strongly believed this narrative long before it was uttered by the US president. Consequently, his network diverted its struggle against the near enemy to the far one and precipitated a global terrorist crisis that keeps resurfacing under different names. The Islamic State group (IS) was the most recent incarnation of this phenomenon but may not be the last.

Many Americans understandably feel uncomfortable with the president’s blunt words as they cling to a myth that American foreign policy should reflect American values, especially when a high-profile murder by a close partner is concerned.

However, like so-called ‘American exceptionalism’, American values, in the form of respect of civil, political and human rights, have not been an obvious principle guiding American foreign policy in the Arab world.

Also, such values are being eroded and undermined in the US itself under the ultra-nationalist and populist rhetoric of the current president.

The wrath of the people

Previous US presidents may not have liked Arab dictators but nonetheless lent them support, often in the form of military sales and assistance. The list is long.

Many Arab autocrats had the full support of previous American administrations despite the fact that domestically they violated their own peoples’ rights, including Anwar Sadat and Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, Zine Abedine Ben Ali of Tunisia, King Hamad bin Al-Khalifa of Bahrain, and at one moment Muammar Qaddafi of Libya came close to being an ally just before he faced an uprising in 2011

Until his fall in 1979, the US granted the Shah of Iran its ultimate support by making him the “policeman of the Gulf” to ward off and contain the spread of communism and nationalism at the time. His dramatic fall at the hands of his own people was shocking for both the US and its Western allies.

The message to the US at the time could not have been clearer: no amount of US support can protect a dictator from the wrath of his own people when the right moment comes. In fact, the US could not even protect its own Tehran Embassy where over 50 diplomats were held hostage for 444 days, an incident that four decades later still shapes and haunts US thinking about Iran.

Yet unconditional US support had always been the privilege of Saudi monarchs. The love affair with Saudi kings is based on expediency and interest rather than passionate conviction. US support was neither shaken nor reconsidered, at least in public, even after 15 Saudi hijackers attacked the Twin Towers in New York on 9/11

The US administration at the time meandered and left it to the US media and civil society to pressure the Saudi regime to change its policy of spreading lethal religious interpretations that had inspired a whole generation of Muslims across the globe and justified terrorism.

It is a cruel irony for the victims of this attack that Trump now considers the Saudi regime an indispensable partner against terrorism.

The face of Saudi Arabia

Even if Americans are not entirely comfortable with their government’s foreign policy of complete neglect for human rights and even direct support for MBS, despite his latest murderous adventure abroad, this is as nothing compared with Saudis living under the reality of one-man rule.

As MBS became the sole face of Saudi Arabia, in control of economic, military, security and social dimensions of government, he has exhibited complete disrespect for the basic semblance of tolerance towards critics, dissidents and activists.

Saudi Arabia has hardly been a safe haven for dissent but the magnitude of MBS’s ambition to reach the top of the royal hierarchy has turned Saudi Arabia into a murderous nightmare for anyone associated with dissent.

Under his orders, potential rival princes were detained, and a nascent feminist movement was stifled and its remaining advocates imprisoned and tortured according to a recent Amnesty report. Intellectuals and religious clerics were also imprisoned.

Prisoners of Conscie@m3takl_en

SEVERE TORTURE in the prison has caused lately the death of:
Shiekh Suleiman al-Dweesh
Journalist Turki al-Jasser
We warn of a possible deterioration and a possible death of one of the female activists who were tortured and sexually harassed !

97 people are talking about this
Vague charges such as communicating with foreign agents, treason, and undermining the image of the state are mentioned as justification for detention. These charges are more reminiscent of Stalin’s terror than a benevolent monarchy that Saudi propaganda would have us believe it is.

Almost all detained Saudi intellectuals are charged with treason and of being agents of foreign governments. From Salman al-Odah to economist Essam al-Zamil and feminist Lujain al-Huthloul, the word treason looms large and may lead to the death penalty. In fact, the Saudi public prosecutor called for such punishment to be inflicted on those detainees. The infamous office of the public prosecutor is also in charge of the investigation of Khashoggi’s murder.

Seeds of terror

Being “an enemy of the state” – to use Trump’s reiteration of what Saudi officials had told him about Khashoggi – is now a common crime investigated by appointed judges who enjoy no independence whatsoever. Trump seems comfortable with such a statement. Perhaps “enemy of the state” reflects or mirrors his own thinking about anybody who criticises a president, a king or a crown prince.

Saudis know very well that US support for MBS will not waiver as they are fed on propaganda that money buys everything – from mighty fighter jets used against their poorest Yemeni neighbours, to the US president’s silence over one of the most horrific crimes committed against a journalist.

Trump will cling to MBS even if the latter becomes more burdensome. If there is a chance for so-called “American values” to become relevant to foreign policy, it is the US Congress that will have to push for a reconsideration of the age-old US support for dictators. This should spring not out of concern for the safety and security of the Saudi people, but for their own American national security.

Congress must know that under the dark and repressive cloak of MBS, the flamboyant and illusory economic plans, and the veneer of social liberalisation, the seeds of terror are sown. In the past this terror has spilled over and reached the US itself. For the present, there is little to assure the American public that it won’t happen again.

– Professor Madawi al-Rasheed is a visiting professor at the Middle East Centre at the London School of Economics. She has written extensively about the Arabian Peninsula, Arab migration, globalisation, religious transnationalism and gender. On Twitter: @MadawiDr

This article was originally published by Middle East Eye” 

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Wake Up Arabs!

Hussein Samawarchi

The Lebanese Resistance, with its pivotal role in representing domestic and Arab nationalism, faces two kinds of injustice. The first originates from the “Israeli” war machine and the second from the treason of regional dictators.

In a nutshell, the “Israelis” invade, steal, kill, destroy, and commit every imaginable crime against the Lebanese people. Hezbollah fights back with unprecedented ingenuity and does not just expel them from Lebanon, they also make the Zionists think twice before attempting any more acts of war. While the men of Hezbollah are doing all this, daggers are unsheathed only to try and stab them in the back.

The strength of the “Israeli” enemy has proved to be overrated. In every confrontation since after the invasion of 1982, Zionist soldiers ran from the battlefield before the first rifle magazine had been emptied; it is because they have no conviction is what they are doing. The majority know that they don’t really belong to what is falsely said to be theirs – deep down within, they realize that they should return to their countries of origin. At the end of the day, being given a free house and financial benefits may not be worth dying for.

So, the injustice originating from the Zionists can be handled with simple terms and precise rules of engagement. As [His Eminence] Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah has so clearly stated, every aggression will be met with defensive measures of equal magnitude. The Secretary-General’s words do not constitute mere speculative rhetoric, they are what brought victory to Arab Nationalism in 2006 and what have kept the warmongering monster to the south of the border at bay since then. That is because they are based on reality and not propaganda.

The other injustice, the one suffered from those considered to be cousins and brothers, is the one that causes slight confusion.

Indeed, there is something very wrong with the state of affairs governing the whole issue of the theft of Palestine and defending the Arab nation these days. Perhaps the usage of the term “these days” is not precise; maybe it has been like this for a long time but people have begun to see the conspiracy just now.

Instead of coming to the aid of Lebanon when the Zionists breached its southern border and occupied it for nearly two decades, the leaders of the major Arab countries turned their backs. Instead of congratulating Lebanon for doing what none of them could, namely defeating the “Israeli” war legend, they utilized their media against its Resistance. And, instead of at the very least, staying neutral, they sided by “Israel.”

It is mind-blowing to the average Arabs. Settlers from Europe took Palestine and hijacked al-Quds, Yet, their regimes demonize the only remaining governments that still fight for the Holy Land. Then again, the average Arabs live under political circumstances that deny them the truth. God forbid they might seek this truth; the regime will ensure they never attempt to do so again. Notorious secret police prisons like Ulaysha are only too happy to accommodate anyone who dares ask obvious objective questions like “What wrong has Hezbollah done?”

Should the torture equipment in prisons like Ulaysha prove to be insufficient, prisoners can always be shipped to nearby larger facilities like Al-Hayer prison.

As stated before, facing the Zionist with his technologically superior war machine has proved to be a very possible option. Years of resistance taught people lessons in doing it. The basic ingredients revolve around the notion of unconditional love for God, country, and family. These are the three concepts that Zionists do not fathom and when you do not understand something, you cannot create a weapon to counter it.

Regarding the continuous antagonization by regimes who have abandoned their Arab identity, the unwavering belief in Prophet Mohamed and the divine message he delivered to humanity dictates that patience is to be adopted. There comes a time when affairs need to be set straight but only after hope has vanished completely. Those being unfairly attacked on daily basis still cling to that hope. Indications of following the essence of Islam show in Iran’s recent call for the Saudis to join the anti-colonial axis. His Eminence the Secretary-General of Hezbollah reached out to the Saudis as well.

Daily slandering of Hezbollah and other members of the coalition championing the Arab cause in general and the Palestinian one in particular is now the least of the wrongs that these regimes are doing. Supporting the occupiers of the Holy land has become a trend and so has funding tens of thousands of terrorist mercenaries who are set on annihilating Islam and Christianity in the name of Wahhabism.

In staying true to the Islamic tradition in its pure form as conveyed by Prophet Mohamed, his descendant the Secretary-General reminds the Resistance public to remain accepting of other faiths and sects and to display tolerance towards different political beliefs. The great hope is that some of those boasting the contradictory beliefs would stop confusing tolerance with weakness.

The Lebanese people know all too well that they managed to turn around a military equation imposed by the most experienced imperialist superpowers. They know that they defeated one of the highest-ranking military forces in the world. Still, they engulf their victories with humbleness. In this humbleness that was taught by God and the prophet, they have dedicated their victories to their Arab brothers. The reciprocation to the Lebanese gesture by the regimes of their brothers is an injustice.

It must not be forgotten that God chose to place the Holy Kaabah and Masjid Al Aqsa in the indigenous land of the Arabs. Neither the infamous Lord Rothschild nor Trump get to change God’s will. Anyone in line with this statement would know that “Israel” represents an occupying entity which must be expelled and siding with it means attempting to change God’s designs.

Those Arab leaders who have put all their eggs in the U.S foreign policy and Zionist basket need to know that they are placing themselves in a course set towards a dark end. They are like a woman marrying a womanizer who will only love her as long as her external appearance is still young and beautiful. See, plainly speaking, the U.S has two interests in our land, two assets.

The first (being Middle Eastern black gold) is about to become an obsolete necessity with the development of alternative energy sources becoming more serious now than ever. That, and the American shale oil prospect which is about to be cheaper to extract when compared to the prices of Arab petroleum and the complicated politics that come with it. The Americans have major reserves of shale oil.

Having realized that the matrimony with America will not last much longer because of diminishing oil interests, the desperate part of the Arab leaders who can’t imagine living without its protection are racing to bring their romance with “Israel” to the open. They want to prove that they are important to America’s second regional asset’s wellbeing. This comes at the expense of the Palestinian people’s rights, their own people’s pride, the Arab identity, and self-respect.

I wonder if they know how cruel the “Israeli” master is. Once America hands over the region to this cancerous entity created by the British and sustained by them, there will be no more kings. Military governors will be stationed with the “Star of David” replacing every crescent and cross. Ironically, the Ottoman rule would be remembered as “good days.”

Wake up Arabs. Giving away Palestine today means giving away your crowns tomorrow.

Source: Al-Ahed News

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Spare Me U.S. Tears For Jamal Khashoggi – This Excuse For Trump-bashing Ignores The CIA’s Past Crimes

A generation ago, the CIA’s ‘Operation Phoenix’ torture and assassination programme in Vietnam went way beyond the imaginations of the Saudi intelligence service. And have we forgotten about the thousands of Muslims still perishing under our bombs and missiles and mortars?

By Robert Fisk

December 06, 2018 “Information Clearing House” –     Can I be the only one – apart from his own sycophants – to find the sight of America’s finest Republicans and Democrats condemning the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia for murdering Jamal Khashoggi a bit sickening? “Crazy”. “Dangerous”. A “wrecking ball”. A “smoking saw”. These guys are angry. CIA director Gina Haspel, who was happy to sign off on the torture of her Muslim captives in a secret American prison in Thailand, obviously knew what she was talking about when she testified about Mohammed bin Salman and the agony of Jamal Khashoggi.

US government leaks suggest that Haspel knew all about the shrieks of pain, the suffering of Arab men who believed they were drowning, the desperate pleading for life from America’s victims in these sanctuaries of torment in and after 2002. After all, the desperate screams of a man who believes he is drowning and the desperate screams of a man who believes he is suffocating can’t be very different. Except, of course, that the CIA’s victims lived to be tortured another day – indeed several more days – while Jamal Khashoggi’s asphyxiation was intended to end his life. Which it did.

A generation ago, the CIA’s “Operation Phoenix” torture and assassination programme in Vietnam went way beyond the imaginations of the Saudi intelligence service. In spook language, Khashoggi was merely “terminated with maximum prejudice”. If the CIA could sign off on mass murder in Vietnam, why shouldn’t an Arab dictator do the same on a far smaller scale? True, I can’t imagine the Americans went in for bone saws. Testimony suggests that mass rape followed by mass torture did for their enemies in Vietnam. Why play music through the earphones of the murderers?

But still it goes on. Here’s Democrat senator Bob Menendez this week. The US, he told us, must “send a clear and unequivocal message that such actions are not acceptable on the world’s stage”. The “action”, of course, is the murder of Khashoggi. And this from a man who constantly defended Israel after its slaughter of the innocents in Gaza.

So what on earth is going on here? Perhaps the “world’s stage” of which Menendez spoke was the White House – an appropriate phrase, when you come to think about it – where the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia has been no stranger. Yet when at least one recent US presidential incumbent of that high office can be considered guilty of war crimes – in Iraq – and the deaths of tens of thousands of Arabs, how come American senators are huffing and puffing about just one man, Mohammed bin Salman, who (for a moment, let us set aside the Yemen war) is only being accused of ordering the murder and dismemberment of one single Arab?

After all, world leaders – and US presidents themselves – have always had rather a soft spot for mass murderers and those who should face war crimes indictments. Trump has infamously met Kim Jong-un and invited him to the White House. We are all waiting for Rodrigo Duterte to take up his own invitation.

Obama lavished hospitality at the White House on a host of bloody autocrats – from Gambia, Burkina Faso and Cameroon – before we even recall Suharto, whose death squads killed up to half a million people; and Hosni Mubarak, whose secret police sometimes raped their prisoners and who sanctioned the hanging of hundreds of Islamists without proper trials, and his ultimate successor, Field Marshal-President al-Sisi, who has around 60,000 political prisoners locked up in Egypt and whose cops appear to have tortured a young Italian student to death. But Giulio Regeni wasn’t murdered in an Egyptian consulate. This list does not even include Ariel Sharon, who as Israeli defence minister was accused by an Israeli inquiry of personal responsibility for the massacre of 1,700 Palestinian civilians at the Sabra and Chatila camps in Beirut in 1982.

So what is this “clear and unequivocal message” that senator Menendez is rambling on about? The message has been clear and unequivocal for decades. The US “national interest” always trumps (in both senses) morality or international crime. Why else did the United States support Saddam Hussein in his attempt to destroy Iran and his use of chemical warfare against Iran? Why else did Donald Rumsfeld plead with Saddam in December 1993 to allow the reopening of the US embassy in Baghdad when the Iraqi dictator (a “strongman” at the time, of course) had already used mustard gas against his opponents? By the time Rumsfeld arrived for his meeting, more than 3,000 victims had fallen amid Iraqi gas clouds. The figure would reach at least 50,000 dead. Which is, in mathematical terms, Jamal Khashoggi times 50,000.

Yet we are supposed to recoil with shock and horror when Haspel – who might herself have a few admissions to make to senators on other matters – suggests that America’s latest favourite Middle Eastern tyrant knew about the forthcoming murder of Jamal Khashoggi. Does Menendez think that Saddam hadn’t signed the death sentences of thousands of Iraqi men and women – which, as we know from his later “trial”, he did – before meeting Rumsfeld? Or that Duterte, who has compared himself to Hitler, doesn’t sign off on the killing of his murdered drug “suspects”? Or that Suharto had absolutely nothing to do with half a million murders in Indonesia?

It’s instructive, indeed, that the thousands of innocents killed in the Yemen war, an offensive undertaken by Mohammed bin Salman himself with logistical support from the US and UK – and it doesn’t need Haspel to tell us this – hasn’t exactly left US senators shocked. Just another bunch of Arabs killing each other, I suppose. Starvation didn’t get mentioned by the senators emerging from Haspel’s closed hearing. Yet the senators know all about the mosque bombings, wedding party bombings, hospital bombings and school bombings in Yemen. Why no tears for these innocents? Or is that a bit difficult when the US military – on every occasion by accident, of course – has bombed mosques, wedding parties, hospitals and schools in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria?

No, the shock and horror and the need for full disclosure about the Saudis is primarily about Trump, and the need to tie him in to the cruel murder of a Washington Post journalist and US resident whose gruesome demise has been blamed by the American president upon a “vicious world”.

But there is something more than this, the appalling fact – albeit only a folk memory, perhaps, for many with scarcely any institutional memory at all – that 15 of those 9/11 hijackers were Saudis, that Osama bin Laden was a Saudi, that George W Bush secretly flew bin Laden family members out of the US after 9/11, that the Saudis themselves are heir to a blighted, rural, cruel version of Sunni Islam – based on the pernicious teachings of the 18th century Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab​ – which has inspired the Taliban, al-Qaeda, Isis and all the other killer cults whom we have proclaimed to be the West’s Enemy No 1.

Nailing Mohammed Bin Salman to a crucifix – a method of execution favoured by the Wahhabis – is an easy kill for US senators, of course. You hit the president and smash those unhappy historical details all in one fell swoop.

But don’t bank on it. Oil and arms are a potent mix. Old Abd al-Wahhab’s home is protected in a new tourist haunt in the suburbs of Riyadh. Come to think of it, the national mosque of Qatar – hostile to rapacious Saudi Arabia but another recipient of US weapons and a supporter of Islamist forces in Syria and Iraq – has a capacity for 30,000 souls, was built only seven years ago and is named after Abd al-Wahhab himself.

This is the dangerous world in which America and its allies now tread, disdainful of the thousands of Muslims who perish under our bombs and missiles and mortars – proxy-delivered by those we should distrust – ignorant of the religious currents which rumble on beneath our feet and beneath the House of Saud. Even the virtually useless information Haspel learned in the CIA’s “black centres” could have told senators this. If they had bothered to ask.

This article was originally published by  The Independent ” 

 

Western lawmakers call for ‘free elections’ in Bahrain

The file photo, taken on December 26, 2014, shows a Bahraini man holding up a placard reading in Arabic, "Your government and your parliament are without legitimacy," during an anti-government protest in the village of Jannusan, west of the capital Manama. (Photo by AFP)

The file photo, taken on December 26, 2014, shows a Bahraini man holding up a placard reading in Arabic, “Your government and your parliament are without legitimacy,” during an anti-government protest in the village of Jannusan, west of the capital Manama. (Photo by AFP)

Fri Nov 9, 2018 03:47PM

The government of Bahrain has come under fire by Western lawmakers against the backdrop of a ban on an opposition party from contesting the upcoming elections in the Arab country.

Bahrain is scheduled to hold parliamentary elections on November 24.

A cross-party group of British lawmakers, including Conservative MP Peter Bottomley, Green Party MP Caroline Lucas, and Liberal Democrat MP Tom Brake, said in a letter to the Foreign Office that Bahrain “effectively bans major opposition figures from holding political office.” They added that a countless number of Bahraini individuals have been “incarcerated on charges that criminalize free expression and assembly.”

“Free and fair elections can only take place if citizens are able to express their views.”

The British lawmakers also referred to the forcible closure of the only independent newspaper, Al-Wasat, back in 2017 and the detention of at least 15 journalists and Bahrain’s most prominent human rights defender Nabeel Rajab for comments deemed critical of the Bahraini state.

“Bahrain may be a key strategic ally to the UK but human rights and democratic values are fundamental pillars of our society and foreign policy”, the letter concluded.

In Ireland, a cross-party group of lawmakers involved in foreign affairs urged the release of all political detainees in Bahrain and permitting international bodies to observe the elections.

Members of the European Parliament also slammed the Bahraini regime for missing the opportunity of the elections “to ease tensions and allow space for open dialogue to take place.”

Some 40 members of the European Parliament composed a letter addressed to Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifah which is to be published next week.

The letter also points to “the enactment of increasingly repressive measures.”

“Under these conditions, Bahrain’s elections cannot be recognized by the international community as free, fair, or legitimate.”

Last week, US Congressmen James McGovern and Randy Hultgren, who are co-chairs of the bipartisan Tom Lantos human rights commission in the US House of Representatives, stressed that it would be difficult for the international community to recognize the upcoming elections as legitimate, noting that Manama “has dissolved two major opposition political societies, barred all members of the societies from running for office on an individual basis, and imprisoned a number of key figures, as well as writers and civil society leaders.”

“In addition, Bahrain’s electoral infrastructure inherently disadvantages the political opposition. There is no independent electoral commission and, to date, there has been no commitment by the government to permit either domestic or international observers,” the letter added.

In May, Bahrain’s parliament approved a bill barring members of the al-Wefaq from running in elections, the latest step in Manama’s political crackdown.

Thousands of anti-regime protesters have held numerous demonstrations in Bahrain on an almost daily basis ever since a popular uprising began in the kingdom on February 14, 2011.

They are demanding that the Al Khalifah dynasty relinquish power and let a just system representing all Bahrainis be established.

Manama has gone to great lengths to clamp down on any sign of dissent. Scores of people have lost their lives and hundreds of others sustained injuries or got arrested as a result of the Al Khalifah regime’s crackdown.

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Bahrainis Protest in Solidarity with Sheikh Ali Salman, in Protest of Normalization: Photos

 

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Bahraini Regime Court Overturns Sheikh Salman Acquittal, Hands Him Life Term

Sheikh Ali Salman, Secretary General of Bahraini opposition group, al-Wefaq

Bahraini Regime Court Overturns Sheikh Salman Acquittal, Hands Him Life Term

November 4, 2018

Bahrain’s appeals court sentenced the head of the country’s main opposition movement to jail for life Sunday over charges of alleged spying for rival Gulf state Qatar.

Sheikh Ali Salman, who headed the now-outlawed Al-Wefaq movement, had been acquitted by the high criminal court in June, a verdict the public prosecution appealed.

The latest ruling on Sunday can also be appealed.

Bahrain, along with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, severed all ties with Qatar in 2017, banning their citizens from travel to or communication with the emirate over what they say are Doha’s ties to both Iran and radical Islamist groups.

Salman is currently serving a four-year sentence in a separate case — “inciting hatred” in the kingdom, which has seen mainly pro-democracy protests against the monarchy since 2011.

In November, Salman and two other members of Al-Wefaq were charged with working for Qatari intelligence with the aim of “overthrowing the Bahraini government.”

King Hamad has announced parliamentary elections on November 24 in Bahrain. Members of dissolved opposition parties, including Al-Wefaq and the secular Al-Waad group, are banned from running.

The Sunni-ruled Gulf state has been hit by waves of pro-democracy protests since 2011, when security forces crushed demonstrators demanding a constitutional monarchy and an elected prime minister.

Opposition movements have been outlawed and hundreds of dissidents have been imprisoned — with many stripped of their nationality.

The United Nations and rights groups including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have criticized the Bahraini monarchy over its treatment of protesters.

Amnesty and HRW categorize Salman and other jailed opposition leaders as prisoners of conscience.

SourceAFP

Amnesty: Sheikh Salman Conviction “Unlawful, Politically Motivated”

November 4, 2018

Protestor Raising Sheikh Salman's Photo

Amnesty International described as “unlawful” Bahraini regime’s overturning the acquittal of opposition leader Sheikh Ali Salman.

Shortly after it was announced that Bahraini Appeal Court has overturned the acquittal of Sheikh Salman and sentenced him instead to life in prison, the watchdog called for the direct release of the Bahraini opposition leader.

“This verdict is a travesty of justice that demonstrates the Bahraini authorities’ relentless and unlawful efforts to silence any form of dissent. Sheikh Ali Salman is a prisoner of conscience who is being held solely for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression,” Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Director Heba Morayef said.

“The Bahraini authorities must immediately and unconditionally release Sheikh Ali Salman and quash his politically motivated conviction and sentence”.

Morayef also slammed the international community over keeping silence on the human rights record in Bahrain.

“The international community’s silence on the continued crackdown on dissent must also come to an end. Instead of ignoring criticism of Bahrain’s human rights record, the country’s political allies must use their influence to push for the release of Sheikh Ali Salman and all prisoners of conscience in Bahrain”.

SourceAmnesty International

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Preventing the next Pogrom

October 31, 2018  /  Gilad Atzmon

pogrom01.jpg

By Gilad Atzmon

Eleven people were killed in a gun attack on a synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania last Saturday. It seems mass shooting has become a popular hobby and not just in America.  Political violence is mushrooming. It is crucial to try to understand how this has happened to us.  What led to this rapid deconstruction of our human landscape, how have we regressed into lethal barbarism and where and when did we lose our ability  to care for each other, to be compassionate, to tolerate difference?

A few days ago I wrote that this violent shift requires much deeper analysis and not our mere anecdotal debate over the 2nd Amendment or gun control. It demands a profound study of the transition in our human condition. Mass killings as a daily occurrence has something to do with people’s sense that we live  in a universe that lacks a prospect of a future. It is the outcome of the reduction of the working class into a workless mass. It has a lot to do with the collapse of the family and the orchestrated attack on family values and the church. It may also have something to do with the fact that our governments are wiping out countries and people in the name of immoral interventionism and Ziocon interests. As a part of understanding the motivation for these killings, it is important to consider that taking people’s lives on a mass scale makes the killer a ‘little god.’ Add to the mixture some ‘emancipatory ideology’  and the perpetrators of these barbarian crimes are elevated, at least in their own eyes, into martyrs.

It is perplexing; despite our real time access to world news which notifies us of developments around the globe as they happen, our understanding of these events and their meanings is constantly shrinking. The more we ‘know,’ the less we understand. We seem to have forgotten how to question events, political exchanges and historical changes. We are removed from essentiality and  authentic critical thinking, we are drifting away from Being.

Instead, we have learned to operate carefully within a strict regime of correctness. We know how not to cross some sensitive lines and that has kept us from questioning what really happened. We got ourselves accustomed to a tyranny of correctness.

Monitoring the ‘antisemitism debate’ provides us with an insight into the dynamic that sustains our oppressive authoritarian reality. We, the people, are subject to a constant flood of ‘information’ delivered via two parallel streams: one is characterised by its fascination with fake-news and manufactured  antisemitic accusations. The other is designed  to  suppress any critical analysis of the causes of actual tragic events such as the recent Pittsburgh pogrom.

While Western media outlets are excited to disseminate phantasmic manufactured ‘revelations’ about  “Labour’s antisemitism” or Corbyn as an “existential threat to British Jews” there are, noticeably, zero attempts made to understand what  led to the mass shooting in Pittsburgh. All the press tells us is that the perpetrator is an ‘antisemite’  and that anti-Semitism is growing.

From the perspective of liberals and progressives, the declaration of ‘antisemitsm’ is an end in itself. Once an act is castigated as ‘antisemitic’ any inquiries come to an end. The perpetrator is condemned as an ‘irrational hate monger.’ But antisemitism is not the only antisocial phobia. Homophobia, islamophobia, transphobia and other such ‘phobias’ operate to close debate in a  similar fashion. They serve as magic wand soundbites designed to deny any rationale for political positions that make us  uncomfortable. We reduce dissent into a symptom of ‘insanity.’

The effect of these soundbite explanations is devastating. The West has replaced its Athenian ethos of tolerance and pluralism with a radical form of Talmudic Herem (excommunication).

The media casually labels as antisemitic anyone who dares to express peaceful critical thinking. And the same media suppresses any attempt to grasp what antisemitsm means in practice and  what are its causes. While the media parrots the ADL, claiming that antisemitsm is on the rise and that the Pennsylvania shooting was the worst anti-Semitic event in American history, the media does not dare ask why.  Why is America apparently becoming increasingly anti-Semitic

If Jewish institutions, and liberals and progressives want to fight anti-Semitism, the first step should be to open a discussion of the circumstances and dynamics that have led to such a rise of anti Jewish bigotry. To prevent the next pogrom we need to emancipate ourselves from the current tyranny of correctness and reinstate the Greek agora into our midst. Our social media networks could become a true marketplace of ideas, encouraging people to challenge each other and to constantly rethink their own positions.

MBS Peace Versus Pieces

Image result for Saudi agreement with American President Roosevelt

October 29, 2018

by Ghassan Kadi for The Saker Blog

Ever since Saudi Arabia signed its agreement with American President Roosevelt in February 1945, it never ever considered, or even contemplated to be outside the American sphere of influence and protection.

In my previous article https://thesaker.is/the-price-of-bin-salmans-head/ I elaborated on some of the personal issues that define the nature of the relationship that Saudi royals have with American lawmakers as men, not as politicians, not as allies, but simply as men trying to understand and deal with each other.

With all the dirt, greed, blood and guts, when one looks into the American-Saudi relationship from the outside, it’s clear that they are very different to each other and couldn’t have worked together successfully whether on good or nefarious projects. Neither of them had any good intentions toward the other or to the rest of the world; they deserved each other.

The Saudi-American marriage “was” at best a marriage of convenience, in which both parties looked at each other with the view of a one-stop-shop convenience store.

To the Saudis, the American one-stop-shop meant a customer with great thirst for oil, wealth to buy it with, and military might and determination to protect its flow.

To the Americans, the Saudi one-stop-shop meant a supplier of virtually endless supplies of a crucial commodity, one that is unable to stand on its own feet and dictate its terms, and one that will bend over and backwards to ensure continuity of sales for and protection.

The marriage was perhaps an epitome of pragmatism, though it was not often perceived as such.

But think about it, just look at the irony; an anti-democratic fundamentalist Muslim nation that sees all non-Muslims as infidels, signing the deal of the century with a nation that is secular, predominantly Christian and allegedly the protector of democracy.

But back in early 1945, pre-Hiroshima America was not technically a superpower yet, and Saudi Arabia was an insignificant and, by-and-large, an unknown kingdom to the rest of the world. Back then, the paradox was not as pronounced as it is now.

And even though by 1945 the Zionist Lobby was well and truly preparing for the creation of Israel, the American-Saudi deal would have gone ahead with or without any Israeli presence and role. It goes without saying though, that the creation of the state of Israel in 1948 has, among other things, created geopolitical turmoil which made it more pertinent for the Saudi-American marriage to withstand the ravages of time.

The marriage has lasted, and it’s not time for divorce, at least not yet, but perhaps the time has come for a serious revision; from both ends of the bargain.

If MBS hasn’t yet realized that the Americans can drop him personally like a hot potato, then he must be stupid. Indications are he is ruthless, arrogant, ambitious, megalomaniac, hasty, but stupid he is not.

The manner in which the Khashoggi episode has been manipulated by the media and the whole West is partly to be blamed on the Saudi state, and partly on MBS personally. And when Saudi FM Al-Jubair tries on several occasions to distance MBS from the story, he is actually expressing the biggest Saudi fear and inadvertently putting MBS in the centre court and line of fire.

Saudi Arabia is therefore facing two Western “attacks”; one that is general and centered on the whole regime and another that is centered on MBS himself. It is most hypocritical of the EU nations to suddenly consider enforcing an arms sales embargo on Saudi Arabia. The Khashoggi story did not have any impact on the war on Yemen. The suffering of the Yemeni people has been going on ever since the needless criminal war started. And although the current EU stand can go a long way in isolating Saudi Arabia and perhaps weakening its military ability, it has come, if it comes, too little too late, and for all the wrong reasons.

For MBS, he now has many confrontations to contend with. His money-grabbing November 2017, Ritz Hotel house arrest of his cousins has left him with very few supporters from within the Royal Family. He is the Crown Prince to a throne that no longer has a formal lineage for succession and, it doesn’t even now have a second-in-line to MBS. In essence, every descendant of founding King Abdul Aziz is eligible and there are hundreds, perhaps thousands, of grandchildren.

His biggest domestic, or rather home battle therefore, is to make sure that the current impasse with America does not generate a strong contender for the throne, one that he is unable to set aside. And given that he has already been blemished by brutality after the Khashoggi drama, any stifling of royal dissent, even revolt, can easily be manipulated by the West again in a manner that portrays him as a new Saddam.

I have used the term “new Saddam” before, and we may need to get used to hearing it.

MBS will then have to tread very carefully with his cousins to ensure his position as Crown Prince is stable and unchallenged. Will he be able to do this? No one knows, especially if one of the challenging contenders suddenly receives bottomless Western support.

The other battle that MBS has to contend with is his diplomatic one with America and the rest of the West. The events of the last few weeks would have proven to him that without the façade of Western impunity, he is finished. He now knows that he doesn’t have a safe haven on the top of the hill with the big boys. And once again, he will have to pay America a price for his survival. He does not seem to have better choices.

But this situation is persuading him to scale down his reliance on America. However, when Saudi officials try to alarm America by making statements to the effect that they can buy Russian weapons instead of American ones, the American position becomes more resolute. Such ploys backfire on the Saudis.

Saudi Arabia cannot replace America with Russia, and for many reasons. If the Saudi-American marriage had its own ideological contradictions which both parties managed to overlook, a prospective Saudi-Russian marriage would have many more obstacles that would make it impossible to come to fruition; especially if Saudi Arabia demands the kind of military protection from Russia as it has demanded from the USA.

Saudi Arabia and Russia can engage in trade, sales of military hardware, etc., but they cannot and will not have a relationship that is akin to the Saudi-American marriage.

For starters, the two nations have never trusted each other, and they are not about to start doing this now. The support of Saudi Arabia to Jihadi fighters in Afghanistan in the early 1980’s and their continued support to Chechen terrorists are still fresh in the minds of Russians. After all, it was only five years ago that Prince Bandar Bin Sultan threatened President Putin with restarting the Chechen war if Putin did not support him in Syria.

And unlike the hypocritical West, Russia would not tolerate Saudi-sponsored fundamentalist religious schools to be spawned all over the Russian landscape.

And let us not forget that Russia does not need Saudi oil like America did, and if anything, to this effect, the two nations are competitors.

Knowing that flagging snuggling up with Russia made MBS’s impasse with America even worse, he seems to be taking a slightly different interim approach based on creating a situation that reduces his immediate need for America’s support, without having to go to bed with its mortal enemies.

An “allegedly” Pakistani initiative has been launched in an attempt to end the war in Yemen https://timesofislamabad.com/27-Oct-2018/yemeni-houthi-rebels-responds-to-pakistan-offer-and-stance-over-yemen-peace-talks .Whilst any attempt to end the war on Yemen is welcome news, the timing of such an initiative now draws suspicion.

Saudi Arabia and Pakistan have a special and strong relationship despite some serious hiccups in the past. It is alleged that Saudi Arabia has contributed largely towards the development costs of the Pakistani A-Bomb, and in return, it expected to be supplied with A-Bombs, but Pakistan refused. And even though Pakistan also later on reneged on its promise to support the Saudi war on Yemen, neither Pakistan nor Saudi Arabia make any public negative statements about each other. In more ways than one, Saudi Arabia does not want bad blood with the only predominantly Sunni Muslim nation with nuclear arms, and Pakistan does not want bad blood with the richest Sunni nation either.

It is possible, in fact highly likely, that MBS whispered into Pakistani PM, Imran Khan’s ear, to launch the initiative of peace with Yemen. Thus far, the Yemenis have welcomed it (see reference above), and they cannot be blamed. They are suffering a huge humanitarian catastrophe that the world does not want to know about. As yet, there hasn’t been an official Saudi comment, and this implies acceptance. Had this “initiative” been made at a time when the war was winnable or had MBS personally not been under such enormous pressure, the Saudis would have immediately rejected it outright.

If MBS manages to end the War on Yemen, he will be setting aside one huge problem, and without a battle raging, his need for Western weapons would not be as critical as it is right now. Such a move would also preclude his immediate need for Russian weapons to replace American weapons with.

It seems that MBS has finally come to the realization that he is trying to bite off more than he can chew. But ultimately, unless he de-escalates his stand against Iran, he will remain under American stranglehold. On the other hand, if he indeed manages to find a face-saving exit from Yemen and also finds a way to manage less hostile relationships with Iran, he would be putting himself in the cross fire of America and Israel which he is trying hard to normalize relationships with.

Whilst contemplating all options available, MBS must see himself in the position of a dead man walking; with the choice of method of his own execution.

If he holds his ground against America, America can tighten the noose and suspend the arms supplies that he desperately needs for his war in Yemen. His Kingdom of Sand is a country that has a military budget exceeding that of Russia’s, but is unable to manufacture even bullets. Everything is imported, and if the war runs out of ammunition, MBS will have to beg other nations to supply him. This carries the potential risk of having the Houthis encroaching on Riyadh itself. But America can choose another course. With many Saudi princes begrudging MBS and harbouring strong vendettas against him, America can sponsor and support a rival prince who can challenge MBS for the position of Crown Prince. America can even sponsor a number of would-be contenders to the throne instead of just one, and thereby creating a fertile ground for a civil war that lures in other rival factions and not only necessarily royals. This can generate a state of chaos similar to what we now see in Libya. A civil war of this nature can go on for years with no clear winners. Such chaos, however, will not necessarily disrupt the flow of oil because its geographical theater will be centered around the precincts of the royals and their palaces around Riyadh and Jeddah, far away from the oil fields in the Eastern Province.

Knowing Americans and, judging by their history, they may opt to incite strife and prince-vs-prince rivalry. And even if the instability expands to the Eastern Province, the USA can always find a way to enact some resolution or another to put its hands on the oil fields as a measure of “national security”.

Unless MBS magically and miraculously finds a way out, he may have to choose between peace with his cousins plus, much to his dismay, peace with his regional enemies and rivals, or face the prospect of seeing his kingdom sliced into pieces. On the other hand, if MBS gives in to America’s demands, he may be able to keep his head and throne, but he will end up with an empty wallet and oil fields with title deeds in the name of the US Federal Reserve. Painful as it may sound, it is perhaps his only way out of this mess.

It’s a tough one for MBS. He is in a damned-if-you-do-and-damned-if-you-don’t situation, but in reality, he only has himself to blame. He and his evil predecessors have a long history of cruelty, arrogance, criminality and creating mayhem. Karma is catching up with them, and they deserve what they get.

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