For Trump’s Middle East allies, Joe Biden is a new nightmare

 Source

David Hearst
17 November 2020 14:19 UTC | Last update: 17 hours 25 mins ago

David Hearst is the editor in chief of Middle East Eye. He left The Guardian as its chief foreign leader writer. In a career spanning 29 years, he covered the Brighton bomb, the miner’s strike, the loyalist backlash in the wake of the Anglo-Irish Agreement in Northern Ireland, the first conflicts in the breakup of the former Yugoslavia in Slovenia and Croatia, the end of the Soviet Union, Chechnya, and the bushfire wars that accompanied it. He charted Boris Yeltsin’s moral and physical decline and the conditions which created the rise of Putin. After Ireland, he was appointed Europe correspondent for Guardian Europe, then joined the Moscow bureau in 1992, before becoming bureau chief in 1994. He left Russia in 1997 to join the foreign desk, became European editor and then associate foreign editor. He joined The Guardian from The Scotsman, where he worked as education correspondent.


The president-elect’s actions in the Middle East will be dictated by events. But the loss of Trump represents a body check for the ambitions and aspirations of Gulf hegemons
Then Vice President Joe Biden during a visit to Saudi Arabia in 2011 (Reuters)

You can detect the shadow of Donald Trump fading from the Middle East in the nervous twitches of his closest allies.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is accelerating settlements before the inevitable freeze or pause in construction in January when President-Elect Joe Biden takes over. Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi is releasing just a fraction of the estimated 60,000 political prisoners he has stashed in his jails.

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Sisi’s television anchors are, from one day to the next, given different scripts to read out. Take the sad case of Nashaat al-Deehy. When Biden was a candidate, al-Deehy trashed him: “Joseph Biden will become the oldest US president in the history of the United States of America. On 20 November he will be 78 years old. This will impact his mental situation and he suffers from Alzheimer’s and therefore is not fit to be president of the United States of America.”

But once the US media had called Biden president-elect, al-Deehy became respectful. “We have just learned that President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi sent a congratulations cable to US President-elect Joe Biden. This man has great respect for Egypt and is known to be wise and he listens well. He does not take decisions frantically. He does not take decisions when he’s angry. All of this was missing in the case of Donald Trump, who was violent and stubborn and arrogant. All of this we’re seeing it.”

Small gestures

The Saudi ambassador in London is in an equal turmoil. One day he hints to the Guardian that jailed women activists could be freed during the G20 summit next week.

“The G20, does it offer an opportunity for clemency? Possibly. That is a judgment for someone other than me,” said Khalid bin Bandar bin Sultan bin Abdulaziz Al Saud. “People ask: is it worth the damage it is causing you, whatever they did? That is a fair argument to make and it is a discussion we have back at home within our political system and within our ministry.”

The next day he calls in the BBC to deny what he has just said.

Poor ambassador.

The king himself is by no means immune from wild policy swings. He has started being nice to Turkey.

A week after the earthquake in Izmir, Salman ordered the dispatch of “urgent aid” to the city. Then we learn that the king of Bahrain Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa and the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan were in talks. The occasion was to present condolences for the death of the Bahraini Prime Minister Prince Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa. But direct contact with a satellite of Riyadh would have been impossible without a green light from the diwan, the Saudi royal court.

Ever since Erdogan refused to let the murder of the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul drop, he has become a hate figure in Riyadh. Turkey has been declared – repeatedly –  a regional threat by Saudi social media and Turkish goods subject to a growing boycott. Now it has all changed.

These are small gestures, but telling ones, as Trump leaves office.

CIA bites back

Top of the list of nervous allies is the man who used Trump to fashion his rise to power.

Biden has every incentive to encourage MBS’ many enemies in the Royal family to step forward to prevent the over ambitious prince from becoming King

To become crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) had to get rid of, and trash the reputation of his elder cousin Mohammed bin Nayef, who was at the time the CIA’s prime asset in the country and the Gulf region. Before he did this, bin Salman phoned Jared Kushner, Trump’s son in law and Middle East adviser, to ask permission. It was given, sources with knowledge of the call told Middle East Eye.

Biden knows bin Nayef personally. Bin Nayef’s chief of staff and former interior minister Saad al-Jabri has fled to Toronto. A few days after Khashoggi’s assassination in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October 2018, MBS despatched another crew from the Tiger Squad to kill al-Jabri, according to a lawsuit filed under the Torture Victim Protection Act in the US District of Columbia.

Al-Jabri was lucky. Border agents at Toronto International Airport detected the operation and sent it back home. All this is active evidence. None of this has been dealt with. The CIA’s own assessment that MBS ordered Khashoggi’s killing has never been published.

It is not just Biden himself the crown prince has to fear – although the presidential candidate reserved his sharpest words for the killing of Khashoggi – but the return of the CIA to the top table of decision making in the White House.

Overnight MBS goes from having a president in the White House who “saved his ass”, as Trump put it, to a successor who is not remotely interested in doing the same. Biden has every incentive to encourage MBS’s many enemies in the royal family to step forward to prevent the over-ambitious prince from becoming king. There are enough of them, by now.

Get out of jail card

An Oval Office under new management leaves MBS with relatively few options.

He could use Israel as his get-out-of-jail card, by pushing for recognition and normalisation. There is bipartisan support in Congress for the Abraham Accords signed between the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Israel.

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Although the incoming Biden administration will put more emphasis on restarting direct negotiations between the Palestinian Authority and Israel, it would not stop another major Arab state like Saudi Arabia from joining the party.

The opposition to Saudi normalisation with Israel would be at home, not abroad. Recognising Israel would be perilous domestically. However much Saud alQahtani’s social media trolls bully Saudi public opinion, it is ferociously pro-Palestinian and anti-Zionist.

Never more so than today, Palestine remains the key source of instability in the Middle East, the conflict that defines it, the conflict that endures as a symbol of European colonisation and Arab humiliation.

The custodian of the Two Holy Mosques recognising Israel? Not over many Muslims’ dead bodies.

Each time MBS has had to walk back on his wish to recognise Israel (and he was very near to flying to Washington and playing the role of smiling sponsor at the signing ceremony in the White House, before cancelling at the last minute) he has turned to his father, the king, to say that nothing has changed and reaffirm official state policy.

This is the Arab Peace Initiative published by his predecessor King Abdullah in 2002 and it only allows  recognition of Israel after a negotiated solution has been found based on 1967 borders.

US President Donald Trump waves to supporters on 15 November (Reuters)

US President Donald Trump waves to supporters on 15 November (Reuters)

The loss of Trump’s “крыша” – or protective roof – and the arrival of a hostile president in Biden will mean that MBS will need his father in the post as king even more than he has done in the past. We know from Saudi sources that at one point MBS was toying with the idea of forcing his father’s premature abdication on health grounds and seizing the crown himself.

The loss of Trump’s protective roof and the arrival of a hostile president in Biden will mean that MBS will need his father in the post as king even more than he has done in the past

In his latest round of purges, MBS targeted leading members of Hay’at al-Bayaa (the Allegiance Council) whose role is to approve a royal succession and the appointment of a new crown prince.

The latest arrests to purge the Allegiance Council of his critics would only have made sense if MBS himself was intending to becoming king. But that was in good times, when bin Salman’s star was rising and he could still visit London and Washington without creating flashmobs of human rights protesters.

In bad times, the king remains the tribal chief, who commands the loyalty of the royal family and the kingdom. Regardless of Salman’s actual mental condition, he is still the head of the family and there will be no rebellion against him. The same would not apply to his son if he pushed his father aside and seized the crown. He would be fair game for a palace coup. This is probably the main reason why the father is still king.

Regional alliance

The fate of the regional alliance that a future King Mohammed was attempting to build around himself also hangs in the balance. The real fight going on in the Sunni Arab world is about who would take over as leader and Western proxy.

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The purpose of the alliance with Israel – in Emirati eyes – is not to increase wealth but power, power to become, with Saudi Arabia under King Mohammed, the regional hegemon.

That ambition still exists.

But the role that an “Arab Nato” alliance was intended to play to combat and curb Iran will now be diminished by Biden’s attempt to restore the nuclear agreement with Tehran. Iran’s rulers stared Trump in the eyes and did not blink first. They outlasted this US president as they have done to Jimmy Carter and every president who followed him.

The nuclear agreement (known as JCPOA) was Barack Obama’s crowning foreign policy achievement – although it was the fruition of years of negotiation involving many countries and past foreign ministers – the so-called P5 plus one, the permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany, and Turkey and Brazil before them.

However, each side’s moves are sequenced and whatever difficulties that lie on that path, Biden will pivot once more to restoring this nuclear agreement. Even if some sanctions continue, the policy of using them to exert “maximum pressure” will be over.

Detente will inevitably create a new reality in the Gulf region.

It will also create a new reality for members of the opposing alliance, Turkey and Qatar. Biden is no admirer of Erdogan, with whom he has spent many hours talking. He has apologised to Erdogan once for remarks suggesting that Turkey helped facilitate the rise of the Islamic State group. He is not about to do that again soon.

In a meeting with the New York Times’ editorial board filmed in December, Biden described Erdogan as an autocrat. Asked about how comfortable he felt with the US still basing 50 nuclear weapons in Turkey, Biden said his comfort level had “diminished a great deal” and that he would be making it clear to the Turkish leader that the US supports the opposition.

A volatile world

Once in power, Biden may find it more difficult to express this personal hostility. Whether he likes it or not, Turkey is a more confident regional military power than it was in Obama’s time.

Its military has proved itself as a counterweight to Russian military power in Syria and Libya, and it has just achieved a major breakthrough in Nagorno Karabakh, establishing for the first time access by road from the Turkish border to the Caspian Sea.

This is a strategic win for the Turkish state.

If he is going to partially lift sanctions on Iran, Biden will find that he needs Turkey as a regional counterbalance. There are today too many arenas, from Syria and Iraq to Libya, where Turkey has become a player. Biden has to deal with these “facts on the ground” whether he likes it or not.

Similarly, pressure will also now grow on Saudi Arabia to end its siege on Qatar. Their immediate neighbour, the UAE, will always regard Qatar’s pro-Islamist foreign policy as an existential threat. But the same does not apply to Riyadh, and quiet negotiations in Oman and Kuwait have already taken place.

Biden’s actions in the Middle East will be dictated by events. But the loss of Trump represents a body check for the ambitions and aspirations of Gulf hegemons.

It’s a more uncertain, volatile world.

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

رئيس نتفلكس: السعودية سمحت بعرض أفلام جنسية مقابل حذف حلقة تنتقد ابن سلمان بشدة

Haaretz: Opening Saudi Skies to “Israel” to Pave MBS’ Way back to Washington

Haaretz: Opening Saudi Skies to “Israel” to Pave MBS’ Way back to Washington 

By Staff

The day after the “Israeli” delegation concluded its official visit to the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia announced its skies would be open to any “country’s” plane flying to or from the UAE. 

According to “Israeli” Haaretz daily, the name “Israel” may not have been mentioned explicitly, but there was no need for it. 

“Saudi Arabia is still cautious and the price for official normalization with “Israel” will depend on the strategic payment it receives from Washington,” Zvi Bar’el wrote.

He further highlighted that discussions on the matter are being conducted at an intensive pace between Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and his friend Jared Kushner, Donald Trump’s special adviser, who is striving to close the normalization before the US presidential election in November. 

“Time is pressing and Trump is hoping to present another impressive diplomatic achievement that he can brandish during his election campaign, after most of his diplomatic initiatives, including his so-called “deal of the century,” fell apart – in the best case becoming a joke and in most cases causing deep anxiety,” the analyst highlighted. 

He went on to explain, “Since the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi two years ago, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed has become persona non grata among the American public and Congress.  During this period he has not visited Washington and his interests have been looked after by his brother, Prince Khalid bin Salman, who was the Saudi ambassador to Washington until 2019, and after that was appointed deputy defense minister. The investigations against MBS concerning Khashoggi’s murder are still underway, and in addition the Congress has imposed a ban on arms sales to the kingdom – a decision that was circumvented by Trump.”

“MBS very much needs a change that will give him back his previous status, after his friend, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed of the Emirates, began to overshadow him as a leader who shapes the new Middle East policy, and as the Arab figure closest to Trump,” Haaretz stated.

It also mentioned that “Peace with ‘Israel’ could be a game changer for Saudi Arabia vis-a-vis Washington, but compared to the Emirates, the kingdom’s situation is more complicated.”

Money Talks: Canada Lifts Suspension of Arms Exports to Saudi Arabia

Money Talks: Canada Lifts Suspension of Arms Exports to Saudi Arabia

By Staff, Agencies

Neglecting the Saudi black record of human rights violation, the Canadian government decided to lift a suspension on arms exports to Saudi Arabia and renegotiated a controversial multibillion-dollar contract that will see an Ontario-based company sell light armored vehicles [LAVs] to Riyadh.

The “significant improvements” to the contract would secure the jobs of thousands of Canadians, “not only in Southwestern Ontario but also across the entire defense industry supply chain, which includes hundreds of small and medium enterprises,” Foreign Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne and Minister of Finance Bill Morneau said in a statement on Thursday.

In December 2018, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau maintained that Canada “was looking for a way out of the Saudi arms deal”, following the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

A month earlier the Liberal government suspended approvals of new arms export permits for Saudi Arabia pending an indefinite review.

The 14 billion Canadian dollar [$10bn] deal to export LAVs made by the Ontario-based General Dynamics Land Systems to Saudi Arabia was brokered in 2014 by the previous Conservative government.

Trudeau’s Liberal government subsequently gave the final approval for the deal following the 2015 election.

The ministers added in their statement that as a state party to the United Nations Arms Trade Treaty, Canada’s goods cannot be exported where there is a “substantial risk” that they would be used in violating human rights and humanitarian law.

“We have now begun reviewing permit applications on a case-by-case basis,” the statement said.

Academics and activists have long pressured Ottawa to cancel the exports of Canadian-made LAVs to Saudi Arabia, citing the killing of Khashoggi and Saudi Arabia’s aggression on Yemen.

SAUDI CROWN PRINCE PLANS TO BECOME KING BEFORE NOVEMBER G20 SUMMIT

Mohammed bin Salman launched purge against his uncle and others to clear path to becoming king ahead of gathering in Riyadh

By David Hearst

Published date: 8 March 2020 

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman launched a purge against his chief royal rival, his uncle Prince Ahmed bin Abdelaziz, because he intends to become king before the G20 summit in Riyadh in November, sources briefed about the plans have told Middle East Eye.

Bin Salman, known as MBS, will not wait for his father King Salman to die because his father’s presence gives legitimacy to the son, and he wants to use the summit in November as the stage for his accession to the throne. 

Instead, MBS will force his father, who suffers from dementia but is in otherwise good health, to abdicate, the sources said. 

This will finish the job started when MBS ousted his elder cousin Prince Mohammed bin Nayef from the position of crown prince, the sources said.

“He wants to be sure while his father is there, he becomes the king,” one source said. Over the weekend pictures were released of King Salman greeting ambassadors, to disprove rumours sparked by the purge that the king had died. Sources at the King Faisal Hospital dedicated to the care of members of the royal family also dispelled those rumours.

Before his arrest on Friday, Prince Ahmed, the king’s younger full brother, was given one last chance, after years of public opposition, to come aboard the MBS project, and he refused, the sources said.

“There was pressure on Ahmed to give his full support to MBS. He met with the king, and Salman and others in the court used polite words to encourage him to back his son,” a second source said.

“Ahmed made it clear he would not support this project. He did not give his word. Ahmed told the king he himself was not keen to become king but would look to others to come forward.”

Summons from the king

Meanwhile, more details emerged about the circumstances of Ahmed’s arrest.

According to the sources, Ahmed was not planning a coup before his arrest on Friday morning, as was claimed in one briefing given to Reuters, primarily because the prince had no power to make such a move. 

“Prince Ahmed would have openly objected to his nephew’s accession, as a member of the Allegiance Council, if the king dies and the question of accession to the throne comes formally before it,” the source said.

“He would have clearly said no. But there was no attempted coup.”

The Allegiance Council, or Bayaa, is the body which still nominally has to approve MBS’s accession to the throne.

What is the Beya?

The source said Ahmed had just returned from a falconry hunting trip abroad and had given a reception for his close circle on Thursday night.

Ahmed was passed a message that the king wanted to see him on Friday morning. This was about another arrested prince, Faisal bin Abdelrahman, whose case Ahmed had raised with Salman some weeks ago.

On Friday morning, Prince Ahmed went to the royal palace with his security detail. He was arrested the moment he entered the king’s compound.

“He did not see the king. It was total betrayal,” the source said. According to him, a second member of the Allegiance Council was also arrested in the purge.

Trump concerns

Asked why this purge was launched now, the sources cited external and internal reasons.

They said MBS was becoming concerned about the possibility that Donald Trump would not secure a second term of office as US president. 

All the presidential candidates remaining in the Democratic race are declared critics of the crown prince and had openly condemned him for allegedly ordering the murder of the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul in 2018.

Trump and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have consistently refused to hold the crown prince accountable for the murder of Khashoggi and blocked calls for a criminal investigation by the FBI or the UN. 

In his last interview on the subject published in June last year, Trump said the Khashoggi murder “really didn’t come up” in the discussions he held with MBS.

Trump said that Iran had killed more people, and he pointed to Saudi spending on US weapons and other goods.

“They spend $400bn to $450bn over a period of time, all money, all jobs, buying equipment,” Trump told NBC News. 

“And by the way, if they don’t do business with us, you know what they do? They’ll do business with the Russians or with the Chinese.”

Secondly, the sources claimed that the crown prince of Abu Dhabi, Mohammed bin Zayed, known as MBZ, who has mentored MBS and introduced him to the Trump clan before he became president, was also in on the scheme.

Hamed al Mazroui, a well-known blogger with links to MBZ, whose tweets were among the first to break the news of the purge in the Ritz Carlton in November 2017 and the 2017 start to the siege of Qatar by Saudi Arabia and others, tweeted two words in Arabic before the latest arrests were widely known. They translate as “Check mate”.

“MbZ is instrumental in each move his protege makes. The more mistakes MBS makes and the greater the instability he causes, the greater the leverage bin Zayed has over the affairs of Saudi,” the source said.

Oil fears

Internally, MBS’s reforms are not going well. 

The two latest hitches to his reform plan are the rapid fall in the price of oil, to below the level at which the state budget needs for its income, and his increasing unpopularity in the Muslim world, months before the annual Hajj is due to start.Saudis plan crude oil output increase, begin price war: Report

Held back by curbs on oil output negotiated by Opec, Saudi Arabia’s economy expanded just 0.3 percent in 2019, down from 2.4 percent a year earlier and short of the government’s forecast of 0.4 percent.

MBS’s economic woes deepened on Sunday, when the Saudi stock market dived by 8.3 percent, the lowest closing since November 2017, when he launched the first round of purges.

Shares in Saudi Aramco dropped below their IPO price of 32 riyals ($8.50) for the first time, losing 9.1 percent to 30 riyals.

‘Delicate generational succession’

Controversy has also stalked MBS’s decision to effectively close the borders of the kingdom to most visitors and all Umrah pilgrims, because of the coronavirus epidemic.

Critics have noted that the crown prince allowed a big concert, entitled “Persian Night,” to go ahead as part of the Tanturah Winter festival on 5 March.

All these factors, sources say, convinced MBS to strike now against the last remaining hurdles in the way of his accession to the throne.

“This purge is different from the first one in 2017. Then, MBS was at the height of his popularity as a young and bold reformer. He sold the purge as an anti-corruption campaign, and it was popular even with journalists like Khashoggi. This purge comes after a series of scandals. It’s as if MBS is trying to evade one scandal by moving on to an even bigger one,” another high placed Saudi critic said.

Justifying the arrests, Ali Shihabi, a Saudi commentator in Washington and a loyal supporter of the regime, appeared to confirm in his tweets that this was about a generational succession.

He wrote: “On Saudi: what people must appreciate is that the Royal family has had to go through a very delicate generational succession (that had been a cloud hanging over the country for over a decade given the large number of princes who were technically eligible to succeed)…

” … and that no formula existed to sort that issue out in [a] fashion that could please everybody. What has happened since King Salman’s succession is that he made his choice clear and that inevitably created a lot of disenfranchised royals some who were naturally displeased…”

This article is available in French on Middle East Eye French edition.

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Saudi Arabia: Mohammed Bin Salman’s Latest Arrests Expose Weakness at Heart of Power

By Madawi al-Rasheed – Middle East Eye

The silence of the Saudi royal palace over the reported arrest of senior princes Ahmed bin Abdulaziz and Mohammed bin Nayef, among others, is deafening.

Yet, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s sudden and bold move is telling.

The arrest of such high-ranking princes without portfolio reveals the shaky ground on which the young prince’s future rests.

Shaky grounds

In its modern history, Saudi Arabia swiftly resolved succession disputes when Crown Prince Faisal challenged the authority of King Saud in the early 1960s. But at the time Faisal had the backing of almost all the royal household, with the exception of Saud and his sons.

Faisal quickly isolated Saud and was granted a fatwa from the religious scholars to oust him.

Today, Mohammed bin Salman seems to have only the support of his old father while other members of the royal household, especially those destined to become kings, feel isolated, humiliated and now, under arrest. 

The Saudi crown prince has not only alienated his own senior uncle Ahmed, and cousin Mohammed bin Nayef, but also the very establishment that would have backed the bold arrest of his own kin, namely the religious establishment. He cannot be assured of the loyalty of senior royalty, religious scholars, and important sections of Saudi society. The cheering crowds at his newly introduced festivals, concerts and boxing matches conceal a deepening crisis in the House of Saud.

A deepening crisis

The young prince lives in fear and isolation. His so-called top-down revolution is stumbling under the pressure of global recession that sent oil prices and local Saudi stock market shares into a slide.

In the past, austerity due to falling oil revenues was a passing stumbling block that was overcome quickly when the kingdom in previous years dealt with a series of oil crises and recessions.

But the current crisis is totally different. It is political rather than economic. King Salman may not be around long enough to cast the shadow of support and extract loyalty from disgruntled princes for his son. The son himself started his rule as the center of power with new unexpected strategies that are now insufficient to guarantee a smooth succession after the king dies.

The abrupt arrest of his own uncle and senior cousins is a risky strategy that will haunt him throughout his future political career. Moreover, the reputation of the kingdom as a country blessed by the ability of the royals to maintain consensus and smooth succession is shattered beyond repair.

The crown prince is compelled once again to use force against his royal rivals of the type witnessed in November 2017, when more than a dozen influential princes were arrested and sent to the Ritz Carlton in Riyadh. This was justified as an anti-corruption move to rid Saudi Arabia of endemic graft.

The descendants of the late King Abdullah, mainly Prince Miteb, the head of the Saudi National Guard at the time, were humiliated and sidelined. Mohammed bin Salman made sure that such a senior rival was deprived of a military base with which he could potentially stage a coup against the rising son king.

The Nayef threat

The crown prince hopes to eliminate the threat of yet another important prince, Mohammed bin Nayef, who for a long time was considered to have managed domestic affairs with an iron fist.

The pervasive intelligence and security networks that he created when he was the central figure in the Ministry of Interior still haunt the current crown prince even after bin Nayef was deprived of all his official government posts. The crown prince fears the very draconian measures that his cousin took to crush potential opposition could yet be deployed against him.

Mohammed bin Nayef guaranteed the security of the throne in preparation for him becoming king. But he lived to see his young cousin, Mohammed, benefiting from all the surveillance and tough security he enforced in the kingdom. He was ungratefully rewarded by being abruptly sacked by the king, and now he is reportedly arrested.

News of his humiliation has travelled around the globe while the royal palace remains silent over his whereabouts.

The Al-Nayef lineage within the royal household is now facing its last days and will only be remembered as a fallen tower that kept Saudis fearful for their life under his regime, when they had been subjected to arbitrary detention, torture, and unjustified disappearances at the hands of Nayef senior, and his son Mohammed. 

A pre-emptive strike

Prince Ahmed, the remaining eligible brother of King Salman who could potentially succeed him, is also reported to be among the princes arrested on 7 March. He was probably seized not because of his previous military or security credentials – he had none throughout his short-lived career in government.

His arrest rather was a pre-emptive strike to mitigate against the senior prince becoming a focal symbolic character around which other disgruntled princes might gather.

The potential of Prince Ahmed becoming such a figure reminds us of the ten years of King Abdullah’s reign when he became the strong king who managed to counter the threats from Salman, Nayef and Sultan bin Abdulaziz at the time.

Abdullah represented a symbol for many princes who resented the monopoly of power by these three most important figures in Saudi politics. Ahmed had already expressed reservations over the policies of the new king and his son, for example, over the war on Yemen in 2015.

But since then, after his return to Saudi Arabia, he maintained his silence. Other marginalized princes might have looked to Ahmed to save them from sinking into historical oblivion when the crown prince eventually becomes king.

Royal drama

King Salman could have made Ahmed crown prince after his son’s many scandals and mismanagement of the political affairs and foreign relations of the kingdom, above all the scandal over Jamal Khashoggi’s death in 2018.

But the king missed an opportunity and now the arrest of Prince Ahmed removes a symbolic figure who is potentially capable of restoring the semblance of continuity and respectability in the royal household.

Once a secure monarchy with powerful princes who successfully contained all sorts of political, economic and security threats, Saudi Arabia is now plagued by uncertainty and dangers. 

In the process of consolidating the Al Saud’s grip on power, the royals have deprived all Saudis of the right to live in an open society with political institutions that can guarantee the survival of the kingdom and the participation of its citizens in the decision-making process. Unfortunately, Saudis have been turned into spectators watching the country’s royal drama unfold.

Condemnations pour in as court exonerates Saudi officials in Khashoggi murder case

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)

A protester wears a mask depicting Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman with red painted hands next to people holding posters of slain Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi during the demonstration outside the Riyadh’s consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, October 25, 2018. (Photo by AFP)

SourceTuesday, 24 December 2019 8:01 AM  [ Last Update: Wednesday, 25 December 2019 6:53 AM ]

A Saudi court ruling over the state-sponsored killing of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi has drawn outrage across the political spectrum, including from a number of states, the United Nations, several rights groups and even some American lawmakers. They have unanimouslydenounced the ruling that dismissed charges against top Saudi officials, saying it failed to deliver justice.

In a televised press conference in Riyadh on Monday, Saudi Deputy Public Prosecutor Shaalan al-Shaalan announced the conclusion of the so-called trial in the Khashoggi case that had been closed to the public.

He said that out of the 31 suspects investigated in connection with the killing, 21 had been arrested and 11 put on trial.

Death sentences were eventually issued for five people and jail terms totaling 24 years were handed down to three others, he added, without naming any of those sentenced.

The remaining three, however, were found not guilty, including Saud al-Qahtani, a former top adviser to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Ahmed al-Assiri, an ex-deputy intelligence chief, and Mohamed al-Otaibi, who was consul general in the kingdom’s consulate in the Turkish city of Istanbul when the murder happened.

Both Qahtani and Assiri were relieved of their duties in the immediate aftermath of Khashoggi’s assassination last year. Qahtani and Otaibi were also sanctioned a year ago by the US Treasury for their involvement in the murder.

RSF: Justice trampled on with Saudi court verdict in Khashoggi case

RSF: Justice trampled on with Saudi court verdict in Khashoggi case

RSF says Riyadh wants to “permanently silence the suspects” behind the murder of Jamal Khashoggi.

Khashoggi — an outspoken critic of the heir to the Saudi throne — went into self-imposed exile in the US in 2017. The Washington Post columnist entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2, 2018, to obtain paperwork he needed to marry his Turkish fiancée.

Inside Riyadh’s mission, he was confronted by a Saudi hit team, who killed him and brutally dismembered his body.

The CIA has concluded that bin Salman had ordered the murder. The journalist’s remains have yet to be found.

Elsewhere in his remarks, Shaalan claimed that Khashoggi’s killers had decided to murder him after their arrival in Istanbul.

“Our investigations show that there was no premeditation to kill at the beginning of the mission,” he claimed.

Shaalan’s claims sparked a wave of condemnations from the world body, human rights organizations and US legislators.

HRW: Trial ‘all but satisfactory’

Ahmed Benchemsi, spokesman for Human Rights Watch, told the Doha-based Al Jazeera broadcaster that the trial was “all but satisfactory.”

The case was “shrouded in secrecy since the beginning, and it’s still … until now … We do not know the identities of those masked perpetrators, we don’t know the specific charge leveled against who exactly,” he said.

“Saudi prosecutors did not even attempt to investigate the upper levels of this crime, and whether they played a role in ordering the killing, including Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman,” he added.

Adam Coogle, who researches Saudi Arabia for the HRW, underlined the need for an independent probe.

“Saudi Arabia’s absolution of its senior leadership of any culpability in the murder of Jamal Khashoggi raises serious concerns over the fairness of the criminal proceedings,” he said.

“Saudi Arabia’s handling of the murder, from complete denial to hanging the murder on lower-level operatives in a trial that lacked transparency, demonstrates the need for an independent criminal inquiry.”

Amnesty: Verdict ‘a whitewash’

In turn, Amnesty International has blasted the verdict as “a whitewash” and said Saudi officials have failed the slain journalist and his family.

“This verdict … brings neither justice nor the truth for Jamal Khashoggi and his loved ones. The trial has been closed to the public and to independent monitors, with no information available as to how the investigation was carried out,” Lynn Maalouf, Amnesty International’s Middle East Research Director, said in a statement.

“The verdict fails to address the Saudi authorities’ involvement in this devastating crime or clarify the location of Jamal Khashoggi’s remains,” she added.

UN rapporteur: Masterminds walking free

In a series of tweets, Agnes Callamard, the UN rapporteur investigating Khashoggi’s killing, condemned the ruling as a “travesty,” noting that the trial had failed to consider the involvement of the state.

Agnes Callamard  

@AgnesCallamard · Dec 23, 2019Replying to @AgnesCallamard

j) Bottom line: the hit-men are guilty, sentenced to death. The masterminds not only walk free. They have barely been touched by the investigation and the trial. That is the antithesis of Justice. It is a mockery.

Agnes Callamard  

@AgnesCallamard

k) Impunity for the killing of a journalist commonly reveals political repression, corruption, abuse of power, propaganda, and even international complicity. All are present in #SaudiArabia killing of #JamalKhashoggi. (PM me for more comments.)

4763:22 PM – Dec 23, 2019Twitter Ads info and privacy   290 people are talking about this   “The execution of Jamal Khashoggi demanded an investigation into the chain of command to identify the masterminds, as well as those who incited, allowed or turned a blind eye to the murder, such as the Crown Prince,” she wrote.

“This was not investigated. Bottom line: the hit men are guilty, sentenced to death. The masterminds not only walk free, they have barely been touched by the investigation and the trial. That is the antithesis of justice. It is a mockery.”

In her 101-page report released in June, Callamard said that there is “sufficient credible evidence” indicating that the heir to the Saudi throne bears responsibility for the murder and thus should be investigated.

Erdogan spox: Those ordering murder given immunity

Fahrettin Altun, a spokesman for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, said that the Saudi officials who had ordered the operation were “granted immunity.”

“To claim that a handful of intelligence operatives committed this murder is to mock the world’s intelligence — to say the least,” he tweeted.

UK: Khashoggi’s family deserve to see justice

British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab described Khashoggi’s murder as “a terrible crime.”

“Mr. Khashoggi’s family deserve to see justice done for his brutal murder. Saudi Arabia must ensure all of those responsible are held to account and that such an atrocity can never happen again,” he said in a statement.

Washington Post: An ‘insult’ to Khashoggi’s family

The Washington Post editorial board called Monday’s sentences a “travesty of justice.”

“The result is an insult to Khashoggi’s family and to all those, including a bipartisan congressional majority, who have demanded genuine accountability in the case,” it wrote in an op-ed.

The editorial board also warned the international community against welcoming the result of the Saudi trial.

“International acceptance of the result would not only be morally wrong but dangerous, too: It would send the reckless Saudi ruler the message that his murderous adventurism will be tolerated,” it said.

‘Trial comedy’

The dissident Saudi Twitter account Prisoners of Conscience criticized the trial of Khashoggi’s killers as a “comedy,” saying that all those involved in the crime should be held accountable.

“Just a year ago, the US intelligence published a report revealing correspondences between Saud al-Qahtani and Bin Salman before, during and following Khashoggi’s assassination,” it pointed out.

“Today, the Saudi judiciary claims that the crime took place without prior planning and acquits Saud al-Qahtani! What kind of independent judiciary is this?!” it added.

American lawmakers fume at sentences

Several US legislators have censured not only Saudi Arabia for the verdict but also US President Donald Trump, who has shielded bin Salman from blame for Khashoggi’s assassination and emphasized Riyadh’s lucrative arms deals with Washington instead.

Senator Bernie Sanders, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for president, highlighted the CIA’s conclusion and slammed the trial as “a cover-up” by the Saudi regime.

“This sham trial, carried out by a despotic and lawless regime, looks more like a cover-up,” he said. “Maybe Donald Trump might want to stop proclaiming his love and affection for the Saudi dictatorship.”

Bernie Sanders  

@SenSanders

The CIA concluded that the Saudi crown prince ordered the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. This sham trial, carried out by a despotic and lawless regime, looks more like a cover-up.

Maybe Donald Trump might want to stop proclaiming his love and affection for the Saudi dictatorship. https://twitter.com/KarenAttiah/status/1209144376338911233 …Karen Attiah  

@KarenAttiah

Saudi Arabia’s “trial” and “investigation” of Jamal Khashoggi’s murder has been a complete sham.

Executing five nameless, faceless men without transparency and an investigation into the regime’s responsibility is not justice. It’s just more bloodshed. https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/middle_east/saudi-arabia-says-five-sentenced-to-death-in-killing-of-jamal-khashoggi/2019/12/23/02fc0ea4-256a-11ea-9cc9-e19cfbc87e51_story.html …

11.7K1:30 AM – Dec 24, 2019Twitter Ads info and privacy   3,409 people are talking about this   Similarly, Democrat Senator Tim Kaine cited the CIA’s assessment on the case, urging the US government to seek justice for Khashoggi.

“Senior Saudi officials continue to escape accountability for the state-sponsored murder of Jamal Khashoggi,” said Kaine, who represents Virginia, where Khashoggi lived.

“The Trump Administration should be demanding justice for the brutal killing of a journalist and VA resident instead of ignoring the CIA’s assessment of who killed him,” Kaine added.

Connecticut Democrat Senator Richard Blumenthal blamed the US president for bin Salam’s evasion of responsibility.

“After a sham trial, the masterminds behind Jamal Khashoggi’s brutal murder walk away scot-free,” he said. “Trump is also culpable – having done next to nothing to hold the Crown Prince accountable for murdering a brave, truth-seeking journalist.”

Congressman Adam Schiff, who chairs the US House Intelligence Committee, rejected the Saudi prosecutor’s assertion that the Khashoggi’s killing had not been planned.

“This sentence is a continuation of the Kingdom’s effort to distance Saudi leadership, including the Crown Prince, from the brutal assassination of a journalist and US resident, Jamal Khashoggi,” he tweeted.

“This was a premeditated murder, not a ‘snap decision’ or rogue operation.”

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Joe Biden Says He Would Make Saudi Arabia a «Pariah»

Joe Biden Says He Would Make Saudi Arabia a «Pariah»

By Staff, The Intercept

Former US Vice President and Democratic candidate for the 2020 presidential elections Joe Biden said he would not sell weapons to Saudi Arabia – marking a sharp contrast with the Obama administration – and stressing he would make the Saudis “pay the price” for their killing of Washington Post contributor Jamal Khashoggi.

Biden made his remarks during the Democratic debate on Wednesday night.

“I would make it very clear we were not going to in fact sell more weapons to them,” Biden said. “We were going to in fact make them pay the price, and make them in fact the pariah that they are.” Biden also said there is “very little social redeeming value in the present government in Saudi Arabia,” and, in reference to Yemen, said he would end “end the sale of material to the Saudis where they’re going in and murdering children.”

Biden’s admission is a significant departure from the Democratic Party position before Donald Trump. Saudi Arabia objected to the US’s posture during the so-called Arab Spring, as well as the Obama administration’s diplomatic overtures toward Iran, but that did not stop the US from supporting the Saudis’ intervention in Yemen and from selling Saudi Arabia more than $100 billion in weapons. In recent years, under Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman [MBS], Saudi Arabia has launched an unprecedented crackdown on dissent at home and abroad, and Khashoggi’s murder has led Democrats to call for fundamental changes to the US-Saudi alliance.

At the Atlanta debate, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders called Saudi Arabia a “brutal dictatorship” and said that “what we’ve got to know is that Saudi Arabia is not a reliable ally.” He added, “We need to be rethinking who our allies are around the world, work with the United Nations, and not continue to support brutal dictatorships.”

New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker said, “It’s a human rights violation, without coming to the United States Congress, for an authorization for the use of military force, for us to refuel Saudi jets to bomb Yemeni children.” Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar said, “When the president did not stand up the way he should have to that killing and dismemberment of a journalist with an American newspaper, that sent a signal to all dictators across the world that that was OK.”

Indeed, many of the more captivating moments of the debate – the fifth in the monthly series – were focused on foreign policy, and on appealing to black voters. And the longstanding frontrunners – Biden, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, and Sanders – left ample room for the other seven to jump in. Warren had been at the center of a firestorm in last month’s Democratic debate, having pulled ahead in national and early-state polls. She has slipped in national polls, as South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg has climbed, and questions about topics in her wheelhouse – corruption, and Medicare for All – flew by without incident.

HRW Highlights «Deepening Repression» Under Saudi’s MBS

HRW Highlights «Deepening Repression» Under Saudi’s MBS

By Staff, Agencies

Human Rights Watch says Saudi de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s [MBS] rise to power two years ago has been accompanied by “deepening repression and abusive practices” across the kingdom.

In a new report released on Monday, the New York-based group said activists, clerics and other perceived critics of the Saudi crown prince continue to be arbitrarily detained more than a year after the killing of the dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi agents in the kingdom’s consulate in Turkey.

The report noted the detention of dissidents and harassment of their families was not a new phenomenon in the kingdom history, but the wave of repression since late 2017 had been distinguished by new repressive measures.

“Detaining citizens for peaceful criticism of the government’s policies or human rights advocacy is not a new phenomenon in Saudi Arabia,” it said.

“But what has made the post-2017 arrest waves notable and different, however, is the sheer number and range of individuals targeted over a short period of time as well as the introduction of new repressive practices.”

The crackdown under MBS began in September 2017 with the arrest of dozens of critics and rights activists in what was widely interpreted as an attempt to crush dissent.

The crown prince has also been on a modernization drive with reforms including allowing women over 21 to obtain passports and travel abroad without the permission of a male guardian.

But these reforms have belied a “darker reality,” according to the report, including the mass arrests of women’s rights activists, a number of whom have allegedly been sexually assaulted and suffered torture including whipping and electric shocks.

The report also said those reforms were a smokescreen for the ongoing detention of dozens of dissidents, some allegedly tortured in custody.

“Important social reforms enacted under Prince Mohammed have been accompanied by deepening repression and abusive practices meant to silence dissidents and critics.”

According to the report, the new repressive measure by MBS included extorting financial assets in exchange for a detainee’s freedom, a tool used against dozens of business people and royal family members arbitrarily held at the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Riyadh in November 2017.

Hundreds of elite princes and businessmen were then detained in what was billed as a move against corruption that was draining state coffers.

HRW cited reports that Saudi Arabia has used surveillance technologies to hack into the online accounts of the regime critics and infected their mobile phones with spyware.

The report also highlighted a lack of accountability for those responsible for Khashoggi’s murder, a crime MBS has sought to distance himself from.

A UN report released in June said there was “credible evidence” MBS and other senior Saudi officials were liable for Khashoggi’s killing, which the kingdom has characterized as a rogue operation by its agents.

But the international criticism has failed to halt a campaign against perceived dissidents inside the kingdom, according to the HRW report, with waves of arrests carried out against women’s rights activists and their allies this year, including the writer Khadijah al-Harbi, who was pregnant at the time of her detention.

Saudi Arabia’s ‘Strategic Plan’ To Take Turkey Down

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has drawn up a plan to target Erdogan’s government following Khashoggi’s murder

By David Hearst, Ragip Soylu – Middle East Eye

Saudi Arabia has begun implementing a “strategic plan” to confront the Turkish government, after Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman decided he was being “too patient” with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the wake of journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s murder.

The plan is detailed in a confidential report based on open- and closed-source intelligence prepared by the kingdom’s ally, the United Arab Emirates.

The intelligence report is one of a monthly series written by the Emirates Policy Centre, a think tank with close links to the Emirati government and security services.

Entitled “Monthly Report on Saudi Arabia, Issue 24, May 2019”, the report is of limited circulation and intended for the top Emirati leadership. It does not appear on the think tank’s website. A copy has been obtained by Middle East Eye.

It reveals that in Riyadh in May, orders were given to implement the strategic plan to confront the Turkish government.

The aim of the plan was to use

“all possible tools to pressure Erdogan’s government, weaken him, and keep him busy with domestic issues in the hope that he will be brought down by the opposition, or occupy him with confronting crisis after crisis, and push him to slip up and make mistakes which the media would surely pick up on”.

Middle East Eye contacted the Emirates Policy Centre for comment, with no reply by the time of publication.

Restricting influence

Riyadh’s aim is to restrict Erdogan and Turkey’s regional influence.

“The kingdom would start to target the Turkish economy and press towards the gradual termination of Saudi investment in Turkey, the gradual decrease of Saudi tourists visiting Turkey while creating alternative destinations for them, decreasing Saudi import of Turkish goods, and most importantly minimizing Turkish regional role in Islamic matters,” the report says.

According to the report, Mohammed bin Salman, the kingdom’s de facto ruler, took the decision to confront Turkey following the assassination of Khashoggi by a team of Saudi agents in their country’s Istanbul consulate.

The murder of the Saudi journalist, a Middle East Eye and Washington Post columnist, created international outrage, in large part due to Turkey’s insistence on Riyadh providing accountability and transparency over the affair.

“President Erdogan … went too far in his campaign smearing the kingdom, especially the person of the crown prince, using in the most reprehensible manner the case of Khashoggi,” the reports says.

In the document, the Emirates Policy Centre claims Turkey did not provide “specific and honest” information to assist the Saudi investigation into the killing, but instead leaked “disinformation” to the media “all aimed at distorting the image of the kingdom and attempting to destroy the reputation of the crown prince”.

Riyadh had concluded that Erdogan failed in his attempt to politicize and internationalize the case and now was the time to mount the fightback, the report says.

Both the CIA and leading members of the US Congress have accepted the Turkish intelligence assessment of Khashoggi’s murder.

The CIA also concluded that Mohammed bin Salman almost certainly signed off on the operation, an assessment based on its own intelligence as well.

“The accepted position is that there is no way this happened without him being aware or involved,” said a US official familiar with the CIA’s conclusions, the Washington Post reported.

Since then, a report by United Nations human rights investigator Agnes Callamard detailed the difficulties the Turkish authorities had in investigating the murder and gaining access to the consulate building and the home of the consul-general.

Callamard concluded independently that the crown prince ordered Khashoggi’s murder.

The pressure begins

Last week came the first public sign of the campaign detailed in the Emirati document coming to life.

Saudi authorities blocked 80 Turkish trucks transporting textile products and chemicals from entering the kingdom through its Duba port.

Three hundred containers carrying fruit and vegetables from Turkey had also been held in Jeddah’s port, according to a Turkish official who spoke to MEE on condition of anonymity.

The number of Saudi tourists visiting Turkey decreased 15 percent [from 276,000 to 234,000] in the first six months of 2019, according to official data released by the Turkish tourism ministry.

Saudi Arabia has approximately $2bn worth of direct investment in Turkey, according to the Turkish foreign ministry data from 2018.

That year, Turkish exports to Saudi Arabia were valued at around $2.64bn, while imports from the kingdom stood at $2.32bn.

Behind the scenes, other signals have been sent to Ankara.

The Emirati report says “in a sign that the Saudi leadership has severed its relationship with … Erdogan and started treating him as an enemy”, King Salman approved “without hesitation” a recommendation from an advisory committee not to send an official invitation to attend a high-profile Organization of Islamic Cooperation summit in Mecca.

The Turkish president’s name was added to the list of those excluded from the summit, alongside Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and the Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani.

Eventually, King Salman decided to allow the Qatari emir to attend the event in Mecca, though Erdogan’s invitation was not forthcoming.

The Turkish government is aware of the Saudi crown prince’s attempts to sever relations and is trying to combat them through keeping direct communications with his father, King Salman.

A senior Turkish official, speaking anonymously, said the existence of a Saudi strategy to punish Turkey over its stance on the Khashoggi case wasn’t surprising.

“We are aware of what they are doing. It is almost public, to the extent that you could see their activities on Saudi-backed social media and Saudi state media,” the official told MEE, noting that they had openly called for a boycott.

“Tourist arrivals are decreasing, while we are having problems related to Turkish exports. We are closely following the situation.”

The Turkish official said, however, that Ankara does not believe that Saudi citizens are altering their stance on Turkey, despite the government in Riyadh’s efforts.

“Istanbul, for example, is still full of Saudi tourists. Saudi officials should check the BBC’s poll on Erdogan’s popularity in the Middle East. Then they will realize that they are failing,” the official said.

Erdogan phoned the king on Thursday, raising the problem of Turkish exports being held at Saudi ports.

Another Turkish official, also speaking anonymously, said Erdogan’s phone call with the Saudi king was cordial and focused on regional developments, such as Syria and the Palestine question.

The official, who was informed about the call, said the king was lucid and supportive of Turkish concerns with regard to Syria.

In the same call, Erdogan invited King Salman and his family, including the crown prince, to Turkey.

Source

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Mohammed Bin Salman Is Making Muslims Boycott Mecca

By Ahmed Twaij, Foreign Policy

Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman has attempted to cast Saudi Arabia in a more positive light and mask the country’s more aggressive internal and foreign policies by undertaking so-called liberal reforms. But it has not been enough to silence those who continue to draw attention to his government’s human rights abuses.

The rising death toll of civilians killed by Saudi bombs in Yemen, the horrific slaughter of Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, and Riyadh’s aggressive approach to Iran have led some of Saudi Arabia’s Sunni allies to reconsider their unwavering support for the kingdom.

In late April, Libya’s most prominent Muslim Sunni cleric, Grand Mufti Sadiq al-Ghariani, called for all Muslims to boycott the hajj – the obligatory pilgrimage of Muslims to Mecca.

He went so far as to claim that anyone who embarked on a second pilgrimage was conducting “an act of sin rather than a good deed.” The reasoning behind the boycott is the suggestion that boosting Saudi Arabia’s economy through pilgrimage continues to fuel arms purchases and direct attacks on Yemen – and indirectly Syria, Libya, Tunisia, Sudan, and Algeria. Ghariani added that investment in the hajj would “help Saudi rulers to carry out crimes against our fellow Muslims.”

Ghariani is not the first prominent Muslim scholar to support a ban on the hajj. Yusuf al-Qaradawi, also a Sunni cleric and vocal critic of Saudi Arabia, announced a fatwa in August last year banning the pilgrimage, instead stating, “Seeing Muslims feeding the hungry, treating the sick, and sheltering the homeless are better viewed by Allah than spending money on the hajj.”

Saudi Arabia’s influence is not merely linked to its political and military capacity but also to its historical ties to Islam. As the home of both Mecca and Medina, Islam’s two holiest sites and the location of the Kaaba and burial place of Prophet Muhammad respectively, Saudi Arabia’s influence extends far beyond its Arab neighbors but to the Muslim world in general. More than 2.3 million Muslims from all sects flock to Mecca during the annual hajj pilgrimage and many more throughout the year, making visiting Saudi Arabia an aspiration for many Muslims around the world.

This relationship with Islam has instinctively led many from the Sunni Arab world to look to the kingdom for daily guidance on religious issues. In response to Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution and fear of it cascading throughout the region, Saudi Arabia has spent millions of dollars exporting its brand of Islam through the funding of mosques around the world, many of which have been linked to … extremism in the West, as it claims to be leader of the Muslim world.

For years, Saudi Arabia has been working toward becoming a regional hegemon in the Middle East, whose claim to power, in recent years, is threatened only by Iran. As one of the world’s largest oil exporters with close ties to the United States, Saudi Arabia found itself basking in the steadfast support of many of its neighboring states for decades.

Despite mounting evidence of the royal family’s role in the “premeditated execution” of Khashoggi, the Trump administration hastily discredited any indication of Saudi involvement in the killing, with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo recently neglecting to mention the topic when meeting with Saudi King Salman. The White House and US State Department might be willing to turn a blind eye, but fellow Muslims have not been as forgiving.

Throughout the Middle East and in other Muslim-majority nations, there has been growing concern over the slaying of Khashoggi, as well as the rising death toll in Yemen, which is expected to reach 230,000 by 2020 through the often indiscriminate airstrikes by the Saudi-led coalition –which has bombed hospitals, funerals, children’s school buses, and weddings – in what has been described as the “worst man-made humanitarian crisis of our time” by UN officials. Saudi Arabia’s truculent approach to the Yemen war has isolated itself within its own coalition; even the Emirati government has shown some discomfort toward the Saudi approach.

Saudi Arabia’s atrocities have provoked persistent global condemnation, with calls for banning weapons trade with the country. Both the US House of Representatives and Senate have recently pushed back on President Donald Trump’s arms deal with Saudi Arabia, and Germany has banned such trade with the country since last October. Adding to the list, Switzerland and Italy have also moved toward banning arms trade with Saudi Arabia, and a British court recently ruled that arms deals with Saudi Arabia may have been unlawful. Ghariani has gone one step further in calling for a boycott of the country from its largest annual contingent of tourists during the hajj.

Unlike past attempts to boycott Saudi Arabia, the current effort has crossed the sectarian divide.

In 2011, Riyadh violently repressed Bahrain’s popular uprising at the request of the Bahraini government. The protests were led by Shiite Muslims, who are a majority in the Sunni-ruled country, and Iraqi activists reacted by calling for a boycott of all Saudi products. Protests across Iraq were organized and attended by Shiite clerics, academics, and politicians alike. At the time, then-Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said that if the Saudi-led violence were to continue, “the region may be drawn into a sectarian war.”

Today, calls for boycotting the kingdom have spiraled and they aren’t just coming from Shiites. The hashtag #boycotthajj has been trending on Twitter, amassing nearly 16,000 tweets. Sunni clerics around the world have also called for a boycott. The Tunisian Union of Imams said in June that

“the money [from the hajj] that goes to Saudi authorities is not used to help poor Muslims around the world. Instead it is used to kill and displace people as is the case currently in Yemen.”

Given that the hajj is one of the five pillars of Islam, prescribed as obligatory for all Muslims, the call for a boycott indicates the genuine, acerbic concern toward Saudi behavior. Should this trend continue, Saudi Arabia’s claim to being the spiritual home of Islam would be at risk – and it could take an economic hit, too.

Pilgrimage is vital to the Saudi economy and worth $12 billion annually, amounting to 20 percent of non-oil GDP, and is expected to rise to $150 billion by 2022, given the investment in luxury hotels by the Saudi government. Such investment has caused profits to skyrocket, pricing many poorer Muslims out of trips to the kingdom.

The calls for boycotting the hajj are not the first time the religious pilgrimage has been politicized. Saudi Arabia itself has in recent years banned both Qatari and Iranian nationals from partaking due to growing political differences between the states. Saudi officials have also abused the sanctity of the city of Mecca to promote their political ideology.

During one prayer sermon in October last year, Sheikh Abdul-Rahman al-Sudais, the imam of the Great Mosque in Mecca, stated:

“The path of reform and modernization in this blessed land … through the care and attention from its young, ambitious, divinely inspired reformer crown prince, continues to blaze forward guided by his vision of innovation and insightful modernism, despite all the failed pressures and threats,”

implying that no Muslim should be questioning the Saudi political elite.

In an effort to flex its political might, and inevitably draw attention away from the Khashoggi killing and the country’s continued leading role in the war in Yemen, Saudi Arabia organized an emergency summit in late May in Mecca to put the focus back on Iran. During the summit, which brought together in separate meetings Arab leaders, the Gulf Cooperation Council, and the Islamic world, Saudis called for support from Arab countries to deal with the Iran crisis by “using all means to stop the Iranian regime from interfering in the internal affairs of other countries, harboring global and regional terrorist entities, and threatening international waterways.”

In defiance, and highlighting Saudi Arabia’s waning status as the regional power, Iraq fully opposed the closing statement, which was to denounce Iran, and instead pledged a message of support toward Iran and called on other countries to help stabilize the country. At the summit in Mecca, Iraqi President Barham Salih stated: “Honestly, the security and stability of a neighboring Islamic country is in the interest of Muslim and Arab states,” referring to Iran. Similarly, during the summit, Saudi Arabia failed in getting the Organization of Islamic Cooperation – an international organization with headquarters in Jeddah – to isolate and condemn Iran.

As the death toll in Yemen rises, countries around the world are now calling for an economic, religious, and political boycott of Saudi Arabia – not just the banning of arms trade. Riyadh is running out of friends in the West, and, now, its relationships with regional allies are starting to show cracks. Should the Trump administration fail to secure a second term, Saudi Arabia may be left with few international friends and its claim to leadership of the Muslim and Arab world will be severely damaged.

تبرئة إبن سلمان تساوي ثروات جزيرة العرب

يوليو 1, 2019

د. وفيق إبراهيم

مشهد ولي العهد السعودي محمد بن سلمان في قمة العشرين في أوساكا اليابانية بدا مفبركاً، ومنفوخاً بآليات أميركية غربية ويابانية… دفعت بالإعلام الى التعامل «المتعمّد» معه، على شكل «زعيم محوري» يتناثر الذهب من عباءته. ولا يهتمّ إلا بأوضاع المرأة السعودية ونشر القيم والازدهار في العالم.

هكذا هي الدول الاستعمارية والصناعية على مدار التاريخ لا تتغيّر قيد أنملة.. وما يثير شبقها هو تراكم المال والثروات التي تنسف العلاقات الإنسانية والحق والخير والجمال، لمصلحة الاحتكار الاقتصادي الحصري…

لعل قضية إبن سلمان هي واحدة من عشرات آلاف الأدلة التي لا تحتاج الى تنقيب بحثي عميق يثبت إهمال الغرب أي علاقة حقيقية باستثناء بعض انحاء العالم الشمالي الذي يمارس ديموقراطية داخل بلدانه واستعماراً بغيضاً في ثلاثة أرباع الأرض.. وهذا بحد ذاته، مثيرٌ للدهشة والتعجب..

لقد بدت قمة اوساكا وكأنها منعقدة لسببين: تأمين قرارات بين قواها الكبرى تؤمن الفوز للرئيس الأميركي ترامب في الانتخابات الرئاسية المقبلة في العام المقبل… وإعادة الاعتبار لإبن سلمان.

لجهة ترامب، يكفي أنه اتفق مع الرئيس الصيني على إعادة السماح للشركات الأميركية والعالمية بالشراء والتعامل مع شركة هواوي الصينية الضخمة مقابل شراء الصين منتجات زراعية أميركية حصرية، لا يجد أصحابها اسواق تصريف لها حتى أن ترامب بدا مزهواً وهو يقول إن هذا الاتفاق ينقذ الآلاف من صغار المزارعين الأميركيين الذين يشكون من كساد منتجاتهم… بما يندرج في إطار البحث الهادف عن أصوات الناخبين الأميركيين، وذوي الأصول الصينية في الولايات المتحدة الأميركية.

الطريف في هذا الاتفاق أنه قابل للنقض بآلاف الحجج والذرائع بعد انتهاء الانتخابات مباشرة، هذا بالإضافة الى أن مجمل المباحثات الأميركية مع روسيا واليابان واوروبا وبلدان أخرى التي انتهت كالعادة الى «استكمالها في أوقات أخرى»، إنما رمت إلى إثارة مناخ تهدئة على خلافات عميقة بهدف استثمار ترامب لها في الانتخابات المقبلة.

لكن السياسة الأميركية ـ الترامبية تجلّت على حقيقتها في قمة العشرين في اليابان بطريقة التعامل مع ولي العهد السعودي، فكان هناك تعمدٌ مقصودٌ بمنحه حيزاً كبيراً من الاهتمام الأميركي ـ الأوروبي الياباني الذي استتبع عناية روسية صينية مصرية به جذبت كامل البلدان الحاضرة.

حتى ظهر إبن سلمان نجماً ويسعى الحاضرون لكسب رضاه أم ذهبه، فالأمر سيان.

للتوضيح فقط، فإن ولي العهد متهم بقتل الصحافي جمال الخاشقجي في قنصلية بلاده السعودية في مدينة اسطنبول التركية وذلك بتقطيعه بالمناشير من قبل جهاز أمني سعودي تابع لولي العهد مباشرة.

أما السبب فهو معارضة الخاشقجي لسياسات إبن سلمان، فاستفاد من هذا الاغتيال فريقان: المعارضات الأميركية لترامب التي تبنّت اتهام ابن سلمان وطالبت بمحاكمته، إلى جانب بعض السياسات الأوروبية المتناقضة مع ترامب أيضاً، التي أرادت النيل من الرئيس الأميركي من خلال إدانة صديقه ابن سلمان بقتل الخاشقجي.

الأتراك بدورهم اعتبروا الاغتيال على أراضيهم فرصة للنيل من مكانة السعودية في العالمين العربي والأسلامي.. فبدأوا يحلمون بتدهور الموقع السعودي لمصلحة صعود دور تركي على متن الاخوان المسلمين… وهم مستمرون على هذه الخطة التي تتراجع مع أحلام الرئيس التركي اردوغان الذي خسر الانتخابات البلدية في أربع مدن تركية كبرى بينها اسطنبول.

هذه التداعيات جعلت محمد بن سلمان يحضر قمة العشرين السابقة في 2018 بشكل هزيل جداً، ظهر المشاركون فيها وكأنهم ينفرون منه متجنّبين التخاطب معه، حتى أنه وجد مكاناً منعزلاً في آخر القاعة ليأخذ مع بقية أعضاء القمة الصورة الختامية التذكارية، وكان ولي العهد معزولاً في المدة الأخيرة ومتهماً من الجميع تقريباً بالقتل باستثناء ترامب وإدارته، ما استتبع تراجعاً كبيراً في الدور السعودي عموماً.

وفجأة عاود بن سلمان احتلال موقع قوي في قمة العشرين الحالية، عاقداً عشرات اللقاءات الجانبية مع رؤساء الدول الكبرى في أميركا والصين وروسيا واليابان ودول أوروبا وغيرها وسط اهتمام إعلامي مسبوق. وبدت تركيا وحيدة شبه منعزلة في الاستمرار باتهامه.

ماذا يجري؟

إن إعادة نفخ إبن سلمان تواكبت مع اتهامات جديدة ودقيقة قدّمتها المحققة الأممية كالامارد، اتهمت فيه ابن سلمان بمقتل الخاشقجي، ما أعاد القضية إلى دائرة الضوء الشديد فرجعت الاتهامات كما كانت قبل عام… وهنا تكمن الحنكة، فبدلاً من أن يعود إبن سلمان الى التواري والانسحاب التمويهي من دائرة السياسة الدولية، كما فعل سابقاً فإذا به يسفر عن كامل وجهه متألقاً أكثر من حجم بلاده في قمة العشرين.

وهذا يؤكد أن هناك مشروعاً أميركياً أوروبياً لتبرئته بوسائل فنية ترتدي اللبوس القانوني، وذلك لا يكون إلا بالتغاضي الروسي ـ الصيني عن الفبركات القانونية الجديدة، مع مزيد من الانفتاح السياسي المملوء برائحة الصفقات الاقتصادية والتسويات النفطية.

لقد تحوّل ترامب في قمة العشرين ومعه رئيسة وزراء بريطانيا تريزا ماي الى فقيهين في الشؤون القانونية وعلم الجريمة…

فبعد إلحاح الإعلاميين قال الرئيس الأميركي إنه لا يمكن للقضاء أن يبني على اشاعات الرأي العام لأنه لا يستند إلا إلى ادلة دامغة، وهذه، حسب رأيه، لا تؤدي إلى اتهام ابن سلمان الذي يحاكم 13 متهماً قاموا بالجريمة من دون معرفته.

وأيّدته تريزا ماي التي أكدت أن بلادها مهتمة، بالكشف عن جريمة الخاشقجي، وأضافت «من دون أن تقهقه» أن إبن سلمان قال لها إنه حريص على محاكمة المتهمين الـ13 رجل أمن للكشف عن الجريمة.

وبذلك يتبين أن هناك صفقة، أميركية ـ غربية بلامبالاة صينية ـ روسية، تذهب نحو تبرئة القاتل ومعاقبة 13 رجل أمن تابعين لمكتب محمد بن سلمان وبتهمة قتل الخاشقجي. وبما أن عدد القتلة كبير، فالأحكام قابلة للتوزيع على شاكلة عشر سنوات لكل منهم، أما مكان السجن، فعلمه عند أصحاب العلم والإخفاء.

فهل هذه صفقة مجانية؟ اسألوا ترامب الذي يواصل الإشادة بالسعودية التي أمنت اعمالاً لملايين الأميركيين وتشغل مصانع الاسلحة والبضائع.. وتواصل الدفع للتغطية بمفهوم «الكاوبوي» واخيراً عرجوا على البريطانيين لاستصراحهم عن حصتهم.

فيتبين أن الغرب ينتهز جريمة ولي العهد لاستنزاف كامل ثروات جزيرة العرب وليس قسماً منها، مضيفاً إليها مبدأ «الترهيب من إيران» الأمر الذي يضع حاضر سكان الجزيرة ومستقبلهم تحت رحمة السياسات الاقتصادية الغريبة التي تسطو على العالم منذ قرون عدة.

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The Chilling Message of the Saudi Executions: Colorado Writer

Saudi flag

Terence Ward

May 9, 2019

Terence Ward is a Colorado-born writer, documentarist, and cross-cultural consultant. He grew up in Saudi Arabia, Iran and Egypt, and received his BA in political science at the University of California at Berkeley. For 10 years, he advised clients across the Gulf — Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Qatar, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia conducting management consulting projects and seminars. Ward is also the author of the books “Searching for Hassan” and “The Wahhabi Code: How the Saudis Spread Extremism Globally.”

A couple of weeks have passed since the dramatic beheadings of 37 Saudi citizens that shocked the world. According to Human Rights Watch, at least 33 of those who were executed were from the minority Shia community — which has suffered a long history of persecution in Saudi Arabia.

With the Kingdom facing mounting criticism over bombing deaths and starvation in the Yemen war, imprisoned and reportedly tortured women activists, and the grisly murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, many wonder why Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud offered critics another human rights issue? But these executions served a clear purpose to strike fear in the Saudi Shia population while rallying the royal family’s ultra-conservative Wahhabi – the official creed of the Kingdom fundamentalist base. In the end, to be Shia in Saudi Arabia has always been a complicated affair.

Few Americans know that Wahhabism, a branch of Sunni Islam, looks down on Shia Muslims as apostates. Violence against Shia communities is deeply rooted in the Saudi Kingdom’s DNA. Like African Americans in the Deep South, the Shia have suffered discrimination and suspicion from the Wahhabi ruling elite since the founding of the country in 1932.

Those who were executed in April included protestors who were arrested and convicted of terror-related crimes during the Arab Spring demonstrations in 2011 and 2012. However, the human rights group Amnesty International said the legal proceedings “violated international fair trial standards which relied on confessions extracted through torture.”

According to trial documents obtained by CNN, some of the men repeatedly told the court that their confessions were false and obtained through torture.

When Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman rose to power in 2017, there was some hope that the Salman dynasty would usher in reforms. However, anti-Shia rhetoric persisted. For example, the hardline cleric Saleh al-Fawzan, a member of the state-sponsored Council of Senior Scholars, claimed in 2017, that the Shia are infidels and that anyone who disagrees is also an infidel.

And al-Fawzan has also said that political dissidents who disagree with the Kingdom rulers should be put to death.

The disappearance and murder of Khashoggi, a critic of the Saudi government, after he entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, fell in line with the intentions of al-Fawzan’s rhetoric.

The CIA later concluded that King Salman’s son, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman personally ordered his killing.

The Saudi government has repeatedly denied the allegations, although the US Senate voted to condemn the young prince for Khashoggi’s grisly fate.

While Khashoggi’s death sparked international outrage, the Trump administration steered clear of assigning blame, and many businesses have quietly continued their plans for expansion there.

Amid inflammatory rhetoric against Iran a country dominated by Shia — coming from the White House, King Salman seemed encouraged to send a clear message of terror to his restive Shia citizens.

In doing so, the Saudi government seems to be ignoring the increased pressures it has recently faced on numerous fronts. Congress defied President Donald Trump in voting to suspend military aid for the kingdom’s war in Yemen. The state-owned oil company Aramco’s called off its initial public offering, while investors have reportedly pulled funding for MBS’ ambitious economic plan called Vision 2030.

To counter these setbacks, King Salman has drawn inspiration from the earliest days of the Saud dynasty to secure his most loyal followers the archconservative Wahhabi faithful. Historical persecution of the Shias has been the life-blood of the Wahhabi sect that was borne in central Arabia more than 250 years ago. For centuries, the Shia who lived along the Persian Gulf suffered violence from Wahhabi believers, who labeled them infidels.

During my childhood in Dhahran, when my father worked at Saudi Aramco from 1952-1960, I witnessed persecution of Shia who call the oil-rich eastern province, known as Al-Ahsa, their home. Our friends lived in oasis towns where Shia communities have dwelled for centuries. The sad fact is that the staggering oil wealth that poured into Riyadh was siphoned away from the Eastern Province.

Little was spent in the Shia communities, yet they have represented the majority of Saudi manpower in Aramco — now likely the world’s most profitable company.

Instead of benefiting from the profits of vast oil fields that lay under historically Shia lands, they have been treated as second-class citizens since Ibn Saud, who would eventually go on to found Saudi Arabia, and his family conquered their homeland in 1913. Even today, some Shia friends of mine call it “religious apartheid.”

When I returned as a management consultant to Saudi Arabia in the 1980’s, clerics had condemned mixing between Sunnis and Shia as well as intermarriage.

In numerous religious rulings, the late grand mufti, Abdulaziz Bin Baz, condemned the Shia community. Bin Baz’s religious rulings are still available in the kingdom’s official database and are often cited in Saudi court rulings, which are based on Islamic law.

More recently, a member of the Council of Senior Scholars said that Shia Muslims were “not our brothers … rather they are the brothers of Satan…”, according to Human Rights Watch.

Because of the historic conflict with the Shia community, the execution orders handed down by Saudi magistrates in April were expected.

But larger questions remain. Will MBS truly bring change and a more moderate Islam? Or do these April beheadings signal continued anti-Shia sentiment?

Is the Crown Prince trying to spark a conflict with Iran mother country of the Shia? And will this plunge America and the region into yet another unconstitutional war? Given the Saudi history of aiding and abetting extremists while claiming to be their enemy, should America be wary of being lured into another conflict? We should be very wary.

Recently, US National Security Adviser John Bolton announced that an aircraft carrier strike group with a bomber task force had been deployed to the Persian Gulf to deter Iran.

The royal Saud family may be gambling that America will come to its rescue and plunge the US into, yet again, another war, in what would be another trillion-dollar debacle. The truth is that America is extremely efficient at starting wars but dramatically incompetent at ending them.

Any aggression against Iran risks rupturing ties with Europe and in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, while provoking conflict with both Russia and China. If shooting erupts, the narrow Strait of Hormuz — the gateway in and out of the Persian Gulf — will surely be closed to oil tankers until the guns are silent. Lights of the industrial world will dim. It will be a time for lighting candles, unless cooler heads prevail. Perhaps this is a moment to stand up to the Saudi royals, (after the unpleasant experiences with al-Qaeda and ISIS — both Wahhabi inspired) and not be lured in yet again to another conflagration without end.

 

Source: CNN

US Commission: Saudi Arabia Is Top Violator of Religious Freedom

By Staff, MEE

The US State Department designated Saudi Arabia as one of the world’s “worst violators” of religious freedoms, even as Riyadh remains one of Washington’s top allies in the region.

The US Commission on International Religious Freedom [USCIRF] released its 2019 report on Monday listing Saudi Arabia in the tier one category of countries that implement severe violations of religious freedom.

The annual report, released by the bipartisan organization created two decades ago, highlights the discrimination that Shia Muslims and Christians face in the country.

“Shia Muslims in Saudi Arabia continue to face discrimination in education, employment, and the judiciary, and lack access to senior positions in the government and military,” the 234-page report said.

“As a matter of law, the Saudi government bans the public practice of non-Muslim faiths by citizens and expatriates alike. While the Saudi government has stated repeatedly that non-Muslims who are not converts from Islam may practice their religion in private, this policy has not been codified,” the reported added.

Last week, Saudi Arabia executed 37 people on ‘terrorism’ charges.

Thirty-two of those executed were from Saudi Arabia’s Shia minority and a number of them were juveniles when they were arrested, including a teenager who had planned to study in the US.

The US placed Saudi Arabia as one of the world’s top “countries of particular concern” or CPCs in November 2018.

However, Johnnie Moore, USCIRF’s commissioner who wrote the profile on Saudi Arabia, said promoting “punitive measures” against the kingdom would be counterproductive.

“Such punitive measures could likely have the effect of forcing the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to engage directly and more seriously with countries where religious freedom is not a consideration at all in their foreign policy priorities,” he said.

The State Department recommends granting Saudi Arabia a special waiver because the country is an “important interest to the United States”, the report said.

Saudi Arabia and the US share a deep alliance. The US purchases Saudi oil while the kingdom has ordered billions of dollars of arms from the United States.

Saudi Arabia was the first overseas country visited by US President Donald Trump after he became president in 2017, and his visit to Riyadh came just weeks before Saudi Arabia, the UAE and their allies initiated a blockade of Qatar.

Trump has continued to stress the importance of the US alliance with Saudi Arabia even after the death of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, which prompted near global condemnation.

Profile of MBS: Suspense, Games of Thrones and Fear of Democratic Win in the US Elections!

By Staff

In a paper entitled “Profile of a Prince: Promise and Peril in Mohammed bin Salman’s Vision 2030” submitted to the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Karen Elliott House wrote:

Relaxing with “Game of Thrones”

When the prince relaxes, he usually plays video games or watch television series like Game of Thrones or The Walking Dead. More recently, he has also taken to cardio workouts in his palace gym to control his weight and enhance his endurance.

Much of MBS’ energy continues to be devoted to marketing his vision of Saudi Arabia as a ‘strong world actor.’

He also evinces enormous confidence in his political instincts though they have been far from unerring. The risk inherent in change, he tells associates, is less than the risk of doing nothing. If he errs, he can correct it. If he dawdles, the country suffers.

Intrigue plays a large part in Saudi politics. So, too, does brutality. Western sensibilities are offended by the murder of Jamal Khashoggi and the Crown Prince’s insistence he played no role. Yet frightening opponents and cunningly avoiding entrapment are admired traditions in much of the Arab world.

Secretiveness and Surprise

Secretiveness is another political instinct of MBS. He is said to confide in no one and to make every effort to keep his aides guessing. In meetings with staff to discuss options, one aide says it does no good to focus on which proposal the prince seems to support. Often he selects one option simply to force his aides to provide even better arguments for one he will choose later. Certainly, his lightening-speed dawn arrests of his royal cousins and their incarceration in the Ritz Carlton in November 2017 was a well-kept secret.

Whether one man can single-handedly wrench a nation into modernity and transform his people into self-reliant citizens is a very open question. Daring decisiveness has been the hallmark of MBS’ brief tenure in power. First came subduing the religious police, then locking up his royal cousins for corruption. Soon followed the decision to let Saudi women drive. And most recently the murder of Jamal Khashoggi.

King Salman does seem to be trying to at least put some guardrails around his son’s impulsive tendencies. Some close to MBS say that when he reaches a decision now he sometimes tells his team, “Let’s think on it.” Whether that is a genuine desire to check his thinking or a tactic to leave the appearance of doing so isn’t clear.

Political Crackdown

MBS has two broad responses to the dimming prospects of strong progress on economic reforms. The first is to distract Saudi citizens with a plethora of new entertainment from concerts, cinemas and sporting events described previously in this report. The second is to suppress any dissent.

Saudi Arabia, never an open society, is now the most repressive in at least the past 40 years.

With Vision 2030, MBS essentially proclaimed weaning the Kingdom off oil a national emergency with a strict deadline for success. As a result, he seems to view debate on any issue as potentially disruptive of the essential and urgent measures he is taking. If the Saudi house is on fire, citizens need to shut up and follow him to the prescribed exit seems to be his rationale. Given this mandate against any discussion, most Saudis no longer engage in even tepid tweets on social media, much less criticism.

US-Saudi Partnership under Duress

MBS’ penchant for political repression coupled with the Kingdom’s fumbled explanations for the death of Jamal Khashoggi have strained the US-Saudi alliance more than at any point since the September 11, 2001, attack on the World Trade Center. Only a year ago the Crown Prince was welcomed by the president in Washington, D.C., by New York’s business elite, by Hollywood’s biggest moguls and by Silicon Valley tech entrepreneurs as a young reformer eager to cooperate with America to transform his backward kingdom into a modern nation. A year later he dares not come to America. Hollywood moguls like Ariel Emmanuel have pulled out of plans to invest there. Emmanuel ended his company’s planned $400 million investment in the Kingdom in early March, though other Americans quietly continue to pursue the opportunity to make money in Saudi Arabia.

While Trump is sticking by MBS, accepting his denials of any involvement in the Khashoggi murder, the CIA concluded otherwise and many in Congress are determined to punish him for Khashoggi’s death. And Saudis during January visit there expressed deep concern about the future of the Kingdom’s relationship with the US if a Democrat wins the White House in 2020. “We are going to be singled out for retribution,” frets one Saudi who closely watches his country’s relations with Washington, D.C.

Undeniably, many of MBS’ foreign policy ventures have proved costly. The Saudi boycott of Qatar, which Riyadh accuses of spreading terrorism, has driven that small sheikdom closer to Iran and Turkey without precipitating any change in Qatar’s policies. More importantly to the US, it has undermined American efforts to build greater security cooperation among Saudi Arabia and other Gulf nations to reduce the security burden on Washington as the ultimate guarantor of stability in the Persian Gulf. Because the largest US Mideast airbase is in Qatar, the enmity between Qatar and Saudi Arabia has been especially trying for the Pentagon. MBS, who also is Saudi Defense Minister, seems completely unconcerned at his US ally’s discomfort. He continues to resist compromise with Qatar.

The stalemated war in Yemen is costing Saudi Arabia both financially and geopolitically. While Riyadh doesn’t disclose the cost of the war, those in a position to know estimate it consumes at least $25 billion annually. But beyond the financial costs, the growing international opprobrium over the rising number of civilian casualties there is robbing Saudi Arabia of valuable political support. Germany has ended arms sales to the Kingdom until September and made resumption conditional on progress to end the Yemen war. Pressure is growing in Britain and Canada to do likewise. Moreover, the US Congress is vowing to punish MBS for Khashoggi’s murder by blocking weapons sales to Riyadh for the war in Yemen. Trump has vetoed that congressional resolution but the damage to US-Saudi relations likely won’t end there.

Congress and the Trump Administration are also at odds over Saudi Arabia’s effort to purchase nuclear power plants to provide its domestic energy needs leaving its oil available for export. The Kingdom, considering buying nuclear technology from the US, South Korea, China or Russia, hasn’t yet agreed to safeguards that ensure it can’t enrich uranium to weapons grade. A bipartisan congressional resolution seeks to block any US nuclear technology sale without such safeguards leaving the Kingdom free to buy from Russia or China who don’t insist on such safeguards.

Beyond all the threats of tit for tat, what is going on in both Saudi Arabia and the US is a reassessment of the relationship. Since at least the presidency of George W. Bush, Saudi Arabia has been contemplating how to hedge its interests in a post-US Middle East.

Venezuela Facing Western Hypocrisy

By Hussein Samawarchi

A few months after the brutal torture and execution of Imam Muhammad Baqir Al-Sadr, Saddam Hussein gave the order to attack Iran. Imam Al-Sadr represented a peaceful opposition wave against dictatorship. The popular cleric used literature as a way of mending what was wrong. For that, he was made to watch his own sister being tortured and killed while, according to witnesses, the political prisoner was beaten with metal cables until his body was covered with cuts everywhere. Then, the torturers dragged him through acid before hammering an iron nail into his head.

When Saddam invaded Iran, the western world rallied behind him. The butcher of opposition leaders received support from diplomats who published books about ethical politics as their countries shipped to him one load after another of weapons. No one who lived through that era could forget Iraq’s Exocet missiles.

If Saddam is old news now, if something more contemporary exposing western hypocrisy is favored, the event that took place in Turkey last October might do.

A team of sloppy assassins was dispatched to Istanbul. They waited for a public figure in his country’s consulate to which he was sent by none other than the brother of the current crown prince of Saudi Arabia. Jamal Khashoggi might have been a controversial personality due to his historical affiliations with fanatic movements, links with Taliban, and statements that don’t abide by journalistic objectivity norms. But he spoke through western media and therefore deserved western protection. The man was cut to pieces after being subdued and drugged. It is still not clear if the drug used rendered him unconscious during the horrific act or just paralyzed him so he could witness and feel his arms and legs being sawn-off.

The world heard a lot of condemnations and denouncements. Still, at the end of the day, not one ambassador took part in a public display of support to a journalist who was merely hinting to the need for reform in his country.

Juan Guaidó returned to Venezuela after 10 days of prancing around with his people’s enemies. He violated the constitution by declaring himself president, broke the law by traveling, instigated popular violence, cooperated with hostile foreign powers, and initiated a contraband operation on a large scale from Colombia. The renegade politician was neither dragged in acid nor dismembered. He was allowed to enter Venezuela with strict orders from President Maduro that no one would obstruct his way.

The sight of the all those foreign ambassadors welcoming the man that Mike Pence views as an American investment gives a sufficient idea of who are the stakeholders in the future distribution of Venezuelan petroleum shares should the coup being staged by Trump’s gang succeed. It’s an indication for the minority of Venezuelan people who think riches will pour in if the country is handed over to American puppets. Do they not realize that every entity which recognized Guaidó as interim president will become their partner in their national wealth?

This is the level of degradation that the western political scene has reached. Ambassadors did not react when public figures were mutilated to death but ran to the airport to welcome a man who says “A la orden jefe” to John Bolton.

There is nothing wrong in forming an opposition; actually, it’s a basic requirement for a sound democratic political system. The opposing politicians’ main duty is to act as performance auditors and highlight the ruling party’s shortcomings which, inevitably, leads to the improvement of the country and the standard of living. What they don’t do is collude with foreign powers to surrender the country’s wealth. What they don’t do is act as internal agents in a hunger campaign against their own people. And what they definitely don’t do is sell their integrity knowing that they are public servants and that integrity represents their constituency.

The topic of Venezuela is not a discussion of a mere Latin American country. Rather, a modern-day political epidemic suffered by many states. It has to do with the injection of malicious agents into a national body while this body is battered with sanctions preventing it from acquiring the necessary antibiotics and nutrition. Syria recovered, Yemen is recovering, and Venezuela is following suit. Patriotism is the remedy and it is abundant in this proud Bolivarian state.

Haaretz Tells of “Israeli”-Saudi Relations: Intelligence, Cyber, Economy and Iran on Top of Partnership

By Staff

Out of context and away from all the internal debate inside the apartheid entity, Haaretz daily chose to shed light on the Saudi kingdom.

Under a file entitled “Saudi Arabia: A Kingdom in Turmoil”, Haaretz detailed the relations between Tel Aviv and Riyadh.

According to Haaretz, “The links between “Israel” and Saudi Arabia are based on security and business interests.”

“For Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the Saudis are key in Washington’s efforts to isolate the Iranian regime. The common interest is so strong that Netanyahu was one of the few leaders to publicly defend Saudi Arabia after the killing of Khashoggi last October.”

The daily further highlighted that “the Saudi-“Israeli” relationship finds expression in intelligence coordination as well.”

“Mossad chief Yossi Cohen has met with Saudi officials, and “Israel”, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates regularly share intelligence on the Iranian security threat. In some cases, there is also diplomatic coordination, as has been reported regarding the Saudis’ takeover of the Red Sea islands of Sanafir and Tiran from Egypt.”

“In 2012, a cyberattack afflicted 30,000 computers at the Saudi oil company, Aramco….According to reports in the foreign media, Riyadh responded by forming links with “Israeli” cyber companies. Since then, there has been an increasing number reports of such links, especially as Mohammed has increased his power. According to reports in the foreign media, Saudi Arabia has started issuing special entry permits to “Israeli” businessmen, who can now enter the kingdom without showing a passport.”

A company whose name keeps cropping up in this respect is Herzliya-based NSO Group Technologies. According to some sources, including Amnesty International, University of Toronto-based Citizen Lab and Forbes magazine, offensive tools provided by NSO have been used to track human rights activists, though the company has repeatedly said these allegations are wrong.

The Wall Street Journal has reported that two senior officials with key roles in the kingdom’s relations with Israel have unexpectedly lost these positions. The international community has demanded that the people responsible for Khashoggi’s murder be brought to justice; among the first to run into problems as part of the kingdom’s response were the crown prince’s adviser Saud al-Qahtani and the deputy intelligence chief, Ahmed Asiri.

Currently, the future of “Israel”-Saudi ties depends in part on Mohammed’s ability to stay in power. If the crown prince manages to restore his standing, the chances are better that he can promote reforms and conduct controversial moves in the kingdom, including closer ties with “Israel”.

Senate Set to Rebuke Trump on Support for Saudi Arabia

Source

By Staff, Agencies

The Senate is set to break with the administration’s support for the Saudi-led military campaign in Yemen on Wednesday, likely handing President Trump his second setback from Capitol Hill this week.

“The resolution we will vote on in the Senate tomorrow to end US support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen is enormously important and historic. This war is both a humanitarian and a strategic disaster, and Congress has the opportunity to end it,” Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said in a statement.

Three Senate aides said that they expect a resolution to come to the floor Wednesday that will call on Trump to withdraw any troops in or affecting Yemen within 30 days unless they are fighting al-Qaeda.

The resolution would need only a simple majority to pass the Senate, which approved a similar resolution in December. The resolution would need to pass the House before heading to Trump’s desk, where he has said he would veto the measure.

With Republicans holding 53 seats in the Senate, Democrats would need to win over at least four Republicans and keep their entire caucus united in order to pass the resolution. The 2018 resolution passed with 56 votes.

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), one of the co-sponsors of the resolution, said that he expected the vote would be “tight” but predicted that supporters would again be able to pass the resolution, as reported by The Hill.

“It’s going to be tight,” he said late last week. “But you know nothing has happened to peel Republicans away.”

The Wednesday vote will come a day before the Senate likely hands a second setback to Trump, with the chamber scheduled to take up a resolution of disapproval on his emergency declaration. If both measures pass Congress it would pave the way for the president to have to use back-to-back veto measures to defeat legislation.

The House passed its own Yemen resolution last month but it ran into a procedural roadblock in the Senate after the parliamentarian determined that it was not privileged, the status that lets supporters pass the measure with only a majority support in the Senate.

Supporters have brought up the resolution under the War Powers Act, which gives it a privileged status that allows it to be fast-tracked through Congress and avoid the 60-vote legislative filibuster in the Senate.

Tensions over Saudi Arabia have been running high on Capitol Hill since last year’s slaying of US resident and Washington Post contributor Jamal Khashoggi, which opened up a gap between the administration and lawmakers on the issue.

Members of the Trump administration briefed the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Monday evening about an investigation, ordered by members of the panel last year, into Khashoggi’s murder.

But Republicans on the committee appeared underwhelmed by the meeting, indicating that they didn’t learn new information.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), a member of the panel, called the briefing a “waste of time,” while Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) added that lawmakers “learned very little.”

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Troubles of ‘Rich Guest’ for Pakistan, from Protesters’ Detention to Cyberspace Crackdown

Sun Feb 17, 2019 5:48

Troubles of 'Rich Guest' for Pakistan, from Protesters' Detention to Cyberspace Crackdown

TEHRAN (FNA)– Pakistan has adopted special measures, including massive presence of police and security forces in Islamabad streets and filtering a number of social media networks, to stop protest rallies against Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s visit to the country.

The Pakistani interior ministry announced that over 19,000 Facebook and 20,000 Twitter accounts which were likely to protest at Bin Salman’s visit were blocked.

The Pakistani security forces have also banned riding motorcycles with two or more passengers and protest rallies and enforced Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code in Islamabad that allows imposing curfew.

Many leaders of popular and political groups who were likely to protest at the MbS visit have been arrested and the Pakistani government has declared Monday as an official holiday to prevent traffic in the capital.

Also, the exact time for bin Salman’s arrival has been kept undeclared to prevent protest rallies and gatherings.

Pakistani media said bin Salman’s visit was delayed to avoid massive popular protests and dismantle opposition gatherings.

Pakistan’s Ummat newspaper wrote that the government is hosting 1,100 companions and servants of bin Salman, which it described as “unjustifiable”.

Other media reports also cautioned that Saudi Arabia aims to downplay the role of China’s economic corridor.

The Pakistani government has also put on alert over 2,000 security forces, has issued visa for 130 royal Saudi guards for Islamabad visit, reserved 8 luxurious hotels to accomodate the MbS entourage, and missioned a special team to protect bin Salman.

Pakistani activists believe that although the Saudi crown prince has promised to invest up to $20bln in the country, the expenses of his visit are not justifiable in economic terms.

The Pakistani people in different cities continued rallies for the third consecutive day to protest at the visit by bin Salman to Islamabad.

The protestors who carried banners reading “we are opposed to the visit by murderer of Yemeni people and Jamal Khashoggi to our country and he is not welcome” called for calling off the trip.

Many Pakistani cities, including Karachi and Lahore, have witnessed protest rallies against the MbS’ visit to Pakistan.

Meantime, the Pakistani government is attempting to display that calm is prevailing the country as the MbS arrives in Islamabad.

Pakistani people believe that Saudi Arabia is trying to coax Islamabad into playing a role in Yemen war, warning that bin Salman’s presence will strengthen the terrorist and extremist groups.

Protesters took to the streets after Friday prayers in Rawalpindi, Northern Pakistan, calling on the government not to allow the Saudi prince into the country.

Leaders and activists of different parties and organizations as well as political and religious figures attended the rally.

Demonstrators say bin Salman has been behind the killing of thousands of people, including the people of Yemen.

During the visit, the crown prince will hold talks with Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, Army Chief Qamar Javed Bajwa and President Arif Alvi, according to Pakistan’s foreign office.

The prince, who will be accompanied by a delegation of businessmen, is expected to sign investment agreements worth billions of dollars with cash-strapped Islamabad.

Bin Salman’s visit to Pakistan was postponed amid widespread protests against him as well as heightened tensions in the region.

Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry said that a two-day visit by the crown prince to Islamabad that was scheduled for Saturday had been postponed.

The ministry said bin Salman will arrive in Islamabad on Sunday, but had no further explanation over the postponement.

He will also travel to neighboring India, which is engaged in renewed tensions with Pakistan over a deadly car bomb attack in Kashmir, claimed by Pakistan-based militant group Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM).

The last time a Saudi royal paid a visit to Pakistan was 2006, when then Saudi ruler King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz travelled to the nuclear-armed nation.

Authorities heightened measures across the capital Islamabad with Prime Minister Imran Khan saying he was personally taking care of the arrangements.

Bin Salman’s tour to the region comes at the time of increasing pressure against the kingdom over the humanitarian crisis, which is caused by Saudi’s four-year war on Yemen and the killing of dissident Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate last year in Istanbul, Turkey.

 

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The exile in the Balkans of Mohammed Dahlan

Milenko NedelskovskiMilenko Nedelskovski

The exile in the Balkans of Mohammed Dahlan

 

The troubled course and power of Mohammed Dahlan are shaking Palestinians. Near Yasser Arafat, he implemented his assassination at the request of Israel. Unable to maintain order during the fratricidal war between Hamas and Fatah, he resigned from his post and fled abroad. Now based in Egypt, he heads Palestinian security again and has excellent relations with Yahya Sinwar, the Prime Minister of Gaza. During his exile, he has woven many links that he now exploits …

The UAE Crown Prince’s pit bull

JPEG - 39.3 kb

He’s the man of a thousand lives. He’s the man with a thousand faces. “He is also the man of a thousand crimes” persifles his enemies. Mohammed Dahlan’s name slams like a bullet from AK-47, a weapon he wields with mastery. If his name is on everyone’s lips in the Middle East, few venture to pronounce it aloud. Fear…

Former head of security of Yasser Arafat, former strong man of Fatah, possible successor of Mahmoud Abbas at the head of the Palestinian Authority, Dahlan’s shadow hangs over all the intrigues stirring the Near and Middle East. The Palestinian uses his networks and money in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya with incomparable dexterity to establish the influence of the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.

Recently, it was his role in the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi that was revealed. Last November, the Turkish daily “Yeni Safak” reported that the second team sent to the Saudi Arabian consulate to clean up after the Saudi journalist’s murder was recruited by Mohammed Dahlan himself and that the men present on the spot were the same as those involved in the murder of Mahmoud al-Mabhif, an influential Hamas member, in 2010.

Mercenaries in Yemen

A must in the region, “Abu Fadi”, its war name, even seems to have a gift of ubiquity, as it seems to be in several places at the same time. Recently, his involvement in the financing and arming of mercenaries deployed in Yemen to fight Houthi rebels has been the subject of much debate. Some intelligence services also provide him with a number of targeted assassinations with the help of a mercenary team led by the Israeli Abraham Golan. His expertise has made him the most prominent security advisor in Abu Dhabi. His mandate: to influence the re-composition of the Middle East in the direction most favourable to MBZ and to sabotage Qatari interests by the most vile means. The Emirati monarchy is also counting on him to crush all internal disputes mercilessly. Observers see him as the most ferocious watchdog of the Emiratis. “It’s the MBZ pit bull who always keeps him on a leash” risks one of them.

MBZ and Dahlan: a long friendship

Dahlan first met Mohammed Ben Zayed, born like him in 1961, in 1993, during a trip by Yasser Arafat to Abu Dhabi. The first, a young adviser to the Palestinian raïs, is preparing to take over the leadership of Preventive Security, one of the police units in the Gaza Strip, which has just been evacuated by the Israeli army, in accordance with the Oslo agreements. A function that he will transform into a financial pump, by taking a tithe from freight trucks entering the territory. The position will also allow him to establish useful contacts with many foreign intelligence services, including the Israeli Shin Beth.

The second, not yet known as “MBZ”, was at that time a fighter pilot, who was positioned to become the heir to his half-brother Khalifa, to whom the succession of Zayed, the founder of the UAE, was already promised. Like Dahlan, the young prince turned a state institution, the Offsets Bureau – which manages the funds that foreign arms companies must reinvest locally after obtaining a contract – into the matrix of his political rise.

The two thirty-somethings, driven by the same thirst for power, met several times and became sympathetic.

Thus, when in the summer of 2011, Mahmoud Abbas had him expelled from Fatah and sued him for embezzlement, it was quite naturally in the Emirates that he took refuge.

In Abu Dhabi, Dahlan is working harder than ever. To counter the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood, winners of the elections held in Egypt and Tunisia after the uprisings of 2011, his Emirate master inaugurated a secret and strong diplomacy. As a good barker, Dahlan will be one of the giants of this counterrevolutionary enterprise.

In Egypt, “MBZ” and “Abu Fadi” support the destabilization of Mohamed Mursi, the winner of the 2012 presidential election, from the Muslim Brotherhood. In particular, they finance the gigantic demonstrations in June 2013 that led to Power General Abdel Fattah Al-Sissi.

Suitcases full of cash

Dahlan also invests in Egyptian media on behalf of the Emirates. He is participating in the launch of the Al-Ghad television channel, directed by journalist Abdellatif Menawi, a nostalgic for the Mubarak regime. In return, the Egyptian authorities provide him with services. In April 2015, they let his wife, Jalila, enter the Gaza Strip through the Rafah crossing point, while under pressure from Mahmoud Abbas, Israel had closed the Erez gate on the north side. Once there, with suitcases full of cash, Jalila Dahlan financed a collective wedding for 400 Gazans. The day after the wedding, huge posters bearing the image of Khalifa Ben Zayed proclaimed “Thank you Emirates” on the walls of Gaza.

The Emirates’ man also operated his famous contacts in Libya. In this country, Abu Dhabi supports Marshal Khalifa Haftar, based in Cyrenaica, against the pro-Qatar camp of Misrata, and against the Prime Minister of national understanding, Faïez Sarraj, who is favoured by the Western World. Dahlan knows several former kadhafists present in Haftar’s entourage: Mohammed Ismaïl, Hassan Tatanaki, a philanthropic billionaire connected to arms dealers, and Kadhaf Al-Dam, a cousin of the Libyan Guide killed by the Misrata rebels in October 2011.

Deliveries of Emirati weapons to Camp Haftar, Libya

Multiple sources claim that these men have helped “Abu Fadi” to travel to Cyrenaica several times since 2012. One of the SissiLeaks, these clandestine recordings of conversations between the Egyptian president and his entourage that leaked into the media in the winter of 2015, referred to a trip by Dahlan, by private jet, from Cairo to Libya. To do what ? Many observers are convinced that Dahlan is one of the actors in the chain of Emirates arms deliveries to Camp Haftar, which was highlighted by the UN panel of experts on Libya. In addition to his security background, the vast network he has in the Balkans qualifies him for this role as an intermediary.

In the 2000s, on the strength of the old friendship between former Yugoslavia and the PLO, forged in the non-aligned movement, the opportunist Dahlan infiltrated the business circles of this region. He approached two senior executives: Milo Djukanovic, Prime Minister of Montenegro four times between 1991 and 2016, long suspected of mafia connections; and Aleksandar Vucic, former Prime Minister and now President of Serbia, whose transparency is not his best quality.

Through a cascade of Balkan companies, most of them shady ones (Monte Mena, Levant International Corporation, Alfursan or Queens Beach Development…), Dahlan was able to conclude some lucrative business such as the production of Egyptian cigarettes “Cleopatra” or as this acquisition of land along the Zagreb- Belgrade highway, revealed by the Balkan Investing Reporting Network (BIRN). But above all, he helped his boss, Mohammed Ben Zayed, to penetrate this market. Between 2013 and 2015, Abu Dhabi won several major contracts in Serbia under particularly opaque conditions, including the Belgrade Waterfront, a project estimated at $3.5 billion to renovate an old part of the capital.

Huge stocks of weapons available in the Balkans

For his good offices, Dahlan received Serbian and Montenegrin passports, as well as eleven from his relatives. And Mohammed Ben Zayed’s interest in the Balkans is also due to the region’s huge arms stocks, a legacy of the civil war of the 1990s. An investigation by BIRN and the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, published in 2016 in the Guardian, revealed that in 2015, at least eight cargo planes loaded with weapons took off from Serbia for Abu Dhabi. Random? In June of that same year, General Haftar visited Belgrade.

Some of this equipment was reportedly re-exported to Libya under the supervision of Mohammed Dahlan. In a telephone conversation available on YouTube, recorded clandestinely, we also hear a relative of Mahmoud Jibril, the Prime Minister of the rebellion in 2011, offer a militia leader “Dahlan’s help”. For many experts in the region, there is no doubt: “Dahlan is the man of the Emirates to bring troops to Haftar. He works with Haftar’s son, Saddam. The two men are also business partners and are reported to have invested in a mining site in Sudan. “The appetite of MBZ’s Pittbull is insatiable…

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