What they described resembles a medieval reality show. Camera crews fan out across the caliphate every day, their ubiquitous presence distorting the events they purportedly document. Battle scenes and public beheadings are so scripted and staged that fighters and executioners often perform multiple takes and read their lines from cue cards.
Cameras, computers and other video equipment arrive in regular shipments from Turkey. They are delivered to a media division dominated by foreigners — including at least one American, according to those interviewed — whose production skills often stem from previous jobs they held at news channels or technology companies.
According to this review in the Financial Times, if they are, it’s “been a long time coming.”
Ever since 1974, when the late Fred Halliday published Arabia Without Sultans, scholars and journalists have been predicting the end of a regime that tries to modernise its society while riding two tigers: a fundamentalist belief-system rooted in the teachings of the Wahhabi sect, and the demands of a powerful family network that traces its origins to the central highlands of Najd. Two new books reveal the stresses — internal and external — to which these forces are now subjecting the kingdom. While neither follows Halliday’s hubris in predicting the regime’s imminent demise, both paint a picture that should be deeply worrying for the dynasty at a time when oil prices have fallen to close to $40 a barrel.
For all the attempts by Saudi apologists to distance the desert kingdom from the atrocities committed by jihadis in London, Madrid or Paris, there can be little doubt that the culture of terror and religious intolerance that brought the Al Saud to power between 1906 and 1926 shares distinctive family resemblances with the values of al-Qaeda, Isis and their acolytes. It is well established, for example, that after Isis took over Mosul, Iraq’s second city, in June 2014, the group adapted Saudi textbooks for use in secondary schools. According to Aarts and Roelants, before the storm of criticism that erupted when it emerged that most of the 9/11 terrorists were Saudi nationals, the textbooks used in religious classes — the most important subject on the curriculum — “propagated hatred of infidels and dissidents, creating a fertile atmosphere for terrorist activities”. Though these have since been subjected to “drastic alteration”, the authors think there is still too much emphasis on religious studies. The curriculum, they write, “does not relate to the requirements of the business world”, which is “why companies prefer to employ foreigners, and why so many young Saudis cannot find work”.
Small wonder, then, that at least 2,500 of them are now ensconced with Isis in Iraq and Syria. The culture of intolerance previously fostered in Saudi schools was directed not just against Christians, Jews and Hindus, who are forbidden from worshipping publicly inside the kingdom, but against the indigenous Saudi Shia who make up between 10 and 15 per cent of the population, mainly in the oil-rich Eastern Province. Aarts and Roelants put it bluntly. Wahhabi Saudis, they say, “think that Shiites spit in their food . . . so that it is difficult for Sunnis and Shiites to eat together. Or that it is unclean to shake hands with a Shiite, making a ritual ablution necessary.” All too often, Shia are denounced as rawafid (“rejectors” of true Islam) whose loyalties must lie with Iran. Unfortunately, this notion is not just held by the Salafists or religious literalists but is widespread among Saudis in general, even among the best educated and most cosmopolitan.
While regional rivalry between Iran and Saudi Arabia, exacerbated by the conflicts in Syria and Iraq, appears to fuel the flames of prejudice, it may actually serve the regime by facilitating a policy of divide and rule. Al-Rasheed states, for example, that when someone is detained for alleged blasphemy or radicalism, the support they get largely depends on which camp they belong to. While Islamists protest at the incarceration of their supporters, liberals are liable to confine their protests to those they count as their own. “Entrenched polarisation”, she says, between Islamists and liberals, Sunni and Shia, as well as men and women in Saudi society has “increased divisions to the detriment of common platforms for achieving political reform or human rights for all”.
Read more at the Financial Times…
Via the Independent | Patrick Cockburn How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country
Some time before 9/11, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, once the powerful Saudi ambassador in Washington and head of Saudi intelligence until a few months ago, had a revealing and ominous conversation with the head of the British Secret Intelligence Service, MI6, Sir Richard Dearlove. Prince Bandar told him: “The time is not far off in the Middle East, Richard, when it will be literally ‘God help the Shia’. More than a billion Sunnis have simply had enough of them.”
The fatal moment predicted by Prince Bandar may now have come for many Shia, with Saudi Arabia playing an important role in bringing it about by supporting the anti-Shia jihad in Iraq and Syria…
The effect of the Saudis having “enough of them” are evident:
..In Mosul, Shia shrines and mosques have been blown up, and in the nearby Shia Turkoman city of Tal Afar 4,000 houses have been taken over by Isis fighters as “spoils of war”. Simply to be identified as Shia or a related sect, such as the Alawites, in Sunni rebel-held parts of Iraq and Syria today, has become as dangerous as being a Jew was in Nazi-controlled parts of Europe in 1940.
There is no doubt about the accuracy of the quote by Prince Bandar, secretary-general of the Saudi National Security Council from 2005 and head of General Intelligence between 2012 and 2014, the crucial two years when al-Qa’ida-type jihadis took over the Sunni-armed opposition in Iraq and Syria. Speaking at the Royal United Services Institute last week, Dearlove, who headed MI6 from 1999 to 2004, emphasised the significance of Prince Bandar’s words, saying that they constituted “a chilling comment that I remember very well indeed”.
He does not doubt that substantial and sustained funding from private donors in Saudi Arabia and Qatar, to which the authorities may have turned a blind eye, has played a central role in the Isis surge into Sunni areas of Iraq. He said: “Such things simply do not happen spontaneously.” This sounds realistic since the tribal and communal leadership in Sunni majority provinces is much beholden to Saudi and Gulf paymasters, and would be unlikely to cooperate with Isis without their consent.
Now the Economist presents us with this chart, and a suggestion that the significant increase in deaths could be related to the Iraq war.
But the constant rise since “sometime before 9/11” shows more of a correlation with Bandar’s plan.
I would like to wallpaper the bathrooms of the White House, the Washington Post, the NY Times and the WS Journal with this article. Maybe if those guys have to read it every day, after a couple of years it might sink in…
Abandoning the Enlightenment values that produced democracy will not plumb the depths of the vestigial authoritarian impulse that resides in us all, the wish for kings, the desire for order, to be governed, and not to govern. Flexing and posturing and empty venting will not cure the deep sickness in the human spirit that leads people to slaughter the innocent in the middle of a weekend’s laughter. The expression of bigotry and hatred will not solve the deep desperation in the human heart that leads people to kill their fellow human beings and then blow themselves up as a final act of murderous vengeance against those they perceive to be their enemies, seen and unseen, real and imagined. Tough talk in the context of what happened in Paris is as empty as a bell rung at the bottom of a well.
Francois Hollande, the French president who was at the soccer game that was attacked, has promised that France will wage “pitiless war” against the forces that conceived and executed the attacks. Most wars are pitiless, but not all of them are fought with the combination of toughness and intelligence that this one will require. This was a lesson that the United States did not learn in the aftermath of the attacks of September 11, 2001. There are things that nations can do in response that are not done out of xenophobic rage and a visceral demand for revenge. There are things that nations can do in response that do not involve scapegoating the powerless and detaining the innocent. There is no real point in focusing a response on the people whose religion makes us nervous. States should retaliate against states.
It is long past time for the oligarchies of the Gulf states to stop paying protection to the men in the suicide belts. Their societies are stunted and parasitic. The main job of the elites there is to find enough foreign workers to ensla…er…indenture to do all the real work. The example of Qatar and the interesting business plan through which that country is building the facilities for the 2022 World Cup is instructive here. Roughly the same labor-management relationship exists for the people who clean the hotel rooms and who serve the drinks. In Qatar, for people who come from elsewhere to work, passports have been known to disappear into thin air. These are the societies that profit from terrible and tangled web of causation and violence that played out on the streets of Paris. These are the people who buy their safety with the blood of innocents far away.
Saudi Arabia’s royal family has undergone a major overhaul since the death of ruler King Abdullah in January. Abdullah was replaced by Salman, who has put in place a series of changes to the way Saudi Arabia’s succession plans work.
Salman has given his son Prince Mohammed bin Salman great responsibility and removed Prince Muqrin — one of Abdullah’s sons — from the order of succession. The changes have sparked widely reported rumours of a planned coup to oust King Salman and replace him with one of his eight brothers.
Regardless of whether the rumours are true, the leak appears to suggest that Saudi Arabia’s rulers are trying to quash any possible plans and to set about modernising the country.
The rebels, known as Houthis, still control much of Yemen’s north. And in southern areas where the coalition has driven them out, lawlessness has spread as attacks linked to an Islamic State affiliate wreak havoc.
“This war is draining the Saudis militarily, politically, strategically,” said Farea al-Muslimi, a Yemen analyst at the Beirut-based Carnegie Middle East Center.
Because I was so blind, too wrapped up in my own bloated ego to pay attention to my own basic emotional needs, I ended up blaming others—blacks, gays, Jews, and anyone else who I thought wasn’t like me—for problems in my own life they couldn’t possibly have contributed to. My unfounded panic quickly, and unjustly, manifested itself as venomous hatred—I became radicalized by those who saw in me a lonely youngster who was ripe to be molded. And because I was so desperately searching for meaning—to rise above the mundane—I devoured any crumbs I was fed that resembled greatness, made them my identity, overshadowing my own character. The same one that I’d grown weary of as a kid. Through my misguided animosity, I’d become a big, fat, racist bully—morbidly obese from the countless lies I’d been fed by those who took advantage of my youth, naïveté, and loneliness.
He then divided that up into 4 possible outcomes based on an individual’s observance:
1. There is a God AND you practice your religion ——> You go to heaven! ?
2. There is a God and you don’t practice your religion ——> You go to hell ?
3. There is no God and you practice your religion ——> Nothing happens ?
4. There is no God and you don’t practice your religion ——> Nothing happens ?
Statistically, according to Pascal, your best bet is to practice your religion JUST IN CASE outcome 1 occurs. No matter how minute the probability is, according to many religious people, it’s still worth it. Just in case.
From July 2014
Prince Bandar told him: “The time is not far off in the Middle East, Richard, when it will be literally ‘God help the Shia’. More than a billion Sunnis have simply had enough of them.”
The fatal moment predicted by Prince Bandar may now have come for many Shia, with Saudi Arabia playing an important role in bringing it about by supporting the anti-Shia jihad in Iraq and Syria. Since the capture of Mosul by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis) on 10 June, Shia women and children have been killed in villages south of Kirkuk, and Shia air force cadets machine-gunned and buried in mass graves near Tikrit.
From the beginning of my active involvement in the political process I was aware of a degree of anti-semitism. When I first stood in a local by-election, and then later became a councillor here in Redbridge, this repulsive venom came from two quite distinct directions.
There was the militant hard left which had never grown out of its student days’ political fallacy of ‘no platform for racists and fascists’. The aim was to attack and exclude the Conservatives and the Jews – so they had me coming and going.
There were also the old-style fascists who had come from roots in the National Front and remodelled themselves into various factions, including the BNP. Their overt racism and hatred for Jews was clear for all to see.
Both extremes exhibited similar forms of intolerance and outright thuggish intimidation, directed both at the electorate and their various democratic opponents. In some ways, I got used to the occasional comment at the door when canvassing an elector whose opening remark was: ‘I’m not anti-Jewish, but…’ It was always a very big but. As a candidate you have to work through it, make your case when possible – and move on.