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.
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.
How do the Saudis promote their religious views?
By investing heavily in building mosques, madrasas, schools, and Sunni cultural centers across the Muslim world. Indian intelligence says that in India alone, from 2011 to 2013, some 25,000 Saudi clerics arrived bearing more than $250 million to build mosques and universities and hold seminars. “We are talking about thousands and thousands of activist organizations and preachers who are in the Saudi sphere of influence,” said Usama Hasan, a researcher in Islamic studies. These institutions and clerics preach the specifically Saudi version of Sunni Islam, the extreme fundamentalist strain known as Wahhabism or Salafism…
…The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria sees itself as purer than the Saudi regime, but its fundamentalist Sunni doctrine has its roots in Wahhabism. Bob Graham, a former Democratic senator from Florida who has called for declassification of the portion of the 9/11 Commission report dealing with Saudi Arabian links to the hijackers, says ISIS “is a product of Saudi ideals, Saudi money, and Saudi organizational support.” In effect, Graham says, ISIS represents a form of Wahhabi ideology that the Saudis can’t control — a cancer that now threatens the kingdom. “Who serves as fuel for ISIS? Our own youth,” said Saudi dissident writer Turki Al-Hamad this year. “In order to stop ISIS, you must first dry up this ideology at the source.”
The king and his 1,000 person entourage cut a planned three-week stay short after 150,000 sign petition over beach closure.
Via the Irish Times:
The planned three-week visit by the new king and his inner circle at the family’s seafront villa in Vallauris, where US actress Rita Hayworth celebrated her wedding to Prince Aly Khan of Pakistan in 1949, was expected to be a boon for the local economy.
But the closure of the public beach for privacy and security reasons stirred up a local storm. The king’s installation of an elevator from the beach to the villa, approved for temporary use by local government, also provoked anger among some residents who objected to allowing him this privilege…
…France has been nurturing new links with Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Arab countries over the last three years due to its tough stance on Iran and similar positions on conflicts across the Middle East. It is beginning to see commercial rewards in terms of contracts for companies in the energy and defence sectors.
Government leaders profit from Saudi largesse, so they will always pander to them. But the French aren’t putting up with it anymore.
January 8, 2015
We are greatly concerned by reports that human rights activist Raif Badawi will start facing the inhumane punishment of a 1,000 lashes, in addition to serving a 10-year sentence in prison for exercising his rights to freedom of expression and religion. The United States Government calls on Saudi authorities to cancel this brutal punishment and to review Badawi’s case and sentence. The United States strongly opposes laws, including apostasy laws, that restrict the exercise of these freedoms, and urges all countries to uphold these rights in practice.
The decision on Sunday by Saudi Arabia’s Supreme Court to uphold a cruel sentence imposed on the blogger Raif Badawi last May by the criminal court in Jeddah is tantamount to sentencing Mr. Badawi to a torturous death for the “crime” of free expression. The criminal court sentenced Mr. Badawi, whose case has invited worldwide condemnation, to 1,000 lashes, 50 to be administered “very harshly,” in public, once a week for 20 weeks. In addition, he is to serve 10 years in prison and pay a fine of 1 million riyals, about $267,000.
There is no further appeal possible in the Saudi courts. At this point, Mr. Badawi’s only hope lies in a pardon from King Salman bin Abdulaziz.
You are right to say (Editorial, 8 June) that “Saudi Arabia ought to be treated as a global pariah”, following the decision of its supreme court to uphold the sentence of 10 years in jail and 1,000 lashes on Raif Badawi for the crime of expressing the wrong opinions. But there is no sign that this sadistic cruelty is disturbing the close and decades-long friendship between Whitehall and Riyadh.
Saudi Arabia is currently the UK’s largest arms export market. It is a nonsense to claim, as ministers do, that this military cooperation is about nothing more than the Saudis’ right to self-defence. The reason we do not arm Iran, Syria or North Korea is that arms sales are inescapably an expression of political support and commitment to regime survival.
It is time the UK government ceased its support for a Saudi state that terrorises its own people and blatantly violates human rights and fundamental freedoms. Arms sales must end, the British ambassador should be recalled, and key regime figures sanctioned internationally.
Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom on Tuesday accused Saudi Arabia of handing a “medieval” punishment to Raif Badawi, the blogger sentenced to 1,000 lashes for insulting Islam, AFP reported.
Last week, Saudi Arabia’s supreme court upheld the sentence against Badawi, who ran a site called Free Saudi Liberals and has been in custody since 2012.
“My opinion is that it’s a medieval sentence. It’s a medieval method that does not have its place in a society that allows a free media and allows people to express their point of view,” Wallstrom was quoted by AFP as having told Swedish Radio.
Social Democrat Gabriel told reporters in Riyadh after his meeting with King Salman that Raif Badawi’s situation was affecting his diplomatic and trade mission to the Gulf powerhouse.
“I think everything we are doing is helping him, but no one – not even the family – thinks that there will be a quick solution,” Gabriel said.
Ahead of the meeting, Gabriel had said he would point out to the king that the severity of Badawi’s punishment of 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes is “unfathomable to us and that it will of course strain bilateral ties.” He added that he also called for the release of Badawi’s lawyer, who has been sentenced to 15 years in prison.
The current as well as the former minister of foreign affairs, John Baird, have both condemned the sentencing of Mr Badawi, as have many other Western governments and rights groups. However, the office of Prime Minister Harper has been saying for months that it is “limited in its actions” that Badawi is not a Canadian citizen.
Wealthy Saudis are the primary sponsors of sunni terrorist groups like al Qaeda. The wealthy and the powerful in a country that’s named after one family are, presumably, the same group of people.
Osama tells me he’s received a torrent of abusive reaction to the cartoon from Muslim readers, but more of a concern are credible death threats from ISIS/ISIL/DAESH members emanating from Jordan and neighboring Syria. Osama writes:
“… but no matter what, those cowards won’t stop me and I still believe that Freedom of thought and expression is a human right. To detain and threaten people for exercising their human rights is the epitome of barbarism. Blasphemy is a crime for those who have weak ideas and corrupt morals.”
This cartoon doesn’t portray Mohammed or criticize him, but that doesn’t matter.
All political issues aside, the main reason to stand up for free speech – If you give bullies like Daesh an inch, they’ll take a mile.
We have collected these phrases in the form of a handy guide below. Note that if used properly, you can even go on to become a certain moustached celebrated columnist allowed to pontificate on the region with very little knowledge to go on.
‘It’s all about the oil’
This is the mother of all phrases about Middle East politics. It is one of the most effective phrases in the context of Middle Eastern geopolitics and one that can explain everything. It has even been used to explain Saudi Arabia’s 8-0 defeat at the hands of Germany in the 2002 World Cup and the backlash against Haifa Wehbe’s latest video clip.
‘It’s all about the oil’ is best used along with a patronising phrase such as, ‘you’re so naïve, it’s all about the oil’, or ‘don’t believe everything you read in books, it’s all about the oil’. Generally it’s better to use it about countries that actually have oil reserves, but in case you’re stuck and you’re discussing a country that doesn’t have oil, you can claim that ‘an American expedition found a large reserve of oil in Lebanon in 1917 but kept the information secret.’
Kathmandu, Nepal (CNN) — Nepal has banned women under the age of 30 from working in Persian Gulf nations amid increasing concerns over abuse and exploitation.
Nepalese women are among thousands of Asians who travel to the Middle East in search of employment. They often arrive willingly, but subsequently face conditions that the U.S. State Department says is indicative of forced labor — the withholding of passports, restrictions on movement, nonpayment of wages for work up to 20 hours a day, threats, deprivation of food and sleep, and physical or sexual abuse.
The age bar is aimed at preventing some of the abuse, Raj Kishore Yadav, Nepal’s minister of information and communication, said Thursday. He said the hope is that the risks are lower with more mature women.
The Nepalese government says 58,000 Nepalese women are working in these Gulf states — Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, United Arab Emirates and Oman. However, human rights agencies estimate that number at about 200,000, saying that the official figure does not take into account all those who have traveled illegally, many through India…
…Human Rights Watch, which has documented abuse of Asian women workers in Middle Eastern nations, says Nepal’s age limit policy does not go far enough to address the gravity of the problem.
“Imposing a ban on women under 30 from migrating to the Gulf fails to solve the underlying problem of how desperate women are for decent work,” said Nisha Varia, senior researcher for the rights group’s Women’s Rights Division.
Varia said she once visited a hospital in Kuwait that had an entire ward devoted to domestic workers who had spinal cord and back injuries from botched escape attempts or attempted suicide from high-rise residential buildings.
Two years after the start of the Arab Spring, the political battle in Kuwait is growing increasingly more tense over Twitter. At the current rate, Kuwait will soon be able to compete with neighboring Bahrain in the number of prosecutions brought against Twitter users. Within weeks of the February 2011 uprising, Bahrain had arrested large numbers of people using Twitter and Facebook to spread their messages. Meanwhile, Kuwaiti authorities also apparently decided to intimidate their critics and others through the arrest and trolling of influential Twitter users. In addition, tens of protesters have been arrested during the opposition’s dignity marches and in demonstrations by the country’s stateless community. The government, it seems, is no longer interested in defending Kuwait’s reputation as the ‘most democratic’ state in the Gulf.
Since this poster was all over Facebook yesterday, I thought I’d answer the question.
What would I do?
1. Try to keep people from panicking because panicking is the worst thing you can do in an emergency
2. Reluctantly support a war if it appeared to be necessary, then feel like an idiot when it it turns out to have been unnecessary.
3. Research the terrorist groups involved, discover that they’re supported by our Gulf allies. Waste many hours of my life that could have been better spent doing other things pointing this out, being ignored or called loony
4. Realize that neither/no political party has any real interest in dealing with the actual sources of terrorism, that all want to preserve the status quo, try my best to ignore politics unless the world seems to be on the brink of destruction.
5. find that the world is almost always on the brink of destruction, wonder if it’s media hype, reality, or panic