Friday 22nd of March 2019

the "rooting" cheer squad...

ivanka saudis

The shameful spinning for the Saudis doesn’t stop. Here’s John Bradley in The Spectator touting Mohammed bin Salman (MbS) as the “real deal”:

We have a Saudi crown prince who is being more frank about Wahhabi-inspired terrorism than the British. Just last year, the UK government saw fit to suppress a report that found a link between Saudi-funded mosques and Isis-inspired terrorist attacks. It was kept quiet because we didn’t want to upset the Saudis. So not only does bin Salman have a thicker skin than his predecessors, he has inadvertently shone a bright light on the cowardice of our own political leaders.

It really doesn’t take much to impress the crown prince’s fan club. Just think about this argument. Bradley tells us that Mohammed bin Salman deserves credit for being more forthcoming about Wahhabi-inspired terrorism than the British government, and he says we know this because the British government suppressed evidence as recently as a year ago (when MbS was already a leading figure in the Saudi government) that showed a link between Saudi-funded mosques and terrorism. Note that Bradley isn’t saying that MbS is actually cracking down on that funding, nor has the prince actually done anything that would make us think that he disapproves of the British government’s efforts to cover for the Saudis. He said some of the right things, and his overeager admirers believe every word of it.

Bradley allows that some skepticism is “absolutely necessary” when dealing with the Saudis, but then proceeds to cast all skepticism aside. This assertion struck me as especially unwise and premature:

Most importantly, Bin Salman is not hated in the way that the Shah and Mubarak were. 

That could be true now, but that doesn’t tell us very much. It is only three years from the start of his father’s reign and less than one year since he was made crown prince. Maybe we should wait until he has been in power more than a few years before we making sweeping assessments of how popular and lasting his future reign will be. It took decades for people to grow to loathe Mubarak to the point where they overthrew him, but eventually they did. It took decades of the Shah’s rule before the revolution occurred, but it happened. There may not be a popular backlash in the near term, but it is far too soon to know. If the crown prince’s reform agenda proves to be much less successful than promised, people in the kingdom might start to tire of him sooner than anyone expects. It is also possible that the crown prince has already made so many internal enemies with his power grabs and purges that he will face a different kind of backlash.

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diversifying from oil and wahhabism...

On receiving the Saudi Crown Prince, Mohammed ben Salmane, the Egyptian President, Abdel Fattah al-Sissi, announced that Egypt was joining the Saudi project Neom.

In October 2017, Saudi Arabia announced its wish to build a high-tech mega city, to be called Neom, targeting luxury tourism. The region in which the city would be built would be governed by a specific legal regime geared for a Western lifestyle. This legal regime would be completely insulated from Wahhabism specifically and Islam generally.

The name of the project, “Neom” is derived from two words: the Greek word “neo” which means new and the Arabic word “mostaqbal” which means future.

The zone chosen for this project lies on the coast of the Red Sea, in the Saudi region of Tabuk, on the Jordan border and opposite the Egyptian coast. It covers an area of 26,000 km2, which is almost the size of Belgium.

This project has a provisional budget of around 50 billion dollars. The Project Manager is the German, Klaus Kleinfeld, former boss of the transnational Alcoa-Arconic and administrator of the Bilderberg Group.

The Egyptian President al-Sissi has decided to incorporate into the project part of South Sinai, including the town of Sharm el-Sheikj and part of the continental territory, including the Egyptian city of Hurghada. This involves setting up a system of extra-territoriality in this entire area, in the Saudi region of Tabuk. A common investment fund of 10 billion dollars (funded entirely by Saudi Arabia) has been established.

In April 2016, President al-Sissi transferred to Riyadh the islands of Tiran and Sanafir, which enclose the Gulf of Aqaba between the Egyptian Sinai and Saudi Arabia. While al-Sissi had presented this gesture as a territorial “restitution”, under the 1840 London Convention, which is the only valid document, these islands form part of Egypt’s territory. This transfer allows Saudi Arabia to include them in project Neom and to transform the entire region.

Furthermore, this transfer of sovereignty over the two islands involved a de facto recognition by the Saudis of the Camp David Egyptian-Israeli agreements. [1] These agreements granted freedom of movement to the Israeli navy in the Gulf of Aqaba and the Red Sea. Therefore it is highly likely that Israel is a stakeholder in Plan Neom.

In any event, Neom will no longer be a Saudi mega city but an Egyptian-Saudi archipelago, from which Israel will still be able to control maritime communications.

Anoosha Boralessa


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A number of eyewitnesses

A number of eyewitnesses have testified to Sana Agency that on 26 February 2018, two anti-Daesh Coalition’s helicopters landed at Twaimin, in the South-East of al-Shadadi. They took on board some of the Daesh officials that they were supposed to fight and transported them to the illegal US base of Sabah al-Kheir, 20 kilometres from Hassake.

Monday morning 19 March: three helicopters belonging to the US-led Coalition landed, in a location situated between the villages of Jissi and Calo, in the South East suburb of the town of Qamichli. They evacuated four Daesh officials of Iraqi origin and set off again, to where we do not know.

Anoosha Boralessa


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mohammed bin salman is a warmongering idiot...

Mohammed bin Salman (MbS) generously volunteered our military to stay in Syria for the foreseeable future:

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman wants the U.S. military to maintain a presence in Syria, despite President Donald Trump’s declaration that American forces will be pulled from the war-torn country in the near future.

“We believe American troops should stay for at least the mid-term, if not the long-term,” he told TIME Thursday in a wide-ranging interview.

No doubt this is just one of several open-ended missions that the Saudi government would like U.S. troops to have in the region, but there is no reason for the U.S. to do as Riyadh wishes. The U.S. has no vital interests to safeguard that require a continued military presence in Syria. That military presence has been and continues to be illegal, and the longer that it drags the more Americans will be put at risk unnecessarily. American soldiers should not be put in harm’s way to satisfy the ambitions of a reckless Saudi despot, and they shouldn’t used as pawns in Riyadh’s destructive rivalry with Iran. The Saudis under Mohammed bin Salman’s poor leadership have become a regional menace and their interests increasingly diverge from ours, so it should be taken as a given that if he believes the U.S. should do something it is probably in our best interest to do the opposite. If he thinks that our forces should remain in Syria for a long while, that is just one more reason why we should bring them all home as quickly as possible.

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whitewashing wahhabism with pigshit...

As Saudi Arabia's crown prince tours the United States on what has been dubbed a "charm offensive," the US media has gone into propaganda overdrive, whitewashing Mohammad Bin Salman as a "reformer" who is modernizing the kingdom.

As he meets with a roster of high-level politicians and A-list celebrities like Oprah, front and center of his celebrated reforms has been his decision to allow women to drive, and opening movie theaters in Saudi Arabia, which were banned until now.

"With the ascent to power of young Prince Mohammad bin Salman, the kingdom has seen an expansion in women's rights including a decision to allow women to attend mixed public sporting events and the right to drive cars from this summer," said Reuters.

His rise to power has been accompanied by a loosening of restrictions on women's dress and an expansion of their role in the work force,"reported the New York Times.

The Times went on to casually mention at the very end of the article that "Prince Mohammad is expected to ascend to the throne after his father, King Salman, dies. If that happens, given his young age, he could rule Saudi Arabia for 50 years."

This positive press is no coincidence. Saudi Arabia has spent millions on a vast lobbying apparatus that includes a network of think tanks and public relations firms to push for a war on Iran, while combating negative press related to Riyadh's autocratic government and its US-backed war on Yemen, which has led to famine and a cholera outbreak of epic proportions that kills a Yemeni child every 10 minutes.

Most of the spin has focused on presenting bin Salman as heroic reformer, particularly when it comes to women's rights.

Putting lipstick on Wahhabism

Yes, soon women in Saudi Arabia will have the right to drive – something they were banned from doing under the strict religious edicts of Wahhabism. While it's certainly a good thing that Saudi Arabia has chosen to enter the 21st century (sort of), the repeal of the driving ban is largely superficial as it does nothing to address Saudi Arabia's discriminatory male guardianship system, which treats women as children. Under this system, women must seek permission from a male relative to travel, apply for a passport, study abroad, get married, and so on.

Even if Saudi Arabia were to give equal rights to women tomorrow, it wouldn't change the destructive impact the Saudis have had in the Middle East, the most important being the intentional spreading of Wahhabism – a toxic and hateful religion practiced in Saudi Arabia.

Wahhabism is a puritanical and ultra-conservative form of Sunni Islam that emerged in the 1700s and has been a major source of inspiration for Salafi jihadist groups like Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State, or ISIS.

It is difficult to explain why ISIS uses Saudi textbooks to indoctrinate children, why 15 of the 19 hijackers on 9/11 were Saudi, and why Saudi nationals make up the largest number of foreigners in ISIS, without an understanding of Wahhabi theology.


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treat MbS as the war criminal he is...

Almost ten months after he wrote his gushing love letter to Mohammed bin Salman (MbS), Tom Friedman has this to say about the crown prince:

And then there’s Saudi Arabia. I have little doubt that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was the only one in his family who would have initiated the vital social, religious and economic reforms that he’s dared to do all at once — and that he is also the only one in that family who’d have undertaken the bullying foreign policy initiatives, domestic power plays and excessive personal buying sprees he’s dared to do all at once. These are two halves of the same M.B.S. package, and, as I’ve argued, our job is to help curb his bad impulses and nurture his good ones. But Trump — who still doesn’t even have an ambassador in Saudi Arabia — is AWOL.

It doesn’t seem to occur to Friedman that one half of the “package” he describes undermines and destroys the other. Suppose for the sake of argument that the de facto Saudi ruler truly wants to pursue these “vital social, religious, and economic reforms.” Even if that’s true, his intensifying repression, incompetent diplomacy, and reckless belligerence are wrecking or discrediting the few modest changes he has made so far. He has scared off foreign investors and his shakedown purge has contributed to massive capital flight, and everything he does confirms that he doesn’t know what he’s doing or how to go about achieving the grandiose goals he has set for his country. The same overweening ambition that inspires the “reform” agenda can’t be divorced from the power grabs, crackdowns, and pointless wars. Friedman has spent the last year and a half gasping in excitement about all the things Mohammed bin Salman might do in the future while studiously ignoring the horrific and stupid things he is doing in the present, and even now he is still offering only the mildest criticism. 

Friedman says that the U.S. should “curb” the crown prince’s “bad impulses,” but he never says what that would mean in practice or why disciplining the reckless despot should continue to be our responsibility. U.S. indulgence has encouraged and fed Mohammed bin Salman’s worst impulses for the last several years, and yet I have never once heard or read Friedman demanding that the U.S. end military support or arms sales to the kingdom. Friedman says that Trump is “AWOL,” but that ignores that Trump has closely embraced the Saudi royals and gives them whatever they want. He also mentions the war on Yemen in passing, but all he can manage to say is that “the Saudi-U.A.E. war in Yemen has been so badly botched by incompetents in the Saudi Air Force that they are now being accused of possible war crimes.” That criticism is as weak as it is belated.


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