• Is This What’s in Those 28 Pages? And Does it Matter?

    April 27, 2016 // 24 Comments »

    Bush-Saudi-Arabia


    Did the CIA meet with some of the 9/11 hijackers ahead of the attacks on New York? Did the Saudi government help finance those hijackers? Someone knows the answers, and soon, you might know as well.


    This Summer?

    James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, told the New York Times the so-called “28 pages,” a still-classified section from the official report of the Joint Inquiry into Intelligence Community Activities Before and After the Terrorist Attacks of September 11, 2001, may be released to the public as early as this summer. The full 838-page report, minus those pages, was published in December 2002.

    The pages detail Saudi Arabia involvement in funding the 9/11 hijackers, and were classified by then-President George W. Bush.

    So what do they say?


    The 28 Pages

    Richard Clarke is the former National Coordinator for Security, Infrastructure Protection and Counterterrorism for the United States. He is best-known for trying to warn the George W. Bush administration that a terror attack was imminent in the days preceding 9/11. As late as a July 5, 2001, White House meeting with the FAA, the Coast Guard, the FBI, Secret Service and the INS, Clarke stated that “something really spectacular is going to happen here, and it’s going to happen soon.”

    Here’s what Clarke said at a security forum held this week in New York about what those 28 pages will reveal:

    — 9/11 hijackers and Saudi citizens (15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudis) Khalid Al-Midhar and Nawaq Al Hamzi met in San Diego with several other Saudis, including one who may have been a Saudi intelligence agent and another who was both an al Qaeda sympathizer and an employee of the Saudi Consulate in Los Angeles.

    — The CIA also made contact with Midhar and Hamzi in San Diego, and unsuccessfully tried to “turn them,” i.e., recruit them to work for the United States. The CIA did not inform the FBI or others of this action until just before 9/11. (In a 2009 interview, Clarke speculated that the CIA would have used Saudi intelligence as an intermediary to approach the two al-Qaeda operatives.)

    — The 28 pages may include speculation that the Saudi Ministry of Islamic Affairs funded mosques and other locations in the U.S. used by al Qaeda as meeting places and for recruitment.

    — The rumors that Saudi charities and/or the spouse of then-Saudi ambassador to the United States Bandar bin Sultan (who went on to be director general of the Saudi Intelligence Agency from 2012 to 2014) directly funded the 9/11 hijackers per se are “overblown,” according to Clarke.

    However, elements of Saudi charities and the ambassador himself did regularly provide funding to various Saudi citizens in the United States, for example, those needing money for medical care. It is possible that the 9/11 hijackers defrauded Saudi sources to obtain funds, but less clear that any Saudi government official knowingly funded persons for the purpose of committing 9/11.

    Alongside Clapper, Clarke too believes the 28 pages will be released to the public within the next five to six weeks.

    Others have suggested more clear ties between the hijackers and the Saudis, including multiple pre-9/11 phone calls between one of the hijackers’ handlers in San Diego and the Saudi Embassy, and the transfer of some $130,000 from Bandar’s family checking account to yet another of the hijackers’ Saudi handlers in San Diego.


    Not the What, But the Why

    Should the full 28 pages be released, there will no doubt be enormous emphasis placed on what they say, specifically the degree to which they implicate elements of Saudi Arabia and/or the Saudi royal family in funding or supporting the 9/11 hijackers. If the CIA contact with some of the hijackers is confirmed, that will be explosive.

    But as pointed out in Oliver Stone’s movie JFK (below), after the what is the why, and that answer has the potential to affect the future, not just document the past.


    — Why were the pages classified in the first place (who benefited?) and why did they stay classified now into a second administration, some 15 years after the events they discuss took place?

    — Why did the United States allow officials of the Saudi Ministry of Islamic Affairs to work in the U.S. under diplomatic status? That Ministry’s existence goes back to the 1991 Gulf War. The presence of American troops in Saudi Arabia was a shattering event in the country’s history, calling into question the bargain between the royal family and the Wahhabi clerics, whose blessing allows the Saud family to rule. In 1992, a group of the country’s most prominent religious leaders issued the Memorandum of Advice, which implicitly threatened a clerical coup.

    The royal family, shaken by the threat to its rule, accommodated most of the clerics’ demands, giving them more control over Saudi society. One of their directives called for the creation of a Ministry of Islamic Affairs, which would be given offices in Saudi embassies and consulates. As the journalist Philip Shenon writes, citing John Lehman, the former Secretary of the Navy and a 9/11 commissioner, “it was well-known in intelligence circles that the Islamic affairs office functioned as the Saudis’ ‘fifth column’ in support of Muslim extremists.”

    Only one official in the Ministry of Islamic Affairs inside the U.S., Fahad al-Thumairy, was stripped of his diplomatic visa and deported because of suspected ties to terrorists. That was in 2002.


    — Why does the U.S. still allow allow officials of the Saudi Ministry of Islamic Affairs to work in the U.S. under diplomatic status?

    — Why did the American government not arrest Omar al-Bayoumi, a Saudi national and employee of the Saudi aviation-services company Dallah Avco. Although he drew a salary, according to the New Yorker he apparently never did any actual work for the company during the seven years he spent in America. Bayoumi was in frequent contact with the Saudi Embassy and with the consulate in Los Angeles; he was widely considered in the Arab expat community to be a Saudi spy, though the Saudi government has denied that he was.

    — Why did the CIA not reveal its contacts with the two 9/11 hijackers? Who benefited?




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    What’s the Real Story Behind Saudi Arabia’s Execution of Shia Cleric al-Nimr?

    January 11, 2016 // 9 Comments »

    shia-cleric
    The execution of Shi’ite cleric Nimr al-Nimr and 46 convicted al-Qaeda members by the Saudis triggered a still-unfolding crisis between the Kingdom and Iran. Protesters in Tehran set fire to the Saudi embassy, and the Iranian government threatened that the Saudis will face “divine” revenge.

    Riyadh responded by severing diplomatic relations and ordering Iran’s ambassador to depart the Kingdom, followed by the cutting off of all commercial ties with Iran. Saudi allies Bahrain, Sudan and the United Arab Emirates made formal diplomatic protests to Iran. Additional acts of retaliation in a region that embraces the concept will no doubt follow, likely inside the Saudi-Iranian proxy war in Yemen or Syria. There will be blood.

     

    But why execute al-Nimr now?

    The cleric has been a vocal critic of Saudi Arabia’s ruling royal family for some years. In 2009 he went as far as threatening Shi’ite secession, provoking a government crackdown in the minority’s eastern heartland. The Saudis have had al-Nimr in custody since 2012, and he was sentenced to death in 2014.

    While there are external factors, particularly the broader Saudi-Iranian struggle for power in the Persian Gulf, those are secondary. The execution of al-Nimr was a signal sent by the new King to his supporters and adversaries at home.

    The crucial point in understanding any part of Saudi politics is that the Kingdom has not had its Islamic revolution, a transition from a largely secular rule to a theocratic one, as in Iran in 1979 and as is fumbling forward in other nearby locations, such as Syria. Saudi has also not seen the unpredictable upheaval of an Arab Spring. It instead has been ruled by the al-Saud family for decades. The family’s rule has been made possible in part by fundamentalist Sunni Wahhabi clerics, who provide religious legitimacy to the al-Saud family. Alongside all this were a series of strong, patriarchal Saudi kings to keep control of the military and security forces.

     

    Times have changed.

    Shi’ite Islam is on the move regionally, perhaps most significantly in Iraq. Following the American invasion of 2003, Iraq changed from a secular regime under Saddam that waged open war against Shi’ite Iran, to the largely Shi’ite regime now in power in Baghdad that openly welcomes Iranian special forces. Saudi Arabia’s steadiest partner, the United States, has become prone to erratic acts, naively bumbling into Iraq in 2003, demanding regime changes here and there, and unofficially partnering with the Iranians to defeat Islamic State.

    The U.S. is also far more energy independent than a decade ago and is slowly moving toward some form of new diplomatic relationship with Iran. Oil prices have also been falling. Many disgruntled Saudi Sunnis support Islamic State, an organization that has sworn to take down the al-Saud monarchy. These are all potentially destabilizing factors for the Saudis.

    But perhaps most significantly, the al-Saud family’s rule is facing succession issues in the form of the deceased King Salman’s newly empowered 30-year-old son, Mohammed bin Salman. It is the first time since the country’s modern founder, King Abdulaziz, died in 1953 that power has been concentrated in the hands of just one branch of the family. This was done by the deceased King’s decision to bypass one of his brothers, the traditional successor, in favor of a nephew, who has set up his son as successor. There have been thus not surprisingly rumors of opposition to the son, even of a coup.

    It was also the son, who, as defense minister, oversaw the decision to go to war in Yemen, launching his country into an open-ended struggle he may sometime face the need to defend.

     

    The execution of al-Nimr send multiple signals. The most significant is a get-tough message to all inside the Kingdom, coupled with an assurance to the Iranians that Salman is firmly in charge and able to further prosecute the war in Yemen. The execution appeases the Wahhabists, and gives the government a chance to crackdown on Shi’ite dissent.

    Al-Nimr’s crime was described using terms normally reserved for jihadist groups such as al-Qaeda and Islamic State, to include plotting to overthrow the Saudi government. In a region that pays particular attention to symbolism, executing al-Nimr as a terrorist, alongside 46 al-Qaeda members, is a crystalline example of how the Saudi authorities view a man seen by many Shi’ites inside the Kingdom as a freedom fighter of sorts, and as a religious figure in greater the Shi’ite world.

    And in case anyone still did not get the message, the Saudi government did not give al-Nimr’s body to his family, saying that they already buried all of the corpses.

    The burning of the Saudi embassy in Tehran plays right into this, though was unlikely to have been anticipated. But what better way to wag the dog for the war in Yemen and perhaps beyond then another example of the “out of control” Iranians, and the threat Shi’ites pose. It doesn’t hurt Saudi relations vis-a-vis the United States to see an embassy burn once again in the heart of Tehran, or for local Saudis angered by a 40 percent rise in gas prices to have an external enemy to distract them.

    Events set in motion are difficult to control, and things may yet spin out of Salman’s control, and the ploy backfire; for example, al-Nimr is now a martyr with an international profile.

    But for the time being, it appears Salman has moved ahead a few spaces in a real-life Game of Thrones.

     

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    Saudis Bomb Doctors Without Borders Hospital in Yemen

    December 8, 2015 // 6 Comments »

    yemen


    Just like their Sugar Daddy America bombed a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan “by accident,” the Saudis bombed for the second time this year a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Yemen.


    But it’s OK — just like the U.S., the Saudis will conduct an investigation of themselves, no doubt leading to the conclusion that as in Afghanistan, it was all a mistake.

    Under any variant of the rules of war, international law and just plain humanity, it is illegal, wrong and immoral to bomb a medical facility. Doctors Without Borders, an international nongovernmental organization, is however an attractive target in modern war, because they treat all people who need medical care equally. That means they may be bandaging up a civilian child in one bed while working on a “rebel” fighter in the next bed. They believe strongly in helping those who require help.

    That bothers folks like the United States and Saudi. Big countries have their own medical facilities for their soldiers. They have the air assets to whisk wounded soldiers off the battlefield to trauma care centers located safely behind friendly lines. In their minds, Doctors Without Borders exist primarily to give aid to the enemy. Boom!


    Back to the Saudis. They have said they will form a “fact-finding committee” to investigate “allegations” that coalition warplanes had bombed a clinic in Yemen operated by Doctors Without Borders. Doctors Without Borders routinely and repeatedly provides all sides in conflict with their clinics’ coordinates to avoid such attacks. In an era of GPS-controlled weapons, that should be sufficient.

    The photo above shows the hospital in Yemen. Note that like in Kunduz, it is a large structure somewhat separated from surrounding buildings. Hard to miss.

    As in Afghanistan, only one side has airpower. The Saudi “coalition” has been fighting Houthi rebels in Yemen since March and controls the airspace over the country. The strikes on Wednesday were the second Saudi attack on a Doctors Without Borders medical site in Yemen in less than two months.

    The Saudis were quite blunt: They urged aid agencies to “remain away from the places where the Houthi militias are present.”



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    Inhuman Monsters: Islamic State vs Saudi Arabia

    November 21, 2015 // 17 Comments »

    beheading

    Fun game time. Let’s see who are the most inhuman monsters in the Middle East, ISIS or Saudi Arabia.

    — ISIS commits terror acts against Western targets. Almost all of the 9/11 hijackers were Saudi, and most believe that Saudi money in part funded 9/11, and that Saudi money in part funds ISIS. Winner: Saudi.

    — ISIS beheads people. Saudi beheads people. In 2014, the Saudis beheaded 59 people. The headcount, as it were, for ISIS is unknown. Winner: So, ISIS, by a nose.

    — Both ISIS and the Saudis cite the Koran, Islamic teachings (the hadith) and Sharia law as justification for their brutal acts. Winner: Tie.

    — The U.S. claims Saudi as one of its closest allies in the Middle East and supplies them with weapons. The U.S. claims ISIS as its worst enemy in the Middle East, and supplies them with weapons stolen or retrieved from other U.S. allies. Winner: Big, big win for ISIS.

    — Saudi leaders are regularly invited to the White House. ISIS leaders are not. Saudi, FTW!

    — The U.S. claims not to know where Saudi money goes. The U.S. claims not to know where ISIS money comes from. Winner: Double-win for ISIS!

    — ISIS publishes a list of hadd crimes considered to be “against the rights of God,” such as theft, adultery, slander, homosexuality, and banditry. Saudi Arabia publishes a list of hadd crimes considered to be “against the rights of God,” such as theft, adultery, slander, homosexuality, and banditry. Winner: Dead tie.

    — ISIS tortures political prisoners. Saudi tortures political prisoners. Winner: Tie again!

    — ISIS and the Saudis are dedicated to Wahhabism, an ultra-conservative interpretation of Islam. Tie again!

    — ISIS uses atrocities against both its internal and external enemies. Saudi uses atrocities against its domestic enemies who oppose the royal family. Winner: Saudi.



    I could go on, but in the interest of efficiency, here, from Middle East Eye, is a handy chart:




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    Stopping ISIS: Follow the Money

    November 17, 2015 // 10 Comments »

    ISIS-Oil

    Wars are expensive. The recruitment and sustainment of fighters in the field, the ongoing purchases of weapons and munitions, as well as the myriad other costs of struggle, add up.

    So why isn’t the United States going after Islamic State’s funding sources as a way of lessening or eliminating their strength at making war? Follow the money back, cut it off, and you strike a blow much more devastating than an airstrike. But that has not happened. Why?


    Donations

    Many have long held that Sunni terror groups, ISIS now and al Qaeda before them, are funded via Gulf States, such as Saudi Arabia, who are also long-time American allies. Direct links are difficult to prove, particularly if the United States chooses not to prove them. The issue is exacerbated by suggestions that the money comes from “donors,” not directly from national treasuries, and may be routed through legitimate charitable organizations or front companies.

    In fact, one person concerned about Saudi funding was then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who warned in a 2009 message on Wikileaks that donors in Saudi Arabia were the “most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide.”

    At the G20, Russian President Vladimir Putin said out loud what has otherwise not been publicly discussed much in public. He announced that he has shared intelligence with the other G20 member states which reveals 40 countries from which ISIS finances the majority of its terrorist activities. The list reportedly included a number of G20 countries.

    Putin’s list of funders has not been made public. The G20, however, include Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey, the United Kingdom, the United States of America, and the European Union.



    Oil

    One source of income for ISIS is and has robustly been oil sales. In the early days of the air campaign, American officials made a point to say that the Islamic State’s oil drilling assets were high on the target list. Yet few sites have actually been targeted. A Pentagon spokesperson explained that the coalition has actually been trying to spare some of ISIS’s largest oil producing facilities, “recognizing that they remain the property of the Syrian people,” and to limit collateral damage to civilians nearby.

    The U.S. only this week began a slightly more aggressive approach toward the oil, albeit bombing tanker trucks, not the infrastructure behind them. The trucks were destroyed at the Abu Kamal oil collection point, near the Iraqi border.

    Conservative estimates are that Islamic State takes in one to two million dollars a day from oil sales; some see the number as high as four million a day. As recently as February, however, the Pentagon claimed oil was no longer ISIS’ main way to raise money, having been bypassed by those “donations” from unspecified sources, and smuggling.


    Turkey

    One of the issues with selling oil, by anyone, including ISIS, is bringing the stuff to market. Oil must be taken from the ground using heavy equipment, possibly refined, stored, loaded into trucks or pipelines, moved somewhere and then sold into the worldwide market. Large amounts of money must be exchanged, and one to four million dollars a day is a lot of cash to deal with on a daily basis. It may be that some sort of electronic transactions that have somehow to date eluded the United States are involved.

    Interestingly, The Guardian reported a U.S.-led raid on the compound housing the Islamic State’s chief financial officer produced evidence that Turkish officials directly dealt with ranking ISIS members, including the ISIS officer responsible for directing the terror army’s oil and gas operations in Syria.

    Turkey’s “open door policy,” in which it allowed its southern border to serve as an unofficial transit point in and out of Syria, has been said to be one of ISIS’ main routes for getting their oil to market. A Turkish apologist claimed the oil is moved only via small-diameter plastic irrigation pipes, and is thus hard to monitor.

    A smuggled barrel of oil is sold for about $50 on the black market. This means “>several million dollars a day worth of oil would require a very large number of very small pipes.

    Others believe Turkish and Iraqi oil buyers travel into Syria with their own trucks, and purchase the ISIS oil right at the refineries, transporting themselves out of Syria. Convoys of trucks are easy to spot from the air, and easy to destroy from the air, though up until now the U.S. does not seem to have done so.



    So as is said, ISIS’ sources of funding grow curious and curiouser the more one knows. Those seeking to destroy ISIS might well wish to look into where the money comes from, and ask why, after a year and three months of war, no one has bothered to follow the money.

    And cut it off.




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    Saudis to Crucify Kid Arrested When He was 17-Years-Old

    September 19, 2015 // 10 Comments »

    obama_2864916b


    Wow, remember all those horrible things we read about how Islamic State crucifies people? Those barbarians, good thing we are at war with them.


    So it must be OK then that groovey American bestie allies the Saudis are planning to crucify someone, because they had like a trial and everything. And is the victim going to die a most horrible death for child murder? No. For building a WMD to use against innocent people? No. For participating in 9/11 like many other Saudis did? Nope.

    He is going to die on the cross for protesting illegally against the Saudi regime.

    Saudi Arabia dismissed the final appeal of a juvenile prisoner set to be crucified. Ali Mohammed Al-Nimr was arrested when he was only age 17 after participating in anti-government protests in 2012, the hilarious Arab Spring democracy and free love festival the United States turned a blind eye toward in favor of maintaining the status quo of thug dictatorships across the Middle East who sell us oil and buy our weapons, for freedoming. The boy was accused of protesting illegally.

    Ali was initially held at a juvenile offender’s facility which in Saudi must be a hoot, like Spring Break. Oops, no, because human rights reporting indicated that he was tortured and forced to sign a confession under duress. His for sure fully-legal appeal was held in secret and dismissed without comment, with no remaining legal routes of objection to his sentence of “death by crucifixion” remaining.

    Maya Foa, Director of the death penalty team at legal charity Reprieve, said: “No one should have to go through the ordeal Ali has suffered – torture, forced ‘confession’, and an unfair, secret trial process, resulting in a sentence of death by ‘crucifixion.’”

    “But worse still, Ali was a vulnerable child when he was arrested and this ordeal began. His execution – based apparently on the authorities’ dislike for his uncle, and his involvement in anti-government protests – would violate international law and the most basic standards of decency. It must be stopped.”

    The government of the United States has issued no statement. Nobody on Twitter has started a feel-good hashtag campaign.



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    Help Wanted: Saudi Arabia Advertises for New Executioners as Beheading Rate Soars

    June 18, 2015 // 8 Comments »

    Bush-Saudi-Arabia


    Saudi Arabia, one of America’s bestest friends in the fight against extremists like IS who behead people, was ranked third in 2014, after China and Iran, and ahead of Iraq and the United States, of all countries in numbers of executed people, according to Amnesty International.

    The neat thing is that while the U.S. is at war with IS, screeching about how they behead, the Saudi’s just keep sending people into really fair Sharia courts and then whacking away as the U.S. sits silent.

    Now, Saudi Arabia is advertising for eight new executioners, recruiting extra staff to carry out an increasing number of death sentences, usually done by public beheading. Authorities have not said why the number of executions increased so rapidly, but diplomats have speculated it may be because more judges have been appointed, allowing a backlog of appeal cases to be heard.

    No special qualifications are needed for the executioner job, whose main role is “executing a judgment of death” but also involve performing amputations on those convicted of lesser offences. The work seems to require some physical labor, is done outside and it looks like you have to buy your own sword.

    The job announcement was posted in Arabic on a Saudi civil service jobs portal. It is open to Saudi citizens only. You begin the application process with a downloadable pdf application form for the executioner jobs. The jobs apparently are classified as “religious functionaries” and start at the lower end of the civil service pay scale.

    Still, while the take home pay may be low, you just can’t beat this kind of thing for job satisfaction. Find something you love to do, and it’ll never be work.




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    Snubbed by Saudi Arabia, What Happened at the Arab summit?

    May 19, 2015 // 2 Comments »

    summit


    While hosting the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) in Washington and at Camp David last week, Obama faced a hard sell: assuring the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman, Qatar and Saudi Arabia that the United States has an Iran policy that encompasses their security needs.

    He also tried to encourage the six countries to work together for their own collective security, but in a way that dovetails with American strategic goals.

    The Snub

    It did not work.

    Only two of the six GCC nations even bothered to send heads of state. Three of the missing leaders pleaded health issues as their excuses to stay home; Saudi Arabia said its ruler, King Salman, didn’t travel due to humanitarian commitments to Yemen. The Saudi snub in particular reflects the concern, among America’s Sunni Arab allies, that the United States isn’t taking a hard enough stance toward Iran and its proxies.



    Yemen

    The Saudis’ commitment to ensuring that the United States is ready to oppose Iranian-proxy forces even as rapprochement moves forward is clearly seen in Yemen. After tamping down the Arab Spring in Sana’a and easing a sympathetic government into power with Saudi support, America militarized Yemen. This approach was intended to be a model for a new “small footprint” strategy, where a compliant local government would be paired with drones and Special Forces to conduct joint strikes against Islamic militants fueled by intelligence from the United States. Obama cited Yemen as a successful example of this strategy as recently as September 2014. Yet the dissolution of that country, and the chaos that followed a tail-between-the-legs evacuation of American diplomats and Special Forces, instead planted an Iranian-supported rebellion on Saudi Arabia’s border.

    When Washington did not decisively move to counter Iranian gains in Yemen, the Saudis lashed out in late March of this year. The recent Saudi royal succession, which concentrated power in a smaller circle, may have also put pressure on the new king to act aggressively. Though the Saudi attacks in Yemen are tactically aimed at securing its southern border, strategically they send a message to Iran to step back. They signal to the United States that Saudi Arabia wants Washington to become more engaged in the situation and perhaps use air strikes and covert forces, similar to what it is doing in other parts of the Middle East.

    Increasing hostilities, including the Saudi use of American-supplied cluster bombs, forced Obama into that rock-and-a-hard-place that increasingly defines Washington’s policy in the region. He needed to ensure Saudi military action did not bleed over into open conflict with Iran, while demonstrating the United States would stand up for its allies. Obama’s tepid answer — saber rattling in the form of an aircraft carrier moved into the area — seemed to back down the Iranians for now, but said very little about long-term strategy.

    The Saudis demonstrated in Yemen what might be called unilateral collective defense; though they could not assemble a robust pan-Arab force and have conducted most of the bombing themselves, they acted with regional assistance in the form of limited air strikes, reconnaissance help and statements of support. This is very much at odds with Washington’s idea of what pan-Arab collective defense should look like. After all, how far can relations with Iran progress — never mind the goal of regional stability — when America’s allies start new wars against Iranian proxies?


    Obama’s Solution?

    No matter who showed up for last week’s conference, Obama could only propose his own version of collective defense, a region-wide missile defense system. This was a significant step down from the NATO-like agreement with the United States the GCC would have prefered. (Stated plans to create an “Arab NATO” are still in process.) Obama included new arms sales to GCC states that, while afraid of Iran, still remain wary of one another. The United States wants to be the glue that holds the arrangement together. That would seem to be an optimistic goal since American glue failed to hold together any substantive pan-Arab force in Iraq and Syria, and tens of billions of dollars in arms sales over the years apparently have not been reassuring enough.



    The Consequences

    If Washington doesn’t reassure the GCC countries that it will oppose Iran in proxy wars across the region, expect more independent action from America’s allies in the Gulf. America cannot walk away from these countries; oil, long-standing alliances and U.S. strategic facilities and bases housed across the GCC are factors. This may lead to Washington finding itself dragged into any number of fights it does not want, or stuck playing intermediary between the Saudis and Iran, as it is now doing to help broker a short cease-fire in Yemen. Think Syria next, where the Saudis are already working on a deal with Turkey that is at odds with American policy.

    Obama and the GCC nations concluded last week’s meetings with little resolved, even as all sides know they must ideally find some resolution ahead of the June 30 deadline for the U.S.-Iran nuclear treaty.

    The old order is in flux. Iran is no doubt watching traditional allies snap at each other over its ascendancy with some satisfaction; discord only plays to its advantage. All three sides — the United States, the GCC and the Iranians — are watching the clock. What will be their next moves if time runs out?



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    ISIS v. Saudi Arabia, Implementation of Sharia Law

    January 22, 2015 // 7 Comments »

    Sharia-zone-4X3

    One is an enemy of America, a group of evil Sunni terrorists who ruthlessly employ their own twisted vision of Islamic Sharia Law to behead people, punish homosexuality and criminalize adultery.

    And the other’s one of America’s staunchest Sunni allies in the Middle East, on the road to democracy, albeit one that employs its own twisted vision of Islamic Sharia Law to behead people, punish homosexuality and criminalize adultery.


    Having trouble telling the difference between ISIS and Saudi Arabia? It can happen to anyone! Let Middle East Eye help you out with this handy chart:




    It was all kind of a trick question. See dummy, ISIS are terrorists. The Saudis just fund terrorists (including, perhaps until only recently, ISIS!) Duh.



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    Saudi Who Created Bomb Scare at US Army Post Sent Home without Punishment

    January 12, 2015 // 3 Comments »

    Bush-Saudi-Arabia


    I’m not a big one to trade in conspiracy theories, but this all begs for an explanation.


    Saudi Bomb Threat to U.S. Army Post

    A Saudi in the U.S. on a student visa (now where have we heard that one before?), who prompted a four-hour lockdown at a U.S. Army post in Texas when he claimed to have a bomb in his car, pleaded guilty to two federal charges. He agreed to leave the country with his only penalty being about seven weeks of time-served awaiting trial.

    U.S. District Judge Fred Biery agreed not to sentence Mutasim Abdul-Aziz Alati, 24-years-old, to prison on condition he not return to the U.S. As soon as his family in Saudi Arabia buys him a one-way ticket, Alati will be escorted to the airport.

    Prosecutors say Alati showed up at the main entrance to U.S. Army Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio in November and told military police he had a bomb in his vehicle. This prompted a high-speed chase through the post. He was apprehended and no bomb was found in the car.

    Despite what might in other circumstances be called a terrorist bomb threat, Alati was only charged with evading authorities and illegally entering military property. Even if he had been sentenced, the likely time would have only been two years.

    By way of explanation, Alati told the court he was “stressed out” by tests he was taking at the University of the Incarnate Word in San Antonio.

    (By way of a quick comparison, Mohammed Hamzah Khan, 19, faces one count of “attempting to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization,” which carries a maximum penalty of up to 15 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, after being arrested at a Chicago airport allegedly on his way to join ISIS, not having done anything else.)



    The 9/11 Report and the Saudis

    While these unusual events passed relatively unnoticed in Texas, other events related to Saudi citizens and possible terror acts passed relatively unnoticed in Washington DC.

    Since the September 11 attacks, what Jeff Stein of Newsweek calls “dark allegations” remain about official Saudi ties to the terrorists, most of whom were Saudi citizens. Fueling the suspicions: 28 still-classified pages in the Congressional 9/11 Report. Former Florida Senator Bob Graham, a Democrat who co-chaired the joint investigation into the attacks, says the classified pages raise questions about Saudi financial support to the hijackers.

    “There are a lot of rocks out there that have been purposefully tamped down, that if were they turned over, would give us a more expansive view of the Saudi role” in assisting the 9/11 hijackers, Graham said.

    Both George W. Bush and Barack Obama refused to declassify the pages, citing “national security.” But critics, including members of Congress who have read the pages, say national security has nothing to do with it. U.S. officials, they charge, are trying to hide the double game that Saudi Arabia has long played with Washington, as both a close ally and a player in Islamic Sunni extremism.


    Small World!

    One of course cannot forget the oddity in the days right after 9/11, when the Bush administration used the FBI to facilitate the departure of 160 Saudi nationals, including relatives of bin Laden, out of the United States. Their chartered planes were among the very few non-military flights allowed in the air at the time.

    The Saudi ambassador to the United States at the time of the 9/11 attacks, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, was known as “Bandar Bush” for his close ties to the Bush family in Texas. He went on to become chief of Saudi intelligence. Bandar had led Saudi efforts to coordinate the supply of weapons to Syrian rebels. He faced criticism for backing extreme Islamist groups and thus risking a repeat of the “blowback” that brought Osama bin Laden’s Saudi fighters home after the Saudi-sanctioned jihad against the Soviets in Afghanistan.

    And hey, just recently, Prince Khaled bin Bandar, the new chief of Saudi intelligence, arrived in Washington for “discussions on joint efforts to fight the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).” The Saudi’s have been widely-held to have helped fund ISIS in the recent past.



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    I Don’t Know What This Is

    September 6, 2014 // 7 Comments »

    The blog about the State Department I always wanted to be is Diplopundit. The anonymous writer manages to point out State’s dumbassery without resorting to terms like dumbassery, quite an accomplishment.

    So I tip my hat to Diplopundit for pulling up the video below. It was made by the U.S. government with your tax dollars. The stated purpose of the video is to somehow encourage more students from Saudi Arabia to come to the U.S. for college. Education is a huge business now in America, and foreign students from places like Saudi pay top dollar. So while the goal to bring more of their money to the U.S. is a noble one, how this video helps is beyond me. Have a look.




    Oh where oh where to begin? First question of course, is how could this possibly cause a Saudi to decide he wanted to throw his lot in with these people? What would be the key selling point? The gratuitous use of English to communicate with a foreign audience? The broken English of the Saudi student applicants? The hard to read subtitles? The nearly endless parade of stereotypes? The poncy Marilyn Monroe thing near the end? The Saudi guy dressed like a 1970s pimp? Yes, that would be the winner.

    Anyway, enjoy the video and have a laugh. After all, you paid for it.


    BONUS: We all do remember one of the last times the State Department went out of its way to get more Saudis to travel and study in the U.S., right? That was the Visa Express system that facilitated the travel for several of the 9/11 hijackers. And that episode didn’t even need its own cartoon advertisement.



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    Reality Fails to Make Impact in Washington

    April 26, 2012 // 1 Comment »

    President Obama spoke to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to express support for a unified Iraq. “President Obama expressed the United States’ firm commitment to a unified, democratic Iraq as defined by Iraq’s constitution,” said a White House readout of the phone conversation.

    Meanwhile, on our planet, the Associated Press tells us:

    Now that U.S. forces are gone, Iraq‘s ruling Shiites are moving quickly to keep the two Muslim sects separate — and unequal. Sunnis are locked out of key jobs at universities and in government, their leaders banned from Cabinet meetings or even marked as fugitives. Sunnis cannot get help finding the body of loved ones killed in the war, and Shiite banners are everywhere in Baghdad. “The sectarian war has moved away from violence to a soft conflict fought in the state institutions, government ministries and on the street,” political analyst Hadi Jalo says. “What was once an armed conflict has turned into territorial, institutionalized and psychological segregation.”

    Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi, the administration’s top Sunni official, is a fugitive wanted by prosecutors on terror charges. He fled to the self-ruled Kurdish region in northern Iraq to escape what he said would certainly be a politically motivated trial, and he left this week for Qatar, which publicly has criticized what the Gulf nation’s prime minister called the marginalization of Sunnis. Hashemi is now in Saudi Arabia, probably apartment hunting. Al Jazzeera says that in a 2008 US diplomatic cable Saudi intelligence chief Prince Muqrin was quoted as saying Saudi King Abdullah saw Maliki as “an Iranian 100 per cent,” so presumably Hashemi will enjoy a warm welcome to the Kingdom.

    In other news, Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq, a Sunni, has been banned from attending Cabinet meetings because he called Maliki a dictator.

    Obama seemingly supports these autocratic moves by Malaki in appointing a new US Ambassador who is openly opposed by non-Malaki supporters, to the point where they are talking about refusing to meet with him. That refusal to even meet could possibly affect efforts at unification, what do you think?

    It remains unclear why US officials say the things that they do, statements that are not clearly related to the obvious reality around them. Is it wishful thinking? Hope as a strategy? They can’t be that stupid, right?

    Right?



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    Ryan Crocker, Please Shut Up

    April 17, 2012 // 4 Comments »

    America’s superhero Ambassador in Afghanistan, Ryan Crocker (pictured left with his senior adviser) just keeps the hits coming. After manfully mocking the Taliban for pulling off coordinated attacks all over the country, including just outside his own office windows, Crocker now turns his insightful gaze toward the future of terrorism.

    But first, a very brief history of our war in Afghanistan. 9/11 happened, with almost all of the terrorists being Saudi, using money from Saudi Arabia and having obtained their visas in Saudi Arabia courtesy of the US Department of State (not their fault, they did not have social media then). Following the Saudi-led horrors of that day, the US attacked a different country, Afghanistan, because the Saudi citizen behind some of 9/11 moved there (many other Saudi plotters went to Pakistan, which we did not attack). The stated purpose of invading Afghanistan was to find Osama bin Laden and deny al Qaeda a homey place to live and train. You can look that up on Wikipedia or something.

    So it is, well, curious, to read this quote from Crocker:

    Al-Qaeda is still present in Afghanistan. If the West decides that 10 years in Afghanistan is too long then they will be back, and the next time it will not be New York or Washington, it will be another big Western city. Al-Qaeda remains a potent threat despite suffering setbacks. We have killed all the slow and stupid ones. But that means the ones that are left are totally dedicated.


    Yeah, like, totally.

    The good news from Crocker is that he somehow knows that New York and DC will be safe next time. The bad news is that after almost eleven years of war, 100,000 troops deployed, some 2,000 dead Americans, trillions of dollars plus who knows how many dead Afghans, as well as the fact that the war has spread into Pakistan, the US has not accomplished much at all. We are in fact, Crock says, pretty much where we started and all that effort and all those American lives did nothing but lop off the slow and stupid bad guys.

    Afghans (Heart) Crocker

    Crocker also seems to have hit the executive minibar one too many times. When told by a reporter that “Some Afghans even argue that the US presence has done more harm than good in Afghanistan,” Crocker parried:

    The greatest concern that Afghans with whom we have regular contact express about the US military presence isn’t that we’re here but that we may be leaving. So it’s simply not the case that Afghans would rather have US forces gone. It’s quite the contrary.

    Of course the mind spins, wondering if the masses of Afghans upset over the US burning Quarans, peeing on their dead and of course turning wedding parties in red mush with “unfortunate” drone attacks really would love the Americans to stay– please– just a little bit longer. Maybe Crocker could put his theory to the test with a series of homestays in the homes of typical Afghans, asking each if they would like him in the particular to stay around longer? Everyone knows that foreigners want nothing more than an American Occupying Army to sit on them.

    Turks (Heart) Crocker

    In that same interview, just for laffs, Crocker also fired off a threat to the Iranians, saying mirthfully that:

    The Iranians would be making a terrible mistake to push Turkey too hard. Turkey definitely knows how to push back very, very effectively, and I think the Iranians are smart enough to understand that they had better stay within some pretty careful limits or they will pay a price they won’t like, shall we say.

    Yes, them Turks are bad asses, shall we say. Problem is in between Turkey and Iran lies Crocker’s out vacation home in Iraq, which would need to be overflown by the Turks when they go off huntin’ Iranian butt. Yeah, it’ll be cool. Crock’s got your back.

    Crocker, it is a bad idea to taunt people with weapons, especially when it is other people who will bear the burden of defending your taunts against the inevitable response.

    Maliki (Hearts) Crocker

    Lastly, Crocker wows his audience with a completely wrong retelling of reality, speaking now about Iraqi autocrat Maliki:

    Turkey knows better than anyone the deep divisions between Iraq and Iran in the aftermath of that awful eight-year ground war. Again, you understand that, as many in my country do not, that simply because the government is now led by a Shiite prime minister does not mean that he takes his direction from Tehran — quite the opposite. He is a very proud Arab and a proud Iraqi nationalist.


    Of course Crocker wouldn’t know that Maliki spent most of the eight years of the Iraq-Iran war in exile in Iran, and that Maliki owes his Prime Minister job to the Iranian-brokered deal with the Sadrists that concluded the March 2010 sham elections nine months after the voting ended. Crocker’s version of Iraq-Iran history also ends in 1990 and omits two US invasions of Iraq that followed.

    So, once again, Ryan Crocker, would you please just shut up?




    (Thanks to Ryan Crocker fan blogger Random Thoughts for the story idea)




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    Very Sexy Videos from State Department

    November 21, 2011 // Comments Off on Very Sexy Videos from State Department

    Did you know your government has a propaganda arm? No, no, not Fox News, they’re independent, I’m talking actual Federal employees. They live and work inside the State Department (New motto once someone can figure out the Latin translation: “We’re Almost as Good as the Military”) and they make cartoon videos like this one:



    (Follow this link if the video embed does not work)

    The video cartoon has an Arabic title, which Google Translate (New motto once someone can figure out the Latin translation: “We’re Better than the State Department”) says is What did not know about the Arab spring – very sexy. To be fair, the “very sexy” part likely means “very interesting” though even the possibility of a misquote is for laffs.

    Anyway, even without understanding Arabic, watching the cartoons you can get State’s propaganda point, that Terror = Bad, Peace = Sexytime.

    Um, State, I know you’re all Hollywood on this and all, but if you’re looking for notes, here’s one: al Qaeda recruits are created by our drone attacks, collateral damage massacres at weddings and funerals, support for “friendly” dictators in Bahrain and Saudi, invasions and bombings of Muslim countries (Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen, Somalia, etc.), not by cartoons. Memories of Abu Graidh tortures, Nissoor Square, the Black Hearts rape/murder and the like loom much larger in Muslim minds than cartoon images.

    Bottom Line: work on your Latin, this propaganda sucks.



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