Tag Archives: Saudi

Saudi Arabia: Iran or Israel

Analysis: Despite shared interests, there is little chance for normalization in Saudi-Israeli relations

Dr. Yaron Friedman

Abdul Aziz Qassim, a Saudi commentator at the al-Watan newspaper, wrote the following in an editorial last week: “The most sensitive question is being asked: Should the Sunni countries welcome an Israeli attack on Shiite Iran, as Iran remains their No. 1 enemy in the region? Yet we must not ignore our years-long hatred for this bad little country (referring to Israel), and our stance regarding the attitude towards Israel is clear: It is the eternal enemy of the region the same way Iran is the region’s biggest danger.”

 Only Arabs left without nukes

Saudi commentators and reporters have recently expressed their despair over the Iranian-American agreement reached recently, which allegedly gives Iran legitimacy to enrich uranium. The Saudis have a bad feeling that in the near future the Arab world will find itself between two nuclear countries, Iran and Israel, while the Arabs are left without nuclear capabilities.

Saudi Arabia sees itself as the leader of the Arab world, an island of stability and economic power in the Arab world, which has weakened and is bleeding following the damages of the Arab Spring. It is also considered today the leader of the moderate Sunni world, and supports the secular Sunni forces – the Syrian rebel organization, the Free Syrian Army, and the Egyptian army fighting against the Muslim Brotherhood.

 

Saudi Arabia is anxiously monitoring the split within the Sunni forces, like the war between al-Qaeda groups in Syria and the Free Syrian Army and the tensions between Turkey and Egypt over Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s support for the Muslim Brotherhood.

 

Shared interests, but… King Abdullah and Netanyahu (Photos: EPA, AP)
Shared interests, but… King Abdullah and Netanyahu (Photos: EPA, AP)

 

Riyadh feels abandoned by Washington. John Kerry and Saudi counterpart Saud al-Faisal (Photo: AP)
Riyadh feels abandoned by Washington. John Kerry and Saudi counterpart Saud al-Faisal (Photo: AP)

 

Saudi leaders are also losing sleep over the success of the Syrian regime’s army, with the help of Hezbollah, in taking over most of western Syria. Iran’s long arms are evident in Syria and Iraq, where a religious war is taking place between Sunnis and Shiites, and these two countries are on the verge of a split between east and west.

 

In Bahrain too the Iranian regime continues to incite the Shiite majority against the Sunni minority rule. The Saudis are now worried that lifting sanctions on Iran in the future will allow it to reinforce its support for Shiite groups in all of these arenas and deepen the Fitna – the religious war between Sunnis and Shiites.

 

Are we missing a historical opportunity?

The interests of Israel and Saudi Arabia in the Middle East have never been so close: They are both concerned over Iran’s nuclearization, they both support General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi‘s war against the Islamists in Egypt, they are both interested in seeing Hezbollah fail in Syria, they both have an interest in weakening al-Qaeda and strengthening the moderate Sunni groups in Syria, and they are both disappointed with the United States’ policy and feel it has abandoned them all alone in the region.

 

Saudi Arabia turned to Israel in 2002 through the Arab League proposal for comprehensive peace in the Middle East, in exchange for its return to the 1967 borders. Israel never officially accepted the proposal, although senior politicians like Ehud Olmert and Shimon Peres have expressed a positive attitude towards it.

 

Recently there have been many reports in the Arab press about secret cooperation between Israel and the Saudi Arabia. But these reports should be read cautiously as they usually appear in newspapers opposing Saudi Arabia. According to those sources, the meetings are being held in European countries. The content of these meetings in regards to the Iranian issue is unclear.

 

Saudi Arabia's policy is anti-Shiite as it is anti-Israeli (Photo: Reuters)
Saudi Arabia’s policy is anti-Shiite as it is anti-Israeli (Photo: Reuters)

 

There is a claim that Saudi and Israeli intelligence officials are meeting in Jordan to coordinate cooperation on the Syrian issue. Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad recently accused Saudi Arabia of cooperating with Israel against the Syrian regime. He said there was an “operations room” in Jordan where US, Saudi and Israeli intelligence officials were allegedly coordinating actions of the Syrian opposition.

 

The US created a serious crisis when it gave up on striking in Syria and reached an agreement with Iran, but it also opens new opportunities, if Saudi and Israeli leaders are wise enough to take advantage of them. Several optimistic Saudi commentators have even raised an interesting assumption that the Americans have no real intention of reconciling with Iran and that the current nuclear agreement for freezing some of the sanctions, which is valid for only six months, is just aimed at guaranteeing that Iran will support the destruction of chemical weapons in Syria.

 

Nonetheless, most Saudi commentators see the American policy as real treason against the kingdom and the Sunni world. One of them did a good job in describing the Saudis’ feelings when he wrote that “the Great Satan (the US in Iran’s eyes) is marrying the axis of evil (Iran in the eyes of the US) and the close friend (Saudi Arabia for the US) has not been invited to the wedding.”

 

The Saudis have warned that US that it’s betting on the wrong horse as the Sunnis are the majority in the Middle East and the Shiites are a minority (20% of Muslims) and because there is more Sunni oil than the oil in the Shiite areas.

 

Iranian President Rohani. 'Smile offensive' initiator in Gulf too (Photo: Reuters)
Iranian President Rohani. ‘Smile offensive’ initiator in Gulf too (Photo: Reuters)

 

Senior Saudi officials have spoken against Iran very similarly to Israel’s leaders: “We won’t sit idle if Iran has a nuclear weapon,” “As far as we are concerned, all options are on the table.” In addition, there has been open criticism about the Iranian propaganda and Saudi journalists have written that Iran has been promising to liberate Palestine for more than 30 years without doing anything, and that its vision is not uniting the Muslims but renewing the great Shiite Safavid Empire of the 16th century by turning into a nuclear country.

 

Second option: Joining winners

Saudi Arabia is facing a very difficult dilemma: If it draws closer to Israel it will betray the Palestinian issue, and if it joins Iran it will betray the Syrian opposition. The Wahhabi ideology, on the foundations of which the kingdom was established, is mainly anti-Shiite as it is anti-Israeli. The barriers of hatred for both countries are almost unbridgeable. The Saudi propaganda and education in the country are filled with the same amount of anti-Israel, anti-Jewish and anti-Shiite content.

 

But there are elementary differences between Saudi-Israeli ties and Saudi-Iranian ties on the religious and diplomatic levels: Jews are not allowed to visit the kingdom, and according to Islam they are banned entry to the area of the holy cities of Mecca and Medina.

 

Millions of Shiites, on the other hand, are permitted to make pilgrimages to the holy places, including many Iranians. In addition, Saudi Arabia’s allies in the Gulf area are pressuring it to move closer to Iran. The Sultanate of Oman is the country which mediated between Iran and the US, Qatar and Kuwait have good relations in Iran, and the relations between the United Arab Emirates and Iran have been warming up recently. Abdullah bin Zayed, the UAE’s foreign minister, even visited Tehran about a week ago.

 

Iranian President Hassan Rohani is now initiating a “smile offensive” in the Gulf area. He sent his foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, on a round of visits to all the Gulf emirates, and the latter expressed his hope to visit Saudi Arabia as well in the near future. The only emirate refusing to draw closer to Iran is Bahrain, which is accusing Tehran of the Shiite protest in the country.

 

Iran is only country which can thwart nuclear agreement. Ashton and Zarif (Photo: AFP)
Iran is only country which can thwart nuclear agreement. Ashton and Zarif (Photo: AFP)

 

Iran has called on Saudi Arabia to turn over a new leaf the relations between the two countries, and has repeated its claim that the development of Iranian nukes is exclusively for civilian purposes and that Saudi Arabia’s fears are baseless. It appears, therefore, that the option of talking to Iran is easier than the almost utopian option of moving closer to Israel. Iranian and Saudi representatives have already sat together in conferences of the Islamic countries and the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).

 

Despite the claims that the Saudi kingdom is holding secret ties with Israel, as Jordan did with Israel in the 50 years before the countries signed a peace agreement, there is no real proof of that. Iran and Saudi Arabia, on the other hand, have exchanged ambassadors and formally have normal diplomatic relations.

 

Saudi Arabia has expressed its hope in the past that the conflict with Iran would be settled in a diplomatic manner, but has never suggested talking directly to Israel. Therefore, there is a higher probability that Saudi Arabia will favor the Iranian option over the Israeli one. That way it will be able to fall into line with the US and maintain proper relations with the Americans, which the kingdom cannot afford to give up.

 

The expected result of Tehran’s “smile offensive” will be a Saudi-Iranian dialogue which will generate a rare attempt for a Sunni-Shiite rapprochement. If and when such talks are held, there is no doubt that they will focus on the Syrian issue and that there will be an attempt to create a compromise supported by the two countries in the second Geneva convention. Such a dialogue will bring the two extremities of the Muslim world closer and push Israel further away from any attempt to reconcile with the Muslim world.

 

The Iranians will go on insisting on enriching uranium, and on the Iranian streets people will continue chanting proudly, “Death to America.” The only one who can thwart the agreements on freezing the sanctions is Iran itself, as sooner or later the Americans and Europeans will realize that Tehran has no real intention of halting its race towards a nuclear bomb and hegemony in the Middle East.

 

Dr. Yaron Friedman, Ynet’s commentator on the Arab world, is a graduate of the Sorbonne. He teaches Arabic and lectures about Islam at the Technion, at Beit Hagefen and at the Galilee Academic College. His book, “The Nusayri Alawis: An Introduction to the Religion, History and Identity of the Leading Minority in Syria,” was published in 2010 by Brill-Leiden

 

 

 

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Saudi Arabia to Obama: We Will Not Tolerate a Nuclear Iran

By Karin McQuillan

Individuals who have even visited Israel, or who observe Judaism, or who carry a Bible are banned from Saudi Arabia.  Yet Saudi Arabia’s Israel-hating King Abdullah just flew in an Israeli scientist to have dinner with him, to enjoy some royal hospitality, accept a medal and the $200,000 “Arab Nobel Prize.”  It’s a not-so-subtle message to President Obama: the unthinkable can happen, so don’t assume the Saudis won’t join with Israel to bomb Iran.

Obama’s new Iran policy moves the Mid-East closer to war over oil and religion — Sunni Saudis versus Shia Iranians.  There is no more strategic commodity than Gulf oil to the entire world economy.  American national security stakes could not be higher.   Iran’s end game, some say more than an attack on Israel, is to seize the Saudi oil fields.  There is a Shiite majority in the oil province that the Saudi Princes fear could be turned by Iran.  The Saudis no longer see the U.S. as an ally in stabilizing the Middle East.  We have become a force for chaos. The UK Telegraph:

 

Chris Skrebowski, editor of Petroleum Review, said the great unknown is how Saudi Arabia will react to a move deemed treachery in Riyadh… The great question is whether they can live with this deal, or whether it is intolerable,” he said.

Mr Skrebowski said the Middle East is a tinder box, in the grip of a Sunni-Shia civil war comparable in ideological ferocity to the clash between Catholics and Protestants in early 17th Century Europe. Saudi Arabia has already shown how far it will go to protect its interests, helping to overthrow Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood.

 

The Saudis are signaling that they will unleash a pre-emptive war in the Middle East in response to Obama’s nuclear capitulation to Iran.  These signals are an effort to change Obama’s decision to prop up the mullahs and green light their nuclear program.  Can the Saudi threats become real?  It’s a wild card our President is willing to play.

 

The Saudis are allowing leaks on a deal to get nuclear weapons from Pakistan. Larry Bell in Forbes:

 

Pakistan is rumored to have recently delivered Shaheen mobile ballistic missiles (a version of the U.S. two-stage Pershing I, with a range of more than 450 miles) to Saudi Arabia, minus warheads. Mark Urban, the diplomatic and defense editor of BBC’s “Newsnight”, told a senior NATO decision maker earlier this year that “Nuclear weapons made in Pakistan on behalf of Saudi Arabia are now sitting ready for delivery.”

 

The Saudis are not so secretly negotiating with the Israelis.  This goes beyond allowing the use of Saudi air space, to active support in a bombing raid on Iran. Bell again:

 

A diplomatic contact told the London Sunday Times that “The Saudis are furious and are willing to give Israel all the help it needs” to counter the unresolved nuclear threat, noting that their relations with the U.S. had been breached by Obama’s overtures to Iran.

This new cooperation represents a major policy realignment given the fact that satellite images show a new Saudi CSS-2 missile base capable of deploying A-bombs with launch rails pointing towards both Iran and Israel. According to the Times, Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency and Sunni royal rulers of Saudi Arabia are even developing joint contingency plans for a possible attack on Tehran’s nuclear program. 

 

There is also talk by the Saudis of using oil prices to punish America for Obama’s betrayal. 

 

Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the UK …Ambassador Prince Mohammed bin Nawaf bin Abdulaziz, who was speaking to the British Times, called the Obama administration’s “rush” to embrace Tehran “incomprehensible.”

“We are not going to sit idly by and receive a threat there and not think seriously how we can best defend our country and our region,” Prince Mohammed, who is Saudi King Abdullah’s nephew, said.  “Let’s just leave it there, all options are available,” he added, referring to possible defense plans made in response to Iran developing its nuclear capability.

 

The Saudis have collected a long grievance list of things our President has done to destabilize their neighborhood.  Their power rests uneasy, and maintaining it requires constant work.  Our President is the grand saboteur. 

 

  • They are still shocked and enraged that we forced Mubarak out of Egypt and pressured the military to let the Muslim Brotherhood take over. The Saudis helped depose the Brotherhood and fix Obama’s mess. It has cost the Saudis upwards of $5 billion dollars in aid to the new transition government.
  • The Saudis are angry that we pushed out another ally, Yemen’s president Ali Abdullah Saleh, creating turmoil on Saudi Arabia’s southern border and a stronghold for al Qaeda.
  • We invited violent radicals to our embassy in Bahrain; the Saudis had to dispatch troops to stop the uprising there.

 

Richard Miniter in Forbes:

 

Obama’s move made no sense to the Saudis. Bahrain is home to some 15,000 American soldiers, sailors and Marines. Why would the U.S. endanger Americans and Arab allies for the sake of militants supported by its most fevered enemy?

The tone with which this question is asked — a mixture of exasperation, regret and anger — itself is telling. This is the tone you hear as long-term relationships die.

 

When Obama breached his own “red line” on chemical weapons in Syria and claimed that he had never drawn any red lines, undercutting Saudi support for the Syrian rebels, America’s credibility collapsed. 

 

In a very public protest, the Saudi king rejected a seat on the U.N. Security Council, which the kingdom’s diplomats had spent months lobbying for.  This was a warning shot in diplomatic terms.  Obama ignored it.

 

With his concessions to Iran’s nuclear program, President Obama has betrayed both Israel and Saudi Arabia, our two most important allies in protecting the world’s oil supply.  In contrast to President Bush’s close cooperation with our Middle East allies, Obama did not consult them on the Iran deal, nor was their safety considered.  One result is certain: our influence in the region is diminished.  Other results, more dire, to follow.

Read more: http://www.americanthinker.com/2013/12/saudis_to_obama_we_will_not_tolerate_a_nuclear_iran.html#ixzz2n5ot3dM4
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Gitmo Parting Gifts: Job Training & Islam Classes

By

 

en_0501_martin_640x480In another triumph of idiocy, the Obama administration is negotiating with the Yemeni government to release Guantanamo Bay and Afghan terrorists to a “rehabilitation” facility to be constructed outside Yemen’s capital city of Sana’a. According to the Los Angeles Times, the detainees “would undergo counseling, instruction in a peaceful form of Islam, and job training in Yemen before any decision on freeing them,” would be made.

The deal is part of the president’s ongoing effort to close Guantanamo Bay. He reiterated that intention on November 4, asking Congress to once again consider lifting restrictions on detainee transfers. Speaking on behalf of the president, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney contended that Congress has “significantly limited our ability to responsibly reduce the detainee population and ultimately close the facility.”

Rightfully so. Unlike the Obama administration, Congress recognizes that many nations refuse to repatriate potential terrorists, as well as the reality that some released prisoners rejoin the ranks of those seeking to destroy the West. A report released early last month by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) revealed that out of the 603 terrorists released from Gitmo, 100 have been “confirmed of reengaging” in terrorist activities, and another 74 are “suspected of reengaging.”

In other words, as many as 174 thugs we had already risked Americans lives to capture are now free to pursue jihad against our soldiers all over again. Not only is such a reality apparently a reasonable tradeoff for an Obama administration determined to elevate politics over the safety of Americans, it is a willful determination to ignore the threat that Yemen itself presents and has presented for quite some time.

In 2009, Senate Intelligence Committee member Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) joined Republicans calling for a halt of Gitmo prisoner transfers to Yemen because it was “too unstable.” Nine days earlier, the Obama administration had released 12 detainees from Guantanamo Bay, six of whom ended up in Yemen. Four days after that, Yemen-trained “underwear bomber” Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab tried to blow up Northwest flight 253, and a Yemen-based al Qaeda affiliate claimed credit for the attempt. Furthermore, ABC News revealed that the Christmas Day plot was abetted by two Gitmo detainees released to Saudi Arabia in 2007.

At the time Obama blamed it all on a “systemic failure” of Yemen’s security apparatus. He imposed a moratorium on releasing detainees to Yemen in January 2010, and promised not to release any detainee who posed a threat to the American people. Yet in spite of the ongoing terror threat emanating from that nation, Obama lifted his moratorium on May 23, 2013. He did so despite the belief of intelligence officials that the al Qaeda affiliate in Yemen represents the greatest threat to the U.S. homeland and that the affiliate’s creation was abetted by several former Gitmo detainees released in 2006.

But it gets worse. According to al Qaeda on the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) expert Gregory Johnsen, the formation of AQAP was the result of a merger between a “handful of former Gitmo detainees, primarily Saudi citizens” who slipped into Yemen, and al Qaeda members who staged a 2006 break from a maximum security prison in Sana’a. Regardless, the president remained defiant. “I think the lifting of the moratorium reflects a changing U.S. policy that reflects a changing Yemen,” said White House Press Secretary Jay Carney in August.

Thus, the president is continuing the effort to create a de facto “half way house” for the Yemeni prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay. Yemenis comprise more than half the facility’s remaining 164 inmates.

Details of the negotiations remain closely guarded, but the Yemeni government has reportedly drawn up plans for the new facility just outside Sana’a. Yet many questions remain unanswered. There are deep disagreements regarding who will fund the facility, with the Yemeni government urging U.S. and European officials to fund its construction, as well as the training of security guards and other staff. Yemen’s president, Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi, reportedly offered to fund the project when he met with Obama in August. But that offer was rescinded due to a government budget shortfall. U.S. officials insist America will not fund the project either, because Republicans, many of whom are against closing Gitmo, will not appropriate money for a facility in Yemen. The White House has acknowledged that they are asking the United Nations and other governments for help with the project.

Yemeni officials have political reservations as well. They do not want to be seen as offering America an alternative to the “unpopular” Gitmo, and they worry that the new prison would be a prime target for terror attacks, requiring heavy fortification as a result.

As of now, the Pentagon has designated 55 Gitmo prisoners for transfer to the Yemeni government. Twenty-five are considered “low risk” and have been approved for an “immediate” transfer. The other 30 will be moved if Yemen provides satisfactory assurances that they will not return to violence.

Considering the United States failed to prevent as many as 174 Gitmo prisoners from returning to jihad, it remains impossible to see what constitutes “satisfactory assurances” of anything. Obama administration officials contend that the program based on the aforementioned counseling, instruction in peaceful Islam, and job training is modeled after a “successful” Saudi Arabian undertaking, also aimed at reintegrating former terrorists into society.

That would be the Saudi rehabilitation program that “graduated” deputy al Qaeda leader Said Ali al Shihri, who organized a 2008 bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Sana’a, as well as additional car bombings that killed at least 16 people. In 2009, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, detailed other notable failures of the Saudi program in a letter sent to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. Sessions revealed that of the 85 “top wanted terrorists” listed in February 2009 by Saudi Arabia’s Interior Ministry, 11 had been part of the Saudi rehabilitation program. All 11 were also former Gitmo detainees. That’s a recidivism rate of 13 percent. In 2010 the Saudis were boasting that their recidivism rate was 20 percent. This year they are claiming that of the of 2,336 al Qaeda prisoners who have been through rehabilitation, the recidivism rate “does not exceed 10 percent,” according to Said al Bishi, director of a luxury rehabilitation center in Riyadh.

Thus it seems the administration is OK with the idea that at least one-in-ten terrorists will be rejoining the fight against America.

Caitlin Hayden, spokeswoman for the National Security Council, agreed with the move: “We believe that the establishment of a credible, sustainable program would be an important step for the Yemeni government in bolstering their counter-terrorism capabilities,” she said. Yemen’s foreign minister, Abubakr Qirbi, apparently agreed. “We are currently planning to construct this facility and taking legal steps for the return of the 55 people who the U.S. has agreed to send home, those who do not pose a threat,” he said, according to Yemen’s official news agency.

Human rights activists were on board as well, threatening to oppose any facility that was primarily a prison. ”I don’t think [it] should exist unless it’s an actual rehabilitation program,” said Andrea Prasow, senior counter-terrorism counsel with Human Rights Watch. ”There’s no way I would find it acceptable for [returned Yemeni detainees] to be held against their will.”

The aforementioned ODNI report reveals the fatuousness of such thinking. While noting the inevitability of recidivism in general, it spelled out the hazards associated with countries like Yemen. “Transfers [of detainees] to countries with ongoing conflicts and internal instability as well as active recruitment by insurgent and terrorist organizations pose a particular problem,” it said.

Yemen may be the most “particular problem” in the Middle East. Even the discussions about the prison were held in Rome due to security risks in a country “battling an insurgency by warring tribes backed by Islamist groups that has caused a sharp decline in security in recent months,” according to the Times. 

Despite all of it, reality takes a back seat for a president looking for another “signature achievement,” no matter how reckless the consequences. In a better world, those who believe in terrorist “rehab” would be forced to live amongst their subjects, much like the Americans troops who were quartered with their Afghan trainees. That particular rehab effort was finally abandoned, but not before more than 100 unarmed U.S. and NATO troops were killed in the effort to “build trust” with their armed Afghan counterparts. Any Islamist rehab program deserves the exact same fate. We’ve sacrificed more than enough American lives on the alter of political correctness.

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