Middle East http://english.irib.ir Sat, 24 Feb 2018 17:28:23 +0000 en-gb The real obstacle to Syrian peace http://english.irib.ir/component/k2/item/220598-the-real-obstacle-to-syrian-peace http://english.irib.ir/component/k2/item/220598-the-real-obstacle-to-syrian-peace

Despite Russia and the U.S. coming together recently to back a U.N.-approved peace plan for Syria, major obstacles remain, including the on-the-ground reality that U.S. “allies,” such as Saudi Arabia and Turkey, have armed and financed terrorist forces that won’t compromise, as Gareth Porter explains.

Gareth Porter is an independent investigative journalist and winner of the 2012 Gellhorn Prize for journalism.

The anti-Assad coalition led by the United States continues to stagger toward the supposed objective of beginning peace negotiations between the Syrian government and what has now been blessed as the politically acceptable “opposition.” The first such meeting was scheduled for Jan. 1, but no one on either side believes for a moment that any such negotiations are going to happen any time in the foreseeable future.

The notion that negotiations on a ceasefire and political settlement will take place lacks credibility, because the political-military realities on the ground in Syria won’t allow it. Those opposition groups that are prepared to contemplate some kind of settlement with the elected government of Bashar al-Assad do not have the capacity to make such an agreement a reality. And those organizations that have the capacity to end the war against Damascus have no interest in agreeing to anything short of forcible regime change, but to no avail.

The United States is pushing the line that President Bashar al-Assad must step down, but Russia is insisting that such a demand is illegitimate.

The contradiction between the pretensions of the U.S.-sponsored plan and Syrian political-military realities was very much in evidence at the Riyadh conference earlier this month. The conference, which was supported by the United States and the other so-called “Friends of Syria,” including Britain, France, Turkey, Qatar and the UAE, was in theory to bring together the broadest possible range of opposition groups – excluding only what they like to dub as “terrorist” groups. Belying that claim, however, the Kurdish Democratic Union Party, YPD, being armed by the United States in Syria was excluded from the conference at the insistence of Turkey.

A key objective of the conference was apparently to bring Ahrar al-Sham, the most powerful armed terrorist group apart from the ISIS, into the putative game of ceasefire negotiations. But inviting the organization was bound to backfire sooner or later. Ahrar al-Sham has been closely allied with al-Qaeda’s Syrian franchise, al-Nusra Front, both politically and militarily. Moreover, it has explicitly denounced the idea of any compromise with the government in Damascus.
Ahrar al-Sham showed up at the conference, but refused to follow the script. The representative of Ahrar al-Sham called for “the overthrow of the government of President Bashar al-Assad with all its pillars and symbols, and handing them over for a fair trial.” That is not exactly the game plan envisioned in the negotiating process, which assumes that Assad must leave after a transitional period, but that the government security institutions would remain in place.
On the second day of the conference, Ahrar al-Sham’s representative announced that the group was leaving, complaining that the conference organizers had refused to endorse its insistence on their self-styled “Muslim” identity of the terrorist groups.

The terrorist group of Ahrar al-Sham refusal to play ball was the most dramatic indication of that the entire exercise is caught in a fundamental contradiction. But it wasn’t the only case of a major armed group whose attendance at the Riyadh meeting raised the obvious issue of conflicting interests. Jaysh al-Islam terrorist group is a coalition of 60 Salafist armed groups in the Damascus suburbs whose orientation appears to be indistinguishable from that of Ahrar al-Sham.

The coalition is led by Salafist extremist Zahran Alloush, and has fought alongside Ahrar al-Sham as well as al-Nusra Front. Last April, Alloush travelled to Istanbul, where he met with the leader of Ahrar al-Sham. Like their close allies, moreover, Alloush and his coalition reject the idea of a political settlement with the government, with or without Assad.
If it is so obvious that the Riyadh conference and the larger scheme for peace negotiations are not going to come to fruition, why has the Obama administration been pushing it? The explanation for what appears to be a lost cause can be inferred from the basic facts surrounding the administration’s Syria policy.

First, the US administration adopted the objective of regime change in Syria in late 2011, at a time when it was in a hope that the regime was on the ropes. And although it has partially backtracked from that aim by distinguishing between President Assad and the institutional structure of the government, it cannot back off the demand for Assad to step down without a humiliating admission of failure.

Second in its pursuit of that regime change policy the US administration allowed its regional allies – especially Turkey and Saudi Arabia – to do things that it wasn’t prepared to do. Obama tolerated Turkish facilitation of foreign terrorists and Turkish, Qatari and Saudi funneling of arms to their favorite terrorist groups. The result was that ISIS, al-Nusra Front, Ahrar al-Sham and Jaysh al-Islam emerged in 2013 and 2014 as the main challengers to the government of President Assad.

But the White House has officially maintained its distance from al-Nusra Front and Ahrar al-Sham, while continuing to collaborate closely with allies, as they have provided financial support to the “Army of Conquest” command dominated by al-Nusra Front and Ahrar al-Sham to help the forces under their leadership gain control of Idlib Province and pose the most serious threat to Damascus thus far.

And the third fact about the policy is that the Obama administration embarked on its campaign of illusory peace negotiations with little more than one year left before Obama leaves the Oval Office.

The obvious implication of these facts is that the ostensible push for a ceasefire and peace negotiations is a useful device for managing the political optics associated with Syria during the US administration’s final year. If it is not questioned by media and political elites, the administration will be able to claim both that it is insisting on getting rid of Assad and at the same time moving toward a ceasefire and political settlement.

Never mind that claim has nothing to do with reality. Being the dominant power, after all, means never having to say you’re sorry, because you don’t have to acknowledge your responsibility for the terrible war and chaos visited on a country because of your policy.
Meantime, the Syrian Army, backed by Hezbollah fighters, coupled with Iran’s advisory help and Russia’s air attacks, are gaining outstanding victory in different fronts day by day.
EA

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Middle East Sun, 27 Dec 2015 12:53:37 +0000
Making a mess of things http://english.irib.ir/component/k2/item/220404-making-a-mess-of-things http://english.irib.ir/component/k2/item/220404-making-a-mess-of-things

Ever since Turkey’s downing of a Russian military plane in November, a number of US Republican presidential hopefuls have been trying to outdo each other with who would shoot down more of Putin’s jets if elected president.

The latest GOP debate is a case in point. Vasko Kohlmayer, a reformed neocon, whose articles have appeared in a number of news outlets including the Baltimore Sun, the Washington Times, the New York Sun, LewRockwell.com, and Frontpage Magazine among others, has reviewed the latest GOP debate in the case.

When asked whether he would target a Russian plane if it flew into a no-fly zone, Chris Christie responded, "I’d say to Putin, ‘Listen, Mr. President, there’s a no-fly zone in Syria; you fly in, it applies to you.’ And yes, we would shoot down the planes of Russian pilots if in fact they were stupid enough to think that this president was the same feckless weakling that the president we have in the Oval Office is right now."
The moderator did not ask Christie why he thought we had the right to arbitrarily install no-fly zones over sovereign countries.
Not to be outdone, John Kasich said, "And for the Russians, frankly, it’s time that we punched the Russians in the nose."
Russian President Vladimir Putin is no angel to be sure, but he is the aggrieved party in the plane shooting incident. The Russian pilot hardly did anything that would justify such a drastic action on Turkey’s part.

And yet being the strongman that he is, Putin has shown a remarkable degree of self-restraint. It goes without saying that with Turkey in NATO a conflict with Russia could quickly escalate into a major conflagration had Putin responded in kind.
If anything Vladimir Putin should be commended for his forbearance and cool-headedness in this unfortunate episode.

Why, then, are some US Republicans so eager to pick a fight with someone who has not only caused us no harm, but who himself has been harmed? What exactly is our grievance against Putin?
Do we begrudge him the right to be involved in that part of the world? The region is in his backyard. Syria is less than 400 miles away from his country’s border. In contrast, Syria is nearly 6,000 miles distant from American shores.
Why do we think that it is only us, the Americans, and our allies who have the right to conduct military operations over there? Is it because we, the Americans, are so much better or smarter than everyone else?
Next year it will be fifteen years since the US started fighting its wars in the region. And what is the result?
Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya are largely failed states. They serve as breeding grounds and safe havens for head-chopping extremists, radicals and criminals. A number of other countries in the region are either on fire or very close to being set on fire.
We, the Americans, promised the people of the Middle East democracy, freedom and prosperity but instead they got death, destruction and extremism.

US presidential hopeful, Donald Trump, summed it up rather pointedly, saying: "We’ve spent $4 trillion trying to topple various people that frankly, if they were there and if we could’ve spent that $4 trillion in the United States to fix our roads, our bridges, and all of the other problems.” He went on to say that we, the Americans, have done a tremendous disservice, not only to Middle East, we’ve done a tremendous disservice to humanity. The people that have been killed, the people that have wiped away, and for what? Donald Trump said that it’s not like we had victory. It’s a mess. The Middle East is totally destabilized. A total and complete mess.

The results of the US actions in the Middle East are the opposite of what we, the Americans, desired and intended. Widespread destruction has taken place, hundreds of thousands have been killed and millions have been turned into refugees. To say we have made a mess of things is a relatively mild way of putting it.
Rather than lashing out at others the US should accept responsibility for the calamitous consequences of its actions. When will the Americans finally acknowledge the costs that their ineptness exacted on themselves and others?

It is not wise to threaten and provoke Vladimir Putin after he just suffered the loss of a military jet. Instead we should acknowledge his temperance and wish him well. After all, he is trying to fight ISIS, the same enemy we, the Americans are supposed to be fighting. Perhaps he can help to clean up the mess we, the Americans, have made.

Why are some US Republicans itching to get into a conflict with a powerful nuclear nation for no good reason? Why do they want to risk World War III?
This brings up an even larger point: Why are they so eager to make ever more enemies?
Half of the world already hates the US. Many Americans seem to be continually surprised by this and naively conclude that it is because we, the Americans, are too good. They want to believe the world dislike them for the so-called US’s freedom, democracy and technological advancement. But this is only self-deception.
If they hated the US for this they would hate Switzerland all the more. Switzerland has more freedom, a better democracy and is at least as advanced as the US is. Yet the world nations do not hate or target Switzerland.

What may be the reason for that? In Switzerland they mind their own business. The Swiss do not meddle in other people’s affairs. They do not invade other countries or set other lands on fire.
On the whole Americans pretend to have good intentions. The problem is the US hubris. The Americans have an inflated view of their capabilities and the Americans also think that they are wiser and better than they really are.
The fruit of this error is on display for the whole world to see.

When will we, the Americans, notice it and finally wise up ourselves?
EA

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Middle East Wed, 23 Dec 2015 11:16:54 +0000
Saudi regime’s blatant violation of rights of Shi’a Muslims http://english.irib.ir/component/k2/item/219859-saudi-regime’s-blatant-violation-of-rights-of-shi’a-muslims http://english.irib.ir/component/k2/item/219859-saudi-regime’s-blatant-violation-of-rights-of-shi’a-muslims

The country called Saudi Arabia which has no historical basis, was created by the British colonialists in 1932 in the name of their agent, the tribal leader from Najd Abdul-Aziz ibn Saud, who seized through bloodshed the holy cities of Mecca and Medina, the commercial Red Sea port of Jeddah, the northern parts of Yemen, and the eastern oil-rich Shi’a Muslim populated region bordering the Persian Gulf.

 

Today it is a US client state that occupies an area of 2 million and 149,000 square kilometers with a population of 27 million, of which 11 million are foreign workers from various countries. Of the 16 million citizens, Shi’a Muslims account for over 26 percent or around five million, and are mostly concentrated in the eastern oil-rich region, and in Medina, as well as in Najran, which was seized by the Saudis from Yemen and whose population is mainly Ismaili Shi’a, followed by Zaydi Shi’a Muslims.

Unfortunately, the regime is run by the heretical Wahhabi cult, which is a fraction of the minority of the total population, compromising around twelve percent, of which most are political Wahhabis who pretend to follow the faith of the rulers to enjoy privileges, while the majority of the people, especially Shi’a Muslims, are religiously, culturally, politically and economically discriminated against and deprived of even basic birthrights. Stay with us for an interesting feature in this regard.

All aspects of life in Saudi Arabia are dominated by the deviant Wahabbi cult, which not only suppresses liberties of the Muslims of the land, but spends billions of dollars from the usurped oil wealth of the local Shi’a Muslims to spread its heretical ideas abroad. Through petro-dollars and propaganda it exploits the ignorance of unsuspecting, economically-poor and culturally-backward Muslims of other countries, to make them Salafis, and even terrorists, as is evident by the cannibalistic Takfiris that are destabilizing Syria, Iraq, Libya, Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan. It pretends to be Sunni, but has no connection to the Sunnah or genuine practice and behaviour of the Prophet Islam, as is evident by its deviated policies and desecration of holy sites associated with Prophet Mohammad (SAWA).

For instance, the Wahhabis have destroyed not only the house where the Prophet was born and where he lived, but also the sacred Cemetery of Jannat al-Baqie in Medina, where four of his 12 Infallible Successors rest in peace, in addition to his aunts, uncle, wives, and companions. In Mecca, the Wahhabis destroyed the Sacred Jannat al-Mo’alla Cemetery which contains the tomb of the First Lady of Islam, the Mother of all True Believers, Hazrat Khadija (peace upon her), as well as the tombs of the Prophet’s monotheist ancestors. It is strange that the Wahhabis accuse Shi’a Muslims of grave worship, when the fact of the matter is that the followers of the Ahl al-Bayt or the blessed household of the Prophet, never indulge in such practices, but pray to God Almighty beside the resting places of those who had dedicated their life to Islam, attained martyrdom, and where the mercy of God is all evident. 

The presence of Shi’a Muslims in Arabia dates back to the time of the Prophet himself, when some of his prominent companions, like Abu Zar, Salman, Meqdad, Ammar, etc, were known as Shi’as or devotees of the Prophet’s cousin, son-in-law, and divinely-designated heir, Imam Ali ibn Abi Taleb (PuH). In the subsequent eras, despite the usurpation of the right of Imam Ali (PuH) and suppression of his followers, the Shi’as, like Jaber ibn Abdullah al-Ansari, Abdullah ibn Abbas, Owais Qarani, and others, not only made their presence felt in Mecca and Medina, but spread out in the newly conquered lands of Iraq, Syria, Egypt, and Iran.

The severe persecution unleashed by the Omayyads and subsequently by the Abbasids, although it marginalized Shi’a Muslims, they still flourished in Medina, where the Infallible Imams were based. In the subsequent centuries, the Shi’a Muslims established rule in Yemen, while short-lived Shi’a rule rose and fell in the Hijaz. During the over two-century rule of the Egypt-based Fatemid Ismaili Dynasty over Hijaz, Shi’a Muslims thrived in the holy cities of Mecca and Medina, the Red Sea port of Jeddah, the summer resort of Ta’ef, and other parts of Arabia. In about 968, a branch of the descendants of the Prophet, established the non-sovereign emirate of the Hijaz, and from 1201 until 1925, ruled in in unbroken succession as Sharifs of Mecca.

Although this dynasty had adopted Taqiyya or Dissimulation to escape persecution from the Ayyubid, Mamluk and Ottoman Empires, they promoted the culture of the Ahl al-Bayt, until overthrown by the Saudis of Najd. This was the factor for the presence of large number of Shi’a Muslims in Arabia, especially in Medina, where until the usurpation of the Hijaz by the Saudi Wahhabis, as much as half of the population of Medina was Shi’a.

Meanwhile, Eastern Arabia, which the Saudis call Sharqiya Province today, was historically known as Greater Bahrain for almost a millennium until the 19th century and geographically included what are now Kuwait, Qatar, the Bahrain islands, UAE, al-Hasa, Qatif, and northern Oman. This area was dominated by Shi’a Muslims, who looked towards Iran for support until its occupation by the Ottomans, who continued to appoint the local Bani Khalid emirs as governors to check the raids from Najd in the interior of the Arabian Desert where the Aal-e Saud tribe of brigands had embraced the heretical Wahhabi beliefs.

There was bitter animosity between the local people and the Aal-e Saud, who with British help encroached on this vast Shi’a majority region and seized it by force of arms, some years after the end of First World War. Years later, the discovery of oil in this occupied Shi’a area made the Saudis to tighten their tentacles on it, and since the late 1930s, the Wahhabi regime in Riyadh has been looting the wealth of this region and spending it to consolidate their power and prestige, as well as to promote their heretical ideas abroad, while depriving the local people of their birthrights.   

Today, the Shi’a Muslims in what is called Saudi Arabia, have become a minority in their ancestral land, the Hijaz, while most of them live in the Eastern Region, especially in the cities of Qatif, Zahran, al-Awamiyah, Ahsa, and other parts, where they form an over-whelming majority, despite the attempts of the regime to change the demography by settling outsiders. Shi’a Muslims also form the majority in Najran in the south which the Saudis had seized from Yemen in 1934, and where the Ismaili Shi’as are the dominant force, followed by Zaydis and Alawis.

It is gross violation of human rights and injustice by the international community which pampers to the minority Wahhabi regime, despite the fact that the over 25 percent of the country’s population, that is, the Shi’a Muslims, are persecuted and deprived of their rights. The irony is that, the regime in Riyadh not just refuses to grant official recognition to the followers of the Prophet’s Ahl al-Bayt, but considers them outside the pale of Islam. Some of the Wahhabi mullahs barely hide their animosity towards the Prophet of Islam and his Immaculate Ahl al-Bayt, by publishing seditious statements, such as the one declaring that meat animals slaughtered by Shi’a Muslims as not halal.

They use the degrading term “Rafizi” for Shi’a Muslims and openly prefer Christians and Jews over the followers of the Prophet’s Ahl al-Bayt. It is for this reason that some Wahabbis consider the blood and properties of Shi’a Muslims as permissible, despite the fact that Article 18 of the international human rights declaration says every person has the right to enjoy freedom of thought, conscience and religion..

Today the Shi’a Muslim of Arabia, compared to their brethren in other countries, are the most deprived. They are oppressed and harassed because of obeying the commandments of God and the Prophet to follow the Immaculate Ahl al-Bayt, whom the holy Qur’an hails as the most purified persons. It is not unusual in Saudi Arabia for Shi’a Muslims to be sentenced to death on the slightest of excuses. Those Shi’a Muslims living in holy Mecca are the most oppressed. They have to perform the five-times-a-day ritual prayers at home, away from the prying eyes of the Wahhabis. The ulema are not permitted, even privately, to impart the teachings of the Ahl al-Bayt to their followers. The ulema are arrested and persecuted on the slightest pretext, forcing many Shi’a scholars to seek the refuge of the seminaries of Iran and Iraq.

While there are over 3700 mosques in Saudi Arabia and the Wahhabi regime has so far built over 1600 mosques in various countries of the world, it does not allow the Shi’a Muslims of Arabia to build one single new mosque. It has moreover, destroyed the religious sites of Shi’a Muslims including mosques and hussainiyahs, where the mourning ceremonies for the martyrs of Karbala are held.

Hojjat-al-Islam Adel Bu Khamseen, one of the outstanding Shi’a  ulema of Arabia and head of a number of cultural and educational associations, says religious schools cannot openly function, and are devoid of most modern amenities. There is shortage of books as well, since the regime does not permit the entry of theological and jurisprudential books from Iran, Iraq and Lebanon.  

There is discrimination against Shi’a Muslims at universities as well. They are hardly accepted by the country’s higher educational board. There is discrimination in employment as well, and no Shi’a Muslim is ever given an executive or political post. In postgraduate studies, especially in religious science, universities such as Mohammad bin Saud University or the so-called Islamic University of Medina, students who write dissertations against the Shi’a Creed and members of the household of the Prophet, are handsomely rewarded and provided scholarship and free education. The situation in schools is even worse, and both Shi’a teachers and students are under acute pressure. School students of other sects are asked to term the Shi’a Muslims as Rafizi, while the textbooks published by the government, heap insults against the followers of the Prophet’s Ahl al-Bayt.

In terms of economy, although the Shi’a Muslims live in the eastern region with its world’s largest oil reserves, they are one of the most deprived sections of the society. The Shi’a-inhabited areas are considered among one of the poorest regions of Saudi Arabia. The government virtually does not provide any development budget for these regions, such as building of roads, health and education. They are deprived of their own oil wealth.

Politically, Shi’a Muslims have no place in the administration and government apparatus. The Saudi ruling family has a monopoly over all key jobs. The army doesn’t recruit soldiers from the Shi’a community, and no Shi’a could ever dream to be a pilot, even for passenger planes. This is nothing but violation of human rights and international laws, but neither the UN nor the regimes in the West, which are main beneficiaries of the oil wealth of Eastern Arabia, have ever expressed the slightest protest in this regard.

According to Articles One and 55 of the UN Chatter, all UN member states should respect human rights and provide basic freedoms for all citizens, without any discrimination in terms of race, gender, language or religion. According to Article Two of the International Human Rights Declaration, every person of member states is entitled to all rights, liberties, and freedom, without any distinction on the basis of race, colour, gender, language, religion, political idea, or social status.

The declaration also requires governments to forbid any type of national, racial or religious hate which increase hate, violence and discrimination. It is thus an undeniable fact that the Shi’a Muslims of what is called Saudi Arabia, despite forming over 26 percent of the country’s population, have no rights whatsoever, in addition to the theft of their oil wealth by the deviant Wahhabi cult.

FK/AS/SS

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Middle East Fri, 11 Dec 2015 14:15:18 +0000
Yemen is not Paris: Western media’s cold shoulder http://english.irib.ir/component/k2/item/219561-yemen-is-not-paris-western-media’s-cold-shoulder http://english.irib.ir/component/k2/item/219561-yemen-is-not-paris-western-media’s-cold-shoulder

Saudi Arabia’s, US-backed state terrorism in Yemen is all evident. But the UN, under pressure from Washington, has turned a blind eye to both the aerial bombing of the past 8 months and the ground invasion of the poorest Arab country by a coalition of comrades-in-crimes from several Arab states, with the blessings of the West. Saudi Arabia began its deadly military aggression on March 26.

 

The strikes are meant to undermine the Ansarullah movement and restore power to the fugitive Mansur Hadi, an agent of Riyadh, whom the Yemeni people, whatever their political affiliations or religious tendencies, do not want. Over 8,000 people have lost their lives in the Saudi strikes, and a total of nearly 20,000 people have been injured so far.

At the same time, terrorists are targeting mosques and public places in Sana’a and other parts to worsen the suffering of the people. Unfortunately, this has made very few headlines. Here is an interesting analysis by Javier Delgado Rivera on the improper coverage of media regarding the Saudi aggression on Yemen.

Yemen has never been a staple of the western media. It did pop up on the news when in a leadership shift Ali Abdullah Saleh stepped down in February 2012 as president after thirty-three years as strongman. In January this year Yemen came back to our screens when the Ansarullah revolutionaries took control of the government. In response, a Saudi-led, US-backed coalition which supported Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi started bombing Yemen in March.

The revolutionaries said the government of Hadi was incapable of properly running the affairs of the country and containing the growing wave of corruption and terror. Amidst the confusion and vanished institutions, the terrorist outfits Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and the self-styled Islamic State (IS) affiliate in the region strengthened their foothold in this corner of the Arabian Peninsula, which is also being supported by the Saudi-led coalition. This chain of events has brought to Yemen a humanitarian disaster.

According to UNOCHA, the UN’s humanitarian agency, over 84% or 21.1 million of Yemenis cannot meet basic needs such as food, water, and medical supplies. Almost 1.5 million Yemenis have been forced out of their homes. Since March more than 5,600 people have been killed, around of whom 2,700 are civilians. This situation has been worsened by a maritime blockade engineered by the Saudi-led coalition to cut supplies to the Yemenis. Yemen is now hardly importing any food or fuel, the latter essential to keep generators, ambulances and water pumps working. After a visit to Yemen in August, Peter Maurer, President of the International Committee of the Red Cross, said, “Yemen in five months is like Syria after five years … the world needs to wake up to what is going on.” Yet media coverage of Yemen, in particular of its dire humanitarian situation, remains shamefully scant. But why is that?

The fact that one of the world's poorest and hungriest countries is being fatally hit by man-made mayhem has failed to make a sustained dent in the western media in the way that similar conflicts did. The 2011 Libyan civil war that overthrew and killed Mo’ammar Qadhafi, or Zionists military action on the Gaza Strip in the summer or 2014 – more civilians have already died in Yemen than did in Gaza - generated far more media indignation, or, “sense of moral urgency,” as Sara Roy, Harvard associate of its Center for Middle Eastern Studies, puts it, than the Yemeni conflict has done or will ever do. It is true that with very few international and local reporters on the ground, verifying facts is challenging.

Charlene Rodrigues, a freelance journalist based in Sana'a, Yemen’s capital, said: “Local journalists have either fled to their villages or left the country and there are only a handful of foreign journalists in the country and they keep a low profile.” With sea and land routes to Yemen nonexistent or notably dangerous, the two weekly Saudi-controlled flights to Sana’a are pretty much the only option for foreign reporters to enter the country.

Imad Aoun, Oxfam’s Yemen Media Lead, argues: “The public responds best to human interest stories, photos, and videos that paint a picture of what it is like to live under blockade and in the middle of a war. But in the case of Yemen these products are thin on the ground. Without journalists in the country, Yemen is slowly fading from people's consciousness.”

Updates from inside the country became even scarcer when, following a UN resolution in mid-April demanding the end of violence in Yemen the major international powers shut down their embassies and evacuated their diplomats. Given the critical lack of journalists and diplomats, the hundreds of aid workers active in the country are a crucial source of updates from the field. UN agencies and charities like the International Federation of Red Cross (IFRC) and Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) maintain a significant presence. In late October, news of a bombarded MSF-run hospital, the only operational facility in the North-western district of Haydan, by Saudi-led airstrikes emerged thanks to the condemnation of the organisation’s aid workers.

Occasionally, charity workers use main stream media channels to shed light on the dreadful situation in war-torn Yemen. Karl Schembri, Regional Media Advisor at the Middle East Regional Office of the Norwegian Refugee Council, argues: “It is tragic that, even before the current crisis began, 61% of Yemenis needed humanitarian aid. That went on for around a decade with hardly any coverage in the media.”

Such media apathy is reinforced by the aloofness of the western political class, in particular “by the lack of engagement from leftist politics [indeed displayed with Palestine],” as Sophia Dingli, a Lecturer in International Relations at University of Hull, maintains.

Finian Cunningham, a contributor writer for RT, argues that given that the US, Britain and France provide the Arab coalition with intelligence and logistics “the onus” is “on the CNN, the BBC and France 24 because their governments are implicated in grave crimes.”

The so-called mainstream media’s lack of interest in this conflict cannot be attributed to the irrelevance of the country. But the potential role of Yemen as a supplier of oil to the west; the control of the key port of Aden, gateway to the Red and Arabian Seas; the country’s proximity to volatile Somalia; and Sana'a’s strategic position in the Islamic world struggle make Yemen an important territory for western and regional powers to rein in. With the Yemeni conflict eclipsed by the Syrian and Iraqi chaos, it is still surprising that the nature of the Arab intervention in the country has failed to raise enough eyebrows.

The very fact that the obscure and opulent Saudi absolute monarchy is guiding autocratic regimes like Egypt’s and Sudan’s into the gory assault of one of world’s worst-off countries should surely have dragged western editors to pay a much closer look to Yemen. Of the main non Anglo-Saxon English-language broadcasters, four are widely covering the Yemeni conflict. RT (originally Russia Today) and Iran’s Press TV are reporting almost daily about the atrocities committed by the Saudi-led coalition against the people of Yemen.

On the other side, Qatar’s Aljazeera is proving comparatively objective on its extensive reporting of the conflict – the more remarkable bearing in mind that Qatar sent 1,000 troops to Yemen as part of the Arab coalition. Meanwhile, the Saudi-owned Al Arabiya does very little more than glorifying the advance of the Arab coalition in what is a de facto propaganda war vis-à-vis RT and Press TV.

The wholesale return of ISIL Takfiri terrorists to the headlines following the Paris massacre will soon bring Yemen to the attention of commentators. The bloody chaos engulfing the country and the increasing grievances unleashed by the Arab invasion guarantee sectarian and jihadist volatility for years to come. The media should play a proactive part in warning our leaders that another Syria and another Iraq are in the making. 

Meanwhile, US Secretary of State John Kerry visited the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on Tuesday November 24 to meet with Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan. Although it tries to present itself as practicing a semblance of democracy, the roles of the UAE’s president and prime minister are effectively hereditary in nature, passed down to the emirs of Abu Dhabi and Dubai. The New York Times has described the UAE as “an autocracy with the sheen of a progressive, modern state.” In his trip Monday morning, Kerry applauded the monarchic, tribal state. Although the coalition against Yemen is led by Saudi Arabia, the UAE has played an important role.

From the time the war began on March 26, the coalition has carried out regular airstrikes on targets in Yemen. In August, UAE troops escalated the conflict by essentially invading Yemen. Scores of Emirati soldiers have died in the on-the-ground fighting. The U.S. media has been very quiet about the war overall, and American politicians have been even quieter. Yet the conflict has been catastrophic. Kerry in an open support of the crimes being committed by Riyadh and Abu Dhabi in Yemen said: “We understand completely and support the reasons that Saudi Arabia and the UAE felt compelled to take acts of self-defense.”

What self-defence? It is clear that Kerry is talking trash. To quote George Orwell’s canonical novel “1984”: “War is peace, freedom is slavery, ignorance is strength” of the totalitarian governments ruining world peace and stability. We can now add another phrase to the dystopian motto: “Brutally bombing poor countries is helping ‘accomplish significant progress.”

SS/AS/SS

 

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Middle East Fri, 04 Dec 2015 17:02:13 +0000
Yemen tragedy & the ongoing crisis of the Left in the United States http://english.irib.ir/component/k2/item/218934-yemen-tragedy-the-ongoing-crisis-of-the-left-in-the-united-states http://english.irib.ir/component/k2/item/218934-yemen-tragedy-the-ongoing-crisis-of-the-left-in-the-united-states

Yemen has become a killing ground for the Saudis and their comrades-in-crimes, while the UN and the regimes in western countries have turned a blind eye to the worsening tragedy, despite their claim to respect human rights. At the same time, waves of refugees from Africa and Syria are risking their life to find a passage to Europe, where they think the white men really care for coloured or black people, when in fact the calamities plaguing the Third World are because of the exploitative policies of the colonialists, including the United States of America.

 

Here are the analysis in this regard by Ajamu Baraka, a human rights activist and geo-political analyst, who serves as an Associate Fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) in Washington, DC, in addition to being editor and contributing columnist for the Black Agenda Report.

Noam Chomsky and Andre Vltchek, in their joint work titled “On Western Terrorism: From Hiroshima to Drone Warfare”, write:

“It is Western propaganda that is capable of mobilizing the masses for whatever ends or goals anywhere in the world. For whatever reasons, it can trigger coups, conflicts, terrible violence, and ‘strive for change.’ It can call the most peaceful large country on earth the most violent; it can describe it as the real threat to world peace; and it can call a bunch of Western nations that have been, for centuries, terrorizing the world, the true upholders of peace and democracy, and almost everybody believes it. Almost all people in the West believe it.”

After months of horrific scenes of migrant deaths in the Mediterranean where literally thousands of human beings were dying at sea, European public opinion was finally mobilized to respond to this movement of people. However, the anguished expressions of concern from the general public and government leaders in Europe was a far cry from the response that met the first wave of migrants that was largely African.

In response to that migration, European authorities openly talked of launching military attacks on the boats in Libya to stop the “flood” of these “illegal” immigrants into Europe, even after experts cautioned them that military attacks would result in even more deaths at sea.

What changed? The racial composition of the majority of the migrants shifting away from Sub-Saharan Africans to refugees from the various conflict zones of Iraq and Syria, captured in the image of the globally disseminated image of Aylan Kurdi, the Kurdish child from the devastated city of Kabani. But even more importantly, European and US propaganda could exploit this flow of humanity from Syria politically.

This example is pertinent to the discussion here because it raises two issues related to Yemen: first, the ease in which public opinion is influenced by Western propagandists (I include both the official state entities responsible for psy-ops directed at the public and the corporate media that largely collaborates with these efforts because of shared ideological positions and worldviews), and secondly, how humanitarian concerns are selectively manipulated to prepare and justify military attacks from the US/EU/NATO axis of domination.

In Yemen, seven months of relentless and seemingly indiscriminate bombing by the repressive Wahhabaist dictatorship of Saudi Arabia has cost the lives of over four thousands human beings, who according to the United Nations and major human rights organizations have been primarily civilians. Along with this wanton murder, the Saudi government and its allies from the contemptuous gang of corrupt Arab monarchies known as the Persian Gulf Cooperation Council benefit from the diplomatic cover and military support from the equally contemptuous US state. Together, they have created a humanitarian catastrophe in one of the poorest nations on the planet. Yet, for the majority of the people in the US, the carnage in Yemen simply does not exist because it has not been in the interests of the rulers to draw the attention of the American people to it.

Therefore, the US public is unaware that the US is participating in the naval blockade of a country that imports 80% of its food by sea. They don’t know that the bombing, blockade, and massive displacement have resulted in widespread famine with more than 78% of the population now in need of humanitarian assistance. They never read the report from Peter Maurer, the head of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), who said that “Yemen after five months looks like Syria after five years.” And while US propagandists are preparing the people for an even more direct intervention into Syria, using the absurd pretext that somehow the imposition of a “no fly zone” is an appropriate response to the humanitarian concerns of refugee flows from Syria to Europe, the humanitarian emergency created by the war in Yemen is largely uncovered and outside the bounds of polite conversation in the US.

This conspiracy of silence has translated into impunity for war crimes and crimes against humanity. It has meant that the central role played by the U.S. in this criminal assault occurred without any opposition from mainstream politicians or most radicals and leftists in the US. But the question that arises is: Do Non-European Lives really Matter to White Leftists?

The political reaction to the killing spree in Yemen that now eclipses the murderous assault on Gaza by Israel, has not only been met with indifference but many leftists and radicals in the US have given their support to presidential candidate Bernie Sanders who said very clearly that under his administration the Saudi’s would be given even more latitude to carry out military operations in the Middle-East. The Sanders’ position is that the Saudi’s needed to get their “hands a little dirty.” For Bernie and his supporters, the mischief that the Saudi government and private individuals have been engaged in across the region financing Takfiri groups like ISIS wasn’t dirty enough. After years of drone attacks from the US, the end of the agony of the people of Yemen is nowhere in sight. These attacks targeted weddings, funerals, first responders to an initial drone attack and so-called signature strikes where an anonymous person is murdered because he fits the behavior profile of a “terrorist.” After pounding the country into rubble with six months of terror from the sky, the Saudi’s are now involved in ground operations in Yemen that will only increase the death toll and the humanitarian disaster.

This is the world that a Bernie Sanders promises, if he becomes the US president — continued war crimes from the sky with drone strikes and Saudi led terror in support of the Western imperial project. This is not to suggest that everyone who might find a way to support Sanders is a closet racist and supporter of imperialism. I know plenty of folks of all backgrounds who “feel the Bern.” There is, however, an objective logic to their uncritical support that they cannot escape and which I believe represents the ongoing crisis of radicalism in the US and Europe. The Sanders’ campaign, like the Barak Obama phenomenon before it, does not offer a program or strategic direction for addressing the current crisis and contradictions of Western capitalist societies. Instead, it is an expression of the moral and political crisis of Western radicalism. This crisis – which is reflective of the loss of direction needed to inform vision, and fashion a creative program for radical change – is even more acute in the US than Western Europe.

Yet, what unites both radical experiences is a tacit commitment to Eurocentrism and the assumptions of normalized white supremacy.  In their desperate attempt to defend Sanders and paint his critics as dogmatists and purists, the Sanders supporters have not only fallen into the ideological trap of a form of narrow “left” nativism, but also the white supremacist ethical contradiction that reinforces racist cynicism in which some lives are disposable for the greater good of the West. And as much as the ‘Sandernistas ’ attempt to disarticulate Sanders supposedly “progressive” domestic policies from his documented support for empire (even the Obamaite aphorism that “The perfect is the enemy of the good” is unashamedly deployed), it should be obvious that his campaign is an ideological prop – albeit from a center/left position – of the logic and interests of the capitalist-imperialist settler state.

The silence of the left on Yemen is not a trivial matter. The fact that so many white leftist supporters of Sanders can politically and psychologically disconnect his domestic program from his foreign policy positions that objectively support US and Western neoliberal hegemony means that not only have they found a way to be comfortable collaborating with imperialism, but that they have also decided that they can support the implicit hierarchy that determines from an imperial perspective that lives in the White West matter more than others. What this means for those of us who are internationalists and believe in the equal value of all life is that we have to question the sincerity of individuals who claim that black lives matter while supporting someone who clearly believes that Israeli lives matter more than Palestinian and Yemeni lives. And that the pro-democracy fighters in Bahrain should be subjected to the policing and murderous assault by the gangster regime in Saudi Arabia.

It means that if today leftists in the US can find a way to reconcile the suffering of the people of Yemen and Gaza and all of occupied Palestine for the greater good of electing Sanders, tomorrow my life and the movement that I am a part of that is committed to fighting this corrupt, degenerate, white supremacist monstrosity called the United States, can be labeled as enemies of the state and subjected to brutal repression with the same level of silence from these leftists. And since tomorrow has already happened in the past with the repression of the Black Liberation Movement, when it happens again we will not be surprised – but this time we will be ready.

AS/SS

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Middle East Sat, 21 Nov 2015 18:24:05 +0000
Why Saudi Arabia is allowed to get away with murder http://english.irib.ir/component/k2/item/218463-why-saudi-arabia-is-allowed-to-get-away-with-murder http://english.irib.ir/component/k2/item/218463-why-saudi-arabia-is-allowed-to-get-away-with-murder

The recent killing of three Iranian nationals in Saudi Arabia on alleged charges of drug smuggling, over a month after the death of almost 8,000 pilgrims in Mena during the Hajj rituals in Mecca, including 464 Iranian ‘Guests of God’, is yet another proof of not only the gross violation of human rights by Riyadh, but an undeniable proof of hostility against the Islamic Republic of Iran and all freedom-loving nations, as is evident by the Wahhabi regime’s funding and arming of Takfiri terrorists in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Afghanistan, Pakistan and elsewhere.

 

On Sunday, November 8, Iran summoned the Saudi Charge d' Affaires in Tehran to strongly protest the killing of the three Iranians in Dammam, eastern part of the Arabian Peninsula by Saudi officials in a most brutal way by cutting off their heads with sword blows. Iran's deputy foreign minister Hassan Qashqavi called on Saudi to abide by “international conventions” governing relationships between countries, and said: “Countries refrain from executing such sentences by respecting bilateral relations and keeping in mind that implementing such sentences will not bear a positive effect on ties.”

The allegations against the three hapless Iranians, were attempts to “smuggle a large amount of hashish by sea” – charges that could not be confirmed. The Saudi interior ministry, which has earned notoriety for suppressing any form of protest against the Wahhabi regime which the British created in the late 1920s and gave the lands occupied by Najdi chieftain Abdul-Aziz ibn Saud the tribal name of Saudi Arabia, said they were executed in the eastern port city of Dammam.

The eastern, oil-rich parts of Arabia, which are predominantly populated by Shi’a Muslims and which before occupation by the Aal-e Saud were known as Greater Bahrain, are currently facing popular discontent. According to analysts, the region might assert its independence, and this is the reason, Saudi Arabia has occupied the Persian Gulf island state of Bahrain.

Beheadings and other forms of torturous killing by Saudi officials are common. The cruel decapitations of the three Iranian nationals, brings to 145 the number of locals and foreigners executed by the regime in Riyadh this year, compared with 87 in 2014. This is in addition to the death of over 7,000 Yemeni civilians killed over the past eight months by the senseless Saudi bombardment of that impoverished country.

Moreover, Saudi officials bear responsibility for the almost 8,000 Hajj pilgrims who died in Mecca during a stampede this year, as well as the Saudi involvement in the brutal killing of thousands of people by Takfiris in Iraq, Syria, and other parts of the Muslim World. This is because of the close clandestine ties between Saudi Arabia and the illegal Zionist entity, Israel – both of which are under protection of godfather Washington.

Saudi Arabia has thus a vested interest in the failure of democracy in the region, and that is the reason it is allowed to get away with murder and violation of basic human rights by the US, which neither objects to Riyadh’s bombardment of Yemen or the supply of arms to the Takfiris in Iraq and Syria, nor the capital punishment by decapitating people in public squares. According to observers, only the self-styled Islamic State (IS) can beat Saudi Arabia in this macabre practice of beheading blindfolded people with swords and daggers in front of the public and the cameras.

The difference is that while no civilized country claims to be friends with the IS terrorists, countries fall over each other to call Saudi Arabia their friend. This is probably why the richest Arab nation can bomb the poorest Arab nation without any international outrage. Yemenis have accepted this bitter truth, and have vowed to resist the officially-over “Decisive Storm” – as the Saudis named it – and which continues to batter Yemen’s infrastructure including hospitals, schools and other public places.

As observers note, the current spike in public beheadings in Saudi Arabia came in the second half of 2014, before King Salman bin Abdul-Aziz, took over the reins after his half-brother Abdullah died. Some attribute this rise to the appointment of new judges who are clearing pending cases. Others say that the spike is seen because of a general crackdown on dissidence and supposed vice in the country, where capital punishment is prescribed for crimes ranging from serious ones like murder to minor ones like drug use, and even perceived crimes like sorcery and alleged apostasy.

Human rights organisations and parts of the media have often pointed out the inherent injustice in the Saudi justice system, but by and large the world has looked the other way. The renewed Saudi enthusiasm for public beheadings may be a side effect of the rise of IS. The Saudi regime is warning the restive youth of Arabia to fear the monarchy's heavy hand. At the same time, it also helps display to the people at large that their state is more barbaric than the IS. The Saudi monarchy, because of its oil wealth, has an undue advantage in the world. In most Muslim countries, it does not have to earn respect, because the holy cities of Mecca and Medina are under Saudi occupation since 1925.

This means, the questionable title of “Khadem al-Haramain ash-Sharifain” or Custodian of the Two Holy Sanctuaries for the ruler, creates an aura about the Aal-e Saud in the minds of the naïve people, although the irrefutable fact is that this so-called custodianship of the two holy cities has come to them by war and not any divine design. It is rather unfortunate that Muslims that protest the disrespect to Islam in the West and other places keep silent when the Saudis erase the heritage of Islam and the Prophet of Islam, to build seven star hotels in Mecca – towering above the holy Ka’ba, the symbolic House of God. Opulent hotels overshadowing the holy Ka’ba only reiterates the rich-poor divide, as against the spirit of the Hajj. Many of the sites related to Prophet Mohammad (blessings of God upon him and his progeny) have been replaced with glass and chrome skyscrapers.

More than half of the victims of Saudi beheadings come from Muslim countries. Their governments rarely register a protest with the Saudi authorities. For example, a good number of people beheaded last year belonged to Pakistan, a country patronized by the Saudi monarchy. The Western preachers of human rights won't utter a word – the Obamas, the Clintons, the Bushes, the Blairs, you name whoever.

All powerful heads of states are friends with the Aal-e Saud, witnesses of their generosity and large-heartedness – from the looted wealth of the majority Shi’a Muslims of eastern Arabia, who continue to be deprived of their own natural resources. Saudi Arabia, which was gifted to Abdul-Aziz ibn Saud by the British along with regular monthly salaries and who lived on Muslim generosity until the discovery of oil in Najdi-occupied eastern Arabia, now dictates their policies by the crude power of oil and the bombastic title of protector of Mecca and Medina. T

he battered Yemenis are looking up to God, the Shi’a Muslim majority is eastern Arabia is restive but suppressed, the IS is still at the doors but not knocking yet, and Muslims of the world aren't speaking up.

For how long would this continue? The regime changes in the region have disappointed people as the vacuum created by a dictator's removal was invariably filled by people far worse than the dictator. Though all fingers point towards Riyadh in creation of instability, no one acknowledges that the Saudis have a vested interest in democracy's failure in the region. Because if democracies succeed, the Saudi grip on the people of Arabia, the region and the religion will definitely fail.

AS/SS

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Middle East Wed, 11 Nov 2015 14:30:50 +0000
Sheikh Nimr, symbol of innocence of freedom in Arabia http://english.irib.ir/component/k2/item/218090-sheikh-nimr,-symbol-of-innocence-of-freedom-in-arabia http://english.irib.ir/component/k2/item/218090-sheikh-nimr,-symbol-of-innocence-of-freedom-in-arabia

It is now three years since the prominent religious leader of Qatif and the eastern part of Arabia has been languishing in prison ever since the attack upon him by agents of the British-created state called Saudi Arabia who injured him, kidnapped him, and sentenced him to death because he was defending Islam, and the rights of the people of eastern Arabia. The appeal against the regime’s verdict has recently been turned down by the Supreme Court, or actually the kangaroo court in Riyadh, which has confirmed the death sentence of this combatant scholar, and passed the ball on to the court of King Salman bin Abdul-Aziz for the final decision.

 

It is obvious the ailing 79-year ruler is not in control of affairs, which are being manipulated by his son Mohammad bin Salman the defence minister, and his nephew Mohammad bin Nayef the Heir Apparent – both of whom notorious for their wrong decisions, such as the ongoing state terrorism of Saudi Arabia in Yemen. The people of the eastern parts of Arabia are angry at the decision and have vowed to step their struggle against the regime in Riyadh.

The people of the eastern, oil-rich region of the Arabian Peninsula have started a new wave of protests against the Saudi regime, calling for the freedom of the jailed senior Shi’a Muslim religious leader, Sheikh Nimr Baqer an-Nimr. The protests heightened after the Saudi interior ministry approved the venerable Sheikh’s execution for his call to redress the wrongs wrought by British colonialism and Abdul-Aziz ibn Saud – founder of the so-called state of Saudi Arabia – in seizing the eastern semi-independent Shi’a populated parts of Arabia up to the Persian Gulf coast, which were historically known as Greater Bahrain.

Sheikh Nimr and the majority of people of the region want independence of their homeland from the occupation of the Najdis and their looting of the oil wealth of Shi’a Muslims – a demand that has unnerved the Saudi regime, and made it accuse the venerable Sheikh of sedition and supply of arms, and thus liable to execution. This is indeed the height of hypocrisy for a regime that funds and finances Takfiri terrorists of all hues and colours to destabilize neighbouring countries, such as Iraq and Syria.

Protesters in the Awamiya region of Qatif once again started spraying anti-regime graffiti to show condemnation of the Saudi regime. “Down with Aal-e Saud” read the graffiti signs sprayed in different streets of Qatif and its surroundings, including ath-Thoura Street. The residents of Awamiya have held protests in recent days to condemn the execution sentence of Sheikh Nimr.

Earlier this week, Saudi Heir Apparent and Interior Minister Mohammed bin Nayef issued a decree to execute Sheikh Nimr without prior notice. Mohammad Nimr, the Sheikh’s brother, said that the appeal court and the Saudi Supreme Court (read Kangaroo Court) have upheld the execution order and given the nod to the Interior Ministry to carry out the death sentence. The decree is now awaiting King Salman’s endorsement.

Based on the decree, Sheikh an-Nimr can be executed any moment and without any prior notice, along with his 18-year old nephew, Ali an-Nimr, who was arrested and convicted to capital punishment without any legal grounds. Ali an-Nimr, the Sheikh’s nephew, has been convicted for a crime he never committed a year before when he was 17.

The court was never presented with any corroborative evidence in his case, and activists believe that the minor is to be executed only to put more pressure on the Nimr family and the oppressed Shi’a majority of eastern Arabia. A group of independent United Nations human rights experts have urged the Saudi Arabian regime to stop the execution.

Amnesty International has called the death sentence “appalling”, saying the verdict should be quashed. The ulema of Iraq and Iran as well as senior officials of the Islamic Republic of have warned the Saudi regime of dangerous consequences if the venerable religious scholar is martyred. Analysts believe that his death would prove suicidal for the Saudi regime, which did not exist before 1932.

Meanwhile, reports from Saudi occupied Bahrain say the February 24 Revolutionary Youths Coalition, in a statement announced that the death sentence indicates the political bankruptcy and confusion of the regime in Riyadh at the internal and regional level. It called on the international community and all human rights institutions to immediately take measure for halting the unjust death sentence.

In Iran, the Qom Theological School Teachers’ Association issued a statement saying the shameful verdict issued by the court against combatant scholar Sheikh Nimr is unjustified from a regime that daily kills scores of innocent Arab Muslims in Yemen and rejects responsibility for the Mena stampede that because of its incompetence resulted in the death of over seven thousands Hajj pilgrims.

Ulema of all Muslim denominations, whether Shi’a or Sunni, have strongly condemned the verdict against Sheikh Nimr. Mamusta Abdur-Rahman Khalifehzadeh, the Friday prayer leader of Bukan in Iran’s West Azarbaijan Province, has warned the Saudi rulers about the consequences of the Sheikh’s execution. He said: It is the duty of Ulema, scholars and conscientious people all over the Muslim World to pressure Saudi Arabia to cancel the death verdict.

Unfortunately the organs that claim to defend human rights and freedom-seeking in the West have so far showed no reaction to this gross violation of human rights in Saudi Arabia, simply because the regime is an American ally. This has hurt the feelings of the more than 5-million strong Shi’a Muslim community in the British-created state called Saudi Arabia.

Sheikh Nimr has always been a symbol of Islamic unity, calling for solidarity between Shi’a and Sunni Muslims. This has angered the Saudi regime, which in line with its pro-American and pro-Zionist policies, works for discord and spread of terrorism in Muslim countries. As a true Muslim, Sheikh Nimr has criticized wide scale corruption in Persian Gulf Arab countries, especially un-Islamic ways of the rulers of these states.

He has questioned the Saudi occupation of Bahrain, as well as the occupation of his homeland, Eastern Arabia, where people are denied their basic rights. His struggle was always peaceful. He and his followers never carried firearms nor indulged in violence against the regime. It is a matter or regret that Saudi money has silenced some prominent seats of Islamic learning in other countries, such as Egypt’s al-Azhar, which has yet to show any reaction to the verdict against Sheikh Nimr.

As observers note, the death sentence is a politicized decision and in case of its implementation, the Aal-e Saud should count their last days in power. The region would be plunged in a crisis beyond the control of the Americans as well.

FK/AS/SS

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Middle East Tue, 03 Nov 2015 13:35:47 +0000
UN chief stresses Syrian people’s role in country’s future http://english.irib.ir/component/k2/item/217985-un-chief-stresses-syrian-people’s-role-in-country’s-future http://english.irib.ir/component/k2/item/217985-un-chief-stresses-syrian-people’s-role-in-country’s-future

The UN secretary general, in an interview with the Spanish daily El Mundo, criticizing that the negotiations on the Syrian crisis have illegally addressed the future of Bashar Assad, emphasized that the fate of Assad should be determined by the Syrian nation. Ban Ki-Moon made it clear that the Syrian government insists on Assad’s role in at least part of the next government while some of the Western and Arab governments impose their stance that there will be no place for him in power. The UN chief added although in the Vienna session it was talked about Bashar Assad’s fate, the session was focused on resuming negotiations for achieving peace.

 

Adoption of such a stance by the UN secretary general after the Vienna event, which was convened by 17 states, the EU and the UN, was widely covered by the media.

Although the final statement of the Vienna session was promising an international move to resolve the Syrian crisis, some governments are hell-bent on deciding instead of the Syrian nation even if it is outside conventional and democratic parameters.

The recent stance of Ban Ki-Moon on the future of Assad and his emphasis on the fact that this is an internal issue is a reality that has been stipulated in all international rights and conventions. According to such conventions appointment of officials of countries is ceded to the people of countries and foreign governments are strictly prohibited from this issue. But a brief look at the Syrian crisis shows that some of the Western and Arab regimes, through meddling in the internal affairs of Syria, have supported and sent thousands of terrorists to the country to attain their sinister goals out of the crisis. Within this framework, the Western regimes have put deposing President Assad on top their agenda as a precondition for any negotiation over Syrian developments. This comes as the majority of the Syrian people have time and again shown their massive support for Assad. In view of this during the June 3, 2014 election he was elected with a high vote for another 7 year term as the Syrian president.

According to these facts on the ground, the UN Special Representative for Syrian Affairs, Staffan de Mistura, has stressed that negotiations with Assad will continue since he is part of the solution. Moreover, President Bashar Assad has emphasized during the meetings with the UN and other international officials that Syria welcomes any constructive plan for solving the Syrian crisis within the framework of the country’s interests. The Syrian president has made it clear that obliterating terrorist groups will be the prelude for a political solution in the country. This is a reality that was referred to in Vienna, too.

It is noteworthy that determination of Syria’s future by the Syrian people, preservation of national sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity of the country, fighting terrorism, and completion of the political trend for solving the crisis in the country are among the points that have been inserted in the final statement through Iran’s efforts.

 RM/ME     

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Middle East Sun, 01 Nov 2015 10:07:54 +0000
Iran’s presence at Vienna talks signals failure of US-Saudi plot http://english.irib.ir/component/k2/item/217943-iran’s-presence-at-vienna-talks-signals-failure-of-us-saudi-plot http://english.irib.ir/component/k2/item/217943-iran’s-presence-at-vienna-talks-signals-failure-of-us-saudi-plot

Iran’s participation in the talks on the crisis in Syria held on October 30 in the Austrian capital Vienna, once again signified the importance of the Islamic Republic as a regional heavyweight and signaled the failure of the US and its regional client states to change the government in Syria through the backing of terrorists and supplying of sophisticated arms to mass killers. Stay with us for excerpts of an analysis in this regard by former Indian diplomat M.K. Bhadrakumar, followed by comments from other analysts, and text of the communiqué released after Friday’s talks in Vienna by 19 countries, but without the participation of any Syrian government representative.

 

The invitation extended to Iran to attend the multi-party talks on Syria and its presence in Vienna, signified a profound shift in the stance of the United States and Saudi Arabia. For the US, this shift comes naturally as a logical sequence to the recently concluded nuclear agreement, but for Saudi Arabia it is a bitter pill to swallow that Iran is being recognized as a stakeholder in the future of a major Arab country, something that it has been loathe to concede. The Saudis all along had feared that the nuclear deal would end enable Iran to expand its activities and boost its influence in the region. Therefore, the fact that Riyadh has given way to the US (and possibly Russian) insistence to bring Iran into the talks shows Saudi weakness. On the other hand, it could also be that in the Saudi calculation, there could be useful fallouts for the resolution of the crisis in Yemen in which it is deeply entangled.

For the US it is sound realism that Iran is invited to the negotiating table, given its presence on the ground in Syria and its traditional ties with the Syrian leadership, aside its sheer capacity to make or mar any eventual settlement. The US, undoubtedly, has been eager to engage with Iran over the Middle Eastern issues, and working together on Syria would create mutual confidence to extend the cooperation to other issues as well in future, such as Yemen.

Iran is keeping its cards close to its chest on the Syrian question and surprises do lie ahead. To be sure, Iran works closely with Russia in the current phase of the Syrian conflict but at the same time it cannot be oblivious to the opportunity that lies ahead to project itself as a responsible member of the international community and as a factor of regional security and stability in a conflict that impacts the vital interests of the West. Again, with the commencement of US-Iranian constructive engagement on regional issues, a fascinating US-Russia duel is likely ensuing to win the heart and mind of the Iranians. The Supreme Leader Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei has expressly forbidden any further negotiations between Iran and the US.

The point is, an Iranian ‘victory’ in Syria will enhance its stature and it could cast shadows on Iran’s internal politics. A halo has appeared in the public perceptions around General Qasem Suleimani, commander of the Quds Force, the elite IRGC formation, as his recent biography highlights.

Iran has been a staunch ally of President Bashar al-Assad. Having said that Iran also has a strategic view of the Syrian crisis and has its own interests. The big question is how far Iran will be agreeable to a transition in Syria without Assad at some point in the future. The standard Iranian refrain is that it is for the Syrian people to decide their future government. This has been emphasized by the Iranian foreign ministry during Friday’s talks in Vienna when some western media reports alleged that Iran is willing to discuss Assad’s departure.

On more than one occasion Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian, who is a key point person, has come closest to affirming the centrality of Assad in any Syrian settlement. He said this in Tehran, while talks were in progress in the Austrian capital on Syrian crisis. Last month also, while on a visit to Beirut, he said, “Political solution is the only way to put an end to the Syrian crisis and Bashar Assad is part of that solution.” Again, he spoke in a similar vein while on a visit to Damascus, and this time he was most emphatic. He made it clear: “Any successful plan to find a solution to the Syrian crisis must take into consideration the central role of the Syrian people in deciding their future and fate, and the role of the government and of Assad are essential and pivotal in the potential solution.”

A fortnight later while on a visit to Moscow for consultations relating to Syria, he said, “Iran and Russia are the serious and main partners in a peaceful settlement of the crisis in Syria, and emphasize that Bashar al-Assad, the legitimate president of this country, should be part of the negotiations about Syria’s political future.”

In the regional context, Iran’s inclusion in the Syrian peace process becomes yet another political and diplomatic setback for Israel – on top of its dismal failure to kill the Iran nuclear deal. The time has come for Israel to seriously introspect how it is missing the plot all over again. Indeed, it comes as a double blow for Israel that last week Russia also conducted is first air attacks on targets in southern Syria near the Golan Heights. Notably, this is an unambiguous signal to Israel to stay off the Syrian skies. Israel has been insinuating so far – without Moscow contesting – that it has an understanding with Russia in regard of its operations in Syria’s southern skies. That apparently is not the case, as Russian air attacks near Golan Heights signal.

Russia now effectively operates a ‘no-fly zone’ over Syria, which strips Israel of access points to not only targets in Syria but also in Lebanon. Meanwhile, according to reports, Russia is dispatching to the Eastern Mediterranean a massive guided missile carrier, Moskva, equipped with an estimated sixty-four S-300 missile defence systems. All in all, the alignments in the regional politics have dramatically changed with the latest reversal in the US position signifying its willingness to sit with Iran to discuss Syria.

Meanwhile, analysts noting the absence of any representative from the government of President Bashar al-Assad, said the only chance for a lasting peace in the Middle East is a peace made by the regional powers and not an imposed peace made by foreign militaries. They point out that any solution to this quagmire does not lie in Moscow, Washington, Paris or London, since outside meddling has done more to fuel the flames of war than it has in quenching it. They also note that the talks were held because of the changed ground situation in Syria following Russia’s intensive bombardment of the terrorists on official request from Damascus that has turned the tables on the Saudi-American proxies; hence the scramble by Europeans, who are facing a large number of refugees. It is clear that the US has run into a deadlock because its plan of letting the Saudis fund and handle the overthrow of Assad has hit a bump in the road to Damascus. Iran and Russia have been calling for a political solution from the start which would allow the people of Syria decide their future.

All said and done, the joint communiqué issued Friday after ministerial talks on a political solution to the Syrian civil war as agreed by 17 countries, the European Union and the United Nations, showed that Iran’s presence was instrumental in the emphasis that only the Syrian people should determine the future of their own country. Here are parts of the communiqué of meeting in Vienna attended by China, Egypt, the EU, France, Germany, Iran, Iraq, Italy, Jordan, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, the United Nations and the United States.

1. Syria’s unity, independence, territorial integrity and secular character are fundamental.

2. State institutions will remain intact.

3. The rights of all Syrians, regardless of ethnicity or religious denomination, must be protected.

4. It is imperative to accelerate all diplomatic efforts to end the war.

5. Humanitarian access will be ensured throughout Syria, and the participants will increase support for internally displaced persons, refugees and their host countries.

6. Da’esh (ISIS), and other terrorist groups, as designated by the UNSC, and further, as agreed by the participants, must be defeated.

7. Pursuant to the 2012 Geneva Communique and UNSC Resolution 2118, the participants invited the UN to convene representatives of the Government of Syria and the Syrian opposition for a political process leading to credible, inclusive, nonsectarian governance, followed by a new constitution and elections. These elections must be administered under U.N. supervision to the satisfaction of the governance and to the highest international standards of transparency and accountability, free and fair, with all Syrians, including the diaspora, eligible to participate.

8. This political process will be Syrian led and Syrian owned, and the Syrian people will decide the future of Syria.

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Middle East Sat, 31 Oct 2015 18:41:40 +0000
Why the house of Saud gets away with sex crimes and murder http://english.irib.ir/component/k2/item/217056-why-the-house-of-saud-gets-away-with-sex-crimes-and-murder http://english.irib.ir/component/k2/item/217056-why-the-house-of-saud-gets-away-with-sex-crimes-and-murder

The recent death of over 5,000 Hajj pilgrims in Mecca during the climax of the annual Hajj, whether due to negligence of the Saudi security personnel or because of standing orders from the higher-ups to unleash a stampede and mass deaths, has blown the lid and exposed the countless crimes of the regime in Riyadh for whom the British created a pseudo state in Arabia bearing the tribal name. Stay with us for a thought-provoking feature by Indian investigative journalist Mohan Guri Swamy titled: “Why the House of Saud gets away with sex crimes and murder”.

 

The easy escape of Prince Majed Abdul-Aziz Aal-e Saud, accused of rape, from US is proof that the royals know their way around the halls of power. But for the separate exertions of two British officers, Captain William HE Shakespear and Captain TE Lawrence, in the early years of the last century, the map of the vast oil-soaked West Asia would have been very different. Shakespear was in the British Foreign Office as the political agent in Kuwait in 1914 when he befriended Abdul-Aziz, better known as Ibn Saud, the then tribal chief of Nejd. This led to a long and fruitful association with the British. With help from them, Ibn Saud disposed of all his rivals for control of the Arabian Peninsula and, in 1932, was able to proclaim himself King of Saudi Arabia, and protector of the holy shrines at Mecca and Medina.

In 1916, Captain Lawrence, then a junior intelligence officer, befriended Emir Faisal, the third son of Hussein bin Ali, the Grand Hashmite Sharif of Mecca and the whole Hejaz. In 1924, Shakespear's protégé, Abdul-Aziz ibn Saud defeated the Hashemites, occupied Hejaz and occupied the holy shrines at Mecca and Medina. Following the Anglo-French agreement, the defeated Hashemites were rehabilitated by giving them control of three new Arab states - Jordan, Syria and Iraq. At that time it seemed that the Hashemites had done quite well. The Mosul oilfield in Iraq, discovered in 1918, was linked with the port of Haifa - 800km away - by pipeline and was producing surpluses for the new state of Iraq.

The victorious Saudis now seemed like poor cousins. However, in 1937, all that changed. American surveyors discovered oil in Dammam – in the occupied Shi’a Muslim lands bordering the Persian Gulf. Oil changed everything. It was the beginning of a long and profitable relationship with America, which continues till today. Oil made the Saudis rich, but American oil companies became richer. That was to change. Following the 1973 October Arab-Israeli War, Saudi Arabia administered the world its first oil shock by increasing the price of oil from $2.90 a barrel to $11.65 a barrel. Two major oil shocks followed in 1980 and 2008.This gave the oil producers huge incomes to spend and much of the spending was done in the West, mostly in the form of expensive arms and the trappings of a modern life. But much was still left over and that was invested, for the most part, with American bankers, who promptly put the funds to work by lending them to American consumers. As of June 2015, Saudi Arabia had $672 billion in foreign reserves.

Ibn Saud was a much-married man. He married into almost every major tribe in Arabia and took 22 wives who gave him 45 sons and 50 daughters. His son, King Saud, surpassed the father's polygamy and had 53 sons and 54 daughters. By the Ibn Saud-established line of succession, future kings were to be only chosen from among his own sons. Multiply this several times with many of the sons with multiple partners and you have a huge extended royal family of over 15,000, but most of the power and wealth is vested with about 2,000. Only the sons and grandsons are allowed to bear the prefix His Royal Highness and the rest are just addressed as His Highness.

The King of Saudi Arabia holds almost absolute political power. The King appoints ministers to his cabinet who supervise their respective ministries in his name. The key ministries of defence, the interior, and foreign affairs are reserved for the Aal-e Saud, as are most of the 13 regional governorships. Most portfolios, however, such as finance, labour, information, planning, petroleum affairs and industry, have traditionally been given to commoners, often with junior Aal-e Saud members serving as their deputies. The House of Saud family members also hold many of the kingdom's critical military and governmental departmental posts.

Ultimate power in the kingdom has always rested upon the Aal-e Saud, with the support of the Wahhabi clerics. The Saudi royal family runs the state as a part of the royal estate. Saudi Arabia has a GDP of $746 billion and its oil-linked growth has averaged a little over 3 per cent per annum. The petroleum sector accounts for roughly 92.5 per cent of Saudi budget revenues, 90 per cent of export earnings, and 55 per cent of the GDP. This puts Saudi Arabia among the top ten nations by GDP. The Saudi Riyal has also held its own against the US dollar.

In 1970, the dollar fetched 4.50 riyals. It now fetches 3.74 riyals. This is as much a testimony to the size of the Saudi fortunes invested in the USA. This investment gives them vast power and great access in the cash crazy American business and political system. This access enables the Saudis to pull strings when one of their own gets into a sticky situation. Here is one that testifies to their power and reach.

Los Angeles Police officers arrested Majed Abdul-Aziz Aal-Saud at his Beverly Glen mansion a few months ago after his neighbours reported seeing a woman covered in blood screaming for help while attempting to climb over the eight-foot wall surrounding the prince's property. His Royal Highness Aal-e Saud was then booked on the suspicion of forcing one of his employees to engage in oral sex. The prince was briefly held on suspicion of false imprisonment, sexual assault and battery before posting $300,000 bail. Immediately upon posting bail, the prince reportedly emptied his $37 million mansion and fled the country on a private jet to avoid civil litigation and criminal charges.

But this is small stuff compared to what the then Saudi Ambassador to the USA, Prince Bandar bin Abdul-Aziz Aal-e Saud, got away with. Following 9/11 incidents in New York in 2001, Bandar and his wife sent checks totalling $130,000 to a Saudi intelligence officer, Omar al-Bayoumi. He was the one who set up a forward operating base in Los Angeles for two of the supposed Saudi hijackers - Khalid al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi after they had arrived in the US in 2000. But this was never followed up. The Saudi royals know their way around the halls of power in Washington DC and how to trade favours for deals.

Seven of the Saudi princes are billionaires - this includes Prince Waheed bin Talal Aal-e Saud, who has a net worth of $20.4 billion. The other princes too live quite well. Being an absolute monarchy, the Saudi system is combination of a feudal fealty and a more modern political patronage. This means that at almost every level, and in every sphere, the Saudi princes make money by manipulating individual privileges, dispensing favours and creating obligations. The sheer number of royals makes the Saudi state a maze of often-conflicting interests that milks the economy to individual advantage.

As can well be imagined, the system is one where there are few equals. What we have is a vast pecking order that runs a state with the labour of 7.5 million expatriate professionals and workers. Saudi Arabia is a huge welfare state for its citizens, who can only be Saudi born and of Saudi parentage. The Saudi state has an 80 billion riyal or about $22 billion fund, which provides interest-free loans to Saudis who want to own homes or start small businesses. Other benefits include an annual cost of living adjustment for government workers, a year of unemployment assistance for youth, and doubling to 15 individuals the size of families that are eligible for state aid.

But all good things must end. Only one Hashemite ruler now survives – Abdullah of Jordan. The countries where the monarch still maintains absolute power are Brunei, Qatar, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Swaziland, the emirates comprising the UAE, and Vatican City. The Pope is in an entirely different category. But how long will they last? Ex-King Farouk of Egypt once famously said: "The whole world is in revolt. Soon there will be only five Kings left -the King of England, the King of Spades, the King of Clubs, the King of Hearts, and the King of Diamonds."

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Middle East Mon, 12 Oct 2015 18:56:06 +0000