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Saudi Arabia: ISIS with better tailoring?

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Ishaan Tharoor for the Washington Post reports that Saudi Arabia, key to Obama’s strategy, beheaded at least 8 people last month


From the Daily Mail article: Saudi Arabia may stop public beheadings

The active cooperation of Saudi Arabia, with its vast oil wealth, its well-equipped military and its broader influence among the Middle East’s Sunni states, is key to any extended U.S. war effort in Iraq and Syria, as The Post’s Anne Gearan reports from Jiddah. Though long an incubator of the Salafist ideology that now inflames the Islamic State and militant groups of its ilk, the kingdom has grown increasingly concerned with the destabilizing chaos the Islamic State has wrought in the region.

But that doesn’t mean its state ideology is necessarily changing. The country is notorious for its draconian laws, which are derived from a strict Wahhabist interpretation of Islamic doctrine. In the space of two weeks last month, according to the rights group Amnesty International, Saudi Arabia executed as many as 22 people. At least eight of those executed were beheaded, U.N. observers say.

It appears that the majority of those executed in August were guilty of nonlethal crimes, including drug trafficking, adultery, apostasy and “sorcery.” Four members of one family, Amnesty reports, were beheaded for “receiving drugs.”

Saudi Arabia is conspicuous in being the sole country to regularly carry out beheadings; last year, a reported shortage of trained swordsmen led to some hope that the practice could wane, but recent evidence suggests otherwise. It’s an uncomfortable irony given that the United States’ current military mobilization was triggered after the Islamic State beheaded two American journalists.

Saudi Arabia has been beheading people, chopping off hands, etc., for years. From the BBC article published in 2003, Saudi Executioner tells all

It doesn’t matter to me: two, four, 10 – as long as I’m doing God’s will, it doesn’t matter how many people I execute”.

Under the Gulf kingdom’s strict Islamic Sharia laws, the death penalty can be imposed for murder, rape, apostasy, armed robbery, drug trafficking and repeated drug use.

The Saudi authorities report public executions regularly – and are condemned by Western human rights groups…

…Training focuses on how to hold the sword and where to bring the blade down.

Sometimes he also has to carry out amputations of hands or legs.

“I use a special sharp knife, not a sword. When I cut off a hand I cut it from the joint. If it is a leg the authorities specify where it is to be taken off, so I follow that.”

Our government has known about this all along. So has the media. So, why are they so shocked, shocked to find out that there are executions going on in this establishment?

Written by marypmadigan

September 27th, 2014 at 1:37 pm

Is ADHD the real problem?

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Or is it unreasonable expectations? Valerie Strauss at the Washington Post explains Why so many kids can’t sit still in school today

“Over the past decade, more and more children are being coded as having attention issues and possibly ADHD. A local elementary teacher tells me that at least eight of her twenty-two students have trouble paying attention on a good day. At the same time, children are expected to sit for longer periods of time. In fact, even kindergarteners are being asked to sit for thirty minutes during circle time at some schools.

The problem: children are constantly in an upright position these days. It is rare to find children rolling down hills, climbing trees, and spinning in circles just for fun. Merry-go-rounds and teeter-totters are a thing of the past. Recess times have shortened due to increasing educational demands, and children rarely play outdoors due to parental fears, liability issues, and the hectic schedules of modern-day society. Lets face it: Children are not nearly moving enough, and it is really starting to become a problem…

…Ironically, many children are walking around with an underdeveloped vestibular (balance) system today–due to restricted movement. In order to develop a strong balance system, children need to move their body in all directions, for hours at a time. Just like with exercising, they need to do this more than just once-a-week in order to reap the benefits. Therefore, having soccer practice once or twice a week is likely not enough movement for the child to develop a strong sensory system.

Children are going to class with bodies that are less prepared to learn than ever before. With sensory systems not quite working right, they are asked to sit and pay attention. Children naturally start fidgeting in order to get the movement their body so desperately needs and is not getting enough of to “turn their brain on.” What happens when the children start fidgeting? We ask them to sit still and pay attention; therefore, their brain goes back to “sleep.”

I pretty much lived this experience for most of my elementary school years, when the nuns would threaten to beat kids who fidgeted. Some classes were so transcendentally boring they were an out of body experience. I was pretty wobbly when it was finally time to get out of that chair.

No matter what is cause, campaigning for more recess is definitely a good thing.

Written by marypmadigan

September 27th, 2014 at 1:08 pm

Posted in Life,North America

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Why ISIS is different – It aims to take territory and hold it

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Obama bows before Saudi king

Obama bows before Saudi king

The majority of the world’s governments ally with Saudi Arabia and Iran because these terror supporting strongmen maintain the status quo in the region. ISIS rose from the competition between Iran and the Salafist Gulf states (Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Kuwait, Qatar).

But ISIS doesn’t maintain stability. It’s upending it. Which is bad news for fans of the status quo.

From Lee Smith and Hussain Abdul-Hussain’s “On the Origin of ISIS”

…ISIS is not exactly what we’ve become accustomed to seeing in the Middle East of late. “This is not a classic insurgency,” says Itani, “or a non-state actor. Rather, it’s a state-building organization.” ISIS’s effort right now is to secure borders and lines of communication. Comparing ISIS’s project with al Qaeda’s, Itani notes that bin Laden’s logic was to draw the United States into conflict with the Muslim world in the hope of making the people so disgusted with their regimes that al Qaeda could take over. ISIS is different: It aims to take territory, hold it, and build a state. That is, at a moment when much of the rest of the Middle East is moving toward chaos, the Islamic State is consolidating.

How did ISIS gain so much power in such a short time?

ISIS’s first success in tribal politics was in Raqqa, which it snatched from the hands of the Assad regime and turned into its capital. Until the middle of 2013, Raqqa remained loyal to Assad. Although few Syrian security forces were present in the city, and the capital, Damascus, is nearly 300 miles away, making it virtually impossible to maintain communications and supply lines, Raqqa remained in Assad’s control because the city was run by the Sharabeen tribe.

In the tribal world, the Sharabeen are not part of the elite. They are a cattle-raising tribe, considerably less prestigious than, say, the camel-raising Shammar, one of the biggest tribes in the Middle East, whose members are known for their valor. When the founder of modern Saudi Arabia, Abdul-Aziz Ibn Saud, defeated the Shammar in 1910, the tribe pledged allegiance to him. Even as the British and French forced Ibn Saud to relinquish much of the Shammar territory he’d won, the Saudi king issued many Shammar Saudi passports.

Former Syrian president Hafez al-Assad, father of Bashar, well understood the significance of the ties between the Shammar and the Saudis. To counter Saudi influence in Raqqa, he propped up the Sharabeen, funding them, arming them, and giving them government jobs. All this came at the expense of the Shammar, many of whom picked up and moved to Saudi Arabia. When the anti-Assad rebellion erupted in 2011, Riyadh sent some Shammar tribal leaders back to Syria, like onetime head of the Syrian National Council Ahmed al-Jarba. The potential return of the powerful Shammar became a pressing concern not just for the Sharabeen, but for other tribal groups as well, which is what prompted 14 Raqqa clans to pledge allegiance to ISIS in November 2013. This is how Raqqa turned, quickly and peacefully, from an Assad stronghold into ISIS’s capital.

When the best efforts to maintain the status quo wind up destroying it, it’s time to change our foreign policy. Relying on semi-psychotic strongmen to maintain stability was a cornerstone of the British Empire.

Gordon Brown, cap in hand

Gordon Brown, cap in hand

Where is that empire today?

Written by marypmadigan

August 29th, 2014 at 12:41 pm

“ISIS Atrocities Started With Saudi Support for Salafi Hate”

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In the NY Times Opinion section, Ed Husain writes:


Most Sunni Muslims around the world, approximately 90 percent of the Muslim population, are not Salafis. Salafism is seen as too rigid, too literalist, too detached from mainstream Islam. While Shiite and other denominations account for 10 percent of the total, Salafi adherents and other fundamentalists represent 3 percent of the world’s Muslims.

Unlike a majority of Sunnis, Salafis are evangelicals who wish to convert Muslims and others to their “purer” form of Islam — unpolluted, as they see it, by modernity. In this effort, they have been lavishly supported by the Saudi government, which has appointed emissaries to its embassies in Muslim countries who proselytize for Salafism. The kingdom also grants compliant imams V.I.P. access for the annual hajj, and bankrolls ultraconservative Islamic organizations like the Muslim World League and World Assembly of Muslim Youth.

After 9/11, under American pressure, much of this global financial support dried up, but the bastion of Salafism remains strong in the kingdom, enforcing the hard-line application of outdated Shariah punishments long abandoned by a majority of Muslims. Just since Aug. 4, 19 people have been beheaded in Saudi Arabia, nearly half for nonviolent crimes.

We are rightly outraged at the beheading of James Foley by Islamist militants, and by ISIS’ other atrocities, but we overlook the public executions by beheading permitted by Saudi Arabia. By licensing such barbarity, the kingdom normalizes and indirectly encourages such punishments elsewhere. When the country that does so is the birthplace of Islam, that message resonates.


Written by marypmadigan

August 23rd, 2014 at 8:26 am

How Egypt’s Sisi won the Gaza war

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Writing for Al Monitor, Mahmoud Salem says:

Egypt's President Sisi inspects the guard of honour in Khartoum

The Israelis quickly realized that the situation this time was not business as usual. For the first time, due to the targeting of the Ben Gurion International Airport — a major economic lifeline for geographically isolated Israel — by Hamas rockets, the US Federal Aviation Administration and most of their European counterparts placed a temporary ban on air travel to Israel. The bombardment of Gaza also led to the highly underreported West Bank clashes, whose death tollcontinues to climb despite the cease-fire. Added to this, Egypt decided to change the role it plays every single time this conflict erupts. For the past 30 years, whether under Hosni Mubarak or Mohammed Morsi, Egypt would quickly sponsor a cease-fire to bring any serious fighting to an end. It was one of Mubarak’s main uses to both the United States and Israel, and it is what elevated Morsi’s profile and international credibility in 2012. This was the role Sisi was supposed to play, and by scoring this foreign policy win, it would consequently give him the international credibility he sorely needs since his election. But Sisi didn’t follow the script.

When the conflict started, Sisi had a number of objectives he wanted to achieve:

  • He sought to have Egypt unilaterally disengaged from the Gaza conflict and not allow either Israel or Hamas to export the responsibility of the Gaza humanitarian crisis to Egypt, which he believes is their aim.
  • He did not talk directly with Hamas, since talking to them would be difficult to justify to the public given his refusal to talk with the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood.
  • He wanted to reduce Hamas’ influence in the conflict and reassert Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Fatah as official representatives of the Palestinians.
  • He forced the United States to deal with him on his terms and renegotiate the US-Egypt relationship with terms more favorable to him.
  • He worked to reduce the roles of Qatar and Turkey as influential regional players.
  • He strived to attain all of the above while maintaining his image in the eyes of the Egyptian public.

Read more…

Written by marypmadigan

August 20th, 2014 at 11:42 am

Posted in Tech

A Letter from a young Peshmarga

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A young Kurdish fighter asked Peter Risdon to put his words into better English. This is what he said:

There’s something else I want you to understand. You have given us many things. You are giving us weapons now, and air cover, and we are very grateful. But you gave us the arms embargo that meant we faced tanks with rifles. We have built the most tolerant society in Iraq. Women have been free. We have trades unions. We had Arab neighbours, living equally with us until this happened. We have been an example of what is possible. And you have favoured Iraqi governments, and Turkish governments, who have slaughtered us and denied us our rights. You have refused to recognise Kurdistan. And now we have been fighting your war for you. It is our war, but it is your war too.

Because you have given us something else. IS fighters here include Arabs, but they include men with British accents who discuss on Twitter how many Kurdish women they are each allowed as sex slaves. They include Australians who post pictures on social media of their sons holding up severed heads. They include men with American and Canadian accents, men speaking French and German, men from Belgium and Holland and Sweden and Norway. You have given us some of our enemies. How has this happened?

How have you let your universities and mosques become incubators for these people? There are things I want you to understand about us, but I want to understand this about you.

And I want to understand how you can support our fight, how you can talk about brave Peshmarga, and not fight too. Because this is also your fight. You gave us these people. Now fight them with us.

Written by marypmadigan

August 20th, 2014 at 8:25 am