Archive for the ‘Politics/Foreign correspondents’ Category
Ishaan Tharoor for the Washington Post reports that Saudi Arabia, key to Obama’s strategy, beheaded at least 8 people last month
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?
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.
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.
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.
Almost 12 years after the 9/11 Intelligence Report was published, 28 pages concerning links between Saudi Arabia and the 9/11 terrorists are still classified. The Bush Administration was instrumental in the effort to hide those pages.
Obama had promised the 9/11 families that he would work to declassify those pages, but most of the effort to bring this to light has come from a few hardworking congressmen.
According to former Sen. Bob Graham (D-Fla.), who has seen the entire document, the classified pages expose “a larger effort to cover up Saudi activity in 9/11.”
Some 6,000 [American] plaintiffs … against mainly Saudi interests, claiming that they were essentially co-conspirators to 9/11 and that litigation has been blocked by the Saudis’ use of sovereign immunity as a defense,” Graham said. “But recently the federal appellate court that covers the state of New York overturned that defense and the Supreme Court has refused to hear the Saudis’ case and now there will be an aggressive effort through the courts to get information about Saudi involvement in 9/11.”
Graham said the third issue is what most people refer to as the “Sarasota case,” the Florida city where three of the hijackers did flight training.
“There is strong suspicion that they had close relationships with a prominent Saudi family living in Sarasota, the family which approximately two weeks before 9/11 — under what has been described by law enforcement as ‘urgent conditions’ — left their home and returned to Saudi Arabia,” Graham said.
Graham said that raised the question of, “Were they tipped off to what was about to happen?” Now, he says, investigators may finally get an answer, because 80,000 pages of information the FBI had previously withheld about the Sarasota case have been turned over to the courts, thanks to a Freedom of Information Act request.
When these kinds of stories are released, it’s usually a sign that our government is using negative press to pressure the Saudis. What are they concerned about? Well, Saudi support of al Qaeda is old news now, but Saudi support of ISIS is a current concern…
“We saw at least three major product releases coming out with different organizations with al-Qaida and associated organizations fairly quickly after the Snowden disclosures,” said Recorded Future’s CEO and co-founder, Christopher Ahlberg. “But we wanted to go deeper and see how big those changes were.”…
… for years, al-Qaida has used an encryption program written by its own coders called Mujahideen Secrets. It was a Windows-based program that groups like al-Qaida’s arm in Yemen and al-Shabab in Somalia used to scramble their communications. American-born radical imam Anwar al-Awlaki used it, too. Since Mujahideen Secret’s introduction in 2007, there had been some minor updates to the program, but no big upgrades.
Ahlberg thought the fact that the group changed the program months after Snowden’s revelations provided good circumstantial evidence that the former contractor had had an impact — but he wanted to see how much.
As it turns out, Recorded Future and Reversing Labs discovered that al-Qaida didn’t just tinker at the edges of its 7-year-old encryption software; it overhauled it. The new programs no longer use much of what’s known as “homebrew,” or homemade algorithms. Instead, al-Qaida has started incorporating more sophisticated open-source code to help disguise its communications.
To understand the damage Snowdon did to the NSA’s ability to hunt terrorists, it helps to look at the larger picture. Snowdon was not employed by the NSA. He was working for Booz Allen, the world’s most profitable spy organization.
It’s safe to say that most Americans, if they’d heard of Booz Allen at all, had no idea how huge a role it plays in the U.S. intelligence infrastructure. They do now. On June 9, a 29-year-old Booz Allen computer technician, Edward Snowden, revealed himself to be the source of news stories showing the extent of phone and Internet eavesdropping by the National Security Agency. Snowden leaked classified documents he loaded onto a thumb drive while working for Booz Allen at an NSA listening post in Hawaii..
Since 9/11, the business of protecting our ‘security’ has grown into a hugely profitable business. According to How Booz Allen Hamilton Swallowed Washington” in Bloomberg Business Week, “From its origins as a management consulting firm, Booz Allen has quietly grown into a governmentwide contracting behemoth, fed by ballooning post-Sept. 11 intelligence budgets and Washington’s increasing reliance on outsourcing.”
Booz Allen is publicly traded and majority-owned by the private equity firm Carlyle Group (CG). One of Carlyle’s Senior Counselor’s is former US Secretary of State James Baker.
The Carlyle Group and Baker have an interesting connection to Al Qaida and 9/11. According to Wikipedia:
On September 11, 2001, Baker watched television coverage of the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon from the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Washington DC, where Baker and representatives of Osama bin Laden‘s family were among those attending the annual conference for the Carlyle Group. Baker is Senior Counselor for the Carlyle Group, and the bin Ladens are among its major investors
According to the New York Times, in October 2001 the Binladen family liquidated their ties with the Carlyle group.
After the Sept. 11 attacks, the investment was criticized amid speculation that the family might profit from increased military spending from America’s war on terrorism.
”This wasn’t done because anyone thought they did anything wrong,” the Carlyle executive said. ”We didn’t do it with relish or great glee. We felt and they felt that it was something that was causing more attention than it deserved, so we both decided it made sense, given the circumstances, to liquidate the position.”
So, to be clear, a few weeks after thousands of Americans were murdered by Saudi-financed terrorists, and after a Saudi intelligence survey concluded that 95 percent of educated Saudis between the ages of 25 and 41 supported bin Laden’s cause, the Carlyle group was primarily concerned about the Binladen family’s image and investments.
In the interests of ‘security’ American taxpayers are giving billions of dollars to agencies that have consistently put Saudi interests ahead of our own. Snowdon was no hero, but it’s clear that we need to know more about what groups like the NSA, Booz Allen and Carlyle are doing, not less.