Al-Qaeda uses Twitter to mobilize Saudi youth

In a bid to reach Saudi youth, al-Qaeda recently used the Syrian revolution as a pretext to spread its extremist ideas through its numerous Twitter accounts. At first, these accounts took on an innocent character. Yet lately, al-Qaeda has used the cards of identity, belonging and nation to attract young people and push them toward the battlefields [of Syria].Al-Qaeda’s use of the Internet is not new, but Saudi Arabia has continuously fought this development with its Communications and Information Technology Commission, which would block the group’s websites and forums within the kingdom.

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Saudi Arabia declares all atheists are terrorists in new law to crack down on political dissidents

Saudi_Arabia_kaabaSaudi Arabia has introduced a series of new laws which define atheists as terrorists, according to a report from Human Rights Watch.In a string of royal decrees and an overarching new piece of legislation to deal with terrorism generally, the Saudi King Abdullah has clamped down on all forms of political dissent and protests that could “harm public order”.The new laws have largely been brought in to combat the growing number of Saudis travelling to take part in the civil war in Syria, who have previously returned with newfound training and ideas about overthrowing the monarchy.

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Crack in the House of Saud

President Obama flew to Saudi Arabia to patch up relations with King Abdullah at the end of last week in his first visit in five years. The alliance had been strained by Saudi anger over US negotiations with Iran on its nuclear programme and Obama’s refusal to go to war in Syria to overthrow Bashar al-Assad last year. For its part, the US is upset by Saudi Arabia covertly supporting al-Qa’ida-type movements in Syria and elsewhere.  The US-Saudi relationship is a peculiar one in that it is between a reactionary theocratic monarchy – it is the only place in the world where women are not allowed to drive – and a republic that claims to be the chief exponent of secular democracy. The linkage is so solid that it was scarcely affected by 9/11, though al-Qa’ida and the hijackers had demonstrably close connections to Saudi Arabia.

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Mistrust overshadows Obama’s Saudi trip

Obama-Saudi

Riyadh (AFP) – US President Barack Obama meets Saudi King Abdullah Friday as mistrust fuelled by differences over Iran and Syria overshadows a decades-long alliance between their countries.  Obama, who is due to arrive in Saudi Arabia late in the afternoon on a flight from Italy, is expected to hold evening talks with the monarch on a royal estate outside Riyadh.Saudi Arabia has strong reservations about efforts by Washington and other major world powers to negotiate a deal with Iran on its nuclear programme.  It is also disappointed over Obama’s 11th-hour decision last year not to take military action against the Syrian regime over chemical weapons attacks.Saudi analyst Abdel Aziz al-Sagr, who heads the Gulf Research Centre, said Saudi-US relations are “tense due to Washington’s stances” on the Middle East, especially Iran.The recent rapprochement between Tehran and Washington “must not take place at the expense of relations with Riyadh,” Sagr told AFP.  Sunni Muslim Saudi Arabia, long wary of Shiite Iran’s regional ambitions, views a November deal between world powers and Iran over the latter’s nuclear programme as a risky venture that could embolden Tehran.

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Islamist Outlaws

Saudi Arabia Takes on the Muslim Brotherhood

On March 7, Saudi Arabia took the extraordinary step of declaring the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization, on par with Hezbollah and al Qaeda. The move came just two days after the kingdom, together with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, withdrew its ambassador from Qatar because of Qatar’s alleged support of Brotherhood interference in internal politics. Although Saudi Arabia’s dislike of Brotherhood political activities abroad is well known, for decades the kingdom has tolerated (and sometimes even worked with) the local Saudi branch of the Brotherhood. Its sudden reversal is an expression of solidarity with its politically vulnerable allies in the region and a warning to Sunni Islamists within its borders to tread carefully.

This story goes back to the Arab Spring, when Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Saudi Arabia’s longtime ally, was ousted, and Egypt elected Mohamed Morsi, a Muslim Brotherhood­–linked politician, to fill his shoes. Riyadh feared that the group, now empowered, would try to export the Egyptian revolution regionwide, calling for action against the House of Saud and displacing Saudi’s friends and allies such as the UAE. Those fears were not entirely unfounded.

In Saudi Arabia, members of the Muslim Brotherhood had been at the forefront of the Awakening movement, a push in the early 1990s for political change in response to alleged Saudi government corruption and the basing of U.S. troops in the country. But, as the political science professor Stéphane Lacroix documents in his book Awakening Islam, most members of the Saudi Muslim Brotherhood had quickly fallen into line once the regime began to arrest or sanction its leaders. The Saudi Brotherhood simply had too much to lose: its members helped build the Saudi state and occupied important positions in the religious and educational establishment.

That détente ended with the Arab Spring, when a number of prominent Islamists added their names to a 2011 petition calling for political reforms in the kingdom. They also obliquely criticized the lack of political freedom in Saudi Arabia by lavishing praise on fellow travelers in Tunisia and Egypt. Even Nasir al-Umar, a hard-line Sururi (a blend of Brotherhood and ultraconservative Salafism), was singing the praises of democratic change. Then Crown Prince Nayef and future Crown Prince Salman pressed them into silence. According to one person I spoke to on a recent trip to Saudi Arabia, some were forced to sign a pledge to cease criticizing the lack of political freedom in the kingdom. But the renewed détente was fragile, hinging on events in tumultuous Egypt.

There was some reason for Saudi Arabia to fear for its allies in the region as well. Under Mubarak, Egypt had been a dependable Saudi ally. But Morsi sought to chart a neutral course between Saudi Arabia and Iran, following an early fundraising visit to the kingdom with an attempted rapprochement with Iran. The United Arab Emirates was worried, too. The Brotherhood has had a small presence in UAE since the 1960s, but after 9/11 the government started to see the group as a national security threat. It didn’t help that when the Muslim Brotherhood came to power in Egypt some members of the UAE branch began agitating for political reforms, going so far as to sign a petition calling for elections and real authority for the UAE’s advisory council. The government responded by arresting group members across the country, including men belonging to an alleged terror cell with ties to the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.

In response to what they saw as Egyptian meddling, Saudi Arabia tried to economically isolate Morsi and hasten his departure. In May 2013, just two months before the military overthrow of Morsi, the Egyptian finance minister complained to the Saudis that Egypt had only received $1 billion of the $3.5 billion in aid promised after Mubarak’s downfall. When the Egyptian military overthrew Morsi just a year into his rule, Saudi Arabia applauded and quickly promised Egypt a new aid package of $5 billion, together with one from the UAE for $3 billion and from Kuwait for $4 billion. When the new regime massacred Brotherhood protestors in August, the taciturn King Abdullah uncharacteristically voiced his public support for the slaughter as a blow against terrorism. When the new Egyptian government declared the group a terrorist organization in late December 2013, Saudi Arabia followed suit. When UAE decided not to replace its departing ambassador in Qatar — partly to punish Qatar for its refusal to discipline an influential Qatar-based Brotherhood spiritual leader who preached that the UAE is against Islamic rule — Saudi Arabia recalled its own ambassador in solidarity.

Saudi Arabia’s moves have provoked some unhappiness at home. Saudi Islamists, particularly the Brothers, are convinced that Morsi’s overthrow was part of a Saudi plot to roll back Islamist political gains of the past three years. In defiance, they festooned their social media profiles with symbols of Brotherhood resistance and criticized their government for its complicity. The defiance has become more muted recently, after the local press reported that the government was contemplating declaring the Brotherhood a terrorist organization. According to former members of the Saudi Muslim Brotherhood I spoke with, the 25,000 or so members of the Brotherhood in Saudi Arabia reacted to the news of the deliberations by preemptively keeping a low profile, closing some of its gatherings so as not to further stoke the government’s ire. Until the Saudi government actually begins making arrests, its recent announcement is more of a shot across the Brotherhood’s bow than an attempt to sink the ship.

Nevertheless, person after person I interviewed asserted that the level of Islamist anger toward the Saudi government is higher than at any time since the early 1990s. That does not mean Brotherhood leaders will move against the regime in the near term. In the 1990s as now, they have too much to lose institutionally. There is also some benefit in a wait-and-see approach, which is why Salman al-Awda, a prominent Saudi Islamist, is privately counselling his followers to wait for the regime’s factions to sort things out among themselves. But the younger rank-and-file Brothers in Saudi, like those in other Brotherhood franchises outside Egypt, are starting to lose hope in peaceful political change. That frustration can lead to apathy. But it can also lead to violence — and if it does, the Saudi government’s decision to declare the group a terrorist organization will have been a self-fulfilling prophecy.

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Families push to declassify 9/11 report on Saudi involvement

WASHINGTON — Family members and victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks joined three members of Congress on Wednesday in calling on the Obama administration to declassify portions of a congressional investigation that addresses allegations of possible Saudi government support of the hijackers.

The report, released by a joint panel of the House and Senate intelligence committees in December 2002, contains 28 redacted pages that family members and victims say would shed new light on the hijackings. At the time the report was released, the Bush administration classified the material, but numerous sources reported it dealt with the Saudis.

“Flight 93 was supposed to have hit the Capitol Dome,” imposing a special obligation on Congress to get to the bottom of the matter, said Alice Hoagland, whose son Mark Bingham was one of the passengers who rushed the cockpit, thwarting that part of the attack. The plane crashed in Shanksville, Pa.

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Saudi Arabia threatens to blockade Qatar over terrorism

Saudi Arabia has threatened to blockade neighbouring Qatar by air, land and sea unless Doha cuts ties with Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, closes global channel al-Jazeera, and expels local branches of the US Brookings Institution and Rand Corporation think tanks.  The threat was issued by Riyadh before it withdrew its ambassador to Doha and branded as “terrorist organisations” the brotherhood, Lebanon’s Hizbullah and al-Qaeda-linked Islamic State of Iraq and Syria and Jabhat al-Nusra.

Although the kingdom has long been the font of Sunni ultra-orthodox Salafism and jihadism, it now seeks to contain radical movements and media and other organisations giving them publicity.  King Abdullah has decreed that any Saudi who fights abroad could be jailed for 20-30 years, and those who join, endorse or provide moral or material support to groups classified as “terrorist” or “extremist” will risk prison sentences of five to 30 years.  The decree followed the gazetting of a sweeping new anti- terrorism law prohibiting acts that disturb public order, promote insecurity, undermine national unity or harm the reputation of the kingdom.

While the law and decree are meant to curb jihadi operations on Saudi soil as well as counter non-jihadi dissidence, these legal instruments appear to contradict government policy on foreign jihad.

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Saudi Arabia bans energy drinks, outlaws all forms of advertising

Manama: Saudi Arabia has banned the sale of energy drinks at all public education and health facilities.  The ban, announced by the government following its weekly session on Monday, is also imposed on all cafeterias, eateries and food outlets at government establishments and institutions, public and private gyms and fitness and health clubs in the kingdom.  The decision was taken following an interior ministry study of the “adverse effects of energy drinks,” local media said, without naming any of the brands affected.  A news report by the Saudi Press Agency did not explain the reasons for the study or the decision.  All forms of promoting and advertising for energy drinks, be they through print, audio or visual media or otherwise, are outlawed, the cabinet said.

Under the blanket ban, energy drinks companies, agents, distributors and promoters are prohibited from sponsoring any sports, social or cultural event or engaging in any process that leads to promotion, the cabinet said, basing its decision on a study by the interior ministry on the negative effects of the drinks.  No energy drinks should be distributed or given away for free to consumers, regardless of their age.  Energy drinks company owners and importers must have warning labels in both Arabic and English on the cans to caution consumers against what the interior ministry claim are harmful effects, the ban said.

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Report: Saudi Arabia Wants Uranium-Enrichment Capacity

Intelligence officials and issue analysts report signs that Saudi Arabia wants to develop a capacity to enrich uranium, despite proliferation concerns.  Riyadh is understood to be worried that world powers will agree to allow Iran to maintain some limited uranium-enrichment capability in a potential lasting deal on its nuclear program. Saudi Arabia has an established interest in developing an atomic-energy program, but its concerns about Iran could be causing the Persian Gulf kingdom to consider a more expansive domestic nuclear capability, the Daily Beast reported on Friday.  Institute for Science and International Security President David Albright told the news website he had learned from an unidentified European intelligence agency of Saudi Arabia’s pursuit in recent years of the scientific and engineering expertise necessary to carry out activities in all parts of the nuclear fuel chain.  The full cycle for producing atomic fuel includes uranium enrichment and the reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel — two processes that could be used to create both more fuel for civil energy needs and fissile material suitable for powering warheads.  Albright said Riyadh was employing technical experts capable of constructing the centrifuge cascades required to enrich uranium.  ”They view the developments in Iran very negatively,” he said. “They have money, they can buy talent, they can buy training.”

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Saudi Women Find a Way

“I changed my baby brother’s Pampers, and now? I’m a 42-year-old mother, and I need him to sign off when I travel abroad?” My divorced Saudi friend and I were sharing tea in Riyadh’s Al Faisaliah Hotel, and she could not hide her disgust. A striking beauty of regal bearing, she has a high-powered international job and limited patience for her culture’s suffocating “protections” for women.  Yet even this worldly skeptic could see signs of progress for the kingdom’s women. “It’s changing,” she insisted. “We are in a correctional phase.” On a recent trip to Riyadh and Jeddah, that is an opinion I encountered time and again from Saudis and westerners alike. “The country is on a trajectory of modernization, if not too fast,” recently departed U.S. Ambassador James Smith told me. Together with his wife, Janet, a former professor at the National War College, Smith has spent nearly five years steeped in kingdom culture. “There is an imbalance politically that ever so slightly favors the modernizers” and, he continued, “an emerging critical mass of daughters — on campuses and in jobs — who will make a difference.”

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The emerging links of Saudi Arabian state sponsorship of 9/11

wtc 911

After the 9/11 attacks, the public was told al Qaeda acted alone, with no state sponsors.  But the White House never let it see an entire section of Congress’ investigative report on 9/11 dealing with “specific sources of foreign support” for the 19 hijackers, 15 of whom were Saudi nationals.  It was kept secret and remains so today.  President Bush inexplicably censored 28 full pages of the 800-page report. Text isn’t just blacked-out here and there in this critical-yet-missing middle section. The pages are completely blank, except for dotted lines where an estimated 7,200 words once stood (this story by comparison is about 1,000 words).

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See also here.  And here.  And here.

 

Global Terrorism and Saudi Arabia: Bandar’s Terror Network

Saudi Arabia has all the vices and none of the virtues of an oil rich state like Venezuela.  The country is governed by a family dictatorship which tolerates no opposition and severely punishes human rights advocates and political dissidents.  Hundreds of billions in oil revenues are controlled by the royal despotism and fuel speculative investments the world over.  The ruling elite relies on the purchase of Western arms and US military bases for protection.  The wealth of productive nations is syphoned to enrich the conspicuous consumption of the Saudi ruling family.  The ruling elite finances the most fanatical, retrograde, misogynist version of Islam, “Wahhabi” a sect of Sunni Islam.  Faced with internal dissent from repressed subjects and religious minorities, the Saudi dictatorship perceives threats and dangers from all sides:  overseas, secular, nationalists and Shia ruling governments; internally, moderate Sunni nationalists, democrats and feminists; within the royalist cliques, traditionalists and modernizers.  In response it has turned toward financing, training and arming an international network of Islamic terrorists who are directed toward attacking, invading and destroying regimes opposed to the Saudi clerical-dictatorial regime.

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Saudi Arms Shipments to Al Qaeda Rebels Waiting behind Iraq’s Borders with Syria

Tens of vehicles carrying arms shipments from Saudi Arabia failed to cross the Iraqi border into Syria due to the Iraqi army’s ongoing operations in the Western Al-Anbar province which borders Syria, Jordan and Saudi Arabia.  Following the Iraqi Army’s operations against Al-Qaeda forces in Al-Anbar province, the Saudi arms shipments have been stuck behind Iraq’s borders with Syria. The Saudi arms shipments entered Iraq from the Saudi city of Nakheib and via Ar-Ar border crossing.  Nearly 70 2-ton vehicles are waiting for the Iraqi army forces to end its operation and withdraw from the region giving them a chance to cross the border with Syria.   The vehicles are packed with explosives used for suicide attacks as well as anti-armor and anti-aircraft weapons.  Saudi Arabia is still supporting the Al-Qaeda terrorist groups in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon.  While Turkey has closed a large part of its borders to terrorists and Jordan has also considered restrictions for the Saudi nationals who intend to sneak into Syria, Iraq’s desert borders where the government does not have a lot of military and security supervision are regarded as the best route for Saudi Arabia’s logistical supports for the terrorists in Syria.  The Iraqi army started military operations in Huran and Al-Abyaz regions in the deserts of Al-Anbar province last week.

Officals: Israelis in secret trip to inspect Saudi bases. Could be used as staging ground for strikes against Iran

Iranstrike

TEL AVIV — Israeli personnel in recent days were in Saudi Arabia to inspect bases that could be used as a staging ground to launch attacks against Iran, according to informed Egyptian intelligence officials.  The officials said Israel, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Jordan and other Arab and Persian Gulf countries have been discussing the next steps toward possible strikes on Iran’s nuclear sites.  The officials said the U.S. passed strong messages to Israel and the Saudis that the Americans control radar capabilities over the skies near Iran and that no strike should be launched without permission from the Obama administration.  It was unclear whether the purported visit to Saudi Arabia by Israeli military and intelligence officials signals any real preparation for a strike or if the trip was meant to keep pressure on the West amid Israeli fears about the current deal with Tehran.

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Saudi nuclear weapons ‘on order’ from Pakistan

Saudi Arabia has invested in Pakistani nuclear weapons projects, and believes it could obtain atomic bombs at will, a variety of sources have told BBC Newsnight.  While the kingdom’s quest has often been set in the context of countering Iran’s atomic programme, it is now possible that the Saudis might be able to deploy such devices more quickly than the Islamic republic.  Earlier this year, a senior Nato decision maker told me that he had seen intelligence reporting that nuclear weapons made in Pakistan on behalf of Saudi Arabia are now sitting ready for delivery.  Last month Amos Yadlin, a former head of Israeli military intelligence, told a conference in Sweden that if Iran got the bomb, “the Saudis will not wait one month. They already paid for the bomb, they will go to Pakistan and bring what they need to bring.”

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Iranian warships dock at Saudi port

TEHRAN – Iranian naval ships docked on Saturday in the Saudi port city of Jeddah on a mission to project the Islamic republic’s “power on the open seas,” the Fars news agency reported.  The supply ship Kharg and Shaid Qandi, a destroyer, docked in the Red Sea port in line with orders from Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, it quoted navy commander Admiral Habibollah Sayari as saying. “This mission aims to show the power of the Islamic republic of Iran on the open seas and to confront Iranophobia,” he said, adding that the mission started several days ago and would last 70 to 80 days.  The commander did not give other destinations.  Iran’s navy has been boosting its presence in international waters since last year, deploying vessels in the Indian Ocean and Gulf of Aden on missions to protect Iranian ships from Somali pirates.  Tehran also sent two ships into the Mediterranean for the first time in February 2011 through the Suez Canal.

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A Welcome US/Saudi ‘Reset’

Last week it was reported that Saudi Arabia decided to make a “major shift” away from its 80 years of close cooperation with the United States. The Saudi leadership is angry that the Obama administration did not attack Syria last month, and that it has not delivered heavy weapons to the Syrian rebels fighting to overthrow the Assad government. Saudi Arabia is heavily invested in the overthrow of the Assad government in Syria, sending money and weapons to the rebels.  However, it was the recent diplomatic opening between the United States and Iran that most infuriated the Saudis. Saudi Arabia is strongly opposed to the Iranian government and has vigorously lobbied the US Congress to maintain sanctions and other pressure on Iran. Like Israel, the Saudis are fearful of any US diplomacy with Iran.

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Saudi Arabia set for diplomatic shift away from US

Saudi Arabia‘s intelligence chief has said the kingdom will make a “major shift” in dealings with the US in protest at perceived American inaction over the Syria war and its overtures to Iran, a source close to Saudi policy said on Tuesday.  The source said that Prince Bandar bin Sultan had told European diplomats that Washington had failed to act effectively on the Syria crisis and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, was growing closer to Tehran and had failed to back Saudi support for Bahrain when it crushed a 2011 anti-government revolt.  It was not immediately clear whether Prince Bandar’s reported statements had the full backing of King Abdullah.  In an unprecedented move last week, Saudi Arabia rejected its first offer of a seat on the UN security council and denounced the UN for failing to resolve world conflicts. The move appeared largely directed at the US.  “The shift away from the US is a major one,” the source said on Tuesday. “Saudi doesn’t want to find itself any longer in a situation where it is dependent.

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Saudi Arabia’s proxy wars

Saudi Arabia appears resolute: It wants Bashar Al-Assad out of Damascus. The Saudis view the fighting in Syria with the same intensity that they did the civil war in Yemen that raged in the 1960s—as a conflict with wide and serious repercussions that will shape the political trajectory of the Middle East for years to come.  The Syrian war presents the Saudis with a chance to hit three birds with one stone: Iran, its rival for regional dominance, Tehran’s ally Assad and his Hezbollah supporters. But Riyadh’s policy makers are wary. They know that once fully committed, it will be difficult to disengage. And so they are taking to heart the lessons of another regional war that flared on their border 50 years ago.

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Saudi Arabia Defends Barbaric Sentence Given to Rape Victim

Saudi Arabia defended a controversial verdict sentencing a 19-year-old gang rape victim to 200 lashes and six months in jail. The Shi’ite Muslim woman had initially been sentenced to 90 lashes after being convicted of violating Saudi Arabia’s rigid Islamic Sharia law on segregation of the sexes.  The decision handed down by the Saudi General Court more than doubled her sentence last week. The court also roughly doubled the prison sentences for the seven men convicted of raping her, Saudi media said.  The upholding of a decision to punish the victim triggered international outcry.

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