SAUDI ARABIA SEEKS REGIONAL HEGEMONY AMIDST SIGNS OF PROGRESS, AS YEMEN CIVIL WAR PAUSES Posted on July 10, 2018 Printer Friendly Saudi Religious Diplomacy Targets Jerusalem: Dr. James M. Dorsey, BESA, July 8, 2018— The Saudi effort to take control of Islam’s holy places in Jerusalem serves, among other things, to support President Donald Trump’s plan for a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – a plan that has split the Muslim world even before it has officially been made public, and that has been clouded by Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Even after signs of progress, Saudi Arabia has a long way to go: Robert Fulford, National Post, July 6, 2018— The crown prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammad bin Salman (a.k.a. MBS), has been getting great reviews from the media in the West for his plans to modernize his kingdom. But it will require much more if this absolute monarchy ever softens its world-wide reputation for close control of its citizens. In Yemen, a Pause in Fighting Raises Hopes for Peace Talks: Margaret Coker, New York Times, July 1, 2018— When the United Arab Emirates started the battle final month to grab the strategic Yemeni port metropolis of Al Hudaydah, Emirati officers had been assured of a fast victory, brushing apart worldwide warnings of a possible humanitarian disaster and boasting that their navy and native proxy forces may oust the opposing Houthi rebels. Yemen and the Ideologue’s Luxury: Noah Rothman Commentary, Mar. 23, 2018— The Senate voted down a resolution on aimed at ending U.S. support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen. It was a bitter defeat, but not a humiliating one. For advocates of American retrenchment whose ascendancy was supposedly heralded by the rise of Donald Trump, times are tough, and they’ll take what they can get. On Topic Links Great Video! Saudi Woman’s Parody Rap on Driving: Clarion Project, July 3, 2018 Saudi Journalist Backs Israeli Embassy in Riyadh: I24 News, July 7, 2018 The PA, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Caution Israel on Erdogan’s Meddling in Eastern Jerusalem: David Israel Jewish Press, June 28, 2018 Five Reasons The Crisis in Yemen Matters: Alan Sipress, Laris Karklis and Tim Meko Washington Post, June 28, 2018 SAUDI RELIGIOUS DIPLOMACY TARGETS JERUSALEM Dr. James M. Dorsey BESA, July 8, 2018 The Saudi effort to take control of Islam’s holy places in Jerusalem serves, among other things, to support President Donald Trump’s plan for a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – a plan that has split the Muslim world even before it has officially been made public, and that has been clouded by Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. At the very least, Saudi Arabia hopes – at the risk of destabilizing Jordan, where Palestinians account for at least half the country’s almost ten million people – to drop its resistance to the Trump initiative. Riyadh’s and the UAE’s focus on Jerusalem has broad regional implications as they are battling Turkey for ownership of the Jerusalem issue. Both countries have tried to downplay the significance of two Islamic summits in Istanbul convened by Turkey to counter Trump’s moving of the US embassy to Jerusalem. Turkey and the Gulf states are also at odds over the Saudi-UAE-led economic and diplomatic boycott of Qatar and policy towards Iran. The power- and geopolitics-driven effort constitutes a marked shift in Saudi religious diplomacy, which, for much of the past four decades, involved a $100 billion public diplomacy campaign to globally promote Sunni Muslim ultra-conservatism. More recently, Saudi Arabia has sought to project itself as a beacon of tolerance, interfaith dialogue, and an unidentified form of moderate Islam. Riyadh has not officially announced its quest to wrest control from Jordan of the Temple Mount, home to the al-Aqsa Mosque, Islam’s third most holy site after Mecca and Medina, but evidence is piling up against a backdrop of ever closer relations among Israel, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Bahrain. Flexing the kingdom’s financial muscle, Saudi King Salman told an Arab summit in Dhahran in April that he was donating $150 million to support Islam’s holy places in Jerusalem. The donation counters a multitude of Turkish bequests to Islamic organizations in Jerusalem and efforts to acquire real estate. But unlike Saudi Arabia, Turkey can capitalize on the fact that it maintains diplomatic relations with Israel to organize Islamist tours to the city. Thousands of Turkish supporters of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s Justice and Democracy Party (AKP) visited the city in the past year. Turkish activists allegedly participated in last year’s protests on the Temple Mount. Striking a different chord from that of his powerful son, Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman, who has been vocal in his support for Trump and his empathy with Israeli positions, King Salman denounced the “invalidity and illegality” of the US decision to recognize Jerusalem. Saudi Arabia, in opposition to the Jordanian endowment that administers the Temple Mount, last year backed Israel’s installation of metal detectors following an attack that killed two Israeli policemen. Some Jordanians saw the Saudi support as a precursor to a US-backed agreement with Israel that would give the Gulf states a foothold on the Temple Mount by allowing Saudi and UAE personnel to be posted at its entrances. According to Kamal Khatib, an Israeli Arab Islamist leader, as well as Arab media reports, the UAE – in competition with Turkey – is seeking to purchase real estate adjacent to the Temple Mount. Khatib asserted that the UAE is operating through an associate of Muhammad Dahlan, an Abu Dhabi-based former Palestinian security chief with presidential ambitions. Jordan and Saudi Arabia clashed in December during a gathering of the Arab Inter-Parliamentary Union when the kingdom attempted to challenge Jordan’s custodianship of holy places in Jerusalem. Saudi Arabia, together with the UAE and Kuwait, pledged US$2.5 billion to Jordan after mass anti-government protests rocked the country earlier this year in a bid to gain leverage and prevent it from turning to Turkey for help. Al-Monitor quoted Raed Daana, a former director of preaching and guidance at Al-Aqsa Mosque Directorate, as saying that Saudi Arabia had secretly invited Palestinian Muslim dignitaries in a bid to garner support for a Saudi power grab. Saudi officials are further believed to be pressuring Palestine Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to allow Saudi Islamic scholars to visit Palestine. In a rare outreach, Iyad Madani, a Saudi national and secretary-general of the Jeddah-based, 57-nation Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), visited the Temple Mount in January. Saudi Arabia and the UAE have used Bahrain, a financially weak state whose ruling family was bolstered in 2011 by the intervention of a Saudi-led military force to counter a popular revolt, as a front for some of their overtures towards Israel. Bahrain, which recently granted entry to an Israeli delegation to participate in a UNESCO meeting, has been at the forefront of the Gulf states’ religious diplomacy and propagation of interfaith dialogue. Israel’s only official presence in the Gulf is its under-the-radar mission to the International Renewable Energy Agency in Abu Dhabi, which is widely seen as the Jewish state’s embassy to the region. A prominent American rabbi, Marc Shneier, and evangelist Reverend Johnnie Moore, a member of Donald Trump’s faith advisory board, keynoted at a dinner in Washington in May hosted by the Bahrain Embassy. Reverend Moore led a delegation of Bahraini and expatriate civic and business leaders on a visit to Israel last December, days after Trump had recognized Jerusalem as the capital of the Jewish state. The delegation’s Palestinian reception suggests that Saudi-UAE efforts to gain a geopolitics-driven religious foothold in Jerusalem may not be straightforward. Palestinian guards barred the delegation from entering the Temple Mount while protesters in Gaza blocked it from visiting the Strip. Said Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) executive committee member Hanan Ashrawi in a comment about the visit that could have applied to the broader Saudi-UAE effort: “I don’t believe this whole lovey-dovey approach of ‘we’re here to show tolerance’. Then go home and show tolerance at home.” Contents EVEN AFTER SIGNS OF PROGRESS, SAUDI ARABIA HAS A LONG WAY TO GO Robert Fulford National Post, July 6, 2018 The crown prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammad bin Salman (a.k.a. MBS), has been getting great reviews from the media in the West for his plans to modernize his kingdom. At age 33 he’s announced schemes to diversify the economy and open his country to new international investment. This week an eccentric law finally disappeared and women for the first time are allowed to drive cars. But it will require much more if this absolute monarchy ever softens its world-wide reputation for close control of its citizens. It was not a happy sign that even as the government under MBS pondered changing the driving law, police arrested women who were demonstrating for precisely that change. The point, apparently, was that the decision was made by members of the royal family (for which everyone should be grateful), and certainly not as a result of rioting in the streets. MBS finds himself managing one of the world’s least popular countries. It’s best known for the harshness of its Shariah law and for the fierce Wahhabi doctrine it has helped spread across the planet, convincing many Muslims (including many jihadis) that it’s the only authentic form of Islam. MBS has livened things up in Riyadh and other cities. Music is now played in public, and cinemas have opened. The dreaded religious police seem to be fading away. Now women are hoping for another change — in the Saudi Arabian tradition of guardianship that emphasizes the superior status of men over women. The lives of women and girls are totally managed by male guardians, most often their fathers or brothers. Men tell them what they are allowed to do and make sure that they do it. The men have made no great fuss about this responsibility. It’s just one more rule handed down through the mists of the past. Women, however, want change. In a recent survey by The New York Times, a young woman was asked about the progress of Saudi women toward independence. She answered that guardianship is a big obstacle to them. “I cannot go out of the house unless my older brother gives me permission,” she said. “I cannot go to the market — even to the hospital. If a woman ventures out, her guardian could report her to the authorities as a runaway. I am 29 years old.” In a practice that astonishes and appalls visitors from almost everywhere, females of all ages are treated as nine-year-olds, or as prisoners permanently under house arrest. MBS is expected to become the king of Saudi Arabia when his father dies. Meanwhile he’s serving as manager of just about every enterprise in the kingdom. The most expensive, and the cruellest, is the Saudi-led war against the Iran-backed Houthis, the Shia Muslim insurgents who have for three years been fighting the government of Yemen, Saudi Arabia’s neighbour to the south. The motto of the Houthis reads, “God Is Great, Death to America, Death to Israel, Curse on the Jews, Victory to Islam.” They are fierce, mean and clever warriors, but so are their enemies. This could be the right moment for MBS to reveal a talent for peacemaking, but he prefers to deploy more aircraft and rockets. As the war proceeds, threatening Yemen’s main port, the UN predicts a greater lack of food and widespread hunger. In the public imagination, MBS will be best known for allowing women to drive. When he was proposing it, Islamic clergymen thought him unwise, a young man urging a radical change that was too liberal for Saudi society. My favourite among the reluctant clerics was one who made the argument that “letting women to drive would lead to immorality and a lack of virgins.” Call him an old fogey, but there’s a fellow who can forecast a social shortage well before it appears. Contents IN YEMEN, A PAUSE IN FIGHTING RAISES HOPES FOR PEACE TALKS Margaret Coker New York Times, July 1, 2018 When the United Arab Emirates began the battle last month to seize the strategic Yemeni port city of Al Hudaydah, Emirati officials were confident of a quick victory, brushing aside international warnings of a potential humanitarian catastrophe and boasting that their military and local proxy forces could oust the opposing Houthi rebels. But the challenges of urban warfare have stalled the offensive, and amid a flurry of diplomatic activity aimed at stopping the impoverished Arab country’s grueling civil war, the U.A.E. temporarily halted the fight for the city, Emirati and international diplomats said on Sunday. The battle for control of Al Hudaydah set off a major international diplomatic outcry over concern for the safety of the city’s 600,000 residents and the threat that the fighting could disrupt supply lines for urgent humanitarian assistance to eight million others in Yemen. The United Nations has declared Yemen as the world’s worst humanitarian disaster. Aid arriving into the Red Sea port accounts for about 70 percent of imports in a country where two-thirds of the 29 million people rely on international aid. A senior Emirati official said the pause in military action was aimed at giving United Nations negotiations a chance to succeed. “We have paused our campaign to allow enough time for this option to be fully explored,” Anwar Gargash, the U.A.E. minister of state for foreign affairs, said in a Twitter posting on Sunday. For the last six years the battle for control of Yemen has turned into a regional proxy war. On one side Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E. are supporting the ousted president, Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi, and their myriad proxy forces control large swathes of southern Yemen. They are opposed by the Houthi rebels, who control Al Hudaydah and the capital, Sana, and are backed by Iran. These outside powers are training and equipping their proxies, and, in the case of the Arab coalition, they are also actively engaged in the fighting. On the battlefield the opposing forces are deadlocked and, until recently, both the Arab coalition and the Houthi leadership have been scornful of a peace process and have rejected a return to talks mediated by the United Nations, which have been moribund for two years. But diplomatic pressure over the offensive, including from American officials, has injected new life into a possible cease-fire and peace deal, according to two diplomats familiar with the process. The two officials were not authorized to speak on the record to the media because of the sensitivity of the talks underway among United Nations officials, the Houthi leadership, the Emirati and Saudi governments and Mr. Hadi, who is supported financially by the Saudis. Over the last week, Martin Griffiths, the United Nations special representative for Yemen, has been meeting with both Houthi leaders and Mr. Hadi, while other senior officials from the organization have been briefing Saudi and Emirati officials about a possible cease-fire, according to the two officials. United Nations officials are also working to cement an agreement that would have the international body take over management of the Al Hudaydah port. At the start of the battle for the city, Emirati officials said they had two key goals: controlling Al Hudaydah’s port and airport. The hope was the victory would be substantial enough to force the Houthis to sue for peace and give the Saudi- and Emirati-backed Yemeni factions a stronger role in future political negotiations. While the Emirati-backed force has gained control of the airport, it has not launched its naval assault of the port, because of what Emirati officials say is heavy mining. American officials last month refused an Emirati request to help demine the waters around the city. Another reason for the slowed offensive is that Emirati officials have said they do not want to engage in urban warfare, as they and their local proxies are not equipped to handle street-to-street combat. Casualties on both sides, so far, have been much lower than many had feared in the battle for the city, and the pause in combat has raised hopes that the fight over Al Hudaydah could end without large numbers of dead. Still, some Mideast diplomats caution that fighting could re-erupt at any time, especially as Emirati officials have said they do not have total control over their Yemeni proxy fighters. At the same time that the U.A.E. was announcing a halt to fighting, the Emiratis are facing rising controversy over reports by The Associated Press that the Arab nation has been overseeing detention centers in Yemen in which prisoners have been tortured. On the Houthi side, criticism is rife among Yemenis for the amount of civilian suffering within the areas controlled by the rebels. Mr. Griffiths is scheduled meet the Houthis again on Monday in the Yemeni capital, and possibly Mr. Hadi in the southern city of Aden. The two diplomats say that Mr. Griffiths hopes to schedule a briefing for the Security Council by the end of the week to codify a possible cease-fire and a new round of peace talks. Contents YEMEN AND THE IDEOLOGUE’S LUXURY Noah Rothman Commentary, Mar. 21, 2018 The Senate voted down a resolution on Tuesday aimed at ending U.S. support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen. It was a bitter defeat, but not a humiliating one. Despite their failure, advocates for this measure insisted that the support of 44 senators was vindicating enough. For advocates of American retrenchment whose ascendancy was supposedly heralded by the rise of Donald Trump, times are tough, and they’ll take what they can get. The measure—sponsored by ideologically divergent characters ranging from Democratic Sens. Chris Murphy and Bernie Sanders to Republican Sen. Mike Lee—attracted the support of some prominent Democratic lawmakers, some with their eyes on 2020. What’s more, it was a noble albeit doomed attempt by Congress to exercise its power to authorize American military involvement. Such constitutional authority has fallen out of favor with lawmakers as America’s inviolable commitments abroad have grown less popular over the decades. In the end, though, the effort to end America’s aid to Saudi Arabia, which has taken the form of refueling warplanes and sharing intelligence, was a minority proposition. Both Sanders and Lee framed the vote as a chance for Congress to take ownership of its war-making prerogative, but that seems more like a pretext to register their dissatisfaction with a war that is being waged indiscriminately and without regard for civilian life. The conflict that needs Congressional authorization is the war in Syria. There, hundreds of U.S. forces are deployed in pursuit of a complex mission of deterrence and support. Occasionally, they engage in combat not only with militia fighters but with sovereign Syrian forces and their allies, including Kremlin-backed Russian mercenaries, which is in no conceivable way covered by the post-9/11 resolution authorizing the use of force against al-Qaeda. But the Murphy/Sanders/Lee bill’s sponsors don’t want to sanction the conflict in Yemen (or Syria, for that matter); they want Congress to withdraw support for these missions and force the president into retreat. It is not as though this bill’s authors lack pragmatic alternatives, like the measure backed by Yemen war critic, Republican Sen. Todd Young, which would tie U.S. support to evidence provided by Riyadh indicating that they are scaling back the mission in Yemen. Upon this resolution’s failure, the lawmakers who supported it vented their frustrations. “This war is deeply immoral and making America less safe,” Murphy wrote. Sen. Kamala Harris called the war a “humanitarian crisis.” Sanders called it a “humanitarian disaster.” They’re both correct, but that assessment does not address the strategic imperatives at play in Yemen. Sen. Dianne Feinstein insisted that it is “time we separate ourselves from this bloodshed,” which is a rather radical departure from her position on the conflict in Yemen just a few years ago.In 2015, Feinstein insisted that Barack Obama had been overly cautious in the region. “We need some special operations in these countries, on the ground, more than just advisors,” Feinstein told CBS News specifically about the brewing Yemeni civil war. […] [To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.] Contents On Topic Links Great Video! Saudi Woman’s Parody Rap on Driving: Clarion Project, July 3, 2018— A Saudi woman singer has made a parody rap video celebrating the fact that woman have just been granted the right to drive in the kingdom. The YouTube video on her account, Leesa A, has garnered close to a million views. Saudi Journalist Backs Israeli Embassy in Riyadh: I24 News, July 7, 2018— Saudi Arabian journalist Daham al-Enzi has expressed support for the opening of an Israeli embassy in Riyadh, as well as normalization of ties with the Jewish state within the framework of a Saudi Middle East peace initiative led by Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman. The PA, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Caution Israel on Erdogan’s Meddling in Eastern Jerusalem: David Israel Jewish Press, June 28, 2018— Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and the Palestinian Authority have conveyed messages of concern to Israel over the past year, about Turkey’s growing presence in eastern Jerusalem. The three governments believe that the purpose of the Turkish presence is to allow president Erdogan to become the guardian of Jerusalem in the eyes of the Muslim world. Senior officials in Ramallah, Amman, and Riyadh say that areas of Turkish influence are being developed under Israel’s nose in the eastern neighborhoods of the city, endangering both their and Israel’s national interests. Five Reasons The Crisis in Yemen Matters: Alan Sipress, Laris Karklis and Tim Meko Washington Post, June 28, 2018— The civil war racking Yemen pits U.S.-backed forces against Iranian-backed elements in an all-out shooting war, and the United States, which has for years conducted counterterrorism operations in Yemen, is expanding its role there. Yemen’s political and social chaos has fueled the growth of a virulent al-Qaeda affiliate that has eclipsed its parent organization as a terrorist threat to the United States.