Tag: gulf states

ISRAEL, ALIGNING WITH SUNNI STATES AGAINST QATAR, PLANS TO SHUTTER AL JAZEERA

 

Qatar’s Support of Islamists Leads to Global Terrorism: Ariel Ben Solomon, Jerusalem Post, August 1, 2017— Should Israel join the status-quo Sunni states led by Saudi Arabia in their pressure campaign against terrorism-supporting Qatar, which is promoting Islamist revolutionary movements across the region, including in Israel?

Qatar's Comeuppance a Long Time Coming: Raymond Stock, The Diplomatist, July 2017— Jutting into the Persian Gulf like lower Michigan minus its thumb, the super-rich peninsular nation of Qatar has long been a problem—one that has now brought the region to the brink of a potentially catastrophic conflict.

The Cost of Supporting Israel Has Never Been Lower: Elliot Kaufman, National Review, July 17, 2017— In Oslo, the Tony Award–winning play set in the early 1990s, a Palestinian negotiator makes a powerful claim to his Israeli counterpart: “Until you make peace with us,” he says, “you’ll never be accepted by your neighbours.”

Living in the Real World Means Doing Business with Bad Guys Like the Saudi Regime: Editorial, National Post, Aug. 4, 2017 — It isn’t terribly surprising to learn that Canadian-made military vehicles are apparently being used against civilians by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

 

On Topic Links

 

Joining Arab States, Israel Says it Plans to Ban Al-Jazeera: National Post, Aug. 6, 2017

Latest Developments in Saudi Arabia Chart a Course for Israeli Ties With Arab World: Sean Savage, JNS, July 3, 2017

Qatar and the Saudis – Getting Ready for the Next Round: Dr. Mordechai Kedar, Arutz Sheva, July 10, 2017

Former Liberal Cabinet Minister Calls for End to Canadian Arms Sales to Saudi Arabia: Steven Chase, Globe & Mail, Aug. 1, 2017

 

 

QATAR’S SUPPORT OF ISLAMISTS LEADS TO GLOBAL TERRORISM

Ariel Ben Solomon

Jerusalem Post, August 1, 2017

 

Should Israel join the status-quo Sunni states led by Saudi Arabia in their pressure campaign against terrorism-supporting Qatar, which is promoting Islamist revolutionary movements across the region, including in Israel? Israel took a step in this direction on Wednesday as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated on Facebook that he will seek to remove Qatar’s pan-Arab media channel Al Jazeera from the country for inciting violence in Jerusalem.

Also on Wednesday, US Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Florida) stated in congressional testimony, “Qatar has been known to be a permissive environment for terror financing reportedly funding US designated foreign terrorist organizations such as Hamas as well as several extremist groups operating in Syria.” The congresswomen went on point out that all Gulf states have had problems with facilitating terrorism, but that Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are dealing with the issue at a “faster rate.” Not so in Qatar.

 

In a study by David Andrew Weinberg that was published in January by the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) titled “Qatar and Terror Finance: Part II: Private Funders of [al-Qaida] in Syria,” he wrote: “Based on these cases, there is no persuasive proof that Qatar has stopped letting certain terror financiers off the hook…Indeed, it is impossible to identify even a single specific instance of Qatar charging, convicting, and jailing a US- or UN-designated individual,” said the report.

 

Qatar is a principal funder of Hamas – both in Gaza and in the West Bank.  For example, Israel could lobby the US and European governments to up the pressure on Qatar, so that it withdraws support for radical groups, preachers and the radical Islamist content promoted on its popular pan-Arab Al Jazeera media channel, which is broadcast in hundreds of thousands of Israeli Arab living rooms.

 

By joining with Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the UAE and Bahrain, which already cut ties with Qatar, Israel would be able to further align its national interest with these countries, and particularly in opposition to Iran, the leading sponsor of terrorism in the world. Israel could also join the lobbying effort to get Qatar to break off its relations with Iran, with which it shares the largest offshore gas field in the world, known as the North Dome/ South Pars.

 

Qatar hedges its position with Iran because it fears that its relatively small population of 250,000 citizens and over 2 million people total (and lackluster military prowess), would place it at risk from the regional power of nearly 83 million that is located just a hop across the Persian Gulf. Qatar has invited Turkey, another supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood, to deploy its troops there, to deter Saudi Arabia and other neighbors. Additionally, Qatar feels protected because it hosts the Al Udeid military base, the largest US base in the Middle East.

 

However, the Trump administration has hinted that it could easily be moved to another Arab country. “If we ever had to leave, we would have 10 countries willing to build us another one, believe me, and they will pay for it,” US President Donald Trump said in an interview with CBN News this month. This coalition of Sunni states led by Saudi Arabia and Egypt, along with Israel and the US, could work to counter the Brotherhood brand of Islamism globally – by cutting off its funding and incitement on media platforms – and this starts with Qatar.

 

The US has tremendous leverage over Qatar not only because of the base, but also because it could put pressure on the country through the international financial banking system Washington controls. Qatar and prominent financiers residing there back the Muslim Brotherhood movement, its Palestinian offshoot Hamas and allegedly also jihadi groups al-Qaida and Islamic State. The Muslim Brotherhood, founded in Egypt in 1928 by Hassan al-Banna, has served as the ideological gateway for more radical Islamist offshoots such as Islamic Jihad, al-Qaida and Islamic State, which strike out against regional governments and the West.

 

As John Hannah at FDD, a former official in the George W. Bush White House, stated at a conference in May: “It’s no coincidence, Muslim Brotherhood has been the gateway drug for violent Islamists the world over.” However, all Islamist groups have the ultimate goal to strive for global power, they just go about it with varying degrees of violence and pragmatism…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]                

 

 

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QATAR'S COMEUPPANCE A LONG TIME COMING

Raymond Stock

    The Diplomatist, July 2017

 

Jutting into the Persian Gulf like lower Michigan minus its thumb, the super-rich peninsular nation of Qatar has long been a problem—one that has now brought the region to the brink of a potentially catastrophic conflict.

 

Seen for decades as a more liberal extension of the arch-conservative Saudi Kingdom, since the mid-1990s Qatar has striven to maintain that façade, even as it aided and funded the global jihad, both directly indirectly, and grew dangerously close with an ever-more strident and aggressive Iran. As the tensions built, erupted, subsided and built again during this time, it finally took a US administration willing to back up and rally the countries that Qatar's actions have threatened—primarily the very states that have moved against it now—to bring matters to a head.

 

The result has been a lengthening physical and diplomatic embargo on Qatar that could lead to war, or perhaps impede the war to kill the Islamic State (IS). In either case it would leave a lasting rift among four of the six states in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and lands far beyond them. Begun by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Egypt and Bahrain, later joined by Chad, Libya, the Maldives, Niger and Yemen, this was a crisis, sadly, whose time had come.

 

While much has been made of the reaction to a May 23 report by Qatar's state news agency (improbably) praising both Iran and Israel and predicting a short term in office for Trump, it does not appear to have been the real trigger for the incident. Qatar claims it was hacked, dismissing the disputed posting as "fake news." CNN reported on June 7 that US intelligence believes it was the work of unnamed Russians, though the FBI is now on the case.

 

Yet the real kicker was clearly the $1 billion Qatar paid in April to free a group of 26 of its nationals kidnapped by the Iran-linked Shi'ite militia Kita'eb Hizbollah while hunting in Iraq in December 2015. Freed in the same deal were 50 Islamists seized by other jihadis in Syria, as reported in The Financial Times on June 5—thus both "Iranian security officials" and an al-Qaeda (AQ) affiliate, al-Nusra Front, apparently received the cash. Worse, the deal was evidently done behind the back of the Baghdad government led by Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi—who is trying to rein in the brutal Shi'ite militias while fighting ISIS. Al-Abadi announced in April that Iraq had confiscated "millions of dollars" in suitcases from Qatari planes on its territory, says the FT.

 

Meanwhile, Iyad Allawi, Iraq's secular Shi'ite vice president, quoted by Reuters at a Cairo news conference June 19, accused Qatar of seeking to divide Iraq "into a Sunni region in exchange for a Shi'ite region…It is time we spoke honestly and made things clear (to the Qataris) so that we can reach some results," Allawi insisted. "After that confrontation, comes reconciliation," he stated–without saying how.

 

Qatar has not always behaved this way. I served as Head of the Academic Section under the Cultural Attaché of the State of Qatar, part of the Qatari embassy in the US, from 1986-90, advising students on university scholarship from Doha in North America. The Qataris with whom I worked and met at the time were generally conservative, but kind-hearted, forward-looking and not fanatical—hence it is hard indeed to personally advocate action against their country.

 

The trouble began with the overthrow of the old emir, Sheikh Khalifa bin Hamad Al Thani, by his son, Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, in 1995. Sheikh Hamad pushed for a more modern, constitutional, somewhat more egalitarian government at home (primarily for its roughly 300,000 citizens, rather than its 2,000,000-plus, often virtually enslaved foreign workers)—while apostasy from Islam, adultery and homosexuality remain capital crimes.

 

He also allowed the creation of Al Jazeera television, hailed by many as a voice of open democracy—though its Arabic arm has mainly carried a mixture of Islamist and other anti-Western propaganda with agitation against other Arab regimes (along with often vociferous debate programs), and has had ties to AQ behind the scenes. (The network's more secular-left leaning English-language service has won many fans in the West, who do not grasp or would even rationalize the radicalism of the Arabic version seen in the Middle East.)

 

Stunningly, Al Jazeera's former bureau chief in Cairo, Canadian-Egyptian citizen Mohamed Fahmy, jailed for 438 days in Egypt for allegedly colluding with efforts by the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) to overthrow Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi in 2014, has recently filed a lawsuit in British Columbia against his former employers. Eli Lake of Bloomberg News wrote on June 23 that Fahmy accuses Al Jazeera of deliberately serving the MB and of being "a mouthpiece for Qatari intelligence" and "a voice for terrorists," something he says he learned from Islamists in Cairo's infamous Tora Prison, who told him how they had cooperated closely with the network…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]                            

 

 

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THE COST OF SUPPORTING ISRAEL HAS NEVER BEEN LOWER

                             Elliot Kaufman

                                                  National Review, July 17, 2017

 

In Oslo, the Tony Award–winning play set in the early 1990s, a Palestinian negotiator makes a powerful claim to his Israeli counterpart: “Until you make peace with us,” he says, “you’ll never be accepted by your neighbours.” But that’s just not true any more for Israel — with major implications for American foreign policy. Allying with Israel no longer risks losing the Arabs to the Soviet camp or risks the wrath of OPEC. In fact, U.S. support for Israel no longer alienates Arab governments at all. In a surprising twist of fate, Arab states now tend to view Israel as a crucial partner in their more important standoff against Iran. These nations do not have the luxury of worrying about the Israeli–Palestinian conflict right now. The rise of Iran, its nuclear program, and its proxies are far more pressing.

 

All of this means that American support for Israel has never been less costly — and has never made more sense — than it does now. As Benjamin Netanyahu, the prime minister of Israel, declared in February, “for the first time in my lifetime, and for the first time in the life of my country, Arab countries in the region do not see Israel as an enemy, but, increasingly, as an ally.” Even the leader of Hezbollah, Iran’s terrorist proxy in Lebanon, has noticed that “these days Israel is [no longer] officially considered the Arab League’s enemy.”

 

When Israel and Hezbollah agree about something, it’s probably true. Take Saudi Arabia, the most powerful Gulf state. Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini used to call Saudi Arabia’s Wahhabi leaders a “band of heretics,” and the Wahhabis feel more or less the same about Iran’s Shia majority. Moreover, both nations struggle for power in the region. Especially since the rapid ascent of Mohammed bin Salman, the hawkish new Saudi crown prince, Saudi Arabia has worried about Iran’s efforts to expand its control over Yemen, Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon. It worries even more about the Iranian nuclear program.

 

On all of these issues, Israel is a key ally. It was Israel, after all, that pushed for a better nuclear deal, that delayed Iran’s nuclear program with cyberwarfare and targeted assassinations, that fights Hezbollah in Lebanon, and it is Israel that destroyed the Syrian nuclear reactor in 2007. Furthermore, reports have suggested that Israel is providing the Saudis with crucial intelligence on Iran, ISIS, and Iranian-backed rebels in Yemen and Syria. Relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia have not yet been normalized, but they are no longer frigid. Last summer, a Saudi general met a former Israeli diplomat at the Council on Foreign Relations. The two shook hands and smiled before flashing cameras. If that had happened just a few years ago, the general could have expected to find himself out of a job or worse.

 

Another meeting joined Saudi prince Turki al-Faisal with a retired Israeli major general. Remarkably, Prince Faisal spoke of “cooperation between Arab countries and Israel in meeting the threats, wherever they come from — whether it is Iran or any other source.” Ahmed Asiri, the kingdom’s deputy intelligence chief, acknowledged in February that “we have the same enemy, the same threat . . . and we are both close allies of the Americans.” Numerous reports support these statements; senior Israeli and Saudi officials have supposedly been secretly meeting for at least the past six years.

 

The Saudis still want Israel to make peace with the Palestinians, but protracted negotiations will not get in the way of security cooperation. After all, if you believe that “Iran is on a rampage” in order to “reestablish the Persian Empire,” as the Saudi foreign minister told Politico, you start looking to untraditional allies. You might even try convincing your people that Israel isn’t so bad. As early as last summer, the tightly controlled Saudi media began criticizing anti-Semitism repeatedly. Saudi TV no longer fixates on “Israeli aggression.” Now the new buzzword is “Persian aggression.” A column in the Saudi daily Al Riyadh argued that there was no reason to “unjustifiably demonise” Israel. These things do not happen by accident in Saudi Arabia. Saudi leadership is preparing their people for better relations with Israel. Saudi propaganda and the reality of the Middle East — Iran is advancing while Israel is not — have steadily combined to get the message across to regular Saudis. A recent poll found that only 18 percent of Saudis view Israel as their principal enemy, good enough for just third place, while 22 percent pointed to ISIS and 53 percent chose Iran.

 

The good news for Israel, however, is not limited to Saudi Arabia. Israeli officials have reportedly made multiple secret trips to the United Arab Emirates, where Israel has opened its first diplomatic mission. Almost bizarrely, the UAE’s foreign minister recently went so far as to slam Al Jazeera for its anti-Semitic coverage. Who knew they cared? Jordan, fearing Iran, ISIS, and the spillover from Syria, has also found reason to turn to Israel. Israeli intelligence now helps keep Jordan safe, and a new agreement ensures that Israeli natural gas keeps it prosperous. Their peace treaty, signed in 1994, goes unchallenged…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]

 

                                                                       

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LIVING IN THE REAL WORLD MEANS DOING

BUSINESS WITH BAD GUYS LIKE THE SAUDI REGIME                                                                           

Editorial                                                                                                                        

National Post, Aug. 4, 2017

 

It isn’t terribly surprising to learn that Canadian-made military vehicles are apparently being used against civilians by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The decision by the former Conservative government to sell Saudi Arabia light armoured vehicles — infantry carriers armed with machine guns, anti-tank cannons and missiles and light automatic cannons — was controversial at the time for this very reason. Saudi Arabia’s human rights record is appalling. Its oppression of its own people at home (including the entire female population) is a matter of record. International rights groups have also slammed the Saudi military’s conduct in combat during the ongoing intervention in Yemen’s civil war, with reports of air strikes that have not only killed civilians, but seemed to have no apparent military objective. Collateral damage is bad enough; deliberately bombarding civilian areas is a war crime.

 

None of this was unknown or unforeseeable when Canada agreed to sell the Saudis military equipment. But the Conservatives first, then the Liberals (who stood by the arms sales after the 2015 election), were clearly seduced by the amount of cash on offer: at least $15 billion for 900 light armoured vehicles from London, Ont.’s, General Dynamics, and a series of smaller contracts with other Canadian firms for other items of military kit. And while it was the giant General Dynamics contract that attracted all the attention, it is a smaller contract, to Terradyne, a firm north of Toronto, that has thrust this issue back into the spotlight.

 

Video footage has recently emerged that appears to show Canadian-made Terradyne Gurkha vehicles — similar to an American Hummer-style vehicle — being used in a security operation against Saudi civilians, specifically, members of the Shiite Muslim religious minority in a restive province of the kingdom. This isn’t surprising, given the monarchy’s horrific record of abusing its own civilians, particularly its small Shiite minority. But it does put Ottawa in an awkward position. Both the Conservatives and Liberals had insisted that they had been given Saudi assurances that our weapons would not be used against civilians; if they were, we could suspend further sales.

 

We have that right. Canada’s export rules, flagging restrictions on defence sales to countries with “poor human-rights records,” even point in that direction. But as appalling as the Saudi regime can be, there are other Canadian interests involved here that Ottawa has a duty to also consider. Saudi Arabia is not an ally, per se, but it is a security partner. Given the multiple overlapping disasters currently unfolding in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia is a country we need on our side. Geopolitics is an unavoidably ugly business and the reality that these kinds of arrangements are necessary is the reason why.

 

We would prefer to live in a world where we could have our armoured cake and sell it, too. If it was possible to sustain our large and growing armaments industry entirely on the back of sales to The Netherlands and New Zealand, we could content ourselves on providing everything our Dutch and Kiwi allies need to annihilate a Russian tank division or two, and for a tidy profit. Though we often roll our eyes at the horrible habit all Canadian governments tend to fall into of using military procurement projects to develop or sustain a domestic armaments industry, we do acknowledge the strategic value of our military having domestic supplies for advanced weaponry. Exporting those arms abroad helps offset the simple reality that the Canadian Armed Forces are themselves not large enough to sustain the kind of industry we have developed here. Exports are essential to sustain these jobs and capabilities.

 

While this whole affair stinks, consider the alternative: Canada doesn’t sell to Saudi Arabia, our economy suffers, our own domestic military production capabilities suffer (or die); meanwhile, Saudi Arabia sinks its vast cash reserves into buying someone else’s weapons and carries on as ever. Canada can keep its hands more or less clean, or it can sustain an arms-export industry that provides important economic and security benefits to our own country. If it’s possible to do both at once, we’ve yet to figure out how.

 

Canadians are not used to pondering geopolitics in these terms. We prefer to view the world as neatly divided into good and bad. Two generations of relative peace, along with our peacekeeping myths, have sheltered us from the realities of a frequently violent world. But there is nothing new about doing business with governments we find odious because it serves a greater good. Saudi Arabia, for all its offences, has proved to be a fundamental Middle East partner in combating the Islamic State and containing Iran’s belligerent ambitions and regional warmongering. Given the grave new stakes at play in the Middle East, even Israel has recognized the need of working alongside the Saudis.

 

It’s always possible that this sort engagement will help bring Saudi Arabia further into the fold of Western liberal democracy, just as some Canadians believe that our deepening friendship with China can moderate that inhumane regime. We’re skeptical on both counts. But in the meantime we must deal with, and make deals in, the world as it is, with all its imperfections.

 

 

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On Topic Links

 

Joining Arab States, Israel Says it Plans to Ban Al-Jazeera: National Post, Aug. 6, 2017 —Israel said Sunday it plans to ban Qatar’s flagship Al-Jazeera news network from operating in the country over allegations it incites violence, joining Arab nations that have shut down the broadcaster amid a separate political dispute.

Latest Developments in Saudi Arabia Chart a Course for Israeli Ties With Arab World: Sean Savage, JNS, July 3, 2017—Building off the last few years of rumors and reports regarding clandestine relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia, mainly motivated by their shared concerns over Iran’s nuclear program and destabilizing regional activities, two recent developments highlight a potential route for Israel to firm up support within the Arab world.

Qatar and the Saudis – Getting Ready for the Next Round: Dr. Mordechai Kedar, Arutz Sheva, July 10, 2017—Tensions are at an all time high between the four countries – Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, United Emirates and Egypt – and Qatar, supported by the large, powerful forces of Iran, Iraq, Turkey, Russia and Hezbollah. The four countries handed Qatar a list of 13 demands and an ultimatum: either carry them out to the letter or else. They have since retracted them.

Former Liberal Cabinet Minister Calls for End to Canadian Arms Sales to Saudi Arabia: Steven Chase, Globe & Mail, Aug. 1, 2017—A former federal Liberal cabinet minister and human-rights lawyer says Saudi Arabia’s apparent deployment of Canadian-made combat vehicles against Saudi citizens demonstrates why Canada should end all arms sales to the Islamic kingdom.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PERSIAN PUPPET-MASTERS: AS SAUDIS & HAMAS TALK, AND ISRAEL & RIYADH FIND COMMON EMEMY, YEMEN CIVIL WAR BECOMES HUMANITARIAN DISASTER

We welcome your comments to this and any other CIJR publication.

 

Saudi Arabia and Israel Are in the Same Predicament: Yoni Ben Menachem, JCPA, July 20, 2015— In the wake of the nuclear agreement between Iran and the world powers, Israel’s and Saudi Arabia’s respective situations have certain features in common.

In Hamas’s Embrace of Sunni Saudi Arabia, a Slap to Iran: Times of Israel, July 21, 2015 — After years of alignment with Shiite Iran and its Arab allies, the Palestinian Hamas group is bidding for Sunni patronage from Saudi Arabia in a dramatic shift to its geostrategic orientation.

The US Counterinsurgency Strategy in Yemen: Stephanie Baric, Jerusalem Post, July 14, 2015  — For decades, Yemen has been on the brink of economic and political collapse.

"Something Radically New" in the Middle East: Paul Merkley, Think-Israel, 2015 — A few days ago, the potentates who rule the lives of the people of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, Jordan, Morocco, Egypt and Pakistan entered into a pact to eliminate by force the Houthi regime which has been governing most of Yemen…

 

On Topic Links

 

Israel’s Foreign Ministry Chief: Sunni Arab Nations Are Our ‘Allies’: JTA, July 29, 2015

Gulf Arab Power UAE Chides EU Over Opening to Iran: William Maclean, Reuters, July 29, 2015

Middle East Allies See Heightened Peril in Newly Empowered Tehran: Matthew Rosenberg & Ben Hubbard, New York Times, July 14, 2015

In Yemen’s Grinding War, if the Bombs Don’t Get You, the Water Shortages Will: Ali al-Mujahed & Hugh Naylor, Jerusalem Post, July 23, 2015

 

                            

         

SAUDI ARABIA AND ISRAEL ARE IN THE SAME PREDICAMENT                                                                 

Yoni Ben Menachem

JCPA, July 20, 2015

 

In the wake of the nuclear agreement between Iran and the world powers, Israel’s and Saudi Arabia’s respective situations have certain features in common. That much is evident from the phone calls President Obama chose to make immediately after the agreement was signed. He opted to call Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz, seeking to allay their concerns and promise them that the United States would ensure the their countries’ security.

 

For the Gulf States, the agreement evoked great apprehension. True, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates praised the deal, calling it a “historic agreement that could mean opening a new chapter in regional relations.” What truly reflects the sentiments of the Gulf States, however, is Saudi Arabia’s deafening silence. A senior Saudi source, responding to the agreement in a briefing to CNN, used exactly the same language as Netanyahu:  “The Obama administration has made a historic mistake.”

 

Worth noting is an article that Prince Bandar bin Sultan bin Abdulaziz published on the Elaph website on July 15. Prince Bandar served as head of Saudi intelligence and as the Saudi ambassador in Washington from 1981 to 2005. In the article, Prince Bandar rejects the comparison between the nuclear agreement with Iran and the one that President Clinton reached with North Korea. “The facts,” he writes, “are bitter and cannot be ignored.” He quotes former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger’s remark that “America’s enemies should fear America, but America’s friends should fear America more.”

 

Yesterday, Saudis quoted statements from Iranian sources about the mood that prevailed among the top Iranian leadership during the nuclear talks – and about the squandering of a great opportunity by the U.S.-led world powers. The Iranian sources said that the world powers could have achieved a much better agreement than they did; the Iranian leadership was even prepared to give up the nuclear program altogether because of the severe economic hardships that were paralyzing the economy and endangering the regime’s stability. The Western representatives, however, blinked first and lost the chance to get a good agreement.

 

Saudi Arabia, which currently serves in the role of “policeman of the Gulf”,  has spearheaded the effort to counter Iranian expansion, notably in the military campaign it is conducting against the (Shiite) Houthi rebels in Yemen. The Saudi’s main concern is that the nuclear agreement will abet Iran’s efforts to bolster its influence in the Middle East and sow further instability in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Yemen.

 

Saudi Arabia is already preparing for eventualities. It has purchased 18 nuclear reactors from Russia, and this year it will increase its weapons purchases worldwide by over 50 percent. It is also reportedly considering purchasing a ready-made nuclear bomb from Pakistan and, thereby, become a nuclear state immediately. During the ten-year period of the agreement with Iran, the Saudi leadership, with King Salman at the helm, does not rule out pursuing nuclear projects along with other Gulf States. These would create a new reality of deterrence toward Iran akin to the nuclear balance of terror that now exists between India and Pakistan.

 

Saudi Arabia is keenly disappointed with the way the Obama administration conducted the talks with Iran. This was particularly evident two months ago when King Salman shunned President Obama’s summit meeting with Gulf State leaders at Camp David.

 

The Saudis’ conclusion is that the country cannot rely on the United States to fight its battles. It stands alone against Iran, and will now have to formulate a new strategy toward the Iranian danger. Saudi Arabia is the leader of the Sunni axis, and Shiite Iran’s hatred of Saudi Arabia is no less than the Shiite state’s visceral hatred of Israel. However, Israel is much stronger than Saudi Arabia and can successfully face the Iranian threats.

 

Iran’s intentions after the signing of the agreement will quickly become clear. The first litmus test will be its behavior toward the crisis in Yemen. If Iran prods the Houthi rebels to reach a political settlement with the “legal” government of the country, it will indicate that Iran is on the way to reconciling with its Saudi-led neighbors in the Gulf.

                                                                       

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IN HAMAS’S EMBRACE OF SUNNI SAUDI ARABIA, A SLAP TO IRAN                                                     

Elhanan Miller

Times of Israel, July 21, 2015

 

After years of alignment with Shiite Iran and its Arab allies, the Palestinian Hamas group is bidding for Sunni patronage from Saudi Arabia in a dramatic shift to its geostrategic orientation. A high-level Hamas delegation headed by the group’s politburo chief, Khaled Mashaal, visited Riyadh last Friday to meet with King Salman, Crown Prince Muhammad bin Nayef, and a host of Saudi officials. The makeup of Hamas’s team was noteworthy, as it included Mashaal’s deputy, Moussa Abu Marzouk, and Saleh al-Arouri, the movement’s Turkey-based official suspected of guiding recently exposed terror cells in the West Bank, as well as the abduction-killing of three Israeli teenagers last summer. Arab media rushed to note that it was the first such meeting in over three years.

 

The Hamas daily al-Resalah cleared some of the fog surrounding the visit on Sunday, reporting that Saudi King Salman had requested that Hamas and Fatah empower him to replace Egypt as mediator in the reconciliation efforts between the two groups. Mashaal, the report said, came to Riyadh carrying a written “letter of empowerment” for Salman, while Fatah leader and PA President Mahmoud Abbas refused to do so.

 

The sudden, overt rapprochement between revolutionary Hamas and conservative Saudi Arabia — both followers of Sunni Islam — is unsurprising given the gradual decline in Hamas’s relations with Iran in recent years. It is not just money that Hamas is after (although given its financial pitfalls, some cash certainly couldn’t hurt), but more importantly, a new patron in a region increasingly defined by its sectarian divides.

 

ِAs Gaza-based Hamas leader Khalil Haya appealed to Muslim and Arab states on Monday night for money and arms “with no political price,” Abu Marzouk struggled to explain that his movement’s trip to Saudi Arabia was not intended as a snub to Iran. “Hamas’s compass will remain directed to Jerusalem, with the liberation of Palestine the basis of its strategy,” he wrote on Facebook. “We will maintain relations with everyone.” The United States, Abu Marzouk continued, is currently in the process of reevaluating its old alliances in the region, angering some while creating new opportunities for others. “Hamas remains the exception to this policy. It [the US] has maintained its animosity to the movement,” he wrote.

 

Hamas’s public appeal for American favor does not please Iran, Hamas’s former benefactor. The Islamic Republic would not accept Abu Marzouk’s attempt to pacify everyone, indicating that Hamas’s shift toward Saudi Arabia means a cut with Iran. “Hamas takes a step toward Riyadh and two steps away from Tehran,” read the headline of pro-Hezbollah — and, by extension, pro-Iran — Lebanese daily al-Akhbar on Sunday.

 

After the visit, which ended on Saturday, Iran’s semi-official Fars news agency reported that the Saudi king had asked Mashaal to send hundreds of trained Hamas gunmen to Yemen to fight alongside the Saudi army against the Houthi separatists, who are backed by Iran. Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri rushed to deny the Iranian report as “pure lies.” Other Iranian news outlets, both liberal and conservative, launched a scathing attack on Hamas. An article in reformist daily Ghanoon on Sunday blasted Khaled Mashaal’s ingratitude toward Iran with the headline “Bank account in Tehran, stronghold in Riyadh.”

 

The article described the deteriorating relations between Gaza and Tehran, beginning with Hamas’s abandonment of Iran’s Syrian ally Bashar Assad in January 2012. The tensions escalated with Hamas’s reported support for Saudi attacks on Houthi strongholds in Yemen recently.

 

In the wake of last summer’s war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, Iranian media expressed hope that Hamas would “realize its mistake” in supporting the Sunni axis against Iran, noted Raz Zimmt, an expert in Iranian politics at Tel Aviv University and the Forum for Regional Thinking. “Hamas’s alliance with Saudi Arabia during the war in Yemen was another slap in the face for Iran, which realized that Hamas’s political leadership prefers the Saudi axis to the Iranian one,” Zimmt told The Times of Israel Tuesday.

 

Despite the crisis, Zimmt believes that Iran and Hamas cannot completely sever ties. Hamas’s armed wing continues to demand military aid that Saudi Arabia will never provide, while Iran will always require a significant Palestinian partner. “I believe there’s deep disagreement within Hamas whether to prefer Iran or Saudi Arabia, with the political leadership leaning toward Saudi Arabia and the military leadership toward Iran,” he said. “For Iran, there aren’t too many alternatives. If they want to influence the domestic [Palestinian] political arena, they can only do it through Hamas. Islamic Jihad just isn’t a significant player.”

 

                                                         

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THE US COUNTERINSURGENCY STRATEGY IN YEMEN                                                                       

Stephanie Baric                                       

Jerusalem Post, July 14, 2015 

 

For decades, Yemen has been on the brink of economic and political collapse. Today, with no functioning government, a severely crippled economy and a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran, Yemen is a failed state. Since 9/11, US foreign policy in Yemen has focused exclusively on eradicating the threat of al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), one of the deadliest branches of the terrorist organization. The result? The beleaguered country increasingly resembles Somalia, including internal armed conflicts among rival factions and a major humanitarian crisis.

 

Four years earlier, millions of Yemenis took to the streets of major cities throughout the country demanding an end to poverty, protesting political repression, the neglect of public services, and social exclusion. Led by the country’s most disenfranchised groups, women and youth, the uprising resulted in the overthrow of president Ali Abdullah Saleh, a dictator who during his 33-year rule had amassed billions of dollars in wealth skimmed from Yemen’s oil revenues while the majority of Yemenis continued to live in abject poverty.

 

As post-revolution Yemen continued to face daunting challenges such as a separatist movement in the south, the expansion of AQAP within its borders and the decade-long Houthi insurgency, there were promising developments such as the completion of the National Dialogue Conference with recommendations for reforming state institutions and addressing social justice and policy issues. Even though there remained questions about state structure and the future status of southern Yemen, the National Dialogue marked a critical step for the fledgling democracy.

 

Despite the positive changes in Yemen, the US continued implementing the counterinsurgency (COIN) strategy. The American government spent millions of dollars in efforts to bolster the credibility of the government of Yemen, beginning in 2010 with president Saleh, despite his corrupt and despotic rule, and train Yemeni troops to capture and kill AQAP militants while the US carried out drone attacks. There was simply no way to counter insurgents in Yemen based on the COIN model with a government that lacked legitimacy and was not supported by the majority of citizens.

 

Even following the revolution when Yemen embraced democracy, rather than support the difficult transition the COIN model proved ineffective in eradicating AQAP and may have created an additional burden for a government struggling with a myriad of economic, political and social issues. But the failure of the COIN strategy in Yemen should have not have come as a surprise given its negligible results in Iraq and Afghanistan. Good governance simply cannot be achieved within 24 months, which was the timeframe laid out in the COIN strategy in Yemen.

 

When the Houthis carried out a coup d’etat in January, the US stood by as Saudi Arabia, a country ruled by an autocratic regime with a dismal human rights record and very little interest in seeing democracy flourish in the region, launched in late March what has proven to be a disastrous air war that has killed more than 3,000 civilians. The Saudi-led bombing campaign has done little to weaken the Houthis and is instead creating a severe humanitarian crisis with millions of Yemenis facing food insecurity and displacement. AQAP has taken advantage of the security vacuum, capturing towns, freeing jailed members and looting banks.

 

Throughout the Middle East, the US missed the opportunity during the Arab Spring to champion human rights and support reform based on the democratic aspirations of the people, which is unfortunate given that it is exactly the kind of counter narrative the region needs to stop the growing influence of violent extremism and terrorism.                                            

                                                                       

Contents        

                                 

"SOMETHING RADICALLY NEW" IN THE MIDDLE EAST                                                                    

Paul Merkley                                   

Think-Israel, April 5, 2015

 

A few days ago, the potentates who rule the lives of the people of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, Jordan, Morocco, Egypt and Pakistan entered into a pact to eliminate by force the Houthi regime which has been governing most of Yemen — at least, to the extent that anybody has ever governed this lawless corner of Arabia — since the end of last year. The Saudi-led coalition has a so-far-silent partner in the United States, which is assisting with intelligence and logistics.

 

Performance on behalf of citizens has never mattered much in politics of the Arabian Peninsula. According to the impartial judgment of Transparency International in 2009, the Republic of Yemen under Ali Abdullah Saleh, its dictator/President since 1990, ranked 164 out of 182 countries surveyed for degree of honesty in government. What did matter was that this out-and-out kleptocracy served the interests of the neighboring Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which kept Yemen afloat through great gifts of money made directly to the chiefs of the major tribes—together with other great gifts of money that kept the religious and educational institutions equipped to inculcate the Wahhabi vision of Islamic society and government.

 

Saleh was forced out of his palace in March, 2011, the early days of the Arab Spring. The uprising was initially about unemployment, economic conditions, and corruption, as well as against the government's proposals to modify the constitution so that Saleh's son could inherit the Presidency. What has gone on since then is so chaotic that it cannot be made to fit anybody's definition of a civil war. On 23 November 2011, Saleh flew to Riyadh, capital of Saudi Arabia, to sign on to a plan under which his office would be transferred to his deputy, Vice President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi. Predictably, the dictator soon returned to Yemen and has spent his best energies ever since trying to claw back his former powers.

 

Late last year (2014) military units following the leadership of Abdul Malik al-Houthi, leader of the most disciplined of the tribal gangs that rule most people's lives in Yemen, decided that the time had come to punish all the politicians for their persecution of the Shia minority — to which they belong. Houthi forces suddenly took control of the capital, even shelling the President Hadi's private residence and placing him under house arrest, until the whole government resigned in January 2015; thereupon, the Houthis dissolved parliament and devolved all power upon a Revolutionary Committee. At this point, ex-President Saleh attached his campaign for restoration to the Presidency to the Houthi side. The latest bulletin regarding Saleh is that he was flown out of Yemen's capital Sanaa on board a Russian aircraft sent there for the purpose of evacuating diplomats.

 

The Shiite Houthis look for spiritual, economic, military and political guidance to Iran, a majority Shiite nation. Through its support of the Houthis, Iran seeks to start up inside Yemen a civil war that will spill over into Saudi Arabia and become another theatre in the war between Shia and Sunni alongside the war in Iraq, Syria and Bahrain. (See, "Iranian ship unloads 185 tons of weapons for Houthis at Saleef Port, wnbglish.alarabiya.net, March 23.) Iran has begun calling upon the Houthis to strike against government facilities, oil tankers, industries inside Saudi Arabia and against Saudi vessels and facilities in the Strait of Hormuz — and also to attack other Sunni regimes and assets in Iraq, Syria, Bahrain. [Note: since this paper was published, President Hodi walked away from the job and Isis took over Sana'a. At this point, like ancient Gaul, all Yemen is divided into three parts, ASAQ, Houthi and ISIS.–bsl]

 

As usual, Daniel Pipes of the Middle East Forum (www.danielpipes.org) is ahead of the pack in discerning the broad, long-term significance of what is happening here. Pipes writes: Through Israel's early decades, Arabs dreamt of uniting militarily against it but the realities of infighting and rivalries smashed every such hope. Even on the three occasions (1948-49, 1967, 1973) when they did join forces, they did so at cross purposes and ineffectively. How striking, then that finally they should coalesce not against Israel but against Iran. This implicitly points to their understanding that the Islamic Republic of Iran poses a real threat, whereas anti-Zionism amounts to mere indulgence … It also points to panic and the need to take action resulting from a stark American retreat. (Daniel Pipes," Why Yemen Matters," Washington Times, March 28, 2015.)

 

This political turn-around reflects the re-examination by all the parties of all of their priorities. Of perhaps great consequence to all of us —it exposes a willingness by these Muslim powers to review in their hearts and minds the relative threat to their lives and their values of the continued existence of the Jewish state.

 

Needless to say, no hint of such thinking appears in the public utterances of these worthy leaders. The official line for now and undoubtedly to the end of time is that the existence of the Zionist Entity is the cause of all unhappiness in the Arab world. But until this moment, it had equally been a cardinal point of Arab politics that war to the death against the Jewish state is the cause that Allah gave to the Arab nation as its one sure unifying principle. Without saying so out loud — the Sunni kingdoms have moved that cornerstone to the side.

 

Each of the potentates heading up the two camps in this war — the King of Saudi Arabia and the Ayatollah of the Islamic Republic of Iran — regards the other as having no claim to the name of Muslim. On the website of MEMRI (Middle East Media Research Institute, memri@m,emri.com), we can hear Senior Iranian Ayatollahs denouncing the Saudi regime before their fanatical audiences as "a takfiri [that is, heretic, gang] … acting against Islam and the Muslims, in cooperation with the U.S., Israel and Zion." Long before the crisis caused by the Houthi uprising and the Saudi King's response to it, the official voice of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards, Iran's military elite, was crying out publicly for "a decisive and crushing response [towards King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia].. [and] operations … that should start on the street leading to King Abdullah's palace in Riyadh… If Saudi Arabia continues to equip and arm the terrorists of the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq (ISIS) and several other groups like Ansar Al-Sunna, every operation that the Shi-ites will carry out against Saudi facilities and centers will be legitimate."

 

It is important to grasp that vitriolic hatred is not a monopoly of the Muslim princes. It draws upon, and in turn feeds, a deep toxic contempt that all Shias everywhere have for all Sunnis everywhere. [I have developed this theme at greater length in two essays published on www.thebayviewreview.com): "Civil War Has Begun in the Heartland of Islam: The Shia /Sunni Feud," April 11, 2014; and "A Toxic Family Quarrel," May 24, 2014.] A recent BBC News Documentary, "Freedom to Broadcast Hate," gives us access to this increasingly mad world of Shia versus Sunni. From mosques and before great outdoor crowds we hear, via satellite television and internet websites, Sunni preachers declaiming coldly against Shias: "Their heads should be smashed as the head of a snake… Shia is a cancer attacking the Muslim religion." From the Shia preachers we hear: "We do not believe a Sunni will be considered a Muslim in the afterlife…. Shia Islam is the only Islam." Sunni clerics weep as they call upon Allah to "punish the Shia… [to] freeze the blood in their veins … They have insulted the wives of the Prophet…. Shi'ism is not true Islam. It is worse than cancer."…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]

 

Contents                                                                                     

           

                                                                           

 

On Topic

                                                                                                        

Israel’s Foreign Ministry Chief: Sunni Arab Nations Are Our ‘Allies’: JTA, July 29, 2015—The director general of Israel’s Foreign Ministry, Dore Gold, called the Middle East’s Sunni Arab nations “Israel’s allies.”

Gulf Arab Power UAE Chides EU Over Opening to Iran: William Maclean, Reuters, July 29, 2015 —Gulf Arab power the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on Wednesday criticized the European Union for seeking Iranian cooperation in stabilizing the region, saying that an "aggressive" Tehran was helping to polarize the countries there.

Middle East Allies See Heightened Peril in Newly Empowered Tehran: Matthew Rosenberg & Ben Hubbard, New York Times, July 14, 2015—Even in the final months of talks to peacefully resolve the conflict over Iran’s nuclear program, events across the Middle East showcased the acrimony between Washington and Tehran.

In Yemen’s Grinding War, if the Bombs Don’t Get You, the Water Shortages Will: Ali al-Mujahed & Hugh Naylor, Jerusalem Post, July 23, 2015—For months, citizens of this war-torn country have been terrorized by bomb explosions and mortar attacks. Now another threat is growing, which could be just as deadly.

                                                                      

 

              

SAUDI KING DIES AMID OIL-PRICE DECLINE, HUMAN RIGHTS CRITICISMS, & OBAMA’S M.E. DITHERING

We welcome your comments to this and any other CIJR publication. Please address your response to:  Rob Coles, Publications Chairman, Canadian Institute for Jewish Research, PO Box 175, Station  H, Montreal QC H3G 2K7 

 

Contents:

 

King Abdullah and the United States: Ross Douthat, New York Times, Jan. 24, 2015— The Western response to the death of Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz al-Saud, king of Saudi Arabia and custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, followed two paths.

A Smooth Saudi Succession, But a Rough Road Ahead: Karen Elliott House, Wall Street Journal,  Jan. 23, 2015— The death Thursday of Saudi Arabia’s 90-year-old, long-ailing King Abdullah is hardly a surprise, nor are the ascensions of his 79-year-old brother Prince Salman as Saudi king and 69-year-old Muqrin, another brother, as crown prince.

How Did Saudi King Abdullah Become a World Hero?: Seth J. Frantzman, Jerusalem Post, Jan. 25, 2014 — You’d think that Mandela or Gandhi had passed away, such were the poetic love letters sent by world leaders and the way the death of Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah was announced by media.

The Saudis Believe the West is About to Give in to Iranian Demands. Crashing the Price of Oil is How it Fights Back: Conrad Black, National Post, Dec. 20, 2014 — Responses to the decline in world oil prices have been mystifying — flummoxing, in fact.

 

On Topic Links

 

New Saudi King and U.S. Face Crucial Point in the Relationship: Helene Cooper, Rod Nordland & Neil Macfarquhar, New York Times, Jan. 23, 2014

Saudi Arabia’s New King Unlikely to Change Direction on Oil Production: Eric Reguly, Globe & Mail, Jan. 23, 2015

Saudi Society Steeped in Racism: Rachel Avraham, Jerusalem Online, Dec. 14, 2015

Gulf States and Qatar Gloss Over Differences, But Split Still Hampers Them: David D. Kirkpatrick, New York Times, Dec. 21, 2014                                                                         

                               

 

KING ABDULLAH AND THE UNITED STATES                                                                                   

Ross Douthat                                       

New York Times, Jan. 24, 2015

 

The Western response to the death of Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz al-Saud, king of Saudi Arabia and custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, followed two paths. Along one, various officials and luminaries offered the gestures — half-mast flags, public obsequies — expected when a great statesman enters the hereafter. John Kerry described the late monarch as “a man of wisdom and vision” and a “revered leader.” Tony Blair called him a “modernizer of his country” and a “staunch advocate of interfaith relations,” who was “loved by his people and will be deeply missed.”

 

Along the other path, anyone outside Western officialdom was free to tell the fuller truth: that Abdullah presided over one of the world’s most wicked nonpariah states, whose domestic policies are almost cartoonishly repressive and whose international influence has been strikingly malign. His dynasty is founded on gangsterish control over a precious natural resource, sustained by an unholy alliance with a most cruel interpretation of Islam and protected by the United States and its allies out of fear of worse alternatives if it fell. Was he a “modernizer”? Well, there were gestures, like giving women the vote in elections that don’t particularly matter. But Abdullah’s most important recent legacy has been counterrevolutionary, in his attempts to rally a kind of axis of authoritarianism against the influence of the Arab Spring. Did he believe in “interfaith relations”? Sure, so long as the other faiths were safely outside Saudi territory, where religious uniformity is enforced by the police and by the lash. Will he be “deeply missed”? Well, not by dissidents, Shiites, non-Muslims, protestors in neighboring countries … and for everyone else, only by comparison with the incompetence or chaos or still greater cruelty that might come next.

 

But Americans should feel some limited sympathy for the late king, because our relationship with his kingdom has something in common with his own. Like so many despots, Abdullah was to some extent a prisoner of the system he inherited, interested in reform in theory but unable to find the room or take the risks required to see it through. And we in the United States are prisoners as well: handcuffed to Saudi Arabia, bound to its corruptions and repression, with no immediate possibility of escape. Much of America’s post-Cold War policy-making in the Middle East can be understood as a search for a way to slip those cuffs. Three consecutive presidents have tried to reshape the region so that alliances with despotic regimes will no longer seem so inevitable or necessary. And all of them have failed. For Bill Clinton, solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was supposed to be the catalyst — in ways never quite elucidated — for reform and progress in the wider Arab world. For George W. Bush, or at least his ambitious advisers, the invasion of Iraq was supposed to create a brilliant alternative to our Saudi alliance — a new special Middle Eastern relationship, but with an oil-producing liberal democracy this time.

 

For President Obama, there have been multiple ideas for how we might, as an administration official put it during our Libya campaign, “realign our interests and our values.” The president has tried rhetorical outreach to transcend (or at least obscure) our coziness with tyrants; he tried, in Libya and haltingly in Egypt, to put his administration on the side of the Arab Spring; he and Mr. Kerry have made efforts to restart the Israeli-Palestinian peace process; he has sought some kind of realigning deal with that other font of cruelty, the Islamic Republic of Iran. The Iran project is ongoing, but so far all these efforts either have led (in the case of our Libyan crusade) to outright chaos, or have seen things cycle back to the same old stalemates, the same morally corrosive status quo. Here Obama’s experiences are of a piece with Bush’s, albeit without the same cost in blood and treasure. From Saddam’s Iraq to Mubarak’s Egypt, from Libya to the West Bank, the last two presidents have repeatedly pulled the curtain back, or had it pulled back for them, on potential alternatives to the kind of realpolitik that binds us to the Saudis, and potential aftermaths to the dynasty’s eventual fall. So far, they’ve found nothing good.

 

Meanwhile, the Saudis themselves are still there. And since much of what’s gone bad now surrounds them — the Islamic State very much in business in the north, Iranian-backed rebels seizing power in Yemen to the south — the American interest in the stability of their kingdom, the continuation of the royal family’s corrupt and wicked rule, is if anything even stronger than before. Whatever judgment King Abdullah finds himself facing now, he is at least free of his kingdom, his region and its nightmarish dilemmas. But not America. A king is dead, but our Saudi nightmare is a long way from being finished.                    

 

                                                                       

Contents                                                                                               

   

                       

A SMOOTH SAUDI SUCCESSION, BUT A ROUGH ROAD AHEAD

Karen Elliott House

Wall Street Journal, Jan. 23, 2015

 

The death Thursday of Saudi Arabia’s 90-year-old, long-ailing King Abdullah is hardly a surprise, nor are the ascensions of his 79-year-old brother Prince Salman as Saudi king and 69-year-old Muqrin, another brother, as crown prince. But the quick choice of Mohammed bin Nayef as the kingdom’s new deputy crown prince is surprising—and is significant domestically and internationally. The 55-year-old Prince Mohammed is the first of the grandsons of Abdul Aziz, founder of modern Saudi Arabia, to be named in the line of succession. For nearly 60 years, one after another of Abdul Aziz’s more than three-dozen sons followed each other as king. Muqrin is the youngest surviving son.  Watching this band of brothers diminish in number and vigor left many inside the kingdom—and abroad—fearing that one day soon the next-generation princes would quarrel over succession and thereby risk destabilizing oil-rich Saudi Arabia. Now the succession issue appears to be settled. This new leadership trio is likely to continue the kingdom’s foreign policies—specifically its regional competition with Iran, its distrust of the U.S., and its acceptance of low oil prices. At home, the main impact is likely to be further suppression of dissent; the brief spring of more tolerance when King Abdullah began his reign in 2005 is a distant memory.

 

Mohammed bin Nayef’s appointment surely will be welcomed by the U.S. and other Western nations that have worked closely with him over the past decade as the kingdom’s top officer in charge of curbing terrorism. Educated in the U.S. and fluent in English, Prince Mohammed was long seen as Washington’s preferred candidate among the younger princes who aspired to be king. As a result, some inside Saudi Arabia will see his selection as proof that the U.S., despite growing tensions with Saudi Arabia, still exercises a major say in who leads the kingdom. American support for him is a negative among young Saudi fundamentalists, who oppose Saudi ties with what they see as foreign infidels. Since 2012 Prince Mohammed has been head of the powerful ministry of interior charged with internal security. The ministry has its own paramilitary force to guard key facilities, such as oil installations, and operates a sophisticated surveillance system monitoring Saudi citizens. The ascent of this new-generation ruler could come sooner than expected. The new King Salman is said to suffer from Alzheimer’s, and Crown Prince Muqrin’s credentials to be king continue to be questioned by some in the royal family because his mother was only a Yemeni concubine of Abdul Aziz.

 

By contrast, the new deputy prime minister has two advantages: First, Prince Mohammed bin Nayef is part of the powerful family faction called the Sudairi (a Sudairi woman bore Abdul Aziz seven sons, including King Salman) who have dominated family affairs much of the past half-century. Second, Prince Mohammed has no sons, at least so far, which would make his ascension less threatening to other family factions. What is clear is that the appointment of Mohammed bin Nayef as deputy crown prince and his cousin, Mohammed bin Salman, 30, the new king’s son, as defense minister and chief of his father’s royal court, injects clarity and vigor into the future succession of the Al Saud dynasty. The new deputy crown prince is credited by Saudis for keeping terrorism inside the kingdom at bay, but the new defense minister, who has been his father’s chief aide in recent years, is seen as inexperienced and arrogant and thus lacks public support. In the short term, though, the new leadership team faces serious challenges at home and especially abroad.

 

Even as the Al Saud princes buried their late king and then gathered after the day’s fifth and final prayer required of Muslims to pledge their bay’ah or allegiance to the new king, crown prince and deputy crown prince, Iranian-backed Houthi rebels had evicted the Saudi-supported leader of neighboring Yemen. (And at home, in Medina, a Saudi jihadist was shot attempting to storm a building housing security agencies.) The kingdom’s efforts to confront and curb Iranian influence will continue unabated. In particular, the Saudis will continue to accept lower oil prices, a tactic that is helping to bankrupt Iran. Efforts to secure U.S. cooperation against the Islamic State terror group, or ISIS, in Syria and Iraq will also continue, as will the kingdom’s disappointment that the Obama administration is doing little to remove Iran’s ally, Bashar Assad, in Syria. Given the late Saudi king’s prolonged poor health, Salman as crown prince was involved in most of the kingdom’s foreign-policy decisions; he is unlikely to change much, unless he decides to be even tougher on Iran…                                                                                                                                     

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]                            

                                                           

Contents                                                                                                

                               

HOW DID SAUDI KING ABDULLAH BECOME A WORLD HERO?                                                          

Seth J. Frantzman                                                                                                        

Jerusalem Post, Jan. 25, 2015

 

You’d think that Mandela or Gandhi had passed away, such were the poetic love letters sent by world leaders and the way the death of Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah was announced by media. The sixth ruler of what popular Palestinian commentator Jamal Dajani calls “the medieval kingdom,” Abdullah was portrayed as a great world leader. The New York Times lauded him as a “shrewd force who re-shaped Saudi Arabia.” “He will be remembered for his long years of service to the kingdom, for his commitment to peace and for strengthening understanding between faiths. My thoughts and prayers are with the Saudi royal family and the people of the kingdom,” declared UK Prime Minister David Cameron. He worked for “peace and prosperity,” Cameron said. Former UK leader Tony Blair claimed that the king was a “sound ally, a patient and skillful modernizer.” Flags in England (but not in Scotland) flew at half-mast out of respect, and supposedly due to protocol, for this most wonderful and inspiring of monarchs. US President Barack Obama spoke of a “genuine and warm friendship.” US Secretary of State John Kerry was among the most laudatory, calling Abdullah “a man of wisdom and vision… a revered leader.” The media boasted about Abdullah’s “more than 30 wives” and fawned over the 15,000 members of the royal family, who hold the country’s top diplomatic, military and political posts.

 

One wonders if Sri Lankan maid Rizana Nafeek saw the great wisdom of Abdullah when she was dragged from a van by Saudi soldiers last year and executed publicly by a sword-wielding man in a white robe, as crowds looked on in pleasure. She was sentenced to death at the age of 17 in 2007 after her employers claimed she was responsible for the death of their child, that she was taking care of as part of her duties as a housemaid. A video posted online shows the gruesome ceremony, the result of the great wisdom Western leaders showed such fawning appreciation for. Did Burmese maid Layla Bint Abdul Mutaleb Bassim share the “modern” vision of the king as she was dragged through the streets and then beheaded in public while being held by four soldiers on January 18 of this year? She plead for her life and declared her innocence. It is tradition in Saudi Arabia’s injustice system that executioners ask those they kill for forgiveness prior to beheading them. But the young Bassim shouted in the street, blindfolded and with her arms tied behind her back: “haram [forbidden], haram, haram, I did not kill, I do not forgive you, this is an injustice.” And then the sword of modernity, of progress, of “warm and genuine friendship,” fell on her neck – three times, as the executioner could not kill her in one stroke. The man who filmed the gruesome legal murder of Bassim was arrested.

 

And for the dozens of other victims of such executions, many of them young foreign maids, why don’t the flags fly at half-mast in London? In other places in Saudi Arabia there are public canings. Raif Badawi was whipped in public 50 times on January 9 for “insulting religion”; he critiqued Saudi religious clerics on his blog. His 50 lashes were part of a 10-year sentence including 1,000 lashes, to be administered in 50 sessions over 20 weeks. These public whippings were a part of what those like Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi called Abdullah’s “important voice [which] left a lasting impact on his country… a guiding force.” Modi was in an “hour of grief” for the dead king. Modi is right, in a sense. The Saudi king indeed left a “lasting impact”: bloodstained streets and scarred backs. He made a lasting impact on thousands of poor people from families throughout Asia, such as Sri Lanka, Nepal, India and Burma, whose loved ones who were beheaded after working as semi-enslaved housekeepers in the kingdom. When the Times said Abdullah “re-shaped” Saudi Arabia, it was correct; decapitating people is re-shaping them indeed.

 

There are an estimated 9 million foreign workers in Saudi Arabia. Many of them are young women brought over as “maids.” Thousands flee abusive employers every month to their embassies or safe houses. Usually their passports have been confiscated and they have few options. One Sri Lankan maid told an embassy employee, “After three months of work I asked madam [my employer] for my salary and she started to beat me with iron bars and wooden sticks… she would take a hot iron and burn me or heat up a knife and put it on my body… she threatened to take me to a police station and have me arrested.” In Saudi Arabia, you can be executed for false accusations like this. The great “modernizer” for whom leaders waxed lyrical also did “great service” for gay men. In July 2014 a gay man was sentenced to three years and 450 lashes in Saudi Arabia for the crime of using Twitter to arrange dates with other men. But the homosexual men being lashed for using satanic Twitter are only one part of the modernization pie. Another part is the women like the “girl from Qatif,” who was gang-raped in 2006 by men who filmed the rape. Because they did her the “service” of filming it she wasn’t stoned for “adultery” but rather was mercifully given 200 lashes for “being alone with a man” and sentenced to six months in prison…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]

 

                                                                       

Contents                                                                                               

                

THE SAUDIS BELIEVE THE WEST IS ABOUT TO GIVE IN TO IRANIAN DEMANDS.

CRASHING THE PRICE OF OIL IS HOW IT FIGHTS BACK                                                                    

Conrad Black                                                                                                       

National Post, Dec. 20, 2014

 

Responses to the decline in world oil prices have been mystifying — flummoxing, in fact. The secretary general of OPEC (the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries), Abdullah Al-Badri, said last week that speculation was to blame for the decline by 15% since the last increase in production. He ceremoniously denied that there was any attempt by the cartel to discourage production from shale or oil sands, or to put political pressure on Iran or Russia. In general, the world’s media have bought into the theory that discouragement of production from new sources that would reduce oil imports, especially by the United States, is the real reason for increased production and reduced price. If you doubt that, just ask Russian President Vladimir Putin, who harangued reporters for more than three hours Thursday about the anti-Moscow axis of evil formed by B.O. and its two handmaidens, the United States and Saudi Arabia.

 

Or spare a thought for Scottish leader Alex Salmond, whose campaign to pull Scotland out of the United Kingdom was based on the assurance its share of North Sea oil would guarantee a prosperous and dynamic future. Mr. Salmond lost the vote, which should have Scots thanking their lucky bagpipes around now. This month’s sudden, unforeseen plunge in oil prices would have left a gaping crater in the national budget, before Free Scotland even had a chance to redesign its flag. But Al-Badri has a limited mandate to give the agreed official line of OPEC and has no authority to speak for the motives of the individual member states, and even less standing to mind-read the authorities in those countries and speak for them. OPEC is a slippery cartel at the best of times, many of whose members are virtually, if not actually, at war with each other; the member states don’t necessarily speak truthfully among themselves and anything uttered on behalf of the whole group should be treated with caution. Some member states, including Iraq, Libya and Nigeria, do not really speak for the oil-exporting regions in the country, and there are many other oil-producing countries that either do not export, or even if they do, are not in OPEC, including Canada, Australia, Norway, the United Kingdom and the United States.

 

The explanation of speculation is nonsense, as no sane speculator would encourage the sale of oil at less than its real market value other than to himself, and where the claimed OPEC production is 30 million barrels a day, no unofficial speculation would cause the sort of gyrations in oil prices that have occurred. In general, the decline in China’s rate of economic growth, and conservation and alternate energy-encouragement measures in much of the West and the steady advance of increased domestic production in the United States, explain much of the price reduction. But there is no doubt that Saudi Arabia, as the world’s leading oil exporter, has increased production, whether it is advising Mr. Al-Badri of it or not, and there is no doubt that its motives are chiefly political.

 

Saudi Arabia has resigned itself to the fact that neither its oft-demonstrated ability to play the periodic U.S. resolve to reduce its dependence on foreign oil like a yo-yo by price-cutting until the impulse of self-discipline passes, nor the agitation of the environmentalists for restrained oil production, will work again. (Shale-sourced oil is relatively environmentally friendly.) President Eisenhower warned over the Suez crisis in 1956 of the dangers of relying on foreign countries for 10% of America’s oil supply; President Nixon did the same in 1973 during the Arab oil embargo, when the percentage of U.S. oil needs provided by imports had risen to 20%. In the late 1980s, President Reagan arranged for the Saudis to over-produce to bring prices back down by half, by selling Saudi Arabia advanced AWACS reconnaissance aircraft and America’s best interceptor jets and sophisticated air-to-air weapons systems. This was part of Reagan’s plan to squeeze the Soviet Union’s foreign exchange sources while spending them to the mat with his Strategic Defense Initiative. The nature of these arrangements really only came to light in the memoirs of some of those involved on the American side about 20 years later.

 

The principal impact of the reduction in world oil prices from around US$100 a barrel to the mid-50s, and of the cost of gasoline at the pump in the United States from $4.00 to about $2.60, has been severe pressure on the Russian currency (a 50% reduction against the dollar and euro), and the country’s whole financial system, causing severe inflation and drastic interest-rate increases in the usual effort of desperate regimes to maintain a semblance of a believable currency. The Russian ruble has never been a hard currency, even in the piping days of the Romanovs, and that country under Putin is, in economic (and some other) terms, not many rungs above a thugdom of the president and his cronies. But oil speculators operating on their own accounts do not cause the Kremlin to put Holy Mother Russia on the rack of multi-point daily interest rate increases, causing large protests and some public disorder. This is a Saudi move that has ramified very seriously in Russia, far beyond its impact on new oil extraction techniques in the U.S. If a $50 price is reached and maintained, it would negatively alter but not destroy the economics of heavy oil and probably reduce somewhat shale activity, where reserves are more quickly exploited and harder to estimate than traditional subterranean oil fields, even those that are off-shore. But a Saudi move on this scale, with the resulting self-inflicted reduction in their income, makes no sense for the marginal impact it will have on American future production and imports; it is a geopolitical move targeted much closer to home…

 

Al-Badri’s flimflam, for which there is much precedent in the history of OPEC (essentially, the cartel is a perpetual quarrel among thieves pretending to be price-fixing), naturally seeks to disguise the fact that Saudi Arabia is trying to discourage the use of Iranian and Russian oil revenues to prop up the blood-stained and beleaguered Assad regime in Damascus, to finance Iran’s nuclear military program, and to incite the continuing outrages of Hezbollah and Hamas in Lebanon and the Palestinian Territories against Israel. The exotic community of interest that has suddenly arisen between the historically Jew-baiting Saudis and the Jewish state is because the countries in the area fear, with good reason as far as can be discerned, that the UN Security Council members, plus Germany, may be on the verge of acquiescing in Iran’s arrival as a threshold nuclear military power. The oil-price weapon, in the face of the terminal enfeeblement of the Obama administration, is the last recourse before the Saudis and Turks, whatever their autocues of racist rhetoric, invite Israel to smash the Iranian nuclear program from the air.

 

It is perfectly indicative of the scramble that ensues when a mighty power like the United States withdraws, fatigued but undefeated, from much of the world, that Saudi Arabia, a joint venture between the nomadic and medieval House of Saud and the Wahhabi establishment that propagates jihadism with Saudi oil revenues, makes common cause with Israel in a way that inadvertently relieves much of the Russian pressure on Ukraine, which was not an objective in Saudi calculations at all. From the Western standpoint, this is a lucky bounce of the political football. But it is Saudi judgment of its self-interest opposite the contending factions in Syria and the hideous prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran that is discommoding the Saudi leaders, not the ineluctable exploitation by the United States of its own oil resources. It need hardly be added that any conventional definition of “speculation” has nothing to do with it; nor that the Western panic at the bonanza of a $500-billion reduction in the West’s energy costs or the obdurate failure of most Western commentators to understand the implications of the oil price reduction, are an unflattering reflection on the financial and political acuity of the pundits of our society.

 

Contents           

 

On Topic

 

New Saudi King and U.S. Face Crucial Point in the Relationship: Helene Cooper, Rod Nordland & Neil Macfarquhar, New York Times, Jan. 23, 2014—Almost a decade ago, an Arab diplomat famously likened the relationship between the United States and Saudi Arabia to a Catholic marriage “where you can have no divorce.”

Saudi Arabia’s New King Unlikely to Change Direction on Oil Production: Eric Reguly, Globe & Mail, Jan. 23, 2015—Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah died Thursday night and, the next morning, oil prices rose. A delayed reaction to the launch of the European Central Bank’s €1.1-trillion ($1.52-trillion) quantitative easing assault on deflation might explain the uptick, but markets generally don’t do delayed reactions.

Saudi Society Steeped in Racism: Rachel Avraham, Jerusalem Online, Dec. 14, 2015 —Following the massacre of Shias in Al Ahsa, Saudi Arabia, which resulted in the death of 8 people and several others being wounded during the Shiite Ashura holiday this year, Saudi journalist Hussein Shobokshi wrote in an article in Al Sharq Al Aswat that was translated into English by MEMRI that racism and extremism permeates Saudi society.  

Gulf States and Qatar Gloss Over Differences, But Split Still Hampers Them: David D. Kirkpatrick, New York Times, Dec. 21, 2014—Shaking hands and kissing foreheads, the monarchs of the Persian Gulf came together this month to declare that they had resolved an 18-month feud in order to unite against their twin enemies, Iran and the Islamic State.

           

 

 

 

 

               

 

 

 

                      

                

                            

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Contents:         

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Rob Coles, Publications Chairman, Canadian Institute for Jewish ResearchL'institut Canadien de recherches sur le Judaïsme, www.isranet.org

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GULF STATES, FEARING ISLAMISTS & NUCLEAR IRAN, ALIGN WITH ISRAEL AS QATAR LOSES BET ON MORSI

We welcome your comments to this and any other CIJR publication. Please address your response to:  Ber Lazarus, Publications Chairman, Canadian Institute for Jewish Research, PO Box 175, Station  H, Montreal QC H3G 2K7 – Tel: (514) 486-5544 – Fax:(514) 486-8284; E-mail:  ber@isranet.org

 

 

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Israel and the Gulf States: It’s Complicated: Raphael Ahren, Times of Israel, Aug. 9, 2013—In February 2009, a few days after Israel concluded its Operation Cast Lead against Gaza terrorists, the chief of protocol at Qatar’s Foreign Ministry invited Roi Rosenblit, who at the time headed Israel’s interest office in Doha, for a meeting in his office.

 

Qatar’s Geopolitical Gamble: How the Gulf State May Have Overreached: Viviene Walt, Time World, July 23, 2013—Qatar, the tiny gas-rich peninsula in the Persian Gulf, had poured nearly $5 billion into Morsi’s government in its one short year in office, propping up Egypt’s teetering economy, and investing — or so it thought — in a lasting relationship with the Arab world’s most populous nation.

 

Kuwait's Hidden Hand in Syria: Daniel R. DePetris, The National Interest, July 16, 2013—It is often assumed that Saudi Arabia and Qatar have been the most adamant about arming Syria’s fractious rebel movement. But there is growing evidence that clerics and opposition politicians in Kuwait have also been stepping up their own efforts in an attempt to collect as much cash for Bashar al-Assad’s opponents as possible.

 

On Topic Links

 

Israel as a Gulf State: Malcolm Lowe, Gatestone Institute, July 29, 2013

Oman Has Its Cake and Eats It Too — For Now: Daniel Wagner & Giorgio Cafiero, Real Clear World, July 29, 2013

Mideast's Real Battle: Saudi Arabia vs. Qatar: Jonathan Tepperman, New York Times, July 12, 2013

 

 

ISRAEL AND THE GULF STATES: IT’S COMPLICATED

Raphael Ahren

Times of Israel, Aug. 9, 2013

 

In February 2009, a few days after Israel concluded its Operation Cast Lead against Gaza terrorists, the chief of protocol at Qatar’s Foreign Ministry invited Roi Rosenblit, who at the time headed Israel’s interest office in Doha, for a meeting in his office. Rosenblit knew exactly what awaited him: a few days earlier he had seen how then-Qatari prime minister Hamad bin Jassim, angry over Palestinian casualties, announced live on al-Jazeera that the period of normalization with Israel needed to end.

 

The Qatari diplomat welcomed Rosenblit, friendly as always, served him tea with za’atar, and then handed him an envelope. In the letter, the government of Qatar politely yet determinedly informed the Israeli that he had one week to close down the Israeli mission on 15 al-Buhturi Street, and leave the country. Since then, Israel no longer officially maintains diplomatic relations with any of the Arab states in the Gulf — or does it?

 

It is widely believed that Jerusalem still maintains some sort of engagement with various states in the Persian Gulf region. Yet the government is extremely careful not to publicly admit such ties — in order not to jeopardize them. One thing is certain: Jerusalem is vocally advocating for stronger ties with the overwhelmingly Sunni Gulf states in the Gulf, hoping both for commercial opportunities and geo-strategic advantages. On July 18, the Israeli Foreign Ministry opened a Twitter channel exclusively “dedicated to promoting dialogue with the people of the GCC region.” The GCC, short for Cooperation Council of Arab States in the Gulf, includes Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Oman, Bahrain, and Kuwait. (Never mind that Israel still officially considers Saudi Arabia an enemy state and prohibits its citizens from entering the country.)

 

Within less than a month, the “official channel of the virtual Israeli Embassy to GCC countries” picked up more than 1,100 followers. On Tuesday, on the occasion of the Eid al-Fitr holiday (which marks the end of Ramadan), the channel hosted a live chat with Foreign Ministry director-general Rafi Barak. The top diplomat mostly stuck to slogans, saying that Israel is interested in peace and neighborly relations with all its neighbors. One Kuwaiti wanted to know how he could visit Israel in the absence of an Israeli embassy; “You can apply for a visa in any Israeli mission abroad,” Barak responded, suggesting citizens of Arab states turn to the Israeli embassy in Amman.

 

Benoit Chapas, a EU official dealing with the Gulf states, wondered whether Israel had any “plans to reopen” its offices in the area. “We will be happy to,” Barak replied. He might as well have said: “we already did,” because, since earlier this year, Israelis know that the Foreign Ministry has recently taken a symbolically meaningful and potentially significant step indicating that ties between Israel and the Gulf are warming up again. A carelessly edited version of the 2013 state budget revealed that Israel opened a diplomatic office somewhere in the Persian Gulf. On page 213 of the document, readers learn that between 2010 and 2012, Israel opened 11 new representative offices across the globe, including one in the Gulf. Foreign Ministry sources in the know said they asked the Finance Ministry to remove the sensitive clause from the budget, but it is still there for anyone to see.

 

The exact nature of that mission — where it is, how many diplomats are or were stationed there, and whether it is still open — remains unclear. Unsurprisingly, the Foreign Ministry is unwilling to comment any further on the issue. “Others in the Foreign Ministry disagree with me, but as I see it, talking about it publicly would serve absolutely no purpose, other than risking whatever cooperation we have,” an Israeli diplomat well-versed in Jerusalem’s relationship with the Arab world said.

 

Indeed, the secrecy surrounding Israel’s mysterious office in the Gulf goes so far that even senior diplomats, including those dealing on a daily basis with the GCC, gave The Times of Israel conflicting information about it. Some asserted that “we have absolutely nothing” in the Gulf and that the line in the budget must have been an error. Others admitted that there is — or was — something but declined to detail.

 

Not everyone in the Foreign Ministry is happy with the idea of establishing a “virtual embassy” to openly engage with the residents of the Gulf states via social networks. “This ‘virtual activity’ will put our tangible activity at risk,” one diplomat opined. Israel and the Arab world have been engaging for decades, in various, mostly clandestine ways. In the 1990s, in the wake of the Oslo Accords, trade and political ties grew stronger, so much so that the Israeli chamber of commerce published a guide in Hebrew on how to do business in the Gulf. In 1994, then-prime minister Yitzhak Rabin visited Oman, where he was greeted by Sultan Qaboos bin Said Al Said (who is still reigning in Muscat). In 1995, a few days after Rabin was assassinated, then-acting prime minister Shimon Peres hosted Omani foreign minister Yusuf Ibn Alawi in Jerusalem….

 

It is not difficult to figure out why the Gulf states would be interested in closer cooperation with Israel. Most importantly, the Jewish state is a regional superpower, widely assumed to possess an impressive nuclear arsenal, and has openly vowed to prevent Iran from acquiring such weapons. The Gulf states, some of which have decades-old territorial disputes with Tehran, are just as scared as Israel is of a nuclear-armed Iran.

“In the Gulf, there is a particular concern over Iran and what appears to be the lackluster performance in Obama’s administration in stopping them from getting nuclear weapons,” said Prof. Joshua Teitelbaum, senior research associate at Bar-Ilan University’s Begin Sadat Center for Strategic Studies. “This will lead, if it hasn’t already, to closer cooperation between Israel and the Gulf states.”

 

Indeed, Arabs in the Gulf believe in Jerusalem’s role in fighting Iran “because of their perception of Israel’s close relationship with the US, but also due to their sense that they can count on Israel against Iran,” then-Foreign Ministry deputy director-general (and current ambassador to Germany) Yacov Hadas-Handelsman said during a briefing with senior US officials in 2009. ”They believe Israel can work magic.”

 

But it’s more than just Iran. Israel and the Gulf states also have in common their fear of extremist political Islamism, such as practiced by Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood, or Hezbollah. While it is true that Qatar has good ties to the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas — last year, the emir became the first head of state to visit Gaza since it was taken over by the Palestinian terrorist group in 2007 — the GCC states in general are afraid of political and religious extremists that threaten their rule, especially from Shiite elements. (Qatar is unique in the sense that it manages good relations to all players in the region and even the US).

 

According to experts, the Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait, are more worried about the Muslim Brotherhood than about Iran. “Israel and Gulf states seek stability and they work together to further this stability. This leaves lots of room for common tasks, as long as they keep it secret,” said Teitelbaum, whose research focuses on political and social development in the Arab world and the Persian Gulf in particular.

 

If the GCC and Jerusalem are in the same camp, geo-strategically speaking, why the need to sweep any sort of cooperation under the rug? “Why should they cause problems when there are none?” Teitelbaum said. “They have so many other issues to deal with, the last thing they need to is to publicly call for cooperation with Israel.”

 

Public opinion in the Arab world was always against Israel, and Qatar and Oman could only allow themselves to open up to Israel after Rabin’s peace process had come into gear. As soon as Israeli-Palestinians violence flared up, they cut all official ties.

 

Perhaps ironically, the Arab Spring does not make easier for the Gulf states’ autocratic leaders to get closer to Israel again, experts say. For the first time in history, public opinion has become a determining factor of the Arab world’s political system, and the rulers in the Gulf will think twice before admitting any sort of engagement with the Zionist entity.

 

It’s not so much about the Gulf nations’ love for the Palestinians. “The leaders of the GCC states couldn’t care less about the 1967 borders,” said a Jerusalem source intimately familiar with GCC politics. “For all that matters to them, the Green Line could be somewhere between Ohio and Maryland. It is the conflict that bothers them, because it strengthens the radical forces in the region.”

 

The recent resumption of Israeli-Palestinians peace negotiations, unlikely as they are to yield any results, will not be enough to allow the Gulf states to openly reengage with Israel. There are ways, however, in which Israel could make it easier for them to work towards an détente, Teitelbaum suggested. For example by speaking positively about the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative – in which the entire Arab world offered normal diplomatic relations with Israel in return for a comprehensive agreement with the Palestinians – or making a similar proposal to reach regional peace.

 

In the mean time, the GCC states will just stand on the sidelines and go on with business as usual — covert cooperation in the economic and intelligence fields but no official rapprochement. “Unless there is an official treaty with the Palestinians, I don’t think we can expect anything like formal relations,” Teitelbaum said. “That’s just how they are. From their perspective, it just doesn’t much sense…they have everything to gain from keeping it the way it is currently.”

Contents

 

 

QATAR’S GEOPOLITICAL GAMBLE:
HOW THE GULF STATE MAY HAVE OVERREACHED

Viviene Walt

Time World, July 23, 2013

 

Nearly three weeks after Egypt’s military forced the country’s President Mohamed Morsi out of office and jailed him and officials of his Muslim Brotherhood party, the explosive reaction on Cairo’s streets has brought death and turmoil— and in another country more than 1,200 miles away, an uneasy sense of loss. Qatar, the tiny gas-rich peninsula in the Persian Gulf, had poured nearly $5 billion into Morsi’s government in its one short year in office, propping up Egypt’s teetering economy, and investing — or so it thought — in a lasting relationship with the Arab world’s most populous nation.

 

It was not to be. In just the latest blow to Qatar’s influence peddling, the emirate has lost a key ally, and with it, its clout. Back in 2011, Qatar seemed a crucial player, willing to invest its immense wealth in the revolutions sweeping the region, and its global clout to persuade the Arab League and the U.N. to back an international bombing campaign against Muammar Gaddafi’s forces in Libya. Protesters in Libya, Tunisia and Egypt carried Qatar’s maroon-and-white flags in tribute, and banners reading “Thank you al-Jazeera,” since the Qatar-owned news network had trumpeted their cause.

 

Two and a half years on, the contrast is stark. Protesters have regularly burned Qatar’s flag alight in Tahrir Square, enraged by its strong support for the Muslim Brotherhood, and earlier this month, the Egyptian military rounded up 28 of the channel’s staff in Cairo and hounded its correspondent from a press conference, claiming that al-Jazeera endangered Egypt’s national security….

 

With billions of its petrodollars to gamble on the region’s conflicts, Qatar is clearly under no budgetary constraints. But the same can be said for its oil-rich neighbors — and in Egypt, the bitter political battle is shaping up as a contest for influence between old rivals in the Gulf. Since the Egyptian military forced Morsi out of power and installed an interim government nearly three weeks ago, money has poured in from the Gulf states. Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait have jointly committed about $12 billion, dwarfing Qatar’s $5 billion aid package to the Muslim Brotherhood last year, and making the U.S.’s yearly $1.5 billion to Egypt’s military look suddenly insignificant. That could mean dwindling clout for the U.S., especially as Washington has not intervened in the biggest conflict in the region, Syria, says Shadi Hamid, research director for the Brookings Institution in Doha. “The [Obama] Administration has very little interest in playing a big role in the region,” he says. “Their threats are no longer credible.” By contrast, Hamid says, “the fact that the Saudis, UAE and Kuwaitis have committed $12 billion means they will have most leverage going forward. They want influence with the new political order.”

 

The first signs of a potential shift in Qatari policy came on June 24, when Qatar’s Emir, Sheik Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, handed over power to his son Sheik Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, 33, in an act that stunned people in other Gulf countries, whose leaders invariably hold on to power for life. Hamad had named Tamim his heir apparent in 2003, and last month said he thought it was time for Tamim and a new generation to “shoulder the responsibility with their dynamic potential and creative thoughts.”

 

Qataris have hailed the transition as seamless. Traveling around Doha last week in torpid midsummer heat, I heard several officials boast that the only shift was that they had swapped the old and new Emirs’ photographs on the wall, so that Tamim now occupies the more important left position.

 

But the change could involve more than a shift in decor. Analysts in Doha believe Tamim could downscale Qatar’s heavy involvement in Middle East conflicts, pointing as evidence to his first speech as Emir, when he said, “We as Arabs refuse to divide Arab societies on a sectarian basis” — an apparent reference to the criticism that Qatar’s interventions have intensified Shi‘ite-Sunni violence in several parts of the region. Judging from reports, the Qataris have been reliable supporters of more radical Sunni factions across the Arab world — at least until now. On his third day on the job, the new young Emir dismissed his father’s veteran Prime Minister Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber al-Thani, who was also Qatar’s Foreign Minister and a member of the ruling clan, and had been the key interlocutor with the U.S. in critical conflicts around Africa and the Middle East.

 

For Qataris, the change could be welcome. In unguarded moments, some say that foreign conflicts are less important to them than what is happening at home, and that after years of rocketing growth, Qatar needs to focus on streamlining its way of doing business, in a country where most decisions are made by a handful of men. “With Sheik Tamim being our age, he might better represent our generation,” says Khelifa Al-Misnad, 33, who obtained a law degree at the University of Texas at Austin and now runs a law firm in Doha. “It is new blood, new energy, new vision.”…

 

That retreat may prove costly for the rebellion in Syria. President Bashar Assad’s forces have consolidated gains in recent months, as rebel groups fracture into deadly rivalries and as the U.S. and Britain stall on sending weapons to the rebels. Qatar’s sheiks, who broke ties with Assad soon after the war erupted in 2011, are crucial backers of Syria’s opposition and rebel fighters, supplying millions in aid to refugees in Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon, and arming rebel commanders. As TIME documented in May, Qatar was behind a pipeline conveying heavy weaponry to the rebels from Gaddafi’s looted arsenals in Libya. The New York Times reported in June that four Qatari cargo planes had stopped in Libya earlier this year, three in Tripoli and one in Benghazi, before traveling to Qatar’s military base, and then on to Turkey. Effectively, the planes were collecting stores of weapons to drop off with the rebel commanders.

 

Such support is crucial — and Syria’s opposition is keen to lock it in, now that Qatar has a new ruler. After Tamim’s coronation last month, Syria’s opposition ambassador to Qatar, Nizar al-Hrakey (Qatar expelled Assad’s envoy in 2011) stood in line at the royal palace to offer his congratulations. But the real purpose was to plead for him to keep his father’s Syrian policy in place. “We had a few moments together when we spoke, I wished him well and told him I hoped for continuation,” al-Hrakey said, sitting in his air-conditioned office in a villa in Doha’s diplomatic district, which opened last February as the official Syrian embassy. Al-Hrakey said Qatar’s Emir “reassured me that they would help Syrian people,” and that the new Foreign Minister Khalid al-Attiyah had told him “that he would support Syria until the fall of the regime.”

 

To the surprise of many, though, the embattled Assad regime has now outlasted the rule of Qatar’s recently retired Emir. The planeloads of weapons and millions of dollars sent from this tiny state are a sign, perhaps, that Doha bit off more than it can chew.

 

Contents

 

 

KUWAIT'S HIDDEN HAND IN SYRIA

Daniel R. DePetris

The National Interest, July 16, 2013

 

It is often assumed that Saudi Arabia and Qatar have been the most adamant about arming Syria’s fractious rebel movement. But there is growing evidence that clerics and opposition politicians in Kuwait have also been stepping up their own efforts in an attempt to collect as much cash for Bashar al-Assad’s opponents as possible. Millions of dollars in Kuwaiti dinars have reportedly been flown from Kuwait to Turkey and Jordan, where the cash is then distributed to the various branches of the Syrian resistance movement. “There is a great amount of sympathy on the part of the Kuwaiti people to provide any kind of assistance to the Syrian people whether inside or outside Syria,” Kuwaiti foreign minister Sheikh Sabah Khaled al-Sabah told Reuters.

 

Along with tens of millions of people in the Arab world, the conflict, which has crossed the threshold of one hundred thousand dead, including women and the smallest of children, has torn at the heartstrings of ordinary citizens in the small Gulf Arab sheikhdom. The only difference, it seems, is that the Kuwaiti government is perfectly content with going its own way instead of following the lead of its Saudi and Qatari neighbors. Why rely on other states, they reason, when one can contribute independently and with no strings attached?

 

That job, it appears, has been undertaken by powerful individuals in Kuwait, including religious figures and former parliamentarians—many of whom hold great sway over some segments of the population, despite the country’s pro-Western leanings. One Salafist group in Kuwait, the Great Kuwait Campaign, has been so successful in raising money for Syrian rebel groups that twelve thousand Syrian rebels could now be fully armed as a result of their pledges. For an opposition movement that has constantly complained about being underfunded and underequipped, the donation campaign from the Kuwaiti group is a rare but welcome development.

 

Dr. Waleed al-Tabtabai, a former Kuwaiti member of parliament and a man integrally involved in the fundraising, wants to go a step further. Instead of delivering cash, why not deliver what the rebels need the most: heat-seeking antiaircraft missiles? Those shipments, while applauded by the Free Syrian Army, would certainly arise anger and suspicion in Washington and in Europe, where arming the anti-Assad fighters with such advanced weaponry has long been used as a reason to act prudently and cautiously.

 

In addition to exacerbating the violence in Syria, the Kuwaiti effort to supply the insurgency with more money and arms will no doubt give the United States, Europe and the United Nations another reason to worry. Where would the weapons go? Who would monitor their distribution? And how can there be any certainty that antiaircraft weapons would not be used for purposes other than targeting Bashar al-Assad’s MIGs and helicopters?

 

Unlike assistance that has been provided by Saudi Arabia and Qatar, much of which is now closely coordinated with the United States, Great Britain, France, Turkey and Jordan, the money being sent from private donors in Kuwait is outside official channels set up by the Friends of Syria group. Kuwaiti clerics and MPs who hold some connection with Islamist movements are doing much of the door knocking and fundraising. By virtue of these Islamist leanings, it may be safe to assume that most of the funds are being delivered to the types of Syrian factions that the international community is most worried about. Jabhat al-Nusra, Ahrar al-Sham and Al Qaeda in Iraq are three of the most powerful, but three of the most extreme.

 

If President Barack Obama found it difficult to intervene on behalf of Syrian rebel forces a few months ago, news that the private donors in Kuwait are raising money and trying to pump advanced weapons into the conflict—perhaps with the quiet consent of the Kuwaiti government—will increase that tension to a new level.

 

As the Syrian conflict continues to grind on and as the United States gets more involved militarily, those who want to push Bashar al-Assad out need to answer a tricky question: how do you defeat Assad’s regime without empowering the very people that are the most likely take Syria’s politics, economy and society backward? Given the world’s reactive policy towards the war, it doesn’t look like the United States or its allies have been able to find an easy answer.

 

Daniel R. DePetris is a researcher at Wikistrat and an independent analyst.
 

Contents

 

Israel as a Gulf State: Malcolm Lowe, Gatestone Institute, July 29, 2013—It is a longstanding complaint that Israel is unfairly harassed in those international forums that deal with human rights. On the other hand, countries that are too big to harass, such as Russian and China, or that are oil rich, such as the Gulf states, get away with anything.

 

Oman Has Its Cake and Eats It Too — For Now: Daniel Wagner & Giorgio Cafiero, Real Clear World, July 29, 2013—Oman's primary foreign policy objectives appear to be to ensure stability in the Arabian Gulf and maintain independence from Saudi Arabia. For decades, a pillar of Muscat's foreign policy has been to balance its alliances with the U.S., its fellow Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states, and Iran.

 

Mideast's Real Battle: Saudi Arabia vs. Qatar: Jonathan Tepperman, New York Times, July 12, 2013—In 15 years of thinking, reporting and writing about global affairs, I’ve come to the conclusion (after plenty of false starts) that often the best way to understand and explain big events is not by focusing on them directly, but by approaching them through smaller stories.

 

Visit CIJR’s Bi-Weekly Webzine: Israzine.

CIJR’s ISRANET Daily Briefing is available by e-mail.
Please urge colleagues, friends, and family to visit our website for more information on our ISRANET series.
To join our distribution list, or to unsubscribe, visit us at http://www.isranet.org/.

The ISRANET Daily Briefing is a service of CIJR. We hope that you find it useful and that you will support it and our pro-Israel educational work by forwarding a minimum $90.00 tax-deductible contribution [please send a cheque or VISA/MasterCard information to CIJR (see cover page for address)]. All donations include a membership-subscription to our respected quarterly ISRAFAX print magazine, which will be mailed to your home.

CIJR’s ISRANET Daily Briefing attempts to convey a wide variety of opinions on Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish world for its readers’ educational and research purposes. Reprinted articles and documents express the opinions of their authors, and do not necessarily reflect the viewpoint of the Canadian Institute for Jewish Research.

 

 

Ber Lazarus, Publications Chairman, Canadian Institute for Jewish ResearchL'institut Canadien de recherches sur le Judaïsme, www.isranet.org

Tel: (514) 486-5544 – Fax:(514) 486-8284 ; ber@isranet.org