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Saudi Arabia

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Anyone who wants to understand what really goes on in the Mideast should have a look at the scandal that erupted earlier this month over the outsized character of Prince Bandar of Saudi Arabia. Bandar has long been a renowned mover, shaker, and charmer. As Saudi ambassador to the US, the influential Bandar schmoozed official... Read More
One happened, the other didn’t. Together, they shed some light on the nature of Saudi Arabia’s involvement in Middle East affairs. The first was something of a foreign affairs bombshell: Saudi Arabia’s invitation to Iran’s President Ahmadinejad to join this year’s haj...an invitation that Ahmadinejad accepted with alacrity. From the Teheran Times: The standard narrative... Read More
The Saudi Arabian monarchy has privately sought advice on what is likely to happen in the November US presidential elections and is shaping its policy towards Washington accordingly. The US consulting firm they hired has provided them with a confidential assessment stating that the likely Democratic candidate Barack Obama will lose to Republican John McCain... Read More
Via Laura Rozen, more talk of Hillary Clinton jawboning Saudi Arabia to assure Chinese energy supplies if a) China votes for Iran sanctions and b) Iran’s petroleum exports to China are disrupted as a result. China, of course, considers itself a great power with its own energy allies in the Middle East, not an awkward... Read More
Saudi Police Open Fire on Civilians as Protests Gain Momentum
Pro-democracy protests which swept the Arab world earlier in the year have erupted in eastern Saudi Arabia over the past three days, with police opening fire with live rounds and many people injured, opposition activists say. Saudi Arabia last night confirmed there had been fighting in the region and that 11 security personnel and three... Read More
Iron Fist Tactic Suspended (For Now)
The Saudi security forces are pulling back in troubled parts of the oil-rich country's Eastern Province to avoid further confrontation with Shia protesters, say human rights activists, but they warn that any small incident might provoke fresh clashes. Saudi police and soldiers had previously been besieging the Shia town of al-Awamiyah which was the scene... Read More
CounterPunch Diary
Threaten the stability of Saudi Arabia, as the Shi’a upsurges are now doing in Qatif, and al-Awamiyah in the country’s oil-rich Eastern Province and you’re brandishing a dagger over the very heart of long-term U.S. policy in the Middle East for over half a century. In 1945 the chief of the State Department’s Division of... Read More
With all the reams of reporting on Syria, I am surprised that relatively little is written, in English anyway, about the divergence of aims between Qatar and Saudi Arabia. Qatar backs the Muslim Brotherhood and, it appears, would not object to a brokered deal to end the insurrection that allows the MB to get its... Read More
My post on the competing strategies of Saudi Arabia and Qatar received a considerable amount of thoughtful comment and pushback by e-mail and on the Web, more than I’m accustomed to receive for a non-China post from somebody who has only an informed layman’s interest in the Middle East. Maybe I came up with something... Read More
Over the last year or so, I’ve taken the bet  that Saudi Arabia is pursuing a strategy of regime collapse in Syria. In practical terms, this means that the KSA won’t support a Syria peace process that achieves a measure of accommodation between the Ba’athist ruling party (with or without Assad) and the opposition, popular,... Read More
Last week it was reported that Saudi Arabia decided to make a “major shift” away from its 80 years of close cooperation with the United States. The Saudi leadership is angry that the Obama administration did not attack Syria last month, and that it has not delivered heavy weapons to the Syrian rebels fighting to... Read More
As US-Iran rapprochement inches toward at least partial consummation in Geneva, I wish to offer a few observations: 1) The Iran nuclear weapons threat has always been a McGuffin, an excuse for various powers to advance an anti-Iran agenda. 2) Chief among the usual suspects is, of course, Israel under PM Netanyahu. If the Israeli... Read More
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Everyone knows where al-Qa'ida gets its money, but while the violence is sectarian, the West does nothing
Donors in Saudi Arabia have notoriously played a pivotal role in creating and maintaining Sunni jihadist groups over the past 30 years. But, for all the supposed determination of the United States and its allies since 9/11 to fight "the war on terror", they have showed astonishing restraint when it comes to pressuring Saudi Arabia... Read More
A year ago there was a certain amount of back and forth as to what it meant that Saudi Arabia had pushed Qatar out of the leadership position on Syria and whether the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was going to go along with the Syria peace process. I was of the opinion that the Kingdom... Read More
Introduction: Saudi Arabia has all the vices and none of the virtues of an oil rich state like Venezuela. The country is governed by a family dictatorship which tolerates no opposition and severely punishes human rights advocates and political dissidents. Hundreds of billions in oil revenues are controlled by the royal despotism and fuel speculative... Read More
The Latest Round
Saudi Arabia intends to close the local office of the Qatari-owned al Jazeera satellite television station in the latest episode in the escalating conflict in which the Saudis, United Arab Emirates and Bahrain are in confrontation with Qatar, say local media. At the heart of the dispute is Qatar’s backing for the Muslim Brotherhood, which... Read More
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The role of Saudi Arabia as the jihadists’ greatest ally – will the kingdom be forced to change tack in the face of...
It is a chilling five-minute film made by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis), showing its fighters stopping three large trucks on what looks like the main highway linking Syria and Iraq. A burly bearded gunmen takes the ID cards of the drivers who stand nervously in front of him. “You are... Read More
It has helped to restore authoritarian rule in the Middle East, but the costs are becoming clear
President Obama flew to Saudi Arabia to patch up relations with King Abdullah at the end of last week in his first visit in five years. The alliance had been strained by Saudi anger over US negotiations with Iran on its nuclear programme and Obama’s refusal to go to war in Syria to overthrow Bashar... Read More
Seymour Hersh has an important piece up at the London Review of Books implicating Turkey in the August 2013 sarin gas incident that almost triggered a US attack on Syria.  I wonder how much traction it will get.   Specifically, will it get more traction than the recent clandestine Youtube release of the confab between the... Read More
foreign backers look to reverse months of military defeats at the hands of government soldiers
In the wake of a series of battlefield defeats for the Syrian rebels over the past few months, there are signs that the opposition’s foreign backers are trying to reverse the tide and salvage what is left of the waning insurgency. The removal of Saudi Arabia’s intelligence chief, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the architect of... Read More
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The former prime minister's intervention on radical Islam was aimed at all the wrong targets
Ayman al-Zawahiri, the leader of the core group of al-Qa'ida, may well chortle in disbelief if he reads a translation of Tony Blair's latest speech on the Middle East delivered last week. If Blair's thoughts are used as a guide to action, then the main beneficiaries will be al-Qa'ida-type jihadist movements. Overall, his speech is... Read More
Isis is securing its control of the territories it has conquered in Iraq and Syria and has declared them an Islamic State
Saudi Arabia has sent 30,000 soldiers to its 500-mile border with Iraq after claims that Iraqi soldiers had abandoned their positions along the frontier, though this is denied by Baghdad. The Saudi-backed al-Arabiya channel said it had obtained video footage in which an Iraqi officer said 2,500 troops had been ordered to pull back from... Read More
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A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade.
How far is Saudi Arabia complicit in the Isis takeover of much of northern Iraq, and is it stoking an escalating Sunni-Shia conflict across the Islamic world? Some time before 9/11, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, once the powerful Saudi ambassador in Washington and head of Saudi intelligence until a few months ago, had a revealing... Read More
Think of the new “caliphate” of the Islamic State, formerly the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), as George W. Bush and Dick Cheney's gift to the world (with a helping hand from the Saudis and other financiers of extremism in the Persian Gulf). How strange that they get so little credit for its... Read More
The Underrated Saudi Connection
[This essay is excerpted from the first chapter of Patrick Cockburn’s new book, The Jihadis Return: ISIS and the New Sunni Uprising, with special thanks to his publisher, OR Books. The first section is a new introduction written for TomDispatch.] There are extraordinary elements in the present U.S. policy in Iraq and Syria that are... Read More
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In an exclusive interview, the Senator who led inquiry into attack says Obama’s plan to confront Sunni jihadis repeats...
The rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis) has been aided by the continuing failure of the US Government to investigate the role of Saudi Arabia in the 9/11 attacks and its support of jihadi movements such as al-Qaeda in the years since, says former Senator Bob Graham, the co-chairman of... Read More
[Subsequent to e-mailing this piece to China Matters subscribers, I went back and added a paragraph about the "28 pages" and the legal jeopardy they might pose to Saudi Arabia in US courts, and some thoughts about the "anti-IS campaign" as a harbinger of a new US approach to pursuing limited goals in the region.... Read More
From my ever interesting and amusing twitter feed @chinahand, with some minor edits: China Matters crystal ball tells me:  1) Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is switching from jihadi strategy to great power negotiations in response to IS fiasco 2) KSA is saying, "OK, we'll help clean up our IS mess, but Assad's gotta go. Syria's... Read More
They blame the clergy. The social network's free discussion contrasts with Riyadh's official line on the rise of radicals
What is the connection between Saudi Arabia and the rise of the Islamic State (Isis) militants? Did the Saudi state and the Gulf monarchies foster the growth of Isis and other jihadi movements in Syria only to find they had created a Frankenstein monster that today threatens the political status quo? Is the House of... Read More
In many respects the situation in Saudi Arabia is getting worse rather than better, as if the government feels it must...
A Specialised Criminal Court in Saudi Arabia has sentenced a prominent Shia clergyman, Sheikh Nimr Baqir al-Nimr, to death on vague charges of “breaking allegiance to the ruler” and “encouraging, leading and participating in demonstrations.” It is a sentence that is creating rage among Saudi Arabia’s two-million-strong Shia minority that has long claimed to be... Read More
Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis
Foreign states that go to war in Yemen usually come to regret it. The Saudi-led military intervention so far involves only air strikes, but a ground assault may follow. The code name for the action is Operation Decisive Storm, which is probably an indication of what Saudi Arabia and its allies would like to happen... Read More
As the US and Iran reach accord, Saudi Arabia endangers the status quo in the Middle East
A succession of crucially important military and diplomatic events are convulsing the political landscape of the Middle East. The most significant development is the understanding between the US and five other world powers with Iran on limiting Iran’s nuclear programme in return for an easing of sanctions. But the muting of hostility between the US... Read More
Let Yemenis Determine Their Future
In its ongoing effort to prevent the rise of “any popularly supported government in the region”, the US has joined Saudi Arabia’s savage war of annihilation against Yemen’s northern tribal rebels, the Houthis. The Pentagon has expedited the delivery of bombs, ammunition and guidance systems to assist the Saudi-led campaign and is providing logistical support... Read More
...Despite having no decisive impact on the opposing Houthi militias
Yemenis are wondering if the 28-day Saudi bombing campaign is really over or whether the war has simply entered a new phase. Air strikes were still taking place in Aden, Taiz and other Yemeni cities hours after they were supposed to have ceased. And nobody in Yemen supposes that the war the Saudis escalated when... Read More
For a month now, the Saudi air force has been bombing Yemen to reverse a takeover of that nation of 25 million by Houthi rebels, and reinstall a president who fled his country and is residing in Riyadh. The Saudis have hit airfields, armor and arms depots, and caused a humanitarian catastrophe. Nearly 1,000 dead,... Read More
The main outcome of the Saudi air campaign will be terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants
Yemen is short of many things, but weapons is not one of them. Yemenis own between 40 and 60 million guns, according to a report by UN experts published earlier this year. This should be enough for Yemen’s 26 million people, although the experts note that demand for grenades that used to cost $5, handguns... Read More
Air strikes and blockade threaten humanitarian disaster for millions
Dozens of Saudi soldiers and Yemeni fighters have been killed in clashes on the border between the countries as five weeks ofSaudi air attacks fail to bring the war to an end. Air strikes and heavy artillery fire in the southern port of Aden have left much of the city in ruins and the attempted... Read More
The big news today is that Saudi Arabia and Turkey are clubbing together to overthrow the Assad regime. Actually, this is old news. What happened today is that the news embargo was lifted and the AP’s Desmond Butler got to print the scoop. It was apparent for a couple weeks that something along these lines... Read More
The Saudis have made themselves even more unpopular after decapitating or shooting 47 prisoners last week. Critics are calling them, “the white ISIS.” The men, Sunni and Shia, had been convicted of “terrorism,” belonging to al-Qaida, drug offenses, or membership in proscribed Shia groups. All but two of them were Saudi citizens. Most prominent among... Read More
The New Year's execution by Saudi Arabia of the Shiite cleric Sheikh Nimr Baqir al-Nimr was a deliberate provocation. Its first purpose: Signal the new ruthlessness and resolve of the Saudi monarchy where the power behind the throne is the octogenarian King Salman's son, the 30-year-old Defense Minister Mohammed bin Salman. Second, crystallize, widen and... Read More
Saudi Arabia will be pleased that the furore over its execution of the Shia cleric Nimr al-Nimr is taking the form of a heightened confrontation with Iran and the Shia world as a whole. Insults and threats are exchanged and diplomatic missions closed. Sunni mosques are blown up in Shia-dominated areas of Iraq. The Saudi... Read More
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Once in a blue moon, this writer’s view coincides with that of the New York Times leader. It has happened now. The Saudi predilection for gore is not easy to stomach. The House of al Saud chose to celebrate the New Year, Christmas and Nativity of the Prophet Muhammad by shooting (or chopping heads, or... Read More
At the end of last year the BND, the German intelligence agency, published a remarkable one-and-a-half-page memo saying that Saudi Arabia had adopted “an impulsive policy of intervention”. It portrayed Saudi defence minister and Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman – the powerful 29-year-old favourite son of the ageing King Salman, who is suffering from... Read More
One night in his tent in Tripoli, Libya, Col. Muammar Khadafi told me, “the Saudis are a very rich family hiding behind high walls, terrified their neighbors will come and steal their wealth.” He was right. The covetous neighbor most feared by the Saudis are Iran, followed by Egypt, Turkey and, more distantly, Israel. Iraq... Read More
The suggestion by Saudi Arabia that it send ground troops to Syria might mean the limited deployment of Saudi special forces alongside their US counterpart or a more ambitious intervention, probably in combination with the Turkish army. The suggestion by Saudi Arabia that it send ground troops to Syria might mean the limited deployment of... Read More
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Another phony excuse for endless war
The Israeli Minister of Defense is now telling anyone who is willing to listen that the Iranian government is building an “international terror network that includes sleeper cells that are stockpiling arms, intelligence and operatives to be ready to strike on command in places including Europe and the U.S.” Moshe Yaalon elaborated that Iran intends... Read More
Commentators have missed the significance of President Barack Obama’s acerbic criticism of Saudi Arabia and Sunni states long allied to the US for fomenting sectarian hatred and seeking to lure the US into fighting regional wars on their behalf. In a series of lengthy interviews with Jeffrey Goldberg published in The Atlantic magazine, Mr Obama... Read More
Poor President Barack Obama flew to Saudi Arabia this past week but its ruler, King Salman, was too busy to greet him at Riyadh’s airport. This snub was seen across the Arab world as a huge insult and violation of traditional desert hospitality. Obama should have refused to deplane and flown home. Alas, he did... Read More
Foreign leaders visiting King Salman of Saudi Arabia have noticed that there is a large flower display positioned just in front of where the 80-year-old monarch sits. On closer investigation, the visitors realised that the purpose of the flowers is to conceal a computer which acts as a teleprompter, enabling the King to appear capable... Read More
For decades the US and Saudi Arabia have shared a peculiar relationship: the Saudis sell relatively cheap oil to the United States for which they accept our fiat currency. They then recycle those paper dollars into the US military-industrial complex through the purchase of billions of dollars worth of military equipment, and the US guarantees... Read More
Category Classics
How America was neoconned into World War IV
Shouldn't they recuse themselves when dealing with the Middle East?
The “war hero” candidate buried information about POWs left behind in Vietnam.
Which superpower is more threatened by its “extractive elites”?