As Isis surges ahead and the Syrian regime teeters on the brink of collapse, our Middle East correspondent, winner of the 2015 Orwell prize for journalism, reports on the deadly struggle for dominance in the region.
The Guardian, By Martin Chulov, May 23
One evening at the end of March, a Syrian rebel leader returned from a meeting across the border in Turkey and called an urgent gathering of his commanders. The five men turned up at their boss’s house in Idlib province expecting to receive the same pleas for patience that they had always heard and more grim news about cash and weapons being hard to find. This time, though, they were in for a shock.
“He arrived looking eager,” said one of the commanders. “That caught our attention straight away. But when he started to speak, we were all stunned.”
The leader, who asked that his unit not be identified, said he told his men that the grinding war of attrition they had fought against the Syrian government since early 2012 was about to turn in their favour.
“And the reason for that was that I could now get nearly all the weapons I wanted,” he told the Observer. “For the first time they were not holding anything from us – except anti-aircraft missiles. The Turks and their friends wanted this over with.”
CNN, By Hakim Almasmari, Jason Hanna & Josh Levs, May 7
Sana’a, YemenSaudi Arabia proposed a five-day ceasefire Thursday in Yemen so that humanitarian aid can be distributed.
The nation of more than 27 million people, to Saudi Arabia’s south, has been racked by war. A Saudi-led coalition has been conducting airstrikes to assist the ousted, but still internationally recognized, Yemeni government in its fight against Houthi rebels.
“There will be a ceasefire everywhere (in Yemen) or nowhere,” Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said Thursday, sending the message to rebel leaders that violence anywhere in the country could end a ceasefire.
Houthi leadership will meet and discuss the proposal, two senior Houthi officials told CNN.
At a news conference in Riyadh with al-Jubeir, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said that the United Sates welcomes the proposal and that work is being done to determine the details. Kerry said he believes more would be announced Friday, when he and al-Jubeir are expected to be in Paris.
Exclusive: As the Obama administration is rushing to complete a nuclear agreement with Iran and reduce regional tensions, the Israeli media is reporting on a deal with Saudi Arabia to let Israeli warplanes transit Saudi airspace en route to bombing Iran, reports Robert Parry.
Consortium News, By Robert Parry, February 25
According to an Israeli media report, Saudi Arabia has agreed to let Israeli warplanes fly over Saudi territory to save fuel while attacking Iranian nuclear sites, the latest indication of how the two former enemies have developed a behind-the-scenes alliance that is reshaping geopolitics in the Middle East.
“The Saudi authorities are completely coordinated with Israel on all matters related to Iran,” a European official in Brussels told Israel’s Channel 2 in a report broadcast on Tuesday and described in other Israeli media outlets.
Riyadh’s only condition was that Israel make some progress in peace talks with the Palestinians, a stipulation that may be mostly cosmetic so the Saudis can save face with other Arab states without really interfering with an Israeli flyover to strike Iran.
Disclosure of this Israeli-Saudi military cooperation comes as the United States and five other world powers rush to finish an agreement with Iran to curtail but not eliminate its nuclear program, which Iran says is only for civilian purposes. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is set to appear before the U.S. Congress on March 3 to undercut President Barack Obama’s negotiations.
The reported Saudi permission for Israeli warplanes to take a shorter route to bomb Iran also suggests that Netanyahu may be laying the groundwork for his own plans to attack the Iranian nuclear sites if the international negotiations are successful. Netanyahu has denounced a possible deal as an “existential threat” to Israel.
A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade.
The Unz Review, By Patrick Cockburn, July 13
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 and ominous conversation with the head of the British Secret Intelligence Service, MI6, Sir Richard Dearlove. Prince Bandar told him: “The time is not far off in the Middle East, Richard, when it will be literally ‘God help the Shia’. More than a billion Sunnis have simply had enough of them.”
The fatal moment predicted by Prince Bandar may now have come for many Shia, with Saudi Arabia playing an important role in bringing it about by supporting the anti-Shia jihad in Iraq and Syria. Since the capture of Mosul by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis) on 10 June, Shia women and children have been killed in villages south of Kirkuk, and Shia air force cadets machine-gunned and buried in mass graves near Tikrit. Continue reading →
The White House announced today that the site for the Obama Presidential Library will be built in multiple cities, with multiple wings to the library, to continue the momentum of bipartisanship started under the Obama Administration.
A White House spokesman said :
We’re providing the list of cities and wings we can identify. In keeping with the Obama Administration’s promise to be the most transparent administration ever, the complete list is classified.
Each Wing of the library will have special access, including a special entrance for donors of more than $1,000,000 and an entrance at the back for the small donors.
The process is not perfect
the spokesman continued, wanting to keep his identity concealed
One such library wing, the Special Listening Wing, was offered to Russia, and proposed to be built in Moscow. Continue reading →
The US and Iran are negotiating to end the over 33 years of lack of diplomatic recognition and the US-led sanction on Iran. This effort causes the Right Wing Israeli Government to scream “Nooooooo…”.
Consequently AIPAC is putting pressure, successfully we’d assert, on the US congress to pass laws which say ‘We’ll have none of that, in THIS house, thank you,” like some dowager aunt, who has an unshakable belief in her own moral values, after being a libertine in her youth.
To us it makes good sense for Iran to have a nuclear program for two reasons, first to counter Israel’s nuclear program with which it threatens its close neighbors, including Iran, and second to provide a lever to force the US to negotiate; without an Iranian nuclear program, the US and Iran would probably not be negotiating anything.
Isn’t it time to get this question answered: Who is funding Al Qaeda? Wealthy Saudis and other oil oligarchs on their own? Or the same seeming deep pockets acting as proxies? If the lately restive and belligerent Saudis are behind this (and why not suspect them), watch out for the Arab Spring treatment in Ridyah?
BAGHDAD — Radical Sunni militants aligned with Al Qaeda threatened on Thursday to seize control of Falluja and Ramadi, two of the most important cities in Iraq, setting fire to police stations, freeing prisoners from jail and occupying mosques, as the government rushed troop reinforcements to the areas.
Dressed in black and waving the flag of Al Qaeda, the militants put out calls over mosque loudspeakers for men to join their struggle in both cities in western Anbar Province, which were important battlegrounds during the American-led war in Iraq and remain hotbeds of Sunni extremism. … Continue reading →
Will there be any ‘good’ Syrian rebels left to provide credible representation at the January United States – Russia sponsored Geneva II peace conference?
The U.S. favored rebel group, the Free Syrian Army (FSA), experienced major setbacks in December. On the first, the Syrian Arab Army killed a key FSA commander in Daraa Province in southern Syria. On the eighth, “the top Western-backed rebel commander in Syria,” General Salim Idris, head of the FSA, fled Syria after an Al Qaeda aligned rebel faction took over FSA weapons warehouses north of Aleppo near the Syria-Turkey border. On December 15, an Al Qaeda affiliated rebel group killed another FSA regional commander in a town near Aleppo.
The conflict in Syria is spreading, without any doubt. Al-Akahbar reports that an Iraqi group fired six mortar rounds into a ” remote area of northeastern Saudi Arabia” as a warning to Saudis about their treatment of Shias. That would include the Shias in this resource rich area of Saudi Arabia. It could be seen as the general warning on Saudi actions toward Iran, Syria and Hezbollah in Lebanon. The Saudis have financed and now lead the anti-Syrian government attack seeking to oust President Bashar al-Assad.
The Saudis seem frenetic lately. Prince Bandar bin Sultan recently named himself the head of a 50,000 man “extraterritorial military unit” that will fight in the region, e.g., Syria. The Saudis were said to have an agreement with Israel to support an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities, although Riyadh denied the story.
The warning shot from Iraq is a bold move intended to send a message. We’ll see what Prince Bandar’s militia does about this.
Full article from Al Akahbar English (Creative Commons)
“Israel is working on coordinating plans for a possible military strike with Saudi Arabia, with Riyadh prepared to provide tactical support to Jerusalem, a British newspaper [The Times] reported early Sunday.
“The two countries have both united in worry that the West may come to terms with Iran, easing sanctions and allowing the Islamic Republic to continue its nuclear program.” Israel Times, Nov 17
The Times article also reported that Jordan, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates might be in on the attack as well.
A war with Iran, with or without U.S. participation, would be a disaster for the world economy. More importantly, it would compound the level of continued suffering by Arabs and Iranians since attack on Iran by Saddam Hussein’s forces.
Is this serious? We don’t know but to be so, Israeli and Saudi leadership are delusional. The blowback for both nations would be immediate and devastating; and that’s blowback from major powers. Continue reading →
This is a market driven event of major proportions. It seems that Saudi Arabia purchased (or is about to purchase) nuclear weapons from Pakistan. The Saudis “rent” troops from Pakistan to do their dirty work, now and then. They dress them up in Saudi uniforms and get a pretty disciplined, coherent force. Why wouldn’t they turn to Pakistan for the purchase of nuclear weapons?
Here are a couple of questions:
1) Will those who advocate attacking Iran for its potential to produce nuclear weapons also encourage an attack on a truly fundamentalist jihadist supporting Middle Eastern country – Saudi Arabia?
2) Will te see calls for sanctions against Saudi Arabia for having nuclear weapons as we see against Iran for having the potential?
After weeks of agitation for increased attacks on the Syrian government and its president, Bashir al-Assad, the Saudis signaled a 180 degree change in policy, based on the mufti’s statement. Fighting with the Syrian rebels is no longer a sacred cause, it is something to be avoided, according to the Kingdom’s most important Muslim cleric.
The mufti is not some closet liberal in the Saudi hierarchy. He’s the top religious official in the Kingdom. His statements are used to interpret legal and religious policies. The King of Saudi Arabia, who asked him to speak on the Syrian conflict, appoints him.
Prince Bandar bin Sultan (aka Bandar Bush) has been recruiting Saudis and Sunnis from around the Middle East, Pakistan, and Afghanistan to fight with the so-called rebel cause in Syria. This has been a nightmare for the Syrian people. These are ruthless, religiously inspired jihadists who show no mercy once they’ve taken over a village, town, or city. Continue reading →
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s intense desire to deal a blow to Iran through the proxy war in Syria is so intense, it seems as though the Saudis have lost contact with reality.
Over the past few weeks, Saudi Arabia profoundly offended Russia’s president, announced its disapproval of United States foreign policy, and turned down a seat on the United Nations Security Council. For a nation with substantial vulnerabilities, the Saudis act as though they can survive their internal and external enemies without any help. (Image: Prince Bandar bin Sultan, Wikimedia)
Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the Saudi inteligence chief, tried to both bribe and threaten Russian President Vladimir Putin at a meeting in August 2013. Bandar offered to purchase billions in Russian goods in return for Putin abandoning the Syrian government (and its chief ally Iran) in its fight against foreign inspired and funded attack on that nation. At the same, meeting, Bandar also threatened terrorist acts against the Russian hosted Sochi Winter Olympics. (AlMonitor, Aug 22) Continue reading →