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.
RINF, By Eric Zuesse, February 11
Zacarias Moussaoui was the bookkeeper for Al Qaeda, but the U.S. intelligence services have been keeping this fact secret as much as they can, because what he knows about the crucial financial backers of Al Qaeda can be very damaging to the U.S. aristocracy, which is heavily oil-based and closely allied with the Saudi royal family, which created Al Qaeda in order to please the Saudi clerics, who are Wahhabist Muslims who constantly threaten the royals with exposure of their economic and sexual corruption unless the royals finance the spread of the Wahhabist sect (such as by Al Qaeda), and thereby finance the spread of those clerics’ own international influence and power.
Or, so says the former bookkeeper of Al Qaeda, who was selected by Al Qaeda’s military chief, Abu Hafs (also known as “Mohammed Atef”), to serve Osama bin Laden in that capacity: Zacarias Moussaoui. This is his testimony, in brief.
Fox News, February 11
The State Department announced late Tuesday that the U.S. Embassy in Yemen had been closed and evacuated after much of the country was taken over by Shiite rebels last month.
Hours later, Britain and France followed suit and ordered their citizens to leave Yemen as soon as possible.
The U.S. embassy had already been operating with severely reduced staff for several weeks. State Department spokesman Jen Psaki said remaining diplomatic personnel had been relocated “due to the ongoing political instability and the uncertain security situation.”
Al Arabiya: France, Britain suspend embassy work in Yemen
Newsweek, By James Fergusson, January 20
The ancient city of Sana’a is one of the oldest continuously-inhabited cities on the planet. Its astounding street markets, almost unchanged since the time of the Prophet, used to attract hordes of Western tourists. Not any more. The risk of kidnap has become too great; the British Embassy advises its nationals to leave the country if possible, and if not, to keep any movement around the capital to an absolute minimum. Walking anywhere in the city these days raises hairs on the back of the neck.
The kidnap of foreigners, usually by hill tribes seeking leverage over the Sana’a government, has a long history in Yemen. It used to be considered bad for business to harm the victims, who were traditionally released unhurt – that has changed too. In a sign of the resurgence of Islamic extremism in the region, kidnappers have started selling their victims to al-Qaida and abducted foreigners increasingly end up dead.
For the last year or more, the West’s fear and attention has been focused on the emergence of Isis in Syria and northern Iraq. The Islamic State’s ideology, the brutality of its methods, and the success of its territorial campaign have eclipsed al-Qaida, the movement that spawned Isis, but which also formally disavowed them a year ago. Since the death of Osama bin Laden, al-Qaida has seemed divided, directionless; a diminished force.
As in Pakistan and elsewhere, the accuracy of the drone strikes used in Yemen has been called into question. A recent study by Reprieve, the New York–based human rights group, which was widely circulated on Yemeni social media, suggested that strikes aimed at 17 named men have so far killed 273 people, at least seven of them children; while at least four of the targets are still alive. “You know, those drones are very expensive,” Al-Gauli observes bitterly. “Yet in our village, it takes a 2km donkey ride to fetch water from a well. If someone spent a tenth of the cost of a missile on a well for our village, maybe no-one would pay attention to al-Qaida and they would go away.”
Al Arabia, January 29
Saudi Arabia’s newly inaugurated King Salman bin Abdulaziz has issued a series of landmark orders that ushered in fresh new faces into state institutions and awarded financial support for many Saudis.
And the king ordered a total of $30 billion (112 billion Saudi Riyals) spending in the oil rich kingdom.
The king ordered a lavish payout to all state employees on Thursday and reshuffled some top government jobs while keeping in place the oil, foreign, finance, defense and interior ministers.
He removed two of the late king’s sons from big jobs, making Faisal bin Bandar Riyadh governor instead of Turki bin Abdullah and reinstating Khaled al-Faisal as Mecca governor less than two years after he was replaced by Mishaal bin Abdullah.
The two jobs are usually held by senior princes and have sometimes been stepping stones to higher positions.
AP, January 22
Riyadh — Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah, the powerful U.S. ally who joined Washington’s fight against al-Qaida and sought to modernize the ultraconservative Muslim kingdom with incremental but significant reforms, including nudging open greater opportunities for women, has died, according to Saudi state TV. He was 90.
More than his guarded and hidebound predecessors, Abdullah assertively threw his oil-rich nation’s weight behind trying to shape the Middle East. His priority was to counter the influence of rival, mainly Shiite Iran wherever it tried to make advances. He and fellow Sunni Arab monarchs also staunchly opposed the Middle East’s wave of pro-democracy uprisings, seeing them as a threat to stability and their own rule.
AP, January 19
Sana’a – As Yemeni Houthi fighters and army troops waged gun and mortar battles near the presidential palace in Sanaa, the rebels captured the country’s state news agency and TV station. Monday marked the country’s most intensive clashes since September.
“The Houthis have taken the state information agency SABA,” Information Minister Naser Taha Mustafa told Al Arabiya TV. “The takeover is a step toward a coup.”
The clashes were focused on an area near the presidential palace and the residence of the national security chief. The diplomatic compound in southern Sanaa was also affected. It was not immediately clear whether President Abd-Rabbu MansourHadi was in his residence at the time.
Newsweek, January 15
Saudi Arabia is building a 600-mile long wall along its northern border with Iraq in order to keep ISIS at bay, the Telegraph newspaper reported today.
Once completed, the wall will consist of a ditch and a triple-layered steel fence, with 40 watchtowers spread out along it. Each watchtower will be equipped with high-tech surveillance radars that are capable of detecting low-flying helicopters and approaching vehicles, as well as being able to spot a human from the range of about 20km.
There will also be 38 separate communication towers in place and 32 military response stations, as well as 240 armed rapid response vehicles which will patrol the wall.
BBC, December 25
Two Saudi women who were detained for defying a ban on female drivers are to be tried in a terrorism court, activists say.
Loujain al-Hathloul, 25, and Maysa al-Amoudi, 33, have been in detention for nearly a month.
The women’s cases had reportedly been transferred over comments they had made on social media – rather than for their driving, according to activists.
Bloomberg, By Anthony DiPaola & Mahmoud Habboush, December 14
OPEC will stand by its decision not to cut crude output even if oil prices fall as low as $40 a barrel and will wait at least three months before considering an emergency meeting, the United Arab Emirates’ energy minister said.
OPEC won’t immediately change its Nov. 27 decision to keep the group’s collective output target unchanged at 30 million barrels a day, Suhail Al-Mazrouei said. Venezuela supports an OPEC meeting given the price slide, though the country hasn’t officially requested one, an official at Venezuela’s foreign ministry said Dec. 12. The group is due to meet again on June 5.
“We are not going to change our minds because the prices went to $60 or to $40,” Mazrouei told Bloomberg at a conference in Dubai. “We’re not targeting a price; the market will stabilize itself.” He said current conditions don’t justify an extraordinary OPEC meeting. “We need to wait for at least a quarter” to consider an urgent session, he said.
OPEC’s 12 members pumped 30.56 million barrels a day in November, exceeding their collective target for a sixth straight month, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Kuwait this month deepened discounts on shipments to Asia, feeding speculation that they’re fighting for market share amid a glut fed by surging U.S. shale production. The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries supplies about 40 percent of the world’s oil.
President Obama announced today that in the spirit of bi-partisanship he will agree to repeal Obamacare.
The press release follows:
The Intercept, By Glenn Greenwald and Murtaza Hussain, July 25
The National Security Agency last year significantly expanded its cooperative relationship with the Saudi Ministry of Interior, one of the world’s most repressive and abusive government agencies. An April 2013 top secret memo provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden details the agency’s plans “to provide direct analytic and technical support” to the Saudis on “internal security” matters.
The Saudi Ministry of Interior—referred to in the document as MOI— has been condemned for years as one of the most brutal human rights violators in the world. In 2013, the U.S. State Department reported that “Ministry of Interior officials sometimes subjected prisoners and detainees to torture and other physical abuse,” specifically mentioning a 2011 episode in which MOI agents allegedly “poured an antiseptic cleaning liquid down [the] throat” of one human rights activist. The report also notes the MOI’s use of invasive surveillance targeted at political and religious dissidents.
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.
Kuwait is hosting the Heads of Arab states for their annual summit for the first time since joining Arab League.
Qatar is being pressured to stop supporting the Muslim Brotherhood and other radical movements through the region. Along with Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Mirates, Egypt is trying to isolate Qatar. Yet it is unlikely that attempts to reconcile Qatar will be on the agenda. With Syrian/Iraqi ties running deep, it is to be expected that the latest Qatar/Iran relationship will be scrutinised.
Syria, however is center stage, a year ago their seat was given to the opposition. But the Government is winning the fight. Yet Ahmadn Jarba head of the main opposition bloc will address leaders at the opening session. Iraq, Algeria and Lebanon continue to support Assad’s Alawite minority. Even whilst Lebanon shoots down a stray Syrian jet.
Israel considers that on the Palestinian issue, Arab leaders are expected to call for $100 million in monthly aid for the Palestinian Authority and to reject recognition of Israel as a Jewish state. Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas, fresh from talks with US President Barack Obama in Washington last week, is to brief his Arab counterparts.
AFP, March 8
Baghdad – Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki accused Saudi Arabia of supporting global “terrorism,” both inside the Arab world and in other countries, in an interview broadcast on Saturday. Maliki, in an interview with France 24, slammed “the dangerous Saudi stance” of supporting “terrorism in the world – it supports it in Syria and Iraq and Lebanon and Egypt and Libya and even in countries outside” the Arab world.
Saudi Arabia and Qatar are destabilising Iraq by supporting militant groups and have effectively declared war on the country.
“They are attacking Iraq, through Syria and in a direct way, and they announced war on Iraq,” the premier said.
Also, AFP: Maliki: Saudi Arabia and Qatar are at war with Iraq