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April 1, 2015 / 12 Nisan, 5775
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Posts Tagged ‘Saudi Arabia’

With Minimal US Involvement, Arab Coalition Launches Operation ‘Firmness Storm’ Fighting Iranian Expansionism

Thursday, March 26th, 2015

Published on Jewish Business News

by Ilan Shavit

Yemeni president Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi fled his palace in the capital city of Aden shortly after the Shi’ite Houthi rebels television station claimed they had taken control of an air base that served U.S. and European troops, Al Jazeera reported. Witnesses described a convoy of presidential vehicles leaving Hadi’s palace. As he was fleeing, Hadi asked the UN to authorize a foreign military intervention in the country.

Sunni countries in the Gulf have been accusing Iran of interference through several Shi’ite proxies in the region—including Israel’s neighbor Hezbollah. Iran has supplied weapons, money and training to the Shi’ite Houthi militia, as Tehran steps up its regional power struggle with Saudi Arabia, Reuters reported, citing Yemeni and Iranian officials say.

And then something new happened last night. Saudi Arabia and a coalition of Arab countries from the region launched operation “Firmness Storm” in Yemen against the Houthi.

Saudi ambassador to the U.S. Adel al-Jubair said on Wednesday that a coalition of 10 regional states, including Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, had begun airstrikes against the rebels at 7 PM Eastern time.

“The operation is to defend and support the legitimate government of Yemen and prevent the radical Houthi movement from taking over the country,” al-Jubair told reporters.

Al-Jubeir said the U.S. is not involved in the airstrikes. But CNN military analyst Lt. Col. Rick Francona, a retired U.S. Air Force intelligence officer, said the U.S. probably provides the intelligence.

“The Saudis don’t have the intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance capability,” he said. “They needed help and it probably come from us.”

An Egyptian official told AFP that Egypt also plans to participate in the Yemen offensive.

The Saudis have announced that Pakistan, Jordan, Morocco and Sudan have “expressed desire to participate in the operation,” Saudi SPA state news agency said.

According to SPA, last week, commenting on the nuclear talks with Iran, Saudi foreign minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal told reporters “the United States will adhere to the negotiations with Iran and will prevent an Iranian development of atomic bomb, but this will not mean we will take our eyes off” the “tendencies of Iran in the region, which is one of the most leading elements of implanting instability in the region.”

Al-Faisal pointed out Iranian intervention in “Syria, Lebanon, Yemen, and Iraq,” and possibly in other regions. He stressed that these practices must be halted should Iran wanted to be part of the solution in the region, not part of the problem.

This might be a good time to mention Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s much maligned, March 3 speech before Congress, when he warned, among other things:

“Iran’s goons in Gaza, its lackeys in Lebanon, its revolutionary guards on the Golan Heights are clutching Israel with three tentacles of terror. Backed by Iran, Assad is slaughtering Syrians. Back by Iran, Shiite militias are rampaging through Iraq. Back by Iran, Houthis are seizing control of Yemen, threatening the strategic straits at the mouth of the Red Sea. Along with the Straits of Hormuz, that would give Iran a second choke-point on the world’s oil supply.”

US Removes Iran, Hezbollah from National Intelligence Terrorist List

Thursday, March 19th, 2015

Both Iran and its Lebanon-based proxy, Hezbollah, have been removed from the National Intelligence list of terrorism threats – the most authoritative document produced by the National Intelligence Agency.

Fox NewsOn The Record with Greta Susteren reported late Tuesday on information found in the unclassified version of the report, the Worldwide Threat Assessment of the US Intelligence Communities 2015 (PDF), dated February 26, 2015. An annual report, this one was delivered recently to the U.S. Senate by National Intelligence Director Lt.-Gen. (ret.) James Clapper.

The document noted Iran’s “intentions to dampen sectarianism, build responsive partners and de-escalate tensions with Saudi Arabia.” Also noted was the fact that “Iranian leaders – particularly within the security services – are pursuing policies with negative secondary consequences for regional stability and potentially for Iran… Iran’s actions to protect and empower Shia communities are fueling growing fears and sectarian responses…”

The intelligence report added that Tehran’s “overarching strategic goals of enhancing its security, prestige and regional influence” have led it to “pursue capabilities to meet its civilian goals and give it the ability to build missile-deliverable nuclear weapons, if it chooses to do so.”

Whether or not Iran would choose to do so it still not clear, according to the U.S. intelligence assessment. However, if the Iranian government decides to go ahead, there exist no “insurmountable technical barriers to producing a nuclear weapon,” American intelligence experts concluded, most likely to be delivered via intercontinental ballistic missiles.

Former U.S. Ambassador John Bolton told Fox News journalist Greta Susteren that he believes the removal of Iran and Hezbollah from the terrorist list was not a simple “format change” as reporters were told at a briefing, but rather a deliberate attempt by the Obama administration to deceive the American public.

“What we’re having now is an Orwellian example of disappearing references to Iran and its proxy Hezbollah from the terrorism report,” Bolton said, during an exchange with Susteren on Fox. “This was a concession, I think, by the administration relating to the nuclear negotiation. You will not find it in the signed deal.

“How many other concessions has the administration made that are not in the deal — that may not even be related to the nuclear program — in this desperate effort to get a deal?”

Meanwhile, Iran is moving to widen its sphere of influence in South America, where its diplomatic ties are already strong with Argentina and even warmer with Venezuela, which has the largest reserves of uranium in the Western hemisphere, outside of Canada.

Photos that flashed across Fox News during a report by Susteren showed a heavily guarded facility that was set up in Bolivia in 2011, allegedly with Iranian backing.

“There are elements of that facility which is supposed to be some type of military academy,” Susteren reported, “but is very heavily fortified. And the suspicion is that it’s being used by Iran as a way to have a footprint in Bolivia” which she described as “not a friend of the United States.”

Despite the disappearance of Iran from the terror map in the 2015 National Intelligence assessment, Fox journalist Cathern Herridge also noted that “the documents, the photos and Congressional testimony show that Iran is really effectively expanding its influence into South America, into our neighbor.”

In effect, Herridge said, Iran is “creating a launching pad into North America.”

Bolton concurred in his own remarks. “Look, Iran has terrorist networks all over this hemisphere,” he pointed out. “Remember, three years ago, the Justice Department indicted senior officials of the Revolutionary Guards Corps for conspiring to kill the Saudi Arabian ambassador to the United States in Washington by infiltrating through the Mexican border.

“I think this is just another example of Iran’s activities.”

Sweden Rips Up Saudi Military Deal After Cairo Spat Over Human Rights

Wednesday, March 11th, 2015

Published on Jewish Business News

by Ilan Shavit

Sweden is canceling its military deal with Saudi Arabia one day after an open dispute between the two countries over human rights had led to the public humiliation of the Swedish foreign minister in Cairo.

According to Reuters, Swedish companies last year exported roughly $40 million in defense equipment to Saudi Arabia, and that the overall deal now killed has earned the Swedes in $560 million between 2011 and 2014.

The lucrative deal was cancelled after, on Monday, Saudi Arabia blocked Sweden’s foreign minister Margot Wallström from speaking to the League of Arab States assembled in Cairo.

Wallström was told that she could certainly speak to the Arab League about Sweden’s decision to become the first EU country to officially to recognize the State of Palestine—the reason she had been invited—but she shouldn’t bring up troubling issues such as human rights and democracy in the Middle East, particularly Saudi Arabia.

Swedish politicians have been attacking Riyadh’s preference for sharia law, complete with flogging and beheading, and how that relates to our common notion of human rights.

So Wallström was snubbed one more time by a Middle Eastern country unhappy with its approach to international diplomacy—the first one being Israeli foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman, who forced her to cancel her planned visit to Israel in January.

For their part, the Arab League ministers issued a statement saying “Sharia has guaranteed human rights and preserved people’s lives, possessions, honor and dignity. The ministers consider the comments as irresponsible and unacceptable.”

The deal was initially signed by the Social Democrats in 2005, and then renewed by the right wing government in 2010. But the current left-leaning government has the Green party as a coalition partner, and they refuse to arm a country with so many human rights violations like Saudi Arabia.

A spokesman for Saab told Reuters: “Saudi Arabia is a very important market for us and a good customer. How Sweden handles this can affect us.”

Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven, who is visiting the Ukraine, confirmed the Saudi deal is dead.

The Financial Times pointed out that Sweden’s military industrial complex’s cozy relationship with the Saudi Crown was one of the reasons the Right was defeated last September. Back in 2012, defense minister Sten Tolgfors was forced to resign over his exposed plans to build a weapons factory in the Arabian desert.

An open fight with the Arabs does not bode well for Sweden’s chances to gain a seat on the UN Security Council, which is why, presumably, they recognized Palestine in the first place.

Fears Over US Iran Deal Trigger Mideast Nuclear Race, Saudi-South Korea Deal

Thursday, March 5th, 2015

The race for nuclear power has begun in the Middle East in response to fears of an Iranian nuclear threat.

The move towards nuclear technology in a region where barely half of the population graduates high school, let alone matriculates in a post-secondary school institution, was triggered by U.S. reluctance to reign in Tehran and the hostility of the Obama administration towards Israel.

Possibly in response to an editorial published this week in the English-language edition of the Saudi Arabia-based Al Arabiya,

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry flew straight to Riyadh yesterday after talks with Iran went on a brief hiatus in Montreaux.

But the leaders of Saudi Arabia have signed a $2 billion deal with South Korea to build at least two small and medium-size nuclear reactors, according to a report Tuesday in The Korea Herald.

The memorandum of understanding (MOU) calls for a feasibility study to build Korean SMART reactors in Saudi Arabia. The reactors, to be designed by the Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute, are specifically intended for the generation of electricity and desalination of sea water in Middle Eastern nations, according to the report. Completion of the feasibility study is expected by 2018. The two nations previously signed a nuclear cooperation agreement in 2011.

South Korean President Park Geun-hye met Tuesday with Saudi King Salman on ways to strengthen bilateral relations between the two nations. Before arriving in Riyadh, Park had concluded a three-day visit to Kuwait.

Next on her itinerary are the United Arab Emirates and Qatar.

Washington needs Saudi Arabia’s support in the region for a host of foreign policy reasons. As a result, Kerry is now working to convince the Riyadh government that President Barack Obama will not bargain away its interests at the table with Iran.

The U.S. “will not take our eye off of Iran’s other destabilizing actions in places like Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and the Arabian peninsula – Yemen particularly,” Kerry told a meeting of the foreign ministers from the six Gulf Cooperating Council (GCC) states.

The Secretary of State met earlier in the day with newly-crowned King Salman and deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef in his efforts to reassure Saudi Arabia that the U.S. was not seeking any “grand bargain” with the Islamic Republic.

“Nothing will be different the day after this agreement,” Kerry claimed, “if we were to reach one, with respect to all of the other issues that challenge us in this region.”

Obama Invited Hamas-Backed Qatar and PA to ‘Counter Violent Extremism’

Friday, February 20th, 2015

Among the 80 groups and countries invited to this week’s White House Summit to Counter Violent Extremism were Qatar, which finances Hamas, and the Palestinian Authority, which includes Hamas.

Also invited were Hamas, another enthusiast of Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood; and Lebanon, which is dominated by Hezbollah; and the Arab League, a collection of Middle East countries from Saudi Arabia to Afghanistan that live and breathe by the sword.

As previously reported here by The Jewish Press, President Barack Obama said the United States is not at war against Islam. The enemy is not “radical Islam” because if Muslims are violent and extremists, they aren’t true Muslims.

Just imagine how people would behave according to that philosophy. If you are violent in the name of homosexuality, you are not a true homosexual because same-sex relations are all about peace and love.

And if you are violent for the sake of liberalism, or right-wing causes, you can’t possibly be a true left-winger or right-winger because they stand for peace.

It is not far from Catholicism, by which one can sin 24/6, confess on Sunday and go back for another round.

It is a philosophy of “Judge me by whom I am and by what I do.”

That is why not much is expected from Obama’s White House summit, especially when Muslim leaders in the United States and all over the world are not standing on the soap box to denounce their own radical Muslim preachers who espouse violence, all in the name of peace.

Even worse, they insist that Muslims are radicalized because of their economic and social situation, an attitude being accepted by the Obama, as reported here by The Jewish Press.

Marwan Muasher, a Jordanian politician who oversees research on the Middle East at the US-based Carnegie Endowment, told the London Guardian:

This is not the administration’s war, any administration’s war. It is not equipped to do it; it cannot do it.

The Arab world needs to take the lead on this. The Americans can lead on the military front; they cannot lead on the ideological front. They are not capable of doing so and the region does not want them to do so. The question is, is the region capable of taking the lead ideologically.

The answer so far is “no” for exactly the reason he stated – Middle East Muslim countries do not want the American government making the world safe from radical Islam.

As for his question whether the Muslim world can take “the lead ideologically,” the answer until today has been a resounding “no.”

The Muslim world is in the midst of a war between Sunnis and Shi’ites. The war is being fought on the battlefield and not just by the Islamic State but in virtually every country. It is a war that left Egypt on the brink of anarchy, a situation that continues in Lebanon.

It is a war of who controls oil fields, but above all, it is a war of whose Islam rules, and in order to win, ideology is not a convincing weapon. Their weapon is violence.

The Obama administration’s insistence on not mentioning “radical Islam” in its war on terror makes it impossible to root out violent extremism.

Retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, a former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, told the House Armed Services Committee in remarks concerning the war against the Islamic State:

We are at war with violent and extreme Islamists (both Sunni and Shiite) and we must accept and face this reality. We must engage the violent Islamists wherever they are, drive them from their safe havens and kill them.”

President Obama has put his administration in a Catch-22 situation.

He cannot Lt. Gen. Flynn’s thinking because it is politically incorrect.

Otherwise, Muslim countries would not have attended the summit, but because he won’t mention “radical Islam,” nothing will happen.

 

Exclusive: Syrian Activist Blasts Foreign Deal to Train, Arm & Equip Syrian ‘Moderate’ Forces

Friday, February 20th, 2015

A new U.S. agreement with Turkey to train and equip five thousand moderate Syrian opposition forces “is not a serious effort at all to win a war,” a displaced Syrian activist refugee says. Aboud Dandachi, who now lives in Istanbul, Turkey says a plan to train and arm 5,000 moderate Syrian opposition forces is “not serious at all.”

The plan signed by the United States at the U.S. Embassy in Ankara is intended to train, equip and arm 5,000 troops. Congress has already allocated half a billion dollars for the project, but according to a Pentagon spokesperson, only 1,200 “moderates” have been “identified” for the program slated to begin in mid-March. How long will it take U.S. military specialists to train, equip and arm 5,000 Syrian rebels? How effective will this program be? Will it help change the picture with Daesh, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria terrorist group? Will anything be resolved in Syria by this?

Dandachi has had first-hand experience observing the factors that led to the nightmare that once was his homeland. A business person, he became a refugee within his own country after being forced to leave his home in Homs when the Syrian Army launched an artillery and tank assault on his neighborhood. After moving from one place to the next and following the Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons against two Damascus neighborhoods, Dandachi made the painful decision to leave his homeland and traveled to Istanbul, arriving in September 2013.  He has a rather sardonic view of President Barack Obama’s new plan to help Syrian rebel forces. As to the American president’s international credibility …. well …

“Where do I begin with the problem with this approach,” Dandachi replied in an exclusive interview conducted via the Internet with JewishPress.com on Thursday. “If an Israeli wants a career in the IDF, he or she knows where to sign up. If any Jew anywhere in the world wants to dedicate a few years of their lives to serving Israel, they know the address.

“You can’t build a military by “scouting” soldiers; you need people to know where to come forward,” Dandachi said. “As a Syrian I can’t very well sit around and hope to be ‘discovered’ by Obama,” he continued. “And then if I were, it will be a cold day in hell before I trust him to sell me a used car, much less supply me with weapons.

“War is a potentially long term affair; will Obama keep this force supplied for the years it may take to have any effect? The Americans have proven notoriously fickle in the past,” he observed. (Ed. – More than one news commentator has made similar remarks, referencing America’s behavior in Iraq and Afghanistan, for starters.)

Somewhat taken aback by his candor, this writer asked a second time about the advisability of revealing his identity – but was told “by all means” to go ahead.

“I was never a fighter and I will never be one, I’ve never held a gun in my life, but I’m sure that’s what many potential fighters could be thinking right now,” Dandachi wrote. “When the U.S. went to war in WWII and Vietnam, it didn’t want to “vet” its potential pool of recruits – it drafted anyone above a certain age. When you wage all-out war you can’t hand-pick your fighters; you need to make sure of the widest possible amount of potential manpower available.

“Training” several thousand soldiers is not a serious effort at all to win a war,” he contended.

By the way — Dandachi’s point has some merit: how effective can 5,000 U.S.-trained troops be against the combined forces of Syrian military forces, backed and equipped by Russia and Iran, fighting side by side with the elite Iranian Revolutionary Guards force and the Lebanon-based Hezbollah guerrilla fighters?

Syrian “moderate” forces will also be facing the “other” Syrian rebel faction — that of the radical Islamist rebels linked to Al Qaeda (Jabhat al Nusra, for instance) and now also Daesh, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). That force alone numbers in the tens of thousands: the most recent estimates place the total number of “moderate” Syrian rebel fighters at best at 20,000.

Can this cause be saved?

Saudi King Hands Out $32.2 BILLION in Bonuses to Government Workers

Friday, February 13th, 2015

Saudi Arabia’s new King Salam has handed out $32.2 billion in gifts to government employees despite the drastic dip in the price of oil the past six months.

Saudi kings have a tradition of marking their arrival to the throne by dipping into the kingdom’s vault and handing out a few shekels.

“The bonuses are the usual practice when there’s a succession,” Steffen Hertog, associate professor at the London School of Economics, told the Financial Times.

Saudi Arabia’s reserves stand at approximately $730 billion, give or take a penny, King Salam’s gifts reduce the reserves to a paltry $698 billion, which perhaps explains why there is not enough money to subsidize driving lessons for women.

 

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/saudi-king-hands-out-32-2-bonuses-to-government-workers/2015/02/13/

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