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August 24th
6:22 PM
Patrick Cockburn  |  Independent.co.uk

…for all his gargantuan mistakes, Maliki’s failings are not the reason why the Iraqi state is disintegrating. What destabilised Iraq from 2011 on was the revolt of the Sunni in Syria and the takeover of that revolt by jihadis, who were often sponsored by donors in Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait and United Arab Emirates.
Saudi Arabia has created a Frankenstein’s monster over which it is rapidly losing control. The same is true of its allies such as Turkey which has been a vital back-base for Isis and Jabhat al-Nusra by keeping the 510-mile-long Turkish-Syrian border open. As Kurdish-held border crossings fall to Isis, Turkey will find it has a new neighbour of extraordinary violence…   >continue<

Patrick Cockburn  |  Independent.co.uk

…for all his gargantuan mistakes, Maliki’s failings are not the reason why the Iraqi state is disintegrating. What destabilised Iraq from 2011 on was the revolt of the Sunni in Syria and the takeover of that revolt by jihadis, who were often sponsored by donors in Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait and United Arab Emirates.

Saudi Arabia has created a Frankenstein’s monster over which it is rapidly losing control. The same is true of its allies such as Turkey which has been a vital back-base for Isis and Jabhat al-Nusra by keeping the 510-mile-long Turkish-Syrian border open. As Kurdish-held border crossings fall to Isis, Turkey will find it has a new neighbour of extraordinary violence…   >continue<

October 20th
2:10 PM

Saudi Arabia mysteriously withdrew, after having campaigned for and won a seat on the UN Security Council. They said it was over Western inaction on Syria and the the Palestinians.
&#8230;all of a sudden on Friday, Saudi Arabia resigned its seat. It said that it did so over UNSC inaction on Syria and on the lack of progress in resolving the problem of Palestinians’ statelessness. Some observers also suggested that it was an implicit protest against the possibility that the US and Iran will make up.
It is hard to know what to make of the Saudi action, which has never occurred before in the history of the UN.   &gt;continue&lt;

Saudi Arabia mysteriously withdrew, after having campaigned for and won a seat on the UN Security Council. They said it was over Western inaction on Syria and the the Palestinians.

all of a sudden on Friday, Saudi Arabia resigned its seat. It said that it did so over UNSC inaction on Syria and on the lack of progress in resolving the problem of Palestinians’ statelessness. Some observers also suggested that it was an implicit protest against the possibility that the US and Iran will make up.

It is hard to know what to make of the Saudi action, which has never occurred before in the history of the UN.   >continue<

January 29th
11:33 PM
Via
"This is the atmosphere you have now. It is such a non-tolerant atmosphere, even of other sects. Any other sect that doesn’t actually belong to our community is thought to be - I’m not going to be sharp but very specific - not the true Islam.” It is an intolerance which she claims pervades Saudi society, fromented by the mutawa, otherwise known as the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vices, ironically founded [by] her father to act as a check on traders charging inflated prices. The princess said: “Our religious police has the most dangerous effect on society - the segregation of genders, putting the wrong ideas in the heads of men and women, producing psychological diseases that never existed in our country before, like fanatacism. The mutawa are everywhere, trying to lead society to a very virtuous life that doesn’t exist. Everthing is now behind closed doors."
September 13th
9:45 PM

Saudi Warning over UN Palestine Vote

UN recognition of Palestine looms large for Obama. Writing in the NYTimes, Prince Turki al-Faisal issued an unparalleled warning on 9/11 to the U.S. over the consequences of vetoing Palestinian statehood:

Saudi Arabia would no longer be able to cooperate with America in the same way it historically has. With most of the Arab world in upheaval, the “special relationship” between Saudi Arabia and the United States would increasingly be seen as toxic by the vast majority of Arabs and Muslims, who demand justice for the Palestinian people.

Saudi leaders would be forced by domestic and regional pressures to adopt a far more independent and assertive foreign policy. Like our recent military support for Bahrain’s monarchy, which America opposed, Saudi Arabia would pursue other policies at odds with those of the United States, including opposing the government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki in Iraq and refusing to open an embassy there despite American pressure to do so. The Saudi government might part ways with Washington in Afghanistan and Yemen as well. >continue<

The only bright side is a subtle gift in letting the U.S. off the hook regards Bahrain. But on the larger point Saudi Arabia joins Turkey, another significant U.S. ally, in unprecedented moves, dramatically signaling Washington that the game has changed vis a vis Israel and Palestine.  See related:

U.S. risks being ‘toxic’  |  Israel, ‘the West’s spoiled child’

How a normal, healthy government behaves

July 27th
12:54 PM

Pakistan's Iran overtures test Saudi faith

…more than a dozen Wahhabis (hardline Sunni Muslims) from Pakistan were recently sent to Iran to meet with Shi’ite clerics, the majority faith in Iran. Pakistan, like Saudi Arabia, is predominantly Sunni. Efforts to keep the religious dialogue secret were exerted at the government level…

High-placed sources say the main objective of the religious delegation sent to Iran was to illustrate to Sunni and Shi’ite sects that “non-Muslim actors” are responsible for sectarian tensions between the two schools of thought in recent years. >continue<

June 7th
10:11 AM
Via

The Christian Science Monitor: The House of Saud strikes back

csmonitor:

Saudi Arabia isn’t taking this whole democracy thing lying down. It’s putting down uprisings, beefing up alliances with fellow autocrats, and distancing itself from the US. Dan Murphy outlines Saudi Arabia’s response to the Arab Spring in the Backchannels blog.

Unlike the US, whose selective encouragement of pro-democracy movements make it seem – in the language of pseudo-psychology – “conflicted,” the Kingdom has a laser-like focus on its interests, which begin and end with regime survival. Since the US isn’t a wholehearted supporter of the status quo anymore, the Saudis are creating alternative networks to prevent regime change. - Dan Murphy, staff reporter.

June 5th
10:20 PM
Via

Egypt's Food Supply in Danger - Lester Brown

climateadaptation:

China, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and other rich countries that cannot grow their own crops have bought or leased prime lands in Africa at rock bottom prices. Africa is already struggling with food shortages, and their prime lands are being used for foreign export. These countries use African land to grow food for export while paying low wages in a near feudalistic system, extract hugely valuable water resources, and are using millions of tons of unregulated pesticides. Brilliant.

The IIED has a page dedicated to land use deals in Africa, here.

underpaidgenius:

Egypt is a nation of bread eaters. Its citizens consume 18 million tons of wheat annually, more than half of which comes from abroad. Egypt is now the world’s leading wheat importer, and subsidized bread — for which the government doles out approximately $2 billion per year — is seen as an entitlement by the 60 percent or so of Egyptian families who depend on it.

As Egypt tries to fashion a functioning democracy after President Hosni Mubarak’s departure, land grabs to the south are threatening its ability to put bread on the table because all of Egypt’s grain is either imported or produced with water from the Nile River, which flows north through Ethiopia and Sudan before reaching Egypt. (Since rainfall in Egypt is negligible to nonexistent, its agriculture is totally dependent on the Nile.)

Unfortunately for Egypt, two of the favorite targets for land acquisitions are Ethiopia and Sudan, which together occupy three-fourths of the Nile River Basin. Today’s demands for water are such that there is little left of the river when it eventually empties into the Mediterranean. >continue<

The coming water wars will divide the world like never before.

April 18th
12:41 PM
Are the Saudis &#8216;dumping&#8217; Obama?

 &#8230;The Saudis are reportedly upset over President Obama&#8217;s backing for Arab uprisings against entrenched rulers, among other issues. Is this spat overblown? Or could this disagreement drive the oil-rich desert monarchy to seek outside support elsewhere?
U.S.-Saudi ties &#8220;are in crisis&#8221;: Tension is simmering on both sides, says Simon Henderson in Foreign Policy. Obama is fuming that the Saudis schemed to keep Egypt&#8217;s Hosni Mubarak in power and &#8220;throttled back&#8221; their own oil production. And King Abdullah &#8220;feels let down by the White House on pretty well everything.&#8221; Though the aging Abdullah &#8220;cuts an increasingly pathetic figure,&#8221; that won&#8217;t necessarily stop the Saudis from &#8220;dumping&#8221; Obama.   &gt;source&lt;

Are the Saudis ‘dumping’ Obama?

 …The Saudis are reportedly upset over President Obama’s backing for Arab uprisings against entrenched rulers, among other issues. Is this spat overblown? Or could this disagreement drive the oil-rich desert monarchy to seek outside support elsewhere?

U.S.-Saudi ties “are in crisis”: Tension is simmering on both sides, says Simon Henderson in Foreign Policy. Obama is fuming that the Saudis schemed to keep Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak in power and “throttled back” their own oil production. And King Abdullah “feels let down by the White House on pretty well everything.” Though the aging Abdullah “cuts an increasingly pathetic figure,” that won’t necessarily stop the Saudis from “dumping” Obama.   >source<

April 7th
10:27 AM
Via

thepoliticalnotebook:

Saudi Arabian Khaled Mohammed bravely spoke out to BBC Arabic reporters in Riyadh on March 11th in favour of freedom and democracy, saying he knew he would go to prison but that it was worth it to for once speak his mind.  He has been missing since the interview, which is here with English subtitles.  The interviewer asks him if he is worried about his children (he has four) and he says he does not worry for them today, but for their future.

“The police will be waiting for me here or there, and there is no way that I’ll go back to my home. But thanks be to God, I expressed my opinion.”  

The BBC tried to contact him a number of times, but were unable to find him.  Here is the “Where is Khaled” Facebook page. [ Via the Arabist.]

March 15th
10:09 AM
Via
nickturse:

Iran Calls Saudi Troops in Bahrain ‘Unacceptable’ - NYTimes.com
From an article in today’s New York Times by ETHAN BRONNER and MICHAEL SLACKMAN:
“We don’t know what is going to happen,” Jassim Hussein Ali, a member of  the opposition Wefaq party and a former member of Parliament, said in a  phone interview. “Bahrain is heading toward major problems, anarchy.  This is an occupation, and this is not welcome.”

Things may get worse in the Gulf, where tectonic political frictions increase. Bahrain&#8217;s 70% Shia population is effectively marginalized from politics in the kingdom.  Collateral effects in Shia majority Iraq could also further complicate matters for U.S.  
See the recent realclearworld.com piece, The Battle Between Iran and Saudi Arabia

nickturse:

Iran Calls Saudi Troops in Bahrain ‘Unacceptable’ - NYTimes.com

From an article in today’s New York Times by ETHAN BRONNER and MICHAEL SLACKMAN:

“We don’t know what is going to happen,” Jassim Hussein Ali, a member of the opposition Wefaq party and a former member of Parliament, said in a phone interview. “Bahrain is heading toward major problems, anarchy. This is an occupation, and this is not welcome.”

Things may get worse in the Gulf, where tectonic political frictions increase. Bahrain’s 70% Shia population is effectively marginalized from politics in the kingdom.  Collateral effects in Shia majority Iraq could also further complicate matters for U.S.  

See the recent realclearworld.com piece, The Battle Between Iran and Saudi Arabia

March 2nd
2:33 PM

Unconfirmed reports that a Saudi Facebook Activist Has Been Killed

Saudi activists alleged Wednesday that state security shot dead a leading online activist, who was calling for a ‘Day of Rage’ on March 11 in the oil-rich kingdom.

Faisal Ahmed Abdul-Ahadwas, 27, who called for a “Day of Rage” on March 11 through Facebook rumored as “shot dead by state security

February 9th
11:16 AM
Via

WikiLeaks May Have Just Confirmed That Peak Oil is Imminent | Fast Company

streamsofwikileaks:

It’s getting more and more difficult to deny that an oil supply crunch is just a few years down the road, especially now that WikiLeaks has released cables revealing that Saudi Arabia’s oil reserves have been exaggerated by as much as 40%, or 300 billion barrels. Saudi Arabia is the world’s largest oil exporter.

Peak oil, or the point when the maximum rate of global petroleum extraction has been reached and is about to enter terminal decline, is no longer the fringe theory it was just 10 years ago. Even Jeroen van der Veer, the chief executive of Royal Dutch Shell, has admitted that oil supply may no longer keep up with demand by 2015. But the just released cables, which detail a back-and-forth between the U.S. consul general and geologist Sadad al-Husseini, the former head of exploration at Saudi Aramco, confirms that the situation is serious.

Here’s an excerpt from one cable:

“In a presentation, Abdallah al-Saif, current Aramco senior vice-president for exploration, reported that Aramco has 716bn barrels of total reserves, of which 51% are recoverable, and that in 20 years Aramco will have 900bn barrels of reserves.
“Al-Husseini disagrees with this analysis, believing Aramco’s reserves are overstated by as much as 300bn barrels. In his view once 50% of original proven reserves has been reached…a steady output in decline will ensue and no amount of effort will be able to stop it. He believes that what will result is a plateau in total output that will last approximately 15 years followed by decreasing output.”

Other cables from the U.S. embassy in Riyadh go on to express fears that “Saudi Aramco is having to run harder to stay in place—to replace the decline in existing production,” and that “Clearly they can drive prices up, but we question whether they any longer have the power to drive prices down for a prolonged period.”

Only time will tell whether Al-Husseini’s predictions are correct, but the possibility of imminent peak oil is enough to make Obama’s goal of putting one million electric cars on the road by 2020 a little less overly ambitious.

- source/fastcompany.com

January 10th
8:03 AM

The Kingdom in the Closet

The gay men I interviewed in Jeddah and Riyadh laughed when I asked them if they worried about being executed. Although they do fear the mutawwa’in to some degree, they believe the House of Saud isn’t interested in a widespread hunt of homosexuals. For one thing, such an effort might expose members of the royal family to awkward scrutiny. “If they wanted to arrest all the gay people in Saudi Arabia,” Misfir, my chat-room guide, told me—repeating what he says was a police officer’s comment—“they’d have to put a fence around the whole country.”