28east

Politics, religion, and culture where East meets West

Posts Tagged ‘Saudi Arabia

Salaries for Syrian rebels

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In case you were fooled by the visible support for and “acceptance” of Kofi Annan’s six-point plan, or Turkey’s call for a Syrian truce—nothing has changed:

Nations pledge millions for Syrian opposition
Bradley Klapper; AP; Apr. 1, 2012

ISTANBUL (AP) — A coalition of more than 70 partners, including the United States, pledged Sunday to send millions of dollars and communications equipment to Syria’s opposition groups, signaling deeper involvement in the conflict amid a growing belief that diplomacy and sanctions alone cannot end the Damascus regime’s repression. Read the rest of this entry »

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Written by M. James

April 1, 2012 at 6:35 pm

The beginning of the end in Syria

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Eight days ago, an Arab diplomat—on condition of anonymity—claimed that Saudi Arabia is now sending “military equipment” to the Free Syrian Army via Jordan. I posited that this, an overt statement of support for the Syrian opposition by ethnic Arabs, would catalyze NATO into action. With what could pass as a mandate from an Arab country, NATO is finally justified to intervene on humanitarian grounds.

Today, the U.S. and Turkey made an official announcement, agreeing to provide “nonlethal” assistance to the Syrian opposition. Officially, that means anything short of guns. Practically, that means U.S. intelligence, advice, and telecommunications.

Fully weaponized and coached, only incompetence stands between a united Syrian opposition and regime change in Damascus. But the incompetence and disunity of the Syrian opposition have long been causes for delay—and the U.S. and Turkey haven’t taken any real policy risks by (overt) support in Syria until this announcement.

Which leads us to believe that the only new development, overt Saudi intervention, is the ticket to guaranteed regime change—and is the reason that NATO is finally willing to stick its neck out. With an Arab mandate, an incompetent opposition will be no obstacle. If the Free Syrian Army can’t pull itself together within the next few months; no-fly zones, Turkish buffer zones, and humanitarian war will all—finally—be justified.

Though the form the opposition will take from now on is still impossible to discern, we can expect that this is the beginning of the end of Bashar al-Assad’s Syria.

Written by M. James

March 25, 2012 at 11:11 pm

Saudis push Syria

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An overt, tangible statement of support for the Syrian uprising (the nearest thing to the “military option” so far) by Saudi Arabia:

Saudi sends military gear to Syria rebels: diplomat
AFP; Mar. 17th, 2012

DUBAI — Saudi Arabia is delivering military equipment to Syrian rebels in an effort to stop bloodshed by President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, a top Arab diplomat said on Saturday.

“Saudi military equipment is on its way to Jordan to arm the Free Syrian Army,” the diplomat told AFP on condition of anonymity.

“This is a Saudi initiative to stop the massacres in Syria,” he added, saying that further “details will follow at a later time.”

Arising amidst renewed suggestions of a Turkish military buffer zone for Syrian refugees, this move by the Saudis may be an attempt to catalyze a reluctant NATO into action by demonstrating visible support from the Arab world—a world that NATO has no formal part in.

The statement also comes just hours after a deadly, well-coordinated car bombing in Damascus.

 

Written by M. James

March 18, 2012 at 4:07 am

Sectarian perils in the Kingdom

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“The United States should in its own, and in the Gulf States’, interest push for a real reconciliation between the Shiites of Bahrain and Saudi Arabia and their governments. Otherwise, sectarianism will come to dominate the Gulf, to the detriment of all.”

All except Iran.

Saudi Arabia’s Shi’ite Problem
Toby Matthiesen; Foreign Policy; Mar. 7, 2012

At least seven young Shiite Muslims have been shot dead and several dozen wounded by security forces in Eastern Saudi Arabia in recent months. While details of the shootings remain unclear, and the ministry of interior claims those shot were attacking the security forces, mass protests have followed the funerals of the deceased. These events are only the latest developments in the decades-long struggle of the Saudi Shiites, which has taken on a new urgency in the context of 2011’s regional uprisings — but have been largely ignored by mainstream media.

The Eastern Province is home to virtually all of Saudi Arabia’s oil and to a sizeable Shiite minority, estimated at between one and a half and two million people or around 10 percent of Saudi Arabia’s citizen population. The Wahhabi creed of Sunni Islam that the state sponsors in Saudi Arabia has developed a special hostility toward the Shiites. Saudi Shiite citizens in turn have long complained of discrimination in religious practice, government employment, and business, and overall marginalization.

As the protests in Bahrain and particularly in Qatif receive only limited attention on Gulf-owned channels like Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya, local Shiites are forced to watch the Iranian-sponsored Arabic-language Al Alam channel, Lebanese Hezbollah’s Al Manar, Iraq’s Ahlul Bait TV, or increasingly other pro-Assad channels to receive updates on the situation in their areas. The new cold war in the Middle East has turned into a fully-fledged media war, in which media outlets are either with the protests in Bahrain and Qatif and for Assad’s regime, or with the protests in Syria and against the allegedly sectarian protests in Bahrain and Qatif.

The alienation of Shiite youth foments a perfect breeding ground for a new Gulf Shiite opposition movement and plays into the hands of the Iranian regime. Even without external help for the local Shiite protesters, the area looks ripe for a return to the tense sectarian politics of the 1980s. The United States should in its own, and in the Gulf States’, interest push for a real reconciliation between the Shiites of Bahrain and Saudi Arabia and their governments. Otherwise, sectarianism will come to dominate the Gulf, to the detriment of all.

Written by M. James

March 11, 2012 at 6:51 pm

The Saudi dilemma

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Below is crucial analysis for understanding the ideological difficulties faced by Saudi Salafism (Wahhabism) within the context of the Arab Spring. I urge readers to access this article in its entirety before Stratfor re-erects its paywall.

Saudi Arabia and the Muslim Brotherhood: Unexpected Adversaries
Stratfor; Mar. 5, 2012

The Muslim Brotherhood has factored prominently into nearly every case of Arab unrest. The strength of the MB branches varies greatly from country to country, but even after decades of political repression, the MB and its affiliates have been able to maintain the largest and most organized civil society networks. When power vacuums are created in autocratic states, the MB networks are typically best positioned to convert public support for their social services into votes. This dynamic was most clearly illustrated in Egypt, where the Muslim Brotherhood’s political wing emerged as the single-largest party in the parliament. More liberal incarnations of the MB in Tunisia and Morocco also made significant political gains in 2011.

The unrest in Syria represents yet another complication for the Saudi regime. Saudi Arabia is certainly enticed by the prospect of undercutting Iran’s leverage in the Levant, but it also cannot ignore the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood as a powerful force in the opposition movement. The Sunni armed resistance operating under the label of the Free Syrian Army takes care to publicly distance itself from any Islamist ideology in the hopes of attracting Western support, but local anecdotes and the limited polling that has been done by journalists embedded among Sunni protesters has so far revealed strong support for the MB should the political struggle come to a vote.

Saudi Arabia is thus caught between a geopolitical imperative to contain Iran and a domestic strategic imperative to contain Islamism as a political force. This dilemma has put Saudi Arabia directly at odds with Turkey, the rising regional counterweight to Iran and Saudi Arabia’s co-collaborator in backing the Syrian Sunni opposition against the al Assad regime. Turkey’s own liberal Islamism, shaped by Sufi Islamic culture, Ottoman religious values and Kemalist secularism, is distinct from the MB’s conservative model of Arab Islamism and allows far more room for secularist practices, but the two strands share a basic ideological principle in using Islam as a path toward governance. Whereas Turkey is actively trying to mold the MB in Syria according to its own moderate Islamist vision, Saudi Arabia would like nothing more than to see the MB marginalized in the Syrian opposition.

Written by M. James

March 5, 2012 at 8:39 pm