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Saudi Arabia’s struggle for influence – Inside Story – Al Jazeera English

Saudi Arabia’s struggle for influence – Inside Story – Al Jazeera English.

Saudi Arabia has pledged $3bn in aid to the Lebanese armed forces, a gift that comes in a time when tensions run high, both inside Lebanon and across the region.Lebanese President Michel Sleiman announced the donation on Sunday describing it as the largest grant ever given to the country’s armed forces. It is almost double the amount of Lebanon’s entire defence budget for last year.

We faced a lot of objections from the United States in the past to re-arm and to enhance the ability of the army because they think that this could threaten the stability of Israel, but now apparently the Saudis decided to go ahead and disregard the United States’ objection.Mustafa Alani, a military analyst, senior adviser at Gulf Research Centre

“This aid aims to support Lebanon in all its religions and support the Lebanese army that is known for supporting national unity. We will provide it with all the needed conditions to achieve the great national cause that it was set up for,” he said.

Sleiman made the announcement after the funeral of senior Lebanese politician Mohamed Shatah who was killed in a car bomb on Friday.

Shatah was critical of Lebanon’s Shia movement Hezbollah and Syria’s president, which Hezbollah supports. But there has been no claim of responsibility for his killing.

Lebanon’s army has struggled to deal with violence spilling over from Syria’s civil war and is seen as weak in dealing with armed internal groups, especially Hezbollah.

In the last three years, Saudi Arabia has been pushing to be the Middle East’s most powerful player.

In Egypt, the Saudis backed the military coup that overthrew President Mohamed Morsi; within two hours of the coup, they pledged $5bn in aid.

They have also positioned themselves as crucial players in Syria, funding the rebels against President Bashar al-Assad and providing them with weapons.

And in Yemen, Saudi Arabia carefully brokered the power transition in 2011 following the uprising there. That allowed its long-time ally, Ali Abdullah Saleh, to leave office with immunity from prosecution.

So, is the donation to Lebanon a recipe for further turmoil or will it allow for greater security? And what does it mean for Saudi Arabia’s role in the region?

Inside Story explores the reasons behind this donation and the potential ramifications. Presenter Laura Kyle discusses with Hisham Jaber, a retired Lebanese army general and head of the Middle East Centre for Studies and Research; Sadegh Zibakalam, a professor of political science at Tehran University; and Mustafa Alani, a military analyst and senior adviser at the Gulf Research Centre.

“Two years ago, Iran presented its will to give the Lebanese army equipment, and many political voices said ‘no!’ because they said there are political conditions. Now on the other side they said also ‘We do accept the Saudi grant without political conditions’. In my opinion we have to accept all grants for the army to build up an army and to stop this discussion and to leave this army weak. I don’t think the United States of America will provide this army any air defence system because Israel says ‘no’.”Hisham Jaber, a retired Lebanese army general

U.S. Cover-up of Saudi 9/11 Ties Probed, JW Has Secret Flight Docs | Judicial Watch

U.S. Cover-up of Saudi 9/11 Ties Probed, JW Has Secret Flight Docs | Judicial Watch.

The U.S. government’s cover-up of a Saudi connection in the 9/11 terrorist attacks is receiving new attention because a pair of legislators—one Republican, one Democrat—recently viewed a redacted chunk of a congressional report that confirms foreign state involvement in the plot.

Americans have been told that Al Qaeda acted alone on September 11, 2001 and that there were no state sponsors. In fact, the George W. Bush administration blacked out dozens of pages of a congressional investigative report on 9/11 that dealt with specific sources of foreign support for the 19 hijackers, most of whom were Saudi nationals.

Judicial Watch quickly launched an investigation and in 2005 obtained shocking documents from the FBI detailing how well-connected Saudis, including relatives of Osama bin Laden, left the U.S. on specially chartered flights while most air traffic was still grounded. In all, 160 subjects of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, including but not limited to members of the House of Saud and/or members of the bin Laden family fled the U.S. between September 11, 2001 and September 15, 2001.

The records uncovered by JW show that two prominent Saudi families that fled the U.S. following 9/11 got personal airport escorts from the FBI and that authorities let other Saudis leave the country without first interviewing them. The secret Saudi flights left from Las Vegas, Los Angeles and other major U.S. cities. An unidentified prince in Las Vegas even thanked the FBI for its assistance, according to one internal report obtained by JW. Incredibly, the FBI returned to the Las Vegas hotels with subpoenas days after the Saudi flights departed to gather information on the royal guests, the records show. Read more about this in JW’s New York Times Best Seller “Corruption Chronicles.”

This week investigative journalist Paul Sperry reveals that two federal lawmakers— North Carolina Republican Congressman Walter Jones and Massachusetts Democrat Stephen Lynch—finally got a hold of the suspiciously redacted pages of Congress’s 9/11 report. Federal law prohibits them from disclosing the details, but both legislators said they were “absolutely shocked” at the level of foreign involvement in the 9/11 attacks. There’s little doubt they’re referring to the Saudi connection.

To make the information public, the lawmakers have proposed that Congress pass a resolution asking President Obama, who has promised to run the most transparent administration in history, to declassify the entire 2002 report. It certainly appears that the U.S. government is protecting the Saudis. In fact, federal agents told Sperry, a veteran reporter and columnist, that they were repeatedly called off pursuing 9/11 leads back to the Saudi Embassy, which had curious sway over White House and FBI responses to the attacks.

Besides the secret Saudi flights, Judicial Watch has ongoing investigations related to the sophisticated 9/11 plot. Earlier this year JW obtained documents from the FBI that show strong ties between Anwar al Aulaqi, the U.S.-born terrorist assassinated in 2011 by a U.S. drone in Yemen, and two of the 9/11 hijackers who attacked the Pentagon. In the documents the FBI describes al Aulaqi as “The Spiritual Leader of the Hijackers.”

 

Inside the Saudi 9/11 coverup | New York Post

Inside the Saudi 9/11 coverup | New York Post.

After the 9/11 attacks, the public was told al Qaeda acted alone, with no state sponsors.

But the White House never let it see an entire section of Congress’ investigative report on 9/11 dealing with “specific sources of foreign support” for the 19 hijackers, 15 of whom were Saudi nationals.

It was kept secret and remains so today.

President Bush inexplicably censored 28 full pages of the 800-page report. Text isn’t just blacked-out here and there in this critical-yet-missing middle section. The pages are completely blank, except for dotted lines where an estimated 7,200 words once stood (this story by comparison is about 1,000 words).

A pair of lawmakers who recently read the redacted portion say they are “absolutely shocked” at the level of foreign state involvement in the attacks.

Reps. Walter Jones (R-NC) and Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.) can’t reveal the nation identified by it without violating federal law. So they’ve proposed Congress pass a resolution asking President Obama to declassify the entire 2002 report, “Joint Inquiry Into Intelligence Community Activities Before and After the Terrorist Attacks of September 11, 2001.”

Some information already has leaked from the classified section, which is based on both CIA and FBI documents, and it points back to Saudi Arabia, a presumed ally.

The Saudis deny any role in 9/11, but the CIA in one memo reportedly found “incontrovertible evidence” that Saudi government officials — not just wealthy Saudi hardliners, but high-level diplomats and intelligence officers employed by the kingdom — helped the hijackers both financially and logistically. The intelligence files cited in the report directly implicate the Saudi embassy in Washington and consulate in Los Angeles in the attacks, making 9/11 not just an act of terrorism, but an act of war.

Modal Trigger

The findings, if confirmed, would back up open-source reporting showing the hijackers had, at a minimum, ties to several Saudi officials and agents while they were preparing for their attacks inside the United States. In fact, they got help from Saudi VIPs from coast to coast:

LOS ANGELES: Saudi consulate official Fahad al-Thumairy allegedly arranged for an advance team to receive two of the Saudi hijackers — Khalid al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi — as they arrived at LAX in 2000. One of the advance men, Omar al-Bayoumi, a suspected Saudi intelligence agent, left the LA consulate and met the hijackers at a local restaurant. (Bayoumi left the United States two months before the attacks, while Thumairy was deported back to Saudi Arabia after 9/11.)

SAN DIEGO: Bayoumi and another suspected Saudi agent, Osama Bassnan, set up essentially a forward operating base in San Diego for the hijackers after leaving LA. They were provided rooms, rent and phones, as well as private meetings with an American al Qaeda cleric who would later become notorious, Anwar al-Awlaki, at a Saudi-funded mosque he ran in a nearby suburb. They were also feted at a welcoming party. (Bassnan also fled the United States just before the attacks.)

WASHINGTON: Then-Saudi Ambassador Prince Bandar and his wife sent checks totaling some $130,000 to Bassnan while he was handling the hijackers. Though the Bandars claim the checks were “welfare” for Bassnan’s supposedly ill wife, the money nonetheless made its way into the hijackers’ hands.

Other al Qaeda funding was traced back to Bandar and his embassy — so much so that by 2004 Riggs Bank of Washington had dropped the Saudis as a client.

The next year, as a number of embassy employees popped up in terror probes, Riyadh recalled Bandar.

“Our investigations contributed to the ambassador’s departure,” an investigator who worked with the Joint Terrorism Task Force in Washington told me, though Bandar says he left for “personal reasons.”

FALLS CHURCH, VA.: In 2001, Awlaki and the San Diego hijackers turned up together again — this time at the Dar al-Hijrah Islamic Center, a Pentagon-area mosque built with funds from the Saudi Embassy. Awlaki was recruited 3,000 miles away to head the mosque. As its imam, Awlaki helped the hijackers, who showed up at his doorstep as if on cue. He tasked a handler to help them acquire apartments and IDs before they attacked the Pentagon.

Awlaki worked closely with the Saudi Embassy. He lectured at a Saudi Islamic think tank in Merrifield, Va., chaired by Bandar. Saudi travel itinerary documents I’ve obtained show he also served as the ­official imam on Saudi Embassy-sponsored trips to Mecca and tours of Saudi holy sites.

Most suspiciously, though, Awlaki fled the United States on a Saudi jet about a year after 9/11.

As I first reported in my book, “Infiltration,” quoting from classified US documents, the Saudi-sponsored cleric was briefly detained at JFK before being released into the custody of a “Saudi representative.” A federal warrant for Awlaki’s arrest had mysteriously been withdrawn the previous day. A US drone killed Awlaki in Yemen in 2011.

HERNDON, VA.: On the eve of the attacks, top Saudi government official Saleh Hussayen checked into the same Marriott Residence Inn near Dulles Airport as three of the Saudi hijackers who targeted the Pentagon. Hussayen had left a nearby hotel to move into the hijackers’ hotel. Did he meet with them? The FBI never found out. They let him go after he “feigned a seizure,” one agent recalled. (Hussayen’s name doesn’t appear in the separate 9/11 Commission Report, which clears the Saudis.)

SARASOTA, FLA.: 9/11 ringleader Mohamed Atta and other hijackers visited a home owned by Esam Ghazzawi, a Saudi adviser to the nephew of King Fahd. FBI agents investigating the connection in 2002 found that visitor logs for the gated community and photos of license tags matched vehicles driven by the hijackers. Just two weeks before the 9/11 attacks, the Saudi luxury home was abandoned. Three cars, including a new Chrysler PT Cruiser, were left in the driveway. Inside, opulent furniture was untouched.

Democrat Bob Graham, the former Florida senator who chaired the Joint Inquiry, has asked the FBI for the Sarasota case files, but can’t get a single, even heavily redacted, page released. He says it’s a “coverup.”

Is the federal government protecting the Saudis? Case agents tell me they were repeatedly called off pursuing 9/11 leads back to the Saudi Embassy, which had curious sway over White House and FBI responses to the attacks.

Just days after Bush met with the Saudi ambassador in the White House, the FBI evacuated from the United States dozens of Saudi officials, as well as Osama bin Laden family members. Bandar made the request for escorts directly to FBI headquarters on Sept. 13, 2001 — just hours after he met with the president. The two old family friends shared cigars on the Truman Balcony while discussing the attacks.

Bill Doyle, who lost his son in the World Trade Center attacks and heads the Coalition of 9/11 Families, calls the suppression of Saudi evidence a “coverup beyond belief.” Last week, he sent out an e-mail to relatives urging them to phone their representatives in Congress to support the resolution and read for themselves the censored 28 pages.

Astonishing as that sounds, few lawmakers in fact have bothered to read the classified section of arguably the most important investigation in US history.

Granted, it’s not easy to do. It took a monthlong letter-writing campaign by Jones and Lynch to convince the House intelligence panel to give them access to the material.

But it’s critical they take the time to read it and pressure the White House to let all Americans read it. This isn’t water under the bridge. The information is still relevant ­today. Pursuing leads further, getting to the bottom of the foreign support, could help head off another 9/11.

As the frustrated Joint Inquiry authors warned, in an overlooked addendum to their heavily redacted 2002 report, “State-sponsored terrorism substantially increases the likelihood of successful and more ­lethal attacks within the United States.”

Their findings must be released, even if they forever change US-Saudi relations. If an oil-rich foreign power was capable of orchestrating simultaneous bulls-eye hits on our centers of commerce and defense a dozen years ago, it may be able to pull off similarly devastating attacks today.

Members of Congress reluctant to read the full report ought to remember that the 9/11 assault missed its fourth target: them.

Paul Sperry is a Hoover Institution media fellow and author of “Infiltration” and “Muslim Mafia.”

 

Saudi denies contact with Israel on Iran – Middle East – Al Jazeera English

Saudi denies contact with Israel on Iran – Middle East – Al Jazeera English.

A recent IAEA report found that Iran had slowed down its nuclear programme [EPA]
Saudi Arabia has ruled out any contact with Israel, with which it has no diplomatic ties, after a British newspaper reported that the two countries could coordinate efforts against Iran.

The kingdom “has no relations or contacts with Israel of any kind or at any level,” said a foreign ministry spokesman, quoted by state news agency SPA on Monday.

Under the headline “Two old foes unite against Tehran,” Britain’s Sunday Times newspaper said Israel and Saudi Arabia were working together on “contingency plans for a possible attack on Iran if its nuclear programme is not significantly curbed.”

“As part of the growing cooperation, Riyadh is understood already to have given the go-ahead for Israeli planes to use its airspace in the event of an attack on Iran,” it said.

The Saudi spokesman said the report was “completely unfounded”.

The Israeli and Saudi governments are convinced that the international talks to place limits on Tehran’s military nuclear development will do little to slow its development of a nuclear warhead.

Widely believed to have a formidable nuclear arsenal itself, Israel has refused to rule out bombing Iran’s facilities, as it reportedly did with an Iraqi reactor in 1981 and a Syrian facility in 2007.

 

Syrian Rebel Groups Vie for Saudi Funding and Weapons

Syrian Rebel Groups Vie for Saudi Funding and Weapons.

Syrian Rebel Groups Vie for Saudi Funding and Weapons

By ISN Security Watch | Thu, 07 November 2013 22:59 | 0
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Various Syrian rebel groups have announced a spate of mergers and alliances over the past month. In theory, the trend is a welcome sign that the opposition’s extreme fragmentation is at long last being reversed. Such a development would complement the emergence of a few dominant multibrigade groupings and “fronts” within the armed rebellion over the past year.

But the reality is quite the opposite. The recent announcements reflect realignment rather than unification, and they reveal a competitive logic driven by the expectation of external funding that presages greater political polarization and deepening division.

This dysfunctional dynamic has long bedeviled the armed rebellion, but driving the latest trend is a Saudi plan to build a new national army for the Syrian opposition. It aims to create a force trained outside of Syria that is capable of defeating the regime of President Bashar al-Assad and countering the growth of jihadist rebel groups affiliated with al-Qaeda. The rebel groups realigning to receive Saudi support profess a supposedly “centrist” Islamist but avowedly Sunni ideology.

This Saudi effort will only serve to further polarize the rebels. The main losers are likely to be the currently recognized leaders of the opposition—the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces and the allied Higher Military Council of the Free Syrian Army. At its latest meeting on October 22, the Friends of Syria core group, of which Saudi Arabia is a member, called on the National Coalition to commit to representing the Syrian opposition at a Geneva II peace conference slated for late November. But many of the new rebel alliances, including those receiving stepped-up Saudi support, have already withdrawn their recognition of the National Coalition and Higher Military Council, or threatened to do so, in response to their presumed readiness to attend the conference.

Unless the Saudi-supported rebels adhere to an agreed political strategy and buy into being represented by the National Coalition, they are likely to suffer the same lack of cohesion and capacity as those they seek to supplant. And by funding its own chosen group of rebels, Saudi Arabia too risks slamming shut its windows of opportunity and undercutting its goals in Syria.

Saudi Arabia Shifts Into High Gear

The shift to an increasingly assertive stance on the Syrian crisis reflects the Saudi leadership’s dismayabout the U.S.-Russian agreement on dismantling Syria’s chemical weapons capability. The effort effectively removes the specter of U.S.-led military action against the regime and potentially rehabilitates Assad as a partner of the international community. Riyadh has long pushed for a tougher line. The additional prospect of a U.S.-Iranian understanding on the nuclear file has only made the Saudi leadership more grimly determined to bring down Assad.

The first public sign of Saudi Arabia’s intentions was an August 8 statement by the chair of the National Coalition, Ahmad al-Jarba—regarded as a Saudi nominee—that he was working with the Free Syrian Army to form a unified force of 6,000 men to confront warlords operating in liberated areas. Other National Coalition members disclosed that the force was intended as the nucleus of a national army with a strength of 7,000–10,000, including 6,300 army defectors who had taken refuge in Jordan and Turkey.

According to Saudi insiders, training involving some 5,000 rebels had already been under way in Jordan for several months with the aid of Pakistani, French, and U.S. instructors, although well-connected Jordanian sources suggest a much lower number. In any case, little can be expected from the defectors, who chose to leave Syria and have remained in isolated officers’ camps in exile ever since. This may have influenced the thinking of Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal bin Abdulaziz, Director General of the Saudi Intelligence Agency Prince Bandar bin Sultan bin Abdulaziz, and Deputy Defense Minister Prince Salman bin Sultan bin Abdulaziz, to whom the Syria file has been transferred. Notably hawkish on Syria, their plan is to build a rebel army of 40,000–50,000 at a cost of “several billion dollars,” according to insiders.

The plan appears to have been discussed, at least in general outline, by the foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and the United Arab Emirates, who met French President François Hollande on September 13. This resulted in an agreement “to step up international support for the democratic opposition to allow it to cope with attacks from the regime.” A high-level Saudi delegation visited Paris a month later to negotiate contracts for arming and equipping both the Free Syrian Army and the new national army.

Following what it regards as the “defection” of the U.S. administration from the coalition of countries willing to support the Syrian opposition militarily, Saudi Arabia has turned to Pakistan to provide training for the new army. But this may prove difficult, given the major national security challenges facing the Pakistani armed forces ahead of the NATO withdrawal from Afghanistan and the uncertainty of the country’s civil-military relationship during the selection of a new chief of general staff. Sources with good access to the Pakistani Ministry of Defense and military intelligence services confirm that the armed forces were already reluctant or unable to meet a previous Saudi request to provide special forces training to the Syrian rebels. They regard the scale of the new Saudi proposal as unmanageable.

Related article: Why Syria is Important to Iran?

Crucially, it will be difficult to find a steady place to base and train the new force. Resistance to acting as a rear base for the rebels or supporting external military intervention in Syria is building up in Jordan, which has been a conduit for Saudi-funded training and arms since late 2012. Since then, the kingdom has become part of a clear axis with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates regarding Syria. But the new Saudi plan requires Jordanian commitment on a scale that is opposed within the security and military establishment and is unlikely to be implemented.

Buying a Ready-Made Rebel Army

The prospect of building a rebel army outside Syria is poor. The only practical way to build one is to amalgamate and sponsor existing armed groups inside Syria—but that too is becoming more difficult as rebel alliances shift and proliferate.

Many of Syria’s rebel groups are positioning themselves to receive Saudi funding and weapons by declaring mergers and alliances. In fact, competition for external funding has long been a powerful driver of organizational dynamics within Syria’s armed rebellion. Not all of that support comes from government sources. It is already customary for private donors in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates to sponsor rebel groups of their choice, most often Salafists or jihadists, as the Facebook pages of these forces proudly attest.

Most prominent among the new groups receiving Saudi government funding is the Army of Islam, formed on September 29. It was founded by 43 rebel brigades and battalions in the Damascus region under the leadership of Zahran Alloush, commander of the local Islam Brigade (the backbone of the Army of Islam) and secretary general of the Syrian Islamic Liberation Front. Although the Army of Islam denied press reports of Saudi sponsorship, its stated aim of “uniting the efforts of all factions . . . and forming an official army” coincided precisely with the Saudi objective.

The formation of the Army of Islam closely followed the publication by the association of Muslim ulema in Syria of a proposal to unite Islamist rebel groups under a single Army of Muhammad, with a stated target of building up to a strength of 100,000 by March 2015 and 250,000 by March 2016. Although such an army would espouse a centrist and nonsectarian ideology, according to the proposal’s authors, it would nonetheless follow “the path of the Sunnah and Jama’ah,” unambiguously declaring its Sunni affiliation. Since then, the Army of Islam has discussed forming the all-encompassing Army of Muhammad with the “moderate Islamist” Tawhid and Suqour al-Sham Brigades.

The fracturing has gone even further. When Alloush announced the Army of Islam, several of his main partners in the Syrian Islamic Liberation Front complained that they had not been consulted and pulled out of the Damascus-area joint operations room in protest. Five of them then formed the Glories of Islam Assembly on October 4. Elsewhere, four moderate Salafist groups in the northeastern Albu Kamal region had already announced the formation of the Army of the People of the Sunnah and Jama’ah on October 2.

A day after the Army of Islam was formed, the al-Habib al-Mustafa and al-Sahaba Brigades announced that, along with Ahrar al-Sham Islamic Movement, probably the strongest rebel faction in Syria, they were withdrawing from the Chamber of the Council of Kuwaiti Supporters of the Syrian Revolution in Damascus and Its Rif. They cited what they described as the hegemony of certain groups, the exclusion of others, and the lack of an agreed vision as the reasons for the pullout.

The competitive dynamic also seems to have prompted 106 non-Islamist rebel groups from across Syria to form the Union of Free Syrians on October 13, again as “the nucleus of the future Syrian army.” The absence of Islamist discourse from their founding statement may not preclude Saudi support, but a more favored recipient is prominent Islamic preacher Sheikh Adnan al-Aroor. Aroor features in the network of rebel groups being pulled together in the new Saudi plan, highlighting its focus on building a Sunni rebel army.

Taking on Jihadists or Weakening Centrist Islamists?

The Saudi leadership may be forgiven for believing that, in contrast to the modest role it played among those supporting Syria’s armed rebellion a year ago, its intervention will be decisive now that it is firmly in the driver’s seat and ready to commit what an insider describes as “limitless” funds. But that approach may prove counterproductive. A year ago the battle lines were simpler: the Free Syrian Army versus the Assad regime. Today, as former intelligence chief Prince Turki al-Faisal explained, the Saudi leadership seeks to wage two battles—one against Assad and his family, the other against al-Qaeda affiliates in Syria. But Riyadh is not winning the fight against the jihadists, and its efforts may splinter the opposition further.

A number of groups seem to have mobilized in the face of the Saudi effort. The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, an umbrella group of jihadist insurgents formed in Iraq in 2006, has been moving forcefully against other rebel groups in northern Syria since late August, wresting control of border crossings with Turkey and forcing affiliates of the Free Syrian Army in Raqqa and Aleppo to leave or declare allegiance to it. Along with other jihadist groups, it believes that it is targeted by the United States and U.S. allies such as Saudi Arabia. The group has also reached an understanding with its sister al-Qaeda affiliate, Jabhat al-Nusra, and the powerful Ahrar al-Sham Islamic Movement to set aside their differences, form a joint judicial council, and increase joint operations against Assad regime forces. This axis, along with several smaller jihadist groups that continue to appear, is bearing the brunt of fighting against regime forces to the southeast of Aleppo. Jabhat al-Nusra now also operates along the border with Jordan.

The network of alliances being woven by Saudi Arabia has yet to prove its mettle in this looming confrontation. On the contrary, the Tawhid Brigade, despite having been invited to join the Army of Islam in forming the larger Army of Muhammad, has repeatedly declared its neutrality in an onslaught waged by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant since mid-September in northern Syria.

Related article: Turkey’s Zorlu Group Fights for Israel Pipeline

Equally significantly, the Saudi drive to build an unmistakably Sunni army may increase the potential for rebel fragmentation, even among the like-minded centrist Islamist and Salafist groups it targets. The groups that refused to join the Army of Islam, for example, include several of the main armed factions in the eastern Ghouta area of Damascus and members of the Syrian Islamic Liberation Front, bringing the army’s unity and cohesion into question.

Implications for the Secular Moderates

At a time of deepening polarization within the Syrian opposition, the Saudi plan’s focus on creating a Sunni army undermines those who share an interest in preventing the rise of the jihadist wing of the armed rebellion. Some members of the National Coalition have sought to join the bandwagon, speaking warmly of creating a “central political-military council under Islamic command.” But this only underlines the declining fortunes of the coalition and the Higher Military Council, both of which have nominally been under Saudi patronage since last June, when Jarba became the coalition’s new chair. The single-minded focus on a military approach undermines what residual standing and authority the National Coalition and Higher Military Council still have inside Syria.

Saudi disappointment with both bodies is understandable. Their leadership has lost credibility and lacks a strategy for defeating the regime, whether militarily or politically, by developing concrete proposals for transitional power sharing that might persuade the regime’s principal institutional and social constituents to abandon it. The National Coalition also remains unable to govern liberated areas.

But by channeling funding and weapons flows directly to rebel groups on the ground, rather than entirely through the Higher Military Council, the Saudi approach runs counter to the needs of military consolidation. And by working around the recognized opposition and relying on massive funding to create a unified rebel army, Riyadh neither assures its military effectiveness nor does anything to address the critical political failings of the Syrian opposition.

The focus on manipulating and micromanaging rebel dynamics also complicates civil-military relations on the ground. When, for example, civilian bodies announced the formation of an expanded civilian council for the city of Douma in eastern Ghouta on October 13, Army of Islam commander Alloush condemned them for “dividing the voice of Muslims, which is haram [forbidden] and splits the ranks.” Their announcement of an independent judicial body was also, in Alloush’s view, an “inexcusable transgression” against the local Shura Council that he helped to found in March, and that he dominates.

All this has significant implications for the upcoming Geneva II peace conference. The National Coalition faces a particularly fateful moment as its partners drop away. Twelve rebel groups, most of which nominally belong to the Free Syrian Army, joined al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra on September 24 in rejecting thecoalition’s representative status. On October 15, 50 armed groups announced that they were forming an independent revolutionary command council in the southern region and withdrawing recognition of the National Coalition because “it has abandoned the principles of the homeland and the revolution.” Two days later, Alloush warned starkly that “the coalition will be treated as our enemy, just the same as Bashar al-Assad’s regime, if it decides to go to the Geneva II peace conference next month to seek a political solution to the Syrian crisis.” And on October 26, nineteen rebel groups, including all three members of the putative Army of Muhammad, regarded anyone attending the conference or negotiating with the regime as being guilty of “trading in the blood of the Syrian people and treason . . . [they] must be brought to justice.”

Scoring Own Goals

Saudi Arabia has ample reason to be distressed by the continuing death and destruction inflicted on the Syrian people and dissatisfied with the actions of its friends and allies in the Friends of Syria group of countries. But its current approach risks undermining its own objectives in Syria.

Already, deep unhappiness with U.S. policy on Syria—as well as on Iran and Palestine—has prompted Saudi intelligence chief Bandar bin Sultan bin Abdulaziz to warn of a “major shift” in the two countries’ bilateral relationship. A policy shift on this scale is almost certainly unsustainable. More immediately, the widening rift places Jordan and the National Coalition, which are important to the success of Saudi plans in Syria but rely no less heavily on the strength and durability of their own relations with the United States, in a distinctly uncomfortable and potentially untenable position.

The divergence of Saudi and U.S. approaches additionally complicates the Geneva II peace conference. Although the Friends of Syria’s October 22 final communiqué set tough terms for participation in the conference and strict parameters for the transition that meet National Coalition and Saudi expectations, Riyadh’s insistence on excluding Tehran from the meeting opens up another possible rift with its allies, several of whom have openly signaled their willingness to accept Iranian participation.

The Saudi leadership might argue that its plan to increase military pressure on the Assad regime will compel it to accept the terms set by the Friends of Syria for participation in the peace conference. Turki al-Faisal seemed to argue this when he reiterated the need to help the opposition achieve “a level playing field.” But this is belied by the unexpected and unusually public spat with the United States, which damages the prospect that the Saudi plan can weld rebels into a unified army. The conference may not convene or succeed anyway, but the fact that the rebel groups receiving Saudi support have vocally rejected the effort lowers its chances further. And the collateral damage to the National Coalition undermines a different part of the Saudi approach, constituting another own goal.

This leaves the Saudi leadership heavily dependent on Syria’s Sunni rebels. If its plan to unite them fails, Riyadh’s credibility will be diminished. Worse, Saudi Arabia could find itself replicating its experience in Afghanistan, where it built up disparate mujahideen groups that lacked a unifying political framework. The forces were left unable to govern Kabul once they took it, paving the way for the Taliban to take over. Al-Qaeda followed, and the blowback subsequently reached Saudi Arabia.

In Syria, Saudi reliance on funding and weapons supply as principal levers of acquiring influence, the concentration on escalating military pressure on the regime without developing a clear political strategy to defeat it in parallel, and the focus on mobilizing and strengthening groups with an overtly Sunni Muslim character risk contributing to a similar outcome. The Saudi leadership should be careful what it creates in Syria: Muhammad’s Army may eventually come home to Mecca.

By. Yezid Sayigh for Carnegie Middle East Center

The Growing Rift With Saudi Arabia Threatens To Severely Damage The Petrodollar

The Growing Rift With Saudi Arabia Threatens To Severely Damage The Petrodollar. (source)

The number one American export is U.S. dollars.  It is paper currency that is backed up by absolutely nothing, but the rest of the world has been using it to trade with one another and so there is tremendous global demand for our dollars.  The linchpin of this system is the petrodollar.  For decades, if you have wanted to buy oil virtually anywhere in the world you have had to do so with U.S. dollars.  But if one of the biggest oil exporters on the planet, such as Saudi Arabia, decided to start accepting other currencies as payment for oil, the petrodollar monopoly would disintegrate very rapidly.  For years, everyone assumed that nothing like that would happen any time soon, but now Saudi officials are warning of a “major shift” in relations with the United States.  In fact, the Saudis are so upset at the Obama administration that “all options” are reportedly “on the table”.  If it gets to the point where the Saudis decide to make a major move away from the petrodollar monopoly, it will be absolutely catastrophic for the U.S. economy.

The biggest reason why having good relations with Saudi Arabia is so important to the United States is because the petrodollar monopoly will not work without them.  For decades, Washington D.C. has gone to extraordinary lengths to keep the Saudis happy.  But now the Saudis are becoming increasingly frustrated that the U.S. military is not being usedto fight their wars for them.  The following is from a recent Daily Mail report

Upset at President Barack Obama’s policies on Iran and Syria, members of Saudi Arabia’s ruling family are threatening a rift with the United States that could take the alliance between Washington and the kingdom to its lowest point in years.

Saudi Arabia’s intelligence chief is vowing that the kingdom will make a ‘major shift’ in relations with the United States to protest perceived American inaction over Syria’s civil war as well as recent U.S. overtures to Iran, a source close to Saudi policy said on Tuesday.

Prince Bandar bin Sultan told European diplomats that the United States had failed to act effectively against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, was growing closer to Tehran, and had failed to back Saudi support for Bahrain when it crushed an anti-government revolt in 2011, the source said.

Saudi Arabia desperately wants the U.S. military to intervene in the Syrian civil war on the side of the “rebels”.  This has not happened yet, and the Saudis are very upset about that.

Of course the Saudis could always go and fight their own war, but that is not the way that the Saudis do things.

So since the Saudis are not getting their way, they are threatening to punish the U.S. for their inaction.  According to Reuters, the Saudis are saying that “all options are on the table now”…

Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest oil exporter, ploughs much of its earnings back into U.S. assets. Most of the Saudi central bank’s net foreign assets of $690 billion are thought to be denominated in dollars, much of them in U.S. Treasury bonds.

“All options are on the table now, and for sure there will be some impact,” the Saudi source said.

Sadly, most Americans have absolutely no idea how important all of this is.  If the Saudis break the petrodollar monopoly, it would severely damage the U.S. economy.  For those that do not fully understand the importance of the petrodollar, the following is a good summary of how the petrodollar works from an article by Christopher Doran

In a nutshell, any country that wants to purchase oil from an oil producing country has to do so in U.S. dollars. This is a long standing agreement within all oil exporting nations, aka OPEC, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries. The UK for example, cannot simply buy oil from Saudi Arabia by exchanging British pounds. Instead, the UK must exchange its pounds for U.S. dollars. The major exception at present is, of course, Iran.

This means that every country in the world that imports oil—which is the vast majority of the world’s nations—has to have immense quantities of dollars in reserve. These dollars of course are not hidden under the proverbial national mattress. They are invested. And because they are U.S. dollars, they are invested in U.S. Treasury bills and other interest bearing securities that can be easily converted to purchase dollar-priced commodities like oil. This is what has allowed the U.S. to run up trillions of dollars of debt: the rest of the world simply buys up that debt in the form of U.S. interest bearing securities.

This arrangement works out very well for the United States because we can wildly print money and run up gigantic amounts of debt and the rest of the world gobbles it all up.

In 2012, the United States ran a trade deficit of about $540,000,000,000 with the rest of the planet.  In other words, about half a trillion more dollars left the country than came into the country.  These dollars represent the number one “product” that the U.S. exports.  We make dollars and exchange them for the things that we need.  Major exporting countries (such as Saudi Arabia) take many of those dollars and “invest” them in our debt at ultra-low interest rates.  It is this system that makes our massively inflated standard of living possible.

When this system ends, the era of cheap imports and super low interest rates will be over and the “adjustment” to our standard of living will be excruciatingly painful.

And without a doubt, the day is rapidly approaching when the petrodollar monopoly will end.

Today, Russia is the number one exporter of oil in the world.

China is now the number one importer of oil in the world, and at this point they are actually importing more oil from Saudi Arabia than the United States is.

So why should Russia, China and virtually everyone else continue to be forced to use U.S. dollars to trade oil?

That is a very good question.

In fact, China has been making a whole lot of noise recently about the fact that it is time to start becoming less dependent on the U.S. dollar.  The following comes from a recent CNBC article authored by Michael Pento

Our addictions to debt and cheap money have finally caused our major international creditors to call for an end to dollar hegemony and to push for a “de-Americanized” world.

China, the largest U.S. creditor with $1.28 trillion in Treasury bonds, recently put out a commentary through the state-run Xinhua news agency stating that, “Such alarming days when the destinies of others are in the hands of a hypocritical nation have to be terminated.”

For much more on all of this, please see my previous article entitled “9 Signs That China Is Making A Move Against The U.S. Dollar“.

But you very rarely hear anything about this on the evening news, and most Americans do not understand these things at all.  The fact that the U.S. produces the de facto reserve currency of the planet is an absolutely massive advantage for us.  According to John Mauldin, this advantage allows us to consume far more wealth than we actually produce…

What that means in practical terms is that the United States can purchase more with its currency than it produces and sells. In theory those accounts should balance. But the world’s reserve currency, for all intent and purposes, becomes a product. The world needs dollars in order to conduct its trade. Today, if someone in Peru wants to buy something from Thailand, they first convert their local currency into US dollars and then purchase the product with those dollars. Those dollars eventually wind up at the Central Bank of Thailand, which includes them in its reserve balance. When someone in Thailand wants to purchase an imported product, their bank accesses those dollars, which may go anywhere in the world that will take the US dollar, which is to say pretty much anywhere.

And as Mauldin went on to explain in that same article, a significant amount of the money that we ship out to the rest of the globe ends up getting reinvested in U.S. government debt…

That privilege allows US citizens to purchase goods and services at prices somewhat lower than those people in the rest of the world must pay. We can produce electronic fiat dollars, and the rest of the world accepts them because they need them to in order to trade with each other. And they do so because they trust the dollar more than they do any other currency that is readily available. You can take those dollars and come to the United States and purchase all manner of goods, including real estate and stocks. Just this week a Chinese company spent $600 million to buy a building in New York City. Such transactions happen all the time.

And there is one other item those dollars are used to pay for: US Treasury bonds. We buy oil and all manner of goods with our electronic dollars, and those dollars typically end up on the reserve balance sheets of other central banks, which buy our government bonds. It’s hard to quantify the exact amount, but these transactions significantly lower the cost of borrowing for the US government. On a $16 trillion debt, every basis point (1/10 of 1%) means a saving of $16 billion annually. So 5 basis points would be $80 billion a year. There are credible estimates that the savings are well in excess of $100 billion a year. Thus, as the debt grows, the savings also grow! That also means the total debt compounds at a lower rate.

Unfortunately, this system only works if the rest of the planet has faith in it, and right now the United States is systematically destroying the faith that the rest of the world has in our financial system.

One way that this is being done is by our reckless accumulation of debt.  The U.S. national debt is now 37 times larger than it was 40 years ago, and we are on pace to accumulate more new debt under the 8 years of the Obama administration than we did under all of the other presidents in U.S. history combined.  The rest of the world is watching this and they are beginning to wonder if we are going to be able to pay them back the money that we owe them.

Quantitative easing is another factor that is severely damaging worldwide faith in the U.S. financial system.  The rest of the globe is watching as the Federal Reserve wildly prints up money and monetizes our debt.  They are beginning to wonder why they should continue to loan us gobs of money at super low interest rates when we are beginning to resemble the Weimar Republic.

The long-term damage that we are doing to the “U.S. brand” far, far outweighs any short-term benefits of quantitative easing.

And as Richard Koo has brilliantly demonstrated, quantitative easing is going to cause long-term interest rates to eventually rise much higher than they normally should have.

What all of this means is that the U.S. government and the Federal Reserve are systematically destroying the financial system that has enabled us to enjoy such a high standard of living for the past several decades.

Yes, the U.S. economy is not doing well at the moment, but we haven’t seen anything yet.  When the monopoly of the petrodollar is broken, it is going to be absolutely devastating.

And as I wrote about the other day, when the next great economic crisis strikes it is going to pull back the curtain and reveal the rot and decay that have been eating away at the social fabric of America for a very long time.

Just check out what happened in Detroit recently.  The new police chief was almost carjacked while he was sitting in a clearly marked police vehicle…

Just four months on the job, Detroit’s new police chief got an early taste of the city’s hardscrabble streets.

While in his patrol car at an intersection on Jefferson two weeks ago, Police Chief James Craig was nearly carjacked, police spokeswoman Kelly Miner confirmed today.

Craig said he was in a marked police car with mounted lights when a man quickly tried to approach the side of his car. Craig, who became police chief in June, retold the story Monday during a program designed to crack down on carjackings.

Isn’t that crazy?

These days, the criminals are not even afraid to go after the police while they are sitting in their own vehicles.

And this is just the beginning.  Things are going to get much, much worse than this.

So let us hope that this period of relative stability that we are enjoying right now will last for as long as possible.

The times ahead are going to be extremely challenging, and I hope that you are getting ready for them.

 

This Lack Of Syrian Aggression Will Not Stand, Man: Saudi’s Bandar Bin Sultan Furious At US | Zero Hedge

This Lack Of Syrian Aggression Will Not Stand, Man: Saudi’s Bandar Bin Sultan Furious At US | Zero Hedge. (source)

That Saudi Arabia has been furious at the US for refusing to be the monarchy’s puppet Globocop, and in the last minute declining to bomb Syria following Putin’s gambit in which World War III seemed a distinctly possible consequence of John Kerry’s hamheaded “YouTube-substantiated” false flag campaign, is no secret. However, while the US has largely forgotten this latest foreign policy debacle and the humiliation it brought upon the Department of State, Saudi Arabia is nowhere close to forgetting. Or forgiving. And this time the anger comes from the one man who truly matters, and whom we dubbed several months ago as the puppetmaster behind the Syrian campaign: the man in charge of Saudi intelligence, Prince Bandar Bin Sultan.

The WSJ reports overnight, that Prince Bandar told European diplomats this weekend that he plans to scale back cooperating with the U.S. to arm and train Syrian rebels in protest of Washington’s policy in the region, participants in the meeting said.  This demonstratively framed announcement follows Saudi Arabia’s surprise decision on Friday to renounce a seat on the United Nations Security Council. “The Saudi government, after preparing and campaigning for the seat for a year, cited what it said was the council’s ineffectiveness in resolving the Israeli-Palestinian and Syrian conflicts.”

In short: Bin Sultan has decided to take the stage and make it quite clear that this lack of aggression by the US will not stand. The question is: what can or will he do?

Diplomats here said Prince Bandar, who is leading the kingdom’s efforts to fund, train and arm rebels fighting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, invited a Western diplomat to the Saudi Red Sea city of Jeddah over the weekend to voice Riyadh’s frustration with the Obama administration and its regional policies, including the decision not to bomb Syria in response to its alleged use of chemical weapons in August.

“This was a message for the U.S., not the U.N.,” Prince Bandar was quoted by diplomats as specifying of Saudi Arabia’s decision to walk away from the Security Council membership.

U.S. officials said they interpreted Prince Bandar’s message to the Western diplomat as an expression of discontent designed to push the U.S. in a different direction. “Obviously he wants us to do more,” said a senior U.S. official.

Obviously. What is odd is that the “proxy” intelligence chief appears to have usurped foreign policy decision-making from the Saudi king himself.

 Top decisions in Saudi Arabia come from the king, Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al Saud, and it isn’t known if Prince Bandar’s reported remarks reflected a decision by the monarch, or an effort by Prince Bandar to influence the king. However, the diplomats said, Prince Bandar told them he intends to roll back a partnership with the U.S. in which the Central Intelligence Agency and other nations’ security bodies have covertly helped train Syrian rebels to fight Mr. Assad, Prince Bandar said, according to the diplomats. Saudi Arabia would work with other allies instead in that effort, including Jordan and France, the prince was quoted as saying.

If there was any confusion that the entire Syrian campaign was purely at the behest of the Qataris and the Saudis as we first suggested in May, it can finally be put to bed.

The monarchy was particularly angered by Mr. Obama’s decision to scrap plans to bomb Syria in response to the alleged chemical-weapons attack in August and, more recently, tentative overtures between Mr. Obama and Iran’s new president.

Diplomats and officials familiar with events recounted two previously undisclosed episodes during the buildup to the aborted Western strike on Syria that allegedly further unsettled the Saudi-U.S. relationship.

In the run-up to the expected U.S. strikes, Saudi leaders asked for detailed U.S. plans for posting Navy ships to guard the Saudi oil center, the Eastern Province, during any strike on Syria, an official familiar with that discussion said. The Saudis were surprised when the Americans told them U.S. ships wouldn’t be able to fully protect the oil region, the official said.

Disappointed, the Saudis told the U.S. that they were open to alternatives to their long-standing defense partnership, emphasizing that they would look for good weapons at good prices, whatever the source, the official said.

In the second episode, one Western diplomat described Saudi Arabia as eager to be a military partner in what was to have been the U.S.-led military strikes on Syria. As part of that, the Saudis asked to be given the list of military targets for the proposed strikes. The Saudis indicated they never got the information, the diplomat said.

“The Saudis are very upset. They don’t know where the Americans want to go,” said a senior European diplomat not in Riyadh.

To be sure, not just Prccne Bandar is angry – everyone else in Saudi is now fuming at Obama too:

 In Washington in recent days, Saudi officials have privately complained to U.S. lawmakers that they increasingly feel cut out of U.S. decision-making on Syria and Iran. A senior American official described the king as “angry.”

Another senior U.S. official added: “Our interests increasingly don’t align.”

Fair enough: but what can it do? It is no secret, that as the primary hub of the petrodollar system which is instrumental to keeping the dollar’s reserve status, Saudi has no choice but to cooperate with the US, or else risk even further deterioration of the USD reserve status. A development which would certainly please China… and Russia, both of which are actively engaging in Plan B preparations for the day when the USD is merely the latest dethroned reserve currency on the scrap heap of all such formerly world-dominant currencies.

Perhaps the only party that Saudi can lash out at, since it certainly fears escalating its animosity with the US even more, is Russia. And perhaps it did yesterday, when as we reported, a suicide-bombing terrorist incident captured on a dashcam killed many people, and was supposedly organized by an Islamist extremist – of the kind that Bandar told Putin several months ago are controlled and funded by Saudi intelligence chief.

If true, and if Saudi wants to project its impotence vis-a-vis the US by attacking Russia, this will likely culminate with the Sochi winter Olympics. So will Prince Bandar be crazy enough to take on none other than the former KGB chief? And more importantly, just like in the US Syrian fiasco, what happens when and if Putin retaliates against the true power that holds the USD in place?

 

Syria – Cui bono Part 2 – Qatar, Saudi, Russia and Gas » Golem XIV – Thoughts

Syria – Cui bono Part 2 – Qatar, Saudi, Russia and Gas » Golem XIV – Thoughts.

 

Indonesian dies in Saudi residency protest – Middle East – Al Jazeera English

Indonesian dies in Saudi residency protest – Middle East – Al Jazeera English.

 

Saudi minister: US to remain energy dependent – Americas – Al Jazeera English

Saudi minister: US to remain energy dependent – Americas – Al Jazeera English.

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