Archive for category International
— Tobin Harshaw
Malay Mail Online
January 8, 2016
JANUARY 8 —Saudi Arabia’s feud with Iran over the beheading of a prominent Shiah cleric led to a lot of overwrought speculation about Sunni-Shiah tensions rising to tear up the Middle East. Those more steeped in regional affairs point to the other 46 men beheaded, almost all of whom were Sunnis charged with terrorism.
The theory here is that the execution of the preacher, Nimr al-Nimr, was less about provoking Shiahs than pre-empting domestic outrage over the deaths of so many Sunnis, who make up 85 per cent of the country’s population. The kingdom has rarely been concerned with domestic opinion in its 90 years of statehood. Does Saudi Arabia now fear unrest among the masses? Should it?
Outside of North Korea and the New England Patriots, few institutions are more opaque than the Saudi royal court. But over the last year, the first in the reign of 80-year-old King Salman, the famously hidebound monarchy has undergone a shocking and risky makeover.
Salman, who took over last January 23 on the death of his half-brother King Abdullah, was widely expected to be just a caretaker. Instead, he took care of business. Within months, he replaced the anointed crown prince with his nephew Mohammed bin Nayef, the longtime interior minister. Yet he also watered down this new heir’s influence by dismantling the crown prince’s previously independent court.
The real winner was the king’s young son, Defence Minister Mohammed bin Salman, who became deputy crown prince and gatekeeper to those seeking the king’s attention. The prince was named head of the new Council of Economic and Development Affairs, which took over many powers of the finance ministry, and was given control over Saudi Aramco, the state-owned oil monopoly. (Yesterday, he suggested that the kingdom may consider selling a stake in the oil giant.) Read the rest of this entry »
Jan 9, 2016
The desert kingdom is striving to dominate its region and modernise its economy at the same time
FOR years Saudi Arabia seemed inert, relying on its vast oil wealth and the might of its American patron to buy quiet at home and impose stasis on its neighbours. But oil prices have tumbled, America has stood back from leadership in the Middle East, the region is on fire and power has shifted to a new generation—notably King Salman’s 30-year-old favoured son, Muhammad bin Salman. A sandstorm of change is rousing the desert kingdom.
The visible result is the brutal treatment of dissent at home and assertiveness abroad that has just been on chilling display. On January 2nd Saudi Arabia executed 47 people. Most of them were terrorists linked to al-Qaeda but some, including a prominent Shia cleric, simply called for the fall of the ruling House of Saud. After Iranians set fire to the Saudi embassy in Tehran in protest, the kingdom cut diplomatic, trade and air links, a grave and foolish escalation in a febrile region.
Away from the headlines, however, a different assertiveness could prove equally consequential. Prince Muhammad has drawn up a blueprint designed to throw open Saudi Arabia’s closed economy and government—including, he says, the possible sale of shares in the national oil firm, Saudi Aramco.
Coupling geopolitical swagger with sweeping economic change is a gamble. The outcome will determine the survival of the House of Saud and shape the future of the Arab world. Read the rest of this entry »
by Thomas Erdbrink
New York Times
Jan 4, 2016
TEHRAN — When a Saudi state executioner beheaded the prominent Shiite dissident Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr on Saturday, the Shiite theocracy in Iran took it as a deliberate provocation by its regional rival and dusted off its favored playbook, unleashing hard-liner anger on the streets.
Within hours of the execution, nationalist Iranian websites were calling for demonstrations in front of the Saudi mission in Tehran and its consulate in the eastern Iranian city of Mashhad.
The police, outmanned, looked the other way as angry protesters set the embassy ablaze with firebombs, climbed the fences and vandalized parts of the building.
Now, Iranian leaders are suddenly forced to reckon with whether they played into the Saudis’ hands, finding themselves mired in a new crisis at a time they had been hoping to emerge from international sanctions as an accepted global player. Iran might have capitalized on global outrage at the executions by Saudi Arabia, but instead finds itself once again characterized by adversaries as a provocateur in the region and abroad. Read the rest of this entry »
By Adam Taylor
January 4, 2016
Over the past year, Saudi Arabia has faced recurrent criticism that its ultraconservative interpretation of Islamic law is not so far off from what is practiced by the Islamic State, an extremist organization that proclaimed its “caliphate” across parts of Syria and Iraq in June 2014. The criticism clearly irks some Saudi officials, who have threatened legal action against social media users who make the comparison with the Islamic State.
This weekend’s announcement that Shiite cleric Sheik Nimr Baqr al-Nimr was among 47 people executed in Saudi Arabia in a day has added considerable fuel to the fire, however. Saudi authorities have acknowledged that some of those executed were beheaded — a technique widely used and publicized by the Islamic State.
In just one sign of broader official outrage at the execution of Nimr, the website of Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, released an image that contrasts the Saudi kingdom’s use of beheadings with the Islamic State’s decapitation videos. “Any differences?” it asks, showing a Saudi executioner with a sword standing over a kneeling man.
The idea that Nimr could have been beheaded will only inflame sectarian tensions in the Muslim world, with Shiites remembering the way that Husayn ibn Ali, the third Shiite imam, was beheaded by the Sunni Umayyad caliphate in the seventh century. Read the rest of this entry »
By Anakhanum Khidayatova
4 JANUARY 2016
Saudi Arabia and Iran have been engaged in a Cold War via proxy, in its most recent manifestation, since the Arab Spring, in Yemen, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, and in other countries around the world through humanitarian aid and dawa (outreach), Theodore Karasik, the Middle East analyst and senior advisor to Risk Insurance Management in Dubai, told Trend Jan. 4.
“This Cold War entered a dangerous, highly confrontational phase in the past few days. The Kingdom, in mid December, prepared the steps for today, with Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman announcing a Sunni Muslim Alliance. With the Saudi execution of the “terrorist extremist” Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, who was the spiritual leader of Saudi Shiites in the Kingdom’s Eastern Province, the sectarian divide grew immediate into a deep chasm”- he said.
The expert also said that Saudi Arabia’s Sunni Muslim Alliance is now fully activated with the al-Nimr execution. Read the rest of this entry »
by Sewell Chan
New York Times
JAN. 4, 2016
LONDON — In the days since Saudi Arabia inflamed tensions with Iran by executing 47 people, including a Shiite cleric, European observers have been quick to condemn the action, reflecting broader concern across the Continent about Saudi policy and its role in the tumult rolling through the Middle East.
Opposition in Europe to the death penalty — and harsh corporal punishment, including the flogging of a Saudi blogger who has become something of a cause célèbre in Europe — is just one element of the criticism of the Saudi monarchy. Even as European governments continue to view Saudi Arabia as a vital if problematic stabilizing force in the region, as well as a rich market for European arms and other products, European opinion has grown increasingly critical of Saudi support and financing for Wahhabist and Salafist preachers who have contributed to the Sunni extremist ideology that has fueled Al Qaeda and the Islamic State.
In addition, the European Union and six major world powers reached a deal in Vienna over the summer to contain Iran’s nuclear program, and Iran is seen as essential to ending the five-year-old civil war in Syria, which has fueled a surge of migrants to the Continent, the highest number since World War II.
So for many Europeans, Iran — long a pariah because of its anti-Western rhetoric and its nuclear program — has suddenly become, at least in comparison with Saudi Arabia, an object of sympathy. Read the rest of this entry »
By AZADEH MOAVENINOV
New York Times
Nov 21, 2015
SOUTHERN TURKEY — Dua had only been working for two months with the Khansaa Brigade, the all-female morality police of the Islamic State, when her friends were brought to the station to be whipped.
The police had hauled in two women she had known since childhood, a mother and her teenage daughter, both distraught. Their abayas, flowing black robes, had been deemed too form-fitting.
When the mother saw Dua, she rushed over and begged her to intercede. The room felt stuffy as Dua weighed what to do.
“Their abayas really were very tight. I told her it was their own fault; they had come out wearing the wrong thing,” she said. “They were unhappy with that.”
Dua sat back down and watched as the other officers took the women into a back room to be whipped. When they removed their face-concealing niqabs, her friends were also found to be wearing makeup. It was 20 lashes for the abaya offense, five for the makeup, and another five for not being meek enough when detained.
The three Syrian women interviewed for this article, all former members of the Islamic State morality police who escaped to Turkey this year, met with a reporter in a southern Turkish city for hours of interviews, together and separately, over the course of two multiday visits. Read the rest of this entry »
Enough is enough, stop playing politics to make a mountain out of a molehill over Nurul’s unplanned meeting in the Philippines as if the country does not have weighty matters on hand
Enough is enough, stop playing politics to make a mountain out of a molehill over PRK Vice President and Lembah Pantai MP Nurul Izzah Anwar’s recent visit to the Philippines and unplanned meeting with Jacel Kiram, as if the country does not have weighty problems on hand.
If Nurul has traitorous intent, she would have ensured that there would be no photographic evidence of her meeting with Jacel, let alone allowing the photograph to be to be uploaded on FaceBook for the whole world to know.
This bolstered Nurul’s statement of innocence, her expression of regret over her photograph with Sulu “princess” Jacel Kiram and reiteration of her sympathies and support for the fallen heroes from the army, military and the public who perished as a result of the Lahad Datuk intrusion in 2013. Read the rest of this entry »
Monday 23 November 2015
France is pulling out all the stops as François Hollande scrambles to fulfil his ambitious pledge to build a global military coalition to defeat Islamic State following the Paris attacks.
The French president has won public approval and international backing for his handling of the crisis so far. His poll ratings are up by eight points to 33%. Foreign leaders have lined up to express solidarity.
In a flurry of hastily arranged mini-summits this week, Hollande will seek to turn expressions of support into concerted, sharp-end action before the rare moment of unity passes.
His prospects for success are mixed. The leaders of the US, Russia, Germany and Britain – whom Hollande will meet separately over four days – agree unreservedly about the necessity of eradicating Isis. All want a peace deal to end the Syrian civil war. But there is less agreement on how to do this. Read the rest of this entry »
By ANDREW HIGGINS and KIMIKO DE FREYTAS-TAMURA
New York Times
NOV. 19, 2015
VERVIERS, Belgium — Black smudges and faded traces of gunfire on a red brick rowhouse here in eastern Belgium mark the death foretold of Abdelhamid Abaaoud. It is the spot where, 11 months before the announcement on Thursday that he had been killed outside Paris, he began plotting an elaborate campaign of terror across Europe.
Mr. Abaaoud’s inaugural terror mission here ended in disaster for his cause and cost the lives of two of his jihadist friends — both from his old Brussels neighborhood, Molenbeek — when Belgian security forces stormed their hide-out on Jan. 15.
But Mr. Abaaoud was not there. A telephone call he made shortly before the raid in Verviers to pass on instructions to those in the hide-out, a senior Belgian counterterrorism official said, was the last trace anybody had of him until the French police found on Wednesday what turned out to be his mutilated body after an early-morning shootout just north of Paris. Read the rest of this entry »
New York Times/Associated Press
NOV. 23, 2015, 2:46 P.M. E.S.T.
PARIS — The latest on the deadly attacks in Paris and the heightened security in Europe (All times local):
French police say that an explosive belt without a detonator that was found in Paris was in the same place that fugitive Saleh Abdeslam’s cell phone was localized on the day of the attacks that killed 130 people.
The belt was found Monday by a street cleaner in a pile of rubble in the southern suburb of Montrouge.
The three police officials who gave information about the belt could not be named because they were not authorized to discuss the investigation.
— By Nicolas Vaux-Montagny and Lori Hinnant. Read the rest of this entry »
By DIONNE SEARCEY, ADAM NOSSITER, CARLOTTA GALL and SOMINI SENGUPTA
New York Times
NOV. 21, 2015
BAMAKO, Mali — The terrorists chose carefully: There are nearly always French, Russian and even a few American visitors to be found in the hotel restaurant, around the pool, in the health club or on the thin black-leather sofas of the glass-fronted lobby, now shattered by gunfire.
With its marble floors, open atrium and lipstick-red lounge, the Radisson Blu Hotel served as a lifeline to the world, a gathering place where diplomats, contractors and others doing business in Mali, one of the poorest countries on earth, could all be found.
Now, bullet holes pockmark the walls and blood is pooled on stairs. The hotel, once a symbol of the international presence in a country trying to emerge from years of upheaval, is the site of a massacre in which terrorists killed 19 people, storming in at breakfast on Friday as terrified diners sprinted into an elevator whose doors did not close in time to save them. Read the rest of this entry »
by Kamel Daoud
New York Times
NOV. 20, 2015
Black Daesh, white Daesh.
The former slits throats, kills, stones, cuts off hands, destroys humanity’s common heritage and despises archaeology, women and non-Muslims.
The latter is better dressed and neater but does the same things.
The Islamic State; Saudi Arabia.
In its struggle against terrorism, the West wages war on one, but shakes hands with the other.
This is a mechanism of denial, and denial has a price: preserving the famous strategic alliance with Saudi Arabia at the risk of forgetting that the kingdom also relies on an alliance with a religious clergy that produces, legitimizes, spreads, preaches and defends Wahhabism, the ultra-puritanical form of Islam that Daesh feeds on. Read the rest of this entry »
By Anthony Faiola, William Booth and Emily Badger
November 21 2015
PARIS — The government abruptly shut down the metro system in Brussels, canceled sporting events and warned shoppers to stay away from malls as Belgium placed the capital on maximum alert early Saturday, citing a “serious and imminent” threat of attack.
Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel said Saturday morning that officials had identified shopping centers, public transportation and major events as targets of a possible attack, involving multiple assailants, similar to the deadly assault that struck Paris last Friday.
In Brussels, armed troops stood guard in front of hotels and at major intersections. There was a scattering of shop closures. At least four of the Islamic State militants who attacked Paris came from the same immigrant neighborhood of Molenbeek in the Belgium capital.
Police continue to hunt for one of the Parisian attackers, Salah Abdeslam, a 26-year-old French national who lived in Brussels and may have returned after the attacks.
The new threat alert in Brussels comes after European countries agreed Friday to new steps aimed at securing Europe’s frontiers, as further evidence emerged that extremists in the terrorist attacks in Paris were using the region’s porous borders to slip between the continent and the battlefields of the Middle East. Read the rest of this entry »
19th November 2015
Of the nine people believed to have been involved in Friday’s terrorist attacks in Paris, eight are now dead. Here is what you need to know about all of the suspects, including the one still at large, Salah Abdeslam.
Still at large
Abdeslam, 26, is the brother of one of the suicide bombers in the Paris attacks. He was last spotted Saturday, when police stopped him at the French-Belgian border but then let him go after questioning, the Associated Press reports.
According to the New York Times, Abdeslam is French and has been living in Belgium. He is believed to have visited Syria and committed previous crimes. Abdeslam’s other brother, who is not believed to have been involved in the attack, has urged him to turn himself in. “We’re family, we’re thinking of him, we’re wondering where he is, whether he’s scared, is he eating,” Mohamed Abdeslam told French television station BFMTV. “The best outcome would be for him to turn himself in so that judicial processes can shed light on this story.” Read the rest of this entry »
Woman believed to be Abdel-Hamid Abu Oud’s cousin Hasna Aitboulahcen and as yet unidentified man dead after raid on St-Denis apartment
19 November 2015
French forensic teams are investigating whether the body of a man found dead after a massive firefight with police in a St-Denis apartment is that of the alleged mastermind of last week’s Paris terror attacks, Abdel-Hamid Abu Oud.
At least two people died in the assault targeting Abu Oud but neither the 27-year-old Belgian extremist nor another fugitive sought in connection with Friday’s shootings and suicide bombings, Salah Abdeslam, were among the eight people arrested.
One of the dead was a woman, believed to be Abu Oud’s cousin, Hasna Aitboulahcen, who blew herself up with an explosive vest, and the second an as yet unidentified man killed by police sniper fire or a grenade whose body was recovered in rubble from the flat in a rundown house in the rue du Corbillon.
Media reports quoting sources have suggested Abu Oud was killed in the assault but French officials have so far said in public statements that they do not know. Identification was proving difficult because the bodies had to be pieced together, Paris prosecutor François Molins said, and may take “longer than expected”. Read the rest of this entry »
By ADAM NOSSITER and LIZ ALDERMAN
New York Times
NOV. 16, 2015
PARIS — November is not January. That thought has been filtering through the statements of most French politicians and the news media, and most people seem to understand.
Unlike the response in January after attacks at the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo and elsewhere left 17 dead, there were no grand public appeals for solidarity with Muslims after the Friday attacks that left 129 dead in Paris. There were no marches, few pleas not to confuse practitioners of Islam with those who preach jihad.
Instead, there was a palpable fear, even anger, as President François Hollande asked Parliament to extend a state of emergency and called for changing the Constitution to deal with terrorism. It was largely unspoken but nevertheless clear: Secular France always had a complicated relationship with its Muslim community, but now it was tipping toward outright distrust, even hostility. Read the rest of this entry »
Kareem Shaheen in Beirut
Monday 16 November 2015
French warplanes have launched 30 airstrikes on more than a dozen Islamic State targets in Raqqa, activists in the Syrian city have said.
The raids were France’s first retaliation to Friday’s coordinated attacks in Paris claimed by Isis, in which at least 129 people were killed.
Residents said the targets bombed in the de facto capital of the militants’ self-proclaimed caliphate included the local Isis political office, the southern entrance to the city and a military camp.
“The French airstrikes were precise and targeted Daesh positions,” said one activist, using an Arabic acronym for Isis. “They hit Isis headquarters and camps that have ammunition warehouses as well as vehicles and [Isis] members.” Read the rest of this entry »
Jon Henley in Paris
16 November 2015
French intelligence officials have named the alleged mastermind of a deadly string of suicide bombings and shootings in Paris as the Belgian extremist Abdelhamid Abaaoud, after French police made more than 20 arrests and seized arms and ammunition in a series of anti-terror raids across the country.
A major raid was also underway in Brussels aimed at arresting Salah Abdeslam, one of the three French brothers living in Belgium alleged to have been involved in the attacks.
As details emerged of an elaborate international terror operation run from Syria and carried out by a sleeper cell based in Belgium, officials told French media Abaaoud, seen as one of Islamic State’s most active operatives, was “investigators’ best bet” as the main organiser of the attacks, which killed at least 129 people on Friday. Read the rest of this entry »
Parliament should speak in one voice tomorrow on behalf of 30 million Malaysians to condemn the senseless mass massacre by IS suicide bombers in Paris on Friday night
The Malaysian Parliament should set a world example and speak in one voice tomorrow on behalf of 30 million Malaysians to condemn the senseless massacre in a series of co-ordinated attacks by Islamic State (IS) suicide bombers and gunmen in Paris that left at least 129 people dead and 352 injured.
As Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak is already in Turkey for the Group of 20 (G20) Summit, Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Zahid Hamidi should move an emergency motion tomorrow immediately after Question Time, and he can be assured of full support by Pakatan Harapan Members of Parliament.
I do not of course speak on behalf of the PAS Members of Parliament.
However, I think on this issue of the condemnation of the Paris massacre, Members of Parliament, regardless of party, race, religion, gender, age or region, should unite to unanimously adopt an emergency motion in Parliament not only to condemn the killing of innocent lives in Paris on Friday night but also to urge on Parliaments and legislatures in all nations of the world to similarly condemn such dastardly and uncivilized savagery as unmitigated crimes against humanity which cannot be mitigated by any ground or reason. Read the rest of this entry »