Archive for January 5th, 2016

Iran, Emerging From Sanctions, Faces More Isolation After Embassy Attack

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 »

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How Saudi Arabia and the Islamic State find common ground in beheadings

By Adam Taylor
Washington Post
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 »

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Najib’s RM2.6 billion ‘Donorgate’ rocks Malaysia

By Khairul Khalid | Kinibiz
DECEMBER 22, 2015 8:00AM

RM2.6 billion transfer into Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak’s personal bank accounts

The sensational expose on a RM2.6 billion transfer into Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak’s personal bank accounts rocked Malaysia in 2015. Will there be more twists and turns to the “Donorgate” scandal in 2016?

Najib Abdul RazakIn 2015, “donations” took on new dimensions in the Malaysian lexicon. There are still more questions than answers about the RM2.6 billion transfer – purportedly from a mysterious Arab donor – directly to Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak.

The shocking expose by the American newspaper Wall Street Journal (WSJ) last July is arguably the biggest bombshell ever dropped on a sitting Malaysian prime minister in recent memory.
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MACC’s “name and shame” website should be closed down as it only shames Malaysia when the person responsible for Malaysia to be ranked third in world’s “worst corruption scandals in 2015” is not mentioned

I thank the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) for its quick response to my speech at the “Mana RM2.6 billion?” kopitiam ceramah in Kulai on Sunday, explaining that only those who are convicted of corruption are placed on the MACC’s “name and shame list” on its website and not those being investigated.

This is exactly the point I was making, that the MACC’s “name and shame” data base does not make any significant contribution to the battle against corruption, especially against grand corruption, when the person responsible for Malaysia to be ranked third in the world’s “worst corruption scandal in 2015” is not even mentioned.

Can MACC point out any “shark” in its “name and shame” database of over 700 names or explain how it could claim to have any successful anti-corruption campaign when it had not been able to nab, prosecute and convict any “shark” apart from “ikan bilis” with the MACC entering its eighth year of operation after taking over from its predecessor, the Anti-Corruption Agency (ACA) with more powers, funds and personnel than ACA?

Three months have passed since the Malay Rulers made their unprecedented Oct. 4 statement expressing concern about three national issues causing the grave crisis of confidence battering Malaysia for several months – the 1MDB scandal, the rule of law and national unity in the country. Read the rest of this entry »

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Saudi action “resets geopolitical chessboard” in Middle East, says expert

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 »

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Munshi Abdullah – Exemplar of a Free Mind

M. Bakri Musa

Malay society has no shortage of formal leaders. First we have the hereditary leaders, from the sultan down to his various lowly chieftains including the local datuk lembaga (lord admiral). This pattern of leadership has a long history in our society.

Then came the religious leaders, of more recent vantage, introduced in the 15th Century with the coming of Islam to the Malay world. More recently and fast gaining a pivotal role, are political leaders.

With modern political institutions, especially democratic ones, we should expect a more frequent emergence of fresh leaders. This is not necessarily so. China is far from being a democratic society yet its People Congress gets more infusion of fresh talents with each party’s election. Compare that to the United States Congress, the self-declared exemplar of representative government. You are more likely to get a new member of the old Soviet Politburo than you are to get a new member of US Congress.

UMNO, the premier Malay political organization, is on par with the old Soviet Politburo in nurturing new talent.

Despite modernity, both hereditary and religious leaders still have a strong hold on Malays. Read the rest of this entry »

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European Sympathies Lean Toward Iran in Conflict with Saudi Arabia

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 »

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