Archive for the ‘Saudi Arabia’ Category


The Central Intelligence Agency has concluded that the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, ordered the killing of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi, according to American officials.

The C.I.A. has made the assessment based on the crown prince’s control of the Saudi Arabia, which is such that the killing would not have taken place without his approval, and has buttressed its conclusion with two sets of crucial communications: intercepts of the crown prince’s calls in the days before the killing, and calls by the kill team to a senior aide to the crown prince.

Read the New York Times below for the full story.

An autopsy expert. A lookalike. A black van. Our video investigation follows the movements of the…read the rest here

Saudi Arabia has executed an Indonesian maid who killed her employer while she was being raped. This is sparking outrage in Jakarta.

Ms Tursilawati, who was working in the city of Ta’if, was found guilty of killing her employer in June 2011.

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The killing by Saudi agents of Jamal Khashoggi, a columnist for The Washington Post, has focused the world’s attention on the kingdom’s intimidation campaign against influential voices raising questions about the darker side of the crown prince. The young royal has tightened his grip on the kingdom while presenting himself in Western capitals as the man to reform the hidebound Saudi state.Each morning, Jamal Khashoggi would check his phone to discover what fresh hell had been unleashed while he was sleeping.

Khashoggi’s online attackers were part of a broad effort dictated by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and his close advisers to silence critics both inside Saudi Arabia and abroad. Hundreds of people work at a so-called troll farm in Riyadh to smother the voices of dissidents like Khashoggi. The vigorous push also appears to include the grooming — not previously reported — of a Saudi employee at Twitter whom Western intelligence officials suspected of spying on user accounts to help the Saudi leadership.

Many Saudis had hoped that Twitter would democratize discourse by giving everyday citizens a voice, but Saudi Arabia has instead become an illustration of how authoritarian governments can manipulate social media to silence or drown out critical voices while spreading their own version of reality.

Instead the Saudis infiltrated Twitter and its agent helped getting them access to accounts of dissidents. Twitter executives first became aware of a possible plot to infiltrate user accounts at the end of 2015, when Western intelligence officials told them that the Saudis were grooming an employee, Ali Alzabarah, to spy on the accounts of dissidents and others, according to five people briefed on the matter. Alzabarah returned to Saudi Arabia shortly after, taking few possessions with him. He now works with the Saudi government

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The kingdom silences dissent online by sending operatives to swarm critics.…

Jamal Khashoggi’s disappearance has opened a rift between Washington and Saudi Arabia, the chief Arab ally of the Trump administration. And it has badly damaged the reputation of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the 33-year-old power behind the Saudi throne, who this time may have gone too far for even for his staunchest supporters in the West.

The possibility that the young prince ordered a hit on a dissident poses challenges for President Trump and may turn once warm relationships toxic. It could convince those governments and corporations that had overlooked the prince’s destructive military campaign in Yemen, his kidnapping of the Lebanese prime minister and his waves of arrests that he is a ruthless autocrat who will stop at nothing to get his enemies.

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FIFTEEN SAUDIS GO TO ISTANBUL IN TWO BUSINESS JETS, WITH A DOCTOR AND A HACKSAW MAN AMONG OTHERS, AND THEN SAY IT WAS AN ACCIDENT.

But international outrage mounted as Turkish officials leaked lurid details from their own investigation suggesting that he was murdered inside the consulate and dismembered by a team of 15 Saudi agents who flew in specifically to kill him.

The case has battered the international reputation of the kingdom and its 33-year-old crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, who has sought to sell himself to the world as a young reformer shaking off his country’s conservative past. But suspicions that such a complicated foreign operation could not have been launched without at least his tacit approval have driven away many of his staunchest foreign supporters.

Saudi Arabia said Saturday that Jamal Khashoggi, the dissident Saudi journalist who disappeared more than two weeks ago, died after an argument and fistfight with unidentified men inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul.

Eighteen Saudi men have been arrested and are being investigated in the case, Saudi state-run media reported without identifying any of them.

State media also reported that Saud al-Qahtani, a close aide to the crown prince, had been dismissed, along with Maj. Gen. Ahmed al-Assiri, the deputy director of Saudi intelligence, and other high-ranking intelligence officials. They did not say whether the men’s firing had a connection to the Khashoggi case or whether they were being investigated for playing a role in it.

Saudi rulers are weighing whether to blame Maj. Gen. Ahmed al-Assiri, a high-ranking adviser to the crown prince, for the death of the journalist Jamal…

 


Its been going on for three years now. Saudi Arabia, the richest and most well armed nation in the region, and backed by the USA and Israel, has been raining havoc on Yemen, the poorest and most distressed of middle eastern nations. Yemen is backed by Iran. it is war with no winners but the western arms companies.

“The war in Yemen drags on, but there are actually some winners. In terms of human costs, the Yemen war is a picture of unmitigated loss: millions of Yemenis facing starvation; over 17,000 killed or wounded; an infrastructure in ruins, with hospitals, clinics, schools, factories, homes, and even universities bombed; indiscriminate aerial attacks and artillery shelling of civilians, exposing commanders of warring parties to criminal liability; and Saudi Arabia’s global reputation—despite an army of public relations firms working feverishly on its behalf—in tatters.

However, the Yemen war has been a huge financial boon for American and British defense contractors (and their shareholders). Raytheon, General Dynamics, and BAE Systems are awash in tens of billions of dollars from arms sales to their rich clients, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. They astutely spend a fraction of their profits to lobby their own governments to approve these sales, despite the overwhelming evidence of repeated misuse of these weapons in unlawful attacks that should lead to a ban on such activity. Fear of lost arms sales is today America’s pathetic basis for certifying that the Saudi-led coalition is “working to minimize civilian casualties.””

 

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This is a very interesting piece, an up to date ongoings in the House of Saud, an aging king and his son.

By Thomas L. Friedman NOV. 7, 2017

To understand the upheaval that is taking place in Saudi Arabia today, you have to start with the most important political fact about that country: The dominant shaping political force there for the past four decades has not been Islamism, fundamentalism, liberalism, capitalism or ISISism.

It has been Alzheimer’s.

The country’s current king is 81 years old. He replaced a king who died at 90, who replaced a king who died at 84. It’s not that none of them introduced reforms. It’s that at a time when the world has been experiencing so much high-speed change in technology, education and globalization, these successive Saudi monarchs thought that reforming their country at 10 miles an hour was fast enough — and high oil prices covered for that slow pace.

It doesn’t work anymore. Some 70 percent of Saudi Arabia is under age 30, and roughly 25 percent of them are unemployed. In addition, 200,000 more are studying abroad, and about 35,000 of them — men and women – are coming home every year with degrees, looking for meaningful work, not to mention something fun to do other than going to the mosque or the mall. The system desperately needs to create more jobs outside the oil sector, where Saudi income is no longer what it once was, and the government can’t keep eating its savings to buy stability.

That’s the backdrop for this week’s daring, but reckless, power play by the 32-year-old son of King Salman — Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, known by his initials M.B.S. I’ve interviewed M.B.S. twice. He is a young man in a hurry. I’ve found his passion for reform authentic, his support from the youth in his country significant and his case for making radical change in Saudi Arabia compelling.

Indeed, there are two things I can say for sure about him: He is much more McKinsey than Wahhabi — much more a numbers cruncher than a Quran thumper. And if he did not exist, the Saudi system would have had to invent him. Somebody had to shake up the place.

But here is what I don’t know for sure: Where does his impulse for rapid reform stop and his autocratic impulse to seize all power begin? After M.B.S. arrested a slew of Saudi princes, media owners and billionaire businessmen on “corruption” charges, President Trump tweeted his applause, saying, “Some of those they are harshly treating have been ‘milking’ their country for years!”

I could only laugh reading that tweet. Hearing that Saudi princes were arrested for “corruption” is like reading that Donald Trump fired seven cabinet secretaries “for lying.” You know it has to be something else. Trump obviously missed the story last year that M.B.S. impulsively bought a yacht while on vacation in the south of France — it just caught his fancy in the harbor — from its Russian owner for $550 million. Did that money come out of his piggy bank? Savings from his Riyadh lemonade stand? From his Saudi government 401(k)?

I raise this point because when you’re making as many radical changes at once, and making as many enemies at once, as M.B.S. is, your robes need to be very clean. People have to believe that you mean what you say and that you have no hidden agendas, because change is going to be painful. Look at what M.B.S. is doing all at once:

To speed up decision-making, he is reshaping the Saudi state — from a broad family coalition where power is shared and alternated among seven major families and decisions taken by consensus — to a state governed by a single family line. This is no longer “Saudi Arabia.” It is becoming “Salman Arabia.” In the latest series of arrests, M.B.S. basically eliminated the “young old guard” — the key sons and his natural rivals from the other main Saudi royal lines. He also arrested the owners of the three main quasi-independent private television networks, MBC, ART and Rotana.

At the same time, M.B.S. is shifting the basis of legitimacy of the regime, ending “the 1979 era.” In 1979, in the wake of the takeover of Islam’s most holy site in Mecca by an ultra-fundamentalist Saudi preacher who claimed that the al-Saud family was not Islamic enough, the Saudi ruling family — to shore up its religious legitimacy — made a sharp religious turn at home and began exporting its puritanical Wahhabi Sunni Islam abroad, building mosques and schools from London to Indonesia.

It has been a disaster for the Arab/Muslim world, spawning offshoots like Al Qaeda and ISIS and retarding Arab education and women’s advancement.

M.B.S. has vowed to give birth to a more moderate Saudi Islam, starting by curbing his religious police and permitting women to drive. This is hugely important. He is daring people to judge his government not on piety but on performance, not on Quran but on KPIs — key performance indicators on unemployment, economic growth, housing and health care.

But he is replacing Wahhabism as a source of solidarity with a more secular Saudi nationalism, one that has a strong anti-Iran/Persian/Shiite tenor. And that is taking him to some dangerous places. To confront Iran, M.B.S. got the Sunni Prime Minister of Lebanon, Saad al-Hariri, to quit his office on Saturday while on a visit to Riyadh, and blamed Iran and its Shiite allies for making Lebanon ungovernable — and for a missile attack from Yemen. Lebanon, which had forged a relatively stable balance among Sunnis, Christians and Shiites, is now shaking. M.B.S. also led a Gulf effort to isolate Qatar for being too close to Iran and to crush Iran’s influence in Yemen — and crush Yemen in the process. It’s overreach, and there seems to be no one around to tell him that.

As a veteran Saudi journalist remarked to me of M.B.S.: “This guy saved Saudi Arabia from a slow death, but he needs to broaden his base. It is good that he is freeing the house of Saud of the influence of the clergy, but he is also not allowing any second opinion of his political and economic decisions.”

I worry that those urging M.B.S. to be more aggressive in confronting Iran (whose malign regional influence does need counterbalancing) — like the U.A.E., Trump, Jared Kushner and Bibi Netanyahu — will push M.B.S. into a war abroad and at home at the same time, and we could see Saudi Arabia and the whole region spin out of control at the same time. As I said, I’m worried.

Thomas Loren Friedman is an American journalist and author. He is a three time Pulitzer Prize winner. Friedman currently writes a weekly column for The New York Times.


Since our Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak had received a US681 million donation from a Saudi prince, this story is appropriate but has no relations to the donation.

The sweeping campaign of arrests in the Saudi royal household appears to be the latest move to consolidate the power of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman 32, the favorite son and top adviser of King Salman.

Among those arrested is Prince Alwaleed, who controls the investment firm Kingdom Holding and is one of the world’s richest men, has major stakes in News Corp, Time Warner, Citigroup, Twitter, Apple, Motorola and many other well-known companies. He also controls satellite television networks watched across the Arab world. Prince Alwaleed was giving interviews to the Western news media as recently as late last month about subjects like so-called crypto currencies and Saudi Arabia’s plans for a public offering of shares in its state oil company, Aramco. He has also recently sparred publicly with President Donald J. Trump. The prince was part of a group of investors who bought control of the Plaza Hotel in New York from Mr. Trump, and he also bought an expensive yacht from him as well. But in a twitter message in 2015 the prince called Mr. Trump “a disgrace not only to the GOP but to all America.”

As powerful as the billionaire is, he is something of an outsider within the royal family — not a dissident, but an unusually outspoken figure on a variety of issues. He openly supported women driving long before the kingdom said it would grant them the right to do so, and he has long employed women in his orbit.
In 2015 he pledged to donate his fortune of $32 billion to charity after his death. It was unclear Saturday whether Saudi Arabia’s corruption committee might seek to confiscate any of his assets.

Salman’s consolidation is reminscent of Aurangazeb’s. The four sons of Shah Jahan all held governorships during their father’s reign. The emperor favoured the eldest, Dara Shukoh. This had caused resentment among the younger three, who sought at various times to strengthen alliances between themselves and against Dara. There was no Mughal tradition of primogeniture, the systematic passing of rule, upon an emperor’s death, to his eldest son. Aurangazeb in turn killed Dara Shikoh, Shah Shuja and Murad.

Aurangzeb was a notable expansionist and during his reign, the Mughal Empire reached its greatest extent, ruling over nearly all of the Indian subcontinent. During his lifetime, victories in the south expanded the Mughal Empire to 4 million square kilometres, and he ruled over a population estimated to be over 158 million subjects, with an annual yearly revenue of $450 million (more than ten times that of his contemporary Louis XIV of France), or £38,624,680 (2,879,469,894 rupees) in 1690. Under his reign, India surpassed China to become the world’s largest economy, worth over $90 billion, nearly a quarter of world GDP in 1700. The decline of the Mughal Empire began soon after he died in 1707.

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Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, one of the world’s richest men, was reportedly arrested in Saudi Arabia on Saturday. Credit Ishara S.Kodikara/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

LONDON — Saudi Arabia announced the arrest on Saturday night of the prominent billionaire investor Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, plus at least 10 other princes, four ministers and tens of former ministers.

The announcement of the arrests was made over Al Arabiya, the Saudi-owned satellite network whose broadcasts are officially approved. Prince Alwaleed’s arrest is sure to send shock waves both through the Kingdom and the world’s major financial centers.

He controls the investment firm Kingdom Holding and is one of the world’s richest men, with major stakes in News Corp, Time Warner, Citigroup, Twitter, Apple, Motorola and many other well-known companies. The prince also controls satellite television networks watched across the Arab world.

The sweeping campaign of arrests appears to be the latest move to consolidate the power of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the favorite son and top adviser of King Salman.

At 32, the crown prince is already the dominant voice in Saudi military, foreign, economic and social policies, stirring murmurs of discontent in the royal family that he has amassed too much personal power, and at a remarkably young age.

The king had decreed the creation of a powerful new anti-corruption committee, headed by the crown prince, only hours before the committee ordered the arrests.

Al Arabiya said that the anticorruption committee has the right to investigate, arrest, ban from travel, or freeze the assets of anyone it deems corrupt.

The Ritz Carlton hotel in Riyadh, the de facto royal hotel, was evacuated on Saturday, stirring rumors that it would be used to house detained royals. The airport for private planes was closed, arousing speculation that the crown prince was seeking to block rich businessmen from fleeing before more arrests.

Prince Alwaleed was giving interviews to the Western news media as recently as late last month about subjects like so-called crypto currencies and Saudi Arabia’s plans for a public offering of shares in its state oil company, Aramco.

He has also recently sparred publicly with President Donald J. Trump. The prince was part of a group of investors who bought control of the Plaza Hotel in New York from Mr. Trump, and he also bought an expensive yacht from him as well. But in a twitter message in 2015 the prince called Mr. Trump “a disgrace not only to the GOP but to all America.”

Mr. Trump fired back, also on Twitter, that “Dopey Prince @Alwaleed_Talal wants to control our U.S. politicians with daddy’s money.”

As president, Mr. Trump has developed a warm, mutually supportive relationship with the ascendant crown prince, who has rocketed from near obscurity in recent years to taking control of the country’s most important functions.

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At 32, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is already the dominant voice in Saudi military, foreign, economic and social policies. Credit Fayez Nureldine/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

But his swift rise has also divided Saudis. Many applaud his vision, crediting him with addressing the economic problems facing the kingdom and laying out a plan to move beyond its dependence on oil.

Others see him as brash, power-hungry and inexperienced, and they resent him for bypassing his elder relatives and concentrating so much power in one branch of the family.

At least three senior White House officials, including the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, were reportedly in Saudi Arabia last month for meetings that were undisclosed at the time.

Before sparring with Mr. Trump, Prince Alwaleed was publicly rebuffed by Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, who rejected his $10 million donation for the victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in New York because the prince had also criticized American foreign policy.

As powerful as the billionaire is, he is something of an outsider within the royal family — not a dissident, but an unusually outspoken figure on a variety of issues. He openly supported women driving long before the kingdom said it would grant them the right to do so, and he has long employed women in his orbit.

In 2015 he pledged to donate his fortune of $32 billion to charity after his death. It was unclear Saturday whether Saudi Arabia’s corruption committee might seek to confiscate any of his assets.

Saudi Arabia is an executive monarchy without a written Constitution or independent government institutions like a Parliament or courts, so accusations of corruption are difficult to evaluate. The boundaries between the public funds and the wealth of the royal family are murky at best, and corruption, as other countries would describe it, is believed to be widespread.

The arrests came a few hours after the king replaced the minister in charge of the Saudi national guard, Prince Mutaib bin Abdullah, who controlled the last of the three Saudi armed forces not yet considered to be under control of the crown prince.

The king named Crown Prince Mohammed the minister of defense in 2015. Earlier this year, the king removed Prince Mohammed bin Nayef as head of the interior ministry, placing him under house arrest and extending the crown prince’s influence over the interior ministry’s troops, which act as a second armed force.

Rumors have swirled since then that King Salman and his favorite son would soon move against Prince Mutaib, commander of the third armed force and himself a former contender for the crown.


French and Saudi archeologists make a discovery that the Saudis are keen to keep buried. The pre-Islamic period in Arabia which is now commonly referred to in Islamic folklore as jahaliyyah was in fact a period when a Jewish kingdom flourished in what is present day Saudi Arabia and Yemen. Which makes the Saudis and Israelis- particularly the Sephardi’s- cousins.

The discovery of the oldest-known early Arabic writing in Saudi Arabia, from ca. 470 CE, evidently caused some consternation, given its Christian context.

By Ariel David

In 2014, researchers from a French-Saudi expedition studying rock inscriptions in southern Saudi Arabia announced they had discovered what could be the oldest texts written in the Arabic alphabet. But they did so very quietly, perhaps because the context of the texts is something of an embarrassment to some.

The dozen or so engravings had been carved into the soft sandstone of the mountain passes around Bir Hima – a site about 100 kilometers north of the city of Najran, which over millennia has been plastered with thousands of inscriptions by passing travelers and officials. Conveniently, at least two of the early Arabic petroglyphs that were discovered cited dates in an ancient calendar, and expert epigraphists quickly calculated that the oldest one corresponded to the year 469 or 470 CE.

The discovery was sensational: the earliest ancient inscriptions using this pre-Islamic stage of Arabic script had been dated at least half a century later, and had all been found in Syria, which had suggested that the alphabet used to write the Koran had been developed far from the birthplace of Islam and its prophet.

Yet the announcement of the discovery was subdued. A few outlets in the French and Arab media tersely summarized the news, hailing the text as the “missing link” between Arabic and the earlier alphabets used previously in the region, such as Nabatean. Most of the articles were accompanied by stock photos of archaeological sites or other ancient inscriptions: it is almost impossible to find a picture of the inscription online or a reference to the actual content of the text.