A Fresh Start in Saudi-US Relationship
Hassan Yassin, Arab News

There are some moments in history that can be called knots of opportunity, tying up the past with the future and opening up new roads. The meeting between President Franklin D. Roosevelt and King Abdul Aziz aboard the USS Quincy in 1945 was one such moment, marking and defining a half-century of Saudi-American relations. In the future, the meeting between their successors, President George W. Bush and Crown Prince Abdullah, at Bush’s Crawford ranch last week, may be seen as a similarly defining moment, a moment that underwrites the next half-century of Saudi-American relations.

Such a moment cries out for honesty. First, it is no secret that relations between the two countries have been strained for several years, with Sept. 11 as a tragic and unfortunate marker. The results have been dreadful for two such historically dependent peoples. Seventy percent of Americans say they distrust Saudi Arabia and the Muslim world, and suspicion and anger toward American intentions and policies is running as high or more in the Arab world.

Here’s an interesting piece on US-Saudi relations by a former Saudi diplomat. It’s worth reading in that it presents a pretty good analysis of where both Saudi Arabia and the US went off the rails–at least in the other’s view. Again, you should read the whole thing.

April:30:2005 - 22:29 | Comments Off | Permalink

‘Thank You, Ma’am. Have a Nice Day’
Lubna Hussain, lubna@arabnews.com

My parents and I spend the last 10 days of Ramadan within the vicinity of the Grand Mosque in Makkah. It was during this period that my grandmother became deathly ill and we received a much-dreaded phone call in the middle of the night declaring that she would not make it through the following day. Beside herself with grief my mother implored me to perform Umrah (the lesser pilgrimage) in her name.

Thus begins an incredible story told by Luban Hussain. She tells of the insults she received in the Grand Mosque in Mecca by a religious policeman who was demanding that she cover her face during pilgrimage. This, by nearly all known regulation, is not required; in fact, women are supposed to not cover their faces during pilgrimage, as a symbol of the total equality of mankind.

She continues her story with an episode that took place in a shopping mall, when another woman-one who never covered her head–was accosted by another religious policeman. I’ll let you read the whole thing to see how that ended.

April:30:2005 - 22:28 | Comments Off | Permalink

Build on Dreams, Not Nightmares

I really enjoyed reading a recent article in Arab News titled “We Can and We Will,” and I agree with the approach of not blaming all our misfortune and economic weakness on Israel. I would like to add some other observations that I, as a young Saudi man, have made in past years.

I would like to start by saying that thinking negatively while considering issues never benefits one striving to work hard and build, no matter what the justifications. Every great idea is built on a dream — not on a nightmare. We teach young people to do what’s right by pointing out their good actions and not waiting to criticize the wrong ones — or at least we should. A person starts building a house when he first sees or imagines what the house will look like on completion.

I truly believe that this dream does not exist for most Arabs and Muslims at this time…

This is another good piece–an opinion piece about how the Muslim world got into the hole it finds itself in, and some suggestions about how to get out. It’s worth the few minutes it takes to read the whole thing.

April:30:2005 - 22:28 | Comments Off | Permalink

U.S.-Saudi milestone
By Amb. Robert Jordan

Sixty years ago, President Franklin Roosevelt and the founding ruler of Saudi Arabia, King Abdulaziz ibn Saud, huddled over richly patterned carpets spread across the deck of the cruiser USS Quincy. This meeting in the Great Bitter Lake of the Suez Canal marked the beginning of a unique relationship: The U.S. promised security and technology in exchange for Saudi guarantees of reliable supplies of reasonably priced oil.

Despite inevitable moments of tension and crisis, this deal worked well for both sides: We generally managed to provide the security and technology, and the Saudis generally managed to provide the oil. In Operation Desert Storm, the Saudis provided more than oil, and joined us in combat against Saddam Hussein. In our efforts to liberate Afghanistan and Iraq, the Saudis provided coalition forces the critical use of a state-of-the-art air command center, air clearances for military flights, and other support that saved American lives when other allies, such as Turkey, backed away from our requests.

Yet this week, as President Bush and Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah met in Crawford, Texas, we mark the 60th anniversary of this relationship with a sense of unease. In the wake of the September 11, 2001, attacks by Saudi terrorists, the loss of American lives to terrorist attacks in Riyadh and elsewhere, the funding of madrassas and charities preaching hatred in the name of Islam, and recent reports of books and pamphlets promoting anti-Western venom in American mosques, many wonder if this relationship is worth preserving.

And in the midst of increasing media criticism and frustrations ranging from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to Iraq to our visa and travel restrictions, it is not surprising many Saudis wonder the same thing. So after 60 years, how do we assess and improve such a tangled and contradictory relationship?

For years, our relations have been conducted by government and business elites. The two countries’ citizens know little about each other, except for the 30,000 Saudi students who formerly studied here each year or the thousands of Americans who lived and raised their families in Aramco or defense contractor compounds.

Our two countries have learned more about each other since September 11, 2001, but with mixed results. Immediately after the attacks, we struggled to communicate on intelligence and counterterrorism. But we persisted and matters have improved.

The recent convocation of an International Counterterrorism Conference in Riyadh, attended by representatives of 50 nations, heard Crown Prince Abdullah call for setting up an international counterterrorism center, to share methods and information. Despite significant issues regarding such broad intelligence sharing, there is much common ground to explore.

We are seeing a democratic process in Saudi Arabia develop with the recent elections for half the seats on the kingdom’s municipal councils. While male-only voter registration and turnout pale when compared with the courageous spectacle we saw in Iraq, or with the elections held in Afghanistan and the Palestinian territories, it is at least a beginning.

Saudis campaign with brochures, billboards and lamb roasts. Running for municipal council may seem inconsequential. But the people are learning the building blocks of a democratic society that ultimately will include elected regional and national councils with more than superficial power. Schools will teach the meaning of popular participation.

This may be democracy on training wheels. But a tribal society that lived in mud huts 50 years ago has to start somewhere. President Bush’s vision of freedom in the region is not merely a fantasy, even though it will not happen overnight.

Like the meeting on the USS Quincy, the topic of discussions in Crawford focused on oil and security. The discussions — and the relationship between the two countries for the next 60 years — should move beyond oil and arms. It should be based upon other principles as well. That process has begun, but it has a long way to go.

We now have candid conversations about human rights, religious freedom and women’s rights. Work on Saudi accession to the World Trade Organization has produced laws improving transparency and regularity of commercial dealings. A Saudi stock market is booming.

However, despite our successes countering terrorist attacks, we have less success countering the ideology that fuels terrorism. Saudi religious leaders’ recent condemnations of intolerance, extremism and violence are welcome. But hatred lingers in mosque sermons and cassette recordings.

What the Saudis teach in their schools and preach in their mosques can no longer be viewed as a purely internal matter. It is a matter of our national security as well.

But our own society evolved from now-forgotten days of witch hunts, slavery, civil war, women’s suffrage and violent civil-rights struggles. A society that has only recently seen the rise of skyscrapers and paving of superhighways can also evolve in its own way to an Islamic state prepared to lead the Muslim world in the 21st century. Neither they nor we have another 60 years to wait for that day.

Robert W. Jordan, a Dallas attorney, was U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia from 2001 to 2003.

Robert Jordan was ambassador to Riyadh during the same period I was Counselor for Public Affairs there; our tours differed by a matter of days.

We had very little difference of opinion about what the problems were in Saudi Arabia, nor what the Saudis needed to do t fix them. We were both aware–as most Americans were not–of the high level of critical support the Saudis gave the US during military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. That cooperation wasn’t secret (though the Saudi government prefered that it be downplayed at the time), but it wasn’t very well reported in the US or international media. Jordan’s piece here sets it out well. He also spells out what we think both the US and Saudi Arabia need to do.

Another similarity: even though both of us worked for State, in Saudi Arabia, neither of us takes a penny from the Saudis. As much as a few would like to slander former Foreign Service Officers as pimping for the Saudis, it’s just not the case, at least with these two examples. The US-Saudi relationship is simply too important to let ignorance and hatred–on either side–destroy it.

April:29:2005 - 23:59 | Comments & Trackbacks (1) | Permalink

Rainstorms Claim at Least 41 Lives
P.K. Abdul Ghafour, Arab News

JEDDAH, 30 April 2005 — At least 41 people were killed, including 10 in Jeddah, as torrential rains accompanied by flash floods hit the western and southern regions of Saudi Arabia, press reports said yesterday.

The districts of Um Al-Sulm and Muntazahat were the worst hit in Jeddah. Of the 10 killed in the city, four were children who died as an old building collapsed around them.

Many Americans simply have no good mental picture of Saudi Arabia. The image they have combines rich sheiks with multiple wives, all living in royal splendor, with oil fields (visuals straight from the American film “Giant”), strange clothes, and a scattering of camels.

One can certainly find all that in the country–though the oil fields are using cutting-edge technology and very few James Deans, Rock Hudsons, or Elizabeth Taylors are on hand.

But at heart, Saudi Arabia is still a developing country. Parts of its infrastructure are first-world (like the major hospitals, the highway system, the newest airports). Most of the country, though, is not far removed from where it was seventy years ago. There are still dirt streets and mud brick houses. Housing in villages rarely goes over two stories and is usually only one. In rural areas, one might be a hundred miles or more from the nearest hospital, fire or police station.

As a result, natural events can become catastrophes as the recent heavy rains proved to be in the west and southwest of the country.

In a country which is primarily desert, there are very few flood sewers in the cities. A heavy rain will cause flash flooding in the streets, as it did a few months ago in Riyadh. Hail can be a real killer. I recall a hailstorm that hit the northeastern city of Khafji in the early 80s that killed over 20 simply by putting too much weight on the traditional flat roofs. Read the article to see the scale of damage the resulted from this storm.

These are all things that development can mitigate, if not completely resolve. But flat oil prices over the past 20 years put a serious dent in Saudi plans for infrastructure development. Now that the coffers are refilling, more can be spent outside the major cities.

April:29:2005 - 22:01 | Comments Off | Permalink

Learn to Live With It
Tariq A. Al-Maeena, close_encounters@gawab.com

Ali called me yesterday, spewing off a vitriolic burst against what he saw as a gross manipulation of the recently held Jeddah Municipality elections. He was incensed that all the candidates in the so-called “Golden List” were elected.

“You know Tariq, there’s no place for radicals in the municipality. They shouldn’t have been elected, period! But by getting themselves quickly endorsed by some religious scholars, as reported in some sections of the press, they capitalized on the minds of naive voters and secured their seats. They will set us back decades. I shudder to think what their first act in the new council would be.”

With this piece of Socratic dialogue, Tariq Al-Maeena offers his view of the municipal elections as an op-ed in the Arab News.

It’s a pretty good piece–worth reading in its entirety–and spells it out clearly: if you don’t take part in the democratic process, no matter how limited it might be, you lose your right to complain about the results of the election. Maybe next time people will do better.

April:29:2005 - 22:00 | Comments Off | Permalink

Complaints Abound Over ‘Golden List’ Victories
Hassan Adawi & Maha Al-Nowaisser, Arab News

JEDDAH, 29 April 2005 — More than 70 candidates from the recent municipal elections are contesting the victories of the seven candidates whose names appeared on the so-called “golden list.”

The complaints were filed with the Elections Grievances Committee, either in person or by legal brief. All candidates agreed on the same format for their appeals, which contend the “golden list” demonstrates prior organization and grouping in defiance of regulations. The defeated candidates said they have enough evidence against the victors to prove their allegations.

Several notable defeated candidates attended the meeting, including Saleem ibn Hindi Al-Harbi from the Sixth Precinct; Talal Al-Johani, Lafee Al-Balowi and Ali Al-Ramee in the Third Precinct; Dr. Abdul Malik Al-Janaidi in the Fourth Precinct; Abdul Aziz ibn Ghabisha in the Seventh Precinct and Osama Yamani in the Second Precinct and Esaam Ba Ghafaar in the Fourth Precinct.

Al-Watan reported that the Grievances Committee would receive substantial evidence focusing on six separate areas.

— A statement attributed to committee member Dr. Omar Al-Khouly about the “golden list” that appeared on the Internet sites and mobile messages indicating that the committee will remove those names when they become confident of the validity of this list and the lineup that it contained.

— An objection that candidates who were managers of districts in Jeddah province should have been excluded as district chiefs had been because their positions could be used to influence constituent voters.

— Articles in two Jeddah province magazines that predicted shoo-in victories for “golden list” candidates, which may have unduly influenced voters.

— Grievance Committee delays in condemning the “golden list” until the day before balloting, which precluded other candidates from amassing more evidence to support their allegations.

— A statement by Seventh Precinct victor Dr. Abdul Rahman Yamani to French media that a coalition existed between victorious candidates.

— Statements by government-employed scientists and senators chastening some of the candidates clearly prohibited by election regulations.

Jeddah province recognized two groups of plaintiffs studying the reasons of their losses. They briefed five lawyers who will present the allegations, The lawyers made clear this is not aimed at the victors personally, but rather the means by which the victories were achieved.

“This grouping up is a clear defiance to the second article in the second section of municipal regulations,” said plaintiff Musaid Al-Khamees, a defeated candidate. “In fact, before the announcement of results on Saturday morning, one of them was quoted in Okaz newspaper as saying ‘The news hasn’t confirmed it yet, but the signs say that there is unanimous victory for the gold.’ There can’t be anything more clear than that statement to confirm that there was prior planning/grouping in compiling that list, which was distributed via communication devices with the election results confirming it.”

Some assert that the violation is blatant.

“Taking part in a unified list is exactly the whole point of the regulations against gathering and collaborating,” said Ali Al-Oqla, an attorney and consultant. “In fact, the participation of just two candidates is prohibited, so what do you say to the participation of seven candidates — one from each of the seven regions?”

Grievances Committee Manager Ahmad Al-Khilawi said all grievances procedures should be completed regarding the election results. Yesterday was the last day to file election grievances. The committee has five days to decide on the complaints after their filing.

The first nation-wide elections in Saudi Arabia’s history are now over. Municipal councils have been elected across the country as the result of a three-stage election that was conducted over several months in three different regions. The elections were certainly limited in their scope: the only offices up for election were to municipal councils, half the seats on the councils will be appointed by the government, only men could vote. That’s not ideal, but it doesn’t make the elections without value, as I’ll explain below.

One of the glaring things revealed about the elections was the low voter turnout. Some said it was the result of cynicism–what can a single voter do to change a national system? Others were completely clueless about what the elections meant or how it was conducted.

The latter issue is correctable–self-correctable over time, as voters learn what’s at stake. The former view, though, is more difficult to change. Citizens will have to understand that real power–even if in very narrow circumstances–is being put in their hands. Those whom they elect will have to produce or face losing in the next elections. Citizens now do have authority and responsibility for electing those individuals who will best meet their needs.

The government issued extensive rules about how campaigning could be carried out. But as is usually the case when one does something for the first time, there were flaws in the system. For instance, it was not clear just what constituted “forming a slate of candidates”–which was forbidden. Could a third-party issue a list of preferred candidates and encourage voters to elect them all together? Does this constitute a coalition?

The grouping of certain candidates in various cities, done by people with some sort of religious credentials, if only popular respect, drew criticism in those cities. The critics believed candidates had unlawfully aggregated themselves. So far, in both the Central and Eastern regions, official review of the complaints has led to their denial. The elections in Jeddah–just completed–have drawn similar complaints, though the aggregation seems to be more blatant there. The complaints are now before the Grievance Committee for resolution.

These elections are important, limited though they may be, for several reasons. First, if Saudi Arabia is to develop a representative government–something which the Crown Prince’s current government supports–citizens must learn how it works. Attempts by other Gulf States–Bahrain and Kuwait–in the 1960s led to parliaments that did not well represent the people who elected them, were radical in their activities, and evidenced no long-term view for their countries. Those parliaments were shut down six or seven years after first being elected.

In both of those countries, there are now new parliaments that are performing professionally. The Kuwaiti parliament, for instance, enfranchised female voters earlier this year, after years in which women had been denied voting rights. Bahrain had taken this step a few years ago.

By starting small and working up to the national arena, the Saudi government intends for voters to become educated in both the rights and responsibilities of self-governance. This is reasonable, even if it isn’t dramatic. Unlike Iraq and Lebanon–both of which saw truly dramatic democratic action this year–Saudi Arabia has no history of representative government, however flawed.

The cultural pattern had been–and largely continues to be–one based on a patron-client relationship between the government and the people. People accept what the government says is good and shuns that which is bad. Individual, critical thinking was something most people did not engage in very much, nor was it taught in the schools. A lot of learning needs to take place before the average Saudi can responsibly exercise political power.

This learning process will be comprehensive, taking in social values, cultural value, religious interpretations, economics. It’s a full curriculum for anyone. With pressures being put on the people and government–from the US government, from Saudi reformers, from Islamist terrorist organizations–the Saudis are being asked to do a crash course in very foreign matters. There’s no assurance that the results will be in line with US desires, nor the desires of any particular group of reformers, liberal or conservative. What is sure, though, is that if the Saudis get a chance to step into representative government and not have to take a blind leap, the true desires of the populace can be turned into their own version of democracy.

April:29:2005 - 14:58 | Comments Off | Permalink

Saudi Arabia arrests 40 foreigners over Christian services

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (AP) — Forty foreign Christians, children included, were arrested for proselytizing when police raided a clandestine church in suburban Riyadh. Convictions could result in harsh prison sentences, followed by deportation.

Lt. Col. Saad al-Rashud, who heads a wide-ranging security campaign in the capital, said the believers’ meeting place, which displayed crosses, was run by a Pakistani who led prayers, heard confessions, distributed Communion and claimed to heal the sick.

Although the Prophet Muhammad tolerated Christian churches in his realm, modern Saudi Arabia has made it illegal to promote any religion other than Islam and outlaws churches.

Members of other religions generally are allowed to practice their beliefs within private homes but may not seek converts or hold organized religious gatherings.

As this New York Times article makes clear–if State Department’s Annual Report on Religious Freedom didn’t–the Saudis still have serious issues with religious tolerance.

They also a a serious problem with transparency.

Many thousands of non-Muslims do, in fact, attend religious services in Saudi Arabia. Technically, it’s legal to do so.

But in a very intolerant society, there are many Saudis–by definition, Muslim–who are frightened of and/or offended by the existence of other religious practices within the holy land of Mecca and Medina. They can easily take advantage of other laws–particularly those concerning public gatherings–to shut down religious meetings or services. They can also use Shari’a law to stop religious observances if they claim that their purpose is to convert Muslims to any other religion, the religious crime of apostacy.

The key word is “discretion”. If groups are small–but how small is small enough?–then they can gather in relative safety. If people’s gathering is large enough to attract the attention of neighbors, the police, or the religious police, then there’s sure to be trouble.

Foreign embassies and consulates often make provision for the conducting of religous services on their extra-territorial grounds. Some of the larger companies that, because of official sponsorship, have some sort of immunity from intrusion by religious police, also make accommodation for religious services.

But these half-measures are not adequate for a modern country in a modern world. As the piece notes, the Prophet Mohammed tolerated the existence of Christianity–and arguably Judaism, as long as it was not political–within his Islamic state. There are even hadith that say that the Prophet visited cordially with Christian hermits in the days before he received his Revelation. Tolerance is possible; it is also necessary.

April:29:2005 - 14:26 | Comments Off | Permalink

State Department has issued its comprehensive look at global terrorism. There was some discussion about changes in format and content between this report and State’s earlier reports (“Patterns of Global Terrorism”), largely because the new reports do not include charts or tables listing the number of terrorist activites in the past year. Some say this change was made to hide unwanted figures. I think it’s an appropriate step, though, because of the intrinsic difficulty correctly counting anonymous acts that cross national and regional borders. While one can derive numbers, what is the point if those numbers don’t really mean anything? Is any greater truth being served?

The section on Saudi Arabia begins on Page 67 in the report [Page 75 in the PDF document]. It notes the steps the Saudi government has taken to fight terrorism and the funding of terrorism within the country. It’s a useful encapsulation of Saudi efforts.

The list of terrorist organizations is below:

State Department Identifies 40 Foreign Terrorist Organizations
40 other terrorist groups also named in annual report

The U.S. State Department has identified 40 Foreign Terrorist Organizations in its annual terrorism report.

In addition, the Country Reports on Terrorism 2004 [this is a 137-page PDF document], released April 27 in Washington, identifies another 40 terrorist groups or organizations that were active in the past year. Previously the annual report was known as Patterns of Global Terrorism.

Designation of a group as a Foreign Terrorist Organization results in the U.S. government blocking assets held in U.S. financial institutions, denying its members visas, and making it a crime for U.S. citizens or others within U.S. jurisdiction to provide it with support or resources.

Following is the list of Designated Foreign Terrorist Organizations, which is determined by the secretary of state, plus a list of other terrorist organizations that the annual report identifies as active in the past year. While Islamist groups dominate the listings, other secular and political groups–from Ireland and Israel, to Japan and Peru–also make their presence known.

Country Reports on Terrorism 2004
U.S. Department of State
Washington, D.C.
April 27, 2005

Designated Foreign Terrorist Organizations

    17 November
    Abu Nidal Organization (ANO)
    Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG)
    Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade
    Ansar al-Islam (AI)
    Armed Islamic Group (GIA)
    Asbat al-Ansar
    Aum Shinrikyo (Aum)
    Basque Fatherland and Liberty (ETA)
    Communist Party of Philippines/New People’s Army (CPP/NPA)
    Continuity Irish Republican Army (CIRA)
    Gama’a al-Islamiyya (IG)
    Harakat ul-Mujahidin (HUM)
    Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU)
    Jaish-e-Mohammed (JEM)
    Jemaah Islamiya Organization (JI)
    Al-Jihad (AJ)
    Kahane Chai (Kach)
    Kongra-Gel (KGK)
    Lashkar e-Tayyiba (LT)
    Lashkar i Jhangvi (LJ)
    Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE)
    Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG)
    Mujahedin-e Khalq Organization (MEK)
    National Liberation Army (ELN)
    Palestine Liberation Front (PLF)
    Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ)
    Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP)
    Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General
    Command (PFLP-GC)
    Real IRA (RIRA)
    Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC)
    Revolutionary Nuclei (RN)
    Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party/Front (DHKP/C)
    Salafist Group for Call and Combat (GSPC)
    Shining Path (SL)
    Tanzim Qa’idat al-Jihad fi Bilad al-Rafidayn (QJBR)
    United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC)

Other Selected Terrorist Organizations

    Al-Badhr Mujahedin (al-Badr)
    Al-Ittihad al-Islami (AIAI)
    Alex Boncayao Brigade (ABB)
    Anti-Imperialist Territorial Nuclei (NTA)
    Cambodian Freedom Fighters (CFF)
    Communist Party of India (Maoist)
    Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist)/United People’s Front
    Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR)
    East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM)
    First of October Antifascist Resistance Group (GRAPO)
    Harakat ul-Jihad-I-Islami (HUJI)
    Harakat ul-Jihad-I-Islami/Bangladesh (HUJI-B)
    Hizb-I Islami Gulbuddin (HIG)
    Hizbul-Mujahedin (HM)
    Irish National Liberation Army (INLA)
    Irish Republican Army (IRA)
    Islamic Army of Aden (IAA)
    Islamic Great East Raiders–Front (IBDA-C)
    Islamic International Peacekeeping Brigade (IIPB)
    Islamic Jihad Group (IJG)
    Jamiat ul-Mujahedin (JUM)
    Japanese Red Army (JRA)
    Kumpulan Mujahidin Malaysia (KMM)
    Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA)
    Loyalist Volunteer Force (LVF)
    Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group (GICM)
    New Red Brigades/Communist Combatant Party (BR/PCC)
    People Against Gangsterism and Drugs (PAGAD)
    Red Hand Defenders (RHD)
    Revolutionary Proletarian Initiative Nuclei (NIPR)
    Revolutionary Struggle (RS)
    Riyadus-Salikhin Reconnaissance and Sabotage Battalion of Chechen Martyrs (RSRSBCM)
    Sipah-I-Sahaba/Pakistan (SSP)
    Special Purpose Islamic Regiment (SPIR)
    Tunisian Combatant Group (TCG)
    Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA)
    Turkish Hizballah
    Ulster Defense Association/Ulster Freedom Fighters (UDA/UFF)
    Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF)
    United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA)

April:29:2005 - 14:24 | Comments & Trackbacks (1) | Permalink

Whimper from Al-Qaeda Cell

AL-QAEDA’S Saudi branch posted its Sawt Al-Jihad online magazine Wednesday after a hiatus of several months, indirectly admitted a crushing defeat in the battle of Al-Ras earlier this month between militants and security men in the Kingdom.

The 29th edition of the magazine, which runs to more than 40 pages, includes an editorial by Saud Al-Otaibi, written before he was killed in the April 3-5 clashes and who authorities have described as Al-Qaeda s chief in Saudi Arabia, Agence France Presse reported from Dubai.

In the article, Otaibi urged those who could not join the Mujahedeen (warriors) in the Arabian Peninsula to make their way to Iraq or another front for jihad, clearly suggesting that operations in the Kingdom are futile.

Fifteen suspected Al-Qaeda militants were killed in the three-day gunbattle with Saudi security forces in the Al-Qassim region, a haven for militants some 320 kilometres (200 miles) north of Riyadh.

This article, from the Saudi Gazette provides an interesting look between the lines. The fact that a regular terrorist publication had gone on pause, then publishes an article by a terrorist killed earlier this month, definitely does show the group to be not on top of things. The anti-terror activity by the Saudi government over the past year certainly does suggest success, but it’s impossible to prove a negative. Only when there are no more attacks and no more anti-terror actions can this war be said to have been won.

April:28:2005 - 21:30 | Comments Off | Permalink

We Don’t Need Any Such Thing
Hamoud Abu Talib • Al-Watan

I have always been an advocate of elections. I eagerly awaited the recent municipal elections in the Kingdom, seeing in the process a historic shift, a landmark development that could transform Saudi society.

Now that the election is over and the scenes of hustle and bustle that animated our cities over the past months are no more, allow me to say openly and loudly: To hell with elections if elections are what we have just seen.

This article, from the Arabic daily Al-Watan is pretty down on the experience of the just-concluded municipal elections. The writer does not believe that the process worked and that it was merely an exercise in futility. It’s interesting to read what he has to say and compare it with what Abeer Mishkhas has to say. See the post below for links to her piece.

April:27:2005 - 20:58 | Comments Off | Permalink

Forum Demands Steps to Protect Women’s Rights
Maha Akeel, Arab News

JEDDAH, 28 April 2005 — About 300 women attended the first open dialogue organized by Al-Eman Cancer Society at the Equestrian Club on Monday night to discuss their problems. Topics ranged from women’s ignorance of their rights to blaming the system imposed on them and the men in their life.

This is a very good piece of reporting by Maha Akeel on how Saudi women are discussing who they are and how they want to be. I recommend reading the entire piece.

From a slightly different perspective, Abeer Mishkhas responds to an e-mail from a Saudi woman who claims that she lives in the “only Muslim country” and is very happy with the status quo. The article is predominantly about Ms Mishkhas’ disappointment with the municipal elections–and a nice counterpoint to the article above–but toward the end of the column you’ll find her response. This article, too, is worth reading in its entirety.

April:27:2005 - 20:56 | Comments Off | Permalink
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