Asharq Alawsat reports that the government of Kuwait is looking into the possibility that the Saudi responsible for the suicide attack on a Shi’ite mosque may have ties with an Al-Qaeda affiliate, “Peninsula Lions.” The government believed it had crippled the group back in 2005, but documents found in the house from which the recent attack was staged show some relationship to the group. On the other hand, ISIS has claimed responsibility for the attack. It is, however, conceivable that the group has migrated toward ISIS, away from Al-Qaeda.

Kuwait investigates link between Shi’ite mosque attacker and “Peninsula Lions” group

Kuwait City, Asharq Al-Awsat—Kuwait is investigating whether the perpetrator of last week’s deadly attack on a Shi’ite mosque had links to the “Peninsula Lions,” an Al-Qaeda-linked group that staged a series of attacks in the oil-rich country in 2005.

Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat on the condition of anonymity, a Kuwaiti security source said there were reports that jailed Peninsula Lions members shouted “Allahu Akbar” (God is great) upon receiving the news of Friday’s deadly attack on the Imam Al-Sadiq Mosque in the neighborhood of Sawabir in Kuwait City.

The incident has prompted the authorities to investigate whether the perpetrator of the attack had any links to the Peninsula Lions group whose members have been killed, imprisoned or fled Kuwait.

Kuwait dismantled the group in 2005 and jailed 37 of its members on charge of belonging to Al-Qaeda.

Nine members were killed during clashes with Kuwaiti police in early 2005 and six were given death sentences.

Kuwait has identified the suicide bomber as Fahd Suleiman Abdul Mohsen Al-Qaba’a, a 23-year-old Saudi citizen who crossed into the neighboring country on the same day he carried out the attack.


July:01:2015 - 07:00 | Comments & Trackbacks (0) | Permalink

H.A. Hellyer, writing at Al Arabiya TV, notes that there’s something wrong with the (partial) condemnations of sectarianism popping up in the regional media. Whether is obliviousness, disengenuity, or out-and-out machinations, what is condemned is only that which comes from the other guy. “Our guy” gets a pass, if not actual support.

The short-sightedness (to put it at its most gentle) is appalling. There seems to be utterly no conception of the possibility that today’s majority might not remain so tomorrow. And when that happens, all the methods, tricks, interpretations, and the like that are used to justify violence in the name of today’s majorities will be used to justify similar actions against them when they’re in the minority. Even the most cursory reading of history should inform one that things do not stay the same forever.

Sectarianism is bad… until it is your side that is inciting it
H.A. Hellyer

It’s Ramadan. Against the backdrop of Muslims observing the obligatory performance of the fast, sheikhs and religious authorities will remind the faithful of the saying of the Prophet: “There has come to you Ramadan, a blessed month which God has enjoined you to fast, during which the gates of heaven are opened and the gates of Hell are closed, and the rebellious devils are chained up.” Sages in the past would comment – and warn believers that if there were sins they persisted in the month, they had to take them seriously. For in this month, the whispers and murmurs, beckoning souls to wretchedness – well, that’s all on them. Because the devils, as the adage goes, are locked up.

One would hope, then, that in this month, there would be an absence of truly horrendous actions – if from no one else, than from Muslims themselves, particularly those that claim to raise high the banner of Islam. Alas, the last few days show that while some human beings don’t require the murmurs and whispers of baser beings at all – they can do rather evil things all on their own.

… Is the principle really ‘sectarianism is bad’ – or is the principle ‘sectarianism is bad… until it is my side doing it?’

Is there anyone who will take seriously within the region that be it Sunni on Shiite sectarianism; or Shiite on Sunni sectarianism; or Sunni on Sunni sectarianism; or Muslim on Christian sectarianism; that these are all just bad ideas? That differences of views can, and should, be expressed – but that the incitement that finds itself in words will, far too often, be eventually conveyed in acts of violence and terrible consequences? Or have too few not reached the point of realizing that rotten discourse does not have rotten consequences?

Are there leaders in these communities who know they must rise, in order to be clear once and for all, not simply in rhetoric but in action, to avert further catastrophe by declaring – if you will seek to promote hate and incitement, you will not be tolerated? Are there leaders who will pursue that path, not as a way to crackdown on legitimate dissent and varying opinions that do not win favor with the palace – but as a way to ensure and develop the health of their communities and societies?


June:29:2015 - 10:07 | Comments & Trackbacks (0) | Permalink

Saudi Gazette reports that over 1,300 Saudis have been arrested for involvement with ISIS/Daesh over the past eight months. The article suggests that these are predominantly youths, only some of whom took part in attacks. The others were captured “before they were able to do so,” officials say.

1,351 Daesh terrorists arrested in 8 months
Saud Al-Shaibani

RIYADH — A total of 1,351 terrorists belonging to Daesh (the self-proclaimed IS) have been arrested in various parts of the Kingdom over the past eight months.

A source reported the terrorists make up 29 different nationalities, but most of them are Saudis.

“There were 1,058 Saudi terrorists and most of them were very young. They contacted Daesh through numerous websites and some of them have committed deadly terrorism attacks and others were arrested before they were able to do so,” said the source.

The source also said the total number of non-Saudis who were arrested for being involved in terrorism stands at 293.


June:28:2015 - 12:27 | Comments & Trackbacks (0) | Permalink

In his column for Asharq Alawsat, Mshari Al-Zaydi comments on Egyptian moves to burn the books written by those Islamists now deemed as extremist, including those by Hassan Al-Banna, Sayyid Qutb, and Yusuf Al-Qaradawi. The problem is that the ideas are already out there and you can’t destroy every exemplar of their writings. Further, by banning something, you only make it more attractive to many, particularly in a region that is more than happy to seize upon any sort of conspiracy theory to find justification.

While the past cannot be undone, the governments who are now aware of the dangers contained in these books, can and should stop promoting them. That they did in the past is clearly a mistake. But short of finding some sort of eraser that can undo history, they’ll have to deal with the monsters they created and do the best they can to close the monster factories that thrive in their mosques, schools, and government offices.

Burning the Books of Hassan Al-Banna and Sayyid Qutb
Mshari Al-Zaydi

There have been insistent demands for the renewal of religious discourse in several Muslim countries, including Egypt, which is known as “the Mother of the World” and home to the Al-Azhar university, its highest religious authority.

Ever since the toppling of Egypt’s former Muslim Brotherhood-led government, which led to a surge in terrorist attacks and pro-Brotherhood propaganda campaigns, there has been much talk about the need for religious reform, whether inside or outside Egypt. The discourse the Brotherhood, Al-Qaeda, or the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) employ to recruit people is based on specific religious texts and Islamic Shari’a concepts that lost touch with reality a long time ago.

Although easier said than done, asking Al-Azhar clerics to reform and revolutionize the Islamist discourse, as Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi recently did, is not enough. The problem of religious discourse is too divergent and therefore solving it should involve several factors, most importantly addressing issues such as collective psyche and upbringing. The solution lies in revisiting the religious concepts and ideas people were brought up upon. Similar attempts have been done by many of the great Muslim scholars in Iraq, Egypt, and Andalusia.

It is understood that in such uncertain circumstances it is difficult to find the right point of departure for bringing about religious change and reform. Last week, Egypt’s Ministry of Religious Endowments ordered mosques to remove from their shelves books that encourage extremism, particularly those authored by Brotherhood leaders. According to the Egyptian daily newspaper Al-Masry Al-Youm, Minister of Religious Endowments Mohamed Mokhtar Gomaa has ordered the burning of all the books written by clerics who incite violence, such as Hassan Al-Banna, Sayyid Qutb, and Yusuf Al-Qaradawi.


June:26:2015 - 08:21 | Comments & Trackbacks (0) | Permalink

Saudi Arabia is making its position on Gay Rights clear: There are none.

Arab News reports that the country’s Ministry of Interior says that in the conflict between gay rights and religion, religion wins. It’s not just delivering a message to Saudis, but vociferously made its point in a session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.

Saudi Arabia rubbishes calls for gay rights

JEDDAH: There would be no rights granted to gay people in the Kingdom, the Interior Ministry said on Wednesday.

In a post on its Twitter account, the ministry stated that it supports human rights principles proposed by international bodies as long as they are in line with Islamic law. It also slammed those questioning the Kingdom’s rights record.

It said that freedom of expression does not mean demeaning the beliefs of Muslims; and condemned those who continue to ridicule the Prophet, peace be upon him.

The ministry said it rejected terrorism and urged united international action to tackle all forms of extremism because these ideas violate the teachings of the world’s religions.


June:25:2015 - 07:25 | Comments & Trackbacks (0) | Permalink

Writing at Al Arabiya TV, Joyce Kalam argues that the growth of ISIS has meant the death of the map drawn up by the Sykes-Picot Agreement concluded in 1916. That agreement drew lines on the map of the Middle East that might have made sense for certain European powers — France, the UK, Russia — but made little sense to the people on the ground.

Syria and Iraq, main beneficiaries/victims of the Agreement, have now abandoned their joint border. Intent on the survival of their regimes, they have been forced to pull in toward their centers, Baghdad and Damascus, leaving a vacuum that is now being filled by the disaffected. New borders are going to result, though not any time soon.

ISIS’ ‘Caliphate’ one year later: The end of Sykes-Picot
Joyce Kalam

When Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi , the leader of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) flaunted a year ago from the Great Mosque in Mosul the birth of his new “Caliphate,” it was both a statement of the organization’s brutal ambition and the unraveling of the Sykes-Picot map in both Iraq and Syria.

One year later, ISIS as a non-state actor and a terrorist organization is the loudest but not the only symptom of the de facto crumbling of the central nation state structures in Baghdad and Damascus. Understanding its threat and prospects cannot occur absent of this context of rising militias and autonomous groups in what was once “the beating heart of Arab nationalism.”


June:25:2015 - 07:19 | Comments & Trackbacks (2) | Permalink

American magazine “The Atlantic” takes a look at Saudi Arabia’s solar power aspirations. It notes some of the problems it faces in trying to replace petroleum-based energy with solar energy, including such simple things as dust storms that can drop the energy production of solar cells precipitously.

Worth reading in its entirety.

Why the Saudis Are Going Solar
The fate of one of the biggest fossil-fuel producers may now depend on its investment in renewable energy
Jeffrey Ball

Prince Turki bin Saud bin Mohammad Al Saud belongs to the family that rules Saudi Arabia. He wears a white thawb and ghutra, the traditional robe and headdress of Arab men, and he has a cavernous office hung with portraits of three Saudi royals. When I visited him in Riyadh this spring, a waiter poured tea and subordinates took notes as Turki spoke. Everything about the man seemed to suggest Western notions of a complacent functionary in a complacent, oil-rich kingdom.

But Turki doesn’t fit the stereotype, and neither does his country. Quietly, the prince is helping Saudi Arabia—the quintessential petrostate—prepare to make what could be one of the world’s biggest investments in solar power.

Near Riyadh, the government is preparing to build a commercial-scale solar-panel factory. On the Persian Gulf coast, another factory is about to begin producing large quantities of polysilicon, a material used to make solar cells. And next year, the two state-owned companies that control the energy sector—Saudi Aramco, the world’s biggest oil company, and the Saudi Electricity Company, the kingdom’s main power producer—plan to jointly break ground on about 10 solar projects around the country.


June:24:2015 - 10:08 | Comments Off | Permalink

Khaled Almaeena, Editor-at-Large for Saudi Gazette, comments on how the Ministry of Islamic Affairs seems incapable of enforcing its own decrees on its own employees. He criticizes the way firebrand preachers (who do draw salaries from the government) ignore Ministry directives, large and small. If they cannot be called into line over little things like the banned use of loudspeakers to broadcast sermons, he asks, what chance is there to haul them up short when they’re preaching divisive sectarianism and misusing religion to attack those that annoy them?

A rant too far by an Imam
Khaled Almaeena

THE Minister of Islamic Affairs has issued directives for an investigation into the rantings of an Imam of a mosque in Asir, who condemned the Saudi actor Nasser Algassabi and accused him of heresy.

Algassabi, well known for his satire in previous shows like “Tash Ma Tash”, has been the object of vilification and scorn by many hard-liners before. But he is again the target of incoherent attacks for his irreverent double entendres on television.

However, this time Saeed Bin Farwa, the mosque Imam, has gone too far with his ravings, outgunning his own ilk in his accusations. Other preachers also appeared on social media some invoking God’s wrath on Algassabi.

These people apparently have acted for many reasons, known only to them. Personally I think it gets them attention and followers, and that’s why they are quick to shoot from their lip.


June:22:2015 - 07:21 | Comments & Trackbacks (1) | Permalink

Hacking government computer systems is going on around the world and Saudi Arabia isn’t immune. Al Arabiya TV reports on Saudi government reaction to the release of tens of thousands of internal documents into the wild late last week, noting that the hack itself probably took place last month.

The government is engaged — as governments are wont to do — in various efforts at backing and filling: “Security is at a high standard.” “Investigation is proceeding.” And the admonitory, “Beware of false documents posing as real ones,” with absolutely no hints given on how to distinguish the two.

The government avows that whatever was released was only expected government policy: “nothing to see here, move along.”

As with any hacks like this, what’s out there might be interesting, but it’s largely lacking context.

Leaks do not contradict declared policies

The Saudi foreign ministry on Sunday described content of Wikileaks’ publications of more than 60,000 documents as showing no contradiction to its declared policies and warned against circulation of these documents as many were “fabricated,” Al Arabiya News Channel reported.

Head of Information Department at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Ousama Al Naqli confirmed to Al Arabiya News Channel in an interview that the organized electronic attack that targeted the ministry was not able to hack most classified documents which are in millions.

He also said “the Ministry of Foreign Affairs uses a system with very high standards. It also uses one of the best protection systems in the world.”

Ambassador Naqli said the current information is related to an earlier attack, and refers to the well-known policy of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.


June:22:2015 - 06:33 | Comments & Trackbacks (2) | Permalink

Al Arabiya TV features a Reuters report on the 2014 Annual Report on Terrorism from the US Department of State. The report is global, but most interest is focused on the Middle East, primarily with the rise of ISIS. The report is based on State Dept. reporting conducted in 2014, but is published now.

The section on Saudi Arabia notes Saudi confrontations with Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and with ISIS/ISIL, but does not include conflict in Yemen that broke out only this year. It does report on widespread Saudi anti-terrorism and anti-terror-financing efforts.

Big rise in deadly terror attacks, says U.S. report
Warren Strobel | Reuters Washington

Terrorist attacks worldwide surged by more than a third and fatalities soared by 81 percent in 2014, a year that also saw ISIS eclipse al-Qaeda as the leading jihadist militant group, the U.S. State Department said on Friday.

In its annual report on terrorism, the department also charts an unprecedented flow of foreign fighters to Syria, often lured by ISIS’s use of social media and drawn from diverse social backgrounds.

Taken together, the trends point to a sobering challenge from militant groups worldwide to the United States and its allies despite severe blows inflicted on al-Qaeda, author of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks in Washington and New York.

Al-Qaeda’s leaders “appeared to lose momentum as the self-styled leader of a global movement in the face of ISIS’s rapid expansion and proclamation of a Caliphate,” the report said, using an alternate acronym for Islamic State.


June:20:2015 - 07:07 | Comments Off | Permalink

Al Arabiya TV reports that Saudi Arabia and Russia have signed six agreements concerning the development and peaceful use of nuclear power in the Kingdom. This is in line with other agreements the Saudis have signed with the US, France, Korea, and others.

It’s a bit peculiar in that Russia is a strong supporter of Iran’s nuclear program, about which the Saudis have grave and negative suspicions. It could be that the Saudis think that pulling Russia on board might give Saudi Arabia some leverage vis a vis the Iranian program, but I wouldn’t count on that if I were they.

Saudi, Russia sign nuclear deal

Saudi Arabia on Thursday signed six agreements with Russia including the peaceful use of nuclear technology, Al Arabiya News Channel reported.

The news comes after Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz met with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Konstantin Palace in St. Petersburg on Thursday after arriving in Moscow late Wednesday in an official visit, the state-run Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported.

Meanwhile, two sources told Reuters that the oil ministers of Russia and Saudi Arabia plan to discuss a broad cooperation agreement on Thursday at an economic forum in St Petersburg.

Saudi Arabia is the top producer in the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and the world’s top oil exporter, while Russia, which is not an OPEC member, is the second biggest oil supplier to the global markets.


June:19:2015 - 06:48 | Comments Off | Permalink

Al Arabiya TV reports that the attitudes of Saudis about terrorism have changed over the past ten years. In the past, excuses would be sought to explain extremist acts; extenuating circumstances would be found to somehow make those acts reasonable. Now, the article (and accompanying video) say, there’s no tolerance for it. Even families are turning their young, extremist members to the authorities.

Saudi views shifting on Islamic extremism
Shounaz Meky | Al Arabiya News

More voices are making themselves heard in Saudi Arabia, expressing their rejection of terrorism and violence by extremist groups in the name of Islam, Al Arabiya News Channel reported.

The report notes how Saudi perceptions of extremist groups has changed over the last 10 years.

Saudis rushed to denounce two recent suicide attacks against Shiite mosques in the kingdom that killed at least 25 people.

However, when there were terror attacks in 2003 and 2005, the report said Saudis were much more inclined to justify terrorism and sympathize with extremist groups than they are now.

Another piece on the same webpage points to social media as a facilitator of extremist thought. While the article extols government efforts to contain it, it also calls for coordinated international action, on the parts of government but also by social media companies, to rein it in.

And here, even though Al Arabiya glosses over it, the time-worn argument rises: “one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.” Having excused terrorism in the past because the supposed goals of the terrorist were acceptable, governments in the region are now faced with dealing with the terrorist methodology when the goals aren’t quite so in line with government policies. Not having a First Amendment as does the US, the Saudi government approach ignores the fact that differences in opinion are always going to exist. It’s not the opinions that matter most when it comes to terrorism, but the means through which people seek to call them into reality.

Curbing online extremism in Saudi Arabia


June:17:2015 - 09:18 | Comments Off | Permalink
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