Asharq Alawsat runs two opinion pieces today discussing the Al-Khobar barracks bombing of 1996 and the recent arrest of one of the perpetrators. Though the first is not yet mounted at the paper’s website, it can be found at Al Arabiya TV. In both pieces — and we can take this as unofficial reflection of Saudi policy — Iran is lambasted for its support of the bombing, if not its planning. Both pieces rail against Iran’s historic and continued use of terrorism as part of its official statecraft.

In the first, Abdulrahman al-Rashed reviews the history of the attack as well as of Iran’s meddling in the region…

The significance of arresting the 1996 Khobar bomber
Abdulrahman al-Rashed

Who would have thought that the head of the terrorist cell that carried out the Khobar bombing in Saudi Arabia would be arrested after being on the run for 19 years? Arresting Ahmed al-Mughassil in Beirut and handing him over to Saudi authorities in Riyadh has turned the page on one of the most important and dangerous security and political cases. This is because the operation was plotted in Iran, the victims were from the U.S. and the crime was committed on Saudi territories. This case also involved other countries such as Canada, Syria and Lebanon because of the presence of the suspects on their territories.

It is said that the violent attack in the summer of 1996 was so big that the explosion was heard from Bahrain. The force of the bomb caused a10-meter crater in the ground and destroyed one side of the Khobar towers. Nineteen U.S. forces were dead and about 500 others were injured. Perhaps it would have ranked the worst terrorist operation in the world, in terms of injuries, if the perpetrators did not put the bomb in a water truck, which reduced the force of the explosion.

In the second piece, Salman Aldosary asks the whereabouts of others involved in the attack. He again points to Iran…

Where are the other three Khobar Towers suspects?
Salman Aldosary

All the 19 years he spent living in hiding, under assumed identities, did not protect Ahmed Al-Mughassil from being eventually caught. Mughassil, who thought he had escaped from justice, was caught by the Saudi authorities in a complex intelligence operation this month. It is not surprising that Mughassil was living in Iran, using forged Iranian ID cards all along. What would have been really surprising is if the scenario was different: that Iran had no hand in the terrorist bombing that killed 19 US airmen and injured 372 others and that it did not provide the perpetrators with shelter over the past two decades. Following the discovery and arrest of Mughassil, three out of the 14 suspects remain at large. Where are they? Who operates their movements and hides their identities?

Guesswork aside, the other three suspects presumably live in Iran, the country accused of standing behind the terrorist bombing. Even if they were not there, they must have received orders from Tehran to return immediately since Mughassil’s arrest. There is no country in the whole world capable of defying the United States and the international community, sheltering fugitives and terrorists, but Iran. It previously did that with Al-Qaeda members—something which could be supported with evidence. It cannot be imagined that the suspects—Ali Al-Houri, Ibrahim Al-Yacoub and Abdel karim Al-Nasser—who are also members of the so-called Hezbollah Al-Hejaz, an Iran-allied group, have escaped the Interpol’s clutches without some country providing them with shelter and legal cover.


August:29:2015 - 08:33 | Comments & Trackbacks (0) | Permalink

Leaders of some 20 Islamic states have declared that it is an Islamic duty to come to terms with climate change. This includes moving away from fossil fuels to renewable energy, Saudi Gazette reports. The report does not present any sort of action plan or timeline, but only that something must be done.

Islamic leaders take a stance to tackle Global Warming
Saudi Gazette report

Islamic leaders from 20 countries launched a bold Climate Change Declaration to engage the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims on this urgent issue.

Adopted by the 60 participants at the International Islamic Climate Change Symposium held early last week in Istanbul, the Declaration urges governments to deliver a strong, new international climate agreement in Paris this December that will signal the end of the road for polluting fossil fuels. The Declaration can give us a chance to limit global warming levels by 2 or preferably 1.5 degrees Celsius.

The Declaration presents the moral case, based on Islamic teachings, for Muslims and people of all faiths worldwide to take urgent climate action. It was drafted by a large, diverse team of international Islamic scholars from around the world following a lengthy consultation period prior to the symposium.

The Declaration calls for a rapid phase-out of fossil fuels and a switch to 100% renewable energy as well as increased support for vulnerable communities who are already suffering from the impact of climate change. People from all walks of life are calling on governments to scale up the transition away from fossil fuels. Wealthy and oil-producing nations are urged to phase out all greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. All people, leaders and businesses are invited to commit to 100% renewable energy in order to tackle climate change, reduce poverty, and achieve sustainable development.


August:28:2015 - 08:55 | Comments & Trackbacks (0) | Permalink

Al Arabiya TV reports that Saudi Arabia has extradited from Lebanon a prime suspect with responsibility for the 1996 bombing of a US barrack in Al-Khobar. Ahmed al-Mughassil, who has also been indicted by the United States, was captured in Beirut and transferred to Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia holding main suspect in 1996 Khobar bombing

Saudi Arabia is holding the main suspect in the 1996 bombing of the Khobar Towers residence at a U.S. military base in the country, pan Arab newspaper Asharq al-Awsat reported Wednesday.

The newspaper said Ahmed al-Mughassil, leader of the Hezbollah al-Hejaz who had been indicted by a U.S. court for the attack that killed 19 U.S. service personnel and wounded almost 500 people, had been captured in the Lebanese capital Beirut and transferred to Riyadh.

Both Saudi Arabia and the United States have accused Iran of being behind the truck-bomb attack, although Iran has denied any responsibility.

Asharq al-Awsat quoted official Saudi sources as saying the country’s security service had received information on al-Mughassil’s presence in Beirut.

“The discovery of Mughassil and his arrest in Lebanon and his subsequent transfer to Saudi Arabia is a qualitative achievement, for the man had been in disguise in a way that made it hard to identify him,” Asharq al-Awsat said, without elaborating on when he was captured and who captured him.


August:26:2015 - 07:09 | Comments & Trackbacks (0) | Permalink

There’s a constant battle being fought — usually out of sight, but not always — over the name of the body of water that lies between Iran and the Arab states that comprise the GCC. Arabs call it the “Arabian Gulf” while Iranians insist on “Persian Gulf.” Each side chooses its evidence and tries to find the earliest historical precedent that supports its argument.

Arab News reports that a late-17th C. globe shows the gulf being named “Al-Ahsa Gulf.”

Arabian Gulf formerly named ‘Al-Ahsa Gulf’
SULTAN AL-SUGHAIR

AL-AHSA: An ancient map drawn up by Italian sailors in Venice in 1693 had once named the Arabian Gulf as the ‘Al-Ahsa Gulf.’

This is according to Sami Al-Maghlouth, a historian and map specialist. “After strenuous attempts to read the titles printed on the old map using a magnifying lens,

I found that the existing Arabian Gulf was labeled ‘Al-Ahsa Gulf’ in the Italian language,” he said.

Al-Maghlouth said the body of water had various other names in the past, determined by those who controlled the area. The names Hajr, Qatif and Basra were also used, he said.

He said Islamic maps had documented the area as the ‘Bahrain Gulf.’ The ‘Gulf of Basra’ was used under the Ottoman Empire. It was renamed the Arabian Gulf after the end of the British occupation.

Al-Maghlouth said that during the Renaissance, which saw a flowering of arts and culture in Europe in the 16th century, the Italians excelled at cartography.


August:20:2015 - 05:43 | Comments Off | Permalink

Wow! Just wow!

For some reason, Saudi Gazette saw fit to translate one of the more sweeping pieces of idiocy I’ve seen in the Saudi press for quite some time. The article, appearing in the Arabic daily Al-Riyadh falls in the pits of conspiracy theory in a rather breathtaking way. ISIS is the creation of foreign enemies, Zionists, and Free-Masons! Zionists are being embedded in Saudi society to destroy it from within! There’s nothing wrong with Saudi schools or their curriculum and all criticism is foreign-inspired!

Are we the ones exporting terror?
Abdullah Al-Nasser | Al-Riyadh

Are we the ones exporting terrorism to the world? I raise this serious question because the Kingdom’s enemies no longer cause any uproar over this. Neither the Zionists, the American ultra right, the hate groups in the West, nor the Magian Iran does raise this issue any more. However, we discern this when some people in Zionist garbs in our country talk or make their presentations.

Earlier, the fingers were pointed at us from afar. Then they showed their ugly face in the press and on television. Frankly, I am sure there are Zionists who have been planted among us. These are agents who had been given exhaustive training. They were selected with utmost care after studying their psyche, mentality, inclinations, deviations and moral upbringing. Then they were placed among us in suitable jobs so they would gradually rise to key positions in the Arab media, as loyal and efficient agents serving the Zionist scheme and defending it with ferocity and zeal.

I wrote many times about such people and warned against their machinations and the danger they pose to the Muslim nation. I said that they are a disgraceful lot and an evil. When we take them in our fold and trust them, we are keeping evil, treachery and meanness with us. Exposing them is a duty to the nation and the Ummah. There is no more time for civility or shutting our eyes before their mean practices.


August:13:2015 - 07:11 | Comments & Trackbacks (3) | Permalink

In his column for Al Arabiya TV, Abdulrahman al-Rashed notes that arguments that the lack of “moderates” in the political sphere is what leads to extremism are sorely lacking in evidential support. Empowering moderates does not lead to inclusive governments. Instead, it leads to moderates seizing power and attempting to impose their political views — which aren’t very moderate after all — on the population and to do away with their opponents.

He looks at Iran, Sudan, Gaza, and Egypt where once religious parties gained control, they did their utmost to ensure that there was only one orthodoxy: theirs. Worse, their assumption of power led to no decrease in actual extremism in the name of religion. A failed experiment that relied on unrealistic views of human behavior.

The theory of terrorism and restraining moderates
Abdulrahman al-Rashed

hose affiliated with religious groups have for long reiterated that the emergence of extremist Islamic groups is due to the restraining of “moderate” Islamic ones. Western governments were convinced of this for a while and thus began to urge Arab governments to allow religious groups in politics and include them in governance, either democratically or through partnership and quotas.

It may seem reasonable that including moderates leads to the expelling of extremists, but this theory is not supported with evidence – at least in our Arab arena. These concept of participation for these groups means a monopolizing of authority. They are not like Turkey and Indonesia’s Islamic groups who work and govern under a secular system and whose “Islamic liberalism” looks nothing like the extremism of Islamist Arabs. The aim of politicized religious groups is to attain power regardless of the rhetoric adopted and the means used in order to later create a dominating regime and eliminate others!

Based on experience, it’s been proven that most Arab religious parties are exclusionary despite all their talk about moderation and co-existence. There are many examples on the case from our modern history and I will resort to four of them to elaborate my point. The first experience was Iran. The masses who protested in the streets of Tehran and called for toppling the Shah and received Ayatollah Khomeini at the airport were a mixture of political parties who agreed on establishing a regime that allows pluralism.


August:12:2015 - 08:17 | Comments & Trackbacks (2) | Permalink

Following meetings between the Russian and Saudi Foreign Ministers, Al Arabiya TV reports, there’s no agreement about the future of Syria’s President. Neither side is budging over its views about Assad, though both do agree that something needs to be done regionally about ISIS.

Saudi FM: Assad has no place in Syria’s future

Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said on Tuesday Riyadh’s position on the conflict in Syria has not changed and that there was no place for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the future of the country.

He was speaking after talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Moscow, a long-standing ally of Assad in the conflict, amid a renewed diplomatic push to end the conflict in Syria because of gains on the ground by ISIS.


August:11:2015 - 05:59 | Comments Off | Permalink

Another mosque has been bombed in Saudi Arabia. This time, the target appears to have been security personnel — 17 of whom were killed — rather than Shi’ite congregants. The bombing took place in the southern city of Abha.

Deadly suicide bombing hits Saudi mosque

At least 17 security officers were killed Thursday after a suicide bombing targeted a mosque used by the emergency forces south of Saudi Arabia, Al Arabiya News Channel reported.

The incident took place in Abha, capital of Asir province.

In July, Saudi Arabia arrested 431 people as part of a crackdown on a cluster of cells linked to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militant group.


August:06:2015 - 06:37 | Comments Off | Permalink

The UK’s The Guardian newspaper catches Iran forging a document alleging Saudi skullduggery and attempting to legitimize it by saying it’s a product of WikiLeaks.

There was a major release of Saudi documents via WikiLeaks over the past month or so. The documents I’ve seen aren’t very surprising; they’re what the Saudis are saying publicly, though perhaps a bit more frankly since they’re internal documents. But seeking to leverage the notoriety — and presumed veracity — of documents exposed through WikiLeaks isn’t totally dumb. Low-information readers can certainly be taken in. Iran should remember, though, that two can play the game.

Iran uses fabricated WikiLeaks cable to smear UN rights rapporteur
Saeed Kamali Dehghan

Iran has launched a sophisticated smear campaign against the UN special rapporteur investigating its human rights violations by widely spreading a fabricated WikiLeaks cable purporting to show he received bribes from Saudi Arabia.

In a concerted effort aimed at discrediting Ahmed Shaheed in the eyes of the general public, Iranian state-run agencies and semi-official websites simultaneously carried articles claiming that the Saudi embassy in Kuwait had paid the UN envoy $1m to take an anti-Iran position. It dominated many Iranian front pages on Tuesday and an Iranian official later used the false information to question Shaheed’s credibility.

The allegations are based on what is claimed to be a WikiLeaks cable the authenticity of which has been challenged by the organisation itself. “Please show which cable this claim is based on. You fail to link to one of our cables in the article,” the official account of the WikiLeaks tweeted in response to a website carrying the news. Shaheed has also strongly denied the claims.


August:03:2015 - 06:17 | Comments Off | Permalink

Al Arabiya TV carries an Asharq Alawsat column by Abdulrahman al-Rashed exploring how the group variously known as ISIS or Daesh is very wittingly playing word games to its benefit. By insisting on the use of the name “Islamic State,” the group attempts to give itself unearned legitimacy, wrapping itself in the honor of Islam. This, al-Rashed says, is doubly pernicious. Not only does it delude young Muslims into thinking the group righteous, but it provide an easy example for Islamophobes to point out and say, “See what Muslims really are?!”

ISIS: Why should we care about the acronym?
Abdulrahman al-Rashed

Many governments have begun urging the media to not use the “ISIS” acronym. The terrorist organization started using this acronym two years ago, when its leader declared himself a caliphate and changed the name of his group from ISI (Islamic State of Iraq) to ISIS in order to expand from Iraq to include Syria.

When the group’s formation was announced in April 2013 under the appellation of the “Islamic State of Iraq and Syria”, the media and specifically Al Arabiya News Channel decided to call it as “Daesh” (the Arabic abbreviation of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria). We are all aware that ISIS wants to use us, as media platforms around the world, to build a picture that serves its purposes. A lot of people objected to the appellation and the coverage because it is insulting the true defenders of Islam against the Western occupiers or the oppressed Sunni community. It offended the defenders of the people of al-Anbar or the rebels against al-Assad regime in Syria. In fact, ISIS activities confused people initially, but most of them discovered later on that ISIS is nothing but the same al-Qaeda evil group, despite adopting rightful issues.

ISIS (Daesh in Arabic) is not a cynical label as said and written in the Western media. It is just the acronym of the appellation. The group is certainly against this acronym because it intentionally wants to be known as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, to rally around it Muslims from all over the world.


July:25:2015 - 09:07 | Comments & Trackbacks (2) | Permalink

According to this Saudi Gazette report, Saudi Arabia believes the media and commentators are overplaying the recent visit by Hamas leaders to the Kingdom. The visit was purely a religious pilgrimage, according to the country’s new Minister of Foreign Affairs, Adel Al-Jubeir, and there were no meetings between Hamas and the government.

Position on Hamas unchanged: Al-Jubeir

SAUDI ARABIA on Thursday played down the significance of a visit by Hamas leaders, saying it was only a religious pilgrimage and Riyadh’s position on the Palestinian Islamist movement was unchanged.

“There was no (political) visit by Hamas to the Kingdom,” Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir said at a joint press conference with his Egyptian counterpart, Sameh Shoukry.

The official Saudi Press Agency reported last Saturday on the rare Hamas visit.

“A group from Hamas, including (politburo chief) Khaled Meshaal… visited Makkah for Umrah (the lesser pilgrimage). They performed the Eid prayers there and offered Eid greetings to the King,” Jubeir said. “There were no meetings.”

Jubeir described as inaccurate and exaggerated media reports that the visit was political in nature.


July:24:2015 - 08:09 | Comments Off | Permalink

Al Arabiya TV is featuring its exclusive interview with American Secretary of State John Kerry, pointing out his qualms about recent statements by Iran’s Supreme Leader. Kerry is still selling the nuclear accord, but appears to be acknowledging that regional states’ concerns aren’t just moaning about it.

Kerry slams ‘disturbing’ Khamenei speech

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Monday said recent anti-U.S. remarks from Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei were “disturbing,” adding that the United States was “not kidding about the importance of pushing back against extremism.”

In an interview with Al Arabiya News Channel’s Nadia Bilbassy-Charters, Kerry discussed Khamenei’s speech, made four days after Iran and world powers signed an accord designed to thwart Tehran’s nuclear program.

Khamenei had said his country would continue to support its regional friends despite its recent nuclear deal with world powers, including “the oppressed Palestinian nation, Yemen, Syria, Iraq (and) Bahrain.”

Full transcript of Al Arabiya interview with Secretary of State John Kerry


July:21:2015 - 07:40 | Comments & Trackbacks (1) | Permalink
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