In the ping-pong of American legal process, Saudi Arabia has been dropped from a suit by 9/11 victims’ families by an American court. The Associated Press runs the following account, noting that the decision will again be appealed.
Judge drops Saudi Arabia from Sept. 11 lawsuit
LARRY NEUMEISTER, Associated Press
NEW YORK (AP) — Saudi Arabia was dismissed Tuesday as a defendant in lawsuits brought by the families of victims of the Sept. 11 attacks by a judge who said lawyers had failed to show sufficient evidence linking the country to the attacks.
U.S. District Judge George Daniels said in a written ruling that lawyers for the plaintiffs had failed to show facts sufficient to overcome Saudi Arabia’s sovereign immunity. He also dismissed as a defendant the Saudi High Commission for Relief of Bosnia & Herzegovina on the grounds that the charity is an instrument of Saudi Arabia and thus covered as well by sovereign immunity.
The judge wrote that evidence would have to show that Saudi Arabia or its officials took actions to support the terrorist plot. Fifteen of the 19 hijackers were citizens of Saudi Arabia.
Insofar as Saudi media reporting goes, King Salman’s visit to Washington and meeting with Pres. Obama went swimmingly. Both countries are to build on their generations of friendship and cooperation. Both countries have similar views on the major issues. Asharq Alawsat‘s report is typical:
Washington, Asharq Al-Awsat—Relations between Saudi Arabia and the United States remain as strong as ever and are entering a new stage, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman Bin Abdulaziz said in a statement as he wrapped up his historic visit to Washington late on Saturday.
During the visit, his first to the US since acceding to the Saudi throne, King Salman met with US President Barack Obama at the White House to discuss the fight against terrorism, the crises in Yemen and Syria, and the Iran nuclear deal.
“The meetings which we held, especially regarding our new strategic alliance for the 21st century, will contribute, God willing, to deepening these relations and strengthening them, and in boosting our cooperation in order to benefit both our friendly countries and peoples,” King Salman said.
“I wish to reiterate our strategic and historic relations which were formed during the historic meeting between King Abdulaziz Al Saud and President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1945, and which since then have been further developed in a number of areas.”
King Salman headed to Tangiers in Morocco following his departure from Washington on Saturday evening, and was seen off at the airport by a number of US officials.
During the visit King Salman met with Saudi university students currently enrolled in the US, as well as Saudi journalists, writers, and academics residing in the country.
Following the meeting with King Salman, President Obama agreed to speed up the delivery of US weapons to the Kingdom to shore up defenses against potential threats by Iran—part of promises made by the president to Gulf countries in May, before the announcement of the Iran nuclear deal in July.
Asharq Alawsat also editorializes on the visit, pointing out that while Saudi Arabia is no longer dependent upon the US for its security, it appreciates it and anticipates that it will continue into the future.
Saudi media are all projecting what they expect to occur in the meeting between Saudi King Salman and Pres. Obama that is to take place later today. Typical is this piece from Al Arabiya TV. Iran, of course, is the foremost issue, with the plan to address Iran’s nuclear aspirations take pride of place.
Both sides want good relations to continue between them. Both sides have different views about regional stability. I’m sure that neither party is going to be leaving the meeting believing they’ve converted the other.
King Salman’s Washington visit: What are the regional implications?
Sigurd Neubauer | Special to Al Arabiya News
Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz will meet with President Barack Obama at the White House to discuss regional security, including the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) reached between Iran and world powers over Tehran’s controversial nuclear program.
More specifically, the leaders will discuss “steps to counter Iran’s destabilizing activities in the region,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest said last Thursday. As well as “ways to further strengthen the bilateral relationship, including our joint security and counterterrorism efforts.”
While the upcoming meeting will be the king’s first to Washington since ascending the throne in January, it comes at a time when Saudi Arabia faces an increasingly unstable neighborhood with conflicts in Yemen and Iraq encroaching on its territory.
Going into the meeting, both leaders are vested in ensuring its ultimate success, although for different reasons: For President Obama, who faces a nearly unified Republican Congress committed to opposing the JCPOA, almost at any cost, reassuring his guest that the agreement will contribute to a safer and more stable Middle East will be essential for his goal to turn the tide against his domestic opponents.
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
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?
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.
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 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.
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.
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.”
Saudi media are reporting on the meeting between Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir and American Secretary of State John Kerry. All report that Saudi Arabia isn’t particularly pleased with the nuclear agreement recently worked out with Iran. This Arab News report likens it to the agreement worked out with N. Korea during the Clinton administration which did nothing to thwart that country’s developing nuclear weapons.
WASHINGTON: Iran should use a nuclear deal agreed this week with six world powers to improve its economy, and not to pursue “adventures” in the Middle East, Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir said on Thursday.
“We hope that … if the deal is implemented that the Iranians will use this deal in order to improve the economic situation in Iran and to improve the lot of its people … and not use it for adventures in the region,” Al-Jubeir said after a meeting with US Secretary of State John Kerry.
“If Iran should try to cause mischief in the region, we’re committed to confront it resolutely,” he said.
Al-Jubeir stressed the importance of inspections to verify Iran is complying and the “snapback” of sanctions if it is found to be cheating.
It didn’t take long, but after a decent interval following the Iran nuclear deal, after waiting to see the details, Saudi Arabia — through Pr. Bandar, its former ambassador to the US — has decided it doesn’t like the deal.
Al-Arabiya TV reports:
Saudi Prince Bandar bin Sultan, a former ambassador to Washington, has said in an opinion piece for Elaph newspaper that the United States moved forward with the Iran nuclear deal despite predictions of the situation developing into a North Korean-style scenario.
In a column published by the London-based Arabic news website Elaph, the former chief of intelligence said the nuclear deal “will wreak havoc in the Middle East,” a region already plagued by major conflicts.
“Serious pundits in the media and in politics say that President Obama’s Iran deal is ‘déjà vu’ in relation to President Clinton’s North Korean nuclear deal.”
President Clinton’s decision was based on strategic foreign policy analysts, top secret national intelligence, and the desire “to save the people of North Korea from starvation,” wrote Prince Bandar, in reference to the 1994 “Agreed Framework” between North Korea and the United States that aimed to freeze the country’s nuclear power program.
Given Saudi Arabia’s concern over a nuclear-armed Iran, Pres. Obama called King Salman to discuss the recently completed agreement with Iran over its nuclear program. According the the report from Al Arabiya TV, the Saudis will watch, hopefully, to see how the agreement is implemented.
President Barack Obama telephoned Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz on Tuesday from Air Force One to discuss the newly completed Iran nuclear agreement, the White House said.
Saudi Arabia expressed hope Tuesday for an end to Iran’s regional “interference” after a historic nuclear deal aimed at ensuring Tehran does not obtain an atomic bomb was struck.
“Given that Iran is a neighbor, Saudi Arabia hopes to build with her better relations in all areas on the basis of good neighborliness and non-interference in internal affairs,” said an official spokesman cited by the Saudi Press Agency.
Both leaders also discussed the urgent need to stop the fighting in Yemen and ensure assistance for all Yemenis through international humanitarian channels.
Obama also spoke with Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan by telephone to discuss the nuclear agreement.
According to the UK’s Telegraph, however, things aren’t quite so sanguine. It sees Saudi Arabia and Israel in agreement that Iran’s program is dangerous and that the agreement may not pan out as its most hopeful supporters expect.
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.
Abdulrahman Al-Rashed rails against the way religion is being used as a weapon of mass destruction in the Middle East. He tries to pin the blame on Iran and its regional surrogates, but I think he’s forgetting his history.
Religion has been a popular tool used to mobilize the masses for hundreds, if not thousands of years. We need only look at Afghanistan in the 1980s to see how government — including the US and Saudi Arabia — were willing to enlist religion as a weapon against the “godless Communists.”
Now, religion is being used to wage sectarian war and, of course, that’s a bad thing. But it was also a bad thing when it was used as a club against Israelis as Jews, as a stick with which to beat Baha’is, as a cudgel in the separation of India and Pakistan. The use of religion as a weapon is amazingly foolish because it’s a weapon that cannot be controlled, no matter what the manipulators think. Loosing non-rational dragons is and always will be a tactic that will turn on its masters.
The long-term fallout of religious warfare
We are going through a gigantic, chaotic war in the Middle East. It is worse than anything the region witnessed even during the two world wars. All kinds of weapons are being used, from primitive knives to the most advanced military hardware such as drones.
However, the most dangerous weapon of all is religion, because it is capable of mobilizing communities and controlling armies of young people willing to die, and because it is similar to a nuclear bomb: its toxic fallout will last long after the end of the war. Many were killed by radiation caused by the nuclear bombs years after they were dropped on Japanese cities in the Second World War. This is also the case with sectarian wars: their consequences will linger for decades.
Citizens are dragged into civil wars after centuries of coexistence because they are mesmerized by propaganda. If you want to understand your opponent, put yourself in their shoes. Ever since the failure of Iran, Hezbollah and the Syrian government in the Syrian war, and the ever-worsening situation in Iraq, these three players have been keen on spreading sectarian bacteria to the Gulf states, which are modern and comprise a variety of social components.
The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has done the same, focusing its hate speech against Shi’ites. Uncivilized, religious-oriented people have been dragged into sectarian clashes; clerics, intellectuals and a large audience have fallen for this trick. They started accusing each other of reinterpreting history and settling scores. That is what Iran, the Syrian regime and ISIS want.
What’s up with Kansas? A state typically noted for mid-western American values (read: conservative Christian) is honoring Abdul-Jalil al-Arabash, a former student at Wichita State University, who was killed while preventing a suicide bomber from entering a Shi’ite mosque in Dammam. Al Arabiya TV reports that the commemoration was undertaken by the state legislature.
Officials in the midwestern U.S. state of Kansas stood for a minute of silence to pay tribute to a Kansas-educated Saudi man who stopped an ISIS bomber from entering a mosque in a suicide attack in the Gulf country last week.
Abdul-Jalil al-Arbash died when the suicide bomber blew himself up after being denied entrance into the Imam Hussein mosque in Dammam.
According to Al Arabiya News Channel, the officials welcomed around 300 Saudi students, who are currently studying at the State University of Witchita – from which al-Arbash graduated- to give them a certificate honoring the hero.
Arbash was an engineering student at the university.
Speaking to Al Arabiya News Channel, Said al-Ghamedi, one Saudi undergraduate studying at the university, said that “the honoring certificate was an initiative taken by the state legislature after they heard about Arbash’s heroic act.”