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.”
An interesting analysis in The Washington Post arguing that Saudi Arabia has already achieved its goals in Yemen and it’s now time to step back a bit. Silvana Toska, a PhD candidate at Cornell University says that the Saudis have accomplished the major objectives they set for themselves: Consolidate power clearly within the ruling family; put Iran front-and-center on American radar; shown that they will take action against Iranian encroachment; increase Saudi nationalism. Worth reading.
Has Saudi Arabia already won its Yemen war?
Despite the current humanitarian ceasefire, Saudi Arabia’s military operation in Yemen is now in its second month with no end in sight and no sign that any of the parties are willing to negotiate. The intervention has caused devastating destruction in Yemen, a deepening of divisions between already divided Yemeni factions, a large number of casualties and refugees and has done nothing to stabilize the country.
Militarily, Saudi Arabia has not achieved its goals. However, to understand the rationale behind the intervention, Saudi Arabia’s actions must be seen in a wider context that includes both its domestic and regional goals. From this perspective, this military incursion serves the present interests of Saudi Arabia in a number of ways, regardless of the military outcome.
Saudi media (as well as other GCC media) are headlining Pres. Obama’s pledge that the US will continue its support of regional security. The US is not conducting a “pivot to Iran,” as has been feared, but sees it as critical that relations with Iran be calmed down. That, however, is largely up to Iran and its leadership.
The reports also note the continuing cooperation on anti-terrorism efforts, no matter the origin of the threats. Asharq Alawsat reports:
Camp David (Maryland), Asharq Al-Awsat—US President Barack Obama pledged “ironclad” American support for Gulf regional security at the US-Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) summit at Camp David on Thursday.
Speaking following the meeting with senior Gulf officials and heads of state, the US President said: “I am reaffirming our ironclad commitment to the security of our Gulf partners.”
“The United States is prepared to work jointly with the GCC states to deter and confront an external threat to any GCC state’s territorial integrity,” Obama said.
The joint US-GCC statement issued following the summit contained US pledges to bolster its security cooperation with the GCC on counter-terrorism, maritime security, cyber-security and ballistic missile defense.
The joint statement stressed that the US would use any and all means at its disposal in order to carry out an “appropriate” response to any external threat to the GCC’s territory, including “military force.”
“The United States and GCC member states oppose and will work together to counter Iran’s destabilizing activities in the region and stressed the need for Iran to engage the region according to the principles of good neighborliness, strict non-interference in domestic affairs, and respect for territorial integrity . . . And for Iran to take concrete, practical steps to build trust and resolve its differences with neighbors by peaceful means,” the statement said.
Al Arabiya TV reports that the Obama administration sees the US-Saudi relations as just hunky dory. There’s certainly no snub in King Salman’s not attending the Washington/Camp David summit.
That might not be quite how the Saudis see the relationship, however. The article expresses concern about how the conflict between the desire to build a legacy for the President might not accord with GCC desires for containment of Iran and its nuclear ambitions.
U.S. President Barack Obama hailed the “extraordinary friendship and relationship” Washington has with Riyadh after meeting with Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammad bin Nayef and Deputy Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman at the White House after King Salman pulled out of the visit.
“The United States and Saudi Arabia have an extraordinary friendship and relationship that dates back to [President] Franklin Roosevelt,” Obama said at the start of the meeting.
He added: “We are continuing to build that relationship during a very challenging time.”
According to an Associated Press item run on Al Arabiya TV, Iran is warning both the US and the Saudi-led coalition to not interfere with a shipment it categorizes as “humanitarian” now en route to Yemen. The Iranian government is definitely rattling its spears. The US says that the ship should put into port in Djibouti, where international humanitarian efforts are being coordinated.
TEHRAN (AP): A senior Iranian military official has warned the U.S. and the Saudi-led coalition targeting Yemeni militias that blocking an Iranian aid ship bound for Yemen will “spark a fire,” as a five-day humanitarian cease-fire appeared to hold early Wednesday after going into effect the day before.
“I bluntly declare that the self-restraint of Islamic Republic of Iran is not limitless,” Gen. Masoud Jazayeri, the deputy chief of staff, told Iran’s Arabic-language Al-Alam state TV late Tuesday.
“Both Saudi Arabia and its novice rulers, as well as the Americans and others, should be mindful that if they cause trouble for the Islamic Republic with regard to sending humanitarian aid to regional countries, it will spark a fire, the putting out of which would definitely be out of their hands.”
Iran says the ship, which departed Monday, is carrying food, medicine, tents and blankets, as well as reporters, rescue workers and peace activists. It says the ship is expected to arrive at Yemen’s port city of Hodeida next week. Iran’s navy said Tuesday it will protect the ship.
The US stance, if push comes to shove, isn’t entirely clear, but Pres. Obama, in an interview with Al Arabiya TV, characterizes Iran as “a state sponsor of terrorism” and not playing a helpful role in the region.