In an opinion piece for Al Arabiya TV, Prince Turki Al-Faisal — former Saudi Ambassador to the US and UK as well as head of Saudi Intelligence — gives a review of the history of the rise of ISIS. He notes how the actions and inactions of several regional states all led to the growth of the group. He suggests that a better and more accurate name for the group would be Fahesh: “obscene.”

A New Name for ISIS
Pr. Turki Al-Faisal

When the international community decided to punish Al-Qaeda and the Taliban for the 9/11 attacks, a number of Al-Qaeda members fled to Iran. The Iranian authorities then sheltered these militants under the supervision of the intelligence service. Some of them included members of Osama Bin Laden’s family, as well as Saif Al-Adl, one of Al-Qaeda’s most senior military commanders and the man responsible for planning the attacks on Riyadh in May 2003, and Salih Al-Qar’awi, the leader of the Abdullah Azzam Brigades. Qar’awi later relocated to Waziristan in Pakistan where he was eventually killed by an American drone attack and his body flown back to Saudi Arabia from Pakistan.

Following the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the destruction of the Iraqi government, military and security institutions, Tehran allowed many of these individuals to enter neighboring Iraq, where they found fertile ground to carry out their schemes. Here, they re-grouped and rebranded under the new name, Al-Qaeda in Iraq, and were also joined by militants coming from other countries, such as Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi and Muhsin Al-Fadhli, the leader of the Khorasan Brigades. Fadhli, who comes from a prominent Shi’ite family in Kuwait, is believed to be responsible for the attack in Najaf that killed the senior Iraqi Shi’ite cleric Ayatollah Mohammad Baqir Al-Hakim. The Iranian government also allowed Fadhli to enter Syria shortly after the uprising there began.

Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad actually allowed the entry of many of these individuals through his country and its borders, where they eventually made their way into Iraq. In fact, and in what is the first twist in this story, former Iraqi prime minister Nuri Al-Maliki sought during his first term in office to submit an official complaint to the UN Security Council accusing Assad of supporting terrorist groups and allowing the passage of their members into Iraq. But Maliki never followed through on the accusation, leaving space for Al-Qaeda in Iraq to form in the country, where it eventually found strong resistance in the form of US forces and armed Sunni tribal coalitions. Many members of the group and its leadership were killed during these fierce battles, among them Zarqawi. Those who survived were thrown into American-run prisons in Iraq; but as soon as the US started pulling troops out of the country during Maliki’s first term, the men were released. Among them was Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, along with some of his close aides.

January:15:2015 - 08:27 | Comments Off | Permalink

Writing in Arab News Saad Dosari finds himself in general agreement with the sentiments addressed by Abdulrahman Al-Rashed. Muslims need to take a serious look at how they’ve permitted terrorism in the name of Islam to grab hold and threaten individuals and groups around the world.

When words turn into bullets
Saad Dosari

What is more evil? To commit a crime or to back it through reasoning and justifications. I would argue that the crime itself is completed once the criminal act is over, you kill someone, he is dead, you blow up a checkpoint, the damage is done, it could lead to ramifications, but the act itself is already part of history. But when you reason and theorize any crime, you are actually preparing for a next wave of violence. You are keeping the evil concept of the crime alive, breeding more brutality and barbarity.

Last week, history repeated itself, another attack, new blood spilled, more lives lost in the name of Islam. Gunmen with machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades stormed the offices of Charlie Hebdo, a satirical magazine in the heart of Paris, blindly wounding and killing whomever happened to be on their way.

After all these years of terrorism in the name of religion, it is pointless to defend Islam from the massacres committed under its banners…

…For us Muslims everywhere in the world, we need to stop and revisit our culture and traditions, to go back to the pristine teachings of Islam. This religion has been sent to the world with nothing but mercy, why some of us are depriving it of its holiest message?

January:12:2015 - 10:37 | Comments & Trackbacks (2) | Permalink

Commenting on remarks made by publisher Rupert Murdoch, Abdulrahman Al-Rashed agrees that it is the responsibility of Muslims to act against the “jihadist cancer” that is infecting the body of Muslim societies. It is Al-Rashed, in an editorial for Asharq Alawsat, here picked up by Al Arabiya TV, who identifies these extremists as “fascists,” noting how their actions and beliefs mirror those used by the fascist states of the early 20th C. “Equivocation and silence” no longer cut it in dealing with the problem, he says.

Murdoch: Muslims bear responsibility for terrorism
Abdulrahman al-Rashed

Protests against recent terrorist attacks in France should have been held in Muslim capitals and not in Paris because Muslims stand accused in this case; embroiled in this crisis and expected to declare their innocence. The tale of extremism began in Muslim societies and it’s with their support and silence that extremism grew into terrorism which is harming people across the world. It’s of no value for the French people, who are the victims here, to take to the streets to condemn the recent crimes. What’s required here is for Muslim communities to disown the Paris crime and Islamic extremism in general.

Australian media mogul Rupert Murdoch said on Twitter on Friday: “Maybe most Moslems [are] peaceful, but until they recognize and destroy their growing jihadist cancer they must be held responsible.” In another tweet, he added: “Big jihadist danger looming everywhere from Philippines to Africa to Europe to US. Political correctness makes for denial and hypocrisy.”

January:12:2015 - 10:23 | Comments & Trackbacks (1) | Permalink

Saudi Arabia seems to be acting on the “turning lemons into lemonade” theory. Low oil prices means that there’s petroleum available for other uses, so the production of plastics can be ramped up. The goal is to put Saudi Arabia into the top-ten of plastics production, another step toward economic diversification and jobs creation, reports Saudi Gazette

Saudi Arabia aims to be among top 10 global plastics exporters

JEDDAH — Saudi Arabia aims to rank among the world’s top 10 exporter of plastics and create 17,000 additional jobs in the sector, while Abu Dhabi is fast emerging as an important hub for plastic convertors, said a top official.

“One of the prevailing trends across the region is the focus on optimizing petrochemical integration to support the economic diversification programs in the GCC,” Dr Abdulwahab Al-Sadoun, secretary-general at Gulf Petrochemicals and Chemicals Association (GPCA), a leader in hydrocarbons.

“With the current low oil prices, this shift towards plastic processing has the potential to be a game changer for the region. It will not only drive increased exports but also support local industries that generate new jobs and add higher value to the local economies – another priority for the regional governments,” he added.

January:12:2015 - 10:12 | Comments Off | Permalink

Saudi Gazette carries a story reporting on the success (and utility!) of the SaudiUSA website as the go-to place for Saudi students to get information about studying in the United States. The site, in Arabic, carries information about schools, cities, customs, laws, and just about everything a Saudi student will need to know in order to navigate a very different system of education in a country very different from Saudi Arabia.

The site, started in 2008 with just three staff members, now has 60. As staff members leave academia, they’re replaced by other students willing to help their compatriots. The article points out that Saudi Ambassador to the US, Adel Al-Jubeir and the Saudi Cultural Mission approve the effort to support the 80,000 Saudi students now studying in the US.

A must read website for Saudi students in the US
Nicolla Hewitt | Saudi Gazette

WHEN most people graduate high school, the excitement of going on to university dominates many family discussions around the dinner table, and of course with friends who are moving on to higher education also.

Perhaps no discussion will require as much debate as deciding if you are going to a university in another country.

Over 130,000 Saudi citizens go on to study around the world — with most of them going to study in the United States.

The current number of those studying in the US, for example, stands at over 80,000.

Pretty much every single student pursuing a degree there turns to one particular website for help —

January:10:2015 - 08:15 | Comments & Trackbacks (1) | Permalink

In his op-ed for Saudi-owned Al Arabiya TV, Hisham Melhem argues that the terrorists of the world are winning because their targets are civilized and have a lower threshold of pain that they are willing to endure. They also have a lower threshold of pain they are willing to inflict.

Melhem provides a survey of asymmetric warfare across the ages. He points to the use of terror by the Assassins and equates Anwar al-Awlaki with the “Old Men of the Mountain” who directed terroristic groups in both Syria and Iran during the Middle Ages. Awlaki is able to cause action from beyond the grave, he notes.

A world in the shadows of terrorism
Hisham Melhem

The terror attack on Charlie Hebdo, the worst on French soil in 50 years and the clashes it spawned, showed in bold relief how vulnerable are open democratic states to the diabolical machinations of a handful of trained killers. Paris, the political and cultural heart of France, a country of 66 million people, and a major world power with a nuclear arsenal, was neutralized for two days by four terrorists, according to preliminary reports.

Never have a few people, disrupted the lives of so many, with such low cost. In recent years, until the shocking rise of ISIS last summer, the literature on terrorism was dominated by the relatively new strain of terror threat cyber-attacks. Huge financial and significant human resources have been allocated to defend against this kind of terrorism that could cripple a modern economy, and to develop offensive cyber capabilities, particularly after major American corporations and key national security structures like the Pentagon have been subjected to successful hacking attacks. But conventional terror attacks, as we have seen recently in Canada, Australia and now France are as deadly and as crippling as ever.

January:10:2015 - 07:57 | Comments & Trackbacks (2) | Permalink

Mohammed saying "It's hard being loved by idiots"

Mohammed overwhelmed by fundamentalists: “It’s hard being loved by idiots”

January:08:2015 - 08:58 | Comments & Trackbacks (5) | Permalink

I’ll be taking my annual holiday break, starting today. I expect to be back in harness the first week of January.

I wish you all the best of the season!

December:22:2014 - 06:00 | Comments & Trackbacks (1) | Permalink

While low oil prices may hit government coffers, the typical Saudi is looking forward to the reduced prices that result. Lower oil prices will reduce the costs of production and transportation of many goods, including food, though the reductions will lag behind oil prices. Silver linings can be found even in oil production clouds as Arab News reports.

People expect low oil prices will bring relief

Saudis and expats are eagerly waiting for the low oil prices to reflect on the living costs in the Kingdom.

The recent price drop will plummet general prices in the Kingdom by more than 15 percent, according to experts and analysts.

Several vital sectors in the Kingdom will be affected by the low oil prices as result of the scarcity of the demand and the production costs. However, the Saudi market needs time to respond and interact with global changes in prices.

“The new oil prices will lead to a shrinkage of the production costs of commodities, while the Saudi government will not increase its expenses on medium or long-term projects. Therefore, several local sectors will be directly affected by these developments,” Dr. Fadal Abu Al-Ainain, an economy expert told Arab News.

December:21:2014 - 09:07 | Comments Off | Permalink

In an op-ed for Asharq Alawsat, Adbulrahman Al-Rashed comments on the recent flurry surrounding Sheikh Ahmad al-Ghamidi’s appearance on TV with his unveiled wife and declaration that Islam does not require women to be veiled in order to protect their modesty. In addition to receiving a negative reaction — and threats — from some, the Grand Mufti also jumped in to state that he was in error.

Al-Rashed points out that by going on TV in this way, the sheikh has opened new ground for discourse in Saudi Arabia. Instead of private conversations undertaken in homes, issues of modernization and reform are now finding public fora, including social media. This, he says, can only be for the good.

Why did Saudi Arabia’s Sheikh Ghamidi succeed?
Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

The enormity of stock market losses, the drop in oil prices for the first time in years, ISIS massacres, terrorists’ attacks in Riyadh and its suburbs and the football fever have all faded in Saudi Arabia this week in the shadow of one single story. Sheikh Ahmad Qassem al-Ghamidi appeared with his unveiled wife on television. According to Saudi local standards, this is tantamount to a nuclear bomb and the story soon developed into a controversy that hasn’t settled yet on all platforms and levels.

This may seem like a silly issue in any other Muslim country but in Saudi Arabia it has shocked and angered many and become an amazing surprise to those in support of Ghamidi’s move. The event thus confirms a severe division within Saudi society which consists of movements that express its diversity. Some threatened to sue Al-Ghamidi, though I don’t know over what! While other considered him a modernizing pioneer whom history will immortalize. The certain truth is that Sheikh Ghamidi has shocked Saudi public opinion and reshuffled views once again – although many before him have made such a move, he’s actually the first cleric to do so. Ghamidi has assumed influential religious posts and has accepted to be challenged by his rivals who accused him of hypocrisy and advising others of what he cannot do. It’s on colleague Badria al-Bishr’s show on MBC television that Ghamidi appeared with his unveiled wife in defiance of others, and Saudi media arenas became gripped in this controversy ever since.

Arab News reports that a number of Saudis are planning to sue Sheikh al-Ghamdi. As al-Rashed notes in his piece, however, what grounds they might find for suing is a pretty big question.

Al-Ghamdi ‘faces’ lawsuit

December:18:2014 - 07:59 | Comments Off | Permalink

A couple of days ago, the former head of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice in Mecca said that there’s no religious obligation for Muslim women to cover their faces. Today, Saudi Arabia’s Grand Mufti says that’s mistaken. He points to two verses from the Quran which he says do require covering.

Retract remarks and repent, Grand Mufti advises Al-Ghamdi
Saudi Gazette report

RIYADH – Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz Aal Alsheikh has asked Sheikh Ahmad Al-Ghamdi, former Makkah chief of Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice (Haia), to repent for his recent comments on niqab (face veil) which have created a lot of controversy in the country.

During a local program presented by Dr. Badriya Al-Bishr, a prominent Saudi media personality, Al-Ghamdi said women were not required to wear niqab (face veil). Al-Ghamdi was accompanied by his wife without a niqab.

Grand Mufti said there are Quranic verses that say hijab (head cover) is obligatory for each and every Muslim woman and that women should cover their faces, reported. Alsheikh cited the following Quranic verses:

December:17:2014 - 09:11 | Comments Off | Permalink

Al Arabiya TV carries a story from Agence France Presse reporting that the governments of Egypt and Saudi Arabia are agreed that the plan to link their power grids will start next year. Even though both countries use considerable amounts of energy — with Saudi Arabia being among the world’s top consumers — the grid makes sense prospectively. Saudi Arabia is planning massive increases in power production over the coming generations with the advent of both solar and nuclear power. The Kingdom is positioning itself as the main energy source for the region in the mid-term future as it also moves forward on plans for a GCC-wide grid.

Saudi-Egypt power link project to start in new year

A project to link the electricity grids of Egypt and Saudi Arabia will start next year at a cost of at least $1.5 billion, officials said on Monday.

“The project will be awarded mid-2015, and take three years to complete,” Saleh al-Awaji, an undersecretary in the kingdom’s Ministry of Water and Electricity, said at an energy technology conference in the Red Sea city of Jeddah.

The link would allow the two countries, separated by the Gulf of Aqaba and the Red Sea, to share power during peak periods.

It will cost $1.5-2.0 billion, Awaji told reporters during the 4th Saudi Arabia Smart Grid and Green Energy conference.

December:16:2014 - 08:45 | Comments Off | Permalink
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