The American Kafir

2012/05/09

Wily bomb maker fast in race with technology; informant ID’d device

Wily bomb maker fast in race with technology; informant ID’d device

By Shaun Waterman

Al-Asiri

Al Qaeda’s top bomb maker in Yemen is so ruthless that he recruited and equipped his own brother for an underwear-bomb suicide attack against a top Saudi royal in 2009.

“Even for al Qaeda, that’s cold,” said author Peter Bergen, who has studied the group since the late 1990s.

Now Ibrahim al-Asiri, 30, is suspected of making a new underwear bomb designed for use against a U.S.-bound airliner in a plot uncovered last month by U.S. and Saudi intelligence and thwarted within the past few days.

The supposed would-be bomber was an informant working for the CIA and Saudi Arabian intelligence, U.S. and Yemeni officials said Tuesday, according to the Associated Press. The informant, who delivered the bomb to authorities, is safely out of Yemen.

The revelation, first reported by the Los Angeles Times, shows how the CIA was able to get its hands on a sophisticated underwear bomb well before an attack was set into motion, the AP reported.

Underwear bombs and other explosive devices, such as the converted printer cartridges used in the foiled October 2010 air-cargo bomb plot, are al-Asiri’s trademark, President Obama’s senior counterterrorism adviser said.

Al-Asiri “has demonstrated real proficiency as far as concealment methods as well as the materials that are used in these” bombs, John Brennan said Tuesday in an interview on NBC-TV.

A Saudi national who has served time in the kingdom’s prisons, al-Asiri is the son of a pious retired military man, according to the Saudi Gazette newspaper. The U.S. designated him a terrorist kingpin last year, and he is wanted by the Saudis and by Interpol.

He is believed to be one of the top targets of the recently stepped-up U.S. campaign of lethal drone attacks in Yemen.

The FBI, which is examining the underwear bomb, said it is “very similar” to devices used in plots by al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), the terrorist network’s affiliate in Yemen, “including against aircraft and for targeted assassinations.”

That clearly is a reference to the August 2009 attempt to kill Saudi Deputy Interior Minister Prince Mohammad bin Nayef, who was injured slightly when al-Asiri’s brother Abdullah blew himself up at a meeting he had requested to turn himself in to authorities.

Initial reports suggested that the bomber had concealed the bomb in his rectum, but Saudi investigators concluded that the device was an underwear bomb, said Mr. Bergen, who was briefed by Saudi officials at the time.

They discovered that the device, made of a plastic explosive called PETN, used a chemical detonator, had no metallic components and could not be detected by conventional metal-detector screening.

On Christmas Day 2009, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab attempted to detonate a similar underwear bomb aboard a Detroit-bound U.S. airliner. The detonator failed, probably because Abdulmutallab had sweated through his underwear and dampened the detonator, officials told The Washington Times last year.

The latest version of the underwear bomb has an improved detonator, a U.S. official said Tuesday.

The bomb “was a threat from the standpoint of the design,” Mr. Brennan told ABC News. “And so now we’re trying to make sure that we take the measures that we need to prevent any other … similarly constructed [bomb] from getting through security procedures.”

Abdulmutallab’s underwear bomb was not spotted by metal detectors at Amsterdam’s Schipol airport.

After the failed attack, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) sped up its deployment of advanced imaging technology screening devices, which have become notorious as the “naked X-ray” machines.

Analysts generally agree that the imaging machines should be able to spot the new underwear bomb, said Rep. Mike Rogers, Michigan Republican and chairman of the House Select Committee on Intelligence.

But in an interview with CNN, he cautioned that this was just a “preliminary conclusion. … We don’t know all of the facts yet.”

The key to imaging detection of underwear bombs is generally the detonator because it has to emerge from the clothing in which the explosives are concealed, said Erroll G. Southers, a homeland security scholar at the University of Southern California.

The TSA has deployed about 700 imaging machines at more than 180 U.S. airports, according to agency figures. The machines cost between $130,000 and $170,000 each, and the agency has spent nearly $167 million so far to buy, test, deliver and install them.

TSA has faced keen scrutiny of its efforts to roll out the machines and questions about the effectiveness of deploying them in the United States because all previous al Qaeda attacks against U.S. aviation have originated overseas.

“That is a huge gaping hole,” Mr. Southers said.

Inconsistencies in technology and policy from country to country undermine public confidence, he said, noting reports that the European Union this year will relax the no-liquids rule for air passengers’ hand luggage, which would put the European Union out of step with the U.S. The ban is designed to defeat another kind of nonmetallic explosive.

Investigators from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) will report at a congressional hearing Wednesday that TSA deployed the imaging technology at airports without evaluating it properly.

“Additionally, various reports, studies and independent testimony all suggest that TSA is ineffectively deploying security technology and equipment at commercial airports,” reads a staff memo for the hearing.

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2012/03/24

Saudi Wahhabism Expands into Libya

Source JCPA

Saudi Wahhabism Expands into Libya

by Jacques Neriah

Inroads by the Salafi-Wahhabi School of Islam

Since the ouster of Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi in October 2011 and in the chaos that has gripped Libya since, fundamentalist Libyans have been pushing for a strict interpretation of Islamic law. Under the umbrella of lawlessness, gunmen calling themselves Salafis broke into the Saif al-Nasr Mosque in Tripoli on November 8, 2011, smashed open the wooden sarcophagus and removed the remains of el-Nasr, a scholar who died 155 years ago, as well as that of a former imam, Hammad Zwai. The gunmen moved the bodies to a Muslim cemetery and, with the help of graffiti left on the walls, explained their disapproval of the Sufi Muslim tradition of burying scholars and teachers in mosques to honor them.

The estimated 200 to 400 members of the local Salafi movement in the small town of Zuwara near the Tunisian border have demolished shrines belonging to adherents of the Ibadi sect, long considered heretics by orthodox Sunni Muslims. In the town’s cemetery, large blocks of stone surround what was once a mausoleum. The large, conical-shaped structure that once adorned it now lies collapsed in the debris.

In January 2012, extremists bulldozed through a wall of an old cemetery in the eastern city of Benghazi, destroyed its tombs, and carried off 29 bodies of respected sages and scholars. They also demolished a nearby Sufi school.

A group of Salafis angered by the burning of the Koran at a NATO military base in Afghanistan entered the Commonwealth War Cemetery in Benghazi on February 24, 2012, and shattered headstones of British and allied servicemen who fought in North African desert campaigns against the Nazis during World War II.

Salafis are intolerant of other schools of Islam and have physically attacked Muslim minorities in other parts of the Arab world, including Iraq and Saudi Arabia. Many Muslims frequent the shrines of saints, believing the holy men have powers of intercession with the divine. Salafis, however, believe these are pagan rites that must be obliterated from Islam, in line with the teachings of the founder of the Salafi movement, Muhammad Ibn ‘Abd el-Wahab (1703-1792) whose philosophy has been the official doctrine of Saudi Arabia since the end of the eighteenth century. Its adherents prefer to call themselves Salafis.

The Wahhabi teachings disapprove of the veneration of historical sites associated with early Islam on the grounds that only God should be worshipped and that veneration of sites associated with mortals leads to idolatry. Many buildings associated with early Islam, including mausoleums and other artifacts, have been destroyed in Saudi Arabia by Wahhabis from the early nineteenth century through the present day.

Indeed, this version of fundamentalist Islam is not typical of Libyan Islam. Moderate Libyan and North African Islam has receded in the face of Wahhabi Islam coming from Saudi Arabia and the Gulf countries. Under Gaddafi, the regime succeeded mostly in containing the Salafi push. But in areas remote from the center (Benghazi), the Salafis, together with al-Qaeda elements that apply a strict Wahhabi Islam, succeeded not only to survive the persecutions of the Gaddafi regime, but also succeeded in proselytizing their school of thought among the Libyans who were the backbone of the fighters in Afghanistan.

Throughout Libya, Gaddafi’s fall has emboldened Salafis, who were persecuted and imprisoned under the now deceased leader. They have increased their public presence, taken over mosques, and even raised the flag of al-Qaeda over the courthouse in Benghazi where the revolution began eleven months ago. Gaddafi’s disappearance and the link between the Qatari regime and the fighting militias particularly exposed the connection with Abdel Hakim Belhaj, the head of the Tripoli Military Council and former Guantanamo Bay inmate, and has created a situation where the military commanders of Libya are part and parcel of the Salafi-Wahhabi school of Islam. This explains their attitude towards the prevalent Sufi Islam in North Africa.

Moreover, for thirty years, massive amounts of oil money have been used to drown the Middle East and North Africa in Wahhabi ideas. The purpose of this support for the Wahhabi school of thought is basically political, in that the Saudi system of government depends on an alliance between the ruling family and the Wahhabi sheikhs. Hence, spreading the Wahhabi ideology reinforces the political system in that country.

Libyans exposed to Wahhabi ideas see a society different from theirs. Men and women are completely segregated, but rates of sexual harassment and rape are among the highest in the world. Alcohol is banned but many people drink in secret. The law does not apply to princes, who can do what they like, confident that they are immune from punishment. Libyans learn that performing your prayers on time is not voluntary, as it is in Libya, but a compulsory obligation, and if you are late the police might arrest you and harm you. They learn that if you are walking along the street with your wife and her hair is accidentally uncovered, then a policeman will pounce on her to hit her with a stick and make her cover her head. Women in Tripoli are already feeling the heaviest burden to conform. They have been under pressure to dress conservatively since Gaddafi’s downfall.

In January, hundreds of Libyan Salafis rallied to demand that Muslim Shari’a law inspire legislation. Assembled by Islamist political and religious groups, mostly young and bearded men holding up copies of the Koran demonstrated in squares in the capital Tripoli, the eastern city of Benghazi, and in Sabha in the southern desert. In Tripoli’s Algeria Square, Islamists burned copies of the “Green Book,” Gaddafi’s pronouncements on politics, economics, and everyday life, to underline that the Koran should be the country’s main source of legislation.

The chairman of Libya’s ruling National Transitional Council (NTC), Mustafa Abdul Jalil, promised in October to uphold Islamic law. “We as a Muslim nation have taken Islamic Shari’a as the source of legislation; therefore, any law that contradicts the principles of Islam is legally nullified,” he said. The NTC says that the new constitution that will be drafted by a panel elected in June must have Islamic law, i.e. Shari’a, as its principal source. How Shari’a will be interpreted remains uncertain until the constitution is drafted.

Economic Islamism

The new trend in Libyan Islam is also weighing on the economy. The deputy governor of the central bank of Libya stated that a law regulating Islamic banking would be issued in the first quarter of 2012, but stressed that both conventional and Islamic banks would be allowed to operate in Libya. Islamists in Algeria Square in Tripoli held up placards demanding a financial system respecting Islam’s ban on interest and calling for a constitution derived from Shari’a’s legal and moral codes.

Along with Libya, Egypt is also preparing a law that will pave the way for the issuance of Sukuk the Arabic name for financial certificates, commonly referring to the Islamic equivalent of bonds. Since fixed income, interest bearing bonds are not permissible in Islam, Sukuk securities are structured to comply with Islamic law and its investment principles that prohibit charging or paying interest. The Islamist party that won Tunisia’s election says it will encourage the establishment of stand-alone Islamic lenders.

Islamic banking services in Libya are limited today to Murabaha, a three-party contract where a customer places an order at a bank to purchase goods from a supplier by paying a deposit and secures the rest through collateral. The bank sells the goods back to the customer at a mark-up with a fixed credit period.

The Break-Up of Libya?

On the one-year anniversary of the start of the Libyan revolution, the NTC seems to have lost control of what used to be a united Libya. The NTC is unable to impose its authority over regional military bodies, while tensions between secular and Islamist groups are surfacing in all spheres because of the clash between two versions of Islam: The North African (and Libyan) version and the Salafi-Wahhabi school of thought represented by the militias.

The country itself has split into two semi-autonomous regions. Representatives of about 100 militias from western Libya declared in January 2012 that they had formed a new federation to prevent infighting and to allow them to press the country’s new government for further reform. The leader of the new federation, Col. Mokhtar Fernana, said the council’s committee in charge of integrating revolutionary fighters was taking in men who had fought for Colonel Gaddafi.

Beginning in March 2012, tribal leaders and militia commanders declared eastern Libya to be a semiautonomous state. The thousands of representatives of major tribal leaders, militia commanders, and politicians who made the declaration at a conference in Benghazi said the move was not intended to divide the country. They declared that they want their region to remain part of a united Libya, but insisted the move was needed to stop decades of discrimination against the east.

The conference stated that the eastern state, known as Barqa, would have its own parliament, police force, courts and capital – Benghazi, the country’s second largest city – to run its own affairs. Under their plan, foreign policy, the national army, and oil resources would be left to a central federal government in the capital Tripoli in the west. Barqa would cover nearly half the country, from central Libya to the Egyptian border in the east and down to the borders with Chad and Sudan in the south.

The announcement aimed to pose a federal system as a fait accompli before the National Transitional Council. The goal is to revive the system that was in place between 1951 and 1963 when Libya, ruled by a monarchy, was divided into three states: Tripolitania in the west, Fezzan in the southwest, and Cyrenaica in the east – or Barqa, as it was called in Arabic.

Sufism vs. Salafism

Polarization between the two main schools of Islam in Libya, Sufism and Salafism, has created two distinct camps fighting one another. The tension between the traditional Sufis and the Salafis, influenced by Saudi Wahhabis and other ultra-conservative foreign Islamists, has become a key divide in Libyan politics as parties begin to form to contest free elections in June. At present the Sufis are on the defensive and behave accordingly. Sufi militiamen guard the remaining mosques in Tripoli, including the Sha’b Mosque, home to the body of a revered scholar, Abdul Sahfi, which is interred in a large stone sarcophagus.

Libyan Sufis staged a joyous parade through the heart of Tripoli and Benghazi to mark the Prophet Mohammad’s birthday, defying radical Salafi Muslims who were pressuring them to scrap the centuries-old tradition. Chanting hymns to the beat of drums and cymbals, marchers choked the narrow alleys of the walled old town to celebrate the feast of Mawlid (birth), a favorite event for pious Sufis whose spirituality is an integral part of North African Islam. The celebrations were the first since the fall last August of Muammar Gaddafi, who kept religion under firm control during his 42-year dictatorship, and went ahead despite concerns that hardliners might attack the marchers as heretics.

This is the essence of the phenomenon: the disconnect between belief and behavior is a social malaise that emanates from Saudi Arabia and has spread like a plague throughout almost all the Arab world, just as it has spread into Islamist groups. Libya is clearly its victim, as are other Arab states that have witnessed the so-called “Arab Spring.”

*      *      *

Col. (ret.) Dr. Jacques Neriah, a special analyst for the Middle East at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, was formerly Foreign Policy Advisor to Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Deputy Head for Assessment of Israeli Military Intelligence.

‘Destroy All the Churches’

Source NRO

‘Destroy All the Churches’

By Clifford D. May

Abdulaziz ibn Abdullah Al al-Sheikh, grand mufti of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

Imagine if Pat Robertson called for the demolition of all the mosques in America. It would be front-page news. It would be on every network and cable-news program. There would be a demand for Christians to denounce him, and denounce him they would — in the harshest terms. The president of the United States and other world leaders would weigh in, too. Rightly so.

So why is it that when Abdulaziz ibn Abdullah Al al-Sheikh, the grand mufti of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, declares that it is “necessary to destroy all the churches in the Arabian Peninsula,” the major media do not see this as even worth reporting? And no one, to the best of my knowledge, has noted that he said this to the members of a terrorist group.

Here are the facts: Some members of the Kuwaiti parliament have been seeking to demolish churches or at least prohibit the construction of new ones within that country’s borders. So the question arose: What does sharia, Islamic law, have to say about this issue?

A delegation from Kuwait asked the Saudi grand mufti for guidance. He replied that Kuwait is part of the Arabian Peninsula — and that any churches on the Arabian Peninsula should indeed be destroyed, because the alternative would be to approve of them. The grand mufti explained: “The Prophet (peace be upon him) commanded us, ‘Two religions shall not coexist in the Arabian Peninsula,’ so building [churches] in the first place is not valid because this peninsula must be free from [any other religion].” In Saudi Arabia, of course, non-Islamic houses of worship were banned long ago, and non-Muslims are prohibited from setting foot in Mecca and Medina.

There’s more: The inquiring Kuwaitis were from the Revival of Islamic Heritage Society (RIHS). That sounds innocent enough, but a little digging by Steve Miller, a researcher at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, revealed that ten years ago the RIHS branches in Afghanistan and Pakistan were designated by the United Nations as associates of — and providers of funds and weapons to — “Al-Qaida, Usama bin Laden or the Taliban.”

The U.S. government has gone farther, also designating RIHS headquarters in Kuwait as “providing financial and material support to al Qaida and al Qaida affiliates, including Lashkar e-Tayyiba” which was “implicated in the July 2006 attack on multiple Mumbai commuter trains, and in the December 2001 attack against the Indian Parliament.” Such activities have caused RIHS offices to be “closed or raided by the governments of Albania, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Cambodia, and Russia.”

This should be emphasized: Al al-Sheikh is not the Arabian equivalent of some backwoods Florida pastor. He is the highest religious authority in Saudi Arabia, where there is no separation of mosque and state, and the state religion is the ultra-orthodox/fundamentalist reading of Islam known as Wahhabism. He also is a member of the country’s leading religious family.

In other words, his pronouncements represent the official position of Saudi Arabia — a country that, we have been told time and again, changed course after 9/11 and is now our ally and solidly in the anti-terrorism camp.

None of this might have come to light at all had it not been for Raymond Ibrahim, the Shillman fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center and an associate fellow at the Middle East Forum. He was the first to call attention to the grand mufti’s remarks, based on reports from three Arabic-language websites, Mideast Christian News, Linga Christian Service,and Asrare, also a Christian outlet. It occurred to me that perhaps these not entirely disinterested sources had misunderstood or exaggerated. So I asked Miller, who reads Arabic, to do a little more digging. Calls to the State Department’s Saudi desk and the Saudi embassy proved fruitless, but he did find the mufti’s comments reported in a well-known Kuwaiti newspaper, Al-Anba, on March 11.

All this stands out against the backdrop of the most significant news story the mainstream media insist on ignoring: the spreading and intensifying persecution of Christians in Muslim-majority countries (an issue I’ve written about before, here for example, and which Ibrahim has written about, most recently here). Churches have been burned or bombed in Egypt, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, Indonesia, and the Philippines. The ancient Christian communities of Gaza and the West Bank are shrinking. In Pakistan, Asia Bibi, a Christian woman, is facing the death penalty for allegedly “insulting” Islam. In Iran, Youcef Nadarkhani, sits on death row for the “crime” of choosing Christianity over Islam.

This week, as Nina Shea reported, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) released its 14th annual report identifying the world’s worst persecutors. Of the 16 countries named, twelve have Muslim majorities or pluralities.

Why are the reporters covering the State Department and the White House not asking administration officials whether they are troubled by Saudi Arabia’s senior religious authority meeting with supporters of al-Qaeda and telling them that, yes, Christian churches should be demolished? Why have reporters covering the U.N. decided these issues are of no concern to the so-called international community? How about the centers for “Islamic-Christian understanding” that have been established — with Saudi money — at such universities as Harvard and Georgetown? Do they suppose there is nothing here to understand — no need for any academic scrutiny of the Saudi/Wahhabi perspective on church-burning and relations with terrorist groups?

My guess is that all of the above have persuaded themselves that there are more pressing issues to worry about, such as the worldwide epidemic of “Islamophobia” and the need to impose serious penalties on those responsible. I understand. I really do.

— Clifford D. May is president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a policy institute focusing on national security and foreign policy.

2011/12/12

Hillary, Israel is not Iran

Hillary, Israel is not Iran

By GILAD ERDAN

Israel is not Iran or Saudi Arabia. Perhaps it would be better to begin where the real problems are.

Hillary, our dear friend. A few days ago, you expressed your deep concern about harm to the status of women in Israel, which you said reminds you of the events in Iran. The truth is you surprised us. Really.

We did not think that in the midst of a range of international disputes, along with the reversal of the Arab Spring that now turns out to be winter, Iran’s development of nuclear weapons and other real and tangible threats, you would still manage to find time to deal with the status of women.

But we certainly agree with you – the status of women and women’s rights is a universal and important subject.

In Israel, we do have problems, as you pointed out in your address to the Saban Forum – problems such as women’s seating arrangements in some buses or women singing to religious soldiers.

These issues certainly keep us awake at night, and we appreciate the fact you share our concerns. Although the extent of these phenomena is very limited, we are trying to find a way to resolve them, and the government of Israel, out of a deep commitment to the status of women, will act to prevent any violation of equality between women and men.

(In our country, by the way, a woman serves as the president of the Supreme Court, a woman is the head of the opposition, a woman serves as a major-general in the army, and I could give you many more examples.) Each of the sectors in Israel – men and women, religious and secular, Jews and Arabs, and others – has representatives in the Knesset, courts, academia, media and all the mechanisms of society.

Because of this, we are really upset that there are several bus lines in which women are required to sit in the back, and we will do all in our power to stop this phenomenon.

We are pleased to know that you, our close friend, are also worried. We are pleased, because we understand that if you are concerned about the status of women in Israel, you are much more concerned about status of women in other countries friendly to the United States, such as Saudi Arabia, for example.

After all, if you’re concerned about the sitting arrangements on the buses in Israel, you must be even more worried about the fact that in Saudi Arabia, women cannot drive at all, not a bus and not a private car.

I am certain that you’re worried that in Arab countries such as Egypt or Qatar, men can marry several women and divorce them without any reason, leaving them without any rights, without custody for their children and certainly without alimony.

I’m also certain that you’re worried that in Muslim countries such as Indonesia or Pakistan, women are executed on charges of adultery.

But, somehow, I do not recall that you have expressed your concern about it or have taken any steps to stop it. Am I wrong? I know that you, Hillary, as one of the most powerful women in the world, attach great importance to the subject of women’s rights, devoting your time to promote this issue despite your busy schedule.

I guess you’re also very concerned about domestic issues in the US relating to human rights, such as the new law in Arizona that was signed by the governor, permitting the police to arrest anyone who might look like an illegal immigrant, which could encourage racial discrimination.

So to make it easier on you, I want to tell you that you should not be so worried about the status of women in Israel.

As I mentioned, there are other places in which the issues of women’s rights, or the rights of minorities or homosexuals, are much more painful. In Israel, unlike in other places and just like in the US, we are taking care of equality between men and women, and we don’t need help. We even get a little offended when we are the targets of moralistic preachings on this subject.

Israel is not Iran or Saudi Arabia. Perhaps it would be better to begin where the real problems are.

(This article was translated by Moria Dashevsky.) The writer is minister of environmental protection.

2011/10/23

The Sharia-Math of Public Beheading

Source Article Link: Family Security Matters

The Sharia-Math of Public Beheading

Written By Hasan Mahmud


On October 7th, 2011 eight Bangladeshis were publicly beheaded in Saudi Arabia for the crime of murdering an Egyptian in 2007. The execution created a virtual tsunami of support and protest worldwide. The proud declaration of the Saudi ambassador in Bangladesh that his country follows “Allah’s Law” was immediately addressed by nybangla.comwith a video of Saudi prince in a nightclub, acting in a decidedly unIslamic fashion (see below). This occurs at a time when there is raging debate transpiring the world over, about the legitimacy of capital punishment. Many countries have abolished it. Creating theological awareness in the Muslim masses about its anti-Islamic nature can help its elimination.

References from the Quran and Prophet Mohammed’s statements, quoted below, show that like many Sharia laws the rule of public beheading has some apparent legitimacy from Islamic scripture.

  1. Death sentence is allowed – 5:33.
  2. Beheading is allowed by the words “Smiting Neck” – 8:12 and 47:4.
  3. Blood money can be paid for unintentional killing of a Muslim – 4:92.
  4. Punishment of intentional killing of a Muslims is consignment to hell– no worldly punishment ismentioned – 4:93.
  5. “Life for life, eye for eye, nose or nose, ear for ear, tooth for tooth, and wounds equalfor equal”.  Forgiveness is encouraged – 5:45, 2:178.
  6. Punishment in public is instructed – 24:2.
  7. The Prophet is reported to have publicly beheaded adult captives of Banu Quraiza by the  verdict of Sa’ad b. Mu’adh – (Banu Quraiza had already agreed to comply with his judgment)- Sahih Bukhari 4-280, 5- 148, Sahih Muslim 4368, 4369, 4370, Sirat of Ibn Hisham, Ibn Ishaq page 464 etc.

Let’s note that the Quran and Sahi Bukhari 9-21 encourage forgiveness and other options such as exile and forbids killing without “good reason.” This does not adequately explain what that exactly could be. According to Sharia law an intentional murder can be adjudicated in 3 ways:-

(1)   If the family of the victim pardons then the murderer is acquitted.

(2)   If the family of the victim accepts Blood-Money then the murderer is acquitted.

(3)   If the family of the victim does not agree to pardon or take Blood-Money then the murderer is sentenced to public execution.

This law shows sympathy to the victim’s family and grants a right which none, not even the State, can supersede. On the other hand we see in secular democracies that a governor or president at times “pardons” convicted murder who face a death sentence, without even consulting the victim’s family. This can be heart-breaking for the victim’s family to see the convicted murderer of their beloved one roaming around proudly! But this law has some devastating impact also – see below #5. The law of public-beheading and the killer’s acquittal by forgiveness or payment (the principle of “compoundability”) are problematic in our time for these theological and practical reasons.

(1)   This law is the reason for the increased number of honor killings. When a woman is killed by her father or brother for alleged relationship or anything else, the family members “pardon” the killer because they don’t want to lose another member of the family by death sentence of the court.

(2)   This law will create havoc among people if applied in many Third World countries. There are criminals/ killers who are enormously rich, well connected, politically powerful, and brutish in nature, and have pet brutish young cadres under their command to boot. They will be free to kill because they are in a position to threaten and force the poor helpless family of the victims to “Pardon” them with or without Blood-money and the State cannot do anything.

(3)   Verses 5:33, 8:12 and 47:4 were revealed in a context of war; these can not be stretched to cover personal murder.

(4)   Verse 24:2 is about adultery, it cannot be stretched to murder.

(5)   This law discriminates against women because if the victim has son/s, his daughter/s cannot pardon the murderer – (Sharia the Islamic Law – Dr. Abdur Rahman Doi – page 235).

(6)   The Banu Quraiza incident has always been debated – there are good references against it. There are enormous problems and violence in all secondary sources of Islam. Although Hadiths and Sharia law stipulate that denying them turns a Muslim into an apostate (this is sheer blackmailing in the name of Islam), we must apply our right to accept or reject any or all of them totally or partially to achieve sustainable peace.

(7)   Above all and most importantly, the institution of Sharia law totally ignores the Islamic dynamics of updating social laws while keeping the value or the spirit of the Quranic and Prophetic injunctions intact.  Even Sharia-leaders admit that many of the Quranic dicta are contextual and cannot be applied today. Examples include slavery, Jizya tax for non-Muslims etc. Some are already updated such as some rituals of Hajj, zakat or Islamic Tax (originally it was given to a State-fund) etc.

Public beheading might have been necessary in the past in which the society consisted of unenlightened people or there was no better way of carrying out the death sentence. We don’t need it anymore.  More human ways are developed to punish a criminal. Even if death sentence to murderers is accepted, it must not be by beheading and in public. Moreover, people who believe that public beheading reduces murder cases are utterly wrong. Public beheading measurably failed to reduce murder cases.  As the BBC reports, last year (2010) 26 criminals were beheaded in Saudi. This year until October, 56 people have already been beheaded – more are coming up. So, all this law manages to do, is defame Islam and Muslims.

Criminal laws reflect the nature and magnitude of intellectual resistance to crimes. Lest we forget – “Language of protest shows the nature of the protester”.

Family Security Matters Contributor Hasan Mehsud is a member of AILC (American Islamic Leadership Coalition). He can be contacted at hasan.mahmud@hotmail.com.

2011/10/11

U.S. Complaint in Alleged Iran-Directed Terror Plot PDF Copy

Courtesy Neuces Co. Sheriff's Office-Manssor Arbabsiar, pictured here in a mugshot from a 2001 arrest for theft, has been named in a federal complaint in an alleged Iran-backed plot to kill the Saudi Arabian ambassador to the U.S.

View this document on Scribd

2011/04/01

Saudi nukes in the Gulf

Source Link: Washington Times

Kingdom is poised to build potent weapons as protection from Iran

Illustration: Saudi nukes by Alexander Hunter for The Washington Times

Overlooked in the welter of fast-moving events throughout the Arab world was a Saudi Arabian call for transforming the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council into “an entity identical to the [27-nation] European Union” – plus nuclear weapons.

Saudi Arabia has grown impatient “Waiting for Godot.” Samuel Beckett’s famous play depicts the “meaninglessness of life,” with its repetitive plot in which nothing much happens. In Saudi eyes, that’s Iran and its secret nuclear weapons program. And eyedrop Western sanctions have done nothing to deter Iran’s aging theocrats.

Iran began nuclear research with French assistance in the 1960s. In 1972, the late Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi told this reporter that Iran would one day be a nuclear power. Britain had relinquished all its geopolitical responsibilities east of Suez in 1968.

Under the Nixon Doctrine that followed the British withdrawal from the Gulf, the “shahanshah” (king of kings) became the “guardian” (and gendarme) of the Persian Gulf from the Strait of Hormuz to Kuwait.

The religious fanatics that succeeded the shah have similar ambitions – this time to spread their brand of religious extremism. A prime target is Bahrain, a tiny island linked to Saudi Arabia by a 16-mile causeway, which is also home port for the U.S. Fifth Fleet, and whose 1 million people are 70 percent Shia Muslims (as in Iran).

Saudi Arabia, answering an appeal from the Bahraini monarch, dispatched some 1,500 troops and armored vehicles across the causeway to guard vital installations while local law enforcement coped with daily demonstrations and riots.

On Jan. 18 when the Arab volcanobegan erupting in Tunisia and spreading political lava through Libya, Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Bahrain and Oman, the powers-that-be in the West fell silent, evidently prepared to ditch erstwhile friends and allies. The lesson was not lost on the Saudis.

It wasn’t until Libya’s megalomaniacal Col. Moammar Gadhafi announced he was planning to kill without mercy his own dissident citizens in Benghazi that President Obama perked up and Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton talked retaliation with the European allies. The Germans balked. Then U.S., French and British fighter-bombers decimated Col. Gadhafi’s tanks headed for Benghazi. But Mr. Obama, already saddled with two military theaters and anxious to avoid a third, kicked Libya operations over to NATO and the Europeans.

In his first attempt to unveil what was quickly dubbed the “Obama Doctrine,” the president, in effect, bought Col. Gadhafi more time by declaring regime change by force would be a mistake. George H.W. Bush made the same decision in 1991 by declining to chase Saddam Hussein’s legions back to Baghdad. This, in turn, led to a 12-year, $14 billion no-fly zone over Iraq, followed by Gulf War II in 2003. The Saudis paid the tab, as they did for most of the war.

This time, the Saudis, armed with compensatory cash, managed to dodge popular wrath oozing through the Arab body politic. The only noticeable demonstration was a small one (about 1,000) in favor of the divine right of kings (enunciated by the Stuarts in Britain in the 16th century).

But Saudi soldiers in Bahrain, now backed by police from the United Arab Emirates (a federated union of seven sheikdoms, including Abu Dhabi and Dubai), face indefinite security duty in another country. Some 70 percent of Bahrain’s work force is on strike and clashes with police are now routine.

Former U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia Chas W. Freeman Jr. says, “The one plausible source of contagion for Saudi Arabia is the civil strife in its much smaller sister kingdom of Bahrain … where the ouster of its royal family … could incite instability in the other small city-states” that make up the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) with Saudi Arabia. And they all fear that majority Shiite rule in Bahrain would draw the island into the Iranian orbit, handing Iran a strategic base of influence in their midst.

Prince Turki Al-Faisal, the man who headed the Saudi intelligence service for a quarter of a century before his appointment as ambassador to Britain and later the United States, reminded Western countries that the GCC’s mutual defense pact is similar to NATO’s in its obligations.

Now chairman of the King Faisal Research Center, Prince Turki launched the drive for the GCC countries to acquire nuclear weapons, now described as essential vis-a-vis the two other regional powers that already posses them. He named Iran and Israel.

Prince Turki, in a little reported talk but clearly speaking for the kingdom at the annual conference of the Emirates Center for Strategic Studies, called for a joint Gulf army “acquiring the nuclear might to face that of Iran.”

While international efforts have clearly failed to convince Tehran to cease developing nuclear weapons and Israel to dismantle its own arsenal, a nuclear future for the GCC is now an imperative.

Between them – Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, UAE, Bahrain and Oman – there is no shortage of cash in their Sovereign Wealth Funds to bankroll a nuclear weapons program. They can pay top dollar for nuclear scientists and engineers from Western powers and Russia.

“We ought to be effective regarding major international affairs and prevent others from dictating options to us,” said Prince Turki, scion of the late King Feisal, the monarch who created the modern Saudi state.

Qatar, the wealthiest Gulf state with a per capita income of $78,000, was the first non-NATO country to respond to the “no-fly zone over Libya” appeal from the 22-member Arab League. A third of its French-made Mirage squadron flew to a Greek base in Crete where they joined a French squadron and flew four-plane joint patrols over northeastern Libya.

The UAE followed the Qatari lead with 12 F-16s.

Qatar also has a global reach through Al Jazeera TV news, in both Arabic and English. Lavishly funded, the network has more bureaus and correspondents than any other TV news operation anywhere in the world.

The next act in the Gulf sweepstakes won’t be a walk in the park.

Arnaud de Borchgrave is editor-at-large of The Washington Times and United Press International.

2011/03/30

Media sources reveal details of a conspiracy by Bandar Bin Sultan and Feltman to “destroy” Syria

Source Link: Champress

Media sources reveal details of a conspiracy by Bandar Bin Sultan and Feltman to "destroy" Syria

Several media sources have revealed the details of a “well-organized” plan to destroy Syria and create chaos in the country. The plan is said to be drawn up by Bandar bin Sultan, the former Saudi ambassador to the United States,  in collaboration with the former U.S. Ambassador in Lebanon, “Jeffrey Feltman” to overthrow the regime in Syria and to bring Syria back to the “stone age”, according to the sources.

The lengthy and detailed plan, developed by Bandar bin Sultan and his friend Feltman in 2008 with a funding reached  $ 2 billion, consists of many items and precise details which significantly intersect with the incidents  of disturbances the city of Daraa has recently witnessed.

According to sources, the plan “strategically” depended on the exploitation of peoples’ legitimate desire in freedom, dignity and getting rid of corruption and on the turning of these wishes into a revolt against the regime through convincing the people that the road to reform from within the regime  is closed and the solution is an all-out  revolution.

However, the plan tactically divided Syria into three areas (big cities, small cities and villages), and the established five types of networks:

1- The “Fuel”:  This network comprises educated and unemployed youths who are to be linked in a decentralized way.

2- The “Thugs” network  which includes outlaws and criminals from remote areas, preferably non-Syrians.

3- The “Ethnic-Sectarian” network which consists of young people with limited education representing ethnic communities that support or oppose the president. They must be under the age of 22.

4- The “Media” network that comprises some leaders of civil society institutions which have European funding not American one.

5- The “Capital” network which comprises traders, companies owners, banks and commercial centers in Damascus, Aleppo and Homs only.

On how to use these networks and  link between each others, the plan provides for:

The utilization of ambitious young people from the first network (Network of fuel) through attractive phrases such as:

– You must have a voice

– Change can’t be achieved except by force

– Your future is yours to determine

– Your silence is the cause, and so on ….

The plan also provides for exploiting the skills of members of the second network (Network of thugs) through:

– Training the thugs on professional killing including sniping and murdering in cold blood.

– Training them on burning public buildings quickly by using flammable substance.

– Training thugs on penetrating prisons police centers and security buildings.

According to the plan, members of the third network (sectarian ethnic netwrok) will be exploited by

– Feeding their strong feeling of support for or opposition against the President.

– Making them feel that their communities are threatened in all cases.

– Creating the concept of using excessive force against others.

– Convincing them of the idea that all who oppose them in anything are traitors.

– Leading them to a “state of color blindness”, so see only black and white.

-Exploitation their age and lack of knowledge of history and geography and leading them to the brink of being ready to do anything.

The fourth network (media network) will also be exploited to serve the plan. Members of this network will be recruited and their skills will be enhanced  to lead the (public opinion) through:

– Enabling them to communicate with the media by satellite phone that can’t be monitored or cut off.

– Promoting them as nationalists and as individuals who don’t oppose to the regime, but call for civil society.

– Qualifying cadres and training them on techniques of modern media such as blogging and using the Internet which help them communicate with the public.

– Holding regular meetings with them and coordinating their efforts so that no one will contradict the other.

The fifth network (capital network) will be exploited by using their fear of their money being wasted, so the following must be achieved:

– Linking traders with trade officials in the European embassies under the cover of trade relations.

– Holding luxurious parties to be attended by businessmen and during which exclusively Arab Gulf deals and investments are to be made.

– Threatening them with certain sexual relations that are filmed for later blackmailing them.

– Urging them against the regime and creating ideas such as: “The country is yours and outsiders control you. The regime makes wealthy people on your expense. You are the ones who build the country and others rule it. Bashar al-Assad steals you via taxes and his supporters enjoy it. All your businesses projects are a loss due to bribery and corruption. Your wealth is threatened and must be transferred outside Syria because the regime will collapse. We will make you rule the country after the collapse of the regime. ”

The plan also contained in its “executive”  chapter several scenarios, and precise details of how to start and move, how networks will be exploited and how to move forward.

According to executive chapter, the plan adopts the following stages:

1- If a targeted person from the Fuel Network responded, another stage will immediately begin based on exploiting his/her need for money, so the plan starts to:
– Provide him/her with small amounts of money.
– Ensure him/her a rented car, a cellular phone and Internet connection.
– Ask him/her to look for and bring other young people and use the same method with them.

– When the number of young people reach 5000 in major cities and 1500 in small cities and 500 in the villages, these people are asked to start to express their desire in change and reform. At this very stage any talk against any side of the people must be avoided. Not a word on sectarian, partisan, rightist or leftist basis is allowed at this stage.

As this stage proceeds, objections by non-enthusiasts are to be faced by a set of appropriate responses such as:
– If someone says there is a change, the response must be: “There is no change at all. This is all a lie”
– If he says change is coming, then the response must be: “We have heard this for more than 40 years”
– If anyone says that time is not suitable, the response must be: “So when must we move. Are we going to move after 100 years”
– If one says that of our dignity lies in resisting America, the response must be: “We have nothing to do with resistance, we want to live” and so on…

– A Moving group has to be pushed into streets inside already existing gatherings such as in crowded markets, in mosques after prayers and in narrow alleys.  This group is divided into three rings: The shouters, the photographers, and the hidden people.  The shouters gather at the center of the circle and begin chanting within the gathering. This ring is surrounded by the ring of the hidden people, while the photographers’ ring surrounds all. If anyone tried to disperse the shouters the hidden people defend them under the pretext: ” let them speak”, and if no one try to disperse them, the same ring of the hidden people assaults the shouters and disperse them. In both cases,” We get an excellent picture for the media.”

– In general, the authorities have to be provoked to be drawn into the use of torture and cruelty. Here the authorities have to choose one of two solutions; either to intervene or not to intervene.

– If the authorities don’t interfere, the number of enthusiasts will begin to increase, because young people’s demands will attract a bigger number of new enthusiasts who all, according to the plan, must not know anything about the network link.

– If the authorities intervene and arrest one of the network members, he/she must make himself/herself appear “innocent and pathetic”, immediately change his/her stance and illusively promise the authorities not to do that again. According to the plan he/she is to be completely frozen to the final stage, but funding continues.

– If the authorities intervene and arrest one from outside the network, the incident must fully be exploited by raising the level of demands. If the security forces torture him/her, this will be better as it will help in fueling the people’s feelings and here phrases linking torture to the whole regime not only to the security forces are to be promoted and the following statements and ideas are to be disseminated:  “Have you seen what happened to the poor man, this is what the president wants.  It isn’t fair, the man wants only to live. Do those traders only have the right to have money. Is it a government or a group of thieves. The reason behind this is the top leadership”, and so on …

2- When moves start in the streets, people must be instigated as fast as possible to change their just demands into calls for the downfall of the regime. Here the following must be implemented:

– The second network, “network of the thugs”, is introduced  to the scene immediately to attack all of the demonstrators and security personnel.

– Videos and photos for dramatic events which hurt religious and social feelings, such as attacking women, preferably veiled ones, must be taken. As a result alleged demonstrators shout general slogans and if they are attacked by security forces it will be very excellent. But if they are attacked by civilians, the group says “security forces dressed in civilian clothes,” attacked the demonstrators. However, if no one attack them, a member of the same group will attack the demonstrators, even if this leads to minor injuries. Video shots must not last more than 20 seconds and they must be taken from a very close position not from a far one.

– The rapid use of bloodshed, because of its significant impact on the people. This includes the killing of a protester from outside the network, preferably a youth from big and famous families, or a youth who has major social ties or a highly  educated person, especially a doctor, an engineer or an intellectual. The killing must be committed rapidly by snipers and with bullets of the same type used by police or security forces. This stage also includes the killing of security personnel or guarding police.

– Burning properties of the traders who have been involved in the plan and dragging them into a state of fear together with other economic figures with the purpose of having influence on the lives of as many people as possible.

– Provoking Bashar al-Assad loyalists and engaging them in polemics with others, especially the Islamists,. Here the loyalist are to be accused of being  from the intelligence and that they are horns of the regime and beneficiaries from the authority.
Creating mistrust and tension between the loyalists and the people, telling about the near end of Bashar al-Assad and calling for random supportive demonstrations and calls advocating slaughter, murder and terrorism are planned to be launched. In turn, opponents keep calm and delay any move till after the creation of sectarian and ethnic killing. They have to be well-organized in their calls for political reform, freedom, democracy and civil life.

– Foiling any attempt to attain political solutions by the regime through burning symbols of power such as the Baath Party headquarters, police stations, prisons and security forces centers in addition to distorting Bashar al-Assad pictures.

3- The fourth network (The media) is introduced. The aim here is to link Bashar al-Assad to all previous era and to devalue all his actions by opening all the old files and holding the current regime responsible for them.

Bandar bin Sultan recognizes in his plan that Bashar Assad enjoys a real popularity inside and outside Syria that should not be underestimated. He believes that this popularity must be exploited and transformed from a point of strength into a point of weakness through the use of the enthusiasm of supporters against demonstrations.

To undermine the military, the government and the security system, Bandar believes that they must be torn into sects, and here comes the role of the third network the ( “ethnic-sectarian” network)  taking into account the neutralization of major doctrines like the Shafi’I and the Hanafi. This will be done as follows:

– Urging each sect to commit horrible bloody massacres against violators. These crimes must be filmed and posted to the media as soon as possible. The start should be in places far from Damascus and there should not be a lot of blood for fear that people may retreat.

For instance, in Lattakia and Tartous, people from the Alawite sect from the network slaughter youths from the Sunni sect, cut parts of their bodies chant long live Bashar.
In Aleppo, Salafis from the network attack Alawites’ villages, burn their homes and terrorizing the people to leave their villages and chant “Death to the “Nasirien” death to the enemies of the Sahaba”.
In Hasakah, Arabs from the network slaughter and hang some young people and make fun of the Kurds in a visual way without language and clear enough to be understood by the Kurds without translation. Some Christians, particularly Armenians are planned to be killed.
In Daraa, “snipers” from outside the city of Daraa kill young people from the Jawabra and the Mahamid families without  approaching anyone from the  Abazeed and the Masalmeh families.

In the city of Al-Boukamal, the Shi’ites kill Sunnis and scream, “Oh Karbala, Oh Hussein”.
In Homs, Arabs kill Turkmen and loot their shops, particularly gold shops and also kill Catholic Christians and Murshdis.
In Sewidaa, Druze members of the network kill a number of Christians in surrounding villages and burning several churches
In Qamishli, Kurd members of the network avenge the killing of Kurds in Hasaka. Some Armenians also kill Arab Muslims.
In Deir Ez-Zour, “snipers” from outside the city kill young people from the Agidat and Bani Naeem tribes without approaching smaller tribes like the “Rolla”, the “Jabour” or the “Shummar” and scream during the filming in the name of the  “Bokhabour  and the “Mohassan”.

Bandar thinks that the regime as a whole will be busy trying to settle the disputes between communities and ethnic groups. Bashar al-Assad will send delegates from his government to resolve sectarian and ethnic differences while Damascus will be empty of government pillars and here comes the turn of Damascus where each minority group avenge and the city flares up from all sides. This will be done as follows:

– The Christians in the east of Damascus kill Muslims who live among them in areas like Qassaa and Bab Touma. They also kill the Druze in the village of Jaramana.

– The Sunnis in the south of the city kill Shiites living among them in the “Shaghour” and the “Muhajereen” areas.

– Salafis in the areas of “Duma” and “Darayya” burn the headquarters of the municipality, courts and police stations.

– Alawites in the west of the city in “Mezze Jabal” area kill Sunnis who live among them.

– Kurds in the north of the city in “Rukn Eddin” area attack Arabs from all sects.

Meanwhile, Bandar believes that the army will be divided, the security systems and the government will collapse and Bashar will only have the Republican Guard, which he will not be able to move because the army will stand against him. This will make Bashar al-Assad’s presence in power the cause of all problems, and here comes the role of the fifth network the (network of the capital). The following has to be implemented:

– Holding a meeting between capital owners (businessmen) and leaders of the army and security bodies as well as ministers from Damascus and Aleppo. The plan is to convince them to abandon Bashar al-Assad promising them survival after the end of the President’s rule.

– In case some businessmen refuse to cooperate, they are threatened of canceling authorizations, of withdrawing investments and of sex scandals if they are among those penetrated by sexual relations.

– In case some army leaders refuse, they are threatened of imprisonment or assassination. If it is possible under a state of chaos, officers of high ranks, not from Damascus or Aleppo, could be assassinated to terrorize them.

-A national council of businessmen, ministers and security chiefs must be formed and recognized by the United States, France, Britain, Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

Saudi Arabia, U.S.: Plan To Overthrow Syrian Regime Published

Filed under: Corruption, National Security, Obama, Protests, Saudi Arabia, Syria — - @ 12:10 pm

Source Stratfor

A highly detailed plan to overthrow the Syrian regime has been attributed to former Saudi Arabian ambassador to the United States Bandar bin Sultan in collaboration with the former U.S. ambassador in Lebanon, Jeffrey Feltman, Champress reported March 30. The plan, drawn up in 2008 and with a budget of $2 billion depended on the exploitation of Syrian’s ‘desire of freedom’ and to end corruption though a full-scale revolution. The plan details a method of protest involving ‘shouters’ who gather at the center of a circle and begin chanting. If no one challenges the shouters, the ‘hidden people’ should begin to assault them, giving the media “an excellent picture.” In addition, the plans acknowledges the need to form a council of businessmen, ministers and security chiefs to be recognized by the United States, France, Britain, Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

2011/03/25

Update on Protests in the Middle East

Filed under: Bahrain, Jordon, National Security, Obama, Protests, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Yemen — - @ 9:42 pm

Source Link: Stratfor

Related Special Topic Page

SALAH MALKAWI/Getty Images Jordanian anti-government protesters clash with security forces March 25 in Amman

Syrian protests have spread and grown in size, increasing the regime’s vulnerability and creating an opportunity for Iran to rebuild its leverage in Damascus. Splits within the opposition have slowed any potential progress in Yemen’s negotiations over an exit for President Ali Abdullah Saleh. Jordan’s youth protest movement has declared its intent to form a tent city in a main square while the Islamist opposition continues to resist entering into negotiations with the regime and is holding out for greater concessions. The state of unrest in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain remains mostly unchanged from last Friday, but Gulf Cooperation Council forces are unlikely to leave Bahrain until both Riyadh and Manama feel the threat of Iranian destabilization has passed.

Syria

Tens of thousands of demonstrators rallied around the central al-Omari mosque in the southwestern city of Daraa on March 25, the scene of Syria’s largest and most violent protests to date since regional unrest spread to the country. Army and police had reportedly pulled back from the city center after Syrian President Bashar al Assad in a televised speech March 24 called on security forces to avoid using live ammunition, but gunfire was still reported in and around Daraa during Friday protests. Some 20 protesters were reportedly killed in the nearby town of Sanamein, according to Al Jazeera.

The protesters in Daraa, a Sunni stronghold in the country, are hardening their anti-regime stance, now chanting slogans against Maher al Assad, the president’s brother and head of the elite Republican Guard, whose forces have led the crackdown in the city. Protests spread northward as well on March 25, with demonstrations reported in the capital of Damascus, where three people were reportedly killed by security forces, the nearby town of Tel, the city of Homs, the coastal city of Latakia, the northeastern Kurdish city of Wamishli and the city of Hama, the site of the 1982 massacre against the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood (MB). The protests in these areas were relatively small, however, numbering in the hundreds. But the Syrian security apparatus appears to be struggling in its efforts to intimidate protesters into keeping off the streets. The steadily growing protests in Daraa and the spread of demonstrations to other locations increase the potential for the Syrian MB to become more heavily involved in the uprising.

The ongoing demonstrations in Syria provide an opportunity for Iran to rebuild its leverage in Damascus through offering assistance in crushing the opposition. There are growing indications that Iran is deploying Hezbollah operatives to Syria from the Lebanese village of Dayr al Asaher to assist in the crackdowns.

Meanwhile, the Syrian regime appears to be in search of distractions to its domestic crisis, pointing blame at Jordan and the United States for allegedly fueling the protests. A renewed Israeli military campaign in the Gaza Strip could also prove to be a useful distraction for the al Assad government as it resorts to more violent tactics against protesters at home. Damascus remains wary of the precedent set in Libya, where Western coalition forces have mounted a military campaign in the name of protecting protesters from an extraordinarily violent crackdown.

Yemen

A series of high-profile defections from the regime of Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh earlier in the week effectively split the country’s army and tribal landscape in two. In spite of this, the situation in Yemen was far calmer than expected March 25 after Friday prayers. The streets remain packed as Saudi-mediated negotiations continue between the various opposition factions and the Saleh government, but the opposition said it had postponed a planned march to the presidential palace until April 1.

Saleh appears to have resigned himself to the fact that he will be making an early political departure, but he remains intent on making as dignified an exit as possible. He benefits in this regard from the multitude of splits within the opposition movement, which has thus far been unable to work out the details of a post-Saleh regime. Saleh is resisting the complete dismantling of his regime, trying to protect his 22 closest relatives who dominate the security, political and business apparatuses in the country. Hamid al-Ahmar, leader of the main opposition Islah party and the Hashid tribal confederation, is meanwhile trying to position himself to take over the next government. However, he faces considerable opposition from rival Baqil tribesmen as well as many in the south, who resent the al-Ahmar family for seizing their land during the Yemeni civil war. The southerners are meanwhile counting on Yaseen Saeed Noman, the former prime minister of now-defunct South Yemen, to counterbalance the northerners.

Concerns have also been raised that Gen. Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar, commander of Yemen’s northwestern military division and 1st Armored Division who defected early in the week, is looking to assert military rule, though al-Ahmar so far claims that is not his intent. Negotiations are under way over a compromise that would reportedly lead to the resignations of Saleh and al-Ahmar as well as the creation of a transitional council representing Yemen’s various interest groups until elections can be held, but so far the talks have not led to any breakthroughs. Sorting out the details of such an arrangement through Yemen’s fractured political landscape will be an enormous challenge for Saudi mediators, especially with the Saleh family so deeply entrenched in the regime, tribal tensions simmering and the potential for more serious clashes between rival security forces looming.

Jordan

Though protests have been occurring regularly in Jordan since January, there has been a noticeable escalation of tensions in recent days between demonstrators and government supporters as well as security forces. The main reason for this is that youth protesters are trying to create a tent city of their own in downtown Amman, similar to what was seen in main squares in Cairo, Manama and Sanaa. A pro-democracy protest group originally known as the Jordanian Youth Movement has rechristened itself the “March 24 Youth” and declared March 24 that they would not leave Gamal Abdel Nasser Square, aka Interior Ministry Circle, until their demands are met. They have called for the immediate resignations of newly appointed Prime Minister Marouf al-Bakhit and General Intelligence Directorate head Lt. Gen. Muhammad al-Raqqad as well as the dissolution of parliament. Like the Al Wefaq movement in Bahrain, they are not pushing for the overthrow of the monarchy but do want significant political reforms that would weaken the power of King Abdullah II.

The Jordanian government responded with force to the attempted establishment of a permanent encampment in the square. It likely learned from the Egyptian, Bahraini and Yemeni examples that allowing a large tent city to materialize would eventually either lead to a violent episode that would only inflame the situation or would allow the protests to take on a life of their own. Roughly 400 government supporters, likely paid by Amman, attacked the 1,500-2,000 demonstrators in the square on both March 24 and March 25, throwing stones at them. Security forces allowed the clashes to go on for a while before using water cannons to disperse the groups on March 25, and authorities reportedly even clashed with the anti-government protesters themselves. According to reports, one person has been killed and more than 100 have been injured.

The role of the Islamist opposition in the Jordanian unrest remains unknown, and they do not appear to have been involved in the clashes of the past two days. Al-Bakhit accused them of responsibility for the clashes late March 25, adding that they had received help from elements living in Egypt and Syria. It is more likely, however, that the Jordanian MB’s political wing, the Islamic Action Front (IAF), is following the Egyptian MB’s example, allowing youth protest groups to take the lead in demonstrations while it moves toward negotiations on the sidelines with the regime. Thus far the IAF has resisted an invitation from the king to take part in the newly created National Dialogue Committee, however.

Jordan, like Bahrain, is a key regional ally of the United States, which is why U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates traveled to Amman on March 25 to meet with King Abdullah II. U.S. Central Command chief Gen. James Mattis was also in attendance, one day after the Bahraini crown prince held meetings of his own with the Jordanian monarch. There have been no reports as to what may have been discussed in either of these meetings, but Washington is likely trying to reassure Amman that it will stand by the regime, while simultaneously urging it to speed up the pace of reforms so as to stave off continued unrest. A reported shooting at the home of a Jordanian member of parliament March 25, which did not result in any injuries, has raised concerns that other elements are trying to dramatically escalate tensions in the country.

Saudi Arabia and Bahrain

Though Shiite demonstrators took to the streets in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province once again this Friday to call for prisoner releases and the withdrawal of Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) forces from Bahrain, the demonstrations were again relatively small in comparison to what has been seen elsewhere in the region. Demonstrators numbering in the hundreds marched in at least two villages, Rabiae and Awamiya, near the city of Qatif, and there were no reported clashes between riot police and protesters. This does not mean, however, that security is not extremely tight throughout the kingdom at the moment, particularly in Shiite areas in the east, where Saudi human rights activists allege more than 100 demonstrators have been arrested over the past week in Safwa, Qatif and al-Ahsa.

Across the causeway in Bahrain, the situation has cooled considerably since the March 16 crackdown by GCC forces. But Riyadh is still concerned about the potential for protests to re-escalate in Bahrain. A state of emergency declared March 15 has prohibited public gatherings, but Friday prayers bring people out into the streets regardless. Moreover, some online activists had called for another “Day of Rage” in the country March 25, with plans for demonstrations in nine locations. Though security forces did use tear gas on one group of protesters and one person was reportedly killed, the Day of Rage largely fizzled. Tight security was one reason: Fighter jets and police helicopters patrolled the skies on Friday as security forces erected several checkpoints on major highways to search people’s cars. But a more significant factor was the lack of support for the demonstrations by the largest Shiite opposition group, Al Wefaq. Al Wefaq’s spiritual leader, Sheikh Isa Qassim, did perform the Friday prayers March 25 in the village of Diraz, reportedly drawing more than 1,000 people. But while he reiterated the people’s determination to continue demonstrating until their demands have been met, he again declined to escalate the situation by calling for the overthrow of the regime.

While the extent of Iranian involvement in the Bahraini protests remains unknown, the al-Khalifa regime has noticeably increased its rhetoric over the past week, alleging that Tehran is directing the demonstrations. This has occurred despite the situation’s having calmed significantly since the leaders of the hard-line Shiite Coalition for a Republic, which is believed to have close links with Tehran and has advocated the total overthrow of the regime, were detained March 17. Until the al-Khalifas, as well as the Saudis, feel that there is not a threat of Iranian destabilization, they will be unlikely to call for the withdrawal of the GCC troops that are helping to provide security in Bahrain.

In Libya, a Test of Turkey’s Regional Clout

Filed under: European Union, Iran, Libya, Obama, Saudi Arabia, Shi'ite, Sunni, Turkey — - @ 4:02 pm

Source Link: Stratfor

ADEM ALTAN/AFP/Getty Images Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses the Turkish parliament on March 22

Summary

A struggle between France and Turkey over NATO control of the no-fly zone in Libya is only a part of Ankara’s broader strategy, which is to demonstrate its capability and willingness to shape geopolitical events in a changing region. Turkey seems to be enjoying U.S. support for this strategy, with Libya emerging as the first area of coordination between the two countries since unrest began in North Africa and the Middle East. The United States will no doubt need its help elsewhere.

Analysis

The United States has made it clear it will soon recede to a supporting role in the Libyan operation, and the question of who will be in charge of the no-fly zone (NFZ) has created some disagreement among coalition forces. Indeed, a struggle is now brewing between France and Turkey over NFZ command and control, with the former favoring a broader “coalition of the willing” and the latter advocating a NATO command structure.

Turkey is doing more than just trying to undermine France’s leading role in the Libyan operation. Ankara’s broader strategy is to demonstrate its own capability and willingness to shape geopolitical events in a changing region in which it has vested economic and political interests. Turkey seems to be enjoying U.S. support in this strategy, with Libya emerging as the first area of coordination between the two countries since unrest began in North Africa and the Middle East.

On March 23, Turkey offered to send four frigates, a submarine and a support ship on a NATO mission to enforce a U.N. arms embargo against Libya, which would make it the biggest contributor to the naval operation. Turkey had decided to change its tone following Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Feb. 28 comment that NATO had “nothing to do in Libya.” Turkey also had been sidelined by France at the conference in Paris on March 19 and thus had little say in approving or implementing the Libya operation. On March 24, American, British, French and Turkish foreign ministers agreed to give NATO the mandate to administer the NFZ and U.N. embargo, but the decision on whether airstrikes will be conducted under NATO command will be decided in few days.

Even before the airstrikes began, Turkey had tried to position itself as a player in Libya. Erdogan had several telephone conversations with embattled Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi and publicly called for him on March 14 to name a president. Turkish politicians repeated that Turkey would not “point a gun at the Libyan people” and accused intervening countries of pursuing “oil interests.” On March 18, a Libyan government spokesman said that Libya had asked Turkish and Maltese authorities to help implement and supervise the cease-fire that Gadhafi had announced. Then on March 23, Turkish President Abdullah Gul called for Gadhafi to step down to prevent further bloodshed and accused the European nations of pursuing ulterior motives in Libya, a rhetorical move that would help Turkey enhance its image as a leader of the Muslim world.

Turkey is emboldened, in part, by U.S. support of its growing role in Libya. Four captured journalists from The New York Times were released on March 21 following negotiations between Turkish and Libyan authorities. The next day, White House spokesman Mark Toner confirmed the Turkish-American coordination in Libya by saying that Turkey will represent U.S. diplomatic interests in Libya. Confident of U.S. backing and its ability to push its demands, Turkey announced on March 23 that it was ready to mediate between Gadhafi and opposition forces. But it is still unclear whether Turkey has that much leverage in Libya, especially when France is likely to try to block its further moves.

Cooperation between Turkey and the United States is unlikely to be limited to Libya. As North African and Middle Eastern countries deal with domestic unrest, the United States needs Turkey — an emerging power in the region — to help contain the instability that could result from government transitions in these countries. Turkey’s clout in Libya remains to be seen, but its involvement there will serve as a test of its ability to influence events in the region.

Turkey’s role is likely to be more influential in the Persian Gulf, where Ankara is becoming more involved in the struggle between Iran and Saudi Arabia over Bahrain. On March 14, Saudi forces intervened in Bahrain as part of the Gulf Cooperation Council Peninsula Shield Force. Since then, Iran and Saudi Arabia have been trying to assess each other’s capabilities and intentions, with the Saudis demanding the removal of Iranian assets from Bahrain before it withdraws its troops. Turkey, which has tried to prove that it can communicate with Iran, is attempting to facilitate dialogue between the Arabs and the Persians. This effort intensified during recent visits by Saudi and Bahraini foreign ministers to Turkey, which were followed by a March 21 phone conversation between Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and his Iranian counterpart, Ali Akbar Salehi. But Iran has reason to distrust Turkey, since the interests of the United States, Turkey and Saudi Arabia are aligned in wanting to contain Iranian influence.

Turkey and the United States will have more opportunities to cooperate in the region, particularly in Iraq on the eve of the American withdrawal. Turkey has both the ability to talk with the Iranians and the ability to balance Tehran’s influence in Iraq. And with political dynamics in flux throughout the Middle East and North Africa, the interests of Ankara and of Washington will be converging again. The question remains whether Turkey is fully capable of taking on these roles, but Libya appears to be the first step in that direction.

2011/03/24

Bahrain, Iran: Al Wefaq Hails Leader’s Support – Iranian Media

Filed under: Bahrain, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Shi'ite, Sunni — - @ 11:53 am

Source Link: Stratfor

According to a March 23 Iranian Press TV report, a member of Bahrain’s main opposition party has hailed the support of Supreme Leader of Iran Ayatollah Ali Khamenei for the popular pro-democratic uprising. Ibrahim Al Madhoun, a member of the Al Wefaq National Islamic Society, was quoted by Mehr as saying that Iran’s fundamental principles result from its Islamic belief about the importance of helping suppressed nations, regardless of their religious or tribal orientations.

2011/03/23

Candidate Obama would demand impeachment of President Obama

By: DrJohn

Barack Obama says he was all for World War II:

I don’t oppose all wars. My grandfather signed up for a war the day after Pearl Harbor was bombed, fought in Patton’s army. He fought in the name of a larger freedom, part of that arsenal of democracy that triumphed over evil.

He doesn’t oppose all wars- just dumb Bush wars:

I don’t oppose all wars. What I am opposed to is a dumb war.

And he is opposed to wars which distract us from our terrible economy:

What I am opposed to is the attempt by political hacks like Karl Rove to distract us from a rise in the uninsured, a rise in the poverty rate, a drop in the median income, to distract us from corporate scandals and a stock market that has just gone through the worst month since the Great Depression.

And he is opposed to a war in which there is no threat to the United States, because that would be a dumb war:

Now let me be clear: I suffer no illusions about Saddam Hussein. He is a brutal man. A ruthless man. A man who butchers his own people to secure his own power…. The world, and the Iraqi people, would be better off without him.

But I also know that Saddam poses no imminent and direct threat to the United States, or to his neighbors…and that in concert with the international community he can be contained until, in the way of all petty dictators, he falls away into the dustbin of history.

And we should fight with those who oppress their people- like the Saudi’s

You want a fight, President Bush? Let’s fight to make sure our so-called allies in the Middle East, the Saudis and the Egyptians, stop oppressing their own people, and suppressing dissent, and tolerating corruption and inequality, and mismanaging their economies so that their youth grow up without education, without prospects, without hope, the ready recruits of terrorist cells.

Here’s Barack Obama making sure the Saudis don’t oppress their own people.

Barack Obama has done nothing to stop the Saudis from oppressing their own people but Barack Obama said we should fight them to stop the oppression.

Both Curt and I have observed how eerily similar Obama’s actions recent actions are to those just prior to the Iraq war. Now so has Drudge:

MARCH 19, 2011
OBAMA: ‘Today we are part of a broad coalition. We are answering the calls of a threatened people. And we are acting in the interests of the United States and the world’…

MARCH 19, 2003
BUSH: ‘American and coalition forces are in the early stages of military operations to disarm Iraq, to free its people and to defend the world from grave danger’…

The actions taken by Obama represent a complete reversal of his own administration. Not long ago the establishment of a no-fly zone was called “loose talk” by Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. The Secretary of State said that the US was “a long way from making that decision.” In fact, Gates said, the establishment of a no-fly zone over Libya would constitute “an act of war.”

“A no-fly zone begins with an attack on Libya.”

Now I know for a fact that Congress has not authorized this action by the US military. I also know how someone else named Barack Obama opposed any such action:

Q: In what circumstances would the president have constitutional authority to bomb Iran without seeking a use-of-force authorization from Congress?

A: The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation. In instances of self-defense, the President would be within his constitutional authority to act before advising Congress or seeking its consent. History has shown us time and again, however, that military action is most successful when it is authorized and supported by the Legislative branch. It is always preferable to have the informed consent of Congress prior to any military action. As for the specific question about bombing suspected nuclear sites, I recently introduced S.J.Res.23, which states in part that “any offensive military action taken by the United States against Iran must be explicitly authorized by Congress.”

So Barack Obama said that Barack Obama does not have the authority to initiate the military action that Barack Obama just ordered and Barack Obama is in violation of the legislation proposed by Barack Obama.

If you really want to read the words of a miserable lying hypocrite- just read the entire article at the link. For example:

Q: Is there any executive power the Bush administration has claimed or exercised that you think is unconstitutional?

A: I reject the view that the President may do whatever he deems necessary to protect national security, and that he may torture people in defiance of congressional enactments. I reject the use of signing statements to make extreme and implausible claims of presidential authority. Some further points:

* The detention of American citizens, without access to counsel, fair procedure, or pursuant to judicial authorization, as enemy combatants is unconstitutional.
* Warrantless surveillance of American citizens, in defiance of FISA, is unlawful and unconstitutional.
* The violation of international treaties that have been ratified by the Senate, specifically the Geneva Conventions, was illegal (as the Supreme Court held) and a bad idea.
* The creation of military commissions, without congressional authorization, was unlawful (as the Supreme Court held) and a bad idea.

Barack Obama has ordered military trials to continue at Gitmo, but Barack Obama said they were unlawful.

Click Here to Read It All At Flopping Aces

2011/03/18

Friday Protests and Iranian Influence in the Persian Gulf

Filed under: Arab Nations, Bahrain, Iran, Saudi Arabia — - @ 8:48 pm

Source Link:Stratfor

March 19, 2011 | 0000 GMT

Friday Protests and Iranian Influence in the Persian Gulf
JOSEPH EID/AFP/Getty Images
Bahraini Shiite demonstrators carry the coffin of a killed fellow protester on the outskirts of Manama on March 18

March 18 was to be a test of the strength of Iran’s covert destabilization campaign in the Persian Gulf region, as it provided the first Friday prayers following the decision by Saudi Arabia to send troops into Bahrain with the blessing of the al-Khalifa regime. The Gulf Cooperation Council’s (GCC) Peninsula Shield Force entered the country March 14, representing a sharp escalation of the long-running Saudi-Iranian competition that for the past month has been primarily fixated upon the small island nation just off the coast of eastern Saudi Arabia.

Bahrain

The decision to send troops to Bahrain — and the violence that ensued shortly thereafter — led to an outpouring of displays of solidarity with the country’s majority Shiite population from Shia across the region, from Iran, to Iraq, to eastern Saudi Arabia. The decision was also met by continued demonstrations in Bahrain. But while the scenes on the streets throughout the Shiite world were far from calm March 18, there was not a significant increase in unrest across the Persian Gulf region, either.

The majority of Bahraini citizens view the presence of Saudi troops as a Sunni invasion, and while the Bahraini Shiite opposition is internally fragmented, all have condemned the presence of GCC forces, especially after the March 15-16 violence. This could not only consolidate and galvanize the fractured opposition, but also create an opportunity for Iran to use its covert assets in Bahrain to exploit public outrage and further fuel sectarian tensions. This would both place pressure on the al-Khalifa regime and increase the chances for significant unrest to spread to other Shiite areas in the Persian Gulf — most importantly in eastern Saudi Arabia.

However, the March 18 demonstrations showed an opposition movement that has lost steam for the moment. Manama’s Pearl Roundabout, the main protest site in Bahrain, has been empty since a March 16 GCC crackdown. An 8 p.m.-4 a.m. curfew remains in effect in this part of the capital, and Bahraini troops are in control of the main hospital in Manama, anticipating that it may become a new rally point. At least two demonstrations took place in the greater Manama area on March 18: one in the village of Diraz, consisting of more than 1,000 people, and a smaller one in the village of Sitra. But none were on par with the ones seen earlier in the week.

One major reason for this was the arrest of hard-line Shiite opposition leaders on the morning of March 16, a day after the Bahraini government declared a state of emergency. Two of those arrested were the Haq Movement’s Hassan Mushaima and Wafa leader Abdulwahab Hussein, who together founded the Coalition for a Republic on March 7, which advocates the overthrow of the monarchy and is seen as having close links to Tehran. Meanwhile, leaders of the mainstream Shiite opposition movement Al Wefaq were not detained. Al Wefaq political leader Sheikh Ali Salman and spiritual leader Sheikh Isa Qassim have harshly condemned the regime’s use of violence, but continue to caution their adherents not to follow suit. Importantly, Al Wefaq has continued to press its platform of eschewing violence while pushing for political reforms, but not an overthrow of the monarchy. Qassim repeated this position during his Friday prayers sermon March 18, and Al Wefaq reportedly has been sending text messages to followers along the same lines.

These actions bode well for the government’s prospects of engaging the mainstream opposition, though Al Wefaq would still face political difficulties in entering into negotiations with the government as long as Saudi forces remain in the country. Such negotiations would serve Iranian interests, though it is unclear how much influence Tehran has in Al Wefaq. The Bahraini and Saudi regimes, meanwhile, have shown no signs of being close to ordering the withdrawal of GCC forces: Bahraini Foreign Minister Sheikh Khaled bin Ahmed al-Khalifa said in a news conference March 18 that security remains the regime’s priority — meaning that the crackdowns and curfew will continue. He said more GCC forces had arrived in Bahrain to protect vital installations while leaving internal security to Bahrain-led forces.

Saudi Arabia

Saudi Shiite protesters demonstrated March 18 in the oil-rich Eastern province cities of Qatif, al-Hasa, Awamia, al-Sanabis, Saihat and Safwa, using solidarity with their Bahraini counterparts as a rallying cry. Reports of the numbers of protesters ranged from a few hundred to up to 5,000 — though several of these estimates come from Saudi Shiite media outlets.

So far, Saudi security forces have been able to put protests down without much difficulty — though live rounds have reportedly been fired — but Riyadh is taking the issue very seriously, especially as it does not feel it can count on the United States to firmly stand behind the regime should things begin to spiral out of control. In a March 18 speech on state-run television, Saudi King Abdullah announced a series of measures aimed at buying the loyalty of several elements of Saudi society. He issued several royal decrees, including promises to increase the minimum wage; hand out two months’ salary to all state, civil and military employees; hand out money to the unemployed; build 500,000 new housing units; establish an anti-corruption body directly under the king; create 60,000 new jobs in the Ministry of Interior; and give all military personnel a promotion. He also announced measures that sought to give the clergy more control over the citizenry, urged the media to show greater respect for the clerics and promised the establishment of a Higher Islamic Authority within five months, as well as new Fatwa centers throughout the country. However, he warned in the speech that security forces will “hit” whoever considers undermining the kingdom’s security and stability, showing that while he is willing to bend, he also is trying to quash dissent.

Iraq

Demonstrations also occurred in several Shiite-populated regions of Iraq March 18, but they were focused less on the Iraqi government (which, unlike those of Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, is not run by Sunnis) and more on support for the Bahraini Shia. Up to 5,000 people reportedly were in the streets in the Diyala province cities of Jadidat al-Shat, Khales and Baquba, the provincial capital, where banners proclaiming a willingness to “volunteer to defend the soil of Bahrain” were on display. In the Shiite holy city of Najaf, where thousands came onto the streets, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani ordered a day of Hawza study in solidarity with the Bahraini people. There were also protests in the southern city of Basra, as well as in Diwaniyah and Missan provinces and Baghdad, where several thousand people took to the streets in Sadr City.

Regional Implications

All these events play into a larger strategic struggle involving the United States, Iran and Saudi Arabia. Iran has significantly benefited from the spread of the unrest from Tunisia into the Persian Gulf. While Tehran still faces significant constraints in further aggravating sectarian tensions in the region — especially in U.S.-allied Bahrain and Saudi Arabia — it appears to have made some progress in reshaping the terms of the negotiations with Washington over spheres of influence in the Persian Gulf region. The United States has taken a public position in recent days that both condemns the use of force by Saudi Arabia in Bahrain and calls for accommodation between the Bahraini Sunni royals and the Bahraini Shia.

The United States shares strategic concerns with Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the other GCC states over the potential for Iran to shift the balance of power in eastern Arabia toward the Shia, but it also is severely militarily overstretched and does not wish to risk derailing its planned withdrawal from Iraq by falling into a confrontation with Iran. In a strategic sense, this represents a convergence of interests for Washington and Tehran: The United States needs to free up its military forces from Iraq, and Iran needs the United States to leave Iraq so it can secure its western flank by filling the resultant power vacuum.

Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, faces a much more immediate issue. Bahrain is a red line for Riyadh because ongoing Shiite unrest there threatens its Eastern province. Bahrain is close enough to Saudi Arabia for the Saudis to project military force with relatively little effort, allowing Riyadh to demonstrate a show of force to counter Tehran, but it fears that Washington would not fully support it if it were to use excessive levels of force to put down unrest at home, as it has already faced criticism for its actions in Bahrain. The Saudis see the United States slowly moving toward an accommodation with Iran and view it as a direct threat to their security.

This dynamic has been a source of much tension between the Saudis and the Americans in recent days — likely what Iran was hoping for. For Iran to compel the United States and/or Saudi Arabia to come to Tehran seeking an understanding — which Iran will want on its own terms — it needs to show it has the ability to foment unrest in the Persian Gulf using its Shiite proxies. However, the relatively mild March 18 protests show the constraints to Iran’s capabilities.

2011/03/17

Iran Contemplates Its Next Move

Filed under: Bahrain, Iran, National Security, Protests, Saudi Arabia, Shi'ite, Sunni — - @ 9:34 am

Source Link: Stratfor

On a day when there was no shortage of significant geopolitical events from Libya to Japan to Bahrain, STRATFOR continued to forecast the importance of Iran’s historic opportunity to remake the balance of power in the Persian Gulf region.

As daylight broke in Bahrain on Wednesday morning, Bahraini security forces, reinforced by the Saudi-led Gulf Cooperation Council Joint Peninsula Shield Force mission, cleared protesters from Manama’s Pearl Square. Forces used the usual volleys of tear gas on the crowds, but this time they also used live ammunition, leaving at least four demonstrators dead as black smoke hovered over the tent city at the square, which had gone up in flames. The crackdown included the Bahrain Financial Harbor and the Salmaniya Hospital, and also left two Bahraini security force members dead. By 4 p.m., when a curfew went into effect, Wednesday was the most violent day since the uprising in this small island nation began in mid-February.

The fact that Saudi troops were involved only added to the anger felt by all sectors of the opposition. While the al-Khalifa (the Sunni minority) regime may have indeed requested the help, the protesters (predominately composed of Bahrain’s Shiite majority) did not, and view this as a foreign invasion. From the hard-line Shiite Coalition for a Republic, to the more moderate, Shiite mainstream opposition coalition led by Al Wefaq, the opposition was unified in condemnation of the security force methods. If ever there was an opportunity for the two Shiite camps in Bahrain to patch things up, this was it. But it became clear that a split remained when an Al Wefaq official released a statement that attempted to disassociate the movement from the demonstrations by denying it had called for further protests, and then urged its followers to stay home for their safety.

The major driver behind the GCC deployment was to counter Iran’s rising influence in the Persian Gulf. Tehran sees an opportunity to build on its successes in Iraq and shift the balance of power in eastern Arabia to favor the Shia. Iran’s best-case scenario in Bahrain is for the complete overthrow of the Sunni monarchy, and it’s focused primarily on that possibility. But that is not to say Iranians are not meddling elsewhere at the same time.

Saudi Arabia’s Shiite-dominated Eastern province is right across the causeway from Bahrain. The Eastern province also happens to be where the bulk of the Saudi kingdom’s oil fields are located, adding even more significance to the fact that there is a simmering protest movement there. It hasn’t led to much so far; last Friday’s “Day of Rage” was a rather modest affair compared to some of the other Friday prayer protests we’ve seen in the Arab world in recent months. But it has the Saudi regime on edge nonetheless, and no doubt played a factor in Riyadh’s decision to send troops to Bahrain.?

Iran does not have as much room to maneuver operationally in Saudi Arabia as it does in Bahrain, but that doesn’t mean Tehran hasn’t been trying. Indeed, one of the big reasons that Bahrain is such a critical proxy battleground is because of the potential for contagion to spread to the Arabian Peninsula should a revolution occur there. A few hundred protesters marching in Qatif and al-Hasa, the Saudis fear, could quickly transform into a few thousand. That is a scenario that the Saudi royals want to avoid at all costs, and so are resorting to extraordinary measures to clamp down in Bahrain, where key Shiite opposition figures (some of whom are known for their close ties to Tehran) are reportedly being arrested.

Iranians are much more comfortable in Iraq. Babylon is Persia’s true historic rival, and the competition between these two states long predates the emergence of Islam. The 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq War was the most recent engagement between the two, and drove home (once again) in Tehran just how large a strategic threat Iraq is for Iran. As a result, the Iranians spent years trying to build up their contacts among the Iraqi Shia, who were living under the rule of Saddam Hussein. Developing political, business, religious and militant links with the Iraqi majority was all part of an Iranian strategy that was built around waiting to seize the opportunity to rid Iraq of Sunni domination and establish a Shiite stronghold in the heart of the Arab world. That opportunity presented itself in 2003, when the United States toppled Saddam. Eight years later, and the Iranians are ready and waiting to fill a vacuum left by the United States once it completes its scheduled withdrawal by summer’s end.

With a need to sustain the momentum that it has built in the Bahrain conflict, which was branded in part as an instance of U.S. interference, Iran is looking for other proxy battlegrounds to raise Shiite ire. Iraq is one arena in the Persian Gulf region where Iran has considerable room to maneuver. On Wednesday, for example, an estimated 2,000 followers of Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr held demonstrations in Basra and Baghdad in solidarity with the Bahraini Shia, who were seen as being attacked by “Wahabis,” as they view them, from Iran’s key rival, Saudi Arabia.

But there is still a cost-benefit analysis that Iran would have to make in deciding to meddle in Iraq on a significant level. The United States is not oriented to maintain a sufficient blocking force against Iran, and does not have the force structure in the region to effectively counter-balance the Iranians at a time when the Sunni Arab regimes are feeling under siege. The more threatening the Iranians make themselves out to be, particularly in Iraq, the more likely the United States is to reconsider its withdrawal plans and focus more heavily on militarily blocking Iran from further upsetting the regional balance of power. Tehran is thus left juggling between not doing enough (and therefore not sending the intended message to Washington and Riyadh that it is a powerful force in the region), and doing too much (which would risk forcing the Americans to stay in Iraq for longer than it had planned).

2011/03/16

Various Articles Concerning the Unrest in Bahrain

Bahrain: Defense Force Issues Statement On Crackdown

March 16, 2011

The Bahraini national guard and Public Security Force initiated an operation to clear “outlaws” from several public areas in Manama, the General Command of the Bahrain Defense Force said March 16, BNA reported. The operation targeted protesters in the Bahrain Financial Harbour, the Salmaniya Medical Complex and surrounding areas, and the Gulf Cooperation Council Roundabout. The roundabout has previously been referred to as Pearl Square, or Martyr’s Square by the protesters.

Iran: President Comments On Situation In Bahrain

March 16, 2011

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said he could not understand how a government that would use weapons against its own people would want to govern them, Ahram Online reported March 16, citing Iranian state media. The statement is in reference to the ongoing political unrest in Bahrain.

Lebanon: Hezbollah Denounces Military Intervention In Bahrain

March 16, 2011

Military intervention and the use of force against a peaceful popular movement will not lead to a solution in Bahrain, according to a March 16 statement from Hezbollah, Ahram Online reported.

Kuwait: Shiite Lawmakers Denounce GCC Troop Deployment To Bahrain

March 16, 2011

Shiite lawmakers in Kuwait strongly criticized the Gulf Cooperation Council’s (GCC) decision to deploy troops to help quell the protests in Bahrain, Ahram Online reported March 16. One lawmaker threatened to question Kuwaiti Prime Minister Sheikh Nasser Muhammad al-Ahmad al-Sabah if he deployed troops to Bahrain.

Iran: Parliament To Investigate Bahrain Killings

March 16, 2011

The Iranian parliament will launch an investigation into the suppression of anti-government protesters in Bahrain, Press TV reported March 16. During a closed-door meeting, Iranian lawmakers expressed concern over the killing of Bahraini protesters and the deployment of Saudi and UAE forces, according to a spokesman for the parliament’s presiding board.

Bahrain: Al Wefaq Deputy Head Says Movement Now Has 3 Martyrs

March 16, 2011

Khalil Marzouk, deputy head of the al Wefaq movement and a member of parliament, said the movement now has three martyrs, referring to the three protesters that Bahraini police killed in the capital’s Pearl Square, AFP reported March 16. Marzouk said the police were barring access to many hospitals in the capital, both public and private. He said most of the villages around Manama are surrounded.

12 Shariah Judges Resign Over Use Of Force

March 16, 2011

Twelve Shariah court judges in Bahrain resigned from their posts March 16 in response to police attacks against demonstrators at Manama’s Pearl Square, Al-Wasat reported. Given the excessive use of force against unarmed citizens, the judges of will resign from the judicial council in al-Jaferia region, according to a statement released by the judges.

Iraq: Al-Sadr Supporters Rally In Support Of Bahraini People

March 16, 2011

Supporters of Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr demonstrated March 16 in various parts of Iraq in support of Bahraini Shiite protesters, Middle East Online reported. About 2,000 gathered in Sadr City in eastern Baghdad carrying Bahraini and Iraqi flags and banners reading, “Bahrain is free, free, oppressor, get out.” Two hundred demonstrators from the al-Sadr Trend marched in An Najaf, south of Baghdad, condemning violence against unarmed Bahrainis. About 500 al-Sadr supporters marched from the Tamimiya area of Basra carrying Iraqi flags and pictures of al-Sadr and his father. Tens of protesters rallied in Ad Diwaniyah, near An Najaf, in support of the Bahraini people, Alsumaria reported.

Iraq: Grand Ayatollah, PM Condemn Events In Bahrain

March 16, 2011

Iraqi Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani on March 16 urged Bahrain’s government to stop the use of violence against unarmed protesters and expressed concern about government measures, Al-Iraqiya TV reported. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki also voiced concern over events in the country and the foreign intervention there, saying the presence of foreign forces will complicate the regional situation rather than resolve it.

Saudi Arabia: King Speaks With Obama Over Phone

March 16, 2011

Saudi King Abdullah received a telephone call March 16 from U.S. President Barack Obama, SPA reported March 16. The leaders discussed bilateral relations and developments in the Middle East, including the situation in Bahrain.

Kuwait: Bahraini Leaders Trustworthy, Dialogue Necessary – Al-Kharafi

March 16, 2011

Kuwaiti National Assembly Speaker Jassem al-Kharafi said March 16 that Bahraini leaders are worthy of trust and that dialogue between the the two parties is necessary in order to end the current turmoil in the country, KUNA reported.

Lebanon: 2,000 Demonstrate In Support Of Bahraini Protesters

March 16, 2011

Approximately 2,000 mostly Shiite protesters gathered March 16 in central Beirut in support of protests by Bahrain’s Shiite majority, Reuters reported. Protesters waved Lebanese and Bahraini flags and carried banners of Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah, which orchestrated the demonstration, as they chanted slogans for sweeping change in the Middle East. A Hezbollah lawmaker who was allegedly jailed in Bahrain for 18 years said Bahrainis were both civilized and peaceful in demanding their rights. Both Sunni and Shiite religious figures attended the rally.

Bahrain: 7 Shura Council Members Resign – Opposition

March 16, 2011

A parliamentarian from Bahrain’s opposition group Al Wefaq said there are divisions within the ruling authority of Bahrain, Iranian Al Alam TV reported March 16. Seven members of the Shura council who were appointed by King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa resigned March 16 to dispute the suppression of the protesters and protest the intervention of foreign forces in internal affairs.

U.S.: Bahrain, Allies On ‘Wrong Track’ – Clinton

March 16, 2011

Bahrain and four Gulf Cooperation Council countries that sent troops to put down anti-government protests in Bahrain are “on the wrong track,” U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in a CBS interview March 16, Reuters reported. Calling events in Bahrain “alarming,” Clinton said there was no security solution to the people’s demands. Bahrain must negotiate a political agreement, Clinton said.

Bahrain: Regional Officials Discuss Saudi, UAE Intervention

March 16, 2011

Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi on March 16 spoke with his counterparts in Iraq and Syria and with Kuwait’s deputy prime minister after UAE and Saudi forces entered Bahrain to put down protests, Mehr reported. The officials discussed the importance of international consultations to prevent a humanitarian crisis in Bahrain and exchanged views on the foreign intervention and its consequences. Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem soon will visit Tehran.

Bahrain: Jordan Supports GCC Deployment

March 16, 2011

Jordan supports the decision to send Saudi and Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) forces to Bahrain, Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh said March 16 in a statement carried by Petra news agency, DPA reported. Jordan fully supports “all sovereign decisions” by GCC member states, particularly those intended to safeguard stability and security, Judeh said. Jordan considers the undermining of Bahrain’s stability and security, or that of any other GCC state, as a redline, Judeh added.

Iraq: Shiite Leaders Comment On Situation In Bahrain

Filed under: Bahrain, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Shi'ite, Sunni — - @ 11:11 am

Source Link:Stratfor

Basheer al-Najafi, one of Iraq’s top Shiite authorities, said the Shia of Iraq condemn the suppression of Bahraini protesters, Ahram Online reported March 16. Al-Najafi also denounced foreign security forces’ use of violence against peaceful protesters. Meanwhile, around 2,000 supporters of Iraqi Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr staged a demonstration in central Basra in solidairty with the protesters. Sadr al-Deen al-Qubbanchi, another Shiite cleric in Najaf, characterized the Bahrain protests not as a Shiite uprising but rather a popular movement. Al-Qubbanchi also condemned the military intervention against the protesters, saying it a ploy to help a weak regime, not an attempt to help the people.

Saudi Troops Fire On Bahraini Protesters

Filed under: Bahrain, Iran, National Security, Obama, Protests, Saudi Arabia — - @ 10:25 am

Source Link: Stratfor

Saudi Troops Fire On Bahraini Protesters
JAMES LAWLER DUGGAN/AFP/Getty Images
Bahraini anti-government protesters in Manama on March 14

Saudi troops in Bahrain opened fire on Bahraini demonstrators in Manama’s Pearl Square on March 16, several media outlets reported. According to Iran’s Al-Alam Television, Shiite mosques in Bahrain are urging people to commence a jihad. In addition, the Iranian station reported that Saudi and Bahraini forces fired at hospitals to prevent injured people from getting treatment.

The report of firing is significant in itself. The manner in which Iranian television is portraying the matter, whether true or not, is even more significant. In claiming both that Saudi troops are firing on hospitals and that the clergy have called for jihad, the Iranians are staking out a position designed to maximize the injustice of the Saudi intervention, to maximize Bahraini resistance and to turn the crisis from a political issue into a religious one.

If this becomes a general theme in Iranian media, it means Iran is establishing a framework in which the Saudis become an almost irreconcilable enemy and Bahrain a battleground in a religious conflict. Given Iran’s position, it becomes impossible for Tehran to remain neutral and not provide significant aid to the Bahraini Shiites. The degree and type of aid is uncertain, but obviously it commits the Iranians to some action and lays the justification for a more general confrontation between Saudi Arabia and Iran. Justification is not action, but actions of this sort require justification.

The Saudis are clearly attempting to crush resistance quickly with the use of direct force. The Iranians are attempting to rally the Bahrainis. However, framed as jihad, it raises the possibility of the conflict not only escalating in Bahrain but of Sunni-Shiite conflict emerging and intensifying elsewhere. There have been reports of some clashes in Iraq, which is clearly the primary battleground.

The theory STRATFOR has worked from has been that the uprising in Bahrain, whatever its origins, is going to be used by Iran in order to generally enhance its position in the Persian Gulf. Bahrain was a starting point in a broader strategy. Obviously, the longer the Bahrainis resist, the more effective the strategy. The Saudis have acted to crush the Bahraini rising. The Iranians have countered by setting the stage for intensification.

The question now is whether the Saudi attacks intimidate the demonstrators or cause them to become more aggressive.

2011/03/14

Iranian Covert Activity in Bahrain

Filed under: Bahrain, Iran, National Security, Saudi Arabia, Shi'ite, Sunni — - @ 6:48 pm

Source Link: Stratfor
Iranian Covert Activity in Bahrain
JAMES LAWLER DUGGAN/AFP/Getty Images
Roadblocks set up in Manama on March 13

Summary

Iran has long cultivated a covert strategy in the Persian Gulf states, particularly in Bahrain, that has helped advance the recent Shiite unrest. However, the March 14 Saudi-led offensive in Bahrain may present a roadblock to Iran’s covert strategy, forcing Tehran to reconsider its next moves.

Analysis

Thus far, the Iranians have relied on their strengths in the covert arena to pursue their agenda in Bahrain and the wider Persian Gulf region. This is a space that Iran feels comfortable operating in, as it is a relatively low-risk and potentially high-reward method of realizing its strategic objectives. For Bahrain specifically, Iran has relied on its political, business and militant links to block negotiations between the Shiite opposition and the royal Sunni al-Khalifa family, escalate the protests, and instigate sectarian clashes to transform Bahraini political unrest to a charged sectarian affair that could potentially reshape the balance of power in eastern Arabia in favor of the Shia.

The Iranians have spent years building up relationships with Shiite communities in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states and have infiltrated trained operatives in Shiite opposition groups to help drive the uprising. In Bahrain specifically, Iran appears to have a number of key assets in play:

  • Hassan Mushaima of the hard-line Haq movement, believed to be in close contact with the Iranian regime, has played a lead role in escalating the protests and provoking clashes between Sunni security forces and Shia in an effort to brand the conflict in Bahrain as a purely sectarian affair.
  • According to a STRATFOR source, Iranian cleric Hojjat ol-Eslam Hadi al-Madrasi, head of the Islamic Front for the Liberation of Bahrain, has also been blocking negotiations between the opposition and the government, putting moderate Shia on the defensive by stoking sectarian tensions and demanding no less than the overthrow of the Sunni monarchy. Notably, the Islamic Front for the Liberation of Bahrain was behind a 1981 Iranian-backed coup attempt against the Bahraini leadership.
  • Mohammad Taqi al-Madrasi, an Iraqi from Karbala who is now living in Bahrain and whose family has close ties to Tehran, is organizing logistics for the Bahraini protest movement — selecting protest sites; distributing funds, supplies and food; and recruiting protesters to come out into the streets — in coordination with the Iranians, according to a STRATFOR source.

A number of operatives trained in Iran and Lebanon in urban warfare are believed to be mixed in with the various Shiite opposition groups, both in the moderate Al Wefaq and the hard-line Coalition for a Republic, composed of the Haq movement, the Wafa movement and the lesser-known, London-based Bahrain Islamic Freedom Movement. According to a STRATFOR source, Bahraini Hezbollah, established in 1985 with the help of Hadi al-Madrasi, has been the premier underground militant organization in Bahrain, operating in coordination with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ (IRGC) Quds Force. Hadi al-Madrasi has allegedly spent the past several years arming and supplying Bahraini Hezbollah through weapons purchases from Iraq. A STRATFOR source claims several IRGC operatives have also deployed on the Arab side of the Persian Gulf under the guise of laborers.

The Iranians have experience in supporting proxies like Hezbollah at much greater distances than Bahrain and could increase supplies of arms, materiel, training and other means of support to the hard-line Shiite opposition in Bahrain concealed in the day-to-day flow of commerce and civilian travel. However, the GCC states are cracking down on Shiite movements in Bahrain and are trying to restrict Iran’s access to the country. This would be difficult to sustain indefinitely, but it could reduce Iran’s options and influence in the short term.

Now that the GCC states, led by Saudi Arabia, are making a direct military intervention on behalf of the Bahraini royal family, the Iranian covert action strategy for Bahrain is hitting a roadblock. Iran has a number of dedicated and trained operatives that might be willing to incur casualties in confrontations with Bahrain’s reinforced security presence, but the majority of the Shiite opposition in Bahrain is unlikely to undergo great risk unless it has the assurance of an outside backer. The Iranians are now confronted with a number of unattractive options in their efforts to both sustain the momentum of Shiite unrest in eastern Arabia while also avoiding becoming entangled in much riskier overt options. In the case of Bahrain, Iran does not appear to be limited in covert assets, but has a broader strategic dilemma to consider in determining its next moves.

2011/03/13

Iran and the Saudis’ Countermove on Bahrain

Filed under: Bahrain, Iran, National Security, Saudi Arabia, Shi'ite, Sunni — - @ 12:55 pm

Source Link: Stratfor
The Saudis' Countermove and Iran
AFP/Getty Images
Bahraini police fire tear gas at protesters in Manama on March 13

Written By George Friedman

Saudi Arabia is leading a coalition force into Bahrain to help the government calm the unrest there. This move puts Iran in a difficult position, as Tehran had hoped to use the uprising in Bahrain to promote instability in the Persian Gulf region. Iran could refrain from acting and lose an opportunity to destabilize the region, or it could choose from several other options that do not seem particularly effective.

The Bahrain uprising consists of two parts, as all revolutions do. The first is genuine grievances by the majority Shiite population — the local issues and divisions. The second is the interests of foreign powers in Bahrain. It is not one or the other. It is both.

The Iranians clearly benefit from an uprising in Bahrain. It places the U.S. 5th Fleet’s basing in jeopardy, puts the United States in a difficult position and threatens the stability of other Persian Gulf Arab states. For the Iranians, pursuing a long-standing interest (going back to the Shah and beyond) of dominating the Gulf, the uprisings in North Africa and their spread to the Arabian Peninsula represent a golden opportunity.

The Iranians are accustomed to being able to use their covert capabilities to shape the political realities in countries. They did this effectively in Iraq and are doing it in Afghanistan. They regarded this as low risk and high reward. The Saudis, recognizing that this posed a fundamental risk to their regime and consulting with the Americans, have led a coalition force into Bahrain to halt the uprising and save the regime. Pressed by covert forces, they were forced into an overt action they were clearly reluctant to take.

We are now off the map, so to speak. The question is how the Iranians respond, and there is every reason to think that they do not know. They probably did not expect a direct military move by the Saudis, given that the Saudis prefer to act more quietly themselves. The Iranians wanted to destabilize without triggering a strong response, but they were sufficiently successful in using local issues that the Saudis felt they had no choice in the matter. It is Iran’s move.

Special Report: Iran and the Saudis' Countermove on Bahrain

If Iran simply does nothing, then the wave that has been moving in its favor might be stopped and reversed. They could lose a historic opportunity. At the same time, the door remains open in Iraq, and that is the main prize here. They might simply accept the reversal and pursue their main line. But even there things are murky. There are rumors in Washington that U.S. President Barack Obama has decided to slow down, halt or even reverse the withdrawal from Iraq. Rumors are merely rumors, but these make sense. Completing the withdrawal now would tilt the balance in Iraq to Iran, a strategic disaster.

Therefore, the Iranians are facing a counter-offensive that threatens the project they have been pursuing for years just when it appeared to be coming to fruition. Of course, it is just before a project succeeds that opposition mobilizes, so they should not be surprised that resistance has grown so strong. But surprised or not, they now have a strategic decision to make and not very long to make it.

They can up the ante by increasing resistance in Bahrain and forcing fighting on the ground. It is not clear that the Bahraini opposition is prepared to take that risk on behalf of Iran, but it is a potential option. They have the option of trying to increase unrest elsewhere in order to spread the Saudi and Gulf Cooperation Council forces, weakening their impact. It is not clear how much leverage the Iranians have in other countries. The Iranians could try to create problems in Saudi Arabia, but given the Saudis’ actions in Bahrain, this becomes more difficult.

Finally, they can attempt an overt intervention, either in Bahrain or elsewhere, such as Iraq or Afghanistan. A naval movement against Bahrain is not impossible, but if the U.S. Navy intervenes, which it likely would, it would be a disaster for the Iranians. Operations in Iraq or Afghanistan might be more fruitful. It is possible that Shiite insurgents will operate in Iraq, but that would guarantee a halt of the U.S. withdrawal without clearly increasing the Iranians’ advantage there. They want U.S. forces to leave, not give them a reason to stay.

There is then the indirect option, which is to trigger a war with Israel. The killings on the West Bank and Israeli concerns about Hezbollah might be some of Iran’s doing, with the emphasis on “might.” But it is not clear how a Hezbollah confrontation with Israel would help Iran’s position relative to Saudi Arabia in the Persian Gulf. It diverts attention, but the Saudis know the stakes and they will not be easily diverted.

The logic, therefore, is that Iran retreats and waits. But the Saudi move shifts the flow of events, and time is not on Iran’s side.

There is also the domestic Iranian political situation to consider. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has been strong in part because of his successful handling of foreign policy. The massive failure of a destabilization plan would give his political opponents the ammunition needed to weaken him domestically. We do not mean a democratic revolution in Iran, but his enemies among the clergy who see him as a threat to their position, and hard-liners in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps who want an even more aggressive stand.

Ahmadinejad finds himself in a difficult position. The Saudis have moved decisively. If he does nothing, his position can unravel and with it his domestic political position. Yet none of the counters he might use seem effective or workable. In the end, his best option is to create a crisis in Iraq, forcing the United States to consider how deeply it wants to be drawn back into Iraq. He might find weakness there that he can translate into some sort of political deal.

At the moment we suspect the Iranians do not know how they will respond. The first issue will have to be determining whether they can create violent resistance to the Saudis in Bahrain, to both tie them down and increase the cost of occupation. It is simply unclear whether the Bahrainis are prepared to pay the price. They do seem to want fundamental change in Bahrain, but it is not clear that they have reached the point where they are prepared to resist and die en masse.

That is undoubtedly what the Iranians are exploring now. If they find that this is not an option, then none of their other options are particularly good. All of them involve risk and difficulty. It also requires that Iran commit itself to confrontations that it has tried to avoid. It prefers cover action that is deniable to overt action that is not.

As we move into the evening, we expect the Iranians are in intense discussions of their next move. Domestic politics are affecting regional strategy, as would be the case in any country. But the clear roadmap the Iranians were working from has now collapsed. The Saudis have called their hand, and they are trying to find out if they have a real or a busted flush. They will have to act quickly before the Saudi action simply becomes a solid reality. But it is not clear what they can do quickly. For the moment, the Saudis have the upper hand. But the Iranians are clever and tenacious. There are no predictions possible. We doubt even the Iranians know what they will do.

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