Showing posts with label Saudi Arabia. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Saudi Arabia. Show all posts

October 1, 2016

How The Saudis Can Hit back on 9/11 Suit legislation and They Will




 

Saudi Arabia and its allies are warning that US legislation allowing the kingdom to be sued for the 9/11 attacks will have negative repercussions.

The kingdom maintains an arsenal of tools to retaliate with, including curtailing official contacts, pulling billions of dollars from the US economy, and persuading its close allies in the Gulf Cooperation Council to scale back counterterrorism cooperation, investments and US access to important regional air bases.

"This should be clear to America and to the rest of the world: When one GCC state is targeted unfairly, the others stand around it," said Abdulkhaleq Abdullah, an Emirati Gulf specialist and professor of political science at United Arab Emirates University.

"All the states will stand by Saudi Arabia in every way possible," he said.

When Sweden's Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom strongly criticized Saudi Arabia last year, the kingdom unleashed a fierce diplomatic salvo that jolted Stockholm's standing in the Arab world and threatened Swedish business interests in the Gulf. Sweden eventually backpedaled.

On Wednesday, the bill became a law after the Senate voted to override President Barack Obama's veto of the Sept. 11 legislation.

Chas Freeman, former US assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs and ambassador to Saudi Arabia during operation Desert Storm, said the Saudis could respond to this bill in ways that risk US strategic interests, like permissive rules for overflight between Europe and Asia and the Qatari air base from which US military operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria are directed and supported.

"The souring of relations and curtailing of official contacts that this legislation would inevitably produce could also jeopardize Saudi cooperation against anti-American terrorism," he said.

Still, relations with Washington had already cooled well before the 9/11 bill sailed through both chambers of Congress.

The Saudis perceived the Obama Administration's securing of a nuclear deal with Iran as a pivot toward its regional nemesis. There was also Obama's criticism of Gulf countries in an interview earlier this year, despite their support for the US-led fight against the ISIS group in Iraq and Syria.

Obama had vetoed the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act, or JASTA, arguing that allowing US courts to waive foreign sovereign immunity could lead other foreign governments to act "reciprocally" by giving their courts the right to exercise jurisdiction over the US and its employees for overseas actions. These could include deadly US drone strikes and abuses committed by US-trained police units or US-backed militias.

Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir told reporters in June that the US has the most to lose if JASTA is enacted. Despite reports that Riyadh threatened to pull billions of dollars from the US economy if the bill becomes law, al-Jubeir says Saudi Arabia has only warned that investor confidence in the US could decline.

Joseph Gagnon, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, said estimates put the figure of official Saudi assets in the government at somewhere between $500 billion and $1 trillion when considering potential foreign bank deposits and offshore accounts.

The kingdom had $96.5 billion in holdings of Treasury securities in August, according to the most recent number released by the Treasury Department. Saudi Arabia ranked 15th in its holdings of US Treasury debt.

The US-Saudi Business Council's CEO and Chairman Ed Burton says business between the two countries will continue, though potential deals could be jeopardized by JASTA.

"No business community likes to see their sovereign nation basically assailed by another nation," Burton said.

As one of the world's largest oil exporters with the biggest economy in the Gulf, Saudi Arabia also has other business partners to choose from in Europe and Asia, said President and CEO of the National U.S.-Arab Chamber of Commerce David Hamod.

"America is no longer the only game in town," he said. "No one knows how Saudi Arabia might respond to an override of President Obama's veto?"

The CEOs of DOW and GE sent letters to Congress warning of the bill's potentially destabilizing impact on American interests abroad. Defense Secretary Ash Carter this week sent a letter to Congress saying "important counterterrorism efforts abroad" could be harmed and US foreign bases and facilities could be vulnerable to monetary damage awards in reciprocal cases.

Such reactions may not come directly from Riyadh but countries connected to Saudi Arabia, said Stephen Kinzer, a senior fellow at the Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs at Brown University.

He said the eight-decade-long US-Saudi relationship is "entering into a new phase," in which ties will be mostly underpinned by arms sales, unlike during the era of warm relations under President George W. Bush.

Abdullah, the Gulf analyst at UAE University, said he expects to see a GCC that acts more assertively and independently of the US in places like Yemen, Bahrain and Egypt.

"This is not just a threat. This is a reality,” he said.

The Associated Press, Dubai

September 24, 2016

News We Never Thought We Hear: ‘Saudi Middle Class Has to Tighten Their Belts'




 




 Mohammed Idrees used to travel to London once or twice a year, but these days the Saudi civil servant is asking his wife and children to cut back on using the family car to save fuel and has installed a solar panel for the kitchen to reduce electricity costs.

For decades, Saudi nationals such as Mr. Idrees enjoyed a cozy lifestyle in the desert kingdom as its rulers spent hundreds of billions of dollars of its oil revenue to subsidize essentials such as fuel, water and electricity.

But a sharp drop in the price of oil, Saudi Arabia’s main revenue source, has forced the government to withdraw some benefits this year—raising the cost of living in the kingdom and hurting its middle class, a part of society long insulated from such problems.

Saudi Arabia heads into next week’s meeting of major oil producers in a tight spot. With a slowing economy and shrinking foreign reserves, the kingdom is coming under pressure to take steps that support the price of oil, as it did this month with an accord it struck with Russia.

The sharp price drop is mainly because of a glut in the market, in part caused by Saudi Arabia itself. The world’s top oil producer continues to pump crude at record levels to defend its market share.

One option to lift prices that could work, some analysts say, is to freeze output at a certain level and exempt Iran from such a deal, given that its push to increase production to pre-sanction levels appears to have stalled in recent months. Saudi Arabia has previously refused to sign any deal that exempts arch-rival Iran.

As its people start feeling the pain, that could change.

The kingdom is grappling with major job losses among its construction workers—many from poorer countries—as some previously state-backed construction companies suffer from drying up government funding.

Those spending cuts are now hitting the Saudi working middle class.

Saudi consumers in major cities, the majority of them employed by the government, have become more conscious about their spending in recent months, said Areej al-Aqel from Sown Advisory, which provides financial-planning services for middle-class individuals and families. That means cutting back on a popular activity for most middle-class Saudis: dining out.

“Most people are ordering less food or they change their orders to more affordable options,” she said.


To boost state finances, Saudi Arabia cut fuel, electricity and water subsidies in December, after posting a record budget deficit last year. It also plans to cut the amount of money it spends on public wages and raise more non-oil revenue by introducing taxes.

But in response to these moves, inflation more than doubled from last year to about 4% now, crimping consumers even more.
Analysis: Is OPEC All Talk?

The government doesn’t have much choice. Saudi Arabia’s real growth in gross domestic product slowed to 1.5% in the first quarter from the year-earlier period, according to its statistics office, and Capital Economics says data suggest it may have contracted by more than 2% in the second quarter. Much of that slowdown is related to consumer-facing sectors, which have struggled since the start of 2016 as rising inflation has eroded household incomes.

The political stakes for managing this slowdown are high. Saudi Arabia survived the Arab Spring unrest that toppled several autocratic leaders across the region and forced some others to change, largely by offering cash handouts and more government jobs to placate its people. About two thirds of Saudi workers are employed by government related entities.

Besides cushy jobs, such middle-class Saudis also received substantial overtime payments and regular bonuses. At the time of his ascension to the throne early last year, King Salman ordered a hefty bonus payment to government employees.

Such largess is looking like a thing of the past.

Besides cutting state handouts such as subsidized electricity and water, the government also plans to reduce money it spends on public wages to 40% of the budget by 2020 from 45% as part of its ambitious plan to transform the oil-dependent economy. It aims to cut one-fifth of its civil service as well.

Saudis are beginning to speak out about a sense of anxiety about the economy. “I think we are going through a difficult period,” said Emad al-Majed, a Riyadh-based pharmacy technician. “There will be suffering.”

Mr. Majed, who has two children, took a bank loan to purchase an apartment last year, a decision he said made him reconsider his spending habits.

“If you are used to a certain level of spending, how can you be told to limit your expenses and cancel some stuff?” he asked. “It is a good idea, but in practice it will be difficult for so many people.”

Saudi nationals are reluctant to gripe about rising costs, but there is clear discontent, some analysts say. In a region engulfed in political and sectarian strife, Saudi Arabia can ill-afford similar turmoil.

“Discontent so far has been mildly expressed,” said Robin Mills, chief executive at Qamar Energy, a Dubai-based consulting firm. “If the slowdown continues and starts affecting local jobs, that could change.”

For the kingdom’s fiscal position to improve significantly, analysts say oil prices would need to rise to $70 a barrel, up from about $46 now.

Saudi Arabia and the other large producers failed to reach a production-freeze deal in April, but its people are now increasingly jittery over their future. That has made people like Mr. Idrees, the civil servant, more cautious about spending because he sees people like him bearing the brunt of efforts to offset slipping oil revenue.

“I have become more diligent about spending because my view of the future is pessimistic,” he said. “There is a lot of talk about diversifying the economy, but the focus seems to be solely on increasing taxes.”





December 3, 2015

Saudi Arabia Denies it Executed Horse for having Gay Sex (Lashes,castration and death for humans)


                                                                                
A horse and something else
 The stallion – which apparently was valued at £8 million – was allegedly seen engaging in intercourse with another male animal twice before being “rapidly taken away and isolated” by police.

It was further claimed that the horse’s death warrant had been endorsed by the Committee for the Propagation of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice – and that an official signed the document in front of television cameras. 
The report alleged: “This was meant to send a clear message that homosexuality, under any form, would not be tolerated in the kingdom.”

It sparked an immediate outpouring of support from animal lovers in the US and France who offered to buy the horse. 
The incident sparked an immediate outpouring of support from animal lovers across the globe

But officials reportedly denied the story, which emerged on what appeared to be a spoof website.

The original article quoted a so-called official who apparently said: “We have to protect the kingdom from this infection by every possible means at our disposition, and this also means protecting our animals.

“We will make any sacrifice necessary to protect the purity of the holy land.”
 Saudi Arabian Twitter users were furious at the claims, with one writing: “This is a far-fetched claim that cannot go far.”

Another said of the allegations: “They are so ridiculously futile, so absurdly frivolous that they should not be dignified with a comment. Even if they are meant as a joke, it is in bad taste.”

It is illegal to be gay in Saudi Arabia and those who break the law face floggings, chemical castration and the death penalty.

[Source: http://www.express.co.uk]

October 23, 2015

Saudi Prince Accused of Forcing Others to Watch and have Sex with Him


                                                                     
Prince Majed Abdulaziz Al-Saud
                                                                                   
On January of 2014 Adamfoxie* posted about a gay saudi prince and his escapades out of the kingdom.
(http://adamfoxie.blogspot.com/2014/01/gay-crown-prince-of-dubai-sex-drugs-and.html) report, pictures and video enclosed.

This past year there are other reports about another Prince with kinky tastes. He was arrested and released on bond and now the authorities in L.A. are trying to bring him to justice on misdemeanor charges for forcing women to watch him to have sex. It’s not really that he just watches, is that he does but under the law he could not be convicted of the top charges of forcing himself on some women so they the authorities are trying to address the less serious complaint.  Absent of a video or a recording  these charges are very hard to proof because of the he said, she said problem. I’m bringing you the report on CNN today and you can read of the gay Dubai Prince by using the enclosed link.

A Saudi prince is no longer facing felony assault charges but could still face a misdemeanor as the Los Angeles city attorney’s office reviews a woman's complaint that the royal tried to force her to perform a sex act on him, authorities said Tuesday.

Prince Majed Abdulaziz Al-Saud -- originally arrested on suspicion of sexual assault, false imprisonment and battery -- was released last month on $300,000 bail in connection with the September 23 incident.
    The city attorney's review comes after the Los Angeles County district attorney's office referred the case to municipal authorities, officials said. County prosecutors found insufficient evidence to file felony charges, said spokeswoman Jane Robison.
    The case is being evaluated for a possible misdemeanor filing, said Frank Mateljan, spokesman for the city attorney’s office.

    The investigation began after police were called to a home, where they interviewed numerous people on September 23, Los Angeles police said.
    Separately, three women are suing the Saudi prince, alleging assault, battery, sexual harassment and false imprisonment at his home in Beverly Hills, also on September 23, according to the lawsuit filed in a Los Angeles County court.

    Stephen Larson, an attorney for the prince, called the suit baseless.
    "These allegations, brought for no other purpose than to extract money, are as baseless as they are salacious," Larson said. "The district attorney carefully considered these claims and declined to bring any charges; we anticipate that the civil lawsuit will end similarly, with a finding that all of these claims are legally and factually meritless."
    The three women in the civil suit are identified only as Jane Doe 1, Jane Doe 2 and Jane Doe 3 in court papers, and the prince is also identified as Majed bin Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud.

    The three worked for the prince in his home over three days during which other servants, a retired Los Angeles police detective and security personnel were present, said Vadim Frish, an attorney for the women.

    In court papers, the three women said that at parties over three days the prince "was using cocaine throughout the course of their employment." They also alleged the prince engaged in heavy drinking and arranged for escorts to come to the home on September 22.
    That evening, the prince allegedly threatened the three in the dining room, where he acted "in a sexual and aggressive manner" with one of them and told the women, "I am a prince and I do what I want! You are nobody!" according to court papers.

    "Plaintiffs, afraid for their lives, ran to the balcony to escape Al Saud," court papers said. “While on the balcony, one of Al Saud's assistants yelled at the plaintiffs to get back to work."

    On September 23, the prince forced two of the women to watch a man engage in a sex act with him, court papers said. Later that day, police were called to the home, and officers interviewed the three women, Frish said.

    "While waiting outside, plaintiffs saw (the prince's girlfriend) and another female with bruises and blood on their face and body. They were shaking and crying," court papers said. "Plaintiffs are in fear for their lives and believe that Al Saud will have them killed."
    The three women were not paid for their three days of work, Frish said Tuesday.

    By Michael Martinez and Cheri Mossburg, CNN

    June 25, 2015

    Saudis Trash Gays: “no rights granted to gay people"




                                                                               
     Saudi royal [L] Putin [R]


    JEDDAH: There would be no rights granted to gay people in the Kingdom, the Interior Ministry said on Wednesday.
    In a post on its Twitter account, the ministry stated that it supports human rights principles proposed by international bodies as long as they are in line with Islamic law. It also slammed those questioning the Kingdom’s rights record.
    It said that freedom of expression does not mean demeaning the beliefs of Muslims; and condemned those who continue to ridicule the Prophet, peace be upon him.

                                                                              
    Saudi: Trad
                                                                              



    The ministry said it rejected terrorism and urged united international action to tackle all forms of extremism because these ideas violate the teachings of the world’s religions.
    There has recently been intense debate on Twitter about gay rights in Saudi Arabia. One blogger said “all religions reject this perversion which is why God created man and woman.”

    On Monday in Geneva at a meeting of the UN Human Rights Council, Faisal bin Hasan Trad, the Kingdom’s permanent representative to the UN, said Saudi Arabia would not tolerate criticism of its human rights record, and that it rejected a proposal to grant rights to gays.

    Trad said the Kingdom was one of the first countries to support the UN human rights charters, in accordance with Islamic law. Trad said that even though the Kingdom had made its position clear, some were attempting to portray the country in a bad light. He accused those behind the reports of double standard, of professing to respect the sovereignty, culture and beliefs of other people, but doing the exact opposite on public platforms.
    إعلان
    Trad said the calls for the country to recognize gay rights, to change certain Islamic laws, and criticism of the nation’s judiciary, was “flagrant interference in its internal affairs, and absolutely unacceptable.”

    Trad said the Kingdom also condemns those continually attacking Islam and the character of Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, under the pretext of freedom of expression, or as a reaction to the terrorist acts of groups that claim falsely to represent Islam.
    He said it was not acceptable for people to insult the beliefs of more than 1.5 billion people. Islam stood for peaceful coexistence with others, rejected chaos, and attempts to divide people, he said.

    ARAB NEWS

    May 20, 2015

    Obama The Miracle Worker } Has United Israel with Saudi Arabia



                                                                             

    A nuclear-armed Tehran presents an urgent threat to freedom. Opposing the Iran deal are two unlikely allies, Saudi Arabia and Israel. And it’s just the latest sign of a thaw in a relationship that proves the wisdom of the old Sanskrit proverb, “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.”
    Saudi Arabia officially dropped the Arab boycott against Israel in 2005 as a condition of joining the World Trade Organization. Last July, Prince Turki Al Faisal, Saudi Ambassador to US from 2005-2006, published an op-ed in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz. It did not mention the Palestinian people’s “right of return” to their former homes in current Israel, a key demand of Palestinian activists for decades. Even more surprising, Faisal’s article did affirm the importance of the Holocaust and the Jewish people’s historic claim to Jerusalem.
    Prince Faisal wrote “Imagine if I could get on a plane in Riyadh, fly directly to Jerusalem, get on a bus or taxi, go to the Dome of the Rock Mosque or the Al-Aqsa Mosque, perform the Friday prayers, and then visit the Western Wall and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre… If, the next day, I could visit the tomb of Abraham in Al-Khalil, Hebron, and the tombs of the other prophets, peace be upon them all. I could then drive to, and visit Bethlehem, the site of the Nativity. 
    I could go on to visit the Yad Vashem Holocaust center and museum as I visited the Holocaust Museum in Washington, when I was ambassador there.” Ironically, as the State Department attempts to lift the economic boycott against Iran, President Obama and his supporters are pushing a new boycott — against Israel. From the White House to Congress and from the New York City Council to America’s college campuses, Democrats are boycotting opponents of Obama’s pending nuclear deal with Iran. While some Democrats applaud lifting economic sanctions against Tehran, others want to slap such restrictions on Israel.
    When Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed a joint session of Congress on the dangers of a nuclear Iran; 58 Democratic members of Congress boycotted his speech. Vice President Joe Biden, who serves as the president of the Senate, also skipped Mr. Netanyahu’s appearance. As for Mr. Obama, he refused to meet in person with Mr. Netanyahu and virtually boasted that he did not even watch the remarks by the leader of America’s closest ally in the Middle East.
    Last April 20th, U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R – Texas) discussed the dangers of the Iran deal with a small group of Jewish business leaders at a private dinner, security briefing, and discussion that I organized. This event was held in the Manhattan home of two gay entrepreneurs who dared to meet with Mr. Cruz — as if America were a free country, and as if dialogue with people of opposing viewpoints fostered consensus and mutual understanding. Once this gathering became public, the gay community and its caucus in the New York City Council led an 11,000-person-strong economic boycott against the hosts of this gathering and the hotel that they own and manage.
    Media reports indicate that gay college students are some of the loudest voices screaming for boycotts, divestment, and sanctions against Israel. All 58 Members who boycotted Mr. Netanyahu’s speech received top scores from the Human Rights Campaign for their support of gay-rights issues.
    On May 5, Mr. Cruz told journalists that Democrats are terrified to vote on legislation that would require Iran to recognize Israel’s rights to exist as a Jewish state. Rather than go on record and expose the Democrat senators’ fundamental opposition to Israel, they are blocking every amendment on the Iran deal, in hopes that this tough vote does not come up.
    Even as Democrats and their allies move to distance themselves from Israel, GCC countries, including their business leaders, journalists and politicians, are moving closer to Israel. “In an accident of fate,” writes UAE industrialist Khalaf Habtoor, “Israel and Sunni Arab states find themselves on the same page vis-à-vis the Iran threat. Were an Arab country perceived to be hostile to the US or the international community, it would be attacked without hesitation. On the other hand, this administration is treating its ‘favorite enemy’ with a silk glove instead of the iron fist it deserves. This sure feels like a pro-Iranian administration.”
    Dubai-based publisher Madarek last year released an Arabic translation of Saudi Arabia and the New Strategic Landscape by Joshua Teitelbaum, a professor at Bar Ilan University’s Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies in Tel Aviv. Mr. Teitelbaum encourages US  policy makers to cement America’s alliance with Saudi Arabia by addressing the Iranian threat to Saudi domestic politics. In his book, he explains that Gulf Cooperation Council countries such as Bahrain, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia, which have significant Shiite populations, have been jittery about Shiite Iran for years. Such jitters are very well founded, Mr. Teitelbaum argues. Among other worries, in 2009, according to Israeli sources, the UAE uncovered an Iranian plot to blow up the world’s tallest building, the Burj Dubai, now called the Burj Khalifa.
    Madarek is owned by Saudi journalist Turki bin Abdullah Aldakhil, General Manager of Al Arabiya Television News Network in Dubai. He also interviewed scholar Rashid Al-Khayoun on Al Arabiya regarding the Farhud — a 1941 pogrom against Iraqi Jews, which prompted their exodus. Mr. Aldakhil also founded the Al Mesbar Center for Arab Scholarship and Expertise for Peace and Stability in the Middle East. In September 2014, this think tank published Yusif Al-Mutayri’s paper, “Jews of Kuwait: Presence, Situation, and Emigration (1860-1952).” This work highlighted the historically meaningful economic and cultural role of Jews in Kuwait. Just a few years ago, it would be unthinkable that an Arab institution would recognize Jews as capable of anything other than “anti-Palestinian oppression.”
    The last decade has witnessed improved understanding and growing trade between Israel and the six member nations of the Gulf Cooperation Council: Bahrain, Dubai, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. Credit Suisse launched an emerging-market credit fund in 2010, headed by the Qatar Investment Authority, Saudi Arabia’s Olayan Group, and Israel’s IDB Holdings. In 2006, Idan Ofer, chief of Israeli shipping company ZIM came to the defense of DP World, which was embroiled in the debate over allowing Dubai’s companies to manage U.S. ports. In a letter to then-Senator Hillary Clinton, Mr. Ofer wrote: “DP World has been an industry leader with regard to security and works closely with us on an ongoing basis to maintain the highest security standards in all its terminals around the world.”
    While Saudi Arabia and the UAE slowly have been improving their relationship with Israel, they have at the same time been resolute in their opposition to Iran. According to news accounts, Wikileaks cables uncovered these gems:
    In a 2008 cable from Saudi Arabia’s then-ambassador to the U.S., Adel al Jubeir, King Abdullah offered “frequent exhortations to the U.S. to attack Iran and thus put an end to its nuclear weapons program,” As Mr. al-Jubeir recalled the king’s advice to America: “He told you to cut off the head of the snake.”
    “That program must be stopped,” Bahrain’s King Hamad said, according to a November 2009 cable on Iran’s atomic ambitions. “The danger of letting it go on is greater than the danger of stopping it.”

    Several reports have surfaced detailing meetings between the Mossad and Saudi intelligence to coordinate in-flight refueling of Israeli aircraft and rescue operations for downed pilots en route to demolish Iran’s nuclear capability.


    In a July 2009 memo, UAE’s defense chief, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed, was remarkably blunt about Iran’s then-president: “Ahmadinejad is Hitler.”
    This past April, hours after Secretary of State John Kerry told a U.N. nuclear non-proliferation meeting in New York that a deal with Iran was “closer than ever,” Riyadh appointed as its new foreign minister Adel al Jubeir, the kingdom’s former ambassador to Washington. This is the first time that position has been held by anyone outside the royal family. Mr. Al-Jubeir’s appointment sent a clear message: Jubeir was the target of a foiled plot by Iranian agents who aimed to assassinate him in 2011 as he dined in a Georgetown restaurant.
    Mr. Cruz told the small group of Jewish business leaders I assembled (and he repeated in Washington the following week) that “the next president who enters the White House in January of 2017 is likely to encounter a world with Iran on the verge of having nuclear weapons where sanctions will have been taken off the table by Barack Obama, because they cannot be placed back with our allies in any reasonable period of time to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, which means in all likelihood the next president will face a binary choice: Either allow Iran to have nuclear weapons or use military force to prevent it. This deal makes war a certainty.”
    In March it was reported that Israel and Saudi Arabia are completely in synch on Iran. Several reports have surfaced detailing meetings between the Mossad and Saudi intelligence to coordinate in-flight refueling of Israeli aircraft and rescue operations for downed pilots en route to demolish Iran’s nuclear capability.
    At last week’s Camp David summit, the gulf states staged a boycott of their own. Four invited heads of state didn’t bother to show up to meet with Mr. Obama, underscoring the growing divide between the White House and America’s former allies of the GCC. It also signaled a realignment of Israel and the GCC, much to the chagrin of Obama, Congressional Democrats, and the ayatollahs.
    Kalman Sporn is a Middle East strategist and advisor to Vatican based Dignitatis Humanae Institute. Reach him on Twitter at @kalmansporn.

    http://observer.com 

    Saudi Arabia ad: “Wanted” Sword Executioner (soaring rates) //Amnesty Calls it Barbaric




    RIYADH: Saudi Arabia advertised vacancies for eight executioners today after beheading nearly as many people since the start of the year as it did in the whole of 2014. 

    The civil service ministry said that no qualifications were necessary and that applicants would be exempted from the usual entrance exams. 

    It said that as well as beheadings, the successful candidates would be expected to carry out amputations ordered by the courts under the kingdom's strict version of Islamic sharia law. 

    Amputation of one or both hands is a routine penalty for theft. Drug trafficking, rape, murder, apostasy and armed robbery are all punishable by death. 

    Most executions are carried out by beheading, but a few are carried out by firing squad, stoning or crucifixion. 

    All are carried out in public and video footage sometimes appears on the Internet despite a ban on filming. 

    In January, gruesome footage was posted of a Burmese woman protesting her innocence before being beheaded by a swordsman on a public street in the Muslim holy city of Mecca. 

    Ignoring her screams, the white-robed executioner forces her to lie down on the ground, near a pedestrian crossing, then severs her head with a curved sword. 

    The official Saudi Press Agency (SPA) said that Layla bint Abdul Mutaleb Bassim had been sentenced to death for killing her husband's six-year-old daughter. 

    The vacancies were advertised on the ministry's website in the "religious jobs" section. 

    Last year, Saudi Arabia executed 87 people, according to an AFP tally, ranking it third in the world for use of the death penalty. 

    Already this year, it has put 85 people to death in what human rights group Amnesty International has described as a "macabre spike". 

    Today, a convicted serial rapist of young girls was beheaded in Riyadh, SPA reported. 

    The interior ministry says the death penalty is an important deterrent. 

    But on a visit to Riyadh this month, French President Francois Hollande said capital punishment “should be banned".


    ~~~~~~Amnesty International Calls it Barbaric~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~By Stephen Rogers Irish Examiner Reporter



    Amnesty International has condemned as “grotesque” the Saudi Arabian government’s advertisement for eight executioners to carry out its public beheadings.
    The advert on its civil service appointment system says the person will not need to have any specific qualifications and that the successful candidate will be remunerated at the lower end of the civil service pay scale.
    Applicants will also be expected to carry out amputations on those found guilty of lesser offenses.
    the punishment for theft is to have a hand cut off.
    Saudi Arabia executed almost 90 people last year — already in 2015 it has put 84 people to death for a range of crimes including murder, drug trafficking, and rape.
    Amnesty International has laid much of the blame for the upsurge in executions on King Salman bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud, who came to power at the start of the year.
    Colm O’Gorman, of Amnesty International Ireland, said: “There is something particularly grotesque about a job advert that seeks to recruit someone whose role involves the deliberate killing of people.
    “Saudi Arabia has the world’s third-highest recorded executions, last year putting at least 90 people to death. Now they are looking to recruit more executioners, people who will kill women and men in cold blood, by beheading them in public executions.
    “Hiring more executioners is a significant regressive step and shows us that Saudi Arabia seems determined to continue with this form of punishment.”

    February 4, 2015

    Saudi Oil is Squeezing Putin away from Syria’s Assad



                                                                         
     


    Saudi Arabia has been trying to pressure President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia to abandon his support for President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, using its dominance of the global oil markets at a time when the Russian government is reeling from the effects of plummeting oil prices.

    Saudi Arabia and Russia have had numerous discussions over the past several months that have yet to produce a significant breakthrough, according to American and Saudi officials. It is unclear how explicitly Saudi officials have linked oil to the issue of Syria during the talks, but Saudi officials say — and they have told the United States — that they think they have some leverage over Mr. Putin because of their ability to reduce the supply of oil and possibly drive up prices.
    “If oil can serve to bring peace in Syria, I don’t see how Saudi Arabia would back away from trying to reach a deal,” a Saudi diplomat said. An array of diplomatic, intelligence and political officials from the United States and Middle East spoke on the condition of anonymity to adhere to protocols of diplomacy.

    Any weakening of Russian support for Mr. Assad could be one of the first signs that the recent tumult in the oil market is having an impact on global statecraft. Saudi officials have said publicly that the price of oil reflects only global supply and demand, and they have insisted that Saudi Arabia will not let geopolitics drive its economic agenda. But they believe that there could be ancillary diplomatic benefits to the country’s current strategy of allowing oil prices to stay low — including a chance to negotiate an exit for Mr. Assad. Mr. Putin, however, has frequently demonstrated that he would rather accept economic hardship than buckle to outside pressures to change his policies. Sanctions imposed by the United States and European countries have not prompted Moscow to end its military involvement in Ukraine, and Mr. Putin has remained steadfast in his support for Mr. Assad, whom he sees as a bulwark in a region made increasingly volatile by Islamic extremism.

    Syria was a major topic for a Saudi delegation that went to Moscow in November, according to an Obama administration official, who said that there had been a steady dialogue between the two countries over the past several months. It is unclear what effect the Jan. 23 death of King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia might have on these discussions, which the Saudis have conducted in secret.
     If looks could kill……


    Russia has been one of the Syrian president’s most steadfast supporters, selling military equipment to the government for years to bolster Mr. Assad’s forces in their battle against rebel groups, including the Islamic State, and supplying everything from spare parts and specialty fuels to sniper training and helicopter maintenance.

    With a fifth of the world’s oil reserves, Saudi Arabia is the leading player in OPEC and has great sway over any move by the cartel to raise prices by cutting production. Its refusal to support such steps despite dizzying price declines has prompted myriad theories about the Saudi royal family’s agenda, and Saudi officials have hinted that the country is happy to let the low prices punish rival producers who use more expensive shale-fracking techniques.

     
    “They have almost total leverage,” said Senator Angus King, an independent of Maine who recently returned from a trip to Saudi Arabia.

    “They have more breathing room than these other countries,” he said. “It’s like the difference between someone having a million dollars in the bank and someone who is living paycheck to paycheck.”
     
    Russia Outlines Prescription to Bolster Its Ailing Economy, but Experts ScoffFEB. 2, 2015
    The drop in oil prices has been felt in Saudi Arabia, but the country’s vast oil reserves and accumulated wealth give it a far greater cushion than other oil-producing nations have. Saudi Arabia needs the price of oil to be over $100 a barrel to cover its federal spending, including a lavish budget for infrastructure projects. The current price is about $50 a barrel, and Saudi Arabia has projected a 2015 deficit of about $39 billion.

    But the monarchy has about $733 billion in savings invested in low-risk assets abroad, and it can afford to dip into that for a few years without much pain. Russia and Iran have no such luxury, and neither do shale-fracking oil producers in North America.

    The Saudis have offered economic enticements to Russian leaders in return for concessions on regional issues like Syria before, but never with oil prices so low. It is unclear what effect, if any, the discussions are having. While the United States would support initiatives to end Russian backing for Mr. Assad, any success by the Saudis to cut production and raise global oil prices could hurt many parts of the American economy.

    After the meeting in Moscow in November between Prince Saud al-Faisal, the Saudi foreign minister, and Sergey V. Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, Mr. Lavrov rejected the idea that international politics should play a role in setting oil prices.

    “We see eye to eye with our Saudi colleagues in that we believe the oil market should be based on the balance of supply and demand,” Mr. Lavrov said, “and that it should be free of any attempts to influence it for political or geopolitical purposes.”

    Russia is feeling financial pain and diplomatic isolation because of international sanctions stemming from its incursion into Crimea and eastern Ukraine, American officials said. But Mr. Putin still wants to be viewed as a pivotal player in the Middle East. The Russians hosted a conference last week in Moscow between the Assad government and some of Syria’s opposition groups, though few analysts believe the talks will amount to much, especially since many of the opposition groups boycotted them. Some Russia experts expressed skepticism that Mr. Putin would be amenable to any deal that involved removing support for Mr. Assad.


    January 24, 2015

    How the New King in Saudi Arabia Could Help His People



                                                                              
    Saudi Arabian King Abdullah's death Thursday ends a fourteen-and-a-half year reign that saw marginal policy changes, particularly as they relate to human rights. 
    Though his successor, King Salman, is no spring chicken at 79 years old, he may still be able to effect change in a country known as much for its human rights abuses as it is for its prosperous oil fields. 
    After news of King Abdullah's death broke, world leaders, unsurprisingly, scrambled to offer their posthumous praise and reassert their support of the for oil-rich nation. International human rights organizations, however, have criticized the late leader for falling short on a variety of human right issues. 
    Here are some of the key areas where King Salman could make great strides to improve the human rights record of his predecessor.

    Women's rights

    discriminatory male guardianship system is in place that prevents women from getting a passport, getting married, or traveling without permission from a male guardian. The woman's husband, father, brother, or son typically controls these aspects of her life. 
    Some gains were made for women during Abdullah's reign, particularly in opening up new employment sectors. In February 2013, King Abdullah appointed 30 women to the country's Shura Council, an advisory group that gives recommendations for the cabinet. But his actions came short of promises made when he first came into power. 
    saudiwomen
    “It is not enough to for women to sit on the Shura Council if they can’t even drive themselves to work,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch (HRW) in a statement sent to Mashable. King Abdullah told Barbara Walters in a 2005 interview that he expected a change to existing laws banning women from driving, but that has still not become a reality for the women of Saudi Arabia.
    "I believe the day will come when women drive. In fact, if you look at the areas in Saudi Arabia, the deserts and in the rural areas, you will find that women do drive," said King Abdullah. "The issue will require patience. In time, I believe it will be possible."

    Capital punishment

    Saudi Arabia does not have a written penal code, allowing judges wide discretion in determining what behavior constitutes a criminal offense. According to Human Right's Watch, judges continue to jail and sentence people for “sorcery” and “sowing discord.”
    The country's routine public beheadings have caused outrage in the international community. On Jan. 12, a Burmese woman who was convicted of abusing her stepdaughter and sentenced to death, was publicly beheaded on a Mecca highway.
    Screen Shot 2015-01-23 at 9.37.23 AM

    Footage of the execution shows the woman being dragged through the street by a number of men in military uniform before one beheads her with a sword. 
    Saudi Arabia has executed at least 11 people so far this year.

    Religious tolerance

    Saudi Arabia does not allow the public practice of any religion other than Islam.
    The Sunni-ruled kingdom took steps towards increasing religious tolerance during King Abdullah's reign, but little has come from attempts at establishing true freedom of religion. In 2003, King Abdullah held a national dialogue series to bring Saudis together to discuss religious extremism and tolerance but religious minorities' rights remain limited. 
    Mideast Saudi Hajj

    In this Tuesday, Oct. 7, 2014 photo, Muslim pilgrims circle the Kaaba, the black cube at center, inside the Grand Mosque during the annual pilgrimage, known as the hajj, in the Muslim holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia. 
    IMAGE: KHALID MOHAMMED/ASSOCIATED PRESS
    “King Abdullah was a great champion of religious dialogue outside the kingdom, but these initiatives produced few benefits for Saudi Arabia’s Shia minority, who continue to face systematic discrimination and are treated as second-class citizens,” Stork said.
    In 2011 and 2012 Shia citizens of Saudi Arabia protested against the limitations, but authorities responded with force and arrested many of those who took part.

    LGBT rights

    Homosexuality is punishable with the death penalty in Saudi Arabia under the country’s interpretation of sharia law, so King Salman would have a ways to go in protecting the rights of Saudi Arabia's LGBT citizens.
    In July 2014, a 24-year-old man was sentenced to 450 lashes and three years in prison after reportedly tweeting about meeting other gay men.
    The Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice, Saudi Arabia's religious police, was alerted about the tweets and set up the man using an undercover agent, reported Saudi news agencies at the time.

    Freedom of speech

    Since 2011, Saudi courts have handed down prison sentences of more than 10 years for speech-related crimes. Saudi human rights lawyer Abdulaziz AlHussan told the Associated Press that some of the country's judges are issuing "extreme punishment, without limitation, without accountability."
    "The spread of Internet and social media empowered Saudi citizens to speak openly about controversial social and political issues, creating a broader social awareness of Saudi Arabia’s human rights shortcomings, but after 2011, Saudi authorities sought to halt online criticism through intimidation, arrests, prosecutions, and lengthy prison sentences," said HRW. 
    Raif Badawi, a Saudi blogger, was arrested in 2012 for penning articles criticizing the religious leadership of the country on a liberal blog he created. His case has drawn international condemnation after he was found guilty of breaking Saudi Arabia's technology laws and insulting Islamic religious figures and sentenced in May to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes.
    Raif Badawi Protest

    Protesters in Berlin, Germany demonstrate against the detention of Raif Badawi, a Saudi blogger sentenced to 10 years and 1,000 lashings for his blog criticizing clerics.
    IMAGE: IMAGO/ZUMA PRESS
    His punishment has twice been postponed, and the top United Nations human rights official has called the sentence "a form of cruel and inhuman punishment."
    Family spokesperson Dr. Elham Manea said the Badawi's wife and children are "hoping that the new king will pardon him as a gesture of a new beginning in the kingdom."
    “King Abdullah came to power promising reforms, but his agenda fell far short of achieving lasting institutional gains for Saudi citizens,” said Stork told Mashable. “King Salman, the new ruler, should move the country forward by ending intolerance for free expression, rooting out gender and sectarian discrimination, and fostering a fair and impartial judicial system.”

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