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Category Archives: Middle East

Saudi dissident prince flies home to tackle MBS succession

Prince Ahmad bin Abdulaziz, the younger brother of King Salman, has returned to Saudi Arabia after a prolonged absence in London, to mount a challenge to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman or find someone who can.

The septuagenarian prince, an open critic of bin Salman (MBS), has travelled with security guarantees given by US and UK officials.

“He and others in the family have realised that MBS has become toxic,” a Saudi source close to Prince Ahmad told Middle East Eye.

“The prince wants to play a role to make these changes, which means either he himself will play a major role in any new arrangement or to help to choose an alternative to MBS.”

https://www.middleeasteye.net/news/exclusive-saudi-dissident-prince-flies-home-tackle-mbs-succession-58983364

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Posted by on October 31, 2018 in Middle East

 

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The Yemen war death toll is five times higher than we think – we can’t shrug off our responsibilities any longer

One reason Saudi Arabia and its allies are able to avoid a public outcry over their intervention in the war in Yemen, is that the number of people killed in the fighting has been vastly understated. The figure is regularly reported as 10,000 dead in three-and-a-half years, a mysteriously low figure given the ferocity of the conflict.

Now a count by a non-partisan group has produced a study demonstrating 56,000 people have been killed in Yemen since early 2016. The number is increasing by more than 2,000 per month as fighting intensifies around the Red Sea port of Hodeidah. It does not include those dying of malnutrition, or diseases such as cholera.

“We estimate the number killed to be 56,000 civilians and combatants between January 2016 and October 2018,” says Andrea Carboni, who researches Yemen for the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED), an independent group formerly associated with the University of Sussex that studies conflicts and is focusing attention on the real casualty level. He told me he expects a total of between 70,000 and 80,000 victims, when he completes research into the casualties, hitherto uncounted, who died between the start of the Saudi-led intervention in the Yemen civil war, in March 2015, and the end of that year.

https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/yemen-war-death-toll-saudi-arabia-allies-how-many-killed-responsibility-a8603326.html

 
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Posted by on October 29, 2018 in Middle East

 

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Syria Still Unsafe, “Shall we Return Home, or Not?”

Major General Issam Zahreddine’s advice to the Syrian refugees not to return to Syria was not senseless. Such advice conveyed a secret plan concocted by the Syrian regime and its security apparatus to be spread among Syrians and implemented indirectly through a number of resolutions and laws. Sure enough to quote Zahreddine: “I am warning you, do not return”.

One year after Zahreddine’s advice, who was killed in September, 2017, al-Assad forces regained most of the areas beyond its control, from Eastern Ghouta, Eastern Qalamoun and Homs Northern countryside to the provinces of Daraa and Quneitra. Russia has begun to promote the return of refugees as a cornerstone of its political work, represented by the Constitutional Commission established in Sochi.

Official statements by the Syrian regime supported the Russian calls. Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem stressed the necessity of paving the way for the Syrian refugees’ return, while deputy foreign minister Faisal Mekdad promised that the Syrian government “will facilitate the return by all means in cooperation with the United Nations, which insists, as we are, that the Syrian refugees come back home voluntarily and with dignity”.

https://english.enabbaladi.net/archives/2018/09/syria-still-unsafe-shall-we-return-home-or-not/

 
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Posted by on October 26, 2018 in Middle East

 

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Jamal Khashoggi: Did they bury him with his feet toward Mecca?

I knew just what Jamal Khashoggi’s murder really meant in the context of the Middle East last week when I realised just who I’d have to call to explain it to me. Whom would I telephone to learn what was going on? Why, of course, I’d call Jamal Khashoggi. And that’s why his murder is so important. Because he was, as he knew, a lone and important Arab journalist who did not listen – not any more — to His Master’s Voice. And that, of course, was his problem.

This disgusting, dangerous, frightening, dirty murder – and don’t tell me a man of 60 who dies in a “fistfight” with 15 men isn’t murder – shows not just the Saudi government up for what it is, but it shows us up for what we are, too. How come we keep falling in love with Arab states – Israel does this, too – and then cry out with shock when they turn out to be extremely unpleasant and very violent?

https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/khashoggi-latest-saudi-arabia-murder-yemen-consulate-istanbul-turkey-mecca-a8600886.html

 
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Posted by on October 25, 2018 in Middle East

 

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Britain has sold its soul to the House of Saud. Shame on us

There is, finally, some scrutiny of Britain’s sordid relationship with one of the most abhorrent dictatorships on Earth. That it has taken the murder of a journalist – rather than, say, Saudi Arabia’s remorseless war in Yemen, now the world’s worst humanitarian crisis – is a travesty. Do not expect this moment to last. The British establishment and the Saudi tyranny are intertwined: the ties between our ruling elites and a regime that beheads dissidents, exports terror and slaughters Yemeni children are too lucrative to break.

Take our political elite. When he was prime minister, Tony Blair piled pressure on the attorney general to end a massive corruption scandal involving a Saudi arms deal. Since the Saudi-led onslaught on Yemen began, the British government has licensed £4.7bn of arms exports. British military advisers have even worked in Saudi war rooms. Germany has now halted arms exports to the Saudi regime; but even if more western bombs are dropped on school buses, there is no chance the Tory government will follow the German lead.

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/oct/24/britain-house-of-saud-jamal-khashoggi-murder

 
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Posted by on October 25, 2018 in Middle East

 

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Erdogan did not reveal Turkey’s entire hand about Khashoggi killing to keep his leverage over Saudi Arabia

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is a skilful politician who knows how to maximise his advantages and this was very much on display in his speech to the Turkish parliament.

He contemptuously dismissed the official Saudi story that the murder of Jamal Khashoggi was the accidental outcome of a botched interrogation by a “rogue” Saudi intelligence team.

It was always naive to imagine that Mr Erdogan would tell all that Turkey knows about the murder and the Saudi role in it because such information – particularly the alleged audio recording of the killing – is invaluable in giving Turkey leverage over Saudi Arabia and, to a lesser degree, the US.

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/jamal-khashoggi-erdogan-turkey-saudi-arabia-video-kill-riyadh-ankara-a8598146.html

 
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Posted by on October 24, 2018 in Middle East

 

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Jamal Khashoggi Secret Interview: The Saudi Journalist’s Views of Islam, America and the ‘Reformist’ Prince Implicated in His Murder

Jamal Khashoggi told me he feared for his life. I was reporting a cover story on Saudi Arabia for Newsweek and we were speaking confidentially: That’s one reason I haven’t allowed this transcript to be published until now. The other reason is I hoped against hope that he was still alive. Despite ample signs of the extreme brutality of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and his regime, I could never have imagined we would so soon be reflecting on Jamal’s death.

Jamal was calm and deliberate as we spoke in great detail about Saudi Arabia’s future and its recent past. “I don’t see myself as an opposition,” he said. He wanted only reform; he wanted “a better Saudi Arabia.” He was almost mournful as he confessed how he had tried, in vain, to advise the young crown prince, known as MBS, to choose a different path and open up Saudi civil society. He maintained a sliver of hope that MBS, despite being “an old-fashioned tribal leader,” could yet be steered toward reason. But he spoke frankly to me about the “thuggish” men around the crown prince. “You challenge them, you might end up in prison,” he said.

As someone who had been close to the Saudi royal court for decades, Jamal instinctively understood the limits of reform. He has been described as a dissident in the weeks following his disappearance. But until 18 months ago, he had been loyal to the official Saudi line on every major issue, from Yemen to Syria to state-sanctioned sectarianism inside the kingdom. Such loyalty did not spare him the repugnant fate—according to Turkish officials—of being tortured to death and dismembered in a Saudi consulate.

https://www.newsweek.com/jamal-khashoggi-secret-interview-saudi-murder-prince-mbs-islam-america-1178489

 
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Posted by on October 23, 2018 in Middle East

 

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Barbie wannabes and Iraqi women activists at risk

Shimaa Qassem, a former Miss Iraq, started to receive death threats days after the drive-by killing in Baghdad of a social media star who had been a runner-up in that same beauty pageant.

The killing of 22-year-old Tara al-Fares followed the gunning down in September of a women’s rights activist in Basra. That killing followed the unexplained death in August of two women involved with the beauty business in Baghdad.

Qassem subsequently said prominent Iraqi women “are being slaughtered like chickens” and Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi acknowledged the pattern of killings suggests “a plan.”

https://thearabweekly.com/barbie-wannabes-and-iraqi-women-activists-risk

 
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Posted by on October 23, 2018 in Middle East

 

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It’s high time to end Saudi impunity

Jamal Khashoggi, a well-known and much respected Saudi war correspondent and columnist, disappeared on October 2 following a visit to the consulate of Saudi Arabia in Istanbul. At the time of his disappearance, he was a well-established critic of the current Saudi leadership and an op-ed contributor to the US newspaper, Washington Post.

https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/high-time-saudi-impunity-181015144254507.html

 
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Posted by on October 23, 2018 in Middle East

 

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Pakistan cannot afford to snub Saudis over Khashoggi killing

Newly installed Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan has told Middle East Eye that his country must continue to prioritise good relations with Saudi Arabia despite the killing of Jamal Khashoggi because of its dire economic crisis.

Khan is due to travel to Riyadh on Tuesday to attend an investment summit that has been boycotted by many western officials and companies following the death of the journalist inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on 2 October.

And in his first interview with foreign journalists since taking office in August, Khan admitted that he could not afford not to attend.

Though shocked by Khashoggi’s killing, he said the Pakistani government needed urgent access to Saudi loans to avoid defaulting on record levels of debt within months.

https://www.middleeasteye.net/news/imran-khan-pakistan-khashoggi-iran-saudi-arabia-syria-764307301

 
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Posted by on October 22, 2018 in Asia, Middle East

 

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