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No One Is Safe: How Saudi Arabia Makes Dissidents Disappear

DÜSSELDORF

Prince Khaled bin Farhan al-Saud sat in one of the few safe locations he frequents in Düsseldorf and ordered each of us a cup of coffee. With his close-cropped goatee and crisp gray suit, he looked surprisingly relaxed for a hunted man. He described his constant fear of being abducted, the precautions he takes when venturing outside, and how German law enforcement officials routinely check on him to make sure he is all right.

Recently, bin Farhan, who rarely grants interviews to Western reporters, had incensed the kingdom’s leaders with his calls for human rights reforms—an unusual grievance for a Saudi prince. What’s more, he spoke openly of his desire to establish a political movement that might eventually install an opposition leader, upending the kingdom’s dynastic rule.

As we sat over coffee, he relayed a story that at first sounded innocuous. One day in June 2018, his mother, who lives in Egypt, called him with what she thought was good news. The Saudi Embassy in Cairo had contacted her, she said, and had a proposal: The kingdom wanted to mend relations with the prince and was willing to offer him $5.5 million as a goodwill gesture. Since bin Farhan was struggling financially (reportedly due, in part, to a dispute with the ruling family), his mother welcomed this chance for a reconciliation. But as tempting as the overture was, he claimed he never considered it seriously. And when he followed up with Saudi officials, he realized the deal had a dangerous catch. They had told him he could collect his payment only if he personally came to a Saudi embassy or consulate. That immediately set off alarm bells. He declined the offer.

https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2019/07/how-saudi-arabia-makes-dissidents-disappear

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Posted by on August 12, 2019 in Middle East, Reportages

 

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Saudi crown prince seeks to fast track trial of Khashoggi suspects

The Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia Mohammed bin Salman is determined to “fast track” court proceedings against the murder squad sent to kill Jamal Khashoggi, before Donald Trump’s re-election campaign starts in earnest.

Mohammed bin Salman, who is thought by the CIA and Turkish investigators to have ordered the killing of Saudi journalist Khashoggi, wants to close the chapter as soon as possible, according to a report based on Emirati intelligence.

“It was a wise step for Riyadh to move quickly to close the case and indict those responsible before the start of the American presidential election,” the document says. “Otherwise the killing could have been turned into one of the presidential debate topics.”

https://www.middleeasteye.net/news/exclusive-saudi-crown-prince-seeks-fast-track-trial-khashoggi-suspects

 
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Posted by on August 7, 2019 in Middle East, Uncategorized

 

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Saudi Arabia’s ‘strategic plan’ to take Turkey down

Saudi Arabia has begun implementing a “strategic plan” to confront the Turkish government, after Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman decided he was being “too patient” with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the wake of journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s murder.

The plan is detailed in a confidential report based on open- and closed-source intelligence prepared by the kingdom’s ally, the United Arab Emirates.

The intelligence report is one of a monthly series written by the Emirates Policy Centre, a think tank with close links to the Emirati government and security services.

https://www.middleeasteye.net/news/exclusive-saudi-arabias-strategic-plan-take-turkey-down

 
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Posted by on August 7, 2019 in Middle East

 

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Trump’s hissy-fit over Darroch will blow a chill wind across Britain’s embassies in the Middle East

Just for a moment, let’s forget poor old Kim Darroch. Let’s jump a couple of days in front of this news story. Let me tell you how his utter humiliation and sacrifice at the hands of Trump – and with the connivance of the man who will probably be the next British prime minister – will affect the Middle East.

Let’s go first to Riyadh where, just off Al Khawabi street, stands the British embassy, wherein labours Simon Collis, our man in Saudi Arabia. He’s previously served in Bahrain, Tunis, Amman, Dubai, Qatar, Damascus and Baghdad. In other words, he’s an old Arab hand. He’s also a Muslim convert and the first British ambassador to make the pilgrimage to Mecca.

But right now, Collis is going to be thinking very carefully when he reports back to the Foreign Office about the Kingdom upon which he must report fully, fairly and truthfully for his government. For all the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten his reputation if The Leaker gets his hands on the diplomatic bag from Riyadh.

https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/kim-darroch-donald-trump-boris-saudi-middle-east-embassy-ambassador-a9000456.html

 
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Posted by on August 7, 2019 in Europe, Middle East

 

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A UN expert has threatened sanctions against the Saudi crown prince. Is he really the kind of ally we need against Iran?

There is “sufficient credible evidence” that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the effective ruler of Saudi Arabia, was responsible for the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi and that he should be investigated according to a UN special rapporteur.

Saudi Arabia first denied government involvement in the murder of Khashoggi after he entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on 2 October. It later admitted the brutal assassination but claimed that it had been the result of “a rogue operation” by a 15-strong Saudi team that was waiting for Khashoggi inside the consular building.

There is a chilling moment in the audio recording of Khashoggi’s last moments quoted in the report when he must have realised that the Saudi security officials gathered around him were intending to kill him.

https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/un-report-bin-salman-khashoggi-yemen-deaths-a8966251.html

 
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Posted by on July 18, 2019 in European Union, Middle East

 

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Bloated bodies in the Nile show Sudan protesters were right to fear the arrival of Saudi and UAE money

The Sudanese democracy demonstrators were the first to protest at Saudi Arabia’s interference in their revolution. We all knew that the Saudis and the Emiratis had been funnelling millions of dollars into the regime of Omar al-Bashir, wanted for war crimes by the International Criminal Court and now chucked out of power by a Sisi-like military cabal. But it was the sit-in protesters who first thought up the slogan: “We do not want Saudi aid even if we have to eat beans and falafel!”

It was shouted, of course, along with the more familiar chants of ‘revolution of the people”.

Few noticed this little development – save, to give it credit, The Washington Post – but the dozens of waterlogged bodies being dragged from the Nile should focus our attention on the support which the Emiratis and especially the Saudis are now lavishing upon the pseudo-transitional military government in Sudan.

https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/sudan-saudi-arabia-egypt-abdul-fattah-al-burhan-hemeti-dagolo-nile-a8952321.html

 
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Posted by on June 11, 2019 in Middle East

 

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While the world watches Donald Trump, it’s missing what’s really going on with US foreign policy

Our leaders know how to bang the war drums and, by and large, we go along with them. The US threatens Iran with war – so will Iran close the Strait of Hormuz and attack American warships in the Gulf? Israel strikes Iranian targets in Syria after rockets fall on Golan – so does an Arab-Israeli conflict loom closer than at any time since the 1973 conflict? Jared Kushner plans to reveal Trump’s “deal of the century” for peace in the Middle East – but is it dead in the water?

Meanwhile the real stories get pushed down the page – or “to the back of the book”, as we journalists used to say.

Take Donald Trump’s desire to furnish Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates with billions of dollars of extra weapons so that they can increase the ferocity of their war in Yemen against the Houthis – whose support from Iran, such as it is, prompts much of the international abuse against the Islamic Republic. French intelligence officers in Washington have apparently discovered that this is no routine request from Riyadh but a desperate appeal to Washington, because so promiscuous has been the Saudis’ use of US munitions against Houthi rebels (and civilians, hospitals, aid centres, schools and wedding parties) that they are running out of bombs, guided and unguided missiles, drone parts and other “precision” arms to be used on one of the poorest countries in the world.

https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/trump-saudi-arabia-us-air-strikes-jordan-yemen-afghanistan-bolton-a8946726.html

 
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Posted by on June 11, 2019 in Asia, Middle East, North America

 

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The mysterious ‘sabotage’ of Saudi oil tankers is a dangerous moment in Trump’s pumped up feud with Iran

Saudi Arabia’s claim that two of its oil tankers have been sabotaged off the coast of the UAE is vague in detail – but could create a crisis that spins out of control and into military action.

Any attack on shipping in or close to the Strait of Hormuz, the 30-mile wide channel at the entrance to the Gulf, is always serious because it is the most important choke point for the international oil trade.

A significant armed action by the US or its allies against Iran would likely provoke Iranian retaliation in the Gulf and elsewhere in the region. Although the US is militarily superior to Iran by a wide margin, the Iranians as a last resort could fire rockets or otherwise attack Saudi and UAE oil facilities. Such apocalyptic events are unlikely – but powerful figures in Washington, such as the national security adviser John Bolton and secretary of state Mike Pompeo, appear prepared to take the risk of a war breaking out.

 

 
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Posted by on May 14, 2019 in Middle East, Uncategorized

 

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It’s high time to hold Saudi Arabia to account on women’s rights

Today, Saudi Arabia once again committed to abolishing the male guardianship system.

In a statement before the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC) in Geneva, the Saudi authorities responded to the recommendations made as part of its Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in November 2018. Among the recommendations accepted by the state were those of 18 countries calling for the abolition of the male guardianship system.

https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/high-time-hold-saudi-arabia-account-women-rights-190314092049635.html

 
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Posted by on March 27, 2019 in Middle East

 

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Patrons of Peace and Conflict

Suakin sits along Sudan’s Red Sea coast, a small grouping of faded buildings and historical ruins containing a proud fishing community. The town is a coastal village and the main attraction is the ancient ruins—some dating back to the fifteenth century—as well as the outer shell of a British fort that persists as a symbol of Sudan’s colonial past. In its prime, Suakin was a key transit point for African Muslims on the pilgrimage to Mecca, but with the advent of air travel the town has fallen from prominence, an abandonment only made worse by the collapse of Sudan’s tourist industry. 

Yet in January 2018, Suakin was at the center of a rapid deterioration of diplomatic relations between Sudan and its northern neighbor Egypt, triggering talk of possible war between the two nations. In December 2017 Turkish President Recep Erdoğan visited Suakin ostensibly to inspect the large-scale restoration of the historical town financed by the Turkish government. Then a few weeks later, in January 2018, Erdoğan returned to Sudan to sign among many other agreements, a deal to hand over Suakin to Turkey altogether—just for tourism, both governments maintain—which Sudan’s neighbors have interpreted as an act of aggression. 

The situation in Suakin is emblematic of increasingly complicated geopolitical relations in Africa’s northeast corner. From Egypt to Tanzania, decades of political ambivalence around unsettled borders, access to the sea, and ambiguous agreements about the waters of the Nile are flaring up. Much of this tension is left over from Britain’s colonial history in the region, but some is entirely new, aggravated by simmering conflicts in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region. There are also centuries of connection between the various states as well as internal realignments that complicate the situation further.

https://www.thecairoreview.com/essays/patrons-of-peace-and-conflict/
 
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Posted by on March 5, 2019 in Africa, Middle East

 

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