Tag Archives: Saudi Arabia

How Saudi Arabia’s religious project transformed Indonesia

Half a million people, all dressed in white, radiated from the Hotel Indonesia roundabout in central Jakarta. Protesters clogged the streets for a mile in every direction; they went all the way up to the National Monument and beyond it to the presidential palace. It was 4 November 2016, and they had come on buses, planes and on foot, from all across Java and even from some other islands, to participate in the largest Islamist demonstration in Indonesian history.

“We came to the palace to enforce the law,” said the cleric Rizieq Shihab, to rapt silence. “Desecrators of the Qur’an must be punished. We must reject the leaders of infidels,” he said, referring to Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, the Chinese-Christian governor of Indonesia’s capital city, who is known as Ahok. “If our demands are not heard, are you ready to turn this into a revolution?” “We’re ready!” screamed the crowd, breaking into huge applause. “God is great!”, they shouted. There were cries of “Kill Ahok!”

It was an odd scene in Indonesia, which is the world’s largest Muslim-majority country but is not really a “Muslim nation”. Officially, it is a multifaith country that protects six religions equally, where race and ethnicity have been tacitly elided from political discourse. An overtly Islamist political protest like this had no precedent.

Leave a comment

Posted by on May 11, 2020 in Asia, Middle East, Reportages


Tags: ,

Joe Biden says he ‘doesn’t have enough information’ about Iran to have a view. How odd

So, while we continue to be mesmerised by Covid-19, here are a few Middle East tales that should be going viral this week.

Let’s start with a little divestment story. Microsoft has said it’s going to sell its stake in AnyVision, an Israeli facial recognition startup, after civil liberties groups in the US complained that the technology could, in police hands, lead to arbitrary arrests and limit freedom of expression. NBC news – praise where praise is due – broke the original story of Microsoft’s funding for the Israeli company last October, pointing out that it used facial recognition to observe Palestinians throughout the occupied West Bank, in spite of Microsoft’s promise to avoid using the technology if it encroached on democratic freedoms.

Leave a comment

Posted by on April 2, 2020 in Middle East


Tags: , , ,

We can’t overlook the raging Saudi throne fight – even if it is overshadowed by the coronavirus

The fear caused by the coronavirus outbreak is greater than that provoked by a serious war because everybody is in the front line and everybody knows that they are a potential casualty. The best parallel is the terror felt by people facing occupation by a hostile foreign army; even if, in the present case, the invader comes in the form of a minuscule virus.

The political consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic are already vast because its advance, and the desperate measures taken to combat it, entirely dominate the news agenda and will go on doing so for the foreseeable future, although it is in the nature of this unprecedented event that nothing can be foreseen.

History has not come to a full stop because of the virus, however: crucial events go on happening, even if they are being ignored by people wholly absorbed by the struggle for survival in the face of a new disease. Many of these unrecognised but very real crises are taking place in the Middle East, the arena where great powers traditionally stage confrontations fought out by their local proxies.

Leave a comment

Posted by on March 17, 2020 in Middle East



The Saudi royal family appear unaware of the dangers of settling scores among themselves

Purges, interrogation, claims of torture, accusations of treason, suspicion of murder, an insane war in Yemen and ruinous plans for a “reformed” kingdom, all supported by the US and the west and an often fawning media. So what’s new?

Poor Mohammed bin Salman is surely getting a bum rap. Far from being a frightening and uncontrollable new autocrat in the Gulf – purging his closest relatives, locking up his rivals, and embarking on a ruinous conflict in Yemen – he is following a familiar path in the history of his country. Saudi Arabia was ever a place of coup and counter-coup, of Islamist fury and fear of assassination. Come on, folks, let’s give MbS a break.

Sure, he’s just banged up his uncle, Prince Ahmed bin Abdulaziz, and the cousin he deposed as crown prince in 2017 and put under house arrest, Mohammed bin Nayef, along with Mohammed’s half-brother Nawaf and a clutch of other family members and supposedly loyal retainers. The current interior minister, Abdulaziz bin Saud bin Nayef, was also detained but then released after questioning over the weekend.

Leave a comment

Posted by on March 13, 2020 in Middle East



Will feminism be a crime in Mohammed bin Salman’s Saudi Arabia?

This week, feminism in Saudi Arabia was declared to be a crime punishable by imprisonment and lashing.

The Saudi state security agency’s video announcement defined feminism as an extremist position, imported from the West to assert that men and women have equal rights in economic, social and political matters.

According to this definition, feminists allegedly aim to eradicate differences between the sexes, abolish marriage and family, and encourage same-sex unions. The Saudi definition lumped feminism in with other forms of “extremism”, including atheism, homosexuality and promiscuity.

Leave a comment

Posted by on November 26, 2019 in Middle East, Uncategorized


Tags: ,

What Saudi Arabia’s Mohammed bin Salman could learn from Prince Andrew

On the very same day that Prince Andrew was giving his disastrous interview explaining his relationship with the sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, the crown prince – often referred to as MbS – was hearing from international bankers about the failure of his bid to sell part of Aramco, the state oil company, for a high price on the international markets. The sale had been heralded as the moment when Saudi Arabia would use its oil wealth to exalt its status as a world power.

The two princes have many characteristics in common: both have a reputation for arrogance, ignoring expert advice and showing startlingly poor judgement in taking decisions. The result has been a dismally unsuccessful record for both men.

Leave a comment

Posted by on November 25, 2019 in Middle East


Tags: ,

Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman (MBS) Must Shelve His Vicious War in Yemen

This past weekend, Yemeni Armed Forces spokesman Brigadier Yahya al-Sari clinically described how Ansarallah, also known as the Houthi rebel movement, aided by what Yemenis describe as “popular committees,” captured three Saudi brigades of 2,400 ragged soldiers, plus Yemeni and Sudanese mercenaries as well as several hundred battle vehicles. At least 500 Saudi soldiers were killed, Ansarallah said. (A spokesman for the Saudi-led coalition denied the claim.)

This was part of the significantly named Operation Nasrallah in Najran province, Saudi Arabia. The Houthis, who did learn a lot, tactically and strategically, from Hezbollah, duly praised mujahideen and “popular committees” involved in Operation Nasrallah.

Col. Pat Lang, in his blog, offers a particularly useful observation on the captured Saudi vehicles. Some belonged to the Saudi National Guard (SANG):

Leave a comment

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


Tags: ,

A year on from Jamal Khashoggi’s murder, and Saudi Arabia is lurching towards hysterical chaos

The Saudis are taking a pasting. Video pictures from the Houthis of Saudi soldiers and their allies killed or surrendering inside the Saudi border town of Najran represent a devastating blow to a kingdom which is constantly threatening war against Iran.

If it can’t protect its own armed forces inside Saudi territory, what is the point of wasting time menacing Iran with military action over the massive destruction of the oil facilities at Abqaiq and Khurais almost two weeks ago?

Leave a comment

Posted by on October 2, 2019 in Middle East



USA, Saudia Arabia, Iran: A New Conflict in the Middle East?

In normal times, the Officers Club on Riyadh’s King Abdul Aziz Road is a rather secretive place. But last Wednesday evening, there was a line of visitors snaking away from its door. Arabic could be heard, along with English and a few fragments of French.

After the security inspection, visitors enter a darkened hallway, reminiscent of a movie theater, that lead to a lecture hall: blue plush seats in ascending rows facing a brightly lit wood-paneled stage. It is generally a place where senior military officers gather to discuss their secret plans, but last week, it played host to around 80 diplomats and several international journalists, there at the invitation of the world’s most important oil exporting nation. Among them were high-ranking officials in flowing robes. It was a rather unique event: The Saudi military was putting its wounds on display to the world.

A half-dozen pedestals had been erected onstage to present evidence: large steel fragments that had been twisted and bent by the force of the explosion. The objects were the remnants of cruise missiles and drones, some of the weapons Saudis claim set the country’s two biggest oil facilities on fire earlier this month.

Leave a comment

Posted by on September 25, 2019 in Middle East


Tags: , ,

How drone attacks on Saudi Aramco might blow up US-Iran tensions

Highly disruptive drone attacks on Aramco oil facilities in eastern Saudi Arabia are arguably the most significant military operation yet against the US-allied kingdom’s critical infrastructure.

Saturday’s attacks on petroleum and gas processing plants in Khurais and Abqaiq, which Yemen’s Iran-allied Houthi rebels have claimed responsibility for, knocked down approximately 5.7 million barrels per day (bpd) of total Saudi oil output.

Leave a comment

Posted by on September 23, 2019 in Middle East


Tags: ,