John Kiriakou / Reader Supported News & The Guardian – 2016-01-18 02:08:09
Time to Tell the Saudis to Drink Their Oil
John Kiriakou / Reader Supported News
(January 17, 2016) — Saudi king Salman bin Abd al-Aziz has miscalculated badly since taking the throne, miring his country in an unwinnable civil war in Yemen, angering his own Shia Muslim minority by cracking down on dissent and executing one of its leaders, and breaking diplomatic relations with Iran.
With historically low oil prices and a massive deficit, and with Middle East watchers grumbling that the country is actually being run by the king’s untested and inexperienced 30-year-old son, Muhammad bin Salman, the Saudis must get their act together soon or they risk further destabilizing the entire region. And if American diplomatic leadership was ever needed, it is now.
Muhammad bin Salman’s growing influence over the day-to-day running of defense and oil policy is even creating tension within the royal family. Just last month, several princes suggested to the British press that the king step down and take his son with him. The country’s policies since Salman assumed the throne have been impulsive, like severing diplomatic relations with Iran, and interventionist, like invading Yemen.
Salman’s miscalculations have called into question his ability to lead, and may presage a broader conflict, as the governments of Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates have had to commit troops to Yemen to relieve the burden on Saudi ground forces.
This has had no effect on the fighting, however, as the Shia Muslim Houthi rebels have strengthened their positions in Yemen’s north while al-Qaeda continues to operate unfettered in the south. The Houthis even launched a SCUD missile near a Saudi airbase in October. A second missile was intercepted by the Saudi military.
Riyadh’s decision to execute 47 people on January 2, the largest mass execution in Saudi Arabia in 35 years, has further exacerbated an already shaky balance with Shias in the region. The execution of Nimr al-Nimr in particular, an outspoken critic of the king who rallied the Shia minority, has further inflamed tensions.
Relations with Iran are particularly bad. Immediately following Nimr’s execution, Iranians sacked and burned the Saudi embassy in Tehran. The Saudis responded by severing diplomatic relations with Iran. Bahrain, Kuwait, and Sudan followed, and the United Arab Emirates downgraded relations with Tehran. But the devolution of Saudi-Iranian relations was not just because of the execution.
The Saudis initially strongly and publicly opposed the Iran nuclear accord and have financed fundamentalist Sunni groups in Syria fighting the Iran-backed Syrian government. Some of those groups are aligned with al-Qaeda there.
Meanwhile, the State Department has remained mute on Saudi policy, other than to congratulate the Saudis on assuming leadership, ironically, of the United Nations Human Rights Council.
And this was after the Saudis sentenced a 17-year-old to death by crucifixion because he participated in anti-royal demonstrations, after a Saudi blogger was imprisoned for 10 years and given 1,000 lashes because he questioned the role of religion in the kingdom, and after the wife of a prominent dissident was arrested because she, well, was a dissident’s wife.
Ali Mohammed al-Nimr
The Obama administration has not had a single foreign policy success in the Middle East over the past seven years besides the Iran nuclear deal. It cannot allow Saudi intransigence to interfere, especially in an election year. There is still time for the Saudi government to close Pandora’s Box.
But the only way to achieve stability in the Middle East is for Washington to draw its own proverbial line in the sand. It must work with its allies in the region to convince the Saudis to end the Yemen debacle, respect its own citizens, and work with Iran. Otherwise, the future holds only war and economic disaster.
If the Saudis don’t want to play ball and make nice with their own people and their neighbors, Washington should reassess the relationship. Truth be told, Saudi Arabia is not a reliable friend. Questions about Saudi involvement in the September 11 attacks have never been answered.
The Saudis oppose peace with Israel. They oppose peace with Iran. With oil prices as low as they are, and as alternative energies are finally being developed in the United States, maybe it’s time to tell the Saudis to drink their oil.
John Kiriakou is an associate fellow with the Institute for Policy Studies. He is a former CIA counterterrorism officer and a former senior investigator with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Mother of Saudi Man Sentenced to Crucifixion Begs Obama to Intervene
Shiv Malik, Mona Mahmood and Laurence Topham / The Guardian
(October 14, 2015) — The mother of a Saudi protester sentenced to death by beheading and crucifixion has begged Barack Obama to intervene to save her son’s life. In her first interview with foreign media, Nusra al-Ahmed, the mother of Ali Mohammed al-Nimr, whose case has made headlines around the world, described the intended punishment as savage and “backwards in the extreme”.
Human rights groups including Amnesty International and Reprieve, the US talkshow host Bill Maher and the British prime minister, David Cameron, have all weighed in with calls for clemency to stop Nimr, who was 17 at the time of his arrest, from being beheaded and then crucified.
The oil-rich state is facing increasing diplomatic scrutiny over the severity of its penal system as it takes over the chair of the UN human rights council.
Asked how she was coping knowing that at any moment her son could be put to death following the Saudi supreme court’s rejection of his appeal, Ahmed said: “For other people every hour is composed of 60 minutes, but for me every hour is 60 beats of pain.”
She said her son had been detained sometime after joining Shia demonstrators in the eastern coastal city of Qatif seeking equal religious rights in the Sunni-majority country.
The official charges levelled against Nimr included attending a protest, using his phone to encourage further support for the demonstrations and possessing a gun, an accusation which the family strongly denies. “They were peaceful and civilised and legitimate and so my fear was, I was afraid for my son, but inside I agreed with them in principle.”
She said that before his arrest Nimr was a quick learner who loved swimming, football and photography, and also a devoted son. “At home when he saw me cooking . . . he would offer to help me cook, cut the onion or slice the potatoes. This was his temperament completely.”
Visiting after his arrest, she alleged he had been tortured. “When I visited my son for the first time I didn’t recognise him. I didn’t know whether this really was my son Ali or not. I could clearly see a wound on his forehead. Another wound in his nose. They disfigured it. Even his body, he was too thin.”
“[When] I started talking to him [he told me that] during the interrogation [he was] being kicked, slapped, of course his teeth fell out . . . For a month he was peeing blood. He said he felt like a mass of pain, his body was no more.”
She still had hope her son could be saved from his punishment imposed under Saudi’s sharia penal system and described the sentence — which would involve him being beheaded before his decapitated body is hung from a cross in public — as having been plucked out of the dark ages.
“I feel that one’s very being is repelled at such a ruling . . . It’s backwards in the extreme. No sane and normal human being would rule against a child of 17 years old using such a sentence. And why? He didn’t shed any blood, he didn’t steal any property. Where did they get it [this sentence]? From the dark ages?”
She believes the sentence was intended to punish her son for his Shia faith. “I don’t expect that anyone normal and sane has heard of such a thing, [no] normal person who is not sectarian would find such a thing acceptable. That’s why you find that always it’s sectarian people who are happy with such things because he’s a Shia.”
Calling on the US president to intervene she said:
“He is the head of this world and he can, he can interfere and rescue my son . . . To rescue someone from harm, there is nothing greater than that. I mean my son and I are simple people and we don’t carry any significance in this world but despite that, if he [Obama] carried out this act, I feel it would raise his esteem in the eyes of the world. He would be rescuing us from a great tragedy.”
On Tuesday the UK government said it would be withdrawing its bid for a Â£5.9 million contract to deliver training for Saudi prisons. That move came on the same day that Cameron said he would write to Riyadh to implore Saudi authorities not to carry out a punishment of 360 lashes on a British pensioner caught transporting homemade wine in his car. Last week Cameron appealed to the newly crowned king not to carry out the death sentence on Nimr.
Speaking on BBC’s Newsnight on Friday the Saudi ambassador to the UN, Abdallah al-Mouallimi, said he would not talk about Nimr’s case because the “legal process has not been exhausted”, but said the matter was one for Saudi Arabia alone.
“We respectfully request the world to respect our systems and our judicial processes, and our laws and regulations, and not to interfere in the internal affairs of a sovereign state.”
Mouallimi said the kingdom would uphold the UN charter on human rights. “The application of sharia law as far as human rights is concerned is the highest form of human rights,” he said, adding: “We believe that we are holding ourselves to the highest standards. If that doesn’t please someone here or there, that’s their problem not ours.”
The Saudi UK embassy has said it rejects “any form of interference in its internal affairs”.
Maya Foa, head of the death penalty team at Reprieve, said the US president needed to step in immediately. “Saudi Arabia’s planned executions of Ali al-Nimr and another juvenile, Dawoud al-Marhoon, have rightly caused a global outcry. But the response of the US — the Saudis’ closest ally — to these outrages has been woefully inadequate,” she said.
“The beheading of these two boys, who were arrested and tortured for merely attending protests, would be a grotesque miscarriage of justice. President Obama must listen to the call from Ali’s desperate family, and step in now to urge the Saudis to change course.”
Nusra al-Ahmed said she was grateful for the support she had received from across Europe, Africa and the Middle East, and described the intervention by the UK’s leader of the opposition, Jeremy Corbyn, during his inaugural speech to his party conference as a “beautiful gesture”.
During the speech Corbyn called on Cameron to take up Nimr’s case with the Saudi authorities “to prevent a grave injustice”.
Ahmed said she hoped Corbyn “continues to demand or to canvass the kingdom of Saudi Arabia regarding this issue and this is a very humane act from him.”
Nimr’s case now rests in the hands of King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, who is facing dissension from within the sprawling royal family just 10 months after taking the throne.
Asked whether she had a message for him, Ahmed said, “I wish that King Salman would lift this pain from my son . . . The king is also a father, and he should be the first one to feel sympathy for us.”
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