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Jamal Khashoggi: Casualty of the Trump administration’s disregard for democracy and civil rights in the Middle East?

Jamal Khashoggi: Casualty of the Trump administration’s disregard for democracy and civil rights in the Middle East?

by David Mednicoff*

The international crisis over whether top Saudi Arabian leadership murdered U.S.-based Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi is a striking example of the consequences of Donald Trump’s blanket disregard for democratic politics and human rights in other countries. This departure from decades of American foreign policy rhetoric remains comparatively undiscussed.

However, in the Middle East, my area of expertise, I believe this Trump policy shift opens the door to exactly the sort of flagrant attacks on individual freedom and safety that likely recently claimed Khashoggi.

Most criticism of Trump’s foreign policy has focused on two other major departures from decades of past American practice.

First, Trump has rejected the cornerstones of the post-WWII international order largely built by the U.S.: deep alliances among Western democracies and global free trade. Second, Trump has shown an affinity for authoritarian rulers, including Russia’s Vladimir Putin, which has undermined American interests.

Yet, the Trump administration’s abandonment of support for democracy and civil rights hurts the interests of both Middle Easterners and Americans.

Did the US walk the walk?
In the past, U.S. leaders and officials within the government have shown interest in political rights and government accountability in other countries. Such talk has nonetheless often taken a back seat to considerations of geopolitical power or resources. Continue reading

Forced to choose between carrying out Saudi plans or quitting, Hariri quits

Forced to choose between carrying out Saudi plans or quitting, Hariri quits

After being summoned like a Saudi diplomat to appear before the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, Saad Hariri returned to Beirut to pack and say his goodbyes, then returned to Riyad, picked up the phone and called the Lebanese president to tell him that he is quitting. The bizarre process led President Michel Aoun to wait to see if Hariri return and inform him in person, and through the proper protocol, about the reasons for quitting before accepting his resignation. That might be a very long wait. 
Clearly, the Hariri’s decision to resign is not his own. After all, all the reasons he mentioned are not new developments: Lebanon is under the circumstances and conditions as when he agreed to the deal that brought him and Aoun to the offices of the presidency and the prime ministry. 

Among the reasons, real and fictitious, that forced him to resign, Hariri claims that he could be assassinated, that Iran in meddling in Lebanese affairs, and that Hezbollah is a destabilizing force because of its use of force against Syrians and Lebanese citizens. Before he agreed to the deal that made him prime minister, Hezbollah was doing whatever it is doing now, Iran was doing whatever it is doing now, and his fear for his life then was as much a risk then as it is now. Clearly there is something else that has changed: Saudi Arabia’s plan for the region. 
The summon is proof of that fact and it is also proof that Saudi Arabia is meddling in Lebanese affairs. Those who know Lebanese politics, know that many regional and world powers meddle in Lebanese affairs, so there is nothing new here. 
These developments are indicative of Saudi plans to escalate its efforts to further destabilize Lebanon, and country, whose stability is crucial to region given its geography, demography, and history. 

Research Report: Saudi Arabia exports Wahhabi Islam, an ideology that promotes extremism and terrorism

Research Report: Saudi Arabia exports Wahhabi Islam, an ideology that promotes extremism and terrorism

 ISR Comment:

Because of stories like this, Saudi Arabia wants to shut down Aljazeera
The rift between four Arab governments and Qatar is a good thing for those interested in reduced level of violence in Islamic societies and the potential for serious reform in area of religious thought and practices. For nearly a decade now, ISR has focused on the internal problems and the self-inflicted harm posed by the ideology and practices of Wahhabi-Salafism. ISR’s campaign is driven by the firm belief that by addressing the corrupting role played by Wahhabism can Islamic societies around the world overcome the many other challenges. The role of Wahhabism, as an ideology and practice that justify and sustain violence and bigotry, is now the subject of many news media and research organizations. The crisis between the Gulf Nations (+Egypt) will help expose the dubious secret dealings of these governments, all of whom are equal offenders when it comes to human rights violations and other forms of abuses. 
Because of this rift, Aljazeera, which has been used by the Qatari rulers as a soft weapon around the world, is now, and for the first time, producing content that is critical of the ruling families of the Gulf States. The media war will help expose the secret dealings of corrupt regimes and force a conversation about the ways Islam and Islamic institutions have been used for political ends. This feud will not just help expose corruption among Arab and Muslim rulers, it will also expose the hypocrisy and complicity of Western governments. The report below, and subsequent coverage, is a good example of the new reality. 
The Saudi rulers have rejected the findings of this report, claiming that it is based on lies. They argued that, since these extremist groups carried out many attacks in Saudi Arabia, that proves that Saudi Arabia is not a sponsor or supporter of terrorism. This is an absurd argument. ISIL is at war with Nusra, is that proof that the two organizations are not members of Wahhabi-Salafist terror organizations? Can Nusra argue, that it is now fighting ISIL in some regions, therefore it is not a terrorist organization? Of course, not. 
The evidence establishing direct connection between Wahhabi-Salafism and violent groups is beyond doubt. The fact that Wahabbism sees other Islamic sects as deviants is proof of their disdain to human dignity. The fact that Saudi Arabia and Qatar are the only two countries in the world that officially embrace and promote Wahhabism makes that connection even clearer. There is one simple thing the Saudi and Qatari rulers can do to end their ties to terrorism: condemn in clear and unambiguous terms the Wahhabi ideology and practices that justifies the abuse and killing of Muslims and non-Muslims who do not share their views and beliefs, and shut down their institutions and many satellite televisions that spread hate and bigotry.

 

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Summary of the report:
 A new report from The Henry Jackson Society, “Foreign Funded Islamist Extremism in the UK”, has highlighted the need for a public inquiry into the foreign-based funding of Islamist extremism. We report on a growing body of evidence on the considerable impact that foreign funding has had on advancing Islamist extremism in Britain and other Western countries. Our conclusions include: The foreign funding for Islamist extremism in Britain primarily comes from governments and government linked foundations based in the Gulf, as well as Iran. Foremost among these has been Saudi Arabia, which since the 1960s has sponsored a multimillion dollar effort to export Wahhabi Islam across the Islamic world, including to Muslim communities in the West. In the UK, this funding has primarily taken the form of endowments to mosques and Islamic educational institutions, which have apparently, in turn, played host to Islamist extremist preachers and the distribution of extremist literature. Influence has also been exerted through the training of British Muslim religious leaders in Saudi Arabia, as well as the use of Saudi textbooks in a number of the UK’s independent Islamic schools. A number of Britain’s most serious Islamist hate preachers sit within the Salafi-Wahhabi ideology and are apparently linked to Islamist extremism sponsored from overseas, either by having studied in Saudi Arabia as part of scholarship programmes, or by having been provided with extreme literature and material within the UK itself. There have been numerous cases of British individuals who have joined Jihadist groups in Iraq and Syria whose radicalisation is thought to link back to foreign funded institutions and preachers. Full report, below:

….

Full text of the list of demands submitted by Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, UAE, and Egypt to Qatar

Full text of the list of demands submitted by Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, UAE, and Egypt to Qatar

ISR comment: Four Arab States want Qatar to close down Aljazeera, a sign that the current crisis is in fact a reaction to and fear of the protest movements popularly known as the Arab Spring. It was on the pages of ISR that the role of Aljazeera in galvanizing social change in the Arab world was thoroughly explained and it was on the pages of ISR that the first prediction that the Gulf States will implode from the inside as a result of the change initiated by the protest movement that overthrew Ben Ali (now living in Saudi Arabia) and Mubarak (now back from prison after Sisi regained power).
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A summary of the demands submitted by the Saudis, Bahrainis, Emiratis, and Egyptians to Qatar through Kuwait:
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1. Reduce diplomatic ties with Iran and close its diplomatic missions there. Expel members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard from Qatar and cut off any joint military cooperation with Iran. Only trade and commerce with Iran that complies with U.S. and international sanctions will be permitted.


2. Shutting down the Turkish military base in Qatar and stop any military agreements with Turkey inside Qatar


3. Announce the cutting of ties to “terrorist organizations,” including the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamic State, al-Qaida, and Hezbollah. Formally declare those entities as terrorist groups.


4. Stop providing financial support to entities and individuals list on the list previously provided by the four nations.


5. Handover all persons accused of terrorists and seize their property.


6. Shut down Al-Jazeera and its affiliate stations.


7. Stop interfering in the affairs of neighboring states, stop offering citizens to persons from neighboring states, and provide a list of citizens of neighboring states who were offered Qatar citizenship.


8. Pay for all damages caused by Qatar policy and practices in neighboring states.


9. Assure full compliance with Arab decision and agree to honor the Riyadh agreements with Gulf nations of 2013 and 2014.


10. Submit a list of documents by and about opposition figures supported by Qatar.


11. Shut down news outlets that Qatar funds, directly and indirectly (i.e., Arabi21, Rassd, al-Araby Al-Jadeed, and Middle East Eye).


12. Agree to all these terms within 10 days or it will be considered void.


13. the agreement shall consist of clear mechanism of compliance, including monthly audits for the first year after agreeing to the demands, then once per quarter during the second year, and annually for ten years thereafter.

This Crisis between Saudi Arabia and Qatar likely to dismantle the GCC

This Crisis between Saudi Arabia and Qatar likely to dismantle the GCC

Together, Saudi Arabian and Qatari rulers bankrolled armed rebellions that destroyed Libya, Syria, and Yemen. They offered political and military support to all armed groups that are willing to fight regimes they do not like. Their united front against their common enemies did nothing to remove their own internal problems. Now, they have to face those problems and from the first look, they shattered. Previously, the club of rich nations known as the GCC worked together to force poor Arab countries fall in line. They exerted their power to expel a founding member of the Arab League, Syria, out of the intergovernmental organization. When Qatar hosted the annual summit of the Arab League, it maneuvered to give Syria’s seat to some obscure figure from the Syrian opposition groups.

On May 22, while in Saudi Arabia, Trump met with about 53 representatives of government of Arab and Muslim nations to show a united front against what he called “radical Islamist terrorism.” A day after he left, media outlets from Saudi Arabia and UAE accused Qatar of undermining Arab unity by supporting terrorism and cozying up to Iran. On the charge of supporting terrorism, Qatar essentially replied by invoking the proverb: the pot calling the kettle black. Indeed that sums it up: Saudi Arabia is the only regime that espouses the radical interpretation of Islam called, Wahhabi Salafism. They worked on promoting this creed around the world under the guise of Sunni Islam. Every fighter joining al-Qaeda or ISIL is a follower of this radical creed. So it is laughable that Saudi Arabia is accusing other governments of supporting terrorism while its rulers have provided weapons to Salafists fighting in Syria and Libya and used its resources and connections to spread Wahhabism through Islamic centers all over the world. Rulers of Qatar seem determined to resist its bullying neighbors this time. They activated their assets, mainly well-financed and well-staffed media powerhouse, Aljazeera, and members of and sympathizers with the Muslim Brotherhood.

Qatar might be behind the leaked emails of a diplomat from UAE. The emails show that the GCC states used their wealth to hire the best and most influential PR and lobbyists to influence policy makers and governments around the world and in the United States. One of the emails show how Gulf States’ diplomats promote one prince over others and how they work with journalists to raise the profile of individuals they like and raise concerns about groups and governments they do not like.

The coming days and weeks will reveal more since these two countries worked together to destabilize other countries. Each side will be leaking more emails and diplomatic documents that will show the extent of their involvement in creating shady alliances, destabilizing other countries, and using their assets to mask all their covert operations around the world.

Qatar scapegoated by Saudi Arabia and its allies: Qatar Saudi Arabia relations tested, again

Qatar scapegoated by Saudi Arabia and its allies: Qatar Saudi Arabia relations tested, again

Trump would like to claim that all Arab and Muslim leaders he lectured in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, are united to fight terrorism and confront Iran. The reality tells a different story. Just a day after he left, Egypt, UAE, Bahrain, and Saudi Arabia launched an unprecedented and coordinated media attack on one of their own: Qatar. 

The Saudi and Emirati owned satellite television station, Alarabiyya and Skynews-Arabic, reported that the Emir of Qatar issued statements defending Hamas and Hezbollah, refusing to  confront Iran, and praising US protection of his country against countries that are known sponsors of terrorism (a reference to Saudi Arabia). The two channels aired extensive coverage of these unverified reports even after the government of Qatar refuted them and claimed that its news agencies’ websites and social media accounts were hacked. 

The governments of Egypt, UAE, Bahrain, and Saudi Arabia kept the pressure on Qatar, signaling that the crisis between them is deeper than a mere news report. In a coordinated action, they blocked 21 Qatari websites, including Aljazeera’s. Their main news outlets continued their attack on Qatar. 

These events show that Saudi Arabia is leading an alliance that is at war with itself. Representative of each of the countries that attended these so-called summits with Trump had no idea what to expect. Some asked if there were going to be a joint statement and they were told that there will be none. Yet, after all the delegates left, the Saudi rulers released a statement in the name of all the Arab and Muslim leaders. Many countries felt the need to release separate statements emphasizing the
so-called Riyadh Statement does not represent their official position.

Qatar is being signaled out because it is supposed to be, not only part of this fictitious anti-terror Islamic coalition, but member of the club of rich Arab nations— Gulf Cooperation Council GCC. That membership was supposed to force them to hold a united front against real and perceived enemies. The visit of Qatari foreign minister to Iraq, an ally of Iran, just days before Riyadh summits, must have angered the Saudi rulers. 
Trump wanted Muslim rulers to fight terrorism. He called on them to do so from Saudi Arabia, the nation that created and spread the creed of al-Qaeda and its derivatives: Wahhabi Salafism. The Saudi rulers and their allies want to shift the blame to Qatar, which is indeed a sponsor and supporter of Wahhabi Salafism too, but also supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood, which is seen as a threat to Egypt and UAE, especially. These developments reveal the weakness and inconsistencies from which the so-called “Islamic anti-terror alliance” suffers. It is an alliance made for propaganda not for real action.
The crisis as reported in the media:
   



Only a bigot would think that the Saudi rulers stand for Islam and Muslims

Only a bigot would think that the Saudi rulers stand for Islam and Muslims

Trump, whose first executive order as president imposed a Muslim Ban, which was blocked by U.S. courts and opposed by civil society institutions, was declared a “true friend of Muslims.” That declaration was made by the Saudi Deputy Crown Prince, Mohammed Ibn Salman, who recently mocked an entire religious community, Shia Muslims who believe in Mahdi as a messiah (btw, Many Sunnis also believe in an Awaited Mahdi), for the tenets of their faith as a cause for his regime’s hostility towards Iran. It is extraordinary that a member of a ruling clan that espouses Wahhabism, which holds that the earth is flat, playing chess as haram (proscribed) and a number of other absurdities, declares that he will only normalize relations with a neighboring nation when it abandoned its religion.

The Saudi kingdom is built on three pillars of supremacy: The supremacy of the Saud Clan, the supremacy of being Arab, and the supremacy of Wahhabi Salafism, all of which are canonized in the official name of the kingdom and the titles of its rulers: The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), ruled by the Custodian of the Two Noble Sanctuaries, Salman, and his select princes, God’s Commanding Guardians [Awliya’ al-amr]. This arrangement allows the Saudi rulers to subjugate its people treating them as a flock [ra`iyya]–not citizens. 

The Saudi rulers further segment Saudi society into classes with varying rights and privileges: women are subordinate to men, non-Arabs are subordinate to Arabs (except European white men), non-Muslims are subordinate to Muslims, and non-Sunni Muslims are subordinate to Sunni Muslims, and poor persons are subordinate to rich persons. These values, principles, and practices guide their domestic and foreign policies. Ibn Salman’s characterization of Trump as a “true friend of Muslims” makes sense in such a context. In the mind of the Saudi rulers, Trump is the Commanding Guardian [Wali al-amr] over Muslim-Americans. As a rich white man, he is on the same level as members of the Saudi ruling family. He is, then, a true friend of Muslims—rich, Wahhabi Salafi Muslims that is. 

The Saudi rulers have subjugated the people of the Arabian Peninsula for more than seventy years. They used all resources, connections, and their control over religious sites to attempt to subjugate the rest of the Muslim people around the world. However, Muslim-Americans, especially Sunnis, should not tolerate the offensive paternalism of a misogynistic, supremacist, callous rulers. For Muslim-Americans, Trump is a public servant, not a Commanding Guardian over them. They don’t need rulers from thousands of miles away, to tell them who is a “true friend of Muslims and who is not. A regime that bombs children in Yemen and treats non-Saudi Muslims as inferior to Saudis lacks the moral standing to represent anyone but itself. In fact, the Saudi rulers stand guilty of fomenting sectarianism, hatred, and bigotry.

Only an ignorant person would believe the Saudi rulers’ claim of leading the Muslim world and only a bigot will share their worldview.

Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia will cost them nearly $1/2 trillion; good economics?

Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia will cost them nearly $1/2 trillion; good economics?

Some Arab media commentary on Trump’s visit to KSA

The Saudi rulers relish heads of governments with legitimacy deficit. When the first wave of protest popularly known as the Arab Spring pushed out the Tunisian authoritarian, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, no other country in the world was willing to offer him a home. Saudi Arabia offered him a sanctuary and the rulers of the kingdom ignored repeated requests to extradite him to face charges in Tunisia. When Egyptians rose up against another authoritarian, Housni Mubarak, the Saudis offered to take him in, he refused, preferring to stay and die in Egypt. The Saudi rulers lashed out at the Obama administration for not doing enough to save their ally and “moderate” leader. Yemeni people rose up against another Saudi backed leader, Ali Abdullah Saleh. The Saudi rulers intervened and engineered a deal that transferred the presidency to then vice president Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi, with the condition that he will be replaced by an elected president within two years. With the possibility of Saleh or some other figure winning the elections, an uncertain outcome for the Saudis, the elections never happened and the Saudis decided to keep Hadi as the only “legitimate” ruler of Yemen. The Houthis and their allies decided to overrun the capital Sanaa, forcing Hadi to resign and flee to Riyadh. The Saudi rulers launched a military campaign to reinstate his Hadi and his government. They are still working towards that goal. In Iraq, then Prime Minster Nouri al-Maliki was considered by the Saudi rulers as being too close to the Iranian government. They pressured their Iraqi allies to replace him. Instead, Maliki’s coalition won the 2014 elections and he was set to start a new term in office as Prime Minister. Saudi Arabia pressed harder, forcing him to step aside in favor of Haider al-Abadi. In Syria, when the peaceful protest tuned into an armed rebellion, the Saudi rulers immediately took the side of the rebels, including UN-designated terrorist organizations like Nusra and ISIL. The pattern is clear: only rulers accepted to the Saudi rulers are legitimate. That position is reflected in their unprecedented generosity with an American president with the lowest public approval rating since such a record was first recorded. Sounds weird? It should not; it makes perfect sense: a regime that lacks legitimacy naturally gravitates towards like-minded regimes. Birds of the same feather flock together. In the long run, this Saudi approach is a terrible strategy for leading a nation in a rapidly changing world.

In return for the “honor” of being first stop for a US president, an honor perhaps no other country in the world wants to pursue, the Saudi rulers will have the US military and diplomatic protection that they did not lose in the first place. But they will have to pay for this sold-twice shield with money in the form of military hardware and services, investment in US “red states” economies, and propaganda for Trump as “Muslim’s Best Friend Forever”.

Why is Trump making his first trip abroad, as president, to Saudi Arabia?

Why is Trump making his first trip abroad, as president, to Saudi Arabia?


by Ahmed E. Souaiaia*

According to the White House, Trump will travel to Saudi Arabia, Israel and the Vatican “in an effort to unite Islam, Judaism and Christianity in the common cause of fighting “intolerance” and radical extremism.” As reported by the Washington Post, Trump said that he “will begin with a truly historic gathering in Saudi Arabia with leaders from all across the Muslim world… We will begin to construct a new foundation of cooperation and support with our Muslim allies to combat extremism, terrorism and violence.”
Considering his insistence, as a candidate for the presidency, that terrorism is further qualified as “Islamic radical extremism”, and his two attempts, as president, to impose a Muslim Ban, one must ask the question, what gives? Has the White House actually changed the man as some claim?
If power that comes with the executive branch of government changes a man, it is unlikely that it changes him for the better. Power often corrupts. It hardly reforms or redeems. If it does anything, it teaches people about the tools that allow them to disguise their true motives: using coded language and diplomatic speak. But for one to truly change from a misogynist, xenophobic, overprivileged bigot to an interfaith messiah of tolerance, one must go through a crisis of the soul. There is no sign that Trump had gone through such an experience. In fact, the choice of Saudi Arabia, the least tolerant country in the world, as his first stop abroad as president, proves that he is the same man he told us he is throughout the campaign.
Saudi Arabia, too, is ruled by a clan of misogynist, overprivileged bigots with the ability to turn crude oil extracted from the depths of the desert into trillions of US dollars that’d allow them to write history as they see fit. These despotic rulers, disguising themselves as Custodians of the Two Sanctuaries, ban women from driving cars or traveling unaccompanied by a male relative, deprive Saudi religious minorities, like the Shias, their right to identify themselves as anything except as Saudis, treat foreign labors with forbidding cruelty and extreme prejudice, and mercilessly bomb children and mourners in schools and public halls in Yemen. They warmly welcome the rich and powerful and disdainfully abjure the poor and vulnerable. They befriend elitists and shirk commoners. Their behavior, policy, alliances, and temperament are those of a radical supremacist. Their only contributions to the modern world is a supremacist creed—Wahhabism—and a genocidal band of fanatics–al-Qaeda (and its derivatives such as ISIS and al-Nusra). While the rest of the world has been investing in innovations that save life and the environment, the rulers of Saudi Arabia have been investing in destructive ideologies and military hardware. Such rulers cannot and do not represent Muslims. They represent themselves and the sectarian creed they invented and imposed on any Muslims disguised as Sunni Islam, which is far from it.
The similarities between Trump and his entourage and Salman-and-Son  define the adage, birds of the same feather flock together. However, the similarities alone do not explain the reasons that make Trump and the Saudi rulers gravitate towards one another. There are important political and economic reasons that drive this affair between the filthy rich rulers of the world.
Saudi Arabia needs America’s military protection and diplomatic support. Some American politicians need a special kind of Islam and special types of Muslims who serve two purposes: punching bag when on the campaign trail and a cash machine when in the White House. Trump played the first card on the campaign trail when he made the phrase “radical Islamic extremism” a mandatory refrain of every speech and every interview. He even used that phrase to beat down his political rivals to submission if they refused to include the word “Islamic” in conjunction with any reference to terrorism. Now he needs the cash from the Saudi rulers for protection and for paying for his ambitions. In return he dropped the word “Islamic” from “radical Islamic extremism” and honored them by visiting their country on his first scheduled presidential trip abroad. The cycle will continue nonetheless. In four years, he will resurrect the word “Islamic” to brag about degrading “radical Islamic extremism” in Syria and Iraq and about the hundreds of billions of dollars American companies had made selling weapons to Saudi Arabia to fight its phantom mortal enemies.
Four years from now, however, al-Qaeda or some new version of it will be alive still terrorizing and murdering apostate Muslims and deviant Shias in some other Muslim land. Trump and other politicians will continue to preach doom and destruction from this apocalyptic danger called “radical Islamic extremism” and the Muslim countries who did nothing about it. These politicians will continue to use this self-perpetuating myth for as long as people continue to rely on their short memory to construct narratives for themselves and for the “other”. The reason politicians are able to use fear of “radical Islamic extremism” now is because most Americans forgot that it was US administrations—aided by the Saudi rulers—that produced “radical Islamic extremism” in Afghanistan in the 1980’s.
The existence of a perverted interpretation of Islam like Wahhabism, which is followed in Saudi Arabia and espoused by al-Qaeda and its derivatives allows many Western politicians, especially the ultra-conservatives among them, to scare the public and then use that fear to get votes to win elections. Trump masterfully played the threat of “radical Islamic extremism” and he rode that wave of hateful enthusiasm to the White House. He promised that he will defeat this threat. But to defeat such a threat, he must know that he needs to crush it militarily and uproot it ideologically. The latter part would require him to confront the Saudi rulers, not elevate them politically. We are, then, left with only one conclusion: The presence of Saudi “Islam” and al-Qaeda is a political and economic profitable convenience. The two must be contained and controlled, but never fully eradicated because they play a critical geopolitical purpose. With this being the case, Trump’s first visit abroad, as president, makes complete sense.
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* Prof. SOUAIAIA teaches at the University of Iowa. His most recent book, Anatomy of Dissent in Islamic Societies, provides a historical and theoretical treatment of rebellious movements and ideas since the rise of Islam. Opinions are the author’s, speaking on matters of public interest; not speaking for the university or any other organization with which he is affiliated.

UK’s Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson comments anger the rulers of Saudi Arabia, forcing Downing Street to distance itself from his views

UK’s Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson comments anger the rulers of Saudi Arabia, forcing Downing Street to distance itself from his views


When the British government is forced to choose between factual truth and political imperatives, it chose politics

The UK’s Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson stated a fact almost universally known by now. He pointed out that Saudi Arabia is fomenting sectarian war in the region. Saudi officials were angered by the comments and Saudi media accused British media of having an Iranian bias when reporting his comments.

Saudi rulers’ unhappiness with UK media is not specific to this particular instance. They are threatened by the rise in news stories portraying the Saudi military campaign in Yemen in a negative light. BBC had several programs that put the blame for the horrific conditions of children in Yemen on Saudi Arabia. Moreover, UK media in general is highlighting the hypocrisy of UK government, which criticizes Saudi War in Yemen, but keeps selling weapons that enable the rulers of the kingdom to conduct its destructive war in Yemen.

In its attempt to manage this crisis, especially that UK premiere was a guest during the GCC summit in Bahrain, Downing Street was forced to release a statement distancing itself from Johnson’s views.

Johnson’s comment is just one in many negative statements made by Western leaders, in the last two years, accusing Saudi Arabia of spreading an extremist interpretation of Islam

and supporting terrorist groups around the world. Outgoing U.S. president, Barack Obama made the case against Saudi Arabia in a 90-page long article summarizing his views in The Atlantic. Last summer, German intelligence officials also accused Saudi Arabia of building Islamic centers in the West that promote Wahhabism. The incoming U.S. administration will likely take a harsh stance against Saudi Arabian leaders as well.

In short the Saudi rulers must reform their political and religious institutions to be able to live in peace with their neighbors or risk crippling isolation.
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