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Journal Archives

ISIS and What's at Stake for Saudi Arabia?

Madawi Al-Rasheed says the Saudis contend with ISIS to be the leaders of the Sunni world, but their interests converge as both regard Iran and the Shia as their enemy - April 5, 2015


Madawi Al-Rasheed is Visiting Professor at the Middle East Centre at The London School of Economics and Political Science. She is originally from Saudi Arabia and currently lives in London. Her research focuses on history, society, religion and politics in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf. Her recent publications include A History of Saudi Arabia and A Most Masculine State .


ISIS and What's at Stake for Saudi Arabia? (2/3)PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Welcome to the Real News Network. I'm Paul Jay.

Continuing our series of discussions, Madawi al-Rasheed. She joins us, again, from London. Thanks for joining us, Madawi.


JAY: Once again, Madawi's a visiting professor at the Middle East Center at the London School of Economics and Political Science.

So in part one of this interview series, we talked about the Saudi stakes in Yemen. But as most countries, domestic politics sometimes is the most important determining factor about external policy. So today we're going to talk a little bit more about the situation in Saudi Arabia.

First of all, let's talk about the Shia in Saudi Arabia. First of all, as you mentioned in part one, the Saudis have incurred a couple of times actually in Bahrain to help the Bahraini monarchy suppress the rebellion there, or protests. There's a large minority Shia population in Saudi Arabia, and it happens to be very strategically located right where most of the oil is. Incurring this, the Yemen incursion, as the Houthis are Shia, how does this play out, in terms of Saudi domestic politics?

AL-RASHEED: I think the Saudi Shia started a kind of uprising protest movement. But they were suppressed. And until sort of recently, they continued to stage very small demonstrations in their villages in the Eastern province where the oil installations are, and the oil fields. But they failed to create any kind of cross-sectarian solidarities.


A young prince may cost Syria and Yemen dear

Sunday April 5, 2015

World View: As the US and Iran reach accord, Saudi Arabia endangers the status quo in the Middle East

A succession of crucially important military and diplomatic events are convulsing the political landscape of the Middle East. The most significant development is the understanding between the US and five other world powers with Iran on limiting Iran’s nuclear programme in return for an easing of sanctions. But the muting of hostility between the US and Iran, a destabilising feature of Middle East politics since the overthrow of the Shah in 1979, may not do much to stem the momentum towards ever greater violence in Syria, Yemen and Iraq.

In any case, the benefits of a US-Iran agreement may be slow to come, if they come at all, as the Republicans in Congress, the Saudis and Israel try to torpedo it. And even if an accord is ratified and implemented, President Obama could be hedged in by its opponents from further co-operation with Iran in other parts of the Middle East. In contrast to this snail’s pace rapprochement, the crises in Yemen and Syria are getting worse by the day and, in Iraq, for all the government’s claims to have captured Tikrit, its forces are still only nibbling at the outer defences of Islamic State (Isis).

Saudi Arabia and the Gulf monarchies have the greatest self-interest in maintaining the status quo in the region, something they have been fairly successful in doing in the past. Who would have predicted in the late 1950s that Arab nationalist and socialist movements would pass away but Saudi Arabia would remain the theocratic absolute monarchy it has always been? What is striking about developments in the past few weeks is that it is Saudi Arabia that is seeking radical change in the region and is prepared to use military force to secure it. In Yemen, it has launched a devastating air war and, in Syria, it is collaborating with Turkey to support extreme jihadi movements led by Jabhat al-Nusra, the al-Qaeda affiliate that last week captured its first provincial capital.

The Saudis are abandoning their tradition of pursuing extremely cautious policies, using their vast wealth to buy influence, working through proxies and keeping close to the US. In Yemen, it is the Saudi air force that is bombarding the Houthis, along with Yemeni army units still loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh who was once seen as the Saudis’ and Americans’ man in Sanaa, the Yemeni capital. As with many other air campaigns, the Saudis and their Gulf Co-operation Council allies are finding that air strikes without a reliable military partner on the ground do not get you very far. But if Saudi ground forces are deployed in Yemen they will be entering a country that has been just as much of a quagmire as Afghanistan and Iraq.


Obama: Iran accord will make the world safer

*An exceptionally good day for the whole world

WASHINGTON — The new deal between Iran, the United States and its allies Thursday is a "historic understanding" that paves the way for a final agreement aimed at preventing Tehran from making nuclear weapons, President Obama said.

"If this framework leads to a final, comprehensive deal, it will make our country, our allies, and our world safer," Obama said at the White House.

Obama forcefully turned his 18-minute statement in the Rose Garden into a victory lap for his policies on Iran and the Middle East. He pledged to work with Congress and Israel, which are both skeptical of any deal with Iran, and with other nations to create a lasting agreement that negotiators have to reach by June 30.


Iran demands lifting of sanctions for 'irreversible' moves, says insider


Source in contact with negotiators tells MEE core issue in nuclear talks remains how and when sanctions will be lifted

Gareth Porter
Tuesday 31 March 2015 22:18 BST
Last update:
Tuesday 31 March 2015 22:30 BST

As the P5+1 and Iran agree to continue talks on a possible joint statement past a midnight deadline into Wednesday, the most contentious issue in Lausanne still appears to be how and when sanctions on Iran will be lifted.

Virtually all the details of the negotiating positions of the two sides remain cloaked in secrecy. However, Middle East Eye has learned from an informed source in contact with negotiators in Lausanne that the core issue remaining to be resolved is whether the P5+1 will end some sanctions as soon as Iran has taken what it is calling “irreversible’ actions to implement the agreement.

Iran has already made some significant concessions on the sanctions issue, the source revealed. Iran and the six-nation group, led by the US, have agreed that unilateral US and European sanctions as UN Security Council sanctions that related to Iran’s nuclear programme could be “suspended” rather than being lifted permanently at the beginning of the implementation of the agreement. The Iranian delegation is also not contesting that the UN Security Council resolutions that forbid assistance to Iran’s ballistic missile program and other military programs can stay in place, the source said.

But the remaining bone of contention is that the six-nation group has insisted on maintaining the entire legal system of sanctions in place, even after the sanctions have been suspended, until the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has reached the conclusion that Iran’s nuclear programme is entirely for peaceful purposes – a process that it admits could take many years. US and European officials have been telling journalists on background for months that maintaining the sanctions architecture in place is necessary to ensure not only that Iran implements the agreement fully but also that it has no ambitions to obtain nuclear weapons.

in full: http://www.middleeasteye.net/news/iran-demands-lifting-sanctions-irreversible-moves-says-insider-1231828480

Supreme Court Rules Against Disability Providers

By Shaun Heasley

March 31, 2015

Developmental disability service providers cannot sue to force state Medicaid programs to raise their reimbursement rates, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled.

In a 5-4 decision Tuesday, the high court ruled against a group of Idaho agencies serving people with developmental disabilities.

The service providers had argued that the state failed to raise Medicaid payments as outlined in a federally-approved formula for years even as such agencies faced rising costs.

But, in a blow to the providers, the Supreme Court ruled that private companies currently lack any right to enforce Medicaid requirements. Rather, it is up to the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services to ensure that states comply with the program’s rules, the court said.

“Our precedents establish that a private right of action under federal law is not created by mere implication, but must be ‘unambiguously conferred,'” wrote Justice Antonin Scalia for the majority. “Nothing in the Medicaid Act suggests that Congress meant to change that.”

Joining Scalia in the majority were Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Clarence Thomas, Stephen Breyer and Samuel Alito.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor said in her dissent that the decision will have significant consequences.

“Previously, a state that set reimbursement rates so low that providers were unwilling to furnish a covered service for those who need it could be compelled by those affected to respect the obligation imposed by (the Medicaid Act),” Sotomayor wrote. “Now, it must suffice that a federal agency, with many programs to oversee, has authority to address such violations through the drastic and often counterproductive measure of withholding the funds that pay for such services.”

Sotomayor was joined in dissent by Justices Anthony Kennedy, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Elena Kagan.


Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

World View: Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis

March 29, 2015
Patrick Cockburn

Foreign states that go to war in Yemen usually come to regret it. The Saudi-led military intervention so far involves only air strikes, but a ground assault may follow. The code name for the action is Operation Decisive Storm, which is probably an indication of what Saudi Arabia and its allies would like to happen in Yemen, rather than what will actually occur.

In practice, a decisive outcome is the least likely prospect for Yemen, just as it has long been in Iraq and Afghanistan. A political feature common to all three countries is that power is divided between so many players it is impossible to defeat or placate them all for very long. Saudi Arabia is backing President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi but the humiliating speed of his defeat shows his lack of organised support.

The threat of further intervention by Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Cooperation Council may be intended to redress the balance of power in Yemen and prevent the Houthis winning a total victory. But Saudi actions and those of the Sunni coalition will be self-fulfilling if the Houthis – never previously full proxies of Iran – find themselves fighting a war in which they are dependent on Iranian financial, political and military backing.

Likewise, the Houthis, as members of the Zaidi sect, were not always seen by Shia in other countries as part of their religious community. But by leading a Sunni coalition Saudi Arabia will internationalise the Yemen conflict and emphasise its sectarian Sunni-Shia dimension.

Remainder: http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/saudi-arabias-airstrikes-in-yemen-are-fuelling-the-gulfs-fire-10141323.html


Special coordinator for the Middle East peace process Robert Serry’s final briefing to the Security Council revealed the deep frustration of a man who’s spent seven years on the frontline of ‘one of the most spectacular deceptions in modern diplomatic history‘.

‘Upon leaving this position’, Serry explained, ‘I cannot but express an overriding feeling that I have been part of a peace process in which a can is kicked down an endless road’. ‘Gaza is our collective failure, and the people of Gaza continue to suffer the consequences’, while in the West Bank, ‘umbers’ – of settlement units constructed, of house demolitions – ‘hide the grim reality of entrenched occupation leading to growing despair’.

Diplomatically, we now face ‘the biggest crisis to date to our joint efforts to achieve a two-state solution’.

Serry urged the Security Council to break the deadlock by setting out its own parameters for resolving the conflict. Worryingly, he appeared to call for replacing UN Resolutions 242 & 338 with a ‘new peace architecture’ for resolving the conflict:

in full: http://jamiesternweiner.com/2015/03/27/a-new-peace-architecture/

Bio*Jamie Stern-Weiner was born in Israel and grew up in London, where he now lives.

He studied politics (undergraduate) and intellectual history (M.Phil) at the University of Cambridge.

He co-founded and co-edits New Left Project, one of the UK’s leading left-wing websites, and works as a researcher and editor for Spinwatch and OR Books, respectively.

His writing has been published by, among others, Le Monde diplomatique, Truthout, VICE, openDemocracy, Jadaliyya, CounterPunch, ZNet, Mondoweiss and Middle East Report Online (MERIP).

European consuls: Israel deepens hold on East Jerusalem

March 25, 2015

Palestinian worshippers walk past the Dome of the Rock on the compound known to Muslims as Haram al-Sharif and to Jews as Temple Mount in Jerusalem's Old City, Jan. 16, 2015. (photo by REUTERS/Ammar Awad

In the heart of the Muslim Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem lies the home of the Sub Laban family. From the doorway one can see the golden dome of Al-Aqsa Mosque, bright and shiny, almost within touching distance. Yet the family members are shuttered inside. They’re afraid police forces and judicial emissaries could show up any minute and forcibly remove them from the place they have lived since the early 1950s. After 35 years of legal battles, an Israeli court ruled that the family has lost its rights and no longer qualifies as a protected tenant. After they’re evicted, the key will be handed over to representatives of the Ateret Cohanim settler organization, marking another achievement in its bid to Judaize East Jerusalem.

The Shamasneh family of the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood is also living on borrowed time. Here, too, the law regulating the trusteeship of property owned by absentee landlords, which allows claims for property owned by Jews before 1948, serves the political aims of the settlers’ organization. The discriminatory Israeli law, which allows Jews to claim the property they were forced to leave in 1948 but bans Arabs from doing so, faithfully serves those wishing to display sovereignty over all parts of the holy city (and country). If the eviction is carried out, it will be the first time since the start of the protest in Sheikh Jarrah five years ago, which generated international interest and resonated abroad, that a Palestinian family will be forced to leave its home for the benefit of Jewish settlers.

Every house handed over to the right-wing nongovernmental organizations, which enjoy government backing, increases the separation between the Jerusalem Old City and the Palestinian neighborhoods in the city’s northeast. That’s the reason Sheikh Jarrah was dubbed Jerusalem’s E1 area, after the stretch of land that lies between Jerusalem and the settlement town of Maale Adumim. E1 is designed to further cut off East Jerusalem from the West Bank, although the Palestinians consider the two a single entity. Implementation of these measures will signal the end of the two-state solution more than all the recent declarations and denials by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu concerning the Bar Ilan speech and the establishment of a Palestinian state.

On March 20, The Guardian published details from a classified document compiled by the consuls of the European Union member-states in Jerusalem. The consuls note that the city has not been divided since 1967 as it has been for the past year. They warn of a vicious cycle of polarization and violence, and identify among the central causes the housing crisis in the Palestinian neighborhoods and the enforcement activity against illegal construction in those neighborhoods. A special chapter is devoted to the growing tensions on the Temple Mount (Haram al-Sharif). One of the document signatories told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity: “Since the question of Jerusalem in an essential dimension of the two-state solution for the EU, the report expressed serious concern regarding the unprecedented level of violence and division in the city, and warned that the solution to this situation cannot be of a security nature.”

Read more: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2015/03/east-jerusalem-consuls-europe-report-palestinians-eviction.html#ixzz3VanWjAb5

Amnesty Inter:Russian activists threatened with criminal charges after raising torture allegatiions


The Russian authorities’ threat to bring criminal charges against Eva Merkacheva and Andrei Babushkin, two human rights activists who published torture allegations from two men accused of the assassination of Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov, raises alarming questions over the fairness of the investigation, said Amnesty International.

The Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation suggested that raising allegations that Zaur Dadayev was tortured into confessing and that Shaghid Gubashev was also ill-treated may amount to “interference with the work of investigator with the purpose of preventing a comprehensive, full and objective investigation of the case”.

“These allegations, coupled with reports that Zaur Dadaev was only allowed to see a state-appointed lawyer and not the lawyer contracted by his family, raises very serious questions about the fairness of these proceedings and fuels speculation about a possible state-sanctioned cover-up.”

Zaur Dadayev, one of at least six men suspected of killing Boris Nemtsov, told members of the Public Monitoring Commission (an independent group authorised to visit places of detention in Russia) that after his detention he was hand-cuffed and blind-folded with a bag placed over his head for two days. He said he confessed to the crime after the authorities promised they would release his friend. Another suspect in the case, Shaghid Gubashev, said he had been “beaten and tortured.”

in full: https://www.amnesty.org/en/articles/news/2015/03/russian-activists-threatened-with-criminal-charges-after-raising-torture-allegations/

Lords of Secrecy The National Security Elite and America's Stealth Warfare by Scott Horton

Bio: Scott Horton is a Contributing Editor at Harper's Magazine, an attorney active in international practice, and a lecturer at Columbia Law School. A life-long human rights advocate, Horton served as counsel to Andrei Sakharov and Elena Bonner, among other activists in the former Soviet Union. His journalistic work has received the National Magazine Award for Reporting, among other distinctions.

Forty years ago, a majority of Americans were highly engaged in issues of war and peace. Whether to go to war or keep out of conflicts was a vital question at the heart of the country’s vibrant, if fractious, democracy. But American political consciousness has drifted. In the last decade, America has gone to war in Iraq and Afghanistan, while pursuing a new kind of warfare in Yemen, Somalia, Libya, and Pakistan. National security issues have increasingly faded from the political agenda, due in part to the growth of government secrecy.

In lucid and chilling detail, journalist and lawyer Scott Horton shows how secrecy has changed the way America functions. Executive decisions about war and peace are increasingly made by autonomous, self-directing, and unaccountable national security elites. Secrecy is justified as part of a bargain under which the state promises to keep the people safe from its enemies, but in fact allows excesses, mistakes, and crimes to go unchecked. Bureaucracies use secrets to conceal their mistakes and advance their power in government, invariable at the expense of the rights of the people. Never before have the American people had so little information concerning the wars waged in their name, nor has Congress exercised so little oversight over the war effort. American democracy is in deep trouble.

Lords of Secrecy explores the most important national security debates of our time, including the legal and moral issues surrounding the turn to private security contractors, the sweeping surveillance methods of intelligence agencies, and the use of robotic weapons such as drones. Horton looks at the legal edifice upon which these decisions are based and discusses approaches to rolling back the flood of secrets that is engulfing America today.Whistleblowers, but also Congress, the public, and the media, play a vital role in this process.

As the ancient Greeks recognized, too much secrecy changes the nature of the state itself, transforming a democracy into something else. Horton reminds us that dealing with the country’s national security concerns is both a right and a responsibility of a free citizenry, something that has always sat at the heart of any democracy that earns the name.

in full: http://www.publicaffairsbooks.com/book/hardcover/lords-of-secrecy/9781568587455
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