Adonis Diaries

Archive for January 10th, 2014

The US friends: the Saudis funding Mass Murder in the Middle East

Donors in Saudi Arabia have notoriously played a pivotal role in creating and maintaining Sunni jihadist groups over the past 30 years. Donors in Kuwait are as generous for these extremist factions.

But, for all the supposed determination of the United States and its allies since 9/11 to fight “the war on terror“, they have showed astonishing restraint when it comes to pressuring Saudi Arabia and the Gulf monarchies to turn off the financial tap that keeps the jihadists in business.

PATRICK COCKBURN published this Sunday 8 December 8, 2013 in The Independent:

Mass murder in the Middle East is funded by our friends the Saudis

World View: Everyone knows where al-Qa’ida gets its money, but while the violence is sectarian, the West does nothing. (In addition to Saudi Arabia donors, who else funds al Qaeda? Do governments fund al Qaeda? In which ways the CIA support al Qaeda?)

Compare two US pronouncements stressing the significance of these donations and basing their conclusions on the best intelligence available to the US government.

The first is in the 9/11 Commission Report which found that Osama bin Laden did not fund al-Qa’ida because from 1994 he had little money of his own but relied on his ties to wealthy Saudi individuals established during the Afghan war in the 1980s. Quoting, among other sources, a CIA analytic report dated 14 November 2002, the commission concluded that “al-Qa’ida appears to have relied on a core group of financial facilitators who raised money from a variety of donors and other fund-raisers primarily in the Gulf countries and particularly in Saudi Arabia”.

Seven years pass after the CIA report was written during which the US invades Iraq fighting, among others, the newly established Iraq franchise of al-Qa’ida, and becomes engaged in a bloody war in Afghanistan with the resurgent Taliban. American drones are fired at supposed al-Qa’ida-linked targets located everywhere from Waziristan in north-west Pakistan to the hill villages of Yemen.

During this time, Washington can manage no more than a few gentle reproofs to Saudi Arabia on its promotion of fanatical and sectarian Sunni militancy outside its own borders.

Evidence for this is a fascinating telegram on “terrorist finance” from US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to US embassies, dated 30 December 2009 and released by WikiLeaks the following year.

Hillary Clinton says firmly that “donors in Saudi Arabia constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide”.

Eight years after 9/11, when 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudis, Mrs Clinton reiterates in the same message that “Saudi Arabia remains a critical financial support for al-Qa’ida, the Taliban, LeT [Lashkar-e-Taiba in Pakistan] and other terrorist groups”.

Saudi Arabia was most important in sustaining these groups, but it was not quite alone since “al-Qa’ida and other groups continue to exploit Kuwait both as a source of funds and as a key transit point“.

Why did the US and its European allies treat Saudi Arabia with such restraint when the kingdom was so central to al-Qa’ida and other even more sectarian Sunni jihadist organisations?

An obvious explanation is that the US, Britain and others did not want to offend a close ally and that the Saudi royal family had judiciously used its money to buy its way into the international ruling class.

Unconvincing attempts were made to link Iran and Iraq to al-Qa’ida when the real culprits were in plain sight.

But there is another compelling reason why the Western powers have been so laggard in denouncing Saudi Arabia and the Sunni rulers of the Gulf for spreading bigotry and religious hate.

Al-Qa’ida members or al-Qa’ida-influenced groups have always held two very different views about who is their main opponent.

For Osama bin Laden the chief enemy was the Americans, but for the great majority of Sunni jihadists, including the al-Qa’ida franchises in Iraq and Syria, the target is the Shia.

It is the Shia who have been dying in their thousands in Iraq, Syria, Pakistan and even in countries where there are few of them to kill, such as Egypt. (Not convincing assertion: More sunnis than shia were the target of these Islamic factions, except maybe in Iraq due to car bombs)

Pakistani papers no longer pay much attention to hundreds of Shia butchered from Quetta to Lahore.

In Iraq, most of the 7,000 or more people killed this year are Shia civilians killed by the bombs of al-Qa’ida in Iraq, part of an umbrella organisation called the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil), which also encompasses Syria.

In overwhelmingly Sunni Libya, militants in the eastern town of Derna killed an Iraqi professor who admitted on video to being a Shia before being executed by his captors.

Suppose a hundredth part of this merciless onslaught had been directed against Western targets rather than against Shia Muslims, would the Americans and the British be so accommodating to the Saudis, Kuwaitis and Emiratis?

It is this that gives a sense of phoniness to boasts by the vastly expanded security bureaucracies in Washington and London about their success in combating terror justifying vast budgets for themselves and restricted civil liberties for everybody else.

All the drones in the world fired into Pashtun villages in Pakistan or their counterparts in Yemen or Somalia are not going to make much difference if the Sunni jihadists in Iraq and Syria ever decide – as Osama bin Laden did before them – that their main enemies are to be found not among the Shia but in the United States and Britain.

Instead of the fumbling amateur efforts of the shoe and underpants bombers, security services would have to face jihadist movements in Iraq, Syria and Libya fielding hundreds of bomb-makers and suicide bombers.

Only gradually this year, videos from Syria of non-Sunnis being decapitated for sectarian motives alone have begun to shake the basic indifference of the Western powers to Sunni jihadism so long as it is not directed against themselves. (The decapitated are mostly sunnis of different factions)

Saudi Arabia as a government for a long time took a back seat to Qatar in funding rebels in Syria, and it is only since this summer that they have taken over the file. They wish to marginalise the al-Qa’ida franchisees such as Isil and the al-Nusra Front while buying up and arming enough Sunni war-bands to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad.

The directors of Saudi policy in Syria – the Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal, the head of the Saudi intelligence agency Prince Bandar bin Sultan and the Deputy Defence Minister Prince Salman bin Sultan – plan to spend billions raising a militant Sunni army some 40,000 to 50,000 strong.

Already local warlords are uniting to share in Saudi largess for which their enthusiasm is probably greater than their willingness to fight.

The Saudi initiative is partly fueled by rage in Riyadh at President Obama’s decision not to go to war with Syria after Assad used chemical weapons on 21 August.

Nothing but an all-out air attack by the US similar to that of Nato in Libya in 2011 would overthrow Assad, so the US has essentially decided he will stay for the moment.

Saudi anger has been further exacerbated by the successful US-led negotiations on an interim deal with Iran over its nuclear programme.

By stepping out of the shadows in Syria, the Saudis are probably making a mistake.

Their money will only buy them so much. The artificial unity of rebel groups with their hands out for Saudi money is not going to last. They will be discredited in the eyes of more fanatical jihadis as well as Syrians in general as pawns of Saudi and other intelligence services.

A divided opposition will be even more fragmented: Jordan may accommodate the Saudis and a multitude of foreign intelligence services, but it will not want to be the rallying point for an anti-Assad army.

The Saudi plan looks doomed from the start, though it could get a lot more Syrians killed before it fails.

Yazid Sayegh of the Carnegie Middle East Centre highlights succinctly the risks involved in the venture: “Saudi Arabia could find itself replicating its experience in Afghanistan, where it built up disparate mujahedin groups that lacked a unifying political framework. The forces were left unable to govern Kabul once they took it, paving the way for the Taliban to take over. Al-Qa’ida followed, and the blowback subsequently reached Saudi Arabia.”

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Lebanese satirise ‘tips’ for foreigners after US embassy message

Security alert, from the US embassy in Lebanon, on avoiding Western establishments prompts criticism online.

Twitter users are poking fun at a recent security message made by the US Embassy in Lebanon telling US citizens to avoid “Western-style” establishments if they choose to remain in the country.

The release said,
“…The U.S. government strongly urges U.S. citizens in Lebanon to exercise extreme caution and to avoid hotels, western-style shopping centers, including western-style grocery chain stores, and any public or social events where U.S. citizens normally congregate, as these sites are likely targets for terrorist attacks for at least the near term”.

Lebanese soldiers stand behind razor wire in front of the US embassy in Awkar near Beirut, Lebanon, Tuesday 15 March 2005. (EPA/WAEL HAMZEH)
The US embassy frequently issues security alerts to residents of Lebanon, but the specific advice against “Western” establishments such as hotels and shopping areas was alarming to some Lebanese online.
A spokesperson at the embassy told the Daily Star Lebanon that the intention was not to create panic, but to raise awareness, especially after the recent bombings in the country.
Others were more skeptical about recommendations that seemed to advise US citizens to avoid attracting attention in “Western” areas.
Criticising the embassy’s detailed choice of words, the hashtag#USactLebanese was created to provide “advice” to foreigners on how to blend in.
Note 2: A few of the criticisms and fun poking comments:
  1. Others used the hashtag to express their frustrations with Lebanese society, from issues with sectarianism to government accountability.
  2. Thanks to Stream community member Angie Nassar for pitching us this story on Twitter. 
Note: I pasted the Twitter tips and realized that they have been effaced.

Back to the forgotten Mega Calamity Tacloban: Mayor Alfred Romualdez failed response? And Attacked by President Benigno Aquino III? 

Do you remember the Tacloban catastrophe? This gigantic tsunami that devastated an entire island?

Where hundred of cadavers were left “uncollected” for a week, and the fleeing covering their noses to get to the port?

And the only way out is through sea and a few helicopters to vacate the injured and the famished inhabitants?

Did Tacloban’s mayor Alfred Romualdez failed to respond in a timely manner?

And why Philippines President Benigno Aquino III Attacked the mayor on CNN?

A repost from selected top posts on The Filipino Scribe of Nov. 17, 2013

Aquino’s animosity toward Tacloban mayor hampering relief efforts?

Speaking to CNN International’s Christiane Amanpour last November 12, President Benigno Aquino III repeatedly reiterated that super typhoon Yolanda (international code name ‘Haiyan’) wrecked so much havoc, especially in the Eastern Visayas region because the “local (government) response failed.”

He told Amanpour that “two or three” local government units (LGUs) were “simply overwhelmed” by Yolanda. Watch Amanpour’s entire interview here.

Even without being mentioned by name, Tacloban City Mayor Alfred Romualdez is certainly one of those Aquino is referring to.

A day before his interview with Amanpour, Aquino was said to have walked out of a briefing with Tacloban City officials after he got irked by the said LGU’s unpreparedness (Malacanang later clarified that he merely went to the bathroom).

With Aquino seemingly bent on putting all the blame on Romualdez, the latter played defense. In an interview with GMA News, the mayor complained about what he described as insufficient aid from the national government.

Wala namang giyera, bakit hindi magpadala ng tatlong batalyon dito para hakutin na natin lahat ng patay?” Romualdez said. He also explained that relief goods are not being transported to devastated communities because of the lack of usable vehicles.

alfredo romualdez tacloban

Tacloban City Mayor Alfredo Romualdez (Credits:http://www.CorrectPhilippines.org

In relation to this, a point-by-point report (the author cannot be determined as of this time) on what is happening is now going viral on the Internet.

In a nutshell, the post explicates that Romualdez sought as much help as possible from the national government both before and after Yolanda rammed the city. And in all those instances, Romualdez received decidedly inadequate assistance.

Here are some of the items listed. Check Correct Philippines.org for the entire post:

1. After Typhoon Yolanda struck, the Mayor of Tacloban requested the NDRRMC (National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council) to make a “RESPONSE OVERKILL” on the rescue and relief operations. Unfortunately, the response from the National Government was very cold and half hearted.

2. On Day 2 of Typhoon Yolanda aftermath, the Mayor requested the NDRRMC to deploy 2 Marine Battalions to help immediately establish peace and order and rescue/relief operations. Unfortunately, this plea for help was unheeded by the National Government.

5. The Mayor requested the National Government to put more vehicles and personnel for cadaver retrieval but up to now only 4 trucks from the National Government are doing this. Only 8 trucks from the National Government are doing relief work. Tacloban is now reeking from the smell of death and relief operations are still moving at a snail’s pace.

7. To add insult to injury, the Department of Interior and Local Government Secretary (Mar Roxas) wants the Mayor of Tacloban (Alfred Romualdez) to write a formal letter to Philippine President Noynoy Aquino supposedly to inform him that he could no longer function as Mayor, thereby surrendering authority to the DILG Secretary (Mar Roxas).

To say that there’s a personal animosity between Aquino and Romualdez would be an understatement.

For starters, the mayor of Tacloban is a nephew of former First Lady Imelda Marcos. Even until now, Aquino and the Romuladezes are on clashing sides of the political spectrum. The mayor’s cousin, Leyte Rep. Ferdinand Romualdezis currently the president of Lakas-CMD, the party of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

The administration made a vigorous bid to unseat Romualdez during last May’s polls.

In fact, Kris Aquino, the president’s youngest sister and television superstar, personally campaigned for Florencio ‘Bem’ Noel, the president’s bet. “If Bem wins (for mayor), I will give whatever Tacloban needs in just one call,” Kris quoted the president as telling her during a campaign rally.

Despite all these, plus the president’s sharp criticism of Romualdez’ tenure as the city chief, he won re-election handily.

In hindsight, Kris is perhaps right. Aquino would probably be more decisive in dealing with the disaster in Tacloban if the city is being led by his anointed candidate.

Who do you believe?

PS: Is it possible to set aside political differences when it comes to disaster response?

In dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy last year, United States President Barack Obama and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie showed remarkable ability to work side-by-side for the greater good.

Christie, a top supporter of Obama’s Republican challenger Mitt Romney, repeatedly noted how he and the president remained in touch throughout the calamity. Read our post about it here.


adonis49

adonis49

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