Adonis Diaries

Archive for the ‘Islam/Moslem/Islamic world’ Category

Hazards of Revolution

Patrick Cockburn London Review of Books Vol. 36 No. 1 · 9 January 2014
pages 25-27 | 3282 words

Note: recall that this article was was written 4 years ago. Wish that Cockburn has assimilated the new changes in the region.

Soon after the Libyan capital (Tripoli) fell to the rebels in August 2011 I got to know a 32-year-old man called Ahmed Abdullah al-Ghadamsi.

We met when he tried to evict me from my hotel room, which he said was needed for members of the National Transitional Council, in effect the provisional government of Libya.

I wasn’t happy about being moved because the hotel, the Radisson Blu on Tripoli’s seafront, (The capital is Not on the sea shore, but very far off) was full of journalists and there was nowhere else to stay. But Ahmed promised to find me another room, and he was as good as his word.

He was lending a hand to the provisional government because he was strongly opposed to Qaddafi – as was the rest of his family. He came from the Fornaj district of the city, and was contemptuous of the efforts of government spies to penetrate its network of extended families.

He derided Gaddafi’s absurd personality cult and his fear of subversive ideas: ‘Books used to be more difficult to bring into the country than weapons. You had to leave them at the airport for two or three months so they could be checked.’

He had spent six years studying in Norway and spoke Norwegian as well as English; on returning to Libya he got a job on the staff of the Radisson Blu. One of Gaddafi’s sons, Al-Saadi, had a suite in the hotel, and he watched the ruling family and their friends doing business and enjoying themselves.

Ahmed was a self-confident man, not noticeably intimidated by the sporadic shooting which was keeping most people in Tripoli off the streets. I asked him if he would consider working for me as a guide and assistant and he agreed.

Tripoli had run out of petrol but he quickly found some, along with a car and driver willing to risk the rebel checkpoints. He was adept at talking to the militiamen manning the barricades, and helped me get out of the city when the roads were blocked.

After a few weeks I left Libya; I later heard that he was working for other journalists.

Then in October I got a message saying that he was dead, shot through the head by a pro-Gaddafi sniper in the final round of fighting in Sirte on the coast far to the east of Tripoli. It turned out that there was a lot that Ahmed hadn’t told me.

When the protests started in Benghazi on 15 February he had been among the first to demonstrate in Fornaj, and he was arrested.

His younger brother Mohammed told me that ‘he was jailed for two hours or less before his friends and the protesters broke into the police station and freed him.’

When Gaddafi’s forces regained control of Tripoli, Ahmed drove to the Nafusa Mountains a hundred miles south-west of the capital to try to join the rebels there, but they didn’t know or trust him so he had to return.

He smuggled weapons and gelignite into Tripoli and became involved in a plot, never put into action, to blow up Al-Saadi Gaddafi’s suite in the Radisson.

Mohammed said Ahmed felt bad that he’d spent much of the revolution making money and, despite his best efforts, had never actually fought.

He went to Sirte, where Gaddafi’s forces were making a last stand, and joined a militia group from Misrata. He had no military experience, as far as I know, but he didn’t flinch during bombardments and was stoical when he was caught in an ambush and wounded by shrapnel from a mortar bomb, and the militiamen were impressed.

On 8 October his commander told Ahmed to take a squad of five or six men to hunt for snipers who had killed a number of rebel fighters. He was shot dead by one of them a few hours later.

What would Ahmed think of the Libyan revolution now?

An interim government is nominally in control but the streets of Tripoli and Benghazi have been full of militia checkpoints manned by some of the 225,000 registered militiamen whose loyalty is to their commanders rather than the state that pays them.

When demonstrators appeared outside the headquarters of the Misrata militia in Tripoli on 15 November demanding that they go home, the militiamen opened fire with everything from Kalashnikov to anti-aircraft guns, killing 43 protesters and wounding some 400 others.

This led to popular protests in which many militias were forced out of Tripoli, though it’s not clear whether this is permanent. Earlier the prime minister, Ali Zeidan, was kidnapped by militia gunmen without a shot being fired by his own guards to protect him. (He was released after a few hours.)

Mutinying militias have closed the oil ports to exports and eastern Libya is threatening to secede.

The Libyan state has collapsed, for the simple reason that the rebels were too weak to fill the vacuum left by the fall of the old regime. After all, it was Nato airstrikes, not rebel strength, that overthrew Gaddafi.

It’s a similar story elsewhere in the Middle East.

The uprisings of the Arab Spring have so far produced anarchy in Libya, a civil war in Syria, greater autocracy in Bahrain and resumed dictatorial rule in Egypt.  (All these failures thanks to US/Saudi Kingdom/Israel/France ) who don’t want changes and democracy in the region)

In Syria, the uprising began in March 2011 with demonstrations against the brutality of Assad’s regime. ‘Peace! Peace!’ protesters chanted. But ‘if there was a fair election in Syria today,’ one commentator said, ‘Assad would probably win it.’

It isn’t only the protesters and insurgents of 2011 whose aspirations are being frustrated or crushed. In March 2003 the majority of Iraqis from all sects and ethnic groups wanted to see the end of Saddam’s disastrous rule even if they didn’t necessarily support the US invasion.

But the government now in power in Baghdad is as sectarian, corrupt and dysfunctional as Saddam’s ever was. (Not true, even then. Obama dispatched ISIS to occupy Mosul because Maliki PM refused to have US military presence in Iraq)

There may be less state violence, but only because the state is weaker. (just witness what is happening by the end of 2017)

Its methods are equally brutal: Iraqi prisons are full of people who have made false confessions under torture or the threat of it. An Iraqi intellectual who had planned to open a museum in Abu Ghraib prison so that Iraqis would never forget the barbarities of Saddam’s regime (you mean USA occupation?) found that there was no space available because the cells were full of new inmates.

Iraq is still an extraordinarily dangerous place. ‘I never imagined that ten years after the fall of Saddam you would still be able to get a man killed in Baghdad by paying $100,’ an Iraqi who’d been involved in the abortive museum project told me. (Isis is now defeated in Iraq and US still claim it is Not in order to remain militarily in the region)

Why have oppositions in the Arab world and beyond failed so absolutely, and why have they repeated in power, or in pursuit of it, so many of the faults and crimes of the old regimes? (Simple: still confronting the colonial powers who refuse any change)

The contrast between humanitarian principles expressed at the beginning of revolutions and the bloodbath at the end has many precedents, from the French Revolution on. But over the last twenty years in the Middle East, the Balkans and the Caucasus the rapid degradation of what started as mass uprisings has been particularly striking.

I was in Moscow at the start of the second Russo-Chechen war in October 1999, and flew with a party of journalists to Chechnya to see the Chechen president, Aslan Maskhadov, in his headquarters in Grozny, where he was desperately trying – and failing – to avert the Russian assault by calling for a ceasefire.

We were housed in a former barracks which seemed worryingly vulnerable to Russian air attack. But it soon became evident that the presidential guard’s greatest anxiety was that we would be abducted by Chechen kidnappers and held for ransom.

The first Chechen revolt in 1994-96 was seen as a heroic popular struggle for independence. (An extremist Islamic regime, as the one ISIS was trying to install?)

Three years later it had been succeeded by a movement that was highly sectarian, criminalized and dominated by warlords. The war became too dangerous to report and disappeared off the media map. ‘In the first Chechen war,’ one reporter told me, ‘I would have been fired by my agency if I had left Grozny. Now the risk of kidnapping is so great I would be fired for going there.’

The pattern set in Chechnya has been repeated elsewhere with depressing frequency. The extent of the failure of the uprisings of 2011 to establish better forms of governance has surprised opposition movements, their Western backers and what was once a highly sympathetic foreign media.

The surprise is due, in part, to a misunderstanding of what the uprisings were about. Revolutions come into being because of an unpredictable coincidence of forces with different motives targeting a common enemy. (Never confuse long-term causes with instant catalysts)

The political, social and economic roots of the upsurges of 2011 go deep. That this wasn’t obvious to everyone at the time is partly a result of the way foreign commentators exaggerated the role of new information technology. Protesters, skilled in propaganda if nothing else, could see the advantage of presenting the uprisings to the West as nonthreatening ‘velvet’ revolutions with English-speaking, well-educated bloggers and tweeters prominently in the vanguard.

The purpose was to convey to Western public that the new revolutionaries were comfortingly similar to themselves, that what was happening in the Middle East in 2011 was similar to the anti-communist and pro-Western uprisings in Eastern Europe after 1989.

Opposition demands were all about personal freedom: social and economic inequality were rarely declared to be issues, even when they were driving popular rage against the status quo. (Wrong. Personal freedom was the slogan, Not the real demands)

The centre of Damascus had recently been taken over by smart shops and restaurants, but the mass of Syrians saw their salaries stagnating while prices rose: farmers ruined by four years of drought were moving into shanty towns on the outskirts of the cities; the UN said that between two and three million Syrians were living in ‘extreme poverty’; small manufacturing companies were put out of business by cheap imports from Turkey and China; economic liberalization, lauded in foreign capitals, concentrated wealth in the hands of a politically well-connected few.

Even members of the Mukhabarat, the secret police, were trying to survive on $200 a month. ‘When it first came to power, the Assad regime embodied the neglected countryside, its peasants and neglected underclass,’ an International Crisis Group report says. ‘Today’s ruling elite has forgotten its roots. It has inherited power rather than fought for it … and mimicked the ways of the urban upper class.’

The same was true of the quasi-monarchical families and their associates operating in parallel fashion in Egypt, Libya and Iraq.

Confident of their police-state powers, they ignored the hardships of the rest of the population, especially the underemployed, over-educated and very numerous youth, few of whom felt that they had any chance of improving their lives.

The inability of new governments across the Middle East to end the violence can be ascribed to a simple-minded delusion that most problems would vanish once democracies had replaced the old police states. (No delusion here. Cannot construct anything in the presence of extremist violent factions created by the US and its allies)

Opposition movements, persecuted at home and often living a hand to mouth existence in exile, half-believed this and it was easy to sell to foreign sponsors. A great disadvantage of this way of seeing things was that Saddam, Assad and Gaddafi were so demonized it became difficult to engineer anything approaching a compromise or a peaceful transition from the old to a new regime.

In 2003  Iraq former members of the Baath Party were sacked, thus impoverishing a large part of the population, which had no alternative but to fight. The Syrian opposition refuses to attend peace talks in Geneva if Assad is allowed to play a role, even though the areas of Syria under his control are home to most of the population.

In Libya the militias insisted on an official ban on employing anyone who had worked for Gaddafi’s regime, even those who had ended their involvement 30 years before. These exclusion policies were partly a way of guaranteeing jobs for the boys. But they deepen sectarian, ethnic and tribal divisions and provide the ingredients for civil war.

What is the glue that is meant to hold these new post-revolutionary states together?

Nationalism isn’t much in favour in the West, where it is seen as a mask for racism or militarism, supposedly outmoded in an era of globalisation and humanitarian intervention. (everything but capitulation is Not favored by the Western colonial powers, even now)

But intervention in Iraq in 2003 and Libya in 2011 turned out to be very similar to imperial takeover in the 19th century. There was absurd talk of ‘nation-building’ to be carried out or assisted by foreign powers, who clearly have their own interests in mind just as Britain did when Lloyd George orchestrated the carve-up of the Ottoman Empire.

A justification for the Arab leaders who seized power in the late 1960s was that they would create powerful states capable, finally, of giving reality to national independence. They didn’t wholly fail: Gaddafi played a crucial role in raising the price of oil in 1973 and Hafez al-Assad created a state that could hold its own in a protracted struggle with Israel for predominance in Lebanon.

But to opponents of these regimes nationalism was simply a propaganda ploy on the part of ruthless dictatorships concerned to justify their hold on power. But without nationalism – even where the unity of the nation is something of a historic fiction – states lack an ideology that would enable them to compete as a focus of loyalty with religious sects or ethnic groups.

It’s easy enough to criticise the rebels and reformers in the Arab world for failing to resolve the dilemmas they faced in overturning the status quo. Their actions seem confused and ineffective when compared to the Cuban revolution or the liberation struggle in Vietnam. (Simply because one people  in Syria, one people in the Nile river and one people in north Africa were artificially divided in pseud-States by colonial powers)

But the political terrain in which they have had to operate over the last twenty years has been particularly tricky. The dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991 meant that the endorsement or tolerance of the US – and the US alone – was crucial for a successful takeover of power.

Nasser was able to turn to Moscow to assert Egyptian independence in the Suez crisis of 1956, but after the Soviet collapse smaller states could no longer find a place for themselves between Moscow and Washington. Saddam said in 1990 that one of the reasons he invaded Kuwait when he did was that in future such a venture would no longer be feasible as Iraq would be faced with unopposed American power.

In the event, he got his diplomatic calculations spectacularly wrong, but his forecast was otherwise realistic – at least until perceptions of American military might were downgraded by Washington’s failure to achieve its aims in Afghanistan as well as Iraq.

So the insurgencies in the Middle East face immense difficulties, and they have faltered, stalled, been thrown on the defensive or apparently defeated. But without the rest of the world noticing, one national revolution in the region is moving from success to success.

In 1990 the Kurds, left without a state after the fall of the Ottomans, were living in their tens of millions as persecuted and divided minorities in Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria. Rebellion in Iraq during the Iran-Iraq War of 1980-88 failed disastrously, with at least 180,000 killed by poison gas or executed in the final days of the conflict. (The Shah of Iran and Saddam resolved this conflict in a single day)

In Turkey, guerrilla action by the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), who combined Marxism-Leninism with Kurdish nationalism, began in 1974 but by the end of the 1990s it had been crushed by the Turkish army; Kurds were driven into the cities; and three thousand of their villages were destroyed. (Western media never covered these atrocities)

In north-east Syria, Arab settlers were moved onto Kurdish land and many Kurds denied citizenship; in Iran, the government kept a tight grip on its Kurdish provinces.

All this has now changed. In Iraq the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), though it shares power with the central government in Baghdad, is close to becoming an oil-rich independent state, militarily and diplomatically more powerful than many members of the UN. Until recently the Turks would impound any freight sent to the KRG if the word ‘Kurdistan’ appeared in the address, but in November the KRG president, Massoud Barzani, gave a speech in the Turkish Kurd capital of Dyarbakir and talked of ‘the brotherhood of Turks and Kurds’.

Standing with him was the Turkish prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who spoke of ‘Kurdistan’ as if he’d forgotten that a few years ago the name had been enough to land anyone who uttered it in a Turkish jail. In Syria meanwhile, the PKK’s local branch has taken control of much of the north-east corner of the country, where two and a half million Kurds live.

The rebellion in the Kurdish heartlands has been ongoing for nearly half a century. In Iraq the two main Kurdish parties, Barzani’s Kurdistan Democratic Party and Jalal Talabani’s Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, were expert at manipulating foreign intelligence services – Iranian, Syrian, American and Turkish – without becoming their permanent puppets (Crappy pronouncement on these expertise)

They built up a cadre of well-educated and politically sophisticated leaders and established alliances with non-Kurdish opposition groups. They were lucky that their worst defeat was followed by Saddam’s self-destructive invasion of Kuwait, which enabled them to take control of an enclave protected by US airpower in 1991.

At this point, despite having gained more independence than any previous Kurdish movement, the KDP and PUK embarked on a vicious civil war with the Iraqi state. But then they had another stroke of luck when 9/11 provided the US with the excuse to invade and overthrow Saddam. The Kurdish leaders positioned themselves carefully between the US and Iran without becoming dependent on either.

It isn’t yet clear how the bid of thirty million Kurds for some form of national self-determination will play out, but they have become too powerful to be easily suppressed. Their success has lessons for the movements of the Arab Spring, whose failure isn’t as inevitable as it may seem. The political, social and economic forces that led to the ruptures of 2011 are as powerful as ever. Had the Arab opposition movements played their cards as skilfully as the Kurds, the uprisings might not have foundered as they have done.

None of the religious parties that took power, whether in Iraq in 2005 or Egypt in 2012, has been able to consolidate its authority. Rebels everywhere look for support to the foreign enemies of the state they are trying to overthrow, but the Kurds are better at this than anyone else, having learned the lesson of 1975, when Iran betrayed them to Saddam by signing the Algiers Agreement, cutting off their supply of arms. The Syrian opposition, by contrast, can only reflect the policies and divisions of its sponsors.

Resistance to the state was too rapidly militarised for opposition movements to develop an experienced national leadership and a political programme. The discrediting of nationalism and communism, combined with the need to say what the US wanted to hear, meant that they were at the mercy of events, lacking any vision of a non-authoritarian nation state capable of competing with the religious fanaticism of the Sunni militants of al-Qaida, and similar movements financed by the oil states of the Gulf. But the Middle East is entering a long period of ferment in which counter-revolution may prove as difficult to consolidate as revolution.

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Would this article be behind the burning of “The Tourist” Library in Lebanon (Maktabat al sa2e7)?

The article was published by Father Ibrahim Sarrouj, the library’s curator. Sarrouj has lived in Tripoli all his life and is known to being an encompassing person of the city’s diversity.

The article is about how Aicha, the most educated and beloved wife of Prophet Mohammad (one of 8), described the relationship with her husband who was about 48 years her elder.

Aicha tells of the hypocritical practices of Mohammad that didn’t match was he proselytized… I might translate this article in a separate post:

Aren’t you claiming to be the messenger of God?

Srour article

The country is burning, let’s not worry about a library.

Chronicler of Islamic State ‘killing machine’ goes public

The historian carried secrets too heavy for one man to bear.

By LORI HINNANT and MAGGIE MICHAEL. Dec. 08, 2017

He packed his bag with his most treasured possessions before going to bed: the 1 terabyte hard drive with his evidence against the Islamic State group, an orange notebook half-filled with notes on Ottoman history, and, a keepsake, the first book from Amazon delivered to Mosul.

He passed the night in despair, imagining all the ways he could die, and the moment he would leave his mother and his city.

He had spent nearly his entire life in this home, with his five brothers and five sisters. He woke his mother in her bedroom on the ground floor.

“I am leaving,” he said. “Where?” she asked. “I am leaving,” was all he could say.

He couldn’t endanger her by telling her anything more. In truth, since the IS had invaded his city, he’d lived a life about which she was totally unaware.

He felt her eyes on the back of his neck, and headed to the waiting Chevrolet. He didn’t look back.

For nearly two years, he’d wandered the streets of occupied Mosul, chatting with shopkeepers and Islamic State fighters, visiting friends who worked at the hospital, swapping scraps of information.

He grew out his hair and his beard and wore the shortened trousers required by IS.

He forced himself to witness the many beheading and deaths by stoning, so he could hear the killers call out the names of the condemned and their supposed crimes.

The blogger known as Mosul Eye kept his identity a secret as he documented Islamic State rule.

He wasn’t a spy. He was an undercover historian and blogger .

As IS turned the Iraqi city he loved into a fundamentalist bastion, he decided he would show the world how the extremists had distorted its true nature, how they were trying to rewrite the past and forge a brutal Sunni-only future for a city that had once welcomed many faiths.

He knew that if he was caught he too would be killed.

“I am writing this for the history , because I know this will end. People will return, life will go back to normal,” is how he explained the blog that was his conduit to the citizens of Mosul and the world beyond.

“After many years, there will be people who will study what happened. The city deserves to have something written to defend the city and tell the truth, because they say that when the war begins, the first victim is the truth.”

He called himself Mosul Eye . He made a promise to himself in those first few days: Trust no one, document everything.

Neither family, friends nor the Islamic State group could identify him. His readership grew by the thousands every month.

And now, he was running for his life.

But it would mean passing through one Islamic State checkpoint after another, on the odds that the extremists wouldn’t stop him, wouldn’t find the hard drive that contained evidence of IS atrocities, the names of its collaborators and fighters, and all the evidence that its bearer was the man they’d been trying to silence since they first swept in.

The weight of months and years of anonymity were crushing him.

He missed his name.

From the beginning, Mosul Eye wrote simultaneously as a witness and a historian.

Born in the midst of the Iran-Iraq war in 1986, he had come of age during a second war, when Saddam Hussein fell and the Americans took over.

At 17, he remembers going to a meeting of extremists at the mosque and hearing them talk about fighting the crusaders. “I should be honest, I didn’t understand.”

As for the Americans, whose language he already spoke haltingly, he couldn’t fathom why they would come all the way from the United States to Mosul. He thought studying history would give him the answers.

The men in black came from the north, cutting across his neighborhood in brand new trucks, the best all-terrain Toyota money could buy. He had seen jihadis before in Mosul and at first figured these men would fade away like the rest.

But in the midst of pitched fighting, the extremists found the time to run down about 70 assassination targets and kill them all, hanging enormous banners announcing their arrival in June 2014.

By then a newly minted teacher, the historian attended a staff meeting at Mosul University, where the conquerors explained the Islamic State education system, how all classes would be based upon the strictest interpretation of the Quran.

To a man who had been accused of secularism during his master’s thesis defense just the year before, it felt like the end of his career.

In those first few days, he wrote observations about IS, also known by the acronym ISIS, on his personal Facebook page — until a friend warned that he risked being killed.

With the smell of battle still in the air, he wandered the streets, puzzling over its transformation into a city at war. He returned to find his family weeping. The smell of smoke and gunfire permeated the home.

On June 18, 2014, a week after the city fell, Mosul Eye was born .

“My job as a historian requires an unbiased approach which I am going to adhere to and keep my personal opinion to myself,” he wrote. “I will only communicate the facts I see.”

By day, he chatted with Islamic State fighters and vendors, and observed. Always observed. By night, he wrote in his native Arabic and fluent English on a WordPress blog and later on Facebook and Twitter.

The city turned dark, and Mosul Eye became one of the outside world’s main sources of news about the Islamic State fighters, their atrocities and their transformation of the city into a grotesque shadow of itself. The things IS wanted kept secret went to the heart of its brutal rule.

They were organized as a killing machine. They are thirsty (for) blood and money and women.”

He attended Friday sermons with feigned enthusiasm. He collected and posted propaganda leaflets, including one on July 27, 2014, that claimed the Islamic State leader was a descendant of the Prophet Mohammed’s daughter. (Muhammad had 2 sons who died in childhood)

Back home, writing on his blog in his other, secret identity, he decried the leaflet as a blatant attempt “to distort history” to justify the fanatics’ actions.

He drank glass after glass of tea at the hospital, talking to people who worked there. Much of the information he collected went up online. Other details he kept in his computer, for fear they would give away his identity. Someday, he told himself, he would write Mosul’s history using these documents.

The most sensitive information initially came from two old friends: one a doctor and the other a high school dropout who embraced the Islamic State’s extreme interpretation of religion. He was a taxi driver who like many others in Mosul had been detained by a Shiite militia in 2008 and still burned with resentment. He swiftly joined an intelligence unit in Mosul, becoming “one of the monsters of ISIS” — and couldn’t resist bragging about his insider knowledge.

Once he corroborated the details and masked the sources, Mosul Eye put it out for the world to see. He sometimes included photos of the fighters and commanders, complete with biographies pieced together over days of surreptitious gathering of bits and pieces of information during the course of his normal life — that of an out-of-work scholar living at home with his family.

“I used the two characters, the two personalities to serve each other,” he said. He would chat up market vendors and bored checkpoint guards for new leads.

He took on other identities as well on Facebook.

Although the names were clearly fake, the characters started to take on a life of their own. One was named Mouris Milton whom he came to believe was an even better version of himself — funny, knowledgeable. Another was Ibn al-Athir al-Mawsilli, a coldly logical historian.

International media picked up on Mosul Eye from the first days, starting with an online question-and-answer with a German newspaper.

The anonymous writer gave periodic written interviews in English over the years. Sometimes, journalists quoted his blog and called it an interview. In October 2016, he spoke by phone with the New Yorker for a profile but still kept his identity masked.

Intelligence agencies made contact as well and he rebuffed them each time.

“I am not a spy or a journalist,” he would say. “I tell them this: If you want the information, it’s published and it’s public for free. Take it.”

First the Islamic State group compiled lists of women accused of prostitution, he said, stoning or shooting around 500 in the initial months.

Then it went after men accused of being gay, flinging them off tall buildings.

Shiites, Christians and Yazidis fled from a city once proud of its multiple religions.

When the only Mosul residents left were fellow Sunnis, they too were not spared, according to the catalog of horrors that is Mosul Eye’s daily report.

He detailed the deaths and whippings, for spying and apostasy, for failing to attend prayers, for overdue taxes. The blog attracted the attention of the fanatics, who posted death threats in the comments section.

Less than a year into their rule, in March 2015, he nearly cracked. IS beheaded a 14-year-old in front of a crowd; 12 people were arrested for selling and smoking cigarettes, and some of them flogged publicly. Seeing few alternatives, young men from Mosul were joining up by the dozens.

The sight of a fanatic severing the hand of a child accused of stealing unmoored him. The man told the boy that his hand was a gift of repentance to God before serenely slicing it away.

It was too much.

Mosul Eye was done. He defied the dress requirements, cut his hair short, shaved his beard and pulled on a bright red crewneck sweater. He persuaded his closest friend to join him.

“I decided to die.”

The sun shining, they drove to the banks of the Tigris blasting forbidden music from the car. They spread a scrap of rug over a stone outcropping and shared a carafe of tea. Mosul Eye lit a cigarette, heedless of a handful of other people picnicking nearby.

“I was so tired of worrying about myself, my family, my brothers. I am not alive to worry, but I am alive to live this life. I thought: I am done.”

He planned it as a sort of last supper, a final joyful day to end all days. He assumed he would be spotted, arrested, tortured. The tea was the best he had ever tasted.

Somehow, incredibly, his crimes went unnoticed.

He went home.

“At that moment I felt like I was given a new life.”

He grew out his hair and beard again, put the shortened trousers back on. And, for the remainder of his time in Mosul, smoked and listened to music in his room with the curtains drawn and the lights off. His computer screen and the tip of his cigarette glowed as he wrote in the dark.

The next month, he slipped up.

His friend the ex-taxi driver told him about an airstrike that had just killed multiple high-level Islamic State commanders, destroying a giant weapons cache. Elated, Mosul Eye dashed home to post it online. He hit “publish” and then, minutes later, realized his mistake. The information could have come from only one person. He trashed the post and spent a sleepless night.

“It’s like a death game and one mistake could finish your life.”

For a week, he went dark. Then he invited his friend to meet at a restaurant. They ate spicy chicken, an unemployed teacher and the gun-toting ex-taxi driver talking again about their city and their lives. His cover was not blown.

The historian went back online. Alongside the blog, he kept meticulous records — information too dangerous to share.

His computer hard drive filled with death, filed according to date, cause of death, perpetrator, neighborhood and ethnicity. Accompanying each spreadsheet entry was a separate file with observations from each day.

“IS is forcing abortions and tubal ligation surgeries on Yazidi women,” he wrote in unpublished notes from January 2015. A doctor told him there had been between 50 and 60 forced abortions and a dozen Yazidi girls younger than 15 died of injuries from repeated rapes.

April 19, 2015: “The forensics department received the bodies of 23 IS militants killed in Baiji. They had no shrapnel, no bullets, no explosives and the cause of death does not seem to be explosion. It is like nothing happened to the bodies. A medical source believes they were exposed to poison gas.

July 7, 2015: “43 citizens were executed in different places, this time by gunfire, which is unusual because they were previously beheadings. A source inside IS said that 13 of those who were executed are fighters and they tried to flee.”

He noted a flurry of security on days when the Islamic State leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, seemed to be in town.

Many in Iraq, especially those who supported the Shiite-dominated leadership in Baghdad, blamed Mosul for its own fate.

Mosul Eye freely acknowledged that some residents at first believed the new conquerors could only be an improvement over the heavy-handed government and the soldiers who fled with hardly a backward glance at the city they were supposed to defend.

But he also wrote publicly and privately of the suffering among citizens who refused to join the group. He was fighting on two fronts: “One against ISIS, and the other against the rumors. Trying to protect the face of Mosul, the soul of Mosul.”

He tested out different voices, implying one day that he was Christian, another that he was Muslim. Sometimes he indicated he was gone, other times that he was still in the city. “I couldn’t trust anyone,” he said.

In his mind, he left Mosul a thousand times, but always found reasons to stay: his mother, his nieces and nephews, his mission.

But finally, he had to go.

“I had to run away with the proof that will protect Mosul for years to come, and to at least be loyal to the people who were killed in the city.”

And he did not want to become another casualty of the monsters.

“I think I deserve life, deserve to be alive.”

A smuggler, persuaded by $1,000 and the assurances of a mutual acquaintance, agreed to get him out. He was leaving the next day. Mosul Eye had no time to reflect, no time to change his mind.

He returned home and began transferring the contents of his computer to the hard drive. He pulled out the orange notebook with the hand-drawn map of Mosul on the cover and the outlines of what he hoped would one day be his doctoral dissertation.

Into the bag went “Father Bombo’s Pilgrimage to Mecca,” an obscure American satirical novel from 1770 that he had ordered from Amazon via a new shop that was the only place in town to order from abroad online.

It was time to leave.

He wanted to make sure his mother would never have to watch the capture and killing of Mosul Eye.

On Dec. 15, 2015 he left Mosul, driving with the smuggler to the outskirts of Raqqa, a pickup point that alarmed him. From there he and other Iraqis and Syrians were picked up by a second set of smugglers and driven by convoy to Turkey.

They had no trouble crossing the border.

In Turkey, Mosul Eye kept at it: via WhatsApp and Viber, from Facebook messages and long conversations with friends and relatives who had contacts within IS. From hundreds of kilometers away, his life remained consumed by events in Mosul.

By mid-2016, deaths were piling up faster than he could document.

The IS and airstrikes were taking a bloody toll on residents. His records grew haphazard, and he turned to Twitter to document the atrocities. In February 2017, he received asylum in Europe with the aid of an organization that learned his backstory. He continued to track the airstrikes and Islamic State killings

He mapped the airstrikes as they closed in on his family, pleading with his older brother to leave his home in West Mosul. Ahmed, 36, died days later when shrapnel from a mortar strike pierced his heart, leaving behind four young children.

It was only then that Mosul Eye revealed his secret to a younger brother — who was proud to learn the anonymous historian he had been reading for so long was his brother.

“People in Mosul had lost hope and confidence in politicians, in everything,” his brother said. Mosul Eye “managed to show that it’s possible to change the situation in the city and bring it back to life.”

As the Old City crumbled, Mosul Eye sent coordinates and phone numbers for homes filled with civilians to a BBC journalist who was covering the battle, trying to get the attention of someone in the coalition command. He believes he saved lives.

Then, with his beloved Old City destroyed, Mosul Eye launched a fundraiser to rebuild the city’s libraries because the extremists had burned all the books. None of his volunteers knew his identity.

An activist who helped co-found a “Women of Mosul” Facebook group with Mosul Eye describes him as a “spiritual leader” for the city’s secular-minded.

“He was telling us about the day-to-day events under ISIS and we were following closely with excitement as if we were watching a movie. Sometimes he went through hard times and we used to encourage him. He won the people’s trust and we became very curious to know his real personality,” said the activist, who spoke on condition of anonymity because she believed she was still in danger.

From a distance, finally writing his dissertation on 19th century Mosul history in the safety of a European city, he continued to write as Mosul Eye and organize cultural events and fundraisers from afar — even after Mosul was liberated.

The double life consumed him, sapped energy he’d rather use for the doctoral dissertation and for helping Mosul rebuild. And it hurt when someone asked the young Iraqi why he didn’t do more to help his people. He desperately wanted his mother to know all that he had done.

He felt barely real, with so many people knowing him by false identities: 293,000 followers on Facebook, 37,000 on WordPress and 23,400 on Twitter.

In hours of face-to-face conversations with The Associated Press over the course of two months, he agonized over when and how to end the anonymity that plagued him. He did not want to be a virtual character anymore.

On Nov. 15, 2017, Mosul Eye made his decision.

“I can’t be anonymous anymore. This is to say that I defeated ISIS. You can see me now, and you can know me now.”

He is 31 years old.

His name is Omar Mohammed.

“I am a scholar.”

The Lone Ranger: Massive strong catalyst for upheaval

Note: You may read part one: City of All Evils https://adonis49.wordpress.com/2017/12/07/on-jerusalem-symbolic-center-of-all-evils/

Trump must demand that Israel conduct a referendum with this question: “Do you agree for Jerusalem to become the Official and Formal Capital of Israel? ” I bet Israel government Won’t Dare run this referendum.

Unilaterally and in a single declaration, Trump smashed 4 decades of a strategy to creating an imaginary enemy between the Sunnis-Shias divide.  The people, in a flash, re-adjusted their direction toward their Existential enemy: Zionism/USA establishment

Israel government wants to still believe the Palestinians are stupid: They allowed for the first time Palestinian youths to enter the Grand Mosque. They assume that the Palestinians will believe that no more constraints on movements will be imposed once Jerusalem is the Capital of Israel.

The day Trump declared his statement on Jerusalem, unilaterally, Israel declared it will be build 14,000 more units in Jerusalem for the settlers.

In a single day, Israel forces killed 3 and injured 1,100 Palestinian youths with live bullets. Most of them were hospitalized with concentrated and poisonous gas canisters in 10 Palestinian cities and villages.

A great event: Lebanon Parliament met for deputies to express their opinions on the Jerusalem crisis: this is a message for all States to convene their parliaments and let the representatives of their people to share their positions.

The Palestinians in Lebanon refugee camps are starting to side with Hezbollah strategy: Zionism/USA establishment are the Existential enemies

That’s what is called a strong and major Catalyst: Trump in a single declaration awakened the majority of the “Arabic” people, and in a flash, to their existential enemy: Zionism/USA establishment

Israel mindless traditional apartheid tactics of militarily confronting Palestinian mass civil disobedience is backfiring: After over 1,100 Palestinians injured with live bullets within 24 hours, escalation is quickly transforming into missile launching from Gaza and readiness of Palestinian factions into military confrontation.

Unless Trump retracts on his declaration, events are escalating into an all out war from various sides: Gaza, West bank, Lebanon and most probably Jordan.

This Lone Ranger of Trump will quickly find himself isolated and impotent to weight in in any cease fire or share in any deal in the Middle-East.

Israel is about to pay the heaviest of prices for exiting this clownish Trump and his close family circle.

Although Saudi Kingdom was let into this decision 2 weeks ago, it didn’t measure the enormousness of this blunder. Not only they officially condemned this declaration, they feel totally helpless to mitigate this declaration in the face of the massive uprising in the “Arabic” and Islamic world. Monday, the Arab Summit will meet in Cairo: This time around, Saudi Kingdom will shut up and let the condemnation fuse.

States are coming forth and convoking US ambassadors to lambaste them and decry the outrageous declaration that goes counter to the UN resolutions and world community position.

This Wednesday, the Islamic Summit will meet in Turkey to condemn this infamous declaration. Erdogan has already condemned Israel as a violent terrorist State that occupies other people lands

The head of parliaments will meet on Thursday to send a strong message to Trump of the representatives of the people

The US is warning its citizens Not to exhibit themselves in 12 countries and soon, many of its embassies will be vacated until events cool down.

This Pence, smug Vice-President, is to tour the region to meet Islamic high clerics in Egypt, Palestine… They all declined to meet with him. What the hell is he to tell them anyway.

This Not 1948 or 1967. Events won’t be the blank kinds.

Note: Again, read the previous article City of All Evils https://adonis49.wordpress.com/2017/12/07/on-jerusalem-symbolic-center-of-all-evils/

What the “Islamic Empire” did a thousand-year ago?

I say Islamic Empire because it is Not the “Arabs” who came from the Peninsula who brought civilization and culture to the vast empire: They were the Syrians, Iraqis, Iranians, Egyptians with education and knowledge with different languages and sciences that translated all the previous knowledge into the Arabic language and added immensely to human knowledge.

“A thousand years is a long time; the first book published in French wasn’t until 1476.

Goodness knows what an Islamic caliphate would have been doing 1,000 years ago? They bought rare books in various languages with gold and swapping prisoners.

They built the House of Wisdom in Baghdad, one of the first universities in the world;

they asked scholars of all faiths to translate every text ever written into Arabic;
they demanded the first qualifications for doctors,

founded the first psychiatric hospitals and invented ophthalmology.

They developed algebra (algorithms are named after their Arab father) and a programmable machine … a computer.
They introduced Aristotle to Europe,

Al-Jahiz began theories of natural selection,
they discovered the Andromeda galaxy,

Classified the spinal nerves and
Created hydropower using pumps and gears.

The Wahhabi terrorists of Saudi Kingdom in ISIS and Al Nusra want to destroy the knowledge that Islam is a beautiful, scientific and intelligent culture, and we are way ahead of them.”

Not a single political session of Faisal Kassem (in Al Jazira channel) pertained to Qatar political and social system

Faisal Kassem is a Syrian of the Druze sect and was attributed Qatar nationality for venomously critiquing Syrian leaders (Bashar and his father Hafez Assad) and any “Arabic” leaders on the channel Al Jazira who didn’t ally with Qatar political lines.

This open letter by a Qatari female immigrant in England to Faisal Kassem points to the serious deficiencies in Qatar political and social system that supported politically and financially the terrorists factions of ISIS and Al Nusra in the Syrian international war. She is wondering why he keeps silent and still receive $9 million from Qatar.

Note: Currently, Saudi Arabia and Gulf Emirates are blockading Qatar and pressuring it to rally to Saudi political line of aggressively blockading and confronting Iran. Iran has maintained its commerce with Qatar and its aerial space for transport.

In 2014, Saudi Kingdom was preparing a military intervention in Qatar, which forced its Emir to cede power to his son.

“أنا قطرية وعندي رسالة للدكتور فيصل القاسم :

(أرجو نشرها لأنه منعني من التعليق )
في ذكرى برنامج الإتجاه المعاكس اليوم

1: عمر البرنامج 14 سنة.
2: عدد حلقات البرنامج حتى يومنا هذا 569 حلقة.
3: مواضيع البرنامج كلها سياسية وشملت معظم الدول العربية وحتى الإسلامية .
إلا الوضع السياسي في قطر لم يسبق أن تعرض له برنامجك ..هل هي الصدفة يا ترى ؟؟؟؟
أم هذا قضاء وقطر ؟
أم قطر ليست محسوبة من الدول العربية ؟
أو ربما هي حالة خاصة خارج عن نطاق التغطية .؟

أنا إمراة قطرية مهاجرة في إنجلترا منذ 4 سنوات لدواعي سياسية ولا زلت في تواصل مستمر مع أبناء بلدي الشعب القطري كان ينتظر منك أن تخصص ولو حلقة واحدة عن الوضع السياسي للبلد الذي تقيم فيه وترى بام عينك الأوضاع والحريات فيه دون حاجة لمراسل أو شهود عيان وأنا لا اتحدث عن الماديات هنا بل حريات شخصية ومساواة وحقوق الفرد في الإنتخاب والتصويت لماذا تتجاهل الدكتاتورية في قطر بالله عليك ؟؟؟

كيف تقبل أن يحكم الشعب القطري إمراة لم تتجاوز المستوى الإعدادي في طفولتها؟

أنا شخصيا هنا كامراة ضعيفة تملك فقط القلم .

.أتحداك يا فيصل القاسم وأتحدى رجولتك ..إذا كنت تملك ذرة رجولة ..فانطق بكلمة واحدة عن نظام الحكم في قطر ..هل هو ديمقراطي ؟ عادل ؟ هنالك مساواة في قطر ؟

ألم تسمع عن الشاعر القطري الذي لمح للحرية في قصيدته فحكم عليه ب 15 سنة سجن

لماذا تنبح على الجيران وتلزم الصمت أمام سيدك القطري ؟

أنا لن أسالك عن ثروتك التي بلغت 9.3 مليون دولار مع أنك تنتمي لعائلة فقيرة ..

ولن اتدخل في موقفك من الوضع السوري.. الشعب السوري يستحق الحرية مثله مثل أي شعب عربي آخر ..

ولكن لن أسمح لك أن تنبح على هذا النظام أو ذاك وتلزم الصمت أمام الآخر فقط لأنه يدفع لك أموالاً طائلة ..

أو لانه منحك وعائلتك الجنسية القطرية ..
لن أتدخل في سر كراهيتك للرئيس السوري بشار الأسد وعشقك للدكتاتور الأعظم القطري ..

إن كنت حقاً تدعي أنك إعلامي حر ..فلا تخشى أحد ولا تقبض من أحد ..منازلك الفاخرة تغزو العالم في روما والأقصر ولندن ونيوجرسي ..
هل تريدنا أن نصدق أن الإعلامي الحر يجمع ثروة كهذه من عمل شريف في مدة قصيرة؟
أخي فيصل الإعلامي الحر والشريف في عالمنا العربي هو إما خلف القضبان أو ملاحق أو رحمة الله عليه ..
ثروتك يا أخي فيصل أكبر من ثروة الرئيس الامريكي باراك أوباما والتي تبلغ 3.4 مليون دولار …

أنا هاجرت بلدي الذي تقيم أنت فيه الآن ..لأنني لم أوافق على العديد من الأمور السياسية للعائلة الحاكمة هناك ..
الأموال لا تهم يا أخي فيصل بل المبادئ والحريات هي من تجعل منا أحراراً في تفكيرنا وأقلامنا ..
فكن فعلا حراً ولا تكن أداة في يد قوم جهالة ..يريدون أن يفتحوا العالم بأموالهم دون أن يفتحوا كتاباً واحداً.
أنا عندي الملايين من الاسئلة لك ..عذراً أنا أعلم أنك معتاد على طرح الأسئلة على ضيوفك وليس الإجابة عليها
..

إسمح لي هنا أن أطرح عليك بعض الأسئلة البديهية دكتورنا العزيز:

1: دكتور أموالك طائلة لماذا لا تتبرع بالبعض منها للشعب السوري ؟
2: دكتور أنت تملك 6 منازل فاخرة لماذا لا تسكن عائلة سورية مشردة في أحد منازلك الموجودة في أربع عواصم اوربا.؟ دون ذكر قصورك الثلاتة في سوريا .
3: دكتور أنت تدعي أنك ثائر ومناضل حر وتتزعم الثوار صح؟
لماذا لا تنزل معهم إلى ميدان الثورة وتلامس الثورة قولاً وفعلاً عوض الحديث خلف جهاز الكمبيوتر ؟
4: دكتور إذا كنت سوري وطني حر ..كيف تجنس أبنائك بالجنسية القطرية !!!!! ..
لماذا تحقن جيلا كاملاً بالخيانة ؟
كيف ستجيب أحد أبناءك في المستقبل إذا طرح عليك سؤال كهذا : أبي أنا سوري أم قطري ؟؟؟؟؟
5: لماذا لم تفضح النظام السوري من قبل الأزمة ؟
إذا كنت تملك كل هذا المعلومات عن الراحل حافظ الأسد وعن بشار الأسد لماذا يا ترى لم تشارك الناس بها من قبل ؟؟؟؟؟؟
6: دكتور كيف يعقل أن تدعم مجموعات مثل داعش والنصرة ..هل تعلم أنك كافر بالنسبة لهم كونك علماني الفكر درزي الديانة ؟؟؟؟؟
كيف يعقل أنك تدعم جماعات قد تقطع رأسك يوماً ما ؟؟؟
هل هذا غباء أم استغباء للعقول البسيطة؟
7: دكتور بما أنك تستشهد بالقران دائما ..لماذا لم تعتنق الإسلام حتى يومنا هذا ؟
هل لأنك لم تقتنع بعد بهذا الدين أو فقط تستعمل هذه الآيات القرانية الكريمة حين تنزل شعبيتك للحضيض ..لتتلاعب بعواطف أتباعك ؟
كما قال إبن رشد :المجتمعات الجاهلة غلف لها كل شئ بالدين وستتبعك من الخلف حتى لو كنت شيطان..
8: واخيرا ..كيف تكذب على الناس وأنت في هذا العمر ؟؟؟

أكتفي بهذا القدر ..مع أني أحمل في جعبتي الملايين من الأسئلة لك ..
أنا على يقين أنك ستمنعني من التعليق على صفحتك بعد أن يرى مسيّروا صفحتك هذه الرسالة .
هذا لا يهم ولكن لا تفتخر بعدها أنك تملك الملايين من المعجبين وأكثر من نصفهم ممنوع من التعليق على صفحتك فقط لأنهم لا يوافقونك الرأي ..
المرجوا أن ترد على رسالتي وآسفة على صراحتى معك.

أنا طلبي بالله عليكم ..لكل من قرأ هذه الرسالة أن ينقلها ويضعها كتعليق على أي بوست يضعه الدكتور فيصل ..كي لا يتجاهل هذه الرسالة …
الحقيقة غابة من الأشجار ..و كل منا متعلق بشجرة واحدة من نفس الغابة على أنها حقيقته المفترضة.
..شششـــــــكراً للجميـــــــع

The Upstart Saudi Prince Who’s Throwing Caution to the Winds

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — With the tacit backing of his father, Saudi Arabia’s 32-year-old crown prince (wali al 3ahd) has established himself as the most powerful figure in the Arab world, rushing into confrontations on all sides at once.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the arrest of 11 princes in his royal family and nearly 200 members of the Saudi business elite, and has begun to take power from the kingdom’s conservative clerics.

He has blockaded neighboring Qatar, accused Iran of acts of war and encouraged the resignation of Lebanon’s prime minister. And in Yemen, his armed forces are fighting an Iranian-aligned faction in an intractable war that created a humanitarian crisis.

The crown prince has moved so quickly that American officials and others worry that he is destabilizing the region. Signs of potential blowback are growing.

Investors, nervous about his plans, have been moving money out of the kingdom. Prince Mohammed has sought to counter the capital flight by squeezing detainees and others to surrender assets. He has presented the arrests as a campaign against corruption, but his targets call it a shakedown, and he has turned for advice to a former Egyptian security chief who has been pilloried at home for brutality and graft.

Prince Mohammed’s supporters say he is simply taking the drastic measures needed to turn around the kingdom’s graft-ridden and oil-dependent economy while pushing back against Iranian aggression.

But analysts around the region debate whether the headlong rush might be driven more by a desire to consolidate power before a possible royal succession, desperation for cash to pay for his plans or simply unchecked ambition to put his stamp on the broader Middle East.

And despite President Trump’s enthusiasm for the prince, some in the State Department, the Pentagon and the intelligence agencies say they fear that his impulsiveness could both set back his own goals and destabilize the region.

“He’s decided he doesn’t do anything cautiously,” said Philip Gordon, the White House Middle East coordinator under President Barack Obama. But, Mr. Gordon said, “if the crown prince alienates too many other princes and other pillars of the regime, pursues costly regional conflicts and scares off foreign investors, he could undermine the prospects for the very reforms he is trying to implement.”

The extrajudicial arrests have spooked investors enough, analysts say, to extinguish the prince’s plans for an public stock offering of Aramco, the Saudi state oil company, in New York or London next year. It had been a centerpiece of his overhaul.

Photo

President Trump and King Salman joined Arab leaders for a family photo in Riyadh in May.CreditStephen Crowley/The New York Times

The crown prince’s threats against Iran and Lebanon have raised the specter of wars that the Saudi military, already bogged down in Yemen, is ill-equipped to fight. Riyadh would be forced to depend on the United States and ill-prepared Israel in any new conflict.

His corruption purge at home, meanwhile, risks alienating parts of the royal family and the financial elite at a moment that would appear to demand unity, either to smooth a succession or to face off against Iran.

As many as 17 people detained in the anti-corruption campaign have required medical treatment for abuse by their captors, according to a doctor from the nearest hospital and an American official tracking the situation.

The former Egyptian security chief, Habib el-Adli, said by one of his advisers and a former Egyptian interior minister to be advising Prince Mohammed, earned a reputation for brutality and torture under President Hosni Mubarak. His lawyers say he plans to appeal his recent sentence in absentia in Egypt to seven years in prison on charges of corruption.

Officials of the Saudi Royal Court referred press queries about these reports to the Embassy of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in Washington, where a spokeswoman, Fatimah Baeshen, said the embassy could not confirm or dispute them.

With the decline in the price of oil in recent years, Saudi Arabia has frozen projects and spent more than a third of its financial reserves, draining them to about $475 billion this fall from a peak of $737 billion in August 2014.

At that burn rate, the kingdom has only a few years to lift its revenue or slash its spending to forestall a financial crisis.

Against that backdrop, the prince’s supporters argue that the anti-corruption campaign aims to recapture hundreds of billions of dollars that have leaked from the state budget through graft and self-dealing — money he needs to fund his development plans.

Prince Mohammed had appealed to the kingdom’s wealthy for months to invest in his modernization program. But some groused that his plans — like a new $500 billion business hub “for the dreamers of the world,” built from scratch and fueled entirely by clean energy — were ill-conceived and grandiose, and instead of investing at home they quietly moved their assets abroad.

Now, he is no longer merely asking.

The Saudi government is pressing some of those detained and others still at large to sign over large sums in exchange for better treatment, according to an American official briefed on the crackdown and associates of the royal family. Employees of some of those arrested had been summoned months before to answer questions about their bosses, a sign that the purge was planned well in advance.

A senior Saudi official defending the crackdown said this week that it was meant to show that the old rules of business in the kingdom had changed.

Photo

Prince Mohammed kissing the hand of Prince Mohammed bin Nayef (sacked since then) at the royal palace in Mecca in June. CreditAl-Ekhbariya, via Associated Press

“Corruption is at every level, and there are hundreds of billions of riyals that are lost from the national economy every year,” the official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive government matters. “The point here was mainly to shock the system, to send a message that this will not be tolerated anymore and that nobody is immune.”

Corruption has been so endemic for so long — from inflated government contracts for large projects to simple bribes to obtain passports — that countless Saudis have participated. Yet, some princes with reputations for conspicuous corruption appear to have been left alone, raising questions about who is being targeted, and why.

Other signs suggest that Prince Mohammed may also be seeking to thwart perceived rivals.

In June, he and his father stripped the titles of crown prince and interior minister from Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, 58, temporarily confining him to his palace. Admirers of the ousted crown prince were relieved last week when a video surfaced showing him moving freely through a family funeral, receiving kisses on his shoulder in a show of deference and loyalty from a procession of well-wishers.

That display of his continued popularity, however, may have been too much for the younger Prince Mohammed, who the next day ordered the seizure of the former crown prince’s assets, along with those of his wife and daughters, according to two family associates.

Ms. Baeshen, the Saudi embassy spokeswoman, said she could not comment on any potential investigations.

Some American officials suspect that Prince Mohammed may be rushing to lock down the levers of power in anticipation of a formal abdication by his father, King Salman, who scholars and Western officials say could be suffering from dementia.

When President Trump visited Riyadh for a summit meeting last summer, the king remained seated as he struggled to read a prepared statement. His speech was at times weak, halting or slurred. He seldom speaks publicly. Saudi officials, however, insist his mental capacities are sound.

Prince Mohammed’s supporters argue that Saudi Arabia’s recent threats against Iran and Lebanon came in response to provocations beyond his control.

As he was preparing his anti-corruption roundup, they say, Tehran’s allies in Yemen launched an Iranian-made missile in the direction of Riyadh, where it was intercepted over the outskirts of the city (the damage shown by videos prove otherwise).

The Lebanese prime minister, Saad Hariri, resigned his position the same day with a televised speech from Riyadh that accused Iran and its Lebanese client Hezbollah of sowing “discord, devastation and destruction” in the region.

But many, including current and former American diplomats, say Prince Mohammed’s boldness also reflects his conviction that he has the support of Mr. Trump.

Photo

Mr. Trump meeting with Prince Mohammed, center, in the Oval Office in March.CreditStephen Crowley/The New York Times

Even in the last days of the Obama administration, another Persian Gulf royal who had already forged deep ties around Washington, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan of Abu Dhabi began to promote his Saudi counterpart to the incoming Trump team as a useful ally. Both princes appear to have formed a particular bond with Jared Kushner, Mr. Trump’s son-in-law and adviser, who at 36 is a contemporary of the young Saudi prince.

Mr. Trump chose Saudi Arabia for the first foreign trip of his presidency, and Prince Mohammed and Mr. Kushner have built such a strong rapport that other American officials say they are not briefed on what the two discuss.

“Jared is a bit of a black hole,” said one State Department official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss frustration with the White House. “There is no sense of the positions he has advocated. We can only guess, based on what he has done and where he has been.”

The official added: “The Emiratis and the Saudis have been very careful to cultivate him and bring him along” toward their “confrontational posture in the region.”

A White House official who also insisted on anonymity disputed the characterization of Mr. Kushner, saying he regularly briefed the State Department and National Security Council on his trips and conversations.

Mr. Kushner made his third visit to the kingdom this year ( and many to Israel)— this time unannounced until his return to Washington — in late October, when American officials say he stayed up late talking with Prince Mohammed at his ranch.

The sweep of arrests unfolded days later, and Mr. Trump was quick to applaud, although several White House officials said the Saudis gave Mr. Kushner no heads up on what was about to take place.

“I have great confidence in King Salman and the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, they know exactly what they are doing,” President Trump said on Twitter after the arrests had begun. “Some of those they are harshly treating have been ‘milking’ their country for years.”

Ms. Baeshen, the embassy spokeswoman, said that Saudi Arabia and the United States “enjoy a wide range of cooperative discussions” but that “domestic affairs are just that: domestic affairs.”

The State Department official, though, said that its diplomats, the Pentagon and the Central Intelligence Agency all felt “growing alarm” that Prince Mohammed “is behaving recklessly without sufficient consideration to the likely consequences of his behavior, and that has the potential to damage U.S. interests.”


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

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