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Posts Tagged ‘Saudi Arabia’

FBI Declassifies 9/11 Memo After Biden Executive Order: “Puts To Bed Any Doubts About Saudi Complicity”

Posted by M. C. on September 15, 2021

Oxymoron def: “Middle East” and “friends”.

https://www.zerohedge.com/geopolitical/fbi-declassifies-911-memo-after-biden-executive-order-puts-bed-any-doubts-about-saudi

Tyler Durden's Photoby Tyler Durden

Following President Biden’s recently signed executive order for the declassification of many of the remaining documents relating to the Saudi role in the 9/11 attacks, the Justice Dept. on Saturday night released its first one – a heavily redacted 16-page report from April 2016.While not yet considered a smoking gun in terms of proving high level Saudi foreknowledge and complicity, it does contain new information on a Saudi student in California at the time, Omar al-Bayoumi, who is shown to have aided two of the 9/11 hijackers while enjoying close ties with Saudi diplomats. The memo ultimately shines more light on what appears Saudi intelligence continuing contact with some of the hijackers leading up to the 9/11 attacks.

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Twenty years on, families of 9/11 victims demand Washington finally declassifies documents – could they shed light on CIA’s role? — RT Op-ed

Posted by M. C. on August 12, 2021

https://www.rt.com/op-ed/531765-families-9-11-declassified-documents/

By Kit Klarenberg, an investigative journalist exploring the role of intelligence services in shaping politics and perceptions. Follow him on Twitter @KitKlarenberg Relatives believe the information will prove the Saudi government was complicit in the attacks – while newly available files have already raised questions about Langley’s involvement.

Family members of 9/11 victims have warned Joe Biden to stay away from the upcoming 20th anniversary memorial events, unless officials are willing to declassify documents that the relatives believe will prove the Saudi Arabian government was involved in the attacks.

There is simply no reason – unmerited claims of ‘national security’ or otherwise – to keep this information secret,” an open letter, signed by 1,700 people directly affected by the incident, stated. 

Allegations of Riyadh’s involvement in the tragedy have long abounded, not least because 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudi citizens. The highly controversial 9/11 Commission Report of 2004 found no evidence “the Saudi government as an institution or senior Saudi officials individually” funded Al-Qaeda, but did identify Saudi individuals and organizations as Al-Qaeda’s primary funding source. Two commission co-chairs, Thomas Kean and Lee Hamilton, have since asserted that the investigation was “set up to fail.”

In March 2018, after many years of fruitless struggle, a US court finally allowed a lawsuit against the government of Saudi Arabia brought by the families of the attack’s victims, businesses, insurers, and over 20,000 people injured that fateful day, to proceed. 

One of the key questions under consideration is the level of contact between the hijackers and potential or confirmed Saudi government operatives – be they diplomatic or intelligence staff, or otherwise. Nonetheless, the presiding judge has to date restricted plaintiffs’ discovery to just two individuals, Omar al-Bayoumi and Fahad al-Thumairy.

According to previously classified memoranda, the FBI “believes it possible” Bayoumi “was an agent of the Saudi Government and that he may have been reporting on the local community to the Saudi Government officials.” The Bureau also discovered that he had “ties to terrorist elements.” Thumairy was a Saudi Islamic Affairs official and imam at King Fahd Mosque in Los Angeles.

Both had intimate contact with American Airlines Flight 77 hijackers Nawaf al-Hazmi and Khalid al-Mihdhar after their January 2000 arrival in the US, and were named in a 2012 FBI report on the progress of Operation Encore, its investigation into Saudi government involvement in 9/11. The document was only released due to Freedom of Information litigation, and so comprehensively censored that even the probe’s title was redacted. 

What remains extant indicates that Bayoumi and Thumairy “provided (or directed others to provide) the hijackers with assistance in daily activities, including procuring living quarters, financial assistance, and assistance in obtaining flight lessons and driver’s licenses,” with the latter “immediately [assigning] an individual to take care” of Hazmi and Mihdhar after meeting them. 

Washington has gone to enormous efforts to suppress the unexpurgated FBI report, and any and all records related to Operation Encore, which collapsed in 2016 due to a purported byzantine bust-up within the Bureau over investigative methods. Throughout his tenure as Attorney General, William Barr has consistently blocked release of this additional information by asserting the government’s “state secrets privilege”.

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Iraq never had a suicide bomb, until…

Posted by M. C. on February 15, 2021

https://mailchi.mp/6405c675d931/the-us-celebrates-30-years-of-bombing-iraq-4200293?e=de2d0eded6

Iraq had never had a suicide bombing until after George W. Bush invaded and occupied their country.Iraq was a mix of Sunnis, allied with Saudi Arabia, and Shiites, allied with Iran. Shiites were the majority of the population, but Sunnis held political power.George W. Bush changed that. The “purple-fingered elections,” hailed as a victory for democracy, gave the Shiite majority absolute control over the lives and fortunes of the Sunni minority.Civil War resulted. Bush had put Iran’s Shiite allies in power. They forced him to surrender and leave the country, and refused his request to station any military bases in their country.A million Iraqis were killed, along with thousands of Americans. And for what? To empower Iran in the capital and in the east, and to turn western Iraq over to bin Ladenites.In Chapter 7 of Gus Cantavero’s video adaptation of Scott’s new book Enough Already: Time to End the War on Terrorism, Scott explains how the “the Surge worked” was basically PR for David Petraeus, and how the U.S. turned around and fought the Shiites they had been allied with for years.
https://youtu.be/Mm1UYnDJoMA
Arm yourself with knowledge so you can fight for peace. Buy Scott’s new book, Enough Already: Time to End the War on Terrorism

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Allies Aren’t Friends and Clients Aren’t Allies | The American Conservative

Posted by M. C. on October 29, 2020

The U.S. needs to cut back the support it provides to reckless clients, and it needs to reevaluate seriously which of its formal allies deserve the protection that our government has promised them.

https://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/allies-arent-friends-and-clients-arent-allies/

Daniel Larison

The U.S. has had so many formal alliances and informal partnerships for so long that many of our political leaders have forgotten the reason why we have allies and partners in the first place. Our government forms alliances with other states because there is supposed to be some mutual benefit to our security and theirs, but over time these alliances have hardened into unquestionable idols that have to be supported whether they serve any useful purpose or not. It is commonplace for presidents and presidential candidates to declare that this or that relationship is “unbreakable,”“eternal,” or “sacred,” but by its nature every alliance has to be breakable, temporary, and open to challenge and criticism.

Many partnerships are of even more questionable value, but they are frequently described as alliances when they are not and there is tremendous political pressure to treat them as if they deserved U.S. protection. The U.S. needs to reassess which relationships are worth preserving, and it needs to remember the reason why we have these relationships. That will mean reducing some commitments and ending others when they have outlived their usefulness.

In modern Washington, D.C., limited security relationships are transmuted into alliances, and alliances are made into sacred cows that must not be threatened no matter what. When Washington and Jefferson warned us against permanent and entangling alliances, these were some of the pitfalls that they hoped the U.S. would avoid, but instead we have spent the last eighty years adding more commitments than we can possibly uphold and conflating our interests with the interests of dozens of other countries all over the world. It has reached a point where many Americans no longer recognize where American interests end and those of other states start, and our leaders tend to treat local and regional threats to minor clients as if they were endangering America’s vital interests.

This leads our government into a series of corrupting arrangements with authoritarian governments in the name of a never-ending “war on terror,” and it commits the U.S. to risk major wars over small rocks in the ocean and indefensible countries on the European frontier. Alliances are supposed to make both the U.S. and our allies safer, but in practice they have sometimes become the excuse for unnecessary interventions that have nothing to do with collective defense. Partnerships that were once considered temporary expedients are absurdly elevated into “crucial” relationships that have to be indulged despite the harm they are doing to U.S. interests.

There is a tendency to sentimentalize our relationships with allies, clients, and partners by claiming them as our “friends.” There are no friendships between states. There may be better or worse relationships, and there may be friendly working relationships between individual leaders, but it isn’t possible for governments to have friends and it is a mistake to think of our ties to other countries in these terms.

Americans have had the luxury of misunderstanding our relationships this way because our country is extraordinarily secure in a way that few others are, but it is a dangerous error to perceive even our closest allies as friends. It blinds us to divergences of interests and prevents us from changing our policies as circumstances require. Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are among the many politicians that fall into this bad habit of seeing foreign policy in simple terms of supporting friends and punishing enemies. Sen. Harris summed this up in one of her statements at the vice presidential debate when she said:

Foreign policy: it might sound complicated, but really it’s relationships there – just think about it as relationships. And so we know this, in our personal, professional relationships – you guys keep your word to your friends. Got to be loyal to your friends. People who have stood with you, got to stand with them. You got to know who your adversaries are, and keep them in check.

The U.S. should seek to keep its word when it gives it, but that also means that it must be much more discerning when it makes binding commitments. Other states are not our friends, and we are not theirs, and we should not allow past cooperation to make us feel obliged to do things that make no sense for our security. For example, many supporters of intervention in Libya in 2011 insisted that the U.S. somehow “owed” European allies for their support in Afghanistan, and that was used to make it seem as if refusing to wage a war of choice in North Africa amounted to a betrayal of our “friends” that had fought alongside us elsewhere. In the end, this bad argument prevailed and the U.S. enabled the misguided Anglo-French scheme, and the intervening governments have had reason to regret their involvement ever since. Earlier, the U.S. tried to guilt and browbeat its European allies into backing the illegal and unjust invasion of Iraq by appealing to the role that the U.S. had played in defending western Europe during the Cold War. In both cases, the hawks that sought to manipulate allies with appeals to the past were masking the lousy case for intervention. The skeptics that rejected this emotional blackmail were right not to join these wars, and the leaders that went along with these campaigns later realized the error of their ways.

Today the U.S. is confronted with somewhat different problems. Many of our political leaders and analysts intentionally misrepresent the nature of some of our client relationships to make them seem more important and unquestionable than they are. Catering to the whims of Saudi Arabia is the chief example of this error, but the same goes for U.S. relations with Egypt, Israel, and the United Arab Emirates. There are no formal treaties that oblige the U.S. to defend these countries, and they are likewise under no obligation to aid the U.S. These relationships are nothing like our treaty alliances, but they are routinely described and defended in this way. The U.S. has also tended to give these clients blank checks to behave as outrageously and destructively as they want without having to worry about losing Washington’s backing.

The most recent instance of this misrepresentation was Kenneth Pollack’s defense of what he called the Saudi “alliance.” No such alliance exists, and the U.S. owes the Saudis nothing, but you would never know that from reading Pollack’s account. The Saudi relationship is a significant test of our ability to reassess the value of a partnership when it has long since become a liability. So far, with some honorable exceptions in Congress and among the public, the U.S. is failing that test. U.S. and Saudi interests have been diverging for the last decade, and they began quickly moving in opposite directions beginning in 2015 with the accession of Salman as the new king with his reckless son Mohammed in tow.

The peril in talking about allies as friends comes from encouraging more of what Barry Posen has called reckless driving. If clients are wrongly labeled as allies and allies are mistaken for friends, these governments will believe that they can expect U.S. support no matter what. Patrick Porter and Josh Shifrinson call attention to this danger in a recent article:

Equally important, the approach risks undermining international stability by giving U.S. partners ill-placed faith in U.S. commitments. After four years of the Trump administration’s bullying, allies from Canada to Germany to South Korea worry about American reliability and seek a course correction. In pledging fidelity to its “friends,” however, the Biden approach risks going too far in the opposite direction. It could create a false expectation among allies of a restored friendship with Washington without conditions. It could even tempt allies to take U.S. support for granted and behave recklessly.

Permanent alliance structures create perverse incentives for the most reckless members, and the other members of the alliance are then stuck with them because there is no mechanism for expelling the troublemakers. Today Turkey goes out of its way to poke fingers in the eyes of many of its putative allies by stoking conflict in Syria and Karabakh, threatening Greece, and meddling in Libya, but NATO finds itself powerless to discourage this behavior or penalize Turkey for what it has done. There are even some hawks that are urging the the U.S. take the side of Azerbaijan in its offensive in Karabakh because the attack has Turkey’s support, and Turkey is technically an ally. Turkey’s government today is clear proof that allies aren’t friends, and it is showing that even a formal treaty ally can effectively cease to be a real ally with its aggressive and irresponsible policies.

The U.S. needs to cut back the support it provides to reckless clients, and it needs to reevaluate seriously which of its formal allies deserve the protection that our government has promised them. It is long past time that we stopped venerating alliances and client relationships and started looking at them critically. This will become even more important in the coming years, when there will be a concerted effort from Washington to “restore” all of these relationships.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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There is a historic change taking place in the Middle East, by Patrick Cockburn – The Unz Review

Posted by M. C. on August 18, 2020

It is this historic period that is now terminating and the change is likely to be permanent. Saudi Arabia and UAE still have big financial reserves, though these are not inexhaustible. Elsewhere the money is running out.

The rulers of oil states tend to be in a state of denial about the lack of alternatives to oil. Soon after taking over as de facto ruler in Saudi Arabia, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman promoted “Vision 2030” that was supposedly intended to wean Saudi Arabia off oil. Nobody with any experience of the country took this seriously, though western consultants were happy to fan such fantasies so profitable to themselves.

https://www.unz.com/pcockburn/there-is-a-historic-change-taking-place-in-the-middle-east/

President Donald Trump is cock-a-hoop over the United Arab Emirates becoming the first Arab Gulf state to normalise its relations with Israel. He needs all the good news he can get in the months before the US presidential election.

“HUGE breakthrough today! Historic Peace Agreement between our two GREAT friends, Israel and the United Arab Emirates!” Trump tweeted. Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu claimed a triumph in establishing full diplomatic relations with an Arab state that had once been a vocal supporter of the Palestinians. The UAE, for its part, said it had averted Israeli annexation of parts of the West Bank, while the Palestinians denounced yet one more betrayal by their fellow Arabs.

Much of this is overblown. Trump and Netanyahu will exaggerate their achievement to strengthen their domestic political status. The UAE had long ago established security and commercial links with Israel and Netanyahu’s annexation of the West Bank had been postponed previously. Pious talk by the US and its western allies in pre-Trump days about fostering a non-existent peace process between Israel and the Palestinians, at the heart of which was an imaginary “two-state solution,” was always a device for ignoring the Palestinians while pretending that something was going on.

Yet there is a real historic change going on in the Middle East and north Africa, though it has nothing to do with the relationship between Israel and the Arabs. It is a transformation that has been speeded up by the coronavirus cataclysm and will radically change the politics of the Middle East.

The era characterised by the power of the oil states is ending. When the price of oil soared in the aftermath of the 1973 war, countries from Iran to Algeria, mostly though not exclusively Arab, enjoyed an extraordinary accretion of wealth. Their elites could buy everything from Leonardo da Vinci paintings to Park Lane hotels. Their rulers had the money to keep less well-funded governments in power or to put them out of business by funding their opponent.

It is this historic period that is now terminating and the change is likely to be permanent. Saudi Arabia and UAE still have big financial reserves, though these are not inexhaustible. Elsewhere the money is running out. The determining factor is that between 2012 and 2020 the oil revenues of the Arab producers fell from $1 trillion to $300bn, down by over two-thirds. Too much oil was being produced and too little was consumed pre-coronavirus and, on top of this, there is a shift away from fossil fuels. Cuts in output by Opec might go some way to raising the oil price, but it will not be enough to preserve a crumbling status quo.

Ironically, a petrostate like the UAE just is flexing its political muscles by normalising relations with Israel just as the economic world of which it was part is breaking up. Nor is the UAE alone: the oil states have always had a problem turning money into political power. Saudi Arabia, UAE and their arch rival Qatar took a more aggressive role during the Arab Spring uprisings in Egypt, Libya, Syria, Yemen and Bahrain in 2011. Mohammed bin Salman and Mohammed bin Zayed, the de facto rulers of Saudi Arabia and UAE, became even more interventionist in 2015 and were overjoyed the following year when Trump, over-impressed by their riches and apparent influence, entered the White House.

The successes of the alliance of Trump and the Gulf monarchies have been skimpy. Their prime target Iran is battered but surviving. Saudi Arabia and UAE began a quick war in Yemen five years ago which is still going on. Bashar al-Assad remains in power in Damascus and Libya is engulfed in an endless civil war of extreme ferocity.

The super-rich oil producers are feeling the draft, but states like Iraq are close to capsizing because they can no longer pay the bills. Last October, hundreds of thousands of young Iraqis took to the streets to protest against lack of jobs, corruption and the failure of the government to provide water and electricity. Ferocious repression killed at least 600 protesters and injured 20,000, but they kept coming back to the streets.

Similar protest swept through Lebanon as its economy imploded. It is not only oil producers that are suffering, but countries like Lebanon and Egypt which looked to the petrostates for business and jobs. Lebanon used to be kept going by remittances. More than 2.5 million Egyptians work in the oil states. If there are not enough Egyptian doctors to treat Covid-19 patients at home, it is because they are earning better money in the oil states.

Strains were already showing before the pandemic. The whole system looked increasingly rickety. Oil states at the height of their prosperity had operated similarly, regardless of whether they were monarchies or republics. The ruling elite, be it Saudi, Iraqi, Libyan or Algerian, exploited governments that were what one expert described as “looting machines”, whereby those with political power turned this into easy money.

They were not alone. They could cream off great fortunes without provoking a revolt by the rest of society because they ran vast patronage machines. Ordinary Saudis, Libyans, Emiratis, Kuwaitis, Iraqis were guaranteed jobs as their small cut of the oil revenue cake.

It is this fifty-year-old system that is now faltering. As populations rise and young people flood into the labour market, more and more money is required to keep society running as before, but such resources are no longer there. This change has revolutionary implications as the unspoken social contract between rulers and ruled breaks down. Nothing much can be done to preserve it because the oil industry blights all other forms of economic activity. Little is produced locally and then only with massive state subsidies.

The rulers of oil states tend to be in a state of denial about the lack of alternatives to oil. Soon after taking over as de facto ruler in Saudi Arabia, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman promoted “Vision 2030” that was supposedly intended to wean Saudi Arabia off oil. Nobody with any experience of the country took this seriously, though western consultants were happy to fan such fantasies so profitable to themselves.

The world understands all too well the impact of the pandemic on health. It is beginning to foresee the economic devastation that follows. But it has yet to take on board the political turmoil inevitably caused by pandemic-hit economies, though Lebanon has given a foretaste of this. Beset by wars and dysfunctional social and economic systems, the Middle East is too fragile to cope with the coming earthquake.

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The UK Is Greenlighting Arms Sales to Saudi Arabia Again. That’s a Travesty. – Antiwar.com Original

Posted by M. C. on July 18, 2020

By propagating the fiction that years of repeated Saudi violations of the laws
of war are “isolated” incidents, the UK is either denying the facts on the ground
or undermining mainstream understanding of the laws governing war. Most likely,
it’s doing both.

Neither the law nor the facts support a conclusion that Saudi war crimes in Yemen are “isolated.”

A jobs program for the connected contributors.

https://original.antiwar.com/Akshaya_Kumar/2020/07/17/the-uk-is-greenlighting-arms-sales-to-saudi-arabia-again-thats-a-travesty/

On July 7, the United Kingdom announced that it intends to resume approving weapons sales by British companies to Saudi Arabia. Conservative Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government is choosing to move forward with these sales despite reams of evidence that once weapons are in the Saudi arsenal, there’s no way to be sure they won’t be used to commit war crimes in Yemen.

The government is moving forward despite eloquent pleas from Yemenis who say that continued sales greenlight continued abuses by the Saudi led coalition. It’s moving forward despite the UK’s own foreign secretary’s recent appeal on behalf of the people of Yemen for “international help to escape tragedy,” recognizing they are living through the world’s worst humanitarian crisis while trying to battle a global pandemic.

Moving forward at this moment ignores the realities on the ground in Yemen and also evidences a willingness to twist the facts and the law. In doing so, the UK is undermining the rules that govern the international order at a time when multilateralism is more important than ever.

After a landmark court ruling, the UK government was forced to pause sales until it could show that it had properly evaluated the risk that weapons sold to Saudi Arabia could be used in laws of war violations. Although UK suppliers have continued to fulfill existing contracts and the government “inadvertently” issued some new licenses, the court ruling undoubtedly had a chilling effect on transfers over the past year. That’s a good thing.

But now, the UK laughably claims it has “developed a revised methodology” that supports further sales based on the specious conclusion that the Saudis’ violations are “isolated” incidents.

Human Rights Watch made a 172-page submission to the UK last year that indicates the exact opposite. Despite their arsenal of top-of-the-line weapons with precision guidance, Saudi-led coalition aircraft keep hitting Yemeni civilians while they’re shopping for groceries, celebrating weddings, riding in school buses, mourning their dead at funerals, and seeking treatment for cholera.

Recently, the UN confirmed that the coalition hit four schools and hospitals in 2019. The International Rescue Committee estimates that more than half of the bombs dropped by the Saudi-led coalition in May of this year hit civilians or civilian infrastructure. These attacks have almost always been followed by self-investigations that excuse away the crimes.

Neither the law nor the facts support a conclusion that the problems with Saudi Arabia’s conduct are “isolated.”

Human Rights Watch has been campaigning to halt all weapons sales to Saudi Arabia since 2016. The UN has warned that those who continue to supply the coalition with weapons after seeing its abysmal track record risk complicity themselves. To be sure, this is not a problem that will be resolved by cutting off sales from the UK alone.

Saudi Arabia leads the world in arms imports and is responsible for 12 percent of global purchases since 2015. While the UK had paused licensing, French companies transferred $1.6 billion in weapons to Saudi Arabia in 2019. Although the U.S. Congress has twice voted to ban arms sales to Saudi Arabia, President Trump vetoed those bills allowing arms sales to proceed.

Last year, Trump pressed forward with a massive $8 billion sale of weapons to Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and the UAE. The US is now considering an additional $478 million transfer of precision guided munitions to the Saudis. Once again, some members of Congress are objecting, but the Trump administration appears poised to move forward anyway.

While Canada, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Sweden, and Switzerland all announced that they will stop new weapons exports to the Saudis, they have continued to supply arms, spare parts, and components to the Saudis under existing contracts. In fact, in 2019, Canadian military exports to Saudi Arabia hit an all-time high despite their moratorium.

The Trump administration in particular has made naked economic and geopolitical calculations the basis of its foreign policy. Its continued arms exports to “allies” despite a track record of human rights abuses is not unique to Saudi Arabia. But it’s particularly chilling that Trump was not shy about making an economic argument for sales in the face of the Saudi killing and dismemberment of US resident journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

The timing of the UK move, one day after it launched sanctions on 20 individual Saudis for their role in Khashoggi’s murder, underscores the incoherence of this approach. Governments like the UK shouldn’t need their courts to tie their hands — they should simply stop their sales to the Saudis. Instead of engaging in legal gymnastics to justify weapons sales, they should take a stance that definitively ends their role in fueling war crimes abroad.

By propagating the fiction that years of repeated Saudi violations of the laws of war are “isolated” incidents, the UK is either denying the facts on the ground or undermining mainstream understanding of the laws governing war. Most likely, it’s doing both.

Akshaya Kumar is the crisis advocacy director at Human Rights Watch. Reprinted with permission from Foreign Policy In Focus.

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Khashoggi trial: Consulate worker was told to ‘light up the oven’ | Turkey News | Al Jazeera

Posted by M. C. on July 4, 2020

As bad as the US government is…

Technician tells Turkish court he was given the orders after Khashoggi entered the building where he was killed.

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/07/khashoggi-trial-consulate-worker-told-light-oven-200703180203828.html

A Saudi consulate worker in Istanbul has told a Turkish court he was asked to light an oven less than an hour after Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi entered the building where he was killed in 2018.

Zeki Demir, a local technician who worked for the consulate, was giving evidence on Friday, on the first day of the trial in absentia of 20 Saudi officials over Khashoggi’s killing which sparked global outrage.

Demir said he had been called to the consul’s residence after Khashoggi entered the nearby consulate.

“There were five to six people there … They asked me to light up the tandoor [oven]. There was an air of panic,” said Demir.

Khashoggi disappeared after entering the consulate building in October 2018 to get papers for his upcoming marriage.

Some Western governments, as well as the CIA, said they believed Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) ordered the killing – an accusation Saudi officials denied.

Turkish officials have said one theory police pursued was that the killers may have tried to dispose of the body by burning it after suffocating him and cutting up his corpse.

Skewers of meat

According to his testimony in the indictment, Demir reported seeing many skewers of meat and a small barbecue in addition to the oven in the consul’s garden.

Marble slabs around the oven appeared to have changed colour as if they had been cleaned with a chemical, the indictment reported him as saying.

Separate witness testimony in the indictment, from the consul’s driver, said the consul had ordered raw kebabs to be bought from a local restaurant.

Demir offered to help with the garage door when a car with darkened windows arrived, but he was told to leave the garden quickly, the indictment said.

The indictment accuses two top Saudi officials, former deputy head of Saudi Arabia’s general intelligence Ahmed al-Asiri and former royal court adviser Saud al-Qahtani, of instigating “premeditated murder with monstrous intent”.

It says 18 other defendants were flown to Turkey to kill Khashoggi, a prominent and well-connected journalist who had grown increasingly critical of the crown prince.

The defendants are being tried in absentia and are unlikely to ever be handed over by Saudi Arabia, which has accused Turkey of failing to cooperate with a separate, largely secretive, trial in Riyadh last year.

In December, a Saudi court sentenced five people to death and three to jail for the killing, but Khashoggi’s family later said they forgave his murderers, effectively granting them a formal reprieve under Saudi law.

At the time, a Saudi prosecutor said there was no evidence connecting al-Qahtani to the killing and dismissed charges against al-Asiri.

Khashoggi murder: Western powers are 'sending the wrong message'

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US Pulling Patriot Missiles, Warplanes Out of Saudi Arabia Amid Dispute – News From Antiwar.com

Posted by M. C. on May 8, 2020

Don’t worry. The missiles and planes will be back before you know it..

We can’t inconvenience the genocidal, terrorist supporting, head chopping, perpetrators of 9/11 for long.

https://news.antiwar.com/2020/05/07/us-pulling-patriot-missiles-warplanes-out-of-saudi-arabia-amid-dispute/

US wants Saudi oil production cut to ensure stable prices

The Trump Administration has been annoyed at Saudi Arabia’s inability to stabilize oil prices at a level high enough to ensure US producers a profit, and in a move that appears to be retaliation based on those tensions, the US is starting to pull military assets out of Saudi Arabia.

Officials announced on Thursday that the US will be withdrawing two Patriot missile batteries, along with a number of warplanes from the Saudi desert, along with other air defenses. The assets were placed in the area in recent months to “counter Iran.”

The US buildup in Saudi Arabia began after a Yemeni missile hit oil-producing regions. Saudis blamed Iran, and the US sent forces there to “deter” them. US-Iran tensions over Iraq ultimately led to more deployments into the area.

Putting troops there appears to have given the US the leverage to pull troops out of there, and with Saudi efforts to try to get oil prices back up largely unsuccessful, the US appears to have decided that this will coax them into action.

As a security matter, this is unlikely to matter, as there was no indication that Iran or anyone else was really liable to attack the Saudis. This should also mean no real added security premium on the price of oil, though since the US goal is a price increase, any increase from the pullout would be welcomed.

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Withdraw US Support From Saudi Arabia – Antiwar.com Original

Posted by M. C. on April 23, 2020

Unfortunately, President Barack Obama continued decades of truckling to the Saudis.

Unfortunately, the result was to make Americans accomplices to murder.

This is the country that financed 9/11!

Yet we arm them and Al Qaeda to attack countries that have never attacked US.

https://original.antiwar.com/doug-bandow/2020/04/22/withdraw-us-support-from-saudi-arabia/

After five years of bloody, inconclusive war, Saudi Arabia declared a ceasefire in Yemen. Although hailed as a possible breakthrough for peace, Riyadh’s de facto admission of defeat did not stop the fighting. Moreover, even an effective ceasefire would be at best a halfway measure.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia should end its invasion and withdraw its forces. To encourage the KSA to halt a cruel campaign which has killed hundreds of thousands, created millions of refugees, and left most of the population hungry and impoverished, Washington should terminate its support for the needless Saudi war, including sale of weapons and munitions, as well as intelligence sharing.

Modern Yemen has been in crisis since it – originally in the form of two separate states – was born around six decades ago. Saudi Arabia has meddled in its neighbor’s affairs since the beginning, at one point squaring off against Egypt when a royal regime was resisting an ultimately successful military revolt. Riyadh later bribed tribal leaders and spread hateful Wahhabist teaching in Yemen. The Kingdom also aided President Ali Abdullah Saleh after the Ansar Allah (“Supporters of God”) movement, dominated by the al-Houthi tribe, revolted against his government. In contrast, Iran’s involvement was minimal.

The two Yemens united in 1990, but since then the single state has been rent by political discord, civil conflict, and regional separatism. Saleh’s luck ran out in early 2012 when he was ousted after the Arab Spring hit Yemen. But three years later he joined with the Houthis to oust President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi, his successor. None of this had much to do with Riyadh and nothing to do with Washington.

However, Saudi Arabia’s ruthless and reckless Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman believed he could reinstall Hadi in a brief campaign, leaving a compliant regime in Sanaa. This policy was just one of many which turned the once quiescent KSA into the most dangerous and destabilizing regime in the Middle East.

The Kingdom supported jihadist insurgents in Syria, kidnapped Lebanon’s prime minister, underwrote the al-Sisi coup and dictatorship in Egypt, used troops to back Bahrain’s authoritarian minority Sunni monarchy against the majority Shia population, financed civil war in Libya, and sought to overthrow the Qatari monarchy. Domestically the crown prince increased political repression while leaving intact totalitarian religious controls which ban all faiths but Islam. The latest State Department human rights report takes 58 pages to describe the Kingdom’s crimes against its own people. Freedom House gives Riyadh a lower rating for political and civil liberties than Yemen.

Riyadh expected its impoverished neighbor to be an easy target. However, unlike the effete Saudi military the Yemeni people were used to hardship and combat. Under attack by the Saudis backed by Washington, the Houthis turned to Tehran for support, which was eager to bleed the Kingdom.

Even worse for America, the war interrupted Yemeni operations against al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the most dangerous of the local affiliates, and other radical groups. Saleh’s government had cooperated with the U.S. against them; the Houthis also battled AQAP. However, both the nominal Hadi government and Saudi-Emirati coalition accommodated and even armed these extremist movements, including with American weapons.

Unfortunately, President Barack Obama continued decades of truckling to the Saudis. Having dismissed their opposition to negotiations with Iran over the nuclear accord with Iran, the president decided to reassure the Saudi royals by supporting the crown prince’s murderous misadventure. Washington sold aircraft and weapons to the kingdom, provided intelligence for targeting, and even refueled Saudi planes (a practice the Trump administration finally ended).

Unfortunately, the result was to make Americans accomplices to murder.

Humanitarian groups figure that upwards of two-thirds to three-quarters of civilian deaths and damage in Yemen have been caused by the coalition’s air campaign, which has hit marriages, funerals, apartments, and hospitals with equal avidity. The country’s commercial and social infrastructure also has been destroyed. The Emiratis even have backed southern separatists active against the Hadi government, threatening to dismember the nation.

As a result, Yemen scarcely exists anymore. Human Rights Watch reported: “Across the country, civilians suffer from a lack of basic services, a spiraling economic crisis, abusive local security forces, and broken governance, health, education, and judicial systems.” About 80 percent of Yemen’s almost 30 million people need outside aid of some sort. Roughly two-thirds of Yemenis lack adequate access to clean water and adequate health care and suffer from food insecurity. A third of the population is at risk of famine. In 2017 a cholera epidemic hit more than a million Yemenis. Some 20,000 noncombatants have died as a result of combat and another 130,000 from effects of the war.

The Houthi movement is no friend of the West and rules brutally over the territories it controls. But the harm caused by the continuation of internal strife going back years was a lesser magnitude than that which resulted from the Saudi invasion, which internationalized the fighting, made Yemen into a sectarian battleground, and turned the conflict into a Saudi-Iranian proxy war.

The only constructive role that Washington can play is to end military assistance, as proposed by House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith (D-Wash.), leaving Riyadh to bear the full cost of its folly. The administration claims to help moderate the Kingdom’s conduct, a gelastic argument given the ongoing carnage. America has no leverage so long as the president adopts a Saudi-first policy and refuses to criticize even Riyadh’s worst crimes.

The Saudi ceasefire is the Kingdom’s first public acknowledgment that its aggression has failed. The crown prince finally had to recognize brutal reality. Some analysts write of the complex issues that now must be negotiated. The only talks necessary are over the amount of reconstruction aid from Saudi Arabia necessary to rebuild the nation that it callously destroyed.

Riyadh should end its invasion. Washington should stop aiding and abetting the KSA’s criminal war.

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Russia Strikes Back Where It Hurts: American Oil | The American Conservative

Posted by M. C. on March 23, 2020

https://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/russia-strikes-back-where-it-hurts-american-oil/

Russia Strikes Back Where It Hurts: American Oil

Amid mounting sanctions aimed at crippling Moscow’s economy, Putin seems resolved to do the same to Trump’s re-election.

Russia and Saudi Arabia are engaged in an oil price war that has sent shockwaves around the world, causing the price of oil to tumble and threatening the financial stability, and even viability, of major international oil companies.

On the surface, this conflict appears to be a fight between two of the world’s largest producers of oil over market share. This may, in fact, be the motive driving Saudi Arabia, which reacted to Russia’s refusal to reduce its level of oil production by slashing the price it charged per barrel of oil and threatening to increase its oil production, thereby flooding the global market with cheap oil in an effort to attract customers away from competitors.

Russia’s motives appear to be far different—its target isn’t Saudi Arabia, but rather American shale oil. After absorbing American sanctions that targeted the Russian energy sector, and working with global partners (including Saudi Arabia) to keep oil prices stable by reducing oil production even as the United States increased the amount of shale oil it sold on the world market, Russia had had enough. The advent of the Coronavirus global pandemic had significantly reduced the demand for oil around the world, stressing the American shale producers. Russia had been preparing for the eventuality of oil-based economic warfare with the United States. With U.S. shale producers knocked back on their heels, Russia viewed the time as being ripe to strike back. Russia’s goal is simple: to make American shale oil producers “share the pain”.

The United States has been slapping sanctions on Russia for more than six years, ever since Russia took control (and later annexed) the Crimean Peninsula and threw its weight behind Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine. The first sanctions were issued on March 6, 2014, through Executive Order 13660, targeting “persons who have asserted governmental authority in the Crimean region without the authorization of the Government of Ukraine that undermine democratic processes and institutions in Ukraine; threaten its peace, security, stability, sovereignty, and territorial integrity; and contribute to the misappropriation of its assets.”

The most recent round of sanctions was announced by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on February 18, 2020, by sanctioning Rosneft Trading S.A., a Swiss-incorporated, Russian-owned oil brokerage firm, for operating in Venezuela’s oil sector. The U.S. also recently targeted the Russian Nord Stream 2 and Turk Stream gas pipeline projects.

Russia had been signaling its displeasure over U.S. sanctions from the very beginning. In July 2014, Russian President Vladimir Putin warned that U.S. sanctions were “driving into a corner” relations between the two countries, threatening the “the long-term national interests of the U.S. government and people.” Russia opted to ride out U.S. sanctions, in hopes that there might be a change of administrations following the 2016 U.S. Presidential elections. Russian President Vladimir Putin made it clear that he hoped the U.S. might elect someone whose policies would be more friendly toward Russia, and that once the field of candidates narrowed down to a choice between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, Putin favored Trump.

“Yes, I did,” Putin remarked after the election, during a joint press conference with President Trump following a summit in Helsinki in July 2018. “Yes, I did. Because he talked about bringing the U.S.-Russia relationship back to normal.”

Putin’s comments only reinforced the opinions of those who embraced allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. Presidential election as fact and concluded that Putin had some sort of hold over Trump. Trump’s continuous praise of Putin’s leadership style only reinforced these concerns.

Even before he was inaugurated, Trump singled out Putin’s refusal to respond in kind to President Obama’s levying of sanctions based upon the assessment of the U.S. intelligence community that Russia had interfered in the election. “Great move on delay (by V. Putin) – I always knew he was very smart!” Trump Tweeted. Trump viewed the Obama sanctions as an effort to sabotage any chance of a Trump administration repairing relations with Russia, and interpreted Putin’s refusal to engage, despite being pressured to do so by the Russian Parliament and Foreign Ministry, as a recognition of the same.

This sense of providing political space in the face of domestic pressure worked both ways. In January 2018, Putin tried to shield his relationship with President Trump by calling the release of a list containing some 200 names of persons close to the Russian government by the U.S. Treasury Department as a hostile and “stupid” move.

“Ordinary Russian citizens, employees and entire industries are behind each of those people and companies,” Putin remarked. “So all 146 million people have essentially been put on this list. What is the point of this? I don’t understand.”

From the Russian perspective, the list highlighted the reality that the U.S. viewed the entire Russian government as an enemy and is a byproduct of the “political paranoia” on the part of U.S. lawmakers. The consequences of this, senior Russian officials warned, “will be toxic and undermine prospects for cooperation for years ahead.”

While President Trump entered office fully intending to “get along with Russia,”  including the possibility of relaxing the Obama-era sanctions, the reality of U.S.-Russian relations, especially as viewed from Congress, has been the strengthening of the Obama sanctions regime. These sanctions, strengthened over time by new measures signed off by Trump, have had a negative impact on the Russian economy, slowing growth and driving away foreign investment.

While Putin continued to show constraint in the face of these mounting sanctions, the recent targeting of Russia’s energy sector represented a bridge too far. When Saudi pressure to cut oil production rates coincided with a global reduction in the demand for oil brought on by the Coronavirus crisis, Russia struck.

The timing of the Russian action is curious, especially given the amount of speculation that there was some sort of personal relationship between Trump and Putin that the Russian leader sought to preserve and carry over into a potential second term. But Putin had, for some time now, been signaling that his patience with Trump had run its course. When speaking to the press in June 2019 about the state of U.S.-Russian relations, Putin noted that “They (our relations) are going downhill, they are getting worse and worse,” adding that “The current [i.e., Trump] administration has approved, in my opinion, several dozen decisions on sanctions against Russia in recent years.”

By launching an oil price war on the eve of the American Presidential campaign season, Putin has sent as strong a signal as possible that he no longer views Trump as an asset, if in fact he ever did. Putin had hoped Trump could usher in positive change in the trajectory of relations between the two nations; this clearly had not happened. Instead, in the words of close Putin ally Igor Sechin, the chief executive of Russian oil giant Rosneft, the U.S. was using its considerable energy resources as a political weapon, ushering in an era of “power colonialism” that sought to expand U.S. oil production and market share at the expense of other nations.

From Russia’s perspective, the growth in U.S. oil production—which doubled in output from 2011 until 2019—and the emergence of the U.S. as a net exporter of oil, was directly linked to the suppression of oil export capability in nations such as Venezuela and Iran through the imposition of sanctions. While this could be tolerated when the target was a third party, once the U.S. set its sanctioning practices on Russian energy, the die was cast.

If the goal of the Russian-driven price war is to make U.S. shale companies “share the pain,” they have already succeeded. A similar price war, initiated by Saudi Arabia in 2014 for the express purpose of suppressing U.S. shale oil production, failed, but only because investors were willing to prop up the stricken shale producers with massive loans and infusion of capital. For shale oil producers, who use an expensive methodology of extraction known as “fracking,” to be economically viable, the breakeven price of oil per barrel needs to be between $40 and $60 dollars. This was the price range the Saudi’s were hoping to sustain when they proposed the cuts in oil production that Russia rejected.

The U.S. shale oil producers, saddled by massive debt and high operational expenses, will suffer greatly in any sustained oil price war. Already, with the price of oil down to below $35 per barrel, there is talk of bankruptcy and massive job layoffs—none of which bode well for Trump in the coming election.

It’s clear that Russia has no intention of backing off anytime soon.  According to the Russian Finance Ministry, said on Russia could weather oil prices of $25-30 per barrel for between six and ten years. One thing is for certain—U.S. shale oil companies cannot.

In a sign that the Trump administration might be waking up to the reality of the predicament it faces, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin quietly met with Russia’s Ambassador to the U.S., Anatoly Antonov. According to a read out from the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the two discussed economic sanctions, the Venezuelan economy, and the potential for “trade and investment.” Mnuchin, the Russians noted, emphasized the “importance of orderly energy markets.”

Russia is unlikely to fold anytime soon. As Admiral Josh Painter, a character in Tom Clancy’s “The Hunt for Red October,” famously said, “Russians don’t take a dump without a plan.”

Russia didn’t enter its current course of action on a whim. Its goals are clearly stated—to defeat U.S. shale oil—and the costs of this effort, both economically and politically (up to and including having Trump lose the 2020 Presidential election) have all been calculated and considered in advance. The Russian Bear can only be toyed with for so long without generating a response. We now know what that response is; when the Empire strikes back, it hits hard.

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