Jordan Executes 15 Terrorists

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Middle East

Jordan Executes 15 Terrorists

Jordan

Amman – Jordan executed 15 people on Saturday morning, including 10 convicted on terrorism charges, according to government spokesman Mohammad al-Momani.

Momani told state media that those executed included those involved in the “Irbid terror cell”, and the terror attack against the General Intelligence Department office in Baqaa refugee camp.

Other crimes included the assassination of columnist Nahed Hattar, terror bomb attack on Jordan’s Embassy in Baghdad in 2003, and the terrorist attack against foreign tourists visiting the Roman amphitheater in Amman.

The men were hanged at Swaqa Prison.

Five of the criminals were involved in an assault by security forces on a militant hideout by suspected ISIS militants in Irbid city in the same year that led to the death of seven militants and one police officer in 2016. They were: Ashraf Beshtawi, Fadi Beshtawi, Imad Delki, Faraj al-Sharif, and Mohammed Delki.

Mahmoud Hussein Masharfa was the executor of the terrorist attack in June 2016 against the General Intelligence Department office in Baqaa refugee camp.

Riyad Ismail Abdullah was executed for assassinating Hattar in September 2016. While, Muammar al-Jaghbir was executed after his conviction in terror bomb attack on Jordan’s Embassy in Baghdad in 2003.

Nabil Ahmad al-Jaoura was convicted for the terrorist attack against foreign tourists visiting the Roman amphitheater in Amman which led to the death of a British tourist in 2006.

Momani added: “This is an attempt to bring justice to the victims of those terrorists who threatened our national security. Anyone who will dare engage in terrorist activities against Jordan will face the same destiny.”

Human rights group Amnesty International condemned the executions by hanging saying they were carried out in secrecy and without transparency.

Samah Hadid, deputy director at Amnesty International’s Beirut regional office, said, “The horrific scale and secrecy around these executions is shocking.”

Amnesty is against capital punishment regardless of the criminal, his crime or whether he was innocent or not, and the execution method.

Amnesty said in a statement earlier: “Jordan had for years been a leading example in a region where recourse to the death penalty is all too frequent.”

In December 2014, 11 men were executed after the capital punishment had been frozen in Jordan since March 2006.

In February 2015, Jordan executed Sajida Rishawi and Ziad al-Karboli. The two inmates were hanged a day after the release of a video showing the killing of Jordanian pilot Muath Kasasbeh by ISIS.

Rishawi was convicted by the State Security Court in September 2006 of plotting terror attacks against three hotels in Amman in November 2005, which had left more than 60 people dead and around 90 injured.

Karboli was convicted of killing a Jordanian truck driver in Iraq in September 2005, possessing explosives as well as belonging to an illegal al-Qaeda-affiliated organization called Tawhid and Jihad.

Over 100 people, including around 10 women, are currently on death row in Jordan.

Jordan is part of the US-led coalition against ISIS in Iraq and Syria.

Syrian Army, Opposition Confirm Nationwide Truce

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF REUTERS NEWS AGENCY AND THE HINDUSTAN TIMES NEWSPAPER)

Syria army, opposition confirm nationwide truce

WORLD Updated: Dec 29, 2016 21:19 IST

AFP
AFP
AFP, Damascus

Highlight Story

A boy walks his bike near stacked sandbags in al-Rai town, northern Aleppo province, Syria. (Reuters)

Syria’s army said Thursday it would halt all military operations from midnight under a truce deal brokered by Russia and Turkey and supported by a leading Syrian opposition body.The agreement was announced earlier by Russian President Vladimir Putin who said the Syrian regime and “main forces of the armed opposition” had signed on.“The general command of the armed forces announces a complete halt to all hostilities on Syrian territory from the zero hour of December 30th,” Syria’s army said in a statement carried on state television.

It said that the ceasefire excluded the Islamic State group and the former Al-Qaeda affiliate previously known as Al-Nusra Front, now rebranded the Fateh al-Sham Front.

The National Coalition, a leading Syrian political opposition group based in Turkey, confirmed its backing for the truce.

“The National Coalition expresses support for the agreement and urges all parties to abide by it,” spokesman Ahmed Ramadan told AFP.

He said key rebel groups including the powerful Ahrar al-Sham and Army of Islam factions had signed the ceasefire deal, though there was no immediate confirmation from rebel representatives.

“The agreement includes a ceasefire in all areas held by the moderate opposition, or by the moderate opposition and elements from Fateh al-Sham, such as Idlib province,” he told AFP.

Idlib, in northwest Syria, is controlled by an alliance of rebel groups led by Fateh al-Sham.

Read| Turkey, Russia to implement Syria ceasefire before New Year: Turkish minister

The group, in its previous incarnation as Al-Nusra, was designated a “terrorist” organisation by countries including the United States, as well as the United Nations.

The ceasefire agreement follows the recapture by Syria’s government of the country’s second city Aleppo from rebels, in the worst blow to opposition forces since the war began.

It will be the first nationwide halt in fighting since a week-long truce from September 12-19 that collapsed after several incidents of violence.

A previous truce was implemented in February. Both of those deals were organised by Russia and the United States.

The latest agreement is the first nationwide ceasefire brokered with the involvement of Turkey, a backer of the Syrian opposition.

Russia is a key supporter of Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad and began a military intervention in support of his government in September 2015.

Despite backing opposing sides in the conflict, and a souring of relations after Turkey shot down a Russian warplane last year, Ankara and Moscow have worked increasingly closely on Syria.

They jointly brokered a ceasefire for Aleppo this month that allowed the last remaining rebels and civilians in the city’s east to leave to opposition territory elsewhere.

More than 310,000 people have been killed in Syria since the conflict began in March 2011 with protests against Assad’s government.

Successive bids to reach a peace deal to end the conflict have failed, but Moscow has said it is planning to convene new negotiations in Kazakhstan.

And the army statement said the ceasefire was intended to “create conditions to support the political track” in resolving the conflict.

Pakistani judge who probed Osama bin Laden raid wants report made public

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES)

Pakistani judge who probed Osama bin Laden raid wants report made public

WORLD Updated: Dec 20, 2016 22:25 IST

Imtiaz Ahmad
Imtiaz Ahmad
Hindustan Times
The Pakistani judge who led the official commission which probed the 2011 raid by US Navy SEALs that killed Osama Bin Ladin has said the panel’s report should be made public.Justice (retired) Javed Iqbal demanded the report be made public because “the commission has identified those responsible for the incident”.

The inquiry commission set up by the government investigated the circumstances surrounding the May 2011 raid on the al Qaeda chief’s compound in the garrison town of Abbottabad. The commission interviewed more than 300 witnesses and made 200 recommendations in a 700-page report submitted to the prime minister in January 2013.

The report was immediately classified, but a version was leaked by an international news network.

Iqbal said his daughter kept asking whether bin Laden was in Abbottabad, and he had told her that if he revealed this, nothing would remain in the report.

Asked by media who was responsible for what happened, Iqbal said he was bound by oath and could not reveal such details.

He explained the commission’s task was to identify those responsible and suggest action against them. It is only the government of Pakistan which has the authority to identify those responsible before the public, he added.

Iqbal complained about the government not implementing the commission’s recommendations and said the panel had not absolved anyone of responsibility.

40,000 Christians Feel Safer Under President Assad: Terrified ‘Rebels’ Will Return

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TED SHOEBAT’S WEBSITE)

Forty Thousand Christians Say That They Feel Safer Under Bashar Al-Assad And Are Terrified Of The Islamic Rebels Returning To Their Neighborhoods

By Theodore ShoebatForty thousand Christians living in Aleppo feel safer now that their city is under Bashar al-Assad — thanks to Russia — and fear the return of the Islamic rebels, as we read in one report:

The estimated 40,000 Christians in Aleppo are not among the civilians who are dreading the fall of the city to the Russia and Iran-backed regime of dictator Bashar al Assad, according to a charity group that helps persecuted Christians. These Christians instead reportedly fear the return of the rebels to Aleppo, particularly the jihadi coalition known as Jaish Al Fatah, or ‘Army of Conquest,’ that includes the likes of the Syrian al-Qaeda branch formerly known as the Nusra Front before it became Jabhat Fateh al-Sham (Front for the Conquest of the Levant).

Jaish Al Fatah has been “heavily involved” in the battle for Aleppo and the persecution of Christians in the city, claims the charity group Barnabas Fund.

Until recently, Aleppo city had been roughly divided between Assad regime control in the west and rebel control in the east since 2012.

The Russian government and the U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which uses a network of ground sources to monitor the ongoing civil war in Syria, have declared that the Assad regime is now in control of Aleppo.

Russian-backed Assad forces and their Iranian-allied counterparts operating on the ground have been accused of “genocide” against civilians in the former rebel stronghold of eastern Aleppo.

Suicide Bomber Kills At Least 50 Yemeni Troops In Aden

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES NEWS AND REUTERS)

Suicide bomber kills at least 50 Yemeni troops in Aden

WORLD Updated: Dec 10, 2016 23:35 IST

Reuters
Reuters
Dubai
The attacker blew himself up as the troops were waiting to collect their salaries, the government sources added.
A suicide bomber killed 50 Yemeni soldiers and wounded at least 70 others at a base in the city of Aden on Saturday, a medic at the scene and government officials said, in another major attack on forces allied to a Saudi-led military campaign.The attacker blew himself up as the troops were waiting to collect their salaries, the government sources added.

Islamic State militants have repeatedly claimed responsibility for deadly attacks on troops in the southern port city, which is under the control of the internationally recognized government in exile in Saudi Arabia.

The Kingdom intervened in Yemen’s civil war in March 2015 to fight the government’s foes in the Iran-allied Houthi movement but have failed to dislodge the group from the capital Sanaa despite thousands of airstrikes on HOUTHI soldiers.

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Houthi forces were pushed out of Aden and much of Yemen’s south last summer, but the government and coalition troops have struggled to enforce their control as Al Qaeda and Islamic State militants use the security vacuum to carry out attacks.

At least 10,000 people have been killed in the conflict which has unleashed a humanitarian crisis on the impoverished country.

31 Yr Old Saudi Prince Shaking Up The Kingdom As He Climbs The Latter Of Success

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES)

Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s deputy crown prince, has a hand in nearly all elements of Saudi policy. CreditFayez Nureldine/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

He has slashed the state budget, frozen government contracts and reduced the pay of civil employees, all part of drastic austerity measures as the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is buffeted by low oil prices.

But last year, Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s deputy crown prince, saw a yacht he couldn’t resist.

While vacationing in the south of France, Prince bin Salman spotted a 440-foot yacht floating off the coast. He dispatched an aide to buy the ship, the Serene, which was owned by Yuri Shefler, a Russian vodka tycoon. The deal was done within hours, at a price of approximately 500 million euros (roughly $550 million today), according to an associate of Mr. Shefler and a Saudi close to the royal family. The Russian moved off the yacht the same day.

It is the paradox of the brash, 31-year-old Prince bin Salman: a man who is trying to overturn tradition, reinvent the economy and consolidate power — while holding tight to his royal privilege. In less than two years, he has emerged as the most dynamic royal in the Arab world’s wealthiest nation, setting up a potential rivalry for the throne.

He has a hand in nearly all elements of Saudi policy — from a war in Yemen that has cost the kingdom billions of dollars and led to international criticism over civilian deaths, to a push domestically to restrain Saudi Arabia’s free-spending habits and to break its “addiction” to oil. He has begun to loosen social restrictions that grate on young people.

The rise of Prince bin Salman has shattered decades of tradition in the royal family, where respect for seniority and power-sharing among branches are time-honored traditions. Never before in Saudi history has so much power been wielded by the deputy crown prince, who is second in line to the throne. That centralization of authority has angered many of his relatives.

His seemingly boundless ambitions have led many Saudis and foreign officials to suspect that his ultimate goal is not just to transform the kingdom, but also to shove aside the current crown prince, his 57-year-old cousin, Mohammed bin Nayef, to become the next king. Such a move could further upset his relatives and — if successful — give the country what it has never seen: a young king who could rule the kingdom for many decades.

Crown Prince bin Nayef, the interior minister and longtime counterterrorism czar, has deep ties to Washington and the support of many of the older royals. Deciphering the dynamics of the family can be like trying to navigate a hall of mirrors, but many Saudi and American officials say Prince bin Salman has made moves aimed at reaching into Prince bin Nayef’s portfolios and weakening him.

This has left officials in Washington hedging their bets by building relationships with both men, unsure who will end up on top. The White House got an early sign of the ascent of the young prince in late 2015, when — breaking protocol — Prince bin Salman delivered a soliloquy about the failures of American foreign policy during a meeting between his father, King Salman, and President Obama.

Many young Saudis admire him as an energetic representative of their generation who has addressed some of the country’s problems with uncommon bluntness. The kingdom’s news media have built his image as a hardworking, businesslike leader less concerned than his predecessors with the trappings of royalty.

Others see him as a power-hungry upstart who is risking instability by changing too much, too fast.

Months of interviews with Saudi and American officials, members of the royal family and their associates, and diplomats focused on Saudi affairs reveal a portrait of a prince in a hurry to prove that he can transform Saudi Arabia. Prince bin Salman declined multiple interview requests for this article.

But the question many raise — and cannot yet answer — is whether the energetic leader will succeed in charting a new path for the kingdom, or whether his impulsiveness and inexperience will destabilize the Arab world’s largest economy at a time of turbulence in the Middle East.

Prince Mohammed bin Salman, left, and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef of Saudi Arabia. Many Saudis and foreign officials believe Prince bin Salman’s goal is to become the next king.Credit Faye Nureldine/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Tension at the Top

Early this year, Crown Prince bin Nayef left the kingdom for his family’s villa in Algeria, a sprawling compound an hour’s drive north of Algiers. Although he has long taken annual hunting vacations there, many who know him said that this year was different. He stayed away for weeks, largely incommunicado and often refusing to respond to messages from Saudi officials and close associates in Washington. Even John O. Brennan, the C.I.A. director, whom he has known for decades, had difficulty reaching him.

The crown prince has diabetes, and suffers from the lingering effects of an assassination attempt in 2009 by a jihadist who detonated a bomb he had hidden in his rectum.

But his lengthy absence at a time of low oil prices, turmoil in the Middle East and a foundering Saudi-led war in Yemen led several American officials to conclude that the crown prince was fleeing frictions with his younger cousin and that the prince was worried his chance to ascend the throne was in jeopardy.

Since King Salman ascended to the throne in January 2015, new powers had been flowing to his son, some of them undermining the authority of the crown prince. King Salman collapsed the crown prince’s court into his own, giving Prince bin Salman control over access to the king. Prince bin Salman also hastily announced the formation of a military alliance of Islamic countries to fight terrorism. Counterterrorism had long been the domain of Prince bin Nayef, but the new plan gave no role to him or his powerful Interior Ministry.

The exact personal relationship between the two men is unclear, fueling discussion in Saudi Arabia and in foreign capitals about who is ascendant. Obscuring the picture are the stark differences in the men’s public profiles. Prince bin Nayef has largely stayed in the shadows, although he did visit New York last month to address the United Nations General Assembly before heading to Turkey for a state visit.

His younger cousin, meanwhile, has worked to remain in the spotlight, touring world capitals, speaking with foreign journalists, being photographed with the Facebook chairman Mark Zuckerberg and presenting himself as a face of a new Saudi Arabia.

“There is no topic that is more important than succession matters, especially now,” said Joseph A. Kechichian, a senior fellow at the King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies in Riyadh, who has extensive contacts in the Saudi royal family. “This matters for monarchy, for the regional allies and for the kingdom’s international partners.”

Among the most concrete initiatives so far of Prince bin Salman, who serves as minister of defense, is the Saudi-led war in Yemen, which since it was begun last year has failed to dislodge the Shiite Houthi rebels and their allies from the Yemeni capital. The war has driven much of Yemen toward famine and killed thousands of civilians while costing the Saudi government tens of billions of dollars.

Saudi troops along the country’s border with Yemen. The war in Yemen has cost the kingdom billions and led to international criticism. Credit Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times, via Getty Images

The prosecution of the war by a prince with no military experience has exacerbated tensions between him and his older cousins, according to American officials and members of the royal family. Three of Saudi Arabia’s main security services are run by princes. Although all agreed that the kingdom had to respond when the Houthis seized the Yemeni capital and forced the government into exile, Prince bin Salman took the lead, launching the war in March 2015 without full coordination across the security services.

The head of the National Guard, Prince Mutaib bin Abdullah, had not been informed and was out of the country when the first strikes were carried out, according to a senior National Guard officer.

The National Guard is now holding much of the Yemeni border.

American officials, too, were put off when, just as the Yemen campaign was escalating, Prince bin Salman took a vacation in the Maldives, the island archipelago off the coast of India. Several American officials said Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter had trouble reaching him for days during one part of the trip.

The prolonged war has also heightened tensions between Prince bin Salman and Prince bin Nayef, who won the respect of Saudis and American officials for dismantling Al Qaeda in the kingdom nearly a decade ago and now sees it taking advantage of chaos in Yemen, according to several American officials and analysts.

“If Mohammed bin Nayef wanted to be seen as a big supporter of this war, he’s had a year and a half to do it,” said Bruce Riedel, a former Middle East analyst at the C.I.A. and a fellow at the Brookings Institution.

Near the start of the war, Prince bin Salman was a forceful public advocate for the campaign and was often photographed visiting troops and meeting with military leaders. But as the campaign has stalemated, such appearances have grown rare.

The war underlines the plans of Prince bin Salman for a brawny foreign policy for the kingdom, one less reliant on Western powers like the United States for its security. He has criticized the thawing of America’s relations with Iran and comments by Mr. Obama during an interview this year that Saudi Arabia must “share the neighborhood” with Iran.

This is part of what analysts say is Prince bin Salman’s attempt to foster a sense of Saudi national identity that has not existed since the kingdom’s founding in 1932.

“There has been a surge of Saudi nationalism since the campaign in Yemen began, with the sense that Saudi Arabia is taking independent collective action,” said Andrew Bowen, a Saudi expert at the Wilson Center in Washington.

Still, Mr. Bowen said support among younger Saudis could diminish the longer the conflict dragged on. Diplomats say the death toll for Saudi troops is higher than the government has publicly acknowledged, and a recent deadly airstrike on a funeral in the Yemeni capital has renewed calls by human rights groups and some American lawmakers to block or delay weapons sales to the kingdom.

People who have met Prince bin Salman said he insisted that Saudi Arabia must be more assertive in shaping events in the Middle East and confronting Iran’s influence in the region — whether in Yemen, Syria, Iraq or Lebanon.

Brian Katulis, a Middle East expert at the Center for American Progress in Washington, who met the prince this year in Riyadh, said his agenda was clear.

“His main message is that Saudi Arabia is a force to be reckoned with,” Mr. Katulis said.

Prince bin Salman at a news conference in April for Vision 2030, his plan to transform Saudi life by diversifying its economy away from oil, increasing Saudi employment and improving education, health and other government services. Credit Fayex Nureldine/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

A Swift Ascent

Saudi Arabia is one of the world’s few remaining absolute monarchies, which means that Prince bin Salman was given all of his powers by a vote of one: his own father.

The prince’s rise began in early 2015, after King Abdullah died of lung cancer and King Salman ascended to the throne. In a series of royal decrees, the new king restructured the government and shook up the order of succession in the royal family in ways that invested tremendous power in his son.

He was named defense minister and head of a powerful new council to oversee the Saudi economy as well as put in charge of the governing body ofSaudi Aramco, the state oil company and the primary engine of the Saudi economy.

More important, the king decreed a new order of succession, overturning the wishes of King Abdullah and replacing his designated crown prince, Muqrin bin Abdulaziz, with Prince bin Nayef.

While all previous Saudi kings and crown princes had been sons of the kingdom’s founder, Prince bin Nayef was the first of the founder’s grandsons to be put in line. Many hailed the move because of the prince’s success at fighting Al Qaeda and because he has only daughters, leading many to hope he would choose a successor based on merit rather than paternity.

The bigger surprise was that the king named Prince bin Salman deputy crown prince. He was 29 years old at the time and virtually unknown to the kingdom’s closest allies.

This effectively scrapped the political aspirations of his older relatives, many of whom had decades of experience in public life and in key sectors like defense and oil policy. Some are still angry — although only in private, out of deference to the 80-year-old king.

Since then, Prince bin Salman has moved quickly to build his public profile and market himself to other nations as the point man for the kingdom.

Domestically, his focus has been on an ambitious plan for the future of the kingdom, called Vision 2030. The plan, released in April, seeks to transform Saudi life by diversifying its economy away from oil, increasing Saudi employment and improving education, health and other government services. A National Transformation Plan, laying out targets for improving government ministries, came shortly after.

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Read in one way, the documents are an ambitious blueprint to change the Saudi way of life. Read in another, they are a scathing indictment of how poorly the kingdom has been run by Prince bin Salman’s elders.

Official government development plans going back decades have called for reducing the dependence on oil and increasing Saudi employment — to little effect. And in calling for transparency and accountability, the plan acknowledges that both have been in short supply. Diplomats and economists say much about the Saudi economy remains opaque, including the cost of generous perks and stipends for members of the royal family.

The need for change is greater now, with global oil prices less than half of what they were in 2014 and hundreds of thousands of young Saudis entering the job market yearly. Prince bin Salman has called for a new era of fiscal responsibility, and over the last year, fuel, water and electricity prices have gone up while the take-home pay of some public sector employees has been cut — squeezing the budgets of average Saudis. He has also said the government will sell shares of Saudi Aramco, believed to be the world’s most valuable company.

Many Saudis say his age and ambition are benefits at a time when old ways of thinking must be changed.

“He is speaking in the language of the youth,” said Hoda al-Helaissi, a member of the kingdom’s advisory Shura Council, which is appointed by the king. “The country for too long has been looking through the lenses of the older generation, and we need to look at who is going to carry the torch to the next generation.”

Some of his initiatives have appeared ham-handed. In December, he held his first news conference to announce the formation of a military alliance of Islamic countries to fight terrorism. But a number of countries that he said were involved soon responded that they knew nothing about it or were still waiting for information before deciding whether to join.

Others have been popular. After Prince bin Salman called for more entertainment options for families and young people, who often flee the country on their vacations, the cabinet passed regulations restricting the powers of the religious police. An Entertainment Authority he established has planned its first activities, which include comedy shows, pro wrestling events and monster truck rallies.

Photo

The Serene, a 440-foot yacht Prince Mohammed bin Salman spotted while vacationing last year. He dispatched an aide to buy it; the deal was done within hours, at a price of about 500 million euros (roughly $550 million today). CreditPhil Walter/Getty Images

The prince has kept his distance from the Council of Senior Scholars, the mostly elderly clerics who set official religious policy and often release religious opinions that young Saudis mock as being out of touch with modern life.

Instead, he has sought the favor of younger clerics who boast millions of followers on social media. After the release of Vision 2030, Prince bin Salman held a reception for Saudi journalists and academics that included a number of younger, tech-savvy clerics who have gone forth to praise the plan.

Prince bin Salman’s prominence today was difficult to predict during his early years, spent largely below the radar of Western officials who keep track of young Saudi royals who might one day rule the kingdom.

Several of King Salman’s other sons, who studied overseas to perfect foreign languages and earn advanced degrees, built impressive résumés. One became the first Arab astronaut, another a deputy oil minister, yet another the governor of Medina Province.

Prince bin Salman stayed in Saudi Arabia and does not speak fluent English, although he appears to understand it. After a private school education, he studied law at King Saud University in Riyadh, reportedly graduating fourth in his class. Another prince of the same generation said he had gotten to know him during high school, when one of their uncles hosted regular dinners for the younger princes at his palace. He recalled Prince bin Salman being one of the crowd, saying he liked to play bridge and admired Margaret Thatcher.

King Salman is said to see himself in his favorite son, the latest in the lineage of a family that has ruled most of the Arabian Peninsula for eight decades.

In 2007, when the United States ambassador dropped in on King Salman, then a prince and the governor of Riyadh Province, to say farewell at the end of his posting, the governor asked for help circumventing America’s stringent visa procedures. His wife could not get a visa to see her doctor, and although his other children were willing to submit to the visa hurdles, “his son, Prince Mohammed, refused to go to the U.S. Embassy to be fingerprinted ‘like some criminal,’” according to a State Department cable at the time.

Prince bin Salman graduated from the university that year and continued to work for his father, who was named defense minister in 2011, while dabbling in real estate and business.

Many members of the royal family remain wary of the young prince’s projects and ultimate ambitions. Some mock him as the “Prince of the Vision” and complain about his army of well-paid foreign consultants and image-makers.

Other are annoyed by the media cell he created inside the royal court to promote his initiatives, both foreign and domestic. Called the Center for Studies and Media Affairs, the group has focused on promoting a positive story about the Yemen war in Washington and has hired numerous Washington lobbying and public affairs firms to assist in the effort.

Inside the kingdom, the government has largely succeeded in keeping criticism — and even open discussion — of the prince and his projects out of the public sphere. His family holds sway over the parent company of many Saudi newspapers, which have breathlessly covered his initiatives, and prominent Saudi editors and journalists who have accompanied him on foreign trips have been given up to $100,000 in cash, according to two people who have traveled with the prince’s delegation.

Meanwhile, Saudi journalists deemed too critical have been quietly silenced through phone calls informing them that they are barred from publishing, and sometimes from traveling abroad.

In June, a Saudi journalist, Sultan al-Saad al-Qahtani, published an article in Arabic on his website, The Riyadh Post, in which he addressed the lack of discussion about Prince bin Salman’s rise.

“You can buy tens of newspapers and hundreds of journalists, but you can’t buy the history that will be written about you,” he wrote.

He said that the prince’s popularity among Saudis was based on a “sweeping desire for great change” and that they loved him based on the hope that he would “turn their dreams into reality.”

In that lay the risk, Mr. Qahtani wrote: “If you fail, this love withers quickly, as if it never existed, and is replaced by a deep feeling of frustration and hatred.”

The site was blocked the next day, Mr. Qahtani said, for the third time in 13 months. (It is now back up, at a new address.)

President Obama welcoming Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, center, and Prince bin Salman to the White House in May 2015. Officials in Washington have been hedging their bets by building relationships with both men, unsure who will end up on top. CreditChip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The Future

As sweeping and long-term as Prince bin Salman’s initiatives are, they may hang by the tenuous thread of his link to his father, who has memory lapses, according to foreign officials who have met with him. Even the prince’s supporters acknowledge that they are not sure he will retain his current roles after his father dies.

In the meantime, he is racing against time to establish his reputation and cement his place in the kingdom’s power structure.

His fast ascent, and his well-publicized foreign trips to Washington, Europe, the Middle East and elsewhere in Asia, have led senior Obama administration officials to consider the prospect that he could step over Prince bin Nayef and become Saudi Arabia’s next king.

This has led to a balancing act for American officials who want to build a relationship with him while not being used as leverage in any rivalry with Prince bin Nayef. Obama administration officials say relations with Prince bin Salman have generally improved, but only after a rocky start when he would routinely lecture senior Americans — even the president.

In November, during a Group of 20 summit meeting at a luxury resort on the Turkish coast, Prince bin Salman gave what American officials described as a lengthy speech about what he saw as the failure of American foreign policy in the Middle East — from the Obama administration’s restraint in Syria to its efforts to improve relations with Iran, Saudi Arabia’s bitter enemy.

Personal relationships have long been the bedrock of American-Saudi relations, yet the Obama administration has struggled to find someone to develop a rapport with the prince. The job has largely fallen to Secretary of State John Kerry, who has hosted the prince several times at his home in Georgetown. In June, the two men shared an iftar dinner, breaking the Ramadan fast. In September 2015, dinner at Mr. Kerry’s house ended with Prince bin Salman playing Beethoven on the piano for the secretary of state and the other guests.

In May, the prince invited Mr. Kerry for a meeting on the Serene, the luxury yacht he bought from the Russian billionaire.

His desire to reimagine the Saudi state is reflected in his admiration — some even call it envy — for the kingdom’s more modern and progressive neighbor in the Persian Gulf, the United Arab Emirates.

He has influential supporters in this effort, particularly the crown prince of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, who for more than a year has been promoting Prince bin Salman in the Middle East and in Washington.

Crown Prince bin Zayed, the United Arab Emirates’ de facto ruler, is a favorite among Obama administration officials, who view him as a reliable ally and a respected voice in the Sunni world. But he also has a history of personal antipathy toward Prince bin Nayef, adding a particular urgency to his support for the chief rival of the Saudi crown prince.

In April of last year, Mr. Obama’s national security adviser, Susan E. Rice, led a small delegation of top White House officials to visit Prince bin Zayed at his home in McLean, Va. During the meeting, according to several officials who attended, the prince urged the Americans to develop a relationship with Prince bin Salman.

But all questions about Prince bin Salman’s future are likely to depend on how long his father lives, according to diplomats who track Saudi Arabia.

If he died soon, Prince bin Nayef would become king and could dismiss his younger cousin as a gesture to his fellow royals. In fact, it was King Salman who set the precedent for such moves by dismissing the crown prince named by his predecessor.

“If the king’s health starts to deteriorate, Mohammed bin Salman is very likely to try to get Mohammed bin Nayef out of the picture,” said Mr. Riedel, the former C.I.A. analyst.

But the longer King Salman reigns, foreign officials said, the longer the young prince has to consolidate his power — or to convince Prince bin Nayef that he is worth keeping around if Prince bin Nayef becomes king.

Most Saudi watchers do not expect any struggles within the family to spill into the open, as all the royals understand how much they have to lose from such fissures becoming public or destabilizing their grip on the kingdom.

“I am persuaded as someone who focuses on this topic that the ruling family of Saudi Arabia above all else puts the interest of the family first and foremost,” said Mr. Kechichian, the analyst who knows many royals.

“Not a single member of the family will do anything to hurt the family.”

In The Civil War Between The Shiite And Sunni’s Is There Nothing That Is Sacred?

 

The religion of Islam has existed here upon our planet for almost 1,400 years now. If my studies of this religion are correct the Sunni sect was the first of the two to exist. If I remember correctly the Shiite sect was started with a first cousin of their Prophet Mohammad whom was also a son-in-law of Mohammad whose name was Ali. By my understanding of events it appears that Mohammad set up what is called the Sunni sect while he was alive. Once Mohammad had died in 632 A.D. in Medina (in what is now Saudi Arabia) the debate began as to whom should take the reigns of the Faith from that point on and the debate seemed to split between a man named Abu Bakr who was Mohammad’s father-in-law and Ali. Abu Bakr was named as successor (caliphate) but he only lived for two more years. The next two caliphate were men named Umar and then Uthman. Uthman was murdered by some of his troops in the year 656 A.D.. At this time Ali became the caliphate but there was a large sect of the people and soldiers who refused to follow him so these two sides fought a war between themselves that lasted about one year until they fought to a draw.

 

It was decided that a panel of arbitrators would decide the issue and they decided against Ali and in favor of a man named Muawiyya who was the cousin of Uthman and who was the Governor of Syria. This was a decision that Ali refused to except so he moved his capitol to Kufa Iraq. Four years later (661 A.D.) he was murdered with a poison dipped sword. If history is correct he is buried at the Iman Ali Mosque in Najaf Iraq which is a city that is close to Kufa. The Shiite believers of Islam believe that the caliphate should go through the linage of Mohammad and not the linage of Muawiyyah as the Sunni believers do. So, technically the Sunni Shiite split has been ever since the death of Mohammad in 632 A.D., but definitely since the murder of Ali in 661 A.D..

 

Stepping forward to our modern times of the year 2016 (1,355 years after the death of Ali and 1,383 years after the death of the Prophet Mohammad) this strife, this war between the Sunni’s and the Shiite is still being fought every day. If you know anything about the teachings and commandments of the Islamic Faith you should know that the basic commandments of Islam tells their followers to take over every country in the whole world and to make Islam the only Faith allowed in the whole world. As most people know by now, the definition of the word Islam is Submission, as in total and complete submission to the will of Allah. A reality for the rest of the countries and people of the planet is that we should all be glad that Islam has these two main factions and that they are always fighting each other. Think about it, if these two factions ever decided to join hands and to kill off the rest of the world first and then after that was done, to finish their fight between themselves for world domination they would be even more dangerous than they are today. There is and has been the theory of ‘hopefully they will all kill each other first’ and leave the rest of us alone. But friends, that is not how reality is playing out. The extreme majority of these believers hate the “people of the Book” (Jews and Christians) as much or more than they hate each other. This is especially true of the Jewish people, this is one of the main reasons that there will never ever be peace in ‘the Holy Land’. The Palestinian people and all of these hate groups like Fatah, Hamas and Hezbollah will never accept there being a Jewish Nation of Israel.

 

Now back to the Civil War between the Sunni sect and the Shiite sect. Lets start with the events going on in the Nation of Syria. President Assad is a believer of a sect of Shiite Islam as is the government of Iraq and Iran. Saudi Arabia’s Royal Family and about 90% of their Nation are of the Sunni sect. This group of fighters called ISIS are Sunni’s, as are Boko Haram and al-Qaeda and Hamas. In the Nation of Lebanon the majority of the people and the government are Shiite, among these folks in Lebanon is the huge Shiite group of fighters known as Hezbollah. This Shiite group (Hezbollah) is and has been sending thousands of fighters into Syria to help President Assad ever since this war began about six years ago. When U.S. foreign policy decided they wanted to get President Assad removed from power our government started throwing in weapons and training to support ‘rebels’ who would want to bring down the Assad regime. This along with the vacancy of U.S. troops on the ground in Iraq made it a perfect situation for Sunni groups like ISIS to form in that void. Russia has been a long time ally of Syria and they have had a Naval Base there for decades. American foreign policy helped create the current situation where the Russian Government is lining up with the Shiite Nations like Syria and Iran while the U.S. aligns with the Sunni Kingpin Saudi Arabia and Yemen. President Obama along with Secretary of State’s Hillary Clinton and John Kerry through their ignorance have destroyed any and all credibility that the American Government may have ever had in this region of the world and with all people of the Islamic Faith as well as with Israel. Or, if you believe as Donald Trump and many of his like-minded followers, our Shiite President has done a masterful job of destroying all credibility of the United States.

 

Because of the ignorance of Americas Government leaders concerning the Middle-East we have no way to exit our mistakes and still ‘save face’ in the region. Reality is there is no way to exit Syria with President Assad still in power without our Government looking weak and like idiots to our Sunni “friends!” If we stay in Syria with the determination to remove President Assad there is no way to do that without directly going to war with at least Syria, Russia, and Iran. Saudi Arabia would love that to happen but I know very well that this is something that the American people totally do not want. There is also the issue about the Nation of Yemen where a Civil War is going on right now. There the majority Sunni Government was over thrown by a much smaller Shiite group which is being trained and supplied by Iran. Iran is the biggest Shiite player in the world and they are the largest Shiite State sponsored terrorist organization in the world. The Saudi Royal Family and their Nation are the largest State Sponsors of Sunni Terrorism in the world and they are a huge American ‘ally’ in that region of the world.

 

Just like Iran and Saudi Arabia are fighting a proxy war with each other in Syria, they are doing the same thing in Yemen. There is always the reality that when there is a war, someone is making a lot of money. I was reading some articles late last night, I believe they were from Reuters and Time, where they said that in the past twelve months that the Saudi’s have used 115 billion dollars worth of American furnished war equipment in Yemen alone. There has been a lot of comments in the news lately about the Saudi’s bombing a large funeral in Yemen where at least 135 people were killed plus over 100 injured. This is where the question in the title of this article came from. I have read many other articles where people were asking about the morality of such events. My question is, is there such a thing as morality in a war where you are trying to kill everyone on ‘the other side?’ If you have paid any attention to the news from that region of the world in the past 35-40 years then you know that there is not! How often do we all hear of Mosques being the targets, or Synagogues, or Churches for shooters or bombers? How often have we heard of weddings being bombed, or schools being attacked? Reality is that in this “Holy War/Jihad”, nothing is sacred, nothing!

(Some of my information I used in this article I garnered from, helped to (reinforce) my education and  life’s lessons via the ‘History Today Newsletter’ which is a site I highly recommend to my readers.

 

Bombings: Are They Really About Religion, Or About Financial Control Of An Area?

(This article is courtesy of the Shanghai Daily News)

Suicide bomber strikes mosque in northwest Pakistan, killing 25

A suicide bomber shouted “Allahu akbar” and blew himself up in a packed mosque in northwestern Pakistan, killing at least 25 people and wounding 30 during Friday prayers.

No group immediately claimed responsibility for the bombing in Payee Khan, a village in Mohmand Agency that is part of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas bordering Afghanistan.

“The suicide bomber was in a crowded mosque, he shouted ‘Allahu akbar’ (God is great) and then there was a huge blast,” said Naveed Akbar, deputy administrator of Mohmand Agency.

Akbar added that some fatalities appear to have been caused when part of the mosque caved in from the force of the blast.

“A portion of the mosque and verandah collapsed in the blast and fell on worshipers. We are still retrieving bodies and the injured from the rubble of the mosque,” he said.

Local tribal elder Haji Subhanullah Mohmand said the attack may have been carried out by Islamist militants seeking revenge after local tribesmen gathered a volunteer force and killed one and captured another insurgent.

“It seems to have enraged the militants and they got their revenge by carrying out a suicide attack in a mosque today,” Mohmand said.

Pakistan’s frontier regions, which are deeply conservative and hard to access due to rough terrain, have long been the sanctuary of fighters from al-Qaeda, the Taliban and other militant groups.

In 2014 the army launched a major operation in other parts of FATA, including North and South Waziristan against insurgents who routinely attacked government officials and civilians.

Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif condemned the bombing and said the “attacks by terrorists cannot shatter the government’s resolve to eliminate terrorism from the country.”

Security in Pakistan has improved in recent years — the military says “terrorist incidents” dropped from 128 in 2013 to 74 last year — but Islamist extremists continue to stage major attacks.

A bombing of lawyers in the city of Quetta killed 74 people last month, an attack claimed by both the Islamic State and Jamaat-ur-Ahrar, a breakaway faction of the Pakistani Taliban.

Jamaat-ur-Ahrar also claimed the Easter Sunday bombing in a park in the eastern city of Lahore that killed 72 people.

There Is No “Red Line” Concerning Chemical Weapon Usage In Syrian Civil War

(This article is courtesy of the BBC)

Syria conflict: Government helicopters ‘drop chlorine’ on Aleppo

Media captionDozens were treated for breathing difficulties, as Jeremy Bowen reports

Syrian government forces have been accused of dropping barrel bombs containing chlorine from helicopters on a suburb of Aleppo, injuring 80 people.

Volunteer emergency workers say people suffered breathing difficulties after an attack on the Sukkari area.

The reports could not be independently verified. AUN-led inquiry concluded last month the that government had used chlorine on at least two occasions.

The Syrian government has always denied using chemical weapons.

It comes as Syrian opposition leaders prepare to meet in London on Wednesday to launch a new plan for a political transition to try to end the five-year civil war.

The umbrella group representing opposition factions, the High Negotiations Committee, will be hosted by UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson.

Foreign ministers from the Friends of Syria group of countries, which have supported the rebellion against President Bashar al-Assad, will also attend.

Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir told the BBC that he still believed in a political solution to the conflict, and that Mr Assad was not in a “position of advantage or victory”, despite his forces’ recent advances.

Media captionSaudi Arabia FM is not optimistic about Syrian peace plan

“But if Bashar al-Assad continues to be obstinate and continues to drag his feet and continues to refuse to engage seriously, then obviously there will have to be a Plan B which will involve more stepped up military activity,” he said.

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Can the opposition plan work? – BBC Chief International Correspondent Lyse Doucet

This new plan is the Syrian opposition’s most comprehensive answer to that question: What happens if President Assad goes?

It’s meant to reassure the president’s foreign backers, like Russia and Iran, that there can be a stable transition which avoids the collapse of state institutions, and violent chaos that’s shattered neighbouring states like Iraq. That’s a concern shared in many capitals, and most of all Damascus.

But the demand for President Assad and his closest Syrian allies to step down has always been rejected in Damascus, and will be again. It’s never clear how much Moscow and Tehran are able and willing to change that. This plan is meant to test that.

But the Syrian army, backed by powerful outside support, is making gains on the ground, through force, or local deals which amount to surrender. If this plan doesn’t work it will be back to Plan B – more military support to all sides in a devastating war.

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Distressed children

A volunteer emergency response worker from the Syria Civil Defence said he had reached the scene of the Aleppo attack on Tuesday shortly after a helicopter had dropped barrels containing what he said were four chlorine cylinders.

The Syria Civil Defence, an organisation that operates in rebel-held areas and is also known as the “White Helmets”, posted video on its Facebook page showing distressed children using oxygen masks to breathe.

UGC image shows civilians in hospital gowns with breathing masks, reportedly after a Chlorine attack in a suburb of Aleppo, Tuesday 6 September 2016Image copyrightUGC
Image captionImages taken by the rescuers show civilians with breathing masks in an unidentified local hospital
Child uses oxygen mask after alleged chlorine gas attack in Aleppo. 6 Sept 2016Image copyrightAFP
Image captionChildren with breathing difficulties were pictured being treated

Chlorine is a common industrial chemical, but its use in weapons is banned by the Chemical Weapons Convention. If high concentrations of the chemical enter the lungs it can cause death.

Opposition activists and medics accused the government of another chlorine attack in Aleppo in August.

Russia, an ally of the Syrian government, has accused rebels of firing shells containing “toxic gas” at government-held areas in Aleppo.

Brutal fighting

The UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria said on Tuesday that a brief period of relief early this year for civilians caught up in the war in Syria had been replaced by an even more brutal resumption in fighting.

Its 12th report said the cessation of hostilities in February had allowed some towns to receive their first aid in years but it only lasted a few weeks.

Men inspect a damaged site after double airstrikes on the rebel held Bab al-Nairab neighborhood of Aleppo on 27 AugustImage copyright Reuters
Image captionAleppo has been repeatedly targeted by government forces, activists say, as they try to recapture parts of the city

The report says 600,000 Syrians now live under siege with up to 300,000 trapped in the city of Aleppo.

On Sunday, Syrian government forces were reported to have recaptured parts of Aleppo city which were lost to rebels last month, placing rebel-held districts in the city’s east once again under siege.

A monitoring group said government troops had recaptured two military academy sites in the Ramouseh district, in the south of the city, and severed a recently established rebel supply line.

 

Pakistan Army And Police Officers Rounding Up Murderers

(This article is courtesy of the Pakistan Observer News Paper)

Terror threat in Islamabad, Karachi

Parliament, Bilawal House, CM and Governor Houses on hit list

Sophia Siddiqui

Islamabad—Intelligence agencies on Saturday issued terror alerts in Islamabad and Karachi after receiving threat calls.
The agencies received four calls regarding possible bomb blasts at various places in Islamabad including hotels and area near Parliament House after which police personnel launched a search operation.
They have identified the caller.
The local administration has tightened security at main places and declared adjoining areas of Parliament House as clear after conducting search.
The officers said that no suspicious material has been found during operation while the caller has been traced and will be soon captured.
On the other hand, another red alert was issued in Karachi in the wake of security threats.
According to intelligence agencies, the terrorists may strike in the next two to three days in the Sindh capital.
Sources said that according to formal notification issued by the intelligence agencies, the terrorists may use water tankers filled with explosive material to target important places including Bilawal House, Governor and Chief Minister Houses, Headquarters of CPO/Rangers Headquarters, Law-enforcement agencies offices, diplomatic missions, prayers congregation, Imambargahs, Ismaili Jamat Khana and Churches.
The notification calls for a red alert to be sent to field staff and stringent checking measures should be adopted to keep any suspicious activity in the city under check.
Sources said that security has been tightened at all important points especially identified by the notification to avert any untoward incident.
Besides, they said that raids are being carried out in different localities of Karachi to foil any terror bid.
The reports come just days after Pakistan Army launched the much-awaited targeted operation against banned outfits in Southern Punjab following a deadly attack in Lahore’s Gulshan-e-Iqbal Park last month.
The operation is being carried out by civil and military law-enforcement agencies, including Rangers, Police and Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) against hardened criminal and ferraris.
The sources said that law and order situation has witnessed marked improvement in Karachi and acts of crimes have reduced significantly since the launch of Rangers operation back in September 2013 on the order of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
They, however, said that still certain elements, backed by foreign agencies, are operating in the city to pollute and disturb the overall situation.
They said that coordination amongst security and law-enforcement agencies have been enhanced in order to foil their sordid designs.
According to Rangers’ two-year performance report, 10,353 suspects have been arrested in 5,795 raids since the launch of operation in Karachi. The detainees include 826 terrorists, 334 target killers and 296 extortionists.
The Rangers said 364 terrorists associated with various banned organizations including al Qaeda, factions of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi were killed in gunfights with the force.
Meanwhile, 7,312 weapons and 348,978 cartridges were seized in two years. Twenty-seven Rangers soldiers have lost their lives in the same period.
The city police have killed more than 500 suspected terrorists and criminals and arrested over 70,000.
Since the launch of the operation, 250 policemen have lost their lives in the line of duty.