Qatar Has Two Choices To Resolve Gulf Dispute: Conform Or Live In Isolation

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

Two Choices to Resolve the Qatar Crisis

Those who know the history of Qatar’s disputes with its neighbors know that finding a solution is easy. I will reveal this solution at the end of the article, but first, here is a brief summary of the history of the crisis.

It began in the late 1990s after Qatar reignited the dispute with Bahrain over the islands. In 1995, the Doha coup took place and new Prince Hamad rejected the Saudi mediation and instead insisted on heading to the International Criminal Court. This ultimately fell in Bahrain’s favor that won a ruling that granted it power over most of the disputed land.

Had Qatar accepted the mediation of late King Fahd, it would have gotten more or at least as much as Bahrain.

The Qatari government then turned against Saudi Arabia and renewed its dispute over new border areas after it had resolved the first dispute through the mediation of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. That settlement saw Saudi Arabia make concessions to Qatar in 1992. The second dispute was resolved in 2001 through appeasing both sides.

Qatar however reneged on its pledges and waged media wars of incitement against Saudi Arabia. It harbored those who oppose the Kingdom and backed al-Qaeda and its leader Osama bin Laden, who in his first speech called for changing the regime in Saudi Arabia by force.

Despite the numerous settlements, Doha continued on financing and supporting opposition groups that want to topple the governments of Saudi Arabia and Bahrain.

After the 2011 Arab Spring revolts, Qatar sought to expand its incitement and began to target the United Arab Emirates because it was backing those opposing Doha. It then turned its attention to Egypt in an unprecedented and blatant way, vowing to topple the regime of Abdul Fattah al-Sisi.

This would all have been understandable if the Qatar government itself accepted change through democracy or by force. The problem however is that it is the least tolerant Gulf state. It had sentenced a Qatari poet to 15 years in prison over a poem!

Four Gulf countries finally said enough and they all announced that they were severing ties with Qatar.

It appears that there a number of conditions that can restore the situation back to normal, but it seems that they will not go with the reconciliation approaches of 2013 and 2014. Qatar had at the time signed in Riyadh a pledge of 20 points, of which only one has been implemented.

The truth is that the four countries can live in peace without having ties with Qatar. It seems however that Qatar is the one who cannot tolerate this situation given its outcry after the June 5 statement on cutting ties.

How can this problem be solved and how will Qatar be able to come out of the crisis?

It wants to repeat its old methods of bringing in mediators and offering pledges and perhaps change its behavior. It will then continue in its attempts to topple the regimes of these four countries or incite strife against them.

It should be noted that Qatar in its last Riyadh agreement had vowed to stop the incitement machine. Indeed, this was witnessed through its al-Jazeera channel that has been adopting a calm approach in the three years that followed the agreement. Qatar had in secret however set up websites and television stations that had taken up the incitement mission.

It may have expelled a number of anti-Gulf figures from Doha, but it gave them homes in Turkey and London. It has continued to finance and support them through secret networks that it set up in those countries.

Qatar has since the eruption of the current crisis been adopting the same old approach. It sought the help of Emir of Kuwait Sheikh Sabah, but these countries have learned their lesson. They announced that they will continue in severing ties and living in peace without Qatar. They will seek to put an end to anything that has to do with it and destroy its internal networks.

Doha is faced with two options for resolving the crisis. It can either completely concede to the demands of the four countries or live in isolation from its surrounding.

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed is the former general manager of Al-Arabiya television. He is also the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat, and the leading Arabic weekly magazine Al-Majalla. He is also a senior columnist in the daily newspapers Al-Madina and Al-Bilad. He has a US post-graduate degree in mass communications, and has been a guest on many TV current affairs programs. He is currently based in Dubai.

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President Trump Says Goodbye To Saudi Arabia: Next Stop, Israel

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NBC NEWS)

 

NBC’s Bill Neely Trump Trip Notebook: So Long, Saudi Arabia

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — President Donald Trump’s remarkable visit to Saudi Arabia ended as it began: with warm applause from Saudi leaders who displayed real pride in the fact that an American president chose the religious center of the Muslim world as the first stop on his first trip abroad.

Political leaders proclaimed a new era, Saudis gushed at the “elegantly respectful” look of first lady Melania Trump, analysts hailed the biggest arms deal in American history while Sunday newspapers praised the renewal of “this natural American-Muslim alliance” that in the 1980s had fought “successfully against atheism and communism.”

Play
Highlights From Trump’s Address to the Muslim World

There is something remarkable too about the leader of the Western world speaking in the city where Osama bin Laden was born. A New Yorker, Trump, addressing Muslims in the country where 11 of the 19 terrorists of the September 11th attacks were born.

Yet here he was urging more than 40 Muslim leaders to unite to “drive out the terrorists and drive out the extremists … drive them out of this earth.”

This, he said, is a battle between good and evil and urged Muslim countries had to “fulfill their part of the burden” — not just wait for American intervention.

But there was none of the inflammatory language typical of domestic Trump. He did not use the phrase “radical Islamic terrorism,” which he has specifically used several times before and which is considered offensive by many. In fact, he said he was “not here to lecture” the Muslim leaders, or to impose an American way of life.

Image: Trump, King Salman, al-Sisi open the World Center for Countering Extremist Thought
President Donald Trump, Melania Trump, King Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud of Saudi Arabia and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi open the World Center for Countering Extremist Thought in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on May 21, 2017. Saudi Press Agency / EPA

At the final major event of his visit — a conference on social media and countering terrorism — the president’s schedule got squeezed and he had to leave the speaking to his daughter Ivanka.

“This young generation is a generation that can build a future of tolerance, of hope and of peace,” she said. “And that’s what this last day has been around: tolerance and hope and peace.”

Still, there is a definite security threat here and it’s clear it’s being taken seriously: Every major road in Riyadh is lined with troops and police.

But surrounded by huge photographs of himself in a city dripping in gold, while making deals worth hundreds of billions of dollars — Trump may have felt he was in a special but familiar place.

Everywhere you look in Central Riyadh there are giant images of Trump and the Saudi King side by side. “Together,” they proclaim, “we will prevail,” a slogan that boats of a renewed military and economic bond between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia. An alliance against rivals in Iran and threats from ISIS.

Here, all is apparently forgiven. They have forgotten Candidate Trump, who railed against Muslims on the campaign trail, and even Early President Trump, who tried to push through a ban on Muslims entering America. Now they have Best Friend Trump, who sees in the Saudis an opportunity to make money and buy peace in the region.

Play
Trump: ‘We Are Not Here to Lecture,’ But to Offer Partnership0:43

There are similarities between the leaders of Saudi Arabia and the United States. The rulers of the Desert Kingdom are a family, the al-Sauds — King Salman and his many Princes. They do business in the billions of dollars but often in a personal, traditionally Arab way.

That’s been Trump’s way too, and he’s done business here in the desert through his family. The arms deal the two countries have signed, worth at least 100 billion dollars, was done with the help of Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner. He amazed a visiting Saudi delegation at the White House earlier this year by picking up the phone to the boss of Lockheed Martin and haggling over the price of weapons the Saudis found too expensive.

There’s even quiet talk here of his next stop, Israel, as well as the common enemy shared by Saudis, Gulf Arabs and Israelis: Iran.

Image: King Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud of Saudi Arabia and President Donald Trump
King Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud of Saudi Arabia and President Donald Trump take part in a group photo at the opening session of the Gulf Cooperation Council summit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on May 21, 2017. Saudi Press Agency / EPA

Leaders Begin Arriving in Riyadh for Arab-Islamic-US Summit

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

Saudi Arabia

Leaders Begin Arriving in Riyadh for Arab-Islamic-US Summit

The leaders and heads of delegations of Arab and Islamic countries began arriving in Riyadh on Saturday to attend the Arab-Islamic-US summit that will be held in the Saudi capital the next day during US President Donald Trump’s visit.

Trump and the Arab and Muslim leaders will meet on Sunday to address ways of building more robust and effective security partnerships to counter and prevent the growing threat of terrorism and violent extremism around the globe through promoting tolerance and moderation.

Among those who arrived were Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, President Adama Barrow of Gambia, President Roch Marc Christian Kabore of Burkina Faso, the head of the Libyan National Accord, Fayez al-Sarraj, President Alpha Conde of Guinea, President Ernest Bai Koroma of Sierra Leone, President Alassane Ouattara of the Republic of Cote d’Ivoire, Prime Minister Najib Razak of Malaysia, Omani Deputy Prime Minister Fahd bin Mahmud Al Said, President David Arthur Granger of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana, President Patrice Talon of the Republic of Benin, President Macky Sall of the Republic of Senegal, Suriname’s Foreign Minister Yildiz Pollack, and President Emomali Rahmon of Tajikistan.

Trump and First Lady Melania arrived in Riyadh earlier Saturday. The Custodian of the two Holy Mosques welcomed the US president at the King Khalid International Airport.

Asharq Al-Awsat English

Asharq Al-Awsat English

Asharq Al-Awsat is the world’s premier pan-Arab daily newspaper, printed simultaneously each day on four continents in 14 cities. Launched in London in 1978, Asharq Al-Awsat has established itself as the decisive publication on pan-Arab and international affairs, offering its readers in-depth analysis and exclusive editorials, as well as the most comprehensive coverage of the entire Arab world.

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Saudi-Egyptian Summit in Riyadh to Discuss International, Regional Developments

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

Saudi Arabia

Saudi-Egyptian Summit in Riyadh to Discuss International, Regional Developments

Egypt

Cairo – Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud will hold a summit with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi on Sunday in Riyadh.

The summit will address means of boosting strategic bilateral relations and consultations on various regional and international issues of common interest, especially combating terrorism.

The Egyptian Presidency issued a statement on Friday saying that the Egyptian President will arrive in Riyadh following a visit by the King during the sidelines of the 28th Arab Summit that was recently held in Jordan.

The statement said that the meeting comes in the framework of the two sides’ keenness on maintaining joint coordination, which contributes in enhancing the distinguished relations between Riyadh and Cairo in various fields, and discussing ways to deal with the challenges facing the Arab nation.

For his part, Egyptian Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Nasser Hamdy told Asharq Al-Awsat that Sisi will arrive in Riyadh heading a high-ranking delegation of ministers, noting that the visit will comprise a Saudi-Egyptian summit.

Hamdy explained during the phone call with Asharq Al-Awsat that the visit will last two days to discuss political issues, terrorism and strategic files.

He said that a number of meetings between ministers of two countries will be held on the sidelines of the summit.

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat is the world’s premier pan-Arab daily newspaper, printed simultaneously each day on four continents in 14 cities. Launched in London in 1978, Asharq Al-Awsat has established itself as the decisive publication on pan-Arab and international affairs, offering its readers in-depth analysis and exclusive editorials, as well as the most comprehensive coverage of the entire Arab world.

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Significant Breakthroughs For Riyadh Diplomacy In China And In The U.S.

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

Opinion

Significant Breakthroughs for Riyadh

This has been a significant week for Saudi diplomacy: reinforcing relations with China, the biggest oil importer in the world and opening a new page with US President Donald Trump to mend what has been ruined by former President Barack Obama who strengthened ties with Iran against Gulf and Saudi interests.

Saudi Arabia that has found itself cornered due to wars, oil and geopolitical changes is carrying out a defense campaign in return — Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud is convening with China leadership that asked to mediate with Iran that is now seeking reconciliation. Meanwhile, Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz met with the US president.

A Saudi spokesperson described to Bloomberg the meeting in the White House as “a turning point”, saying: “Today’s meeting has put things on the right track and marked a significant shift in relations, across all political, military, security and economic fields.” There is a clear hinting on fixing what has been ruined by Obama and restoring special relations between the two countries – these relations were established based on the outcome of the meeting held between King Abdulaziz and US President Theodore Roosevelt on board of the Navy cruiser Quincy after the end of World War II.

Officially, little has been said on the meeting of Deputy Crown Prince and Trump, who has become a president two months ago, but the White House showed huge interest. Trump held the meeting two days ahead and included the vice-president in it.

What has been stated by unofficial sources reveals that Washington has changed its policy towards Iran and that it would not sit idle when it comes to Iran’s terrorist activities. Weeks ago, the US administration announced a different stance in which it permitted loading ammunition and providing intelligence information to support Saudi Arabia in Yemen.

Saudi-US relations were tense during the presidency of Obama. In fact, the whole region underwent an unprecedented turmoil because Obama’s openness towards Iran urged its military expansion in Iraq, Syria and Yemen. Chaos is one of his tenure consequences, also.

Among the topics raised by Prince Mohammed during his visit was to persuade Trump with a new relation that seeks mending the situation, confronting Iran’s manipulation and fighting terrorism – the common enemy of everyone – via fighting it socially and economically. A spokesperson in the delegation pointed out that the US party is interested in reinforcing participation in the economic vision projects.

In China, Iran was not the only topic on the table especially that relations are good in: oil, economy, military cooperation and critical files, basically the military cooperation. There is also the promising project of China, the Silk Road – a giant economic project of complex political problematic issues because it passes in conflict regions. This road might benefit from Saudi Arabia as a passage or a parallel route.

Information released by Beijing reveals that it will quietly continue to consolidate its presence in west Asia and east Africa. China is the second strongest economic power after the US and, as major countries, needs raw materials, energy sources, trade passages and a protection for its investments and interests.

Unlike other major countries, China does not rely on military presence to impose its influence but rather uses its economic presence to impose its stances and secure its interests.

There are two models in the Middle East: one that seeks reinforcing relations via economic and development cooperation and another that uses wars and terrorism as a method to impose its relations.

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed is the former general manager of Al-Arabiya television. He is also the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat, and the leading Arabic weekly magazine Al-Majalla. He is also a senior columnist in the daily newspapers Al-Madina and Al-Bilad. He has a US post-graduate degree in mass communications, and has been a guest on many TV current affairs programs. He is currently based in Dubai.

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Toyota May Build Its First Factory In Saudi Arabia: Allowing Women To Drive Would Double Market

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

Riyadh – Attesting to the undeniable investment attraction that is Saudi Arabia, Japan’s market giant motor corporation, Toyota, announced plans to launch its first ever production factory in the Kingdom.

Such an announcement confirms that grand-scale companies trust in Saudi economy and view it with optimistic potential.

Speaking at a Japan-held forum, Chairman of the Japanese Business Federation Sadayuki Sakakibara, explored economic and investment cooperation between the Kingdom and Japan.

Sakakibara stressed the importance of the Kingdom’s economic role for Japan and the keenness of the Japanese business sector toward the achievement of the strategic economic and developmental objectives of the Saudi-Japanese Vision 2030 that aims to bolster bilateral cooperation

Earlier, a memorandum of understanding was signed by the National Industrial Cluster Development Program (NICDP) and the Toyota Motor Corporation for the feasibility study of an industrial project to produce vehicles and parts in the Kingdom.

“The study would take into account the evaluation of development of a local supply base using materials produced by major Saudi companies like Sabic, Maaden, Petro Rabigh, and other major industrial companies in the Kingdom,” the official Saudi state news agency reported.

It further aims to enhance the development and attraction of a Saudi workforce and put in place the adequate training programs.

Abdul Latif Jameel, as a local distributor for Toyota, will be also taking part in the joint feasibility study.

Toyota remains the leader in Saudi and other Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) car markets with more than 500,000 units sold in the GCC in 2016, according to SPA.

Moreover, on the third day of the fourth leg of a seven-nation Asian tour, the king attended the Saudi-Japanese Vision 2030 business forum aimed at strengthening bilateral ties.

King Salman was received at the forum by Minister of Economy and Planning Adel Fakeih and Japanese Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Hiroshige Seko.

Saudi FM Makes Historic Visit To Iraq

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

Saudi FM Makes Historic Visit to Iraq

Saudi

Baghdad – Saudi Foreign Ministry Haidar al-Abadi reiterated that Saudi kingdom stands at the same distance from all Iraqi components and supports Iraq’s unity and settlement.

Jubeir’s statements came during his historic visit to Iraq during which he met with Iraq’s Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi and FM Ibrahim al-Jaafari.

During his unannounced visit, Jubeir was accompanied by a team of Saudi security and economic experts, according to Abbas al-Bayati, member of foreign relations parliamentary committee.

During the meeting with Abadi, the two discussed issues of common interest in addition to means of enhancing bilateral relations.

Jubeir described his meeting with Abadi as positive and fruitful. He congratulated Iraq on its achievements in countering terrorism, stressing the desire of both countries to eliminate the scourge of terrorism.

“There are also many shared interests starting with the fight against extremism and terrorism in addition to opportunities for investment and trade between the two countries,” he added.

Jubeir’s visit to Baghdad is the first by a Saudi foreign minister since 1990.

Abadi’s office said the two men “discussed cooperation in various fields, including the fight against ISIS.”

Speaking to reporters after meeting Jaafari, Jubeir stated Riyadh’s willingness to help bridge the sectarian divide.

The Saudi foreign minister also met his Iraqi counterpart, Ibrahim al-Jaafari.

Jaafari welcomed the strengthening of ties between Baghdad and Riyadh, on both political and economic levels, noting that each side will work to improve trade and other economic cooperation.

During the meeting, they discussed issues of common interest in addition to means of enhancing bilateral relations. Jaafari said: “The ties that bind the two countries are many, and the visit comes to restore bilateral relations to their correct course.”

He also welcomed moves that will benefit both countries, including the reopening of the Jumaima border post between the neighbors and other types of economic cooperation.

The minister hailed the visit of Jubeir especially that he is the first foreign minister from Saudi Arabia’s kingdom to visit Iraq after 2003, showing that Iraq is keen to establish the best relations with the kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

He said: “We have to induce efforts and continue dialogues and exchange visits between the two countries’ officials to build strong relations to could play a strategic role in treating the challenges of the region”.

Jaafari stated that he has commissioned the undersecretary of the Iraqi foreign minister to soon visit the kingdom and follow up the technical issues to activate the dialogues between Baghdad and Riyadh.

From his side, the Saudi FM stressed that the connections between the kingdom and Iraq are many and this visit is to restore the bilateral relations to its right line.

Jubeir called to exchange visits between the officials of both countries and activating the mutual files, showing that there is a will to work on opening Jumaima outlet between Iraq and the kingdom and discussions to open an air bridge and activating the Civil Aviation between both countries.

Iran Arrests Eight Sunni Foreigners Said To Be Planning Terrorists Attacks

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF REUTERS NEWS AGENCY)

Iran says holds eight foreigners planning attacks

Iranian security forces have arrested eight hardline Sunni Islamists suspected of planning attacks to disrupt celebrations for Iran’s Islamic revolution in the past week, Intelligence Minister Mahmoud Alavi said on Saturday.

Alavi said the eight were “Takfiri” foreigners, some of whom were linked to a “Takfiri” leader who had been killed in Iran, IRNA reported. He did not give details of which countries they were from.

“Takfiri” is a word used by predominantly Shi’ite Muslim Iran to refer to hardline, armed, Sunni Islamist groups.

“Initial information indicates that Kalashnikovs and other equipment were obtained to carry out terrorist operations … in Tehran and several other cities under the direct guidance of persons based in neighbouring countries,” Alavi was quoted by the state news agency IRNA as saying.

In August, Alavi said the leader of a Sunni militant group in southeast Iran responsible for attacks against security forces and civilian targets has been killed, although it was not immediately clear if he was person he suspected those arrested of being linked to.

Although Alavi did not identify which country Iran suspected of guiding the suspects, Iranian officials often accuse regional rival Saudi Arabia of backing ultrahardline Sunni militant group Islamic State.

Riyadh denies the charges and says Tehran destabilizes the region and sponsors terrorism, an accusation rejected by Iran.

On Friday, Iran’s prosecutor-general Mohammad Jafar Montazeri said security forces had smashed a cell linked to Islamic State near Tehran that wanted to “sabotage” rallies on Friday marking the anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution that toppled the U.S.-backed Shah.

Iranian security forces have repeatedly announced arrests of Islamic State fighters and sympathizers.

Iran And Saudi Arabia Fight Proxy War In Yemen: Yemen People Pay The Biggest Price

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

US: No ‘blank check’ for Saudi Arabia in Yemen

U.S. weapons for Saudi atrocities?

U.S. weapons for Saudi atrocities? 04:52

Story highlights

  • Saudi-led airstrikes hit a funeral home in the Yemeni capital
  • At least 155 people killed, health ministry officials say

(CNN)The White House on Saturday condemned a Saudi-led coalition airstrike on a wake in Yemen that local health officials said killed at least 155 people.

“US security cooperation with Saudi Arabia is not a blank check,” US National Security Council Spokesman Ned Price said in a statement.
“Even as we assist Saudi Arabia regarding the defense of their territorial integrity, we have and will continue to express our serious concerns about the conflict in Yemen and how it has been waged.”

US 'not afraid' to raise Yemen concerns with Saudis

 US ‘not afraid’ to raise Yemen concerns with Saudis 02:00
Price added that the US would reevaluate its support for the coalition in its fight to prevent Houthi rebelsallied with Iran and forces loyal to Yemen’s deposed President Ali Abdullah Saleh from taking power.
“In light of this and other recent incidents, we have initiated an immediate review of our already significantly reduced support to the Saudi-led coalition and are prepared to adjust our support so as to better align with US principles, values and interests, including achieving an immediate and durable end to Yemen’s tragic conflict,” he said.
Earlier Saturday, the Saudi-led coalition denied accusations that it was responsible for the attack.
It later said it will “immediately investigate” reports that its warplanes were responsible for the airstrikes, according to the official Saudi Press Agency.

Yemen: A 'poor country's' forgotten war

 Yemen: A ‘poor country’s’ forgotten war 05:00
“The coalition confirms that its troops have clear instructions not to target populated areas and to avoid civilians,” SPA added.

‘Too heavy a price’

Witnesses of Saturday’s airstrike in Sanaa reported multiple civilian casualties at the wake, where hundreds of people had gathered to mourn the death of rebel-appointed Interior Minister Jalal al Rowaishan’s father.
In addition to the reported deaths, hundreds of attendees were also wounded in the strike, local health officials said.
At least 20 people lost limbs, according to medical staff at the German Hospital in Sanaa.

Saudi Arabia now spends more than Russia on defense

 Saudi Arabia now spends more than Russia on defense 01:20
Robert Mardini, regional director for the International Committee of the Red Cross, condemned what he called an “outrageous loss of civilian life.”
“Civilians in Yemen have already paid far too heavy a price these past 18 months,” he said in a statement.

Escalating crisis

The Saudi-led coalition, involving several Arab countries, began a military campaign in Yemen in March 2015 after Houthis — a minority Shia group supported by Iran — drove out the US-backed government, led by President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi, and took over Sanaa.
The crisis quickly escalated into a multisided war, which allowed al Qaeda and ISIS — other enemies of the Houthis — to grow stronger amid the chaos.
Since peace talks in Kuwait failed in August, the coalition has intensified airstrikes, despite vocal criticism from rights groups that the bombardments have been indiscriminate and could constitute war crimes. The attacks have often hit civilian targets with devastating results.
The US has come under increasing pressure to stop selling arms to Saudi Arabia.
The US Senate last month rejected a bipartisan proposal to block a pending $1.15 billion United States arms sale to Riyadh.

Yemen: A 'poor country's' forgotten war

 Yemen: A ‘poor country’s’ forgotten war 05:00
Critics of the military deal, which was approved by the Obama administration, complained it could further drag the US into the war in Yemen and contribute to the worsening humanitarian crisis there.
Civilian casualties are only part of the crisis. Yemen’s UNICEF office has reported that nearly 10,000 children younger than 5 died from preventable diseases there during the past year.
Some 1.5 million children are currently malnourished in Yemen, and 370,000 of them suffer from severe acute malnutrition, according to the charity.
Yemen’s economic infrastructure has also been ravaged by war.
At least 430 factories and companies were destroyed by coalition airstrikes since the start of the conflict, according to Ahmed Bahri, political chief of the Sanaa-based Haq Party.

Iran’s Shiite Supreme Ruler Khamenei Hates Everyone Who Isn’t As Full Of Hate As Him

(Courtesy of MEMRI news agency)

BRIDGING THE LANGUAGE GAP

Special Dispatch
Following Rafsanjani Call To Moderate Iranian Policy Vis-à-vis Saudi Arabia, Khamenei Delivers Virulently Anti-Saudi Speech, Sparking Increased Conflict With KingdomSeptember 12, 2016Special Dispatch No.6607

Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s September 5, 2016 message for the annual Hajj pilgrimage was particularly anti-Saudi in tone; in it, he called on the countries in the region, and on all Muslim countries, to recognize the true nature of the Saudi rulers, and described them idolaters, infidels, criminals, and servants of the American Satan and the Zionists, and saying that they act in this Satan’s name, murder Muslims in the region, and deliberately caused the deaths over the years of Muslim pilgrims to Mecca and Medina, most of them Iranian. He also called on the Islamic world to rethink whether Saudi Arabia should continue to administer these holy sites.[1] Khamenei’s message was posted on his website along with images showing his hostility towards the Al-Saud dynasty, which he referred to as “the accursed tree” (see Appendix).

It should be mentioned that this year Iranian pilgrims are barred from making pilgrimages to the holy sites in Saudi Arabia. Following the 2015 stampede in Mina, in which over 1,000 pilgrims, mostly Iranians, died, the Iranian regime accused the Al-Saud royal family of responsibility for the disaster. After Saudi Arabia and Iran failed to reach a deal on arrangements for Iranians to attend this year’s pilgrimage, the two countries traded accusations on who was to blame for the impasse. The Saudi regime stated that the Iranian delegation to the talks had made unreasonable demands in an attempt to politicize the Hajj.  The Iranian authorities, for their part, announced that this year Iranians would not perform the pilgrimage.[2] It should also be noted that, in early January 2016, Saudi Arabia announced that it was cutting off relations with Iran, after Iranian protestors stormed and set fire to Saudi diplomatic missions in Iran following Saudi Arabia’s execution of senior Shi’ite cleric Sheikh Nimr Al-Nimr.[3]

Khamenei’s virulent anti-Saudi comments came the day after Expediency Council Chairman and pragmatic camp leader Hashemi Rafsanjani criticized Khamenei’s policy vis-à-vis both the U.S. and Saudi Arabia. In his September 5 Hajj message, Khamenei reiterated the two main pillars of this policy – political conflict with the U.S. and with Saudi Arabia.[4]

Khamenei’s statements provoked harsh responses from Saudi officials. They stressed that Saudi Arabia has always allowed all pilgrims to carry out the Hajj, and that Iranian pilgrims are prevented from doing so this year as a result of the Iranian regime’s unreasonable demands and its attempts to politicize the Hajj ceremonies. The Saudi mufti even said that Iranians “are not Muslims, but rather Zoroastrians, and that their hostility towards the Muslims, particularly the Sunnis, is ancient.” The Saudi press published many cartoons and images condemning Khamenei and the Iranian regime (see Appendix).

The following are excerpts from statements by Iranian and Saudi officials.

Rafsanjani Criticizes Khamenei’s Militant Attitude Regarding Saudi Arabia And U.S.

On September 4, 2016, Rafsanjani’s website published a recent interview with him in which he challenged Khamenei’s policy vis-à-vis Saudi Arabia and the U.S. Rafsanjani noted that Americans are human and wish to maintain relations with Iran. With regard to Saudi Arabia, he clarified that Iran must first of all conduct itself appropriately and morally – hinting that it is Tehran that should extend the hand of friendship to Riyadh.

Following are excerpts from the interview:

Question: “Regarding Saudi Arabia and the current situation, who should reach out in friendship? You have said several times that it was you who reached out in friendship to the late [Saudi] King ‘Abdallah, and that they [the Saudis] welcomed this…”

Rafsanjani: “If I were president – I don’t mean right now – had I been president at that time, I would not have seen a problem with this issue. Presently, [Iranian President Hassan] Rohani is not in the same position I was. This [dialogue with Saudi Arabia] is possible and I think it is not so hard to get Saudi Arabia to accept [Iran’s] authority. Saudi Arabia understands that there is nothing to gain from a conflict with Iran, and has already realized that it is helpless in Yemen, and that it is suffering humiliation after humiliation there. A country with so many weapons and so many divisions and soldiers can accomplish nothing besides killing people. Ultimately, it will wise up. In any case, we must conduct ourselves appropriately and morally, and then act [to repair relations]…

“The Americans are humans too, and they have certain interests. They want us to work with them. The American people want us to work together. They are afraid [of a scenario in which] we are not working with them and no sanctions [remain]; then, Russia, China, and India [will be] potential [candidates] for cooperation with Iran. They are doing all these calculations, and I think there is a chance that they will make up for [how they acted in the past].”[5]

Khamenei In Hajj Message: The Saudis Are Infidels, Idolaters, And Killers Of Muslims; They Encourage Terrorism And Operate According To U.S., Zionist Dictates

The following day, on September 5, 2016, Supreme Leader Khamenei published his Hajj message. Following are excerpts from Khamenei’s Hajj message, from his English-language website:

“…Those who have reduced Hajj to a religious-tourist trip and have hidden their enmity and malevolence towards the faithful and revolutionary people of Iran under the name of ‘politicizing hajj’ are themselves small and puny Satans who tremble for fear of jeopardizing the interests of the Great Satan, the U.S.

“Saudi rulers, who have obstructed the path of Allah and Masjid ul-Haraam [i.e. the Mecca Grand Mosque] this year and who have blocked the proud and faithful Iranian pilgrims’ path to the Beloved [God’s] House, are disgraced and misguided people who think their survival on the throne of oppression is dependent on defending the arrogant powers of the world, on alliances with Zionism and the U.S., and on fulfilling their demands. And on this path, they do not shy away from any treason.

“Almost one year has now passed since the horrifying events in Mina, as a result of which several thousand people tragically lost their lives – under the hot sun with thirsty lips – and this happened on the day of Eid while they were in the clothes of ihram [i.e. pilgrimage clothes]. Shortly before that, another group of people was crushed to death in Masjid ul-Haraam while they were worshiping and performing tawaf and salat [Hajj rituals].

“Saudi rulers were at fault in both cases. This is what all those present, observers, and technical analysts agree upon. Some experts maintain that the events were premeditated. The hesitation and failure to rescue the half-dead and injured people, whose enthusiastic souls and enthralled hearts were accompanying their praying tongues on [the] Eid ul-Adha [holiday], is also obvious and incontrovertible. The heartless and murderous Saudis locked up the injured with the dead in containers – instead of providing medical treatment and helping them or at least quenching their thirst. They murdered them.

“Several thousand families from different countries lost their loved ones, and their nations were bereaved. From the Islamic Republic [of Iran], close to 500 people were among the martyrs. The hearts of their families are still broken and bereaved and our people remain grief-stricken and angry.

“Instead of apology and remorse and judicial prosecution of those who were directly at fault in that horrifying event, Saudi rulers – with utmost shamelessness and insolence – refused to allow the formation of an international Islamic fact-finding committee.

“Instead of being tried as the accused, they acted like the plaintiff and with increased malice and vileness, they revealed their long-standing enmity towards the Islamic Republic and towards any flag of Islam raised to confront kufr [heresy] and arrogance.

“Their propaganda mouthpieces – from the politicians whose behavior towards the Zionists and the U.S. is a source of disgrace for the world of Islam, to impious and haraam-eating [i.e. eaters of foods forbidden in Islam] muftis who blatantly issue fatwas against the Book [i.e., the Koran] and Sunnah, and to media minions who are not even deterred by codes of professional conduct from spreading and telling lies – are making futile efforts to show that the Islamic Republic is at fault for depriving Iranian pilgrims of this year’s Hajj pilgrimage.

“The fitna-promoting rulers, who by forming and arming wicked takfiri groups have plunged the world of Islam into civil wars, murdering and injuring the innocent and shed blood in Yemen, Iraq, the Levant, Libya and other countries – the godless politicians who have extended the hand of friendship towards the Zionist regime, have closed their eyes on the Palestinians’ sufferings and heartrending tragedies and have spread their oppression and betrayal to the cities and villages of Bahrain – the irreligious and unconscionable rulers who gave rise to the great tragedy in Mina and in the name of being servants of the two holy places, sacrificed divine sanctity and God’s guests on the day of Eid in Mina and in Masjid ul-Haraam shortly before that – these same people are now claiming the need to avoid politicizing Hajj and are accusing others of the great sins that they themselves have committed and caused.

“They are the perfect example of the enlightening Koranic description: ‘And when he turns his back, his aim everywhere is to spread mischief through the earth and to destroy crops and cattle and Allah does not love mischief.  And when it is said unto him: Be careful of your duty to Allah, pride takes him to sin. Hell will settle his account, an evil resting-place’ (Koran, Al-Baqara, Verses 205-206).

“Based on reports, this year as well, besides barring the participation of Iranian pilgrims and pilgrims from certain other countries, they have placed pilgrims from the participating countries under unprecedented surveillance, with the help of the spy agencies of the U.S. and the Zionist regime. They have made the divine sanctuary unsafe for everybody.

“The world of Islam, including Muslim governments and peoples, must familiarize themselves with the Saudi rulers and correctly understand their blasphemous, faithless, dependent, and materialistic nature. They must not let those rulers escape responsibility for the crimes they have caused throughout the world of Islam.

“Because of these rulers’ oppressive behavior towards God’s guests, the world of Islam must fundamentally reconsider the management of the two holy places and the issue of Hajj. Negligence in this regard will confront the Islamic Ummah with more serious problems in the future.

“Muslim brothers and sisters! This year enthusiastic and sincere Iranian pilgrims are absent from the Hajj ceremonies, but they are spiritually present among the pilgrims from different parts of the world and they are concerned about them and they pray that the evil progeny of the taghut [infidel tyrants] do not succeed in harming them.”[6]

Khamenei: “The Hated Saudis Are A Group Within The Islamic World, And Some Of Its Members… Act Against The Muslims”

Two days later, on September 7, Khamenei reiterated his anti-Saudi statements, at a meeting with families of victims of the Mina stampede. He repeated his accusation that the Saudi rulers are not acting like true Muslims or for the benefit of the Arabs, but rather are collaborating with the U.S. against the true Muslims – i.e. the Shi’ites – while it is Iran that is acting according to the Koran and for the benefit of the Arabs. He also reiterated his claim that the Mina stampede was deliberately caused, and called for removing the administration of the Muslim holy sites in Saudi Arabia from the hands of the Al-Saud family.

Following are excerpts from his remarks:

“The Mina disaster shows again that Saudi Arabia – the criminal and accursed tree – is unfit to administer the holy sites, and this should be realized by all in the Islamic world. If Saudi Arabia is right [by insisting] that it is not responsible [for the disaster], then it must allow a true Islamic and international team to come in, to scrutinize the situation, and to clarify the matter. Saudi Arabia must not use [its] money to shut mouths…

“The brave Iranian nation is standing fast against Saudi Arabia’s stupidity and confusion, and proudly states its positions, which stem from the Koran. Other nations and countries must also show courage and must grab the Saudis by the throat…

“The supporters of the Saudi regime are accessories to the crimes of this regime and to the Mina disaster. The dishonorable Saudi regime relies on American support, and is brazenly standing against Muslims and spilling their blood in Yemen, Syria, Iraq, and Bahrain. Therefore, America and other supporters of Riyadh are accessories to the Saudi crimes.

“The propaganda apparatuses that the [Saudis] control are attempting to depict the Mina disaster as [just] another Shi’ite-Sunni or Arab-non-Arab dispute. The Saudi rulers’ propagandists repeat this lie [as well] – even though most of the 7,000 Mina martyrs were Sunnis, including those from Iran…

“Al-Saud, and the terrorist elements that it created, are drowning the Arabs in Yemen, Syria, and Iraq in blood and ashes. That is why, in contrast to the criminal Western propaganda, Saudi Arabia is not supporting the Arabs, and the Mina affair has nothing to do with some fabricated media clash between Arabs and non-Arabs...

“The truth is that the hated Saudis are a group within the Islamic world, and that some of its members, knowingly or not, are acting against the Muslims. The Islamic world must stand against them and express disgust with the Saudi bosses – that is, the criminal America and England.

“The various [Iranian regime] apparatuses, including the Foreign Ministry, the Hajj [and Pilgrimage] Organization, and the Martyrs Foundation [Foundation of Martyrs and Veterans Affairs], need to deal seriously with the Mina disaster, and fully carry out their duty [in this regard].”[7]

 Iranian President Rohani: Saudi Arabia Commits Crimes In The Region, Supports Terrorism, And Spills Muslim Blood – And It Must Be Punished

On this issue, Rafsanjani’s protégé, Iranian President Hassan Rohani, aligned with Khamenei, and at a September 7, 2016 government meeting made harsh statements about Saudi Arabia. He said that the country was spilling Muslim blood in Syria, Iraq, and Yemen and bombing it cruelly, and demanded that it be punished. Following are excerpts from his statements:

“If the problem with the Saudi regime was just the issue of the Hajj and [the] Mina [disaster], then maybe we could have solved it. But, unfortunately, Saudi Arabia is committing crimes in the region, supporting terrorism, and spilling Muslim blood in Iraq, Syria, and Yemen, cruelly bombing women and children in Yemen every day.

“The problem with Saudi Arabia is greater than just issues such as the Hajj. Countries in the region and the Islamic world should coordinate measures for solving the existing problems, and should punish the Saudi government. If that happens, the Hajj pilgrimage can be made genuinely and honorably, in Mecca, Medina, and the holy sites, and the countries in the region will be saved from the terrorism backed by the Saudi regime and the Yemeni people can live in peace and security.”

Rohani also stressed that Iran would continue to support “Muslims and oppressed people throughout the world” and added that in the near future, there would be security in all the countries of the region, particularly Iraq, Syria, and Yemen.[8]
Cartoon on Iranian Tasnim website: “The Blind Murderer – last year, over 6,000 died in the Mina disaster, and Saudi Arabia is still falsely reporting that only 700 were martyred” (Tasnimnews.com, September 5, 2016)

Khamenei Advisor: Al-Saud Regime Serves America, Zionists

On September 6, 2016, Khamenei’s international affairs advisor, Ali Akbar Velayati, called Khamenei’s statements about Saudi Arabia resolute and decisive. He added that the Al-Saud regime was an accomplice to the shedding of Muslim blood in the region, and that Saudi Arabia had sent its mercenaries, that is, ISIS, to the region. Velayati also accused the Saudis of attempting to bring down the regime of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad, and of supporting Wahhabi extremism, and said that instead of serving the holy sites, they serve America and the Zionists.[9]

Saudi Responses To Khamenei’s Statements

Saudi Crown Prince: The Iranian Regime Is Seeking To Politicize The Hajj

The day after Khamenei’s Hajj message was released, Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Naif responded to Iran’s statement that it is the Saudis who are not allowing Iranian pilgrims to make the Hajj, stressing that since its establishment, the kingdom allowed all pilgrims to carry out the Hajj and that Iranian pilgrims are prevented from doing so this year as a result of the Iranian regime’s desire to politicize the Hajj:

“Since its establishment, Saudi Arabia has served the two holy sites [Mecca and Medina], taking care of [all] those interested in making the pilgrimage to them, and providing everything they need to carry out this supreme mission… What was said in the Iranian media and by some Iranian officials is not credible or objective. They [the Iranians] know full well that Saudi Arabia has facilitated Iranian pilgrims just like other pilgrims – but that this year, the Iranian Hajj delegation made demands that contradict the purpose of the Hajj and the obligations of other Hajj delegations. These [demands] jeopardize the security of Hajj and the pilgrims, including the Iranian pilgrims, and also  violate the sanctity of the place and the time.

“Saudi Arabia will absolutely not allow Iran or its ilk to do anything that…  that will violate the Hajj ceremonies, undermine security, or [negatively] impact the lives and safety of the pilgrims. It is elements in Iran that do not want the Iranian pilgrims to come, due… to their desire to politicize the Hajj and transform it into slogans that contradict the teachings of Islam and harm the security of the Hajj and of the pilgrims…”[10]

Mufti Of Saudi Arabia: Iranians Are Not Muslims

In an interview with the official Saudi daily Makkah, ‘Abd Al-‘Aziz Aal Al-Sheikh, mufti of Saudi Arabia and head of its Council of Senior Scholars, had harsh words for Khamenei and the Iranian regime: “Khamenei’s attack on Saudi Arabia and his questioning of the special measures it undertakes during the Hajj are unsurprising. We must understand that they are not Muslims, but rather Zoroastrians, and that their hostility towards the Muslims, particularly the Sunnis, is ancient. Anyone attempting to harm the service that Saudi Arabia [does] for the Hajj and the pilgrims… will be unsuccessful…”[11]

Saudi Arabia’s Council Of Senior Scholars: “Islam Does Not Accept Iranian Regime’s Attempts To Harm And Curse The Hajj Ceremony”

Saudi Arabia’s Council of Senior Scholars itself also criticized Khamenei on Twitter, and expressed support for the Saudi policy vis-à-vis the Iranian demands: “Islam does not accept the Iranian regime’s attempts to harm and curse the Hajj ceremony. Moreover, these attempts constitute harm to Hajj sites and rituals. The Council of Senior Scholars supports Saudi Arabia’s permanent policy to ban any element from ruining the Hajj atmosphere, harming the safety of the pilgrims, or attempting to damage Islamic unity. [To maintain] the security of the [Saudi] state and its holy sites, we cannot allow any action or behavior to overshadow this atmosphere of faith, harm public interests, or offend Muslims.”[12]

Appendix: Images On Khamenei’s Website Express His Anti-Saudi Message; Saudi Press Responds To His Statements With Anti-Iran Cartoons

Images on Khamenei’s Website  

As noted, Khamenei’s Hajj message was posted along with a series of images on September 5 visually expressing his anti-Saudi sentiment:[13]
“Preventing God’s Will: This year, the Saudis prevented God’s will and barred the brave and pious Iranian pilgrims from travelling to the house of God [the Grand Mosque]. They are humiliated deviants who see their calling in an alliance with the Zionists and Americans, and make efforts to carry out their will”
“This year, the Saudis, in addition to blocking pilgrims from Iran and from some other countries, have turned the safe house of God into an unsafe place, together with the American and Zionist espionage apparatuses”
Image shows Saudi mufti hiding behind the face of Saudi foreign minister, accompanied by text: “Useless efforts by Saudi rulers to paint Iran as the guilty party: The voices of their propaganda – from politicians to muftis who are not religious and eat [forbidden] foods and issue fatwas contrary to the Koran and Sunnah and their servants in the media – are all engaged in a useless effort to blame Iran for the ban on Iranian pilgrims during this year’s Hajj”
“The Accursed Tree [Al-Saud family]: We pray that the tyrannical accursed tree does not succeed in causing damage to pilgrims from around the world” (image features the hashtag “Al-Saud Hijacks Hajj”)

 

 
“The Hajj is the place to show aversion to infidels and unity to the pious: A unified Islamic Hajj embodies [the verse] ‘be harsh with the infidels and merciful with each other.’ This is the place to show aversion to the infidels and a united alliance with the pious”

 

Saudi Cartoons Slamming Khamenei And Iranian Regime

The Saudi press responded to Khamenei’s statements with numerous cartoons, infographics and illustrations condemning him and the Iranian regime in general. Below are several examples:

 
Illustration accompanying ‘Okaz article titled “Iran – World Champion in Executions and Racism” (‘Okaz, Saudi Arabia, September 8, 2016)
Infographic: “The Supreme Leader Gains Wealth while the Iranians Get Poorer. Khamenei – an Empire of Plunder.” (‘Okaz, Saudi Arabia, September 8, 2016)

 
Khamenei uses Iranian pilgrims to harm Saudi Arabia (‘Okaz, Saudi Arabia, September 9, 2016)

 


Iran uses Iranian pilgrims to “politicize the Hajj” (Makkah, Saudi Arabia, September 10, 2016 )

 


Cartoon in Government daily Al-Jazirah: Iran uses its serpent’s tongue to “ignite sectarianism” (Al-Jazirah, Saudi Arabia, September 11, 2016)

 

Endnotes:

 

[1] Farsi.khamenei.ir, September 5, 2016.

[2] ISNA (Iran), May 30, 2016.

[3] See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 6251 Iran Furious Over Saudi Arabia’s Execution Of Shi’ite Sheikh Nimr Al-Nimr, January 4, 2016; Inquiry & Analysis Series Report No 1215 Unprecedented Tension Between Saudi Arabia, Iran Following Execution Of Shi’ite Cleric Nimr Al-Nimr, January 4, 2016; and Special Dispatch No. 6260, Saudi-Iranian Tensions As Depicted In Cartoons, January 13, 2016.

[4] It should be noted that the conflict with the U.S. also includes military aspects. There have been numerous recent reports of incidents involving speedboats belonging to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) confronting American ships in the Persian Gulf. The most recent incident, reported by the Pentagon in early September 2016, involved IRGC speedboats chasing off an American ship in the Gulf; preceding that were four similar incidents in August alone. The September incident is the 31st this year. Nytimes.com, August 25, 2016; Navytimes.com, September 6, 2016;. The conflict with Saudi Arabia also has military aspects, albeit indirect ones, via pro-Iranian Shi’ite militias in Syria, Iraq, and Yemen.

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