country:saudi arabia

  • Saudi-led coalition calls for U.N. supervision of #Yemen port | Reuters

    A Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen called on Sunday for the United Nations to place a strategic port under its supervision after a helicopter attack on a boatload of Somali refugees left 42 dead.

    The refugees had departed from the western port city of #Hodeidah en route to Sudan when the gunship opened fire on Friday, the United Nations refugee agency said.

    The Red Sea port near the Bab al-Mandab strait is under the control of Yemen’s armed Houthi movement, which has been fighting Saudi Arabia and its allies in a two-year-old conflict.

    While the Arab alliance denied responsibility for the attack on Friday, it called for jurisdiction over Hodeidah port to be transferred to the U.N.

    This would facilitate the flow of humanitarian supplies to the Yemeni people, while at the same time ending the use of the port for weapons smuggling and people trafficking,” it said in a statement. It did not address a call by Somalia to investigate.

    • L’ONU réclame des enquêtes sur l’attaque au large du Yémen

      Voulant « empêcher que cela se reproduise », l’ONU a demandé lundi 20 mars à toutes les parties au conflit du Yémen de faire la lumière sur l’attaque contre un navire de migrants somaliens qui a fait plus de 40 morts vendredi dernière au large des côtes yéménites.

      « Beaucoup de questions restent sans réponse sur les circonstances de cet événement horrible. Nous appelons toutes les parties au conflit à mener les enquêtes appropriées pour établir les responsabilités », a déclaré le Haut vCommissaire de l’ONU pour les réfugiés, Filippo Grandi, dans un communiqué.

      Plus de quarante Somaliens (42 selon l’ONU), dont des femmes et des enfants, ont été tués tôt vendredi dans l’attaque d’une embarcation à bord de laquelle se trouvaient quelque 150 réfugiés, au large de Hodeida, sur la mer Rouge. L’origine de l’attaque n’a pas encore été déterminée.

  • America’s responsibility toward Syrian refugees

    Yet neither newspaper mentions the role that the US has played in creating these refugee flows.

    The Syrian case is particularly notable, both because it is the world’s single largest refugee crisis and because of the key role the US, along with allies such as Israel, has played in the disaster there, which has long been suppressed in the American consciousness.

    Indeed, the lie that the US failed to “Do Something” in Syria is remarkably widespread. This approach perpetuates the myth that Americans are innocent in the Syrian catastrophe. This could scarcely be less true: the US, Israel and other regional components in the US empire have fueled the conflict by derailing negotiations, levying sanctions, bombing the country and arming, funding and training fighters including murderous sectarians.

    As scholar Bassam Haddad writes: “The [Syrian] government – with much help from its regional and international allies – has brutalized the Syrian population since 2011. This fact, however, does not absolve its regional and international opponents from responsibility for significantly contributing to the mayhem.”

    He describes a consensus among Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey and the United States “centered around the notion that Syria and its allies needed to be cut down to size because they impede domination of the region by those players along with their allies, notably Israel.”

    “These very powers almost tripped over themselves as they rushed to fuel and hijack the Syrian uprising for their own purposes.”

  • Deadly Foreign Conflicts Spill Onto Malaysia’s Streets - WSJ

    #malaisie #visas #passeport #circulation #Mobilité

    KUALA LUMPUR—Malaysia’s open-border policy has long helped lend it notoriety as a way station for conspirators to plot terror attacks abroad.

    Now, many people worry that two major terror-linked plots on Malaysia’s own soil show that the Muslim-majority nation is increasingly becoming a host to other people’s deadly conflicts.

    The plots were the February killing of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un’s half brother with VX nerve agent, which police blame on a North Korean-led hit team, and an alleged Islamic State-linked attempt to attack Saudi King Salman’s visiting delegation last week with a car bomb. They followed Islamic State’s first successful attack in Malaysia last year and dozens of terror-related arrests in 2016.

  • COMMENTARY: The elephant in the room in Saudi king’s visit
    Ary Hermawan
    The Jakarta Post

    Via @alaingresh

    Foreign journalists may have overstated the influence of Saudi Salafism in Indonesia, but there is no denying Salafi movements are thriving in the country and this could pose a problem.

    Radio stations spreading Salafi teachings are mushrooming in Indonesia, according to research by the Center for the Study of Islam and Society (PPIM). Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, has also decided to expand its Institute for Islamic and Arabic Studies (LIPIA), known as a leading Salafist educational institution in Jakarta.

    To be clear, it is a mistake to equate Salafism with terrorism as many Salafists are apolitical, denouncing terrorists as takfiris who have strayed from the “true path of Islam.”

    But Salafists, even the quietists, are generally absolutists who are ideologically incapable of managing differences, which could undermine Indonesia’s pluralism and democracy. It is also a fact that for some people, Salafism could serve as a bridge, instead of deterrent, to radicalism, with local militants supporting the Islamic State (IS) claiming to be Salafists.

    Local IS ideologue Aman Abdurrahman, for example, is an alumni of LIPIA.

    Scholars call Aman and other IS or al-Qaeda supporters Salafijihadists as they blend the apolitical but extreme ideology of Salafism with the political militancy of the Muslim Brotherhood, particularly the political theology of the group’s martyred ideologue, Sayid Qutb.

    The Indonesian government, which supports the Islam Nusantara campaign and the rationale behind it, is aware of the elephant in the room and has understandably avoided mentioning the issue during this milestone event in Jakarta-Riyadh relations.

    #Arabie_saoudite #wahabbisme #salafisme #Indonésie

  • Trump administration looks to resume Saudi arms sale criticized as endangering civilians in #Yemen - The Washington Post

    The State Department has approved a resumption of weapons sales that critics have linked to Saudi Arabia’s bombing of civilians in Yemen, a potential sign of reinvigorated U.S. support for the kingdom’s involvement in its neighbor’s ongoing civil war.

    The proposal from the State Department would reverse a decision made late in the Obama administration to suspend the sale of precision guided munitions to Riyadh, which leads a mostly Arab coalition conducting airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen.

    Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s approval this week of the measure, which officials say needs White House backing to go into effect, provides an early indication of the new administration’s more Saudi-friendly approach to the conflict in Yemen and a sign of its more hawkish stance on Iran.

    Ben oui, il y a les gentils civils (ceusses que les méchants Russkofs bombardent) et les méchants civils (ceusses que nos gentils copains bombardent, même qu’ils ont plus assez de bombes pour pouvoir continuer)

  • The President has left the country

    Nigerians have been here before. In November 2009, President Umaru Musa Yar’adua left the country for Saudi Arabia, seeking treatment for acute pericarditis brought on by a chronic kidney ailment. His health had been publicly declining for at least a year, and rumors that he was using a variety of international trips to secretly obtain…

    #POLITICS #Buhari #medicine #Nigeria #Presidents

  • The Syrian war shakeout is changing the Mideast’s balance of power - Middle East News

    Turkey’s intervention has created a rift with Iran, Jordan-Syria ties are tightening and America’s absence could weaken the Saudis. The alliances emerging in Syria will determine the fate the region.

    Zvi Bar’el Feb 27, 2017 1
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    Secondary relationships born of the Syrian civil war could have a greater impact on the future of the country and the region than the war itself. While the warring parties are busy holding onto and expanding territorial gains, finding funds and arms and jockeying for position in future negotiations, the smaller players are crafting long-range strategies that will divide the region à la the 1916 Sykes-Picot Agreement.
    The secondary relationships are alliances and rivalries that developed between global powers such as Russia and the United States, and between local powers such as Iran, Turkey and Saudi Arabia. But the term is inaccurate in a sense because the Syrian war has long become a proxy war in which the payer of the bills dictates the military movements while changing proxies based on battlefield success.
    More importantly, the alliances between the sponsors and “their” militias create the balance of political forces between the powers. For example, Russia uses the Kurds in Syria as a bargaining chip against Turkey, whose cooperation with the Free Syrian Army creates a rift between Ankara and Tehran. Meanwhile, Jordan’s strikes on the Islamic State in southern Syria boost the Russian-Jordanian coalition and Jordan’s ties with the Assad regime − and everyone is looking ahead to "the day after.”
    The latest development puts Turkish-Iranian relations to the test. Speaking at the Munich Security Conference a week ago Sunday, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu called on Iran to stop threatening the region’s stability and security. The remark wasn’t only unusually blunt but also seemed to come from an American talking-points page. Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi responded the next day, warning that while Turkey was an important neighbor, “there is a certain cap to our patience.”
    Tehran and Ankara are deeply divided over the Assad regime, and particularly over whether the Syrian president should stay on after a negotiated settlement. But these disagreements didn’t affect the two countries’ bilateral trade of some $10 billion a year.
    Iran was the first country to denounce the failed coup attempt in Turkey last July, and President Hassan Rohani is on track for a fourth visit to Ankara in April. Tehran and Ankara share an interest in preventing the establishment of an independent Kurdish region in Syria that could inspire the Kurds in Iran and Turkey.
    But Ankara and Tehran are each deeply suspicious of the other’s strategic ambitions. Turkey believes that Iran seeks to turn Iraq and Syria into Shi’ite states, while Iran is sure that Turkish President Recet Tayyip Erdogan dreams of reestablishing the Ottoman Empire.
    The Iranians were apprehensive about the liberation, by Turkish forces and the Free Syrian Army, of al-Bab, a city around 30 kilometers from Aleppo, even though the defeated party was the Islamic State. The Iranians were worried because control over al-Bab, whose liberation the Free Syrian Army announced Friday, opens up the route critical to retaking Raqqa, the Islamic State’s capital in Syria. Control over al-Bab is also key for taking control of the Iraq-Syria border, which Tehran views as critical.

    #syria #russia #iran

  • The most toxic country in the world | The Eco Experts

    Je ne sais pas ce que ça vaut mais j’avoue que je n’avais pas pensé à ce problème sous cet angle : en tête des pays les plus pollués du monde, les monarchies pétrolières du Golfe. Dans l’ordre : Arabie saoudite, Koweït, Bahreïn, Qatar, Emirats, Oman (Tuménistan, Libye, Kazakhstan et Trinidad pour la suite du palmarès).

    Saudi Arabia is the most toxic country in the world, having the highest recorded air pollution, surpassing India and even China.

    Neighbouring oil-rich countries including Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) dominate the top 10 most toxic countries in the world, and have some of the lowest renewable energy production despite having an ideal climate - low rainfall and prolonged daylight hours - for solar energy.

    The research also shows that countries in the Middle East have some of the highest number of deaths attributable to air pollution; Turkmenistan witnesses 108 deaths per 100,000 every year.

  • Al-Akhbar describes UAE-Saudi conflict playing out in Yemen | The Mideastwire Blog

    Yes, it is from the Anti-KSA monarchy daily Al-Akhbar, but nevertheless an important piece about intra-GCC conflicts: UAE vs. Saudi Arabia, with the emphasis on the anti-Wahhabi aspect of the conflict. Translated today by our (for a free trial, email

    On February 21, the Al-Akhbar daily newspaper carried the following report: “The UAE views the southern and eastern governorates of Yemen as a new arena to enhance its religious, anti-Wahhabi methods… The competing between the “Gulf brothers” is not limited to the military authority, the economic weight and the political status. The competing exceeds all that to touch on the religious and spiritual leadership of the Muslims…

    “This is how the situation currently looks like between Saudi Arabia and the UAE. The history of the hostility between the two countries dates back to 1971, the year that saw the unification of the princedoms at the western coast of the Gulf. Back then, the Al-Nahyan family was worried since the Al-Saud family had crossed their eastern borders and were threatening the oil rich princedom of Abu Dhabi. Since that time, the UAE has been trying to demolish the self-proclaimed Saudi leadership of the Islamic world…

    “This strategy started to escalate following the September 11 events in light of the anger against Al-Riyadh felt at the level of the western public opinion. The UAE saw this as an excellent opportunity to pull the rug from under its neighbor’s feet and to enhance its own presence under the slogan of “moderation” and “confronting extremism…” The UAE worked on attracting sheikhs and scholars known for their “moderation” and their affiliation to Al-Azhar. The polarization reached a pinnacle in July 2014 upon the establishment of the “Muslim Council of Elders” in Abu Dhabi under Al-Azhar’s Sheikh Ahmad al-Tayeb…

    “The UAE is working today in South Yemen based on this same strategy… The available pieces of information indicate that Abu Dhabi’s agents are enticing the southern sheikhs to travel to Al-Azhar by securing all the necessary financial, physical, and logistical facilitations to them with the aim of restricting the Saudi-affiliated circles and preventing their ability to act on the religious call level…

  • Saudi Arabia on Offensive With Attack-Minded Military Splurge

    “Traditionally, military capabilities in the region have been focused on territorial defense,” IHS analyst Reed Foster said in the report. Now Mideast states are acquiring equipment that will allow them to build “the kind of capabilities required to conduct operations beyond their borders.”

    Saudi Arabia’s fleet of Panavia Tornado ground-attack aircraft and the 72 Eurofighter Typhoon jet fighters ordered from #BAE_Systems Plc are among likely beneficiaries of upgrades intended to project power over a distance. In dollar terms, the oil-rich nation had the fourth-biggest defense budget last year behind the U.S., China and India, after the pound’s collapse following last June’s Brexit vote relegated the U.K. to fifth spot from third.

    Both Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates will “start to spend heavily” over the next two years as the potential threat from Iran increases, with the former set to return to budget growth this year, IHS projects.

    #Arabie_saoudite #Emirats_arabes_unis #armement

  • Saudi Arabia ‘deports 40,000 Pakistani workers over terror fears’ | The Independent

    The alleged mass deportations come after a year of strikes and other unrest in the kingdom due to unpaid wages following the oil market’s decline and subsequent blow to the Saudi economy.


  • Yemen : Saudi-Led Coalition Airstrike Near School

    (Beirut) – A Saudi-led coalition airstrike near a school in northern Yemen on January 10, 2017, killed two students and a school administrator and wounded three children, Human Rights Watch said today. The unlawful attack reinforces the urgent need for an international investigation into alleged laws-of-war violations in Yemen, an end to arms sales to Saudi Arabia, and the return of the coalition to the United Nations secretary-general’s “list of shame” for abuses against children in armed conflict.
    #Yémen #conflit #guerre #école

  • Why is the media ignoring leaked US government documents about Syria? | Ian Sinclair journalism

    In summary, the leaked information wholly contradicts the popular picture of Western benevolent intentions let down by President Obama’s ineffective leadership and inaction. Instead the evidence shows the US has been sending an “extraordinary amount” of weapons to the armed insurgents in Syria in the full knowledge that Salafists, the Muslim Brotherhood, and al-Qaida in Iraq were the “major forces” driving the insurgency. They did this understanding that sending in weapons would escalate the fighting and not “end well for Syrians”. Furthermore, the US has long known that its regional ally Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states have been supporting extremists in Syria. And, most shocking of all if true, both Kerry and the DIA report seem to show the US allowed forerunners to ISIL and/or ISIL itself to expand and threaten the Syrian Government as this corresponded with the US’s geo-strategic objectives.

    More broadly, by highlighting how the US welcomed the growth of ISIL in Syria, the leaks fatally undermine the entire rationale of the ‘war on terror’ the West has supposedly been fighting since 2001. These are, in short, bombshells that should be front page news, with lengthy investigative follow ups and hundreds of op-eds outraged at the lies and hypocrisy of Western governments. Instead the disclosures have disappeared down the memory hole, with the ginormous gap between the importance of the revelations and the lack of coverage indicating a frighteningly efficient propaganda system.

  • For those who believed Trump would confront Saudi Arabia/Gulf Monarchies: “Secret ‘reassurances’ message from the Trump Administration to Saudi Arabia…”

    On February 2, the electronic Rai al-Youm daily newspaper carried the following report: “Gulf political circles that are very close to Saudi Arabia indicated that Al-Riyadh has obtained “reassurances” from prominent members of the Administration of U.S. President Donald Trump, indicating that the latest controversial #JASTA law will not be used by the Administration in a political context against the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

    “According to the same circles, the guarantees obtained by the highest levels of the Saudi ruling family indicate that some civil organizations and individuals might be filing complaints against the Saudi state and they might be asking for compensations; adding that this is a matter that pertains to the judiciary and that the political Administration will not help or promote such attempts.

    “Recently, Saudi Arabia seemed less concerned about the implementation of the JASTA and more ready to legally deal with any development on this level following an agreement with prominent lawyers and experts and also in light of the conviction that there is no basis of any kind for requesting compensations from Saudi Arabia because Saudi nationals had taken part in the September 11 incident. Concerned circles indicated that there’s a connection between the Saudi cooperation with Trump’s latest ban and these guarantees as this constitutes an area of cooperation between the two sides.”

    #arabie_saoudite #etats-unis

  • Why are Syrian rebels stepping up efforts to isolate Iran?

    At the end of the day, it should be said that any analysis of the rebels’ current strategy would be incomplete without considering the role of Saudi Arabia. Although the Saudis were absent at the Astana talks, Alloush, the head of the rebel delegation, was one of the main figures of the Saudi-backed High Negotiations Committee. Apparently following the abovementioned strategy, the committee first demanded a separate meeting with the Russians and then turned their focus to distancing Russia from Iran during the talks. At the same time, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir on Jan. 24 declared the willingness of the Saudi government to cooperate with the Trump administration against Iran. Thus, it seems that the Saudis and the rebels they support are ultimately trying to kill time until a possible US-Russia rapprochement changes the Syrian equation in their favor.

    Read more:

  • Like Saudi Arabia, #Israel Has a Soft Spot for Sunni Extremism

    Al Jazeera’s Mehdi Hasan asked Efraim Halevy why Israel would give medical aid to wounded members of al Qaeda—and return them to jihad in Syria—but not to the wounded of Hezbollah, the Iran-allied Shi’a militant group in Lebanon that has often clashed with Israel and has been linked, sometimes dubiously, to terror attacks.

    “We have a different account with Hezbollah. A totally different account. Al Qaeda, to the best of my recollection, has not attacked Israel,” he said.

    Incredulous, Hasan replied, “It has attacked your number one ally and protector and sponsor, the United States of America!”

    “Israel was not specifically targeted by al Qaeda, and therefore it’s a different kind of account than we have with Hezbollah,” replied Halevy.

    « #humanitaire »

  • Are Iran, Saudi Arabia about to reconcile?

    However, on Jan. 25 ISNA quoted the Lebanese daily an-Nahar as reporting that Kuwait is seeking to deliver a message to mediate between Iran and Saudi Arabia.

    In this vein, the Reformist Etemaad daily published an analytical article on Jan. 25, arguing, “The high-ranking security and diplomatic officials of Iran have clearly welcomed the decrease of tensions and [establishment of] a good relationship with Saudi Arabia.”

    Noting the visit of the Kuwaiti foreign minister to Tehran, Etemaad added, “The attempts to improve the relationship between Tehran and Riyadh which are underway indicate well that both parties have become aware of the necessity of solving the [outstanding] issues, and despite the intensifying attacks of the propaganda artillery of both parties, the secret diplomacy is ongoing.”

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  • The Angry Arab News Service/وكالة أنباء العربي الغاضب: Your guide to Syrian rebel groups

    It reads : Fath Ash-Sham belongs to Qatar. Ahrar Ash-Sham belongs to Saudi Arabia. Faylaq Ash-Sham belongs to Turkey. Suqur Ash-Sham belongs to Jordan.


  • Sic Semper Tyrannis : Why Iran, but not Saudi Arabia ? - TTG

    This executive order invoked the specter of 9/11, yet Saudi Arabia gets a free pass once again. The country most responsible for supporting and sustaining both the Islamic State and Al Qaeda skates free. The Borg found it convenient to cozy up to the Saudis to further its goals, but why does Trump continue that coziness? He railed against the Clinton Foundation’s Saudi connections. I thought things might change. However, in August of last year, he told Fox News this.

    “Saudi Arabia — and I get along great with all of them. They buy apartments from me,” Trump said in Mobile, Alabama. “They spend $40 million, $50 million. Am I supposed to dislike them? I like them very much.”

    During his presidential bid, his organization established eight companies tied to hotel interests in Saudi Arabia. Seems the coziness with the fountainhead of radical Islamic terrorism will continue, despite all the bombastic rhetoric, executive decrees and drastic actions taken to supposedly protect U.S. citizens from radical Islamic terrorists. Just more security theater and fodder for the meme machines. Well, it’s still early.

    Maybe Iran should negotiate with the Trump organization to build a Trump Towers in Teheran and a golf resort in Shiraz. Just think of the marvelous carpets that could decorate the club house. Then, perhaps, they’ll get the same consideration as the Saudis from the current Administration.

  • Serving the Leviathan | Jacobin

    Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, the chairman of Iran’s Expediency Discernment Council, died of a heart attack on January 8, 2017. Various factions immediately tried to claim this “pillar of the revolution” in the name of their competing political objectives. The wily politician would have surely recognized this technique of marshaling the spirits of the dead to score points for short-term political gain.

    Temperate “principalists” (usulgarayan), technocratic conservatives (eʿtedaliyyun), and reformists (eslahtalaban) — that is, much of the Iranian political class — saw something in the elderly statesman’s legacy worth appropriating. In this way, his death mirrors his life: during his sixty-plus years of political activity, he became many things to many people, while his ultimate objectives often remained opaque, if not virtually impossible to discern.

    Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and others often painted this postrevolutionary pragmatist as a corrupt and arrogant patrician who had cast aside revolutionary austerity in favor of decadent opulence. The accusation resonated far beyond Ahmadinejad’s supporters, aligning with popular slogans that denounced the two-time president as “Akbar Shah” (meaning King Akbar, Great Shah) and compelling ordinary citizens to scrawl dozd (thief) on many of his campaign posters during the 2005 presidential campaign. He was also known to many as “the shark” (kuseh) on account of his inability to grow a fully fledged beard, though others felt it described his political modus operandi to a tee.

    By 2009, however, he seemed to have aligned himself with the Green Movement, drawing closer to the reformists he once opposed. His intermittent criticisms of the Ahmadinejad government endeared him to many, who began to see him as one of the few establishment voices willing to openly defy the administration and by extension, his old ally, the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. He became inextricably linked with the trope of “moderation,” a powerful idea in a country on the precipice, especially after the UN imposed sanctions of 2006.

    Many others remained skeptical, however, unable to forget his reputation as an arch-Machiavellian. They recycled urban legends about his family’s wealth, reinforcing his image as a power-obsessed wheeler-and-dealer.
    Resisting the Shah

    Born in 1934, Akbar Hashemi Bahremani grew up on his family’s small farm in the village of Bahreman in the Nuq district of Rafsanjan, Kerman province. At the behest of his father, he studied in a traditional maktab, but was still expected to help tend to the animals and orchards in a region renowned for its prized pistachio. His paternal uncle was a cleric who often took to the village pulpit, and at the age of fourteen, he left for Qom to study at the Shiʿi seminary, the chief center of Islamic learning in Iran.

    Through the Maraʿshi brothers (Akhavan-e Maraʿshi), Kazem and Mehdi, fellow Rafsanjanis, with whom he lived for a number of years, Akbar quickly came to know Seyyed Ruhollah Khomeini, then a relatively junior mojtahed and esteemed teacher of philosophy and mysticism. In Rafsanjani’s memoir, The Period of Struggle, he recalls how he was immediately captivated by the “majesty” of Khomeini’s visage and demeanor. Thus began an extremely close and fruitful relationship that would last the remainder of Khomeini’s lifetime. Indeed, Rafsanjani’s final resting place is alongside his political and spiritual patron.

    In Qom, Rafsanjani rapidly got involved in political life and activism and found himself attracted to the militant Devotees of Islam (Fadaʾiyan-e Islam), led by Seyyed Mojtaba Mirlowhi, better known as Navvab-e Safavi or “Prince of the Safavids,” whose meetings he would attend at every opportunity. The group tried to convince the Qom seminary to agitate for a strict and unforgiving nomocratic order, but with little success. Under the guidance of Grand Ayatollah Boroujerdi, the overwhelming majority of the Qom seminary rejected the message of the Fadaʾiyan, at one point running them out of town.

    Rafsanjani was studying in Qom during the years of anticolonial fervor after Prime Minister Mosaddeq nationalized the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (BP). He encountered Mosaddeq’s one-time clerical ally, Ayatollah Seyyed Abolqasem Kashani, who became one of the Fadaʾiyan’s initial patrons. Kashani eventually turned on Mosaddeq, and, in August 1953, a joint CIA-MI6 orchestrated coup d’état ousted the prime minister.

    After the revolution, even while expressing his support for the national movement, Rafsanjani blamed Mosaddeq’s National Front and the communist Tudeh Party for their role in weakening the seminary during this period. But he still recalled with pride how the former prime minister contributed to printing and distributing his translation of The Journey of Palestine, a translation of a popular book on Palestine written in Arabic by Akram Zwayter, a Jordanian ambassador to Tehran. Published in semi-illicit form in 1961, this book marked the beginning of a long career in which he became the most prolific statesman-cum-author of the postrevolutionary era.

    In 1955, Navvab was executed by firing squad, but vestiges of the Fadaʾiyan persisted, creating a vital network of clerical and lay activists in the country’s mosques and bazaars. Rafsanjani became an important organizer inside the country, following Khomeni’s exile in 1964. In January 1965, he was arrested by the Shah’s infamous secret police, SAVAK, for his role in the assassination of the pro-American premier, Hassan ʿAli Mansur. Later recollections by members of the Islamic Coalition Society have since admitted it was Rafsanjani who supplied the weapon. From 1958 until the revolution he was arrested on several occasions. He persisted in his activism despite the abuse and torture he suffered at the hands of the SAVAK, publishing illegal periodicals and distributing Khomeini’s communiqués from Najaf. It was also in 1958 that he married ʿEffat Maraʿshi, the daughter of a fellow cleric from Rafsanjan. His companion of almost sixty years, she would come to exude a formidable matriarchal presence on the Iranian political scene throughout the 1990s and 2000s.

    Rafsanjani also managed to travel to the United States and Japan during these years. Many regard the latter as especially formative for his worldview and proclivity toward the seemingly indigenous, albeit technologically advanced, version of modernization he would seek to exact during his own time in power. He also penned a volume on the nationalist icon Amir Kabir (who died in 1852), who tried to streamline the Qajar court’s expenditures, consolidating the weak Iranian state in Tehran while importing technical and military know-how. That Rafsanjani died on the anniversary of Amir Kabir’s murder has only fueled the flood of hagiographies.
    Internal Divisions

    On February 5, 1979, Rafsanjani made his first public appearance facing the world’s media with Khomeini during Mehdi Bazargan’s introduction as prime minister of the Provisional Revolutionary Government. He began his government apprenticeship as deputy interior minister, and soon found common ground with another junior minister, Seyyed Ali Khamenei, who held the same role in defense. More importantly, Rafsanjani also served on the revolutionary council, a secretive body dominated by clerics loyal to Khomeini that was created in lieu of a legislative branch of state.

    Rafsanjani and Khamenei were on a pilgrimage to Mecca when they learned that radical students, who called themselves the Muslim Student Followers of the Imam’s Line, had overrun the United States embassy on November 4, 1979. They had by this time become leading officials of the Islamic Republic Party (IRP), and Bazargan’s resignation thrust both men into the limelight. Rafsanjani took over the interior ministry and organized the first presidential elections of 1980. In the spring of that year, he was elected to the Majlis (parliament) and became speaker, a post he turned into a personal stronghold for most of the following decade.

    Rafsanjani remained steadfastly loyal to Khomeini and led the clerical front that ultimately marginalized competing revolutionary organizations in the early 1980s. But their relationship was not always easy. Together with Khamenei, Rafsanjani lobbied Khomeini to allow clerical candidates into the first presidential election; his mentor’s refusal paved the way for the victory of layman Abolhasan Bani-Sadr. Only after much of the IRP leadership was killed in the Hafte Tir bombing did Khomeini relent and allow Khamenei to run for president in the summer of 1980.

    They also seem to have disagreed about the war with Iraq. According to various sources, including Khomeini’s son Ahmad, the Grand Ayatollah wanted to bring the conflict to an end after taking back the southwestern city of Khorramshahr in April 1982, but Rafsanjani, among others, prevailed on him to prepare an offensive into Iraqi territory.

    As the 1980s progressed, Rafsanjani’s role within the state system far surpassed his formal title of parliamentary speaker. In international settings, he was treated like the state’s foremost figure. The West — including the Reagan administration — relied on him to end kidnappings in Lebanon, and he became known as the real power behind the scenes.

    By 1985, the fervent anti-Americanism he had previously displayed gave way to the realization that a tactical accommodation with the “Great Satan” was necessary. In a risky and ultimately unsuccessful move, he agreed to hold talks with a delegation led by national security adviser Robert McFarlane, which surreptitiously visited Tehran in October 1986 with much-needed weapons for the war effort. The Iran-Contra revelations severely embarrassed both Reagan and Rafsanjani, and the whole affair had major repercussions for the domestic scene. Nevertheless, two decades later, the Rafsanjani clan published a book including the delegation’s fake passports and the inscribed Bible Reagan gave to Rafsanjani to underscore the cooperation between these erstwhile adversaries.

    Rafsanjani was at the heart of several crucial developments during the last years of Khomeini’s life. Many believe he took part in the efforts lead by Ahmad Khomeini and minister of intelligence, Mohammad Reyshahri, to persuade the revolutionary leader to withdraw his support for his designated successor, Hossein ʿAli Montazeri. He certainly had motivation: Montazeri’s relative and close associate, Seyyed Mehdi Hashemi, and his people were responsible for leaking the details of McFarlane’s visit. In early 1988, Rafsanjani had to navigate a major internal crisis when Prime Minister Mir-Hossein Mousavi resigned and noted — in a secret letter to Khamenei — that other figures, including Rafsanjani, had gravely eroded his authority.

    That same year, the USS Vincennes shot down Iran Air Flight 655 over the Persian Gulf, killing almost three hundred civilians. Rafsanjani gloomily indicated during a Friday prayer speech that the tragedy was not an accident and warned that the United States would now intensify its involvement in the Iran-Iraq conflict. This likely contributed to Khomeini’s acceptance of UN Security Council Resolution 598, which initiated the ceasefire between the two countries and which he famously compared to drinking a “poisoned chalice.”

    Following the Iran-Iraq War and the death of the revolutionary patriarch in June 1989, many wondered if the revolutionary state and its institutions could survive without the uniquely charismatic Ayatollah Khomeini. Even before his death, the ruling establishment proved vulnerable as militant groups such as the People’s Mojahedin Organization and the Forqan, which opposed the political clerisy’s ascent, had assassinated several senior figures in the regime. Khamenei and Rafsanjani both survived attempts on their lives in this period, ensuring that these two friends would decisively shape the post-Khomeini political order.

    Rafsanjani played a key role in elevating Khamenei as Khomeini’s successor, but the more intimate details of his lobbying have yet to be fully revealed. It occurred as the Iranian elite was reeling, both politically and emotionally. Khomeini’s death came after a period of incapacitation, but it nevertheless caught senior state figures unprepared. As a result, the Assembly of Experts, the clerical body in charge of selecting and supervising the guardian jurist (vali-ye faqih), had to decide how best to handle the succession. Rafsanjani took to the podium and declared that Khomeini had stated his preference for Khamenei, despite his lack of clerical rank and authority. The latter was not an Ayatollah, let alone a marjaʿ al-taqlid (source of emulation or Grand Ayatollah).

    Khamenei’s accession unfolded in tandem with major constitutional amendments and changes in the revolutionary state’s institutional structure. The position of vali-ye faqih (often referred to nowadays as the “supreme leader”) was radically revised. No longer was his capacity to act as a source of emulation for the faithful, namely the criterion of marjaʿiyyat a prerequisite for the office. Instead, Khamenei had an “absolute mandate” to rule. At the same time, the office of prime minister was abolished, leaving a directly elected president, which Rafsanjani promptly assumed. These moves quickly consolidated power between the longstanding allies.

    At this moment, Rafsanjani was at the peak of his powers. Many have speculated that he placed his ally in this role because he was counting on Khamenei’s lack of religious credentials and limited influence among the clergy, to keep him relatively weak. Arguably, it was a calculation that would come back to haunt him in the last decade of his life.

    His two presidential terms have become associated with the period of the nation’s reconstruction. In the first few years, his partnership with Khamenei proved most efficacious. First in the 1990 Assembly of Experts’ elections — but most decisively in the 1992 Majles elections — they used the guardian council’s arrogation of the prerogative to supervise elections and thereby disqualify candidates to rapidly marginalize the so-called Islamic left, which included groups like the Association of Combatant Clerics, the so-called Imam’s Line, and the Mojahedin Organization of the Islamic Revolution. All of whose members had been Ayatollah Khomeini’s stalwart supporters and advocated for anti-imperialism and a radical foreign policy, state control of the economy, and the egalitarian redistribution of wealth.

    In response to the country’s very real internal and external economic and political challenges, Rafsanjani and Khamenei conspired to cast aside the Left. Thus, in 1992, they either saw disqualified or campaigned against a raft of sitting MPs and left-leaning regime loyalists, including Behzad Nabavi, Asadollah Bayat, Hadi Ghaffari, Ebrahim Asgharzadeh, and the infamous Ayatollah Sadeq Khalkhali. In fact, only 20 percent of incumbents earned reelection that year.

    Consequently, the traditional right dominated the Fourth Majles, adding to the duo’s firm grip on the intelligence and security apparatuses, the state institutions regulating the Shiʿi clergy, the levers of economic power and patronage — including the ministry of petroleum — and a vast network of religious endowments. Despite starting from a position of weakness, Khamenei began to strengthen his hold on economic and military power. In Rafsanjani’s second term, a mild rivalry started to color their relationship.

    With the Left on the sidelines, Rafsanjani pursued what amounted to a neoliberal agenda of privatization and structural adjustment. He also created a regional détente with the Gulf states, above all Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, which had bankrolled Saddam Hussein’s war effort with US support. Journalist Mohammad Quchani approvingly called Rafsanjani’s tenure the era of “depoliticization,” where “expertise” firmly supplanted “commitment.” Technocratic competency and state-directed economic liberalization without corresponding political reforms became the order of the day. Saʿid Hajjarian — a former intelligence officer who became a preeminent reformist strategist — recalled a meeting with Rafsanjani in which the president disdainfully shrugged off the very notion of political development, a euphemism for “democratization.”

    But after ejecting much of the Islamic left from the ranks of government, Rafsanjani was himself forced to cede primacy over the cultural and intellectual spheres to the traditional right. His brother Mohammad had to give up his long-standing control of state radio and television, while the future president Mohammed Khatami publicly resigned from the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance, replaced by arch-conservative Ali Larijani (who has since joined the ranks of centrist principalists).

    The traditional right’s own predominantly mercantilist interests often conflicted with Rafsanjani’s efforts at economic liberalization. As a result, he had to pursue a more modest reform program. Resistance from below also appeared. In 1992, a tentative subsidy reform on foodstuffs and energy — which would only be implemented, ironically, under the Ahmadinejad government — coincided with inflation hovering around 50 percent, leading to tumultuous provincial bread riots.

    Moreover, the privatizations that did take place were far from straightforward. Selling shares to para-statal and quasi-statal organizations sparked allegations of crony capitalism and corruption that the Fourth Majles eventually had to redress through legislation, even if the issue was never satisfactorily resolved. Moreover, one of Rafsanjani’s key allies, Gholam Hossein Karbaschi — mayor of Tehran from 1989 to 1998 — played a crucial role in the capital city’s “urban renewal.” He sold off state-owned land below market value to the connected and well-heeled and exempted large developers from zoning laws, creating a speculative real-estate boom in which certain segments of the political and economic elite were seen to massively profit.

    Rafsanjani also helped create the Islamic Free University, which provided higher education to hundreds of thousands of students unable to enter the state system because of the competitive national examinations. Nevertheless, the university has been criticized for introducing market logic into education and thus exacerbating existing class divisions.

    As Kaveh Ehsani writes, the Rafsanjani administration had decided that “the Islamic Republic needed to first create its own loyal, Islamic (but neoliberal) middle class.” Rafsanjani, however, ultimately failed to develop an entrepreneurial class that could fully implement his neoliberal agenda. Attempts to do so — particularly through his half-hearted wooing of expatriate businessmen who had fled on the eve of the Islamic Republic — were largely met with scorn. The Executives of Reconstruction Party, heavily populated by the president’s kin, including his outspoken daughter Faʾezeh, would belatedly attempt to consolidate this new technocratic order in 1996.

    Meanwhile, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) was invited by the government as a quid pro quo for its services during the war, to help reconstruct the country’s severely depleted infrastructure. Khamenei shrewdly capitalized on this development to augment his institutional power.

    This period also saw a slew of intellectuals, writers, and activists assassinated, arrested, and/or tortured. The long list even extends into the Khatami era and includes ʿAli Akbar Saʿidi Sirjani, Faraj Sarkuhi, Shapur Bakhtiar — the Shah’s last prime minister, who had tried to oust the Islamic Republic with Saddam Hussein’s support — and Sadeq Sharafkandi, secretary-general of the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran. These killings have been strongly linked to the Iranian security apparatus, but the extent of Rafsanjani’s involvement remains unclear. Regardless, his objective of consolidating the regime he had been instrumental in building extended — with or without his direct participation — into neutralizing, by any means, dissenting and subversive voices.
    Between the Establishment and Reform

    When Mohammad Khatami became president in the June 1997 elections, many observers — including Rafsanjani — were surprised. In fact, the departing president would eventually admit that he had voted for Ali Akbar Nateq Nuri, the establishment candidate. Nor was he temperamentally disposed to the ethos of the emerging “reformist” camp, which rallied around Khatami. Their emphasis on political, rather than economic, change and openness in the media and intellectual spheres starkly contrasted with the ambitions and priorities of his own administration.

    In fact, between 1997 and 2001, the former president tilted more toward the conservatives, when the right wing became concerned the reformist coalition was taking control of the chief reins of government. In 2000, Rafsanjani ran for parliament in Tehran and sparked a major political crisis. He initially did not rank among the first thirty seats, but was reinstated after a known dissident was disqualified. The media waged a campaign against what they regarded as brazen interference, and Rafsanjani relinquished his seat at a high cost to the Khatami front.

    Entrenched as leader of the expediency council — a body whose influence grew in periods of mediation between parliament and the guardian council — Rafsanjani effectively helped stymie the reformist-dominated Sixth Majles, repeatedly kicking key reforms into the long grass. As a result, the public grew disenchanted with the reformers, seeing them as incapable of implementing their program.

    In 2005, Rafsanjani once again ran for president, arguing that only he could fix a deadlocked political system. His quixotic campaign used roller-skating young women to hand out posters to bemused drivers in Tehran. But Ahmadinejad’s insurgent candidacy derailed his plans and forced an unprecedented run-off. Rafsanjani scrambled and succeeded in winning the support of many moderates, dissidents, and artists, including the late ʿAbbas Kiarostami, who warned of a Chirac-Le Pen scenario.

    When the veteran candidate appeared at Tehran University to this end, he responded to students chanting the name of Akbar Ganji — an imprisoned journalist and public intellectual, who had famously characterized Rafsanjani as Iran’s very own Cardinal Richelieu — by saying conditions in prisons today were far better than under the Shah’s regime. In his final televised campaign interview, he unpersuasively apologized for not holding events outside Tehran in what appeared to be a last-ditch pledge to improve the plight of the neglected provinces.

    His defeat — which he half-heartedly attributed to security forces’ interference — effectively aligned him with the reformist camp he had previously been at odds with. By 2006, he recognized that Ahmadinejad threatened both the Iranian state and the fragile détente with the West that he and Khatami had laboriously engineered. For the last decade of his life, he would repeatedly call for moderation, speaking out against excesses and cautiously supporting Mir-Hossein Mousavi in the 2009 elections.

    Despite warning Khamenei about possible tampering on the eve of the vote and using his Friday prayer address to call for the release of scores of reformists in July 2009, Rafsanjani managed to keep his place within the state apparatus. Rather than directly challenge Khamenei — as Mousavi and Karroubi would — he retained his position as head of the expediency council.

    During the second Ahmadinejad administration, Rafsanajani stayed in the media spotlight, published his much-anticipated annual volumes of political diaries, and continued to lobby at the regime’s highest levels. Despite having few obvious cards to play, Rafsanjani drew on his myriad relationships across ministries, economic institutions, political factions, the bazaar, the clergy, and even the IRGC. He also compelled his son, Mehdi, to return home and face a jail sentence so that opponents couldn’t use the charge that his child was abroad and in the pay of foreigners against him politically.
    Transformation or Rebranding?

    In 2013, after remaining on the fence until the last hours of the registration window, Rafsanjani announced his bid for president without securing the customary approval from Khamenei, who rebuffed his attempts to discuss the matter. The guardian council rejected him on health grounds, paving the way for his protégé Hassan Rouhani, whom Rafsanjani had persuaded not to drop out, to carry the centrist ticket and win in the first round.

    Even in his final years, after he had lost many of the institutional levers he had once wielded so dexterously, Rafsanjani managed to interject himself at crucial political moments and tilt the balance of forces in one direction or another. These interventions were not without significance or merit. His continued support for Rouhani and the nuclear accord with the P5+1 helped alleviate the atmosphere of securitization, economic distress, and growing militarization that had characterized the Ahmadinejad years. When he decried the Western sanctions that “had broken the back” of the nation, he belittled the conservative attempts to portray the accord as a sellout.

    In recent years, prominent intellectuals like Akbar Ganji and Sadeq Zibakalam have debated whether Rafsanjani’s apparent “conversion” to reform represented a truly genuine transformation or another example of his essential Machiavellianism. But a more pertinent question would be what opportunities for contestation and increasing democratic accountability and pluralism were engendered as a result of his interventions and the unforeseen repercussions of elite competition and cleavage.

    On the one hand, his role as mediator between the ruling establishment and the reformists in these final years played an important part in assuaging the contradictions between popular expectations and the reality of regime governance. Since the late 1990s elite competition has taken place on the terrain of electoral and constitutional politics, and Iran’s sizeable urban population and middle classes were periodically summoned to provide momentum to their own mediated demands. A process that also harbored the potential for sparking deeper political transformation, and a renegotiation of the social contract defining the relationship of government and the governed.

    In the short term, reforms included resolving the nuclear impasse; returning to competent, technocratic economic management; lowering inflation and youth unemployment; releasing Green Movement leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi, Mehdi Karroubi, and Zahra Rahnavard; and loosening political and cultural restrictions.

    But in the long term, the reformist horizon strove for something like a new constitutional settlement that would place the supreme leader under close supervision — if not call for his direct election — hold the security apparatuses accountable, and reverse the guardian council’s powers over elections. Reformist activists, as well as political currents with negligible official representation, saw Rafsanjani’s funeral procession as one more opportunity to articulate these manifold demands, proving even his posthumous relevance to the political balance of power.

    Rafsanjani initiated a deeply personal form of statecraft, one that could not bring about a structured perestroika, but did enable the Islamic Republic to survive crises and challenges. Rafsanjani and Khamenei’s chief objective had always preserving the regime they helped build. The question of how to achieve this — and their material and institutional stake in it — rankled their relationship in later life and still divides the country.

    #Iran #politique #islam

  • Iran’s Play for Middle Eastern Leadership | Foreign Affairs

    For the first time since the demise of the Qajar dynasty in the early twentieth century, Iran is extending its political and military reach to what it considers its rightful sphere of influence: Mesopotamia and the areas of the eastern Mediterranean and Arabian Peninsula with sizeable Shiite communities.

    Iraq has emerged from the 2003 U.S. invasion and years of sectarian war as a fragmented Shiite-led state and is on the verge of becoming an Iranian satellite. In Lebanon, Hezbollah, the Shiite armed movement that Iran has sponsored for more than three decades, has become the country’s strongest and best-organized force. Once an equal partner, Syria is now partly militarily dependent on Iran, which has sent Iranian fighters to support the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in his country’s brutal civil conflict. And in Yemen, Iran has extended its patronage to the members of an Islamic sect close to Shiism, the Houthis, who are engaged in a tribal and sectarian war against forces backed by Saudi Arabia. In all of these countries, Iran seeks to eventually entrench Shiite political systems modeled on its own.

    The collapse of the old Arab order after decades of slow erosion, the U.S. invasion of Iraq, and the uprisings of the so-called Arab Spring have helped Iran pursue this vision. But so has Iran’s own history, which has endowed its leaders with a set of grievances—and perceived advantages—that they believe have primed their country to reclaim a position as a regional leader. Tehran’s current strategy of expansionism will ultimately undermine that goal, however, by fanning dangerous sectarian grievances and damaging the sociocultural prestige that has historically underwritten Iran’s regional position. A more sustainable path to a leading role in the Middle East is possible.


  • End of mission statement Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Professor Philip Alston on his visit to Saudi Arabia

    Many Saudis are convinced that their country is free of poverty. I was often told that there are no homeless and no hungry people, and that the innate spirit of generosity within the society ensures that there is no poverty. And until very recently, the word ‘poverty’ was carefully avoided by policy-makers and commentators. They talked instead about vulnerable or needy persons. Things should have started to change after a ground-breaking visit in 2002 to poor areas in Riyadh by the then Crown Prince Abdullah. That led to the preparation of a National Poverty Reduction Strategy in 2005, but it has never been made public. In 2006 a Supplementary Support Programme was initiated to assist the poor. Since that time, Government programs have proliferated and charitable organizations working in the poverty sector have flourished.

    But the result is a veritable hodgepodge of programs which is inefficient, unsustainable, poorly coordinated and, above all, unsuccessful in providing comprehensive social protection to those most in need2. The system is based on monthly and one-time cash transfers under the Complementary Support Program.

    Un rapport des Nations Unies sur la pauvreté en #arabie_saoudite

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    “Saudi Vision 2030 could be a catalyst for realizing women’s rights” – UN expert

  • Syria prepared for new round of violence: over 85% of belligerents are excluded from the ceasefire

    The main reason for this war preparation and the ceasefire rejection is the exclusion of the main groups who represent tens of thousands of militants. These are: the “Islamic State” (ISIS), Al-Qaida (Nusra/Fateh al-Sham) and similar jihadist groups, plus pro-Turkey Ahrar al-Sham.


    Despite the agreement on the ceasefire between Moscow and Ankara, essential countries involved in the Syria war, i.e. Saudi Arabia and Qatar, were excluded from the first round of the Astana peace talks and did not delegate their wishes to Turkey to negotiate on their behalf. These Middle Eastern countries refuse, to-date, to raise the white flag, and they still enjoy significant influence over tens of thousands of militants fighting in Syria, demonstrating  the failure of the Russian-Turkish meeting in Kazakhstan. The exclusion of the US and Europe is also a factor presaging an unsuccessful outcome, a by-product of Russia’s pressing determination to end the Syrian conflict. Turkey has not said its last word: it has not committed to abide by Russia’s terms in reaching the end of the war in Syria. Moreover it has refrained from imposing on its proxy, Ahrar al-Sham, the signature and agreement on the ceasefire, and abandoning the choice of war: this despite the loss of Aleppo.


    Also, Damascus and its allies consider Russia is in too much of a hurry, trying to reach an immature political compromise for fear of being stuck in the Syrian quagmire. The “Afghanistan nightmare” seems to dominate the Russian politicians, causing the failure of two out of three ceasefires “imposed” by Russia these last months. It looks as if – at least according to Damascus and its allies –  the third ceasefire is will fail dramatically, simply because conditions and circumstances for its success are absent.