organization:saudi government

  • Opinion | My Father Faces the Death Penalty. This Is Justice in Saudi Arabia. - The New York Times

    The kingdom’s judiciary is being pushed far from any semblance of the rule of law and due process.

    By Abdullah Alaoudh

    Mr. Alaoudh is a legal scholar at Georgetown University.

    https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/13/opinion/saudi-arabia-judiciary.html

    Despite the claims of Prince Mohammed bin Salman and his enablers, Saudi Arabia is not rolling back the hard-line religious establishment. Instead, the kingdom is curtailing the voices of moderation that have historically combated extremism. Numerous Saudi activists, scholars and thinkers who have sought reform and opposed the forces of extremism and patriarchy have been arrested. Many of them face the death penalty.

    Salman Alodah, my father, is a 61-year-old scholar of Islamic law in Saudi Arabia, a reformist who argued for greater respect for human rights within Shariah, the legal code of Islam based on the Quran. His voice was heard widely, partly owing to his popularity as a public figure with 14 million followers on Twitter.
    The author’s father, Salman Alodah, has been held in solitary confinement since 2017.CreditFamily photograph
    Image
    The author’s father, Salman Alodah, has been held in solitary confinement since 2017.CreditFamily photograph

    On Sept. 10, 2017, my father, who was disturbed by regional tensions after Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt imposed a blockade on Qatar, spoke obliquely about the conflict and expressed his desire for reconciliation. “May Allah mend their hearts for the best of their peoples,” he tweeted.

    A few hours after his tweet, a team from the Saudi security services came to our house in Riyadh, searched the house, confiscated some laptops and took my father away.

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    The Saudi government was apparently angered and considered his tweet a criminal violation. His interrogators told my father that his assuming a neutral position on the Saudi-Qatar crisis and failing to stand with the Saudi government was a crime.

    He is being held in solitary confinement in Dhahban prison in Jidda. He was chained and handcuffed for months inside his cell, deprived of sleep and medical help and repeatedly interrogated throughout the day and night. His deteriorating health — high blood pressure and cholesterol that he developed in prison — was ignored until he had to be hospitalized. Until the trial, about a year after his arrest, he was denied access to lawyers.

    On Sept. 4, a specialized criminal court in Riyadh convened off-camera to consider the numerous charges against my father: stirring public discord and inciting people against the ruler, calling for change in government and supporting Arab revolutions by focusing on arbitrary detention and freedom of speech, possessing banned books and describing the Saudi government as a tyranny. The kingdom’s attorney general sought the death penalty for him.

    Saudi Arabia has exploited the general indifference of the West toward its internal politics and presented the crackdown against reformist figures like my father as a move against the conservative religious establishment. The reality is far from their claims.

    My father is loved by the Saudi people because his authority and legitimacy as an independent Muslim scholar set him apart from the state-appointed scholars. Using Islamic principles to support his arguments, he championed civil liberties, participatory politics, the separation of powers and judicial independence.


  • U.S. Businesses Complain Saudi Arabia Is Slow to Pay - WSJ
    https://www.wsj.com/articles/u-s-businesses-complain-saudi-arabia-is-slow-to-pay-11548945000

    The Saudi government has delayed payments worth billions of dollars to Western firms in a bid to contain its government-budget deficit amid lower oil prices and record spending announced in December, said Saudi officials who weren’t authorized to comment publicly and the people familiar with the matter.

    “It is a strategy,” one Saudi official said about delaying payments to the private sector. “The government knows they can get away with it and would not want to have an alarming budget-deficit figure.”

    #arabie_saoudite


  • Undercover agents target cybersecurity watchdog who detailed Israeli firm NSO’s link to #Khashoggi scandal
    Haaretz.Com
    https://www.haaretz.com/misc/article-print-page/.premium-undercover-agents-target-watchdog-who-detailed-israeli-firm-nso-s-

    Operatives with fake identities are pursuing members of #Citizen_Lab, the group that uncovered the connection between Jamal Khashoggi’s murder and Israel’s surveillance company #NSO
    The Associated Press | Jan. 26, 2019 | 4:19 PM

    The researchers who reported that Israeli software was used to spy on Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s inner circle before his gruesome death are being targeted in turn by international undercover operatives, The Associated Press has found.

    Twice in the past two months, men masquerading as socially conscious investors have lured members of the Citizen Lab internet watchdog group to meetings at luxury hotels to quiz them for hours about their work exposing Israeli surveillance and the details of their personal lives. In both cases, the researchers believe they were secretly recorded.

    Citizen Lab Director Ron Deibert described the stunts as “a new low.”

    “We condemn these sinister, underhanded activities in the strongest possible terms,” he said in a statement Friday. “Such a deceitful attack on an academic group like the Citizen Lab is an attack on academic freedom everywhere.”

    Who these operatives are working for remains a riddle, but their tactics recall those of private investigators who assume elaborate false identities to gather intelligence or compromising material on critics of powerful figures in government or business.

    Citizen Lab, based out of the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto, has for years played a leading role in exposing state-backed hackers operating in places as far afield as Tibet , Ethiopia and Syria . Lately the group has drawn attention for its repeated exposés of an Israeli surveillance software vendor called the NSO Group, a firm whose wares have been used by governments to target journalists in Mexico , opposition figures in Panama and human rights activists in the Middle East .

    In October, Citizen Lab reported that an iPhone belonging to one of Khashoggi’s confidantes had been infected by the NSO’s signature spy software only months before Khashoggi’s grisly murder. The friend, Saudi dissident Omar Abdulaziz, would later claim that the hacking had exposed Khashoggi’s private criticisms of the Saudi royal family to the Arab kingdom’s spies and thus “played a major role” in his death.

    In a statement, NSO denied having anything to do with the undercover operations targeting Citizen Lab, “either directly or indirectly” and said it had neither hired nor asked anyone to hire private investigators to pursue the Canadian organization. “Any suggestion to the contrary is factually incorrect and nothing more than baseless speculation,” NSO said.

    NSO has long denied that its software was used to target Khashoggi, although it has refused to comment when asked whether it has sold its software to the Saudi government more generally.

    The first message reached Bahr Abdul Razzak, a Syrian refugee who works as a Citizen Lab researcher, Dec. 6, when a man calling himself Gary Bowman got in touch via LinkedIn. The man described himself as a South African financial technology executive based in Madrid.

    “I came across your profile and think that the work you’ve done helping Syrian refugees and your extensive technical background could be a great fit for our new initiative,” Bowman wrote.

    Abdul Razzak said he thought the proposal was a bit odd, but he eventually agreed to meet the man at Toronto’s swanky Shangri-La Hotel on the morning of Dec. 18.

    The conversation got weird very quickly, Abdul Razzak said.

    Instead of talking about refugees, Abdul Razzak said, Bowman grilled him about his work for Citizen Lab and its investigations into the use of NSO’s software. Abdul Razzak said Bowman appeared to be reading off cue cards, asking him if he was earning enough money and throwing out pointed questions about Israel, the war in Syria and Abdul Razzak’s religiosity.

    “Do you pray?” Abdul Razzak recalled Bowman asking. “Why do you write only about NSO?” ’’Do you write about it because it’s an Israeli company?" ’’Do you hate #Israel?"

    Abdul Razzak said he emerged from the meeting feeling shaken. He alerted his Citizen Lab colleagues, who quickly determined that the breakfast get-together had been a ruse. Bowman’s supposed Madrid-based company, FlameTech, had no web presence beyond a LinkedIn page, a handful of social media profiles and an entry in the business information platform Crunchbase. A reverse image search revealed that the profile picture of the man listed as FlameTech’s chief executive, Mauricio Alonso, was a stock photograph.

    “My immediate gut feeling was: ’This is a fake,’” said John Scott-Railton, one of Abdul Razzak’s colleagues.

    Scott-Railton flagged the incident to the AP, which confirmed that FlameTech was a digital facade.

    Searches of the Orbis database of corporate records, which has data on some 300 million global companies, turned up no evidence of a Spanish firm called FlameTech or Flame Tech or any company anywhere in the world matching its description. Similarly, the AP found no record of FlameTech in Madrid’s official registry or of a Gary Bowman in the city’s telephone listings. An Orbis search for Alonso, the supposed chief executive, also drew a blank. When an AP reporter visited Madrid’s Crystal Tower high-rise, where FlameTech claimed to have 250 sq. meters (2,700 sq. feet) of office space, he could find no trace of the firm and calls to the number listed on its website went unanswered.

    The AP was about to publish a story about the curious company when, on Jan. 9, Scott-Railton received an intriguing message of his own.

    This time the contact came not from Bowman of FlameTech but from someone who identified himself as Michel Lambert, a director at the Paris-based agricultural technology firm CPW-Consulting.

    Lambert had done his homework. In his introductory email , he referred to Scott-Railton’s early doctoral research on kite aerial photography — a mapping technique using kite-mounted cameras — and said he was “quite impressed.

    We have a few projects and clients coming up that could significantly benefit from implementing Kite Aerial Photography,” he said.

    Like FlameTech, CPW-Consulting was a fiction. Searches of Orbis and the French commercial court registry Infogreffe turned up no trace of the supposedly Paris-based company or indeed of any Paris-based company bearing the acronym CPW. And when the AP visited CPW’s alleged office there was no evidence of the company; the address was home to a mainly residential apartment building. Residents and the building’s caretaker said they had never heard of the firm.

    Whoever dreamed up CPW had taken steps to ensure the illusion survived a casual web search, but even those efforts didn’t bear much scrutiny. The company had issued a help wanted ad, for example, seeking a digital mapping specialist for their Paris office, but Scott-Railton discovered that the language had been lifted almost word-for-word from an ad from an unrelated company seeking a mapping specialist in London. A blog post touted CPW as a major player in Africa, but an examination of the author’s profile suggests the article was the only one the blogger had ever written.

    When Lambert suggested an in-person meeting in New York during a Jan. 19 phone call , Scott-Railton felt certain that Lambert was trying to set him up.

    But Scott-Railton agreed to the meeting. He planned to lay a trap of his own.

    Anyone watching Scott-Railton and Lambert laughing over wagyu beef and lobster bisque at the Peninsula Hotel’s upscale restaurant on Thursday afternoon might have mistaken the pair for friends.

    In fact, the lunch was Spy vs. Spy. Scott-Railton had spent the night before trying to secret a homemade camera into his tie, he later told AP, eventually settling for a GoPro action camera and several recording devices hidden about his person. On the table, Lambert had placed a large pen in which Scott-Railton said he spotted a tiny camera lens peeking out from an opening in the top.

    Lambert didn’t seem to be alone. At the beginning of the meal, a man sat behind him, holding up his phone as if to take pictures and then abruptly left the restaurant, having eaten nothing. Later, two or three men materialized at the bar and appeared to be monitoring proceedings.

    Scott-Railton wasn’t alone either. A few tables away, two Associated Press journalists were making small talk as they waited for a signal from Scott-Railton, who had invited the reporters to observe the lunch from nearby and then interview Lambert near the end of the meal.

    The conversation began with a discussion of kites, gossip about African politicians, and a detour through Scott-Railton’s family background. But Lambert, just like Bowman, eventually steered the talk to Citizen Lab and NSO.

    “Work drama? Tell me, I like drama!” Lambert said at one point, according to Scott-Railton’s recording of the conversation. “Is there a big competition between the people inside Citizen Lab?” he asked later.

    Like Bowman, Lambert appeared to be working off cue cards and occasionally made awkward conversational gambits. At one point he repeated a racist French expression, insisting it wasn’t offensive. He also asked Scott-Railton questions about the Holocaust, anti-Semitism and whether he grew up with any Jewish friends. At another point he asked whether there might not be a “racist element” to Citizen Lab’s interest in Israeli spyware.

    After dessert arrived, the AP reporters approached Lambert at his table and asked him why his company didn’t seem to exist.
    He seemed to stiffen.

    “I know what I’m doing,” Lambert said, as he put his files — and his pen — into a bag. Then he stood up, bumped into a chair and walked off, saying “Ciao” and waving his hand, before returning because he had neglected to pay the bill.

    As he paced around the restaurant waiting for the check, Lambert refused to answer questions about who he worked for or why no trace of his firm could be found.

    “I don’t have to give you any explanation,” he said. He eventually retreated to a back room and closed the door.

    Who Lambert and Bowman really are isn’t clear. Neither men returned emails, LinkedIn messages or phone calls. And despite their keen focus on NSO the AP has found no evidence of any link to the Israeli spyware merchant, which is adamant that it wasn’t involved.

    The kind of aggressive investigative tactics used by the mystery men who targeted Citizen Lab have come under fire in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein sexual abuse scandal. Black Cube, an Israeli private investigation firm apologized after The New Yorker and other media outlets revealed that the company’s operatives had used subterfuge and dirty tricks to help the Hollywood mogul suppress allegations of rape and sexual assault.

    Scott-Railton and Abdul Razzak said they didn’t want to speculate about who was involved. But both said they believed they were being steered toward making controversial comments that could be used to blacken Citizen Lab’s reputation.

    “It could be they wanted me to say, ’Yes, I hate Israel,’ or ’Yes, Citizen Lab is against NSO because it’s Israeli,’” said Abdul Razzak.
    Scott-Railton said the elaborate, multinational operation was gratifying, in a way.

    “People were paid to fly to a city to sit you down to an expensive meal and try to convince you to say bad things about your work, your colleagues and your employer,” he said.

    “That means that your work is important.”


  • Is Saudi Arabia repaying Trump for Khashoggi by attacking Linda Sarsour?

    A Saudi-owned website considered close to the royal family claimed that Sarsour, Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib are agents of Qatar and the Muslim Brotherhood who declared a ’jihad’ on Trump

    Allison Kaplan Sommer
    Dec 10, 2018

    https://www.haaretz.com/us-news/.premium-how-saudi-arabia-is-repaying-trump-for-his-support-on-khashoggi-1.

    There is nothing earth-shattering about seeing Women’s March leader and Arab-American activist Linda Sarsour criticized as a dangerous Islamist by the conservative right and pro-Israel advocates in the United States. But the latest attack on the activist comes from a new and somewhat surprising source: Saudi Arabia.
    Al Arabiya, a Saudi-owned, pan-Arab news channel closely linked to the country’s royal family and widely viewed as reflecting Saudi foreign policy, published an article Sunday strongly suggesting that Sarsour and two incoming Muslim congresswomen are puppets planted by the Muslim Brotherhood and Qatar to undermine the Trump administration.
    The feature, which profiles Sarsour, seems to cast her as the latest proxy figure in the kingdom’s bitter dispute with Qatar, and its bid to strengthen ties and curry favor with the White House.
    It also focused on two Democratic politicians whom Sarsour actively campaigned for in the 2018 midterms: Minnesota’s Ilhan Omar and Michigan’s Rashida Tlaib, who are set to be the first-ever Muslim congresswomen when the House reconvenes in January.

    The Al Arabiya story on Linda Sarsour’s links to the Muslim Brotherhood, December 9, 2018.Screengrab
    Headlined “Details of calls to attack Trump by US ‘Muslim Sisters’ allied to Brotherhood,” the article is light on actual details but heavy on insinuation.
    Activists like Sarsour, and politicians like Tlaib and Omar, the Saudi publication wrote, are “mujahideen” (a term used to describe those involved in jihad) – fighting against “tyrants and opponents of Trump’s foreign policies.”

    The story says the policies they are fighting include “the siege of Iran, the fight against political Islam groups, and [Trump’s] choice of Saudi Arabia under the leadership of King Salman bin Abdulaziz and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman as a strategic ally.”
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    Tlaib and Omar, Al Arabiya asserts, are agents designed to “restore” control of political Islamist movements on the U.S. government by attacking Trump. The article says this effort is being directed by Sarsour – who, it writes, is purportedly funded and controlled by the Muslim Brotherhood - a claim it fails to provide any clear basis for.
    Tamara Cofman Wittes, a senior fellow in the Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution, Washington, says it should come as little surprise to those familiar with the region that “a state-owned Arabic news outlet would publish conspiracy theories about people whose views don’t accord with those of the government that funds it.”
    Al Arabiya, based in Dubai, but Saudi-owned, was founded in 2002 as a counter to Qatar’s popular Al Jazeera TV station – which frequently runs material sharply critical of the Saudis – as well as other Arabic media outlets critical of Saudi influence and supportive of political Islam.
    The article comes as rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Qatar has heated up in recent times, with Qatar’s emir skipping this weekend’s Gulf Cooperation Council summit hosted by Saudi Arabia, which has led a diplomatic war on its neighbor for the past 18 months.
    Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and non-GCC member Egypt cut diplomatic and economic ties with Qatar in June 2017, charging that the country supports terrorism. Qatar denies the charges and says the Saudi boycott aims to curtail its sovereignty. Last week, the Gulf nation announced it was withdrawing from the OPEC oil cartel.
    Islamists vs Islamists
    “Democrats’ battle against the Republican control of the U.S. Congress led to an alliance with political Islamist movements in order to restore their control on government, pushing Muslim candidates and women activists of immigrant minorities onto the electoral scene,” the report states.
    The “common ground” between Omar and Tlaib, the article adds, is to battle Trump’s foreign policy “starting from the sanctions on Iran to the isolation of the Muslim Brotherhood and all movements of political Islam. Those sponsoring and supporting the two Muslim women to reach the U.S. Congress adopted a tactic to infiltrate through their immigrant and black minority communities in general, and women’s groups in particular.
    The article ties Sarsour to Qatar and the Muslim Brotherhood through multiple associations with the Arab American Association of New York, which “was created by Palestinian Ahmed Jaber, a member of the Qatar International Foundation responsible for funding the association,” and also her attendance at an annual meeting of the International Network of Muslim Brotherhood in North America and Canada in 2016.
    The article compares Sarsour’s rhetoric to that “used by Muslim Brotherhood teachings and in the views of Sayyid Qutb, a scholar and co-founder of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, as well as from Abul A’la Maududi’s books ‘Islam and Ignorance’ and ‘Fundamentals of Islam.’
    “From all that is mentioned, we can touch the influence of Muslim Brotherhood in shaping the thoughts of American activist Linda Sarsour and consequently her declaring her ‘jihad’ against U.S. President Donald Trump, in addition to her call for the application of ‘Sharia,’ the rule of Islam in the United States of America,” the piece asserts.
    No one knows for sure whether Al Arabiya received direct orders from the Saudi government to attack Sarsour, Tlaib, Omar and other politically active Muslim women on the American left.
    Those familiar with Middle East media say conspiracy-minded attacks against figures in American politics aren’t particularly unusual in Arabic,
    but what is unique about this article is the fact it appeared in English on the network’s website.
    It seems to be a highly creative attempt to somehow repay the Trump White House as it deals with the fallout from the Jamal Khashoggi assassination. As Trump continues to take heat for staying close to the Saudis, they, in turn, are demonstrating their loyalty with their willingness to vilify people who were President Barack Obama’s supporters and are now Trump’s political enemies – even if they wear a hijab.

    Allison Kaplan Sommer
    Haaretz Correspondent


  • Top White House Official Involved in Saudi Sanctions Resigns - The New York Times
    https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/17/us/politics/trump-khashoggi-saudi-arabia.html

    A top White House official responsible for American policy toward Saudi Arabia resigned on Friday evening, a move that may suggest fractures inside the Trump administration over the response to the brutal killing of the dissident Jamal Khashoggi.

    The official, Kirsten Fontenrose, had pushed for tough measures against the Saudi government, and had been in Riyadh to discuss a raft of sanctions that the American government imposed in recent days against those identified as responsible for the killing, according to two people familiar with the conversations. Specifically, she advocated that Saud al-Qahtani, a top adviser to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, be added to the list, and he ultimately was.

    Mauvais timing pour le renvoi de cette fonctionnaire de la Maison blanche en charge du dossier saoudien et qui souhaitait apparemment des sanctions : cela vient juste au moment des fuites sur le rapport de la CIA mettant en cause #MBS et, par dessus le marché, une vidéo (totalement invérifiable) se met à circuler montrant des morceaux choisis (!) du démantèlement (https://twitter.com/mazmbc/status/1063753281099325440)

    #gore de gore #arabie_saoudite #grand_jeu


  • A relire

    Wikileaks: Egyptian media and journalists go to Saudi for financing | MadaMasr
    https://madamasr.com/en/2015/07/05/feature/politics/wikileaks-egyptian-media-and-journalists-go-to-saudi-for-financing

    Since the Wikileaks website began posting leaked documents from the Saudi Arabian government, the issue of the Kingdom financing Egyptian media channels, journalists and researchers has garnered major attention.  

    While the first group of documents released on the website on June 19 contained details regarding funding requests by pro-regime journalist Mostafa Bakry and religious preacher Amr Khalid, unpublished documents received by Mada Masr, upon an agreement with Wikileaks, has shed light on new names and details.

    Requests for funding from the Saudi government varied, and in some cases was in exchange for writing articles, the fees for which were collected from the embassy.

    One of the documents, titled “Bill of the representative of Dar al-Helal Institution,” is a memo raised by the head of the media affairs department at the Saudi Foreign Ministry to the deputy minister of culture and media in the Kingdom, requesting the disbursement of a check of US$68,000 to the state-owned Egyptian Dar al-Helal in February 2012 “for publishing a series of weekly articles throughout the pilgrimage season 1432 H on the achievements of Saudi Arabia in renovating and expanding the two holy mosques and other recent projects.”

    During the period referred to in the cables, writer Abdel Qader Shohaieb was head of the board of Al-Helal institution, while Hamdi Rizk, a staunch supporter of Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s government, was editor-in-chief of Al-Mosawar, one of its publications. Al-Helal is considered one of the oldest media publishing houses in Egypt and the region.

    Other publications were not as successful in collecting funds in exchange for publishing articles favoring the Kingdom, especially when the request for funding came after publishing without prior coordination.


  • Khashoggi and the Jewish question - Middle East - Jerusalem Post
    https://www.jpost.com/Middle-East/Khashoggi-and-the-Jewish-question-569256

    Khashoggi and the Jewish question
    “It is certainly not in our interests to see the status of the Saudi government diminished in Washington.”
    By Herb Keinon
    October 12, 2018 04:24

    The disappearance of Saudi government critic and Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi in Turkey – and the very real possibility that the Saudis either kidnapped him, killed him, or both – is no exception.

    On the surface, this story seems distant from Jerusalem. Israel was not involved in any way, and even Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who never misses an opportunity to blast Israel, is not saying that Jerusalem had anything to do with it.

    (...)
    As a New York Times headline read on Thursday, “Khashoggi’s disappearance puts Kushner’s bet on Saudi crown prince at risk.”

    US President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner has invested much in building a relationship with MBS, and Jerusalem – for its own interests – hopes that this particular bet does not turn sour.

    (...) As Dore Gold, the head of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and former Foreign Ministry director-general, said: “This problem could be used by the Iranians to drive a wedge between the West and Saudi Arabia.”

    That is bad for Israel, he added, because “anything that strengthens Iran’s posturing in the Middle East is bad for Israel,” and in the Mideast balance of power, a weakened Saudi Arabia means a strengthened Iran.

    It also means a strengthened Turkey, which could explain why Ankara is going the full monty on this issue, releasing surveillance tape and leaking information about the investigation.

    “Turkey is part of an axis with Qatar,” Gold said, “and that puts Saudi Arabia at odds with the Turkish government.


  • No Saudi #Aramco IPO? No problem, potentially, for Saudi Arabia’s investment dreams
    https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/24/business/dealbook/saudi-arabia-aramco-ipo.html

    The world’s largest initial public offering is on hiatus. The spending it was to enable may not be.

    Saudi Arabia planned to take its giant oil company, Saudi Aramco, to the public markets. It was to be the linchpin of a grand economic vision, generating billions of dollars to pay for future-proofing the kingdom’s economy, including huge investments in technology.

    It is now postponed, leaving a large funding shortfall. But Saudi Arabia is pursuing alternative transactions that could ensure its dreams aren’t dashed:

    • Saudi Aramco is in discussions to buy a large stake in Sabic, a publicly traded chemical company. Sabic’s controlling shareholder is Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, the Public Investment Fund. While the size of that potential acquisition is unclear, media reports say it could be as big as $70 billion.

    • The Public Investment Fund is in talks to raise $11 billion in bank loans from international lenders, according to The Financial Times. It would be the first time the sovereign wealth fund borrowed money.

    • Saudi Aramco could still sell a stake in itself. Big companies in China and Russia reportedly expressed interest in an investment in the past. It isn’t clear how much a sale would raise, but it would almost certainly run to billions of dollars.

    The Saudi government planned to sell about 5 percent of Saudi Aramco on public stock markets. If the oil giant could have fetched a $2 trillion valuation — and there has been skepticism over that figure — the kingdom would have received roughly $100 billion.

    The three new moves, if they were to happen, could yield almost as much as Saudi Aramco’s I.P.O. would have. The Saudi government would then have the financial firepower to pursue its grand economic goals, collectively known as #Vision_2030.

    That means money to invest in Silicon Valley start-ups. Or to create a giant new city that runs on clean energy and robots.

    Or to even help Elon Musk take Tesla private. Saudi Arabia already has a nearly 5 percent stake in the carmaker, and Mr. Musk has said it is interested in helping fund a buyout. But the Public Investment Fund has yet to send such a signal, and is reportedly in talks to invest in a Tesla rival.

    #arabie_saoudite


  • As a Saudi student being forced to leave Canada, I’m going through the 5 stages of grief | CBC News
    https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/calgary/saudi-arabia-student-leave-canada-riyadh-1.4786874

    ​About 8,300 Saudi post-secondary students living in Canada were left shocked and scrambling earlier this month when Saudi Arabia abruptly ordered them to withdraw from their studies and leave the country by Aug. 31. The move was prompted by a foreign policy feud between Riyadh and Ottawa that started when the Saudi government took offence at a Canadian government tweet. Here, one of those students shares his story of how the diplomatic feud is devastating his dreams after years of hard work. CBC News has agreed to keep his identity confidential because he fears repercussions from his home country.

    #droits_humains #canada #arabie_saoudite

    https://seenthis.net/messages/716166


  • L’interview de la mère d’Oussama Ben Laden, Alia Ghanem, par Martin Chulov dans le Guardian est l’évènement médiatique du moment :
    https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/aug/03/osama-bin-laden-mother-speaks-out-family-interview
    L’article a été largement signalé et commenté (positivement) dans les grands médias français.

    Or, en dehors d’Angry Arab, personne ne semble vouloir remarquer que l’interview reprend tous les talking points de la propagande séoudienne de l’ère Mohamed Bin Salman.

    D’entrée de jeu, Chulov admet qu’il interviewe la famille Ben Laden sous le contrôle du régime séoudien :

    Now, Saudi Arabia’s new leadership – spearheaded by the ambitious 32-year-old heir to the throne, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman – has agreed to my request to speak to the family. (As one of the country’s most influential families, their movements and engagements remain closely monitored.)

    Voilà l’une des dictatures les plus violentes de la planète, où le déplaisir du prince vous vaudra la ruine, ou la prison, ou la réclusion à vie dans une résidence privée, ou quelques centaines de coups de fouets, voire la décapitation. Un pays où des milliardaires parmi les plus puissants ont été retenus dans un hôtel, possiblement torturés, avant d’être proprement ruinés. Où un Premier ministre étranger a été retenu et démissionné d’office.

    Mais si la famille accepte enfin de parler – avec l’accord de la nouvelle direction du régime – c’est, selon Chulov, pour éviter de « réouvrir d’anciennes plaies » :

    Unsurprisingly, Osama bin Laden’s family are cautious in our initial negotiations; they are not sure whether opening old wounds will prove cathartic or harmful. But after several days of discussion, they are willing to talk.

    L’idée qu’il n’est pas bien sain, d’un point de vue journalistique, de présenter dans de telles conditions la parole de ces gens comme un authentique entretien, est soulevée dans la fin de l’article par une demi-sœur de Ben Laden installée (réfugiée ?) à Paris. Objection balayée d’une phrase et l’euphémisme « complicated status in the kingdom » :

    From her home in Paris, she later emailed to say she strongly objected to her mother being interviewed, asking that it be rearranged through her. Despite the blessing of her brothers and father, she felt her mother had been pressured into talking. Ghanem, however, insisted she was happy to talk and could have talked longer. It is, perhaps, a sign of the extended family’s complicated status in the kingdom that such tensions exist.

    D’ailleurs la conversation se fait ouvertement en présence d’un commissaire politique du régime mais, précise notre grand reporter : qui ne fait aucune tentative pour influencer la conversation…

    When we meet on a hot day in early June, a minder from the Saudi government sits in the room, though she makes no attempt to influence the conversation.

    On est heureux de constater que les méthodes séoudienness se sont affinées depuis l’interview grotesque de Saad Hariri.

    Bref, l’entretien commence.

    D’entrée de jeu, premier élément de langage tiré de la propagande officielle saoudienne : Oussame Ben Laden s’est radicalisé sous l’influence d’un membre des Frères musulmans. Subtile…

    “The people at university changed him,” Ghanem says. “He became a different man.” One of the men he met there was Abdullah Azzam, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood who was later exiled from Saudi Arabia and became Osama’s spiritual adviser.

    Un autre élément de langage, central, reviendra plusieurs fois dans l’interview : en Afghanistan, Ben Laden est un type très bien : il n’est pas encore un jihadiste (jusqu’en 1999…).

    “[…] He spent all his money on Afghanistan – he would sneak off under the guise of family business.” Did she ever suspect he might become a jihadist? “It never crossed my mind.”

    Tant qu’à faire, le petit détail sectaire qui ne trompe pas : la maman de Ben Laden est alaouite :

    Ghanem begins to relax, and talks about her childhood in the coastal Syrian city of Latakia, where she grew up in a family of Alawites, an offshoot of Shia Islam.

    Évidemment, le bon fan-boy de la rébellitude syrienne ne tarde pas à en faire la bonne lecture : la mère de Ben Laden est alaouite « comme les Assad ». Par exemple Sam Dagher te conseille l’article en commençant par cette remarque (subtile) :
    https://twitter.com/samdagher/status/1025343757229678597

    Must read by ⁦@martinchulov⁩ on Bin Laden’s mother. She’s Syrian Alawite like the Assads. […]

    Un autre talking point typique de MBS : l’Arabie séoudite était un pays relativement libéral dans les années 70 (ah ah… comment traduire « freewheeling » ici sans paraître totalement ridicule), mais a adopté une interprétation rigoriste du wahhabisme en réaction à la révolution iranienne (dont le but, écrit-il, était d’exporter le chiisme dans le monde arabe sunnite).

    Osama bin Laden’s formative years in Jeddah came in the relatively freewheeling 1970s, before the Iranian Revolution of 1979, which aimed to export Shia zeal into the Sunni Arab world. From then on, Saudi’s rulers enforced a rigid interpretation of Sunni Islam – one that had been widely practised across the Arabian peninsula since the 18th century, the era of cleric Muhammed ibn Abdul Wahhab.

    Ah, il faut te dire qu’à ce moment de ce long article, l’interview proprement dite de la mère de Ben Laden est terminée depuis longtemps, et n’a dû occuper que deux gros paragraphes…

    À la place, on part dans des considérations enthousiastes sur cette nouvelle direction saoudienne, sous l’influence de Bin Salman, qui voudrait instaurer un « islam modéré » en Arabie (Chulov est d’ailleurs sans surprise coupable, dans le Guardian, de plusieurs articles enthousiastes sur les femmes séoudiennes autorisées à conduire) :

    In 2018, Saudi’s new leadership wants to draw a line under this era and introduce what bin Salman calls “moderate Islam”. This he sees as essential to the survival of a state where a large, restless and often disaffected young population has, for nearly four decades, had little access to entertainment, a social life or individual freedoms. Saudi’s new rulers believe such rigid societal norms, enforced by clerics, could prove fodder for extremists who tap into such feelings of frustration.

    Reform is beginning to creep through many aspects of Saudi society; among the most visible was June’s lifting of the ban on women drivers. There have been changes to the labour markets and a bloated public sector; cinemas have opened, and an anti-corruption drive launched across the private sector and some quarters of government. The government also claims to have stopped all funding to Wahhabi institutions outside the kingdom, which had been supported with missionary zeal for nearly four decades.

    Such radical shock therapy is slowly being absorbed across the country, where communities conditioned to decades of uncompromising doctrine don’t always know what to make of it. Contradictions abound: some officials and institutions eschew conservatism, while others wholeheartedly embrace it. Meanwhile, political freedoms remain off-limits; power has become more centralised and dissent is routinely crushed.

    Toujours plus éloigné du sujet initial (la maman d’Oussama), le prince Turki al-Faisal, l’« érudit » ancien chef des services secrets saoudiens :

    I meet Prince Turki al-Faisal, who was the head of Saudi intelligence for 24 years, between 1977 and 1 September 2001 (10 days before the 9/11 attacks), at his villa in Jeddah. An erudite man now in his mid-70s, Turki wears green cufflinks bearing the Saudi flag on the sleeves of his thobe.

    Lequel te synthétise l’élément de langage central de l’article : en Afghanistan c’est un combattant de la liberté, et c’est après que ça se gâte :

    “There are two Osama bin Ladens,” he tells me. “One before the end of the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, and one after it. Before, he was very much an idealistic mujahid. He was not a fighter. By his own admission, he fainted during a battle, and when he woke up, the Soviet assault on his position had been defeated.”

    As Bin Laden moved from Afghanistan to Sudan, and as his links to Saudi Arabia soured, it was Turki who spoke with him on behalf of the kingdom. In the wake of 9/11, these direct dealings came under intense scrutiny.

    Et une autre explication totalement tirée par les cheveux : si la plupart des terroristes du 11 Septembre étaient séoudiens, ce n’était pas parce que les Séoudiens vivent dans un environnement toxique depuis l’enfance, mais parce que Ben Laden voulait tourner le monde occidental contre l’Arabie… Oui, c’est une très jolie théorie du complot dans laquelle on présente le royaume comme une victime du 11 Septembre :

    “There is no doubt that he deliberately chose Saudi citizens for the 9/11 plot,” a British intelligence officer tells me. “He was convinced that was going to turn the west against his ... home country. He did indeed succeed in inciting a war, but not the one he expected.”

    Et pour terminer, enfonçons le clou sur l’authentique conviction réformatrice (« mais pourra-t-il réussir ? ») de ce brave Mohammed Bin Salman :

    While change has been attempted in Saudi Arabia before, it has been nowhere near as extensive as the current reforms. How hard Mohammed bin Salman can push against a society indoctrinated in such an uncompromising worldview remains an open question.

    Saudia Arabia’s allies are optimistic, but offer a note of caution. The British intelligence officer I spoke to told me, “If Salman doesn’t break through, there will be many more Osamas. And I’m not sure they’ll be able to shake the curse.”

    • Objection balayée d’une phrase et l’euphémisme « complicated status in the kingdom »

      Je n’arrive plus à me rappeler où j’ai entendu la réplique « It’s complicated », réponse typique de profiteurs qui se font du pognon dans un pays dictatorial. En fait, je ne me souviens plus si c’est dans un docu ou dans une comédie (grinçante) !

      Ah oui, c’est dans Mariage gay à Tel Aviv et Jean Stern finit par en faire une blague. Tout le monde (État et business) se pâme sur la liberté sexuelle à Tel Aviv et chaque fois qu’il pose une question sur le conflit avec la Palestine, il obtient cette réponse. « It’s complicated. » Traduction : je n’en ai rien à foutre et j’aimerais beaucoup que toi aussi.


  • https://www.forbes.com/sites/ellenrwald/2018/07/25/signs-point-to-trouble-ahead-for-saudi-economy/#3591ae46635d

    Signs Point To Trouble Ahead For Saudi Economy

    The lasting impact of that crackdown (or purge, depending on how you see it) has been a stifling of the Saudi private sector, with many wealthy Saudis unwilling to invest domestically despite Prince Mohammad bin Salman’s centralized push for business growth . The government, under the direction of the prince, is trying to compel economic growth and diversification, primarily through the Vision2030 program. This has left the Saudi government as the major source of investment in the Saudi economy, which, ultimately, defeats the objectives of diversification and privatization. Government investment can make Saudi economic numbers look good on paper, but it is a risky strategy. When oil prices fall so does government spending (meaning government spending does not lead to diversification).

    This also sends a troubling signal to foreign investors and foreign businesses considering opportunities in the kingdom. If Saudis are trying to move their money out of the country—and if the government is concerned enough to prevent them from doing so—foreign investors or companies looking to open businesses in Saudi Arabia will hesitate. Without assurances that the rule of law is respected in Saudi Arabia, foreign businesses will consider Saudi Arabia too risky to enter. Capital flight from Saudi citizens is a key indicator.

    #arabie_saoudite suites de la #nuit_torride


  • Tony Blair is advising the Saudi government under a £9 million deal between the country and his ’institute’
    https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/07/21/tony-blair-advising-saudi-government-9-million-deal-country

    Tony Blair is quietly advising the Saudi government under a £9 million deal with his “institute for global change”, The Sunday Telegraph can disclose.

    The former prime minister’s company reached an agreement earlier this year to help support the Saudi Crown Prince’s modernisation programme, under a “not for profit” arrangement.

    It is the first major deal to have emerged involving the Tony Blair Institute, which Mr Blair established in 2016 after winding down his commercial operations.

    This newspaper understands that the institute received a $10 million (£7.6 million) payment in January for the work, which is carried out by the institute’s staff based in the Middle East.

    Pour le reste, il faut payer mais c’est déjà assez instructif comme ça !


  • Saudi Arabia Still Detaining Dozens From Corruption Crackdown - WSJ
    https://www.wsj.com/articles/saudi-arabia-still-detaining-dozens-from-corruption-crackdown-1530734356

    Those still in custody include some of Saudi Arabia’s richest men, and some who once held powerful government positions until their arrests last November. Among them are Mohammed al-Amoudi, a Saudi-Ethiopian billionaire; Bakr bin Laden, the chairman of the construction giant Saudi Binladin Group; Amr al-Dabbagh, former head of Saudi Arabia’s investment agency; and Adel Fakeih, a former economy minister and once a trusted aide to Prince Mohammed.

    Also detained is a senior royal, Prince Turki bin Abdullah, who served as governor of Riyadh and is a son of the previous monarch, King Abdullah.

    [...]

    Since the Ritz was closed as a detention center and reopened as a hotel in late January, there has been nearly complete official silence on the cases of 56 suspects who didn’t agree to a settlement.

    The Saudi government wants to avoid the publicity of the Ritz episode “and will do things more quietly with any new arrests,” a person familiar with the matter said.

    #Arabie_saoudite


  • Saudi Arabia Detains Activists Who Pushed to End Ban on Women Driving
    By Ben Hubbard
    May 18, 2018
    https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/18/world/middleeast/saudi-women-drivers-arrests.html

    BEIRUT, Lebanon — Saudi Arabia has detained at least five people connected to the campaign to end the kingdom’s longtime ban on women driving, despite the fact that the government has promised to lift the ban next month, associates of the detainees said on Friday.

    The Saudi government has billed the lifting of the driving ban as part of a reform push spearheaded by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The changes have also included curtailing the powers of the religious authorities and expanding the entertainment options available in the conservative kingdom.

    But those efforts have coincided with waves of arrests that have scooped up clerics, businessmen, members of the royal family and activists who have a history of challenging the government’s positions. Many of them have not been officially charged with crimes despite having been held for months.

    The Saudi government did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the new detentions, and it remained unclear whether those detained had been charged with anything.

    #réformes #MBS #arabie_saoudite


  • MBS : les Palestiniens doivent accepter le « plan de paix » étasunien ou « la fermer »

    https://www.axios.com/saudi-crown-prince-tells-jewish-leaders-palestinians-should-take-what-they-ar

    In a closed-door meeting with heads of Jewish organizations in New York on March 27th, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman (MBS) gave harsh criticism of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen), according to an Israeli foreign ministry cable sent by a diplomat from the Israeli consulate in New York, as well three sources — Israeli and American — who were briefed about the meeting.

    The bottom line of the crown prince’s criticism: Palestinian leadership needs to finally take the proposals it gets from the U.S. or stop complaining.

    According to my sources, the Saudi Crown Prince told the Jewish leaders:

    In the last several decades the Palestinian leadership has missed one opportunity after the other and rejected all the peace proposals it was given. It is about time the Palestinians take the proposals and agree to come to the negotiations table or shut up and stop complaining.
    — MBS

    MBS also made two other points on the Palestinian issue during the meeting:

    He made clear the Palestinian issue was not a top priority for the Saudi government or Saudi public opinion. MBS said Saudi Arabia “has much more urgent and important issues to deal with” like confronting Iran’s influence in the region.

    Regardless of all his criticism of the Palestinian leadership, MBS also made clear that in order for Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states to normalize relations with Israel there will have to be significant progress on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

    What we’re hearing: A source who was briefed on the meeting told me the attendees were stunned when they heard the Saudi Crown Prince comments on the Palestinian issue. “People literally fell off their chairs,” the source said.

    Why it matters: In the last year, the Trump administration has been drafting a plan for Israeli-Palestinian peace. The White House peace team, led by Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner and special envoy Jason Greenblatt, has basically finished drafting the plan and is discussing how and when to launch it.

    Launching the plan will be difficult because of the Palestinians have been boycotting the White House since Trump’s December 6th Jerusalem announcement.

    In the last year, Kushner managed to get MBS on board in trying to move the peace process forward, and get the Arab world to urge the Palestinians to enter peace talks with Israel on the basis of the U.S. peace plan.

    #Arabie_saoudite #Palestine #Israel #dirigeants_arabes #indigents_arabes « #monde_arabe »

    • « Qu’ils négocient ou qu’ils ferment leur bouche » : ce que MBS pense des Palestiniens
      Devant des responsables juifs américains, en mars dernier, le prince héritier saoudien a vivement critiqué la posture de la direction palestinienne
      MEE | 30 avril 2018
      http://www.middleeasteye.net/fr/reportages/que-les-palestiniens-n-gocient-ou-quils-ferment-leur-bouche-ce-que-mb

      « Au cours des dernières décennies, les dirigeants palestiniens ont manqué les opportunités, les unes après les autres, et rejeté toutes les propositions de paix qui leur ont été faites. Il est temps que les Palestiniens acceptent les propositions, qu’ils viennent à la table des négociations ou alors qu’ils ferment leur bouche et qu’ils arrêtent de se plaindre. » Cette déclaration n’émane pas d’un faucon israélien ou d’un leader de la droite dure de Washington. L’auteur de ces critiques n’est autre que Mohammed ben Salmane, prince héritier du royaume d’Arabie saoudite.
      C’est la chaîne israélienne Channel 10 et son journaliste Barak Ravid qui rapportent les détails d’une rencontre du prince saoudien avec des responsables d’organisations juives aux États-Unis le 27 mars dernier. MBS a alors rencontré des représentants de l’American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), des Fédérations juives d’Amérique du Nord, du Comité des juifs américains, de la Ligue anti-diffamation et de l’Ordre indépendant du B’nai B’rith à New York. (…)


  • He Owns Much of Ethiopia. The Saudis Won’t Say Where They’re Hiding Him. - The New York Times
    https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/16/business/saudi-arabia-purge.html

    But the gilded life of Sheikh Mohammed Hussein Al Amoudi took a sharp turn in November. Sheikh Amoudi, the gregarious 71-year-old son of a Yemeni businessman and his Ethiopian wife, was swept up with hundreds of billionaires, princes and other well-connected figures in what the Saudi government says is an anti-corruption campaign that has seized more than $100 billion in assets.

    Many other detainees, who were initially kept at a Ritz-Carlton hotel in Riyadh, have been released, including Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, the well-known international investor. Sheikh Amoudi’s cousin Mohammed Aboud Al Amoudi, a property developer, was also let go.

    But Sheikh Amoudi, once called the world’s richest black person by Forbes, has not been freed, leaving a vast empire that employs more than 70,000 people in limbo. He controls businesses from Ethiopia, where he is the largest private employer and the most prominent backer of the authoritarian government, to Sweden, where he owns a large fuel company, to London, which he has used as a base to set up a number of companies.

    #prison_dorée #arabie_saoudite


  • Saudis Said to Use Coercion and Abuse to Seize Billions - The New York Times

    https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/11/world/middleeast/saudi-arabia-corruption-mohammed-bin-salman.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Hom

    RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — Businessmen once considered giants of the Saudi economy now wear ankle bracelets that track their movements. Princes who led military forces and appeared in glossy magazines are monitored by guards they do not command. Families who flew on private jets cannot gain access to their bank accounts. Even wives and children have been forbidden to travel.

    In November, the Saudi government locked up hundreds of influential businessmen — many of them members of the royal family — in the Riyadh Ritz-Carlton in what it called an anti-corruption campaign.

    Most have since been released but they are hardly free. Instead, this large sector of Saudi Arabia’s movers and shakers are living in fear and uncertainty.

    During months of captivity, many were subject to coercion and physical abuse, witnesses said. In the early days of the crackdown, at least 17 detainees were hospitalized for physical abuse and one later died in custody with a neck that appeared twisted, a badly swollen body and other signs of abuse, according to a person who saw the body.

    In an email to The New York Times on Sunday, the government denied accusations of physical abuse as “absolutely untrue.”

    Continue reading the main story
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    To leave the Ritz, many of the detainees not only surrendered huge sums of money, but also signed over to the government control of precious real estate and shares of their companies — all outside any clear legal process.

    The government has yet to actually seize many of the assets, leaving the former detainees and their families in limbo.

    One former detainee, forced to wear a tracking device, has sunk into depression as his business collapses. “We signed away everything,” a relative of his said. “Even the house I am in, I am not sure if it is still mine.”

    As the architect of the crackdown, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, prepares to travel to the United States this month to court American investment, Saudi officials are spotlighting his reforms: his promise to let women drive, his plans to expand entertainment opportunities and his moves to encourage foreign investment. They have denied any allegations of abuse and have portrayed the Ritz episode as an orderly legal process that has wound down.

    But extensive interviews with Saudi officials, members of the royal family, and relatives, advisers and associates of the detainees revealed a murkier, coercive operation, marked by cases of physical abuse, which transferred billions of dollars in private wealth to the crown prince’s control.

    Corruption has long been endemic in Saudi Arabia, and many of the detainees were widely assumed to have stolen from state coffers. But the government, citing privacy laws, has refused to specify the charges against individuals and, even after they were released, to clarify who was found guilty or innocent, making it impossible to know how much the process was driven by personal score settling.

    Part of the campaign appears to be driven by a family feud, as Crown Prince Mohammed presses the children of King Abdullah, the monarch who died in 2015, to give back billions of dollars that they consider their inheritance, according to three associates of the Abdullah family.

    And although the government said the campaign would increase transparency, it has been conducted in secret, with transactions carried out in ways that avoid public disclosure, and with travel bans and fear of reprisals preventing detainees from speaking freely.

    Most people interviewed for this article spoke on the condition of anonymity to avoid the risk of appearing to criticize Crown Prince Mohammed.

    The government said in its email that “the investigations, led by the Attorney General, were conducted in full accordance to Saudi laws. All those under investigation had full access to legal counsel in addition to medical care to address pre-existing, chronic conditions.”

    The government, and several Saudi officials contacted separately, declined to answer further questions about the crackdown.

    They have argued, however, that it was a necessarily harsh means of returning ill-gotten gains to the treasury while sending a clear message that the old, corrupt ways of doing business are over. And they have defended the process as a kind of Saudi-style plea bargain in which settlements were reached to avoid the time and economic disruption of a drawn-out legal process.

    In a separate statement on Sunday announcing new anti-corruption departments in the Attorney General’s office, the government said that King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed “are keen to eradicate corruption with utmost force and transparency.”

    But the opaque and extralegal nature of the campaign has rattled the very foreign investors the prince is now trying to woo.

    “At the start of the crackdown they promised transparency, but they did not deliver it,” said Robert Jordan, who served as American ambassador to Saudi Arabia under President George W. Bush. “Without any kind of transparency or rule of law, it makes investors nervous that their investments might be taken and that their Saudi partners might be detained without any rationale to the charges.”


  • The bizarre alliance between the US and Saudi Arabia is finally fraying
    https://www.newstatesman.com/world/2017/11/bizarre-alliance-between-us-and-saudi-arabia-finally-fraying

    (British governments haven’t been any better: the Saudis have been close allies and major buyers of UK arms since the 1960s and, this summer, Theresa May buried an official report on the foreign funding of extremism which is believed to have highlighted the significant role played by Saudi Arabia.)

    See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil. That’s been the shameless position of Western governments when it comes to the Gulf kingdom. Successive US administrations, Democrat and Republican, have even stayed silent on the supposedly all-important issue of terrorism. Fifteen of the 19 hijackers on 9/11 were Saudi citizens? No problem. “Donors in Saudi Arabia constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide,” according to a leaked State Department memo? Don’t worry about it. Islamic State is printing copies of Saudi textbooks to use in their schools? Ssshhhh.

    These days, the conventional wisdom is that the Trump administration has revitalised the US-Saudi special relationship. The president – who once suggested the Saudi government was behind 9/11! – made the kingdom the first stop on his inaugural foreign trip in May and then threw his full support behind Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman’s controversial purge of his royal rivals on 4 November.


    • Per usual, the Guardian reserves the label “regime” for Official Enemies like Syria and North Korea; Saudi Arabia doesn’t have a regime, it has “leadership.” Unlike adversary governments, often seen in need of “regime change,” the Saudi government merely requires “reform”—and a bold new “reformer,” of the sort championed by the likes of the Guardian and New York Times.


  • Moon of Alabama à propos de la démission de Saad Hariri (en gros : grosse destabilisation du Liban, qui échouera et finira par renforcer intérêts russes et iraniens) :
    http://www.moonofalabama.org/2017/11/lebanon-hariris-resignation-the-opening-shot-of-the-saudi-war-on-hizb

    The resignation of Hariri is intended to provoke a constitutional crisis in Lebanon and to prevent new parliament elections. The further Saudi plan is likely to evolve around these elements:

    – The Trump administration will announce new sanctions against Hizbullah and against Lebanon in general.
    – The Saudi government will slip some of its al-Qaeda/ISIS proxy fighters from Syria and Iraq into Lebanon (possibly via Turkey by sea). It will finance local Lebanese terror operations.
    – There will be new assassination attempts, terror attacks and general rioting by Sunni extremist elements against Christians and Shia in Lebanon.
    – The U.S. will try to press the Lebanese army into a war against Hizbullah.
    – Israel will try to provoke and divert Hizbullah’s attention by new shenanigans at the Lebanese and Syrian border. It will NOT start a war.

    The plan is unlikely to succeed:

    – The Lebanese people as a whole have no interest in a new civil war.
    – The Lebanese army will not get involved on any specific side but will try to keep everyone calm.
    – Sanctions against Hizbullah will hit all of Lebanon, including Sunni interests.
    – A new Sunni prime minister will be found and installed, replacing the resigned Saudi puppet.
    – Russian and Iranian economic interests will find a new market in Lebanon. Russian companies will engage in Lebanese gas and oil extraction in the Mediterranean and replace U.S. involvement.

    The miscalculated Saudi/U.S./Israeli plan against Hizbullah can be understood as a helpless tantrum after their defeat in Syria and Iraq.

    Je vois qu’il y a déjà une traduction en français :
    http://arretsurinfo.ch/liban-demission-dhariri-premiere-salve-de-la-guerre-saoudienne-contre-l

    • Hezbollah is Not a Threat to America | The American Conservative
      http://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/hezbollah-is-not-a-threat-to-america

      Western-backed militants are in retreat, Bashar al-Assad remains president, Hezbollah has stretched its wings regionally, Israeli power is in decline, and Iran is on the rise. Not a pretty result for Washington’s multi-billion dollar investment in the Syrian conflict, especially if it was intended to change the map of the region to favor U.S. interests.

      The Trump administration is therefore moving to hit its regional adversaries on alternative, non-military fronts—mainly, employing the sanctions tool that can cripple economies, besiege communities, and stir up public discontent.

      The first step was to decertify the nuclear agreement struck between Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany (P5+1), which would open up a pathway to further U.S. sanctions against Iran.

      The second step is to resuscitate the Hezbollah “threat” and isolate the organization using legal maneuvers and financial sanctions—what one pro-U.S. Lebanese Central Bank official calls “the new tools of imperialism.”

      The U.S. listed Hezbollah as a “terrorist organization” 20 years ago this month. Most other states, as well as the United Nations Security Council, have not.

      Two weeks ago, at a State Department briefing on the Hezbollah “threat,” National Counterterrorism Center Director Nicholas J. Rasmussen tried to paint a picture of an organization that was directing “terrorism acts worldwide” and posing a threat “to U.S. interests” including “here in the homeland.”

      “Prior to September 11,” Rasmussen claimed, “I think everybody knows Hezbollah was responsible for the terrorism-related deaths of more U.S. citizens than any other foreign terrorist organization.”


  • Hate Speech in Saudi Arabia

    Under Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman, the Saudi government has promoted the kingdom as becoming a more open and tolerant country. Yet, as a new Human Rights Watch report “‘They Are Not Our Brothers’: Hate Speech by Saudi Officials” details, Saudi authorities continue to not only permit but propagate incitement to hatred and discrimination against other religions and Islamic traditions that do not adhere to its interpretation of Sunni Islam. This hate speech—which can be found in the country’s criminal justice system, the Ministry of Education’s religion curriculum, and in government clerics’ fatwas and statements—is instrumental in Saudi Arabia’s enforcement of a system of discrimination against its own Saudi #Shia citizens.


    https://globalfreedomofexpression.columbia.edu/events/hate-speech-saudi-arabia

    #hate_speech #racisme #xénophobie #Arabie_Saoudite #rapport #discriminations #migrations #propagande


  • Saudi Arabia is reportedly revising its ambitious plans to change its economy
    https://www.cnbc.com/2017/09/07/saudi-arabia-is-reportedly-revising-its-ambitious-plans-to-change-its-economy.

    The news comes as discussions heat up around the anticipated transfer of power from the Kingdom’s King Salman to his son Prince Mohammed.

    A research note released Thursday by analysis firm Eurasia Group suggested that the transfer could occur within the coming weeks to prevent the likelihood of dissent from other members of the ruling family.

    “We think King Salman will proceed with promoting his son to his place in the next few weeks (if not imminently) to prevent MBS’s (Mohammed bin Salman) rivals from organizing to challenge the transition plan,” Ayham Kamel, practice head, Middle East & North Africa, at Eurasia Group noted.

    But analysts have opined that the revisions indicate that infighting is already underway.

    “Reports that the Saudi government is planning to dilute its reform plans may be the first sign that the power and influence of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is starting to wane and that broader opposition to reform is building,” Jason Tuvey, Middle East economist for Capital Economics, wrote in a research note.

    “There’s a clear risk that the reforms, which already fell short in a number of key areas, will be watered down even further.”

    “This supports our long-held view that Vision 2030 will fall short of its lofty intentions,” Tuvey added.

    #Arabie_saoudite


  • Inside the Saudi town that’s been under siege for three months by its own government | The Independent
    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/saudi-arabia-siege-town-own-citizens-government-kingdom-military-gove

    When Donald Trump arrived in Saudi Arabia on his first trip abroad as US President in May, officials in Riyadh made a spectacular effort to promote the idea of unity in the Muslim world, inviting more than 100 leaders of Muslim nations to attend the Arab Islamic American Summit with the new President.

    Critics pointed out that the Saudi-led coalition contributing to the misery in Yemen put paid to that idea. Even closer to home, however, the Saudi government had just begun a war on a town in the country’s restive east – a battle that is still raging despite receiving very little media coverage both within the conservative Kingdom and outside it.

    #arabie_saoudite #yémen


  • Saudi Arabia’s dependent fees leave Egyptian expats in dire straits

    http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2017/07/saudi-arabia-fees-egypt-expats-economic-trouble.html

    Egyptian workers along with other expatriates in Saudi Arabia expressed their concerns over the Saudi government’s recent decision to impose new fees on the dependents of foreign workers, in a move to boost state revenues that have been hit by the decline in oil prices. Feeling the pinch of the increased fees, many Egyptians are planning to send their families back home to avoid this extra financial burden that will swallow their salaries.

    SUMMARY⎙ PRINT
    Dependents of expat workers in Saudi Arabia will be charged a dependent fee starting in 2017, which is a further strain on the salaries of foreign workers and will likely result in large numbers of families going back home.
    AUTHOR
    Amira Sayed Ahmed
    POSTED
    July 16, 2017
    The newly introduced levy, which went into effect July 1, came as part of Saudi Arabia’s fiscal balance program adopted in December. The program aims to strike a balance between revenues and expenditure by 2020.

    The monthly fee will begin at 100 Saudi riyals ($26.65) per dependent in 2017. This amount is expected to increase gradually every year until 2020. It will double to 200 riyals in 2018. Then, it will increase up to 300 riyals and 400 riyals in 2019 and 2020, respectively. The passport department, meanwhile, announced that the fees are mandatory and need to be paid before residency permits can be renewed, and exit/re-entry visas issued.

    According to official statements, the expat dependent fees will help the government yield total revenues of 1 billion Saudi riyals by the end of this year and 65 billion riyals by 2020.


  • Farsnews
    http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13960418000768

    A leading Egyptian newspaper released a number of documents proving that Saudi Arabia’s new Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and his counterpart in Abu Dhabi Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan have long been supporting the ISIL and al-Qaeda terrorist groups’ global operations.

    “A leaked document in Qatar’s embassy and a letter to Qatari Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani on October 26, 2016, show Mohammed bin Salman and Mohammed bin Zayed’s support for certain key al-Qaeda members in the Arabian Peninsula,” Arabic language al-Badil newspaper wrote.

    (...) The Henry Jackson Society — a right-wing think tank — said that overseas funding primarily from the governments and private charities of Persian Gulf countries has a “clear and growing link” to the onslaught of violence the UK and other western states.

    The group estimated that the Saudi government and charities spent an estimated $4 billion exporting Saudi Arabia’s strict interpretation of Islam, known as Wahhabism (also practiced by ISIL and other terrorist groups), worldwide in 2015, up from $2 billion in 2007. In 2015, there were 110 mosques in the UK practicing Salafism and Wahhabism compared to 68 in 2007. The money is primarily funneled through mosques and Islamic schools in Britain, according to the report.