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Iranian Commander: Bahrain Could Spark Unrest In Saudi

Posted on 02 May 2011 by hashimilion

Gen. Hasan Firouzabadi

One of Iran’s top military commanders warned Saudi Arabia that it’s decision to send forces to Bahrain to quell protests by Shiite Muslims would spark unrest at home, a semiofficial Iranian news agency reported.

Gen. Hasan Firouzabadi, head of Iran’s joint chiefs of staff, didn’t offer any evidence to back up his claim. But his comments reflected growing tension between Shiite-majority Iran and Sunni-dominated countries in the Gulf like Saudi Arabia.

Iran has repeatedly denounced Gulf leaders for dispatching a Saudi-led military force in March to prop up Bahrain’s Sunni monarchy and try to quell the protests by Shiites, who comprise 70 per cent of the population but are excluded from key government and security posts.

“Unfair and unIslamic moves will hurt the honour of Muslims in Saudi Arabia, and it will threaten the security of Saudi Arabia,” Firouzabadi was quoted as saying by the Mehr news agency.

Firouzabadi, who is known for his anti-Saudi rhetoric, also lashed out at the United States, claiming Washington was behind Riyadh’s move into Bahrain so that it could preserve an American naval base there.

“Washington ordered Saudi Arabia as its mercenary to thwart the Bahrainis’ popular revolution so that the U.S. can maintain its base,” Firouzabadi was reported as saying.

Again, he offered no evidence to back up his claim.

Firouzabadi lashed out at Arab countries on Saturday as well, according to the official IRNA news agency.

“The Arab dictatorial regimes in the Persian Gulf are unable to contain the popular uprisings,” he was reported as saying. “The dictators should relinquish power, end their savage crimes and let the people determine their own future instead of … opening an unworkable front against Iran.”

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Russia Kills ‘Saudi Al-Qaeda Envoy’ In Chechnya

Posted on 22 April 2011 by hashimilion

Doku Umarov

Russian security forces in Chechnya killed a Saudi militant who was the top envoy of Al-Qaeda in the Northern Caucasus and responsible for deadly attacks, the national anti-terror committee said Friday.

The militant — known by the nom-de-guerre of Moganned — was one of three rebels killed in a clash with Russian security forces around the village of Serzhen-Yurt in Chechnya on Thursday afternoon, it said.

“One of the eliminated bandits has been identified as the main emissary of the international terrorist organisation Al-Qaeda in the Northern Caucasus, a citizen of Saudi Arabia by the name of Moganned,” the committee said in a statement quoted by Russian news agencies.

It said that alongside Chechen militant leader Doku Umarov — Russia’s most wanted man who security forces have repeatedly failed to kill over the last years — Moganned was a leading figure among rebels in the region.

After waging two wars against separatists in Chechnya after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Kremlin is now battling an Islamist-tinged insurgency that has also spread to the neighbouring regions of Dagestan and Ingushetia.

The committee said that according to intelligence from detained militants Moganned had fallen out with Umarov and become a rival to the elusive Chechen in the rebel underground.

“Almost all acts of terror using suicide bombers in the last years were prepared with his involvement,” it said.

Moscow over the last year has been rocked by an airport bombing that killed 37 in January 2011 and a twin suicide bombing that killed 40 on the Moscow metro in March 2010.

Both of these attacks have however been claimed by Umarov and Russian officials have also pointed to his involvement. But over the last weeks they have come under increasing pressure to explain their failure to eliminate Umarov.

The Russian authorities have repeatedly indicated that Umarov was killed in the Caucasus, only to be forced into embarrassing backtracking when it emerged that the militant had escaped.

Russia hoped it killed Umarov in an air strike in Ingushetia last month but officials later admitted it appeared he had slipped away again.

A man purporting to be Umarov then telephoned the North Caucasus service of Radio Free Europe, saying that he was “absolutely healthy” and threatened further attacks.

The statement also claimed links between Magonned and Georgia, with whom Russia fought a war in 2008 and still retains tense relations.

It said he had been hoping this summer to receive a batch of new fighters from over the border with Georgia and with their help win overall control of the insurgency in the Caucasus.

Russian news agencies said Magonned had been in the Northern Caucasus since 1999 when he arrived to reinforce a group based in Georgia’s Pankisi Gorge led by the notorious Arab militant Khattab, whom Russian forces killed in 2002.

By 2005, he had emerged as the main coordinator for handling money that was coming in from abroad to support the militant underground.

 

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Three Saudis Convicted of Terrorism Offences Jailed

Posted on 20 April 2011 by hashimilion

Lebanon Military Court

 

Saudi Ambassador to Lebanon Ali Awwad Asiri said that he recently submitted an official letter to the President of the Court of Cassation in Beirut, Said Mirza, requesting the transfer of saudi nationals convicted of planning terrorist attacks in Lebanon.

Yesterday, the Military Court in Beirut sentenced 16 people convicted of terrorism offences, including 3 Saudis and a woman. The Saudi ambassador to Lebanon requested the transfer of the saudi prisoners back to their homeland because Saudi Arabia and Lebanon enjoy a special relationship, which would allow the prisoners to meet with their loved ones.

The Military Court also sentenced the Saudi national Muhammed Salih Al Suwaid and  Fahad Al Ghamis to one year in prison. The Court also sentenced in absentia the saudi national Abdul Rahman Al-Yahya to life imprisonment.

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Donald Trump’s Foreign Policy: Get Tough with Saudi Arabia

Posted on 19 April 2011 by hashimilion

Donald Trump talked foreign policy Monday, slamming President Obama and Republicans for an unwillingness to “get tough with Saudi Arabia.”

“Gasoline prices are going to go to $5, $6, $7 and we don’t have anybody in Washington that calls OPEC and says, “Fellas, it’s time. It’s over. You’re not going to do it anymore,” Mr. Trump said during an appearance on “Good Morning America.”

“I’m going to look ‘em in the eye and say, “Fellas, you’ve had your fun. Your fun is over,” the real estate mogul added.

It’s the latest comment made by Mr. Trump in reference to America’s foreign policy. The potential Republican presidential candidate has called for a 25 percent tariff on Chinese goods, winning him a lot of attention as he weighs a presidential run in 2012. The New York Republican has also criticized the Chinese for manipulating their currency, saying the tactic is costing America jobs.

“They have manipulated their currency so violently towards this country, it is almost impossible for our companies to compete with Chinese companies,” Mr. Trump told CNNMoney in January.

The comment comes as Mr. Trump has surged in the polls in recent weeks. An Associated Press report notes growing support for a Trump candidacy, with supporters in New Hampshire and Iowa seriously considering backing the New York Republican.

Mr. Trump has said in the past that he plans to announce in May whether he will seek the Republican nomination. The billionaire has noted that he is willing to spend upwards of $600 million on a potential race.

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Tunisian Protesters Urge Saudi To Extradite Ben Ali

Posted on 18 April 2011 by hashimilion

Hundreds of Tunisians rallied outside the Saudi embassy on Friday demanding the extradition of former president Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali and staging a mock trial that sentenced the former strongman to death.

Ben Ali fled to Saudi Arabia after he was ousted by mass protests on Jan. 14 after 23 years in power. Several members of his family and some of his closest allies were detained shortly after he was forced out.

Tunisia announced later that month it had asked Interpol to help arrest Ben Ali, his wife Leila Trabelsi and other members of the family who left the North African country during the uprising.

About 30O people gathered at the Saudi embassy in Tunis for a peaceful protest after Friday prayers, several holding placards demanding that Riyadh hand over Ben Ali to face justice in his home country.

To underscore the point, some of them staged a mock trial with one man acting the part of Ben Ali and another the judge, who sentenced him to death.

Demonstrators also hurled shoes at a plastic effigy of Ben Ali, painted in red to make him look like an assassin.

Some of them noted that Egyptian authorities were taking action against ousted president Hosni Mubarak over corruption allegations. “I want to see Ben Ali face justice before I die,” one old man at the rally said, declining to give his name.

A few women at the demonstration carried photographs of sons they said had been killed by Ben Ali’s security forces.

The rally took place two days after state media said Tunisian authorities had prepared 18 legal cases against Ben Ali, including for voluntary manslaughter and drug trafficking.

Other charges listed by Justice Minister Lazhar Karoui Chebbi included conspiring against the state and drug use.

A total of 44 legal cases had been prepared by his ministry against Ben Ali, his family and his inner circle, he said.

Chebbi said the Justice Ministry was exploring legal ways to extradite Ben Ali from Saudi Arabia to face trial. He gave no further details.

The caretaker authorities, trying to assert their authority and gain legitimacy in the eyes of protesters who forced the transition, are attacking the vestiges of Ben Ali’s long rule.

They appointed a new government on March 7 and disbanded the state security apparatus, notorious for human rights abuses under Ben Ali.

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Iran Presses Rival Saudi Arabia Over Gulf’s Unrest

Posted on 05 April 2011 by hashimilion

Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called on regional rival Saudi Arabia to pull its troops out of Bahrain, where they are helping a Sunni monarchy put down a Shiite-led protest movement demanding equal rights and a political voice.

Since the wave of Arab unrest hit Bahrain nearly two months ago it has reverberated well beyond the tiny island nation’s borders. Its sectarian element — a key difference from other Mideast uprisings — quickly pit Sunni Arab nations on their side of the Gulf against Shiite power Iran.

“The Saudis did an ugly thing to deploy troops … the Bahraini government also did an ugly work to kill its own people,” Ahmadinejad said at a press conference in Tehran.

A day earlier, it was the Gulf Arab nations’ turn. Their political bloc, the Gulf Cooperation Council, condemned what it said was an Iranian attempt to aggravate sectarian tension in Bahrain.

The Gulf bloc, at an emergency meeting in the Saudi capital, expressed its deep concern “over the continuing Iranian intervention in the internal matters of GCC countries by conspiring against their national security.”

The acrimony goes back well before the outbreak of serious unrest in Bahrain, all the way back to the 1979 revolution that brought Shiite clerical rule to Iran. Since then, Gulf Arab nations have feared Iran was seeking to stir up dissent among pockets of Shiites in their countries and have watched warily as it built up its military and pushed ahead with its nuclear program.

Sunday’s GCC meeting also discussed an alleged Iranian spy network in Kuwait.

But it is in Bahrain that the issue has been the most dramatic in recent years. The kingdom’s population is mostly Shiite although it has been ruled by a Sunni dynasty for two centuries. For several years, Shiites have protested discrimination and a government policy to naturalize Sunnis from other nations to try to offset the demographic imbalance.

The anger periodically exploded into street clashes in which Shiite youths hurled stones and fire bombs at police.

Then in February, taking inspiration from uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia, Bahrain’s Shiite-dominated political opposition took to the streets in numbers never seen before in the country, occupying a central square. A government crackdown killed at least 27 people, and authorities say they see Iran’s influence among the opposition, though there are no apparent direct links.

Unable to immediately contain the unrest, Bahrain’s rulers declared a state of emergency and invited in a Saudi-led regional military force to help.

Saudi Arabia has urged Bahrain’s rulers not to give ground, fearing that would embolden the Shiite minority clustered in its eastern oil-producing region, which lies just across a causeway from Bahrain.

Ahmadinejad brushed aside the GCC statement.

“We attach no legal value to this statement. It’s evident that this statement was made under pressure from the U.S. and its allies,” Ahmadinejad said.

Iran insists the Shiite-led opposition protests in Bahrain do not stem from a sectarian dispute but are an uprising against tyranny.

The U.S. has pressed its allies in Bahrain, home to the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet, to meet some of the protest movement’s demands for reforms. The opposition has appealed to the United States for stronger intervention to stop the crackdown.

Ahmadinejad also attacked the U.S. in his remarks to reporters, saying President Barack Obama’s time in office has been disgraceful.

“I promise with certainty that the American administration today is more disgraceful than the previous administration. The U.S. and its plans are doomed to fail,” he said.

 

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Gaddafi’s Sons Tried To Get Saudi Cleric Help

Posted on 01 March 2011 by hashimilion

Sons of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi have failed to persuade prominent Saudi clerics to issue religious rulings against a revolt that is threatening to bring down the veteran leader, Al Arabiya television said on Monday.

The Saudi-owned channel said on its website that Gaddafi’s son Saif al-Islam had contacted one cleric, Salman al-Awda, and Saadi Gaddafi had reached out to a second, Ayedh al-Garni, but both rejected their calls.

“You are killing the Libyan people. Turn to God because you are wronging them. Protect Libyan blood, you are killing old people and children. Fear God,” Garni said he told Saadi.

Garni made the remarks on air on Sunday, the website said, adding Awda gave the same message to Saif al-Islam.

Awda has a weekly television show on Saudi-owned pan-Arab channel MBC1 and has been praised by al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden before as a religious scholar he felt did not toe the government line. Garni gave lectures in Libya last year.

Gaddafi’s forces have been trying for days to push back a revolt that has won over large parts of the military and ended his control over eastern Libya. Gaddafi has accused followers of al Qaeda of staging the protests in the east, where Islamists have clashed with government forces in the past.

Saudi Arabia is the birthplace of Islam and the ruling al-Saud family see the clerical establishment, who have wide powers in society, as the leading authority in mainstream Sunni Islam.

The world’s top oil exporter is nervous that protests sweeping the region, which have included its neighbours Bahrain, Oman and Yemen, could ignite dissent on its own territory.

Activists have set up Facebook pages calling for protests on March 11 and 20 in Saudi Arabia. These have attracted over 17,000 supporters combined. Last week King Abdullah, a close U.S. ally, ordered wage rises for Saudi citizens along with other benefits in an apparent bid to insulate the kingdom from the wave of protests.

Gaddafi has long been an unpopular figure in Saudi Arabia, which once accused him of plotting to assassinate the king.

Clerics close to the government have said it is not the place of religious scholars to back protests or otherwise. But others have said Gaddafi is an illegitimate ruler and denounced him as an apostate.

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Tunisia Seeks To Extradite Ben Ali’s wife

Posted on 22 February 2011 by hashimilion

Tunisia on Monday formally asked Saudi Arabia to extradite the wife of ousted strongman Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and took steps to dissolve his ruling party as protests continued against the struggling caretaker government.

Authorities “have made an official request to Saudi authorities through diplomatic channels for the extradition of Leila Trabelsi, the wife of the ousted president,” state TAP news agency said, quoting the foreign ministry.

Tunis has already asked Riyadh to extradite 74-year-old Ben Ali for his involvement “in several serious crimes aimed at perpetrating and inciting voluntary homicide and sowing discord” among Tunisians.

Ben Ali and his family fled to Saudi Arabia on January 14 after an unprecedented popular uprising. He was reported last week to have fallen into a coma after suffering a stroke and was being treated in a hospital in Jeddah.

The European Union decided earlier this month to freeze the assets of 46 members of his entourage.

A former hairdresser, Trabelsi is accused of pillaging the country through endemic corruption, putting family members in key government and lucrative business posts.

Interior Minister Farhat Rajhi announced that he had officially requested to dissolve Ben Ali’s powerful Constitutional Democratic Rally (RCD) party, two weeks after suspending its activities and closing its offices.

Despite its seemingly perennial power, the RCD, founded in 1988 by Ben Ali, had a tiny membership of some two million, roughly a fifth of the population.

And while the revolution forced out the former president, the caretaker government of Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi continues to face protests by angry demonstrators demanding to root out vestiges of the old regime.

About one thousand protesters, mostly students, Monday rallied for a second day in Tunis against what they called the “hypocrites” in the transitional government.

“We want the government to fall. Ghannouchi and his ministers want to stay beyond the period of transition,” said on student organisaer Ali Amdouni.

Ghannouchi was prime minister under Ben Ali for over a decade since 1999.

On January 17, he took the reins of a transitional government of national unity, which included many ministers who were part of the old regime.

The authorities have appointed a panel to prepare free elections due in six months while several opposition parties have demanded the election of a constituent assembly to write a new constitution.

Meanwhile Tunisian authorities on Monday arrested the suspected killer of a Polish priest who was found with his throat slit last week, which had raised fears extremists could be behind the murder, TAP reported.

Police arrested Chokri Ben Mustapha Bel-Sadek El-Mestiri, 43, a carpenter who worked at the same religious school where the priest Marek Rybinski was employed as accountant, TAP said, citing the interior ministry.

Rybinski was found dead on Friday, provoking condemnation from the transitional government and the main Islamist opposition group Ennahda (Awakening).

Authorities originally attributed the murder to extremists based “on the way” the priest was attacked.

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