Tag Archive | "Ben Ali"

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Libya’s Only a Part of Mideast Equation

Posted on 18 April 2011 by hashimilion

What’s more important than Libya? At least four other countries.

The outcome of the unfinished revolution in Egypt will affect the prospects for democracy across the region. The outcome in Yemen, where Al Qaeda’s most dangerous branch is headquartered, is important to the struggle against terrorism. A change in Syria, Iran’s closest ally in the Arab world, would upend the balance of power on Israel’s northern borders.

And then there’s the Persian Gulf kingdom of Bahrain, where troops from Saudi Arabia and other Sunni Muslim countries have intervened to quell a Shiite Muslim uprising. It might seem odd to include a power struggle in a quasi-country of half a million citizens on a list of major strategic issues, but the crisis in Bahrain qualifies.

About two-thirds of Bahrainis are Shiite, but Sunni Muslims hold almost all the power. After Shiite groups staged increasingly violent demonstrations to demand more democracy, the government cracked down — and when the Bahraini police faltered, Saudi Arabia and other neighboring countries stepped in with troops.

Opposition groups say more than 400 activists have been arrested; the Bahraini government has refused to disclose the number of arrests. Human Rights Watch has charged that at least seven detainees have died in custody and that some may have been tortured.

Last week, the government announced that it was outlawing the largest — and most moderate — Shiite political party, but then backpedaled after an international outcry.

Why does all this matter? Because Bahrain isn’t the only Arab state on the gulf with a sizable Shiite population. Iraq has a Shiite majority and a Shiite-dominated government. Saudi Arabia is ruled by Sunnis, but it has a significant Shiite minority in its oil-rich eastern province. In all three countries, Shiite Muslims have historically been treated as an oppressed underclass — but now, watching other Arabs win more rights, they’re demanding equality too.

Bahrain matters, as well, because Saudi Arabia treats it as a virtual protectorate. The Saudi royal family doesn’t like to see Shiite Muslim demonstrators demand the head of any monarch; it’s too close to home.

Besides, in the view of many Sunnis, Bahrain’s Shiite protesters look like puppets in the hands of Iran, the Shiite Muslim behemoth across the gulf that has long tried to assert itself as the region’s dominant power.

The fear among many U.S. officials, though, is that the Sunni-Shiite unrest in Bahrain could turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy. If the Bahraini government stops negotiating with the moderate Shiite opposition, it risks radicalizing its own population — and driving some of them into the arms of Iran. Another outcome could be a conflict between Sunni and Shiite that would cross several borders.

In a worst-case scenario, warned Charles Freeman, a former U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia, a Sunni-Shiite split could prompt the pro-U.S. government in Iraq to ally itself with Iran, scrambling the basic foundation of U.S. security policy in the area, which aims to make Iraq a bulwark against Iran.

“The strategic stakes in Bahrain are higher than many outside the region appreciate,” Freeman said.

The Obama administration has been urging the Bahraini government to negotiate. Last week, the State Department’s top Middle East hand, Jeffrey Feltman, rushed to Bahrain to try to reopen talks between the government and the opposition.

But the administration has been notably gentle, because it wants the Bahraini royal family to stay in power and it doesn’t want to offend Saudi Arabia.

In a speech last week, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said the U.S. “strongly condemned the abhorrent violence committed against peaceful protesters by the Syrian government.” But on Bahrain, she merely warned that “security alone cannot resolve the challenges.” (“We know that a one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t make sense,” she explained.)

Another official said the administration is promoting reform throughout the Arab world, but it’s also reassuring rulers in places such as Saudi Arabia and Bahrain that it won’t insist on immediate change. “It doesn’t have to come fast,” he said.

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and national security advisor Tom Donilon visited Saudi Arabia this month to try to patch up the U.S. relationship with King Abdullah, who was furious when Obama backed the overthrow of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Both U.S. and Saudi officials said the meetings helped repair the U.S.-Saudi alliance on issues such as Iran. But they said there was no sign of any Saudi moderation on the issue of Bahrain, which the Saudis consider their backyard.

The gulf has long been a central focus of U.S. foreign policy, both because it’s the source of much of the world’s oil and because it’s the frontier between the pro-American Arab monarchies and anti-American Iran.

That’s why the U.S. has a naval fleet there — headquartered, as it happens, in Bahrain.

Now Bahrain is at risk. Hard-liners have opted to use an iron fist, to see whether repression can restore stability; reform, they say, can come later. If they turn out to be wrong, the consequences could be dire.

By Doyle McManus

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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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Tunisia asks Saudi Arabia to Extradite Ben Ali

Posted on 21 February 2011 by hashimilion

Tunisia’s interim government on Sunday asked Saudi Arabia to extradite deposed strongman Zine El Abidine Ben Ali as it faced a second day of protests demanding its resignation.

Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi’s government made the official request to Riyadh, where Ben Ali fled on January 14 with his family after weeks of popular revolt against his 23-year regime, said a foreign ministry statement cited by state news agency TAP.

The government acted “following a new batch of charges against the ousted president regarding his involvement in several serious crimes aimed at perpetrating and inciting voluntary homicide and sowing discord between the citizens of the same country by pushing them to kill one another,” it said.

The caretaker government also asked Saudi Arabia for information about 74-year-old Ben Ali’s health following reports this week that he had fallen into a stress-induced coma and was being treated in a hospital in Jeddah.

Two days ago Tunisian officials spurned the reports, saying Ben Ali’s health was “not the government’s business”.

Radhouane Rouissi, Tunisian state secretary at the foreign ministry, said in televised remarks that the government was certain “Saudi authorities will give a positive answer to our demands, which are the demands of an entire people who suffered so much under Ben Ali’s regime”.

Sunday’s requests came as Ghannouchi faced fresh demonstrations, including a protest by around 4,000 people in central Tunis, demanding his resignation.

In Sunday’s rally many protesters waved Tunisian flags and banners proclaiming: “Resignation of the prime minister.”

“We are against Ghannouchi’s government because our revolution has led to nothing with Ghannouchi. This is Ben Ali’s team and it has changed nothing,” said teacher Samia Mahfoudh, 50.

Ghannouchi was prime minister under Ben Ali from 1999 until his ouster.

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.

The government also announced Friday a first set of urgent social measures and ordered reservists to join the army Wednesday to fill a security vacuum.

But protestor Sami Ben Moumen was unmoved: “They are taking us for fools.”

“All members of the government and regional councils have been elected by the former regime, the constitution has been reformed by the former regime. The RCD wants to sow terror,” he said, referring to the banned former ruling party.

Saturday, hundreds of Tunisians also marched to demand a secular state following the murder of a Polish priest, verbal attacks on Jews and an attempt by Islamists to set fire to a brothel.

Meanwhile hundreds of fearful Tunisians fled what they called “real carnage” in Libya on Sunday to head home via the coastal Ras Jdir border crossing, a union official told AFP.

“Hundreds of Tunisians left Libya Sunday through the Ras Jdir border post. There are a lot of people and there is a big bottleneck in the area,” said Houcine Betaieb, a member of Tunisia’s influential UGTT trade union.

“These are people who work there, who have left Libya out of fear that something would happen to them,” he said.

Inspired by events in neighbouring Tunisia, protests have erupted in Libya against the regime of longtime leader Moamer Kadhafi, who has responded with a violent crackdown that Human Rights Watch said had killed more than 170 people.

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Bahrain Protests Swell With Second Death as Yemen Riots Persist

Posted on 16 February 2011 by hashimilion

Protests against Bahrain’s government escalated today as a second demonstrator was killed and in Yemen anti-government marchers clashed with police as unrest spreads through the Middle East.

Thousands of Bahrainis joined a procession near the capital, Manama, carrying the coffin of Ali Abdul Hadi Mushaima in the biggest demonstration so far in the Persian Gulf kingdom. Mushaima was killed during clashes yesterday with police, who fired bird-shot and rubber bullets and used tear gas. A second protester died today in fighting at the funeral, the official Bahrain News Agency said. The Shiite Muslim Al-Wefaq group suspended participation in parliament to protest the violence.

In Yemen, stone-throwing protesters clashed with police as they marched toward the presidential palace, the fifth day of demonstrations calling for an end to President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s rule. Iranian security forces yesterday used tear gas to break up the biggest anti-government protests since the aftermath of the disputed presidential election in June 2009.

Popular demands for democracy and civil rights, invigorated by the mass protests that toppled Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak last week, are rattling the autocratic rulers of a region that holds about three-fifths of the world’s oil reserves. Brent crude futures rose for a second day after closing yesterday at the highest level since September 2008.

Gulf Regimes

The protests in Bahrain, home to the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet, and Iran mark the spread of unrest into the Persian Gulf, the area where most Middle Eastern oil is produced. Many Gulf states including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are U.S. allies. All of the region’s governments are classified as autocratic regimes in the Economist Intelligence Unit’s 2010 Democracy Index.

Shiites who represent as much as 70 percent of Bahrain’s population say they face job and housing discrimination. King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa, a Sunni Muslim, has ordered an increase in food subsidies and social welfare payments, and a grant of 1,000 dinars ($2,653) to each Bahraini family.

Mushaima’s funeral cortege was carrying the coffin, draped with Shiite flags, to the dead man’s village as demonstrators shouted “Down with Khalifa.” They were referring to Prime Minister Sheikh Khalifa bin Salman al-Khalifa, who has held the premiership for four decades.

“Clearly events are spiraling downwards as violence mounts,” said Theodore Karasik, director of research at the Dubai-based Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis. “ More people may be killed and this will likely bring more protesters onto to the streets. If pressure mounts too much and the Kingdom is in danger, there may be outside intervention.”

‘Sanctioned by Law’

Foreign Minister Khalid bin Ahmed bin Mohammed al-Khalifa said in an interview yesterday that protests are “sanctioned by the law” in Bahrain and won’t have the same effect as the popular movements in Egypt and Tunisia.

Bahrain’s dollar bonds due in 2020 fell, sending yields up 6 basis points to 6.21 percent, the highest level since the debt was issued in March, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The cost of insuring Bahrain’s bonds against default jumped 10 basis points to 253, the highest in a week, according to CMA prices for credit-default swaps.

Brent crude for April settlement climbed as much as 96 cents, or 0.9 percent, to $104.04 a barrel in London.

“Fear that civil unrest could spread into oil-producing states in the Middle East is keeping investors nervous,” said Andrey Kryuchenkov, an analyst with VTB Capital in London.

Iran Output

Iran is the second-largest producer in the Organization of Petroleum-Exporting Countries, producing about 3.7 million barrels a day, according to Bloomberg data. Bahrain pumped about 32,000 barrels a day of crude in 2009 and 1.49 billion cubic feet of gas, according to the national oil and gas authority.

Bahrain experienced clashes between Shiites and police before parliamentary elections in October. The royal family has close ties with Sunni-ruled Saudi Arabia, the largest Arab economy. Many among Bahrain’s populace retain cultural and family links with Shiite-dominated Iran, Saudi Arabia’s main regional rival.

Al-Wefaq won 18 of 40 parliament seats in an October election. The assembly can only pass laws with the consent of an upper chamber whose members are chosen by the king.

The group will suspend its parliamentary role until the protesters’ demands are met, senior lawmaker Abduljalil Khalil, said in an interview today. “No one will accept cosmetic changes,” he said, adding that al-Wefaq’s demands aren’t influenced by Iran.

Protesters in Yemen are demanding that Saleh quit after 32 years in power. The president said on Feb. 2 that he won’t seek to extend his term when it expires in 2013 and that his son wouldn’t succeed him as president. At least 17 people were injured and 165 detained in the capital, Sanaa, Xinhua news agency reported yesterday, citing witnesses.

$2 a Day

Unlike Bahrain, the Yemen government — which is struggling to quell separatist movements and halt al-Qaeda operations based in the country — can’t afford to try to buy calm by offering economic benefits. Yemen faces serious water shortages, declining oil output and a society where more than half the population of 23 million is under 20 years old. About 40 percent of Yemen’s population lives on less than $2 a day.

Petroleum production and refining account for 60 percent of Bahrain’s export receipts, 70 percent of government revenue and 11 percent of gross domestic product, which was about $22 billion last year, according to the CIA World Factbook.

Iran’s opposition movement says it has drawn inspiration from the Arab revolts that removed Mubarak and Tunisia’s Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. It accuses Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of meeting popular demands for change with violent repression.

Tear Gas, Batons

Yesterday’s demonstration in Tehran was backed by opposition leaders including Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karrubi who challenged Ahmadinejad in the 2009 election and said the result was rigged. Tens of thousands of protesters were dispersed by security forces using tear gas and baton charges, al-Jazeera television said. Iranian officials said one person, a government supporter, was killed, the Associated Press reported.

In Egypt, the army took control after Mubarak’s resignation on Feb. 11 and has pledged to oversee a rewriting of the constitution to prepare the ground for free elections. Tunisia is also preparing for elections under an interim government after Ben Ali’s Jan. 14 ouster, and opposition groups including the main Islamist movement are competing with representatives of the former ruling party to steer the transition.

–With assistance from Claudia Maedler and Inal Ersan in Dubai, Terry Atlas in Washington, Robert Tuttle in Qatar, Ben Sharples in Melbourne and Abigail Moses, Grant Smith and Stephen Kirkland in London. Editors: Ben Holland, Louis Meixler.

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Saudi Arabia: The Sanctuary for Tyrants

Posted on 20 January 2011 by hashimilion

The former Tunisian President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali could not find a sanctuary other than Saudi Arabia.

He was rejected by his close friend Muammar Qaddafi and abandoned by the French (Sarkozy) who supported him for more than 22 years.

The number of countries that have refused to received Ben Ali is unknown, which reminds us of the events that took place when the Iranian tyrant was received by the late Egyptian tyrant Anwar Sadat.

Suddenly and out of know where Ben Ali’s plane lands in Jeddah. The Royal Court quickly releases a statement justifying Saudi Arabia’s action. It read as follows:

We understand that the People of Tunis are going through exceptional times right now and hope that security can be reistablished in this dear Arab and Islamic country. We also support any step that will bring benefit to the Tunisian people. The Government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has welcomed President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali and his family to the Kingdom. The Saudi Government declares its full support for the people of Tunis and hope that all Tunisians come together in this very difficult time. God bless you.

Saudi Arabia has become a sanctuary for tyrants.

Ben Ali is not the first leader who has found himself  in exile and on the run before being embraced by the warm Arms of Saudi Arabia. Previous rulers include: Jaafar Numeiry before settling in Egypt, Siad Barre from Somalia, Idi Amin from Uganda, Nawaz Sharif from Pakistan and other little dictators.

What is the secret behind Saudi Arabia’s complex in hosting dictators whilst the world rejects them?

Is Saudi Arabia sympathizing with tyrants because of humanitarian reasons?

The Saudi Royal Court statement considered Ben Ali’s reception as a step that will have a positive effect on Tunisians.

The Saudi Royal family did not show any kindness or mercy when it abducted members of the Tunisian opposition movement, whilst they were preforming their pilgrimage and sent them to Ben Ali for execution.

The best way of showing solidarity with the people of Tunisia is to keep their former rulers on the run, like rats looking for a safe refuge, and far far away from the Arab world, just as Ben Ali had done to his opponents.

Ben Ali was and still is Saudi Arabia’s friend.

The Saudi Princes have always admired Ben Ali and the West because both fought Islamic fundamentalism!!!

In the early 1990s, the Wahabi Sahwa movement accused Prince Naif of following in the same footsteps as Ben Ali, and using the same techniques when suppressing opponents.

The Saudi Interior Minister Prince Naif, adopted Ben Ali’s policies in the 1990s in what was regarded as the campaign to “sapping terrorism of its sources”.

Prince Naif used to spend most of his vacations in Tunisa and would be hosted by his friend Ben Ali. Naif’s brothers on the other hand prefer to spend their vacations in Morroco.

The Saudi dictators don’t believe that they are putting their kingdom at risk by receiving the tyrant Ben Ali, even though alot of Ben Ali’s friends are cutting off their ties with him.

Saudi Arabia is a despotic monarchy, which loathes revolutions, especially those that are directed at its friends or allies. The Saudi princes are not accustomed to welcoming any revolution or uprising.

The Al Saud family fear the spread of dissent and revolution fever amongst its happy population. The people’s of Arabia own the largest oil reserve in the world, yet 30% of the population lives under the poverty line (based on official statistics).

The people of Arabia have seen corruption that is unrivalled in the Arab world. The corruption of the Saudi princes exceeds that of the whole Arab World put together.

Saudi University graduates and youth are unemployed, and their levels are far greater than that of Tunis!

Based on these facts, the Al Saud tyrants have a right to be apprehensive towards the revolution taking place in Tunis.

The hearts of the muslim faithful long for Mecca but the Saudi Royal family want to turn it into a sanctuary for tyrants and criminals.

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