Saudis to Ease Yemen Siege but Millions to Still Suffer (VIDEO)

by Faisal Edroos – Saudi Arabia‘s decision to ease its blockade on Yemen does not go far enough, say aid and human rights groups, pointing to the spectre of famine that looms over the impoverished Arabian Peninsula country. The Kingdom has said it will ease its blockade on rebel-held parts of the country from Thursday, and allow “urgent humanitarian and relief materials” to pass through the Red Sea port of Hodeidah and the capital’s Sanaa international airport. Saudi Arabia, which has been conducting an air campaign in Yemen since 2015, intensified its embargo on the country on November 5, closing all of the country’s land, sea and air ports after Houthi rebels fired a ballistic missile towards the capital, Riyadh. The Kingdom said the blockade was a necessary precaution aimed at preventing weapons being smuggled into Yemen by Saudi Arabia’s regional rival, Iran. Iran has rejected allegations of arming the Houthis, calling them “malicious, irresponsible, destructive and provocative”....

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Saudi Arabia and Iran in War of Words

Saudi Arabia has accused Iran of “direct military aggression” through the Houthi rebels in Yemen, firing another warning shot at the Islamic Republic. Mohammed bin Salman, the Saudi heir apparent, was referring to the missile fired over the weekend at Riyadh from Yemen in pointing the finger at Iran for supplying the weapon. Iran has dismissed the accusation, reported by the Saudi Press Agency on Tuesday, as “contrary to reality”. The Houthis have given warning that Saudi and UAE airports could be their next firing targets. The Islamic Republic supports the Shia Houthi rebels but denies arming them. However, the current crisis extends far beyond Yemen: Saudi Arabia has made clear it wants to curb Iranian influence not just in the Arabian Peninsula but across the region. Iran has proxies across the Middle East: in Iraq, it controls paramilitary forces that are stronger than the state. In Yemen, Saudi Arabia...

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Saudi Arabia Princes Detained, Ministers Dismissed (VIDEO)

 Saudi Arabia has dismissed a number of senior ministers and detained nearly a dozen princes in an investigation by a new anti-corruption committee, state media reported on Saturday. Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, a billionaire businessman who owns investment firm Kingdom Holding, was among those held, according to Reuters news agency, citing an unnamed senior official. The senior ministers who were sacked include Prince Mitaab bin Abdullah, the head of the National Guard, and Adel Faqih, the economy minister. Abdullah al-Sultan, commander of the Saudi navy, was replaced by Fahad al-Ghafli. In a statement on the official Saudi news agency, SPA, King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud alluded to the “exploitation by some of the weak souls who have put their own interests above the public interest, in order to, illicitly, accrue money” for the creation of the anti-graft committee. Anti-corruption probe Saudi-owned Al Arabiya news channel reported that at least 11 princes, four current...

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Flynn and Trump WH Promoted a Nuclear Plant Deal for the Saudis With Sanctioned Russian Companies

by Frank Vyan Walton – Although he’s been off the radar lately, fired former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn is back in the news, and that news isn’t very good — for him. First there’s the report that Flynn failed — yet again — to disclose receiving foreign money while working on a $100 Billion nuclear power plant deal involving Russia and Saudi Arabia. Democrats sought information from three American companies in June after Newsweek reported that Flynn traveled to the Middle East in the summer of 2015 to broker a $100 billion deal between the companies, Saudi Arabia and Russia’s nuclear power agency. In response, officials from the US companies provided statements to the Democrats, confirming Flynn’s trip in 2015.   When Flynn returned to the US several months later and reapplied for his security clearance, he never disclosed the trip or the contacts he had with foreign nationals as part of the trip, the Democrats say. It is...

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Saudi Embassy May Have Funded 9/11 ‘dry run’: Report

New York Post reports FBI evidence in a lawsuit alleges Saudi Arabia’s US embassy may have funded test run for Sept 11. New evidence in a 9/11 lawsuit against the government of Saudi Arabia alleges the kingdom’s embassy in Washington, DC may have funded a test run for the deadly attacks in 2001, according to a US newspaper report. The evidence was submitted as part of a class action lawsuit against the government of Saudi Arabia, the New York Post reported on Saturday. It alleges the embassy paid for two Saudi nationals to fly from Phoenix to Washington two years before planes hit the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and slammed into a field in Pennsylvania as part of a “dry run” for the attacks. Saudi Arabia has always denied any involvement in September 11, 2001 attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people. The victims’ lawyers, however, have said the evidence suggests...

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Slow and Unsteady: The Path to Justice for Victims of 9/11

by Marin Kirk – On September 11th, 2017, a rally will be held at the Embassy of Saudi Arabia in Washington, DC. As our summer draws to a close and ushers in a cool and rainy September, there is a solemn chill in the air marking the approaching anniversary of the infamous attacks on the World Trade Center that took place September 11th, 2001 – nearly sixteen years ago. The memories are still fresh for the survivors and the family members of victims who are to this day living with their losses while continuing to fight for accountability through both the military court in Guantanamo, where individuals involved in the attacks have been tried or are still facing painstakingly slow trials. This upcoming sixteenth anniversary of 9/11 will be the first time since the attacks that the families now have another legal recourse for seeking accountability not only from individuals but...

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Yemen Hit by 5,676 Airstrikes in Six Months

by D. Parvaz – The country is dealing with over 30 airstrikes a day and half a million cases of cholera. According to a new report, the number of clashes and airstrikes in Yemen have increased dramatically in 2017: In the first six months of the year, there were 5,676 airstrikes in Yemen – much higher than the total of 3,936 in all of 2016. Data gathered by the Protection Cluster in Yemen – led by the U.N.’s refugee agency (UNHCR) – found that the average number of monthly clashes has also increased by 56 percent. The uptick follows the same trend recorded in Iraq and Syria, where U.S.-led airstrikes have led a dramatic rise in civilian casualties this year. Yemen’s conflict has been a relatively short one when compared to Iraq and Syria. The country has been mired in a civil war since March 2015, with the government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi under attack by Houthi...

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Saudi Arabia Seeks to End US Lawsuits Over 9/11 Attacks

by Creede Newton – Saudi Arabia claims plaintiffs cannot prove the kingdom supported those who carried out the September 11, 2001 attacks. Saudi Arabia has asked a US judge to dismiss 25 lawsuits filed against it in relation to its alleged support of the September 11, 2001 attacks, court documents filed late on Monday afternoon show. In a filing in US District Court in Manhattan, lawyers representing Saudi Arabia claim the plaintiffs – who represent thousands of victims who died and were injured in the attacks, as well as businesses and insurers – cannot prove the Gulf kingdom supported the al-Qaeda-affiliated men who hijacked and crashed planes into New York’s World Trade Center, the Pentagon outside Washington, and a Pennsylvania field. Nearly 3,000 people died in the attacks. Saudi Arabia also claimed it deserved sovereign immunity. James Kreindler, a lawyer representing those killed in the September 11 attacks, told Reuters news agency the...

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Theresa May ‘delaying report on funding of extremism’

Publication of report, which reportedly focuses on Saudi Arabia, has been delayed by the PM, British media says. British Prime Minister Theresa May is withholding a report on “foreign funding of extremism” which reportedly criticises Saudi Arabia, according to UK reports quoting statements by the Home Office and Downing Street. Both offices said that the prime minister is personally responsible for deciding whether to release the report, which had been commissioned by ex-Prime Minister David Cameron in 2015 and approved by May, who was home secretary at the time, The Guardian reported. In a written reply to a June 27 question by the Green Party co-leader, Caroline Lucas, May said on Monday: “Ministers are considering advice on what is able to be published and will report to Parliament with an update in due course.” According to The Guardian, Sarah Newton, a parliamentary under-secretary of state at the Home Office, also responded to Lucas this week: “The...

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UK Activists Demand End to Saudi Arabia, UAE Arms Sales

by Shafik Mandhai – Rights group and legal experts say arming Riyadh and Abu Dhabi makes the UK complicit in alleged war crimes. Campaign groups and legal experts have called on the UK to end arm sales to Saudi Arabia and its allies, warning that continuing to do so may be in violation of international law. In a statement issued on Tuesday, the Arab Organisation for Human Rights in the UK (AOHR) said British manufactured weapons sold to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Egypt, were being used to carry out abuses in Yemen and Libya. “(AOHR) is calling on the UK government to review its role in the sale of arms to a number of Arab governments that are known for gross human rights violation,” the statement read. In the last three years, the UK has approved arms export licenses to Saudi Arabia worth $4.7bn, $1.6bn to the...

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Iran Accuses Saudis of Supporting Terrorist Groups

Iran’s Zarif says Tehran has intelligence that Riyadh supports terrorist groups operating on the eastern side of Iran. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has accused Saudi Arabia of supporting terrorist groups inside Iran, days after the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) group claimed attacks in Tehran. “We have intelligence that Saudi Arabia is actively engaged in promoting terrorist groups operating on the eastern side of Iran in Baluchestan,” Zarif said on Tuesday at a news conference on the sidelines of an annual peace mediation in Oslo. He said the armed groups were “using the territory of one of our neighbours against its will to launch attacks against Iran which only two months ago led to the murder of nine Iranian border guards,” refering to Pakistan. “On the Western side the same type of activity is being undertaken, again by using the diplomatic...

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A Gulf Crisis: How Did We Get Here? (VIDEOS)

by Sultan Barakat – Qatar is being punished for refusing to join Saudi Arabia’s war mongering. Qatar’s residents woke up on the morning of the June 5 to the news that the country is now subject to a siege-like isolation through land, air, and sea imposed by its erstwhile brethren of the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Egypt. This latest crisis is more serious than the diplomatic spat of 2014, which involved the withdrawal of ambassadors but not the closing of borders or expulsion of citizens. The message from Riyadh and Abu Dhabi is that Qatar must concede to their demands or be prepared to face a blockade, similar to the one Israel has imposed on Gaza. This will have a real lasting legacy on the integrity of the Gulf, as families are split, employees lose their jobs and people are forcibly displaced. WATCH: Amnesty slams embargo on Qatar over rights violations (2:20) In effect, it is shocking to...

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Donald Trump’s Presidency is Fake News

by Ned Resnikoff – The administration keeps delivering “policy announcements” that are little more than hollow media spectacles. President Donald Trump had a “bill signing” on Monday. After delivering some televised remarks, he sat at a small desk emblazoned with the presidential seal, signed a document, and handed out pens to assembled members of Congress. But the actual document he signed was not a bill, never passed through Congress, and had no legal effect whatsoever. Instead, what Trump signed was a set of “principles” for his plan to hand air traffic control duties to the private sector. The document was purely symbolic; no one has even introduced new legislation to enact these principles, though the basic gist of them was derived from an older proposal. Add Trump’s “principles” to the long and growing list of White House announcements that have zero legal import or policy ramifications. Another entry: the very same day as...

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US and Saudi Arabia Sign Arms Deals Worth Almost $110bn

US Secretary of State says the arms agreements will help Saudi Arabia deal with ‘malign Iranian influence’. The US and Saudi Arabia signed arms deals worth almost $110bn on Saturday, the first day of President Donald Trump’s visit to the traditional US ally. US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that the arms agreements will help Saudi Arabia deal with “malign Iranian influence”. “The package of defence equipment and services supports the long-term security of Saudi Arabia and the entire Gulf region,” Tillerson told reporters in Riyadh on Saturday. This is “in particular in the face of malign Iranian influence and Iranian-related threats which exist on Saudi Arabia’s borders on all sides,” Tillerson told reporters in Riyadh. Al Jazeera’s James Bays, reporting from Riyadh, said that the arms deal would be seen by both signatories as a “win-win”, especially as the deal involved arms that Obama was not prepared to sell...

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‘Unconscionable’ Arms Deal Inked, Trump Delivers Remarks in Saudi Arabia

by Andrea Germanos – Trump says “We are not here to lecture” a day after he finalized a $110 billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia that critics say will fuel possible war crimes. A day after finalizing an “unconscionable” $110 billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia, President Donald Trump on Sunday gave a speech in Riyadh to leaders of dozens of Muslim-majority countries—a “vast congress of dictators and cut-throat autocrats,” as one analyst put it—in which he called on them to “drive out the terrorists and extremists” and isolate Iran. Trump—who previously declared, “We’re having problems with the Muslims” and pushed for a Muslim ban—spoke of “shared interests” and stamping out terrorism. “To the leaders and citizens of every country assembled here today, I want you to know that the United States is eager to form closer bonds of friendship, security, culture and commerce,” he said. Of the weapons sale, described as...

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Donald Trump’s Middle East Visit: What to Expect (VIDEOS)

by William Roberts – Saudi Arabia arms deal, Syria’s war and Arab-Israeli peace set to top agenda of Trump’s first foreign trip as president. Donald Trump heads to Saudi Arabia on Friday on his first foreign trip as president to repair relations with the United States’ closest Arab ally, restart the Arab-Israeli peace process and, potentially, reassert the US security role in the region. Going to Saudi Arabia first is a highly symbolic move for President Trump who is struggling with political troubles at home, but is drawing optimism from Arab leaders despite his deep unpopularity in Arab public opinion for his anti-Muslim commentary during the 2016 US election campaign. The president will hold a series of meetings starting on Saturday with Saudi rulers, including King Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud and Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The Saudis want more US help confronting Iran and armed groups, as well as private...

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China, Iran, Saudi Arabia Executed the Most People in 2016

Number of executions drop worldwide, Amnesty International says, attributing decrease mainly to fewer hangings in Iran. The number of executions worldwide dropped by 37 percent in 2016 compared to the year before, mainly because Iran hanged fewer people, Amnesty International said in its 2016 global review of the death penalty published on Tuesday. China executed more people than all other countries in the world put together, Amnesty said. But it is difficult to get a clear number as Beijing classifies most information related to the death penalty as “state secrets”. It is estimated to be in the 1,000’s each year. “China wants to be a leader on the world stage, but when it comes to the death penalty it is leading in the worst possible way – executing more people annually than any other country in the world,” said Salil Shetty, secretary-general of Amnesty International. “The Chinese government has...

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Saudis Plan $2 Trillion IPO to End Their ‘Dangerous’ Addiction to Oil

by Joe Romm – Saudi Aramco will go public to monetize its oil reserves before demand peaks and price collapses for good. What does a country do when in its entire economy is built around a natural resource that the world is starting to shift away from? In the case of Saudi Arabia, they plan their own shift off oil — financed by the world’s largest initial public offering (IPO) of stock, some 5 percent of Saudi Aramco, the world’s largest oil company. Last year, deputy crown prince Mohammed bin Salman announced the plan to take Aramco, which the Saudis value at some $2 trillion, public. Last month, the Financial Times reported those plans are on track for an IPO next year, noting that Saudi advisers say a successful IPO “is essential to the deputy crown prince’s radical efforts to wean the kingdom off oil through his Vision 2030 programme.” Credit: Financial Times The...

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Even as Global Trade Dropped, US Arms Sales Boomed in 2015

by Nadia Prupis – Even as other nations tighten budgets for weapons amid domestic financial concerns, US manages to sell $40 billion in one year. The U.S. sold more weapons than any other country in 2015 despite a drop in the global arms trade, according to a new congressional report. At $40 billion, the U.S. signed more than half of all arms agreements last year, and more than double the next-highest seller, which was France at $15 billion. American weapons sales included bombs, missiles, armored tanks, Apache attack helicopters, F-15 fighter jets, and other items. The report (pdf) was published by the Congressional Research Service, which conducts national policy analysis for Congress. It looked at conventional arms transfers to developing nations from 2008 to 2015. Russia sold $11.1 billion, a slight drop from its 2014 count at $11.2 billion. China sold $6 billion, doubling its output from last year. The leading...

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US Reviewing Support for Saudis After Brutal Massacre, But Will Arms Sales Stop?

by Deirdre Fulton – The US has resisted previous attempts to hold its ally—or itself—accountable for the civilian slaughter in Yemen. The United States, which is supplying arms and other assistance to Saudi Arabia in its war on Yemen, has “initiated an immediate review” of its support for the kingdom in the wake of airstrikes on Saturday that reportedly killed at least 140 people and wounded hundreds more. “U.S. security cooperation with Saudi Arabia is not a blank check,” National Security Council spokesman Ned Price said in a statement Saturday night, reiterating previous remarks that have had little effect on the U.S.-Saudi relationship. Describing the U.S. as “deeply disturbed” by reports of the bombing, which could be the deadliest attack yet in a war that has already claimed thousands of civilian lives, Price added: “In light of this and other recent incidents, we have initiated an immediate review of our already significantly reduced support to...

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Are U.S.-Saudi Relations Finally Souring?

by Alli McCracken – Pressure from human rights organizations like Oxfam to victims of the 9/11 attacks are helping erode the bond between these old political allies, but the results of this election season could squander our chance at change. Congress recently passed the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA) allowing families of victims of the September 11, 2001 attacks to sue other governments, including Saudi Arabia, for possible damages. Despite threats by the Saudi government to sell billions of dollars’ worth of their assets and reexamine the bilateral relationship with the U.S., Congress snubbed the monarchy and passed the bill, then overturned a presidential veto to it almost unanimously. This is just one of the most overt pieces of evidence that the historically cozy U.S.-Saudi relationship is on the decline. A couple of years ago, few questioned the decades-old political alliance between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia. But, amidst a...

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The 9/11 Families Deserve Their Day in Court Against Saudi Arabia

by Robert Naiman, Truthout | Op-Ed – This week the House and Senate are expected to vote on whether to override the president’s veto of the Justice Against Sponsors of Terror Act (JASTA). JASTA would allow 9/11 families to sue Saudi Arabia over allegations Saudi officials were linked to the 9/11 attacks. The bill makes no judgment about Saudi Arabia’s responsibility for the 9/11 attacks. It just removes Saudi Arabia’s immunity from lawsuit over support for terrorist attacks on US soil. Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders both support the bill. Under current US law, Americans can sue Iran for terrorism in US courts, but they can’t sue Saudi Arabia for terrorism in US courts, because Iran is on the State Department’s “state sponsor of terror” list and Saudi Arabia is not. The State Department is allowed to take “broader US foreign policy interests” besides concern about support for terrorism into...

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“Indifferent to Yemen’s Misery,” Senate Approves Massive Saudi Arms Deal

by Nika Knight – A bipartisan resolution to block the $1.15 billion weapons sale failed 71-27. The U.S. Senate on Wednesday voted overwhelmingly to dismiss a bipartisan bill that would have blocked a massive $1.15 billion weapons shipment to Saudi Arabia, to the dismay of peace groups and rights advocates who have called on the U.S. to end its support for the brutal Saudi bombing campaign in Yemen. The bipartisan resolution to block the weapons sale failed 71-27, with two senators not voting. During the floor debate, many of those in favor of the weapons sale echoed Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), who declared: “This is a sale that benefits us.” Although even Corker admitted Saudi Arabia is not a “perfect ally” and that many civilians had been killed in Yemen, he argued that the massive sale of new weapons should be approved because it will benefit the U.S. economically. Corker further...

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With Civilian Deaths Rising, Efforts to Block US-Saudi Arms Sale Gain Steam

by Deirdre Fulton – With clock ticking in Congress, US senators prepare push against $1.15 billion arms deal Opposition is growing on Capitol Hill and beyond to the U.S. government’s planned sale of $1.15 billion worth of weapons to Saudi Arabia, whose U.S.-backed coalition has wreaked devastation and displacement on the Yemeni population. Citing “multiple congressional aides,” Foreign Policy reported Wednesday that “Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut are preparing legislation, to be filed this week, opposing the U.S. package of tanks, ammunition, and machine guns to Saudi Arabia.” According to Foreign Policy : The measure is expected to take the form of a non-binding resolution of disapproval that would receive a floor vote in about two weeks. But the two senators are also considering binding legislation that would block the proposed sale if they sense that the measure would pass, according to congressional aides. This comes on...

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Saudi Arabia’s War In Yemen Has Rights Groups Calling For Its Removal From UN Human Rights Council

by JUSTIN SALHANI – International criticism of Saudi Arabia is on the rise as two human rights organizations have called for the oil-rich kingdom to be suspended from the United Nations Human Rights Council due to its bombing campaign in Yemen. The two groups — Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch — are two of the largest and most reputable human rights organizations in the world and released a statement Wednesday accusing Saudi Arabia of “gross and systematic violations of human rights.” The statement joins a chorus of criticism from other human rights groups and international organizations. Earlier this month, the U.N. accused Saudi Arabia of attacking schools and hospitals during and accused the country of being responsible for around 60 percent of children’s deaths during the war, killing 510 children and wounding 667 others. Saudi Arabia was added to a human rights blacklist by U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon...

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UN Removes Saudi Arabia From Human Rights Blacklist After Just One Week, Faces Intense Backlash

by JUSTIN SALHANI – United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon removed Saudi Arabia from a U.N.-blacklist of violators of children’s human rights, after initially placing their Yemen coalition on the list last Thursday. The decision resulted in a massive outcry from rights groups who lambasted Ki-moon’s “flip-flopping.” U.N. for a recent report that said the coalition it is leading in Yemen was resulting in over 60 percent of child deaths there. “Last week’s U.N. report said the Saudi-led coalition was responsible for 60 percent of child deaths and injuries in Yemen in 2015, killing 510 and wounding 667,” Reuters reported. “It also said the coalition carried out half the attacks on schools and hospitals. The decision to remove Saudi Arabia from the blacklist has been met with criticism from many human rights organizations. “Political power and diplomatic clout have been allowed to trump the UN’s duty to expose those responsible...

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Former 9/11 Commissioner: ’28 Pages’ Clearly Expose Saudi Support

by Deirdre Fulton – “Our report should never have been read as an exoneration of Saudi Arabia.” Revealing serious fractures within the 9/11 Commission, a former member of that panel has called for the immediate declassification of the so-called “28 pages” that detail Saudi ties to the 2001 terrorist attack, saying they expose evidence that Saudi government officials were involved in the hijackers’ support network. “There was an awful lot of participation by Saudi individuals in supporting the hijackers, and some of those people worked in the Saudi government,” Republican John Lehman said in an interview with the Guardian published Thursday. Referring to the commission’s final report, issued in 2004, Lehman stated: “Our report should never have been read as an exoneration of Saudi Arabia.” He said recent claims made by the Commission’s former chairman and vice-chair—that only one Saudi government employee was “implicated” in supporting the hijackers, and that the...

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Pages Said to Detail Saudi Arabia’s Involvement in 9/11 to be Made Public

by Lauren McCauley – As Obama administration and Gulf ally try to evade accountability, 28-page document may be declassified by June Confidential and deeply controversial documents said to reveal the support network behind the 9/11 hijackers may soon be made public, according to the Obama administration’s head of national intelligence. James Clapper, who is charged with overseeing the declassification, reportedly said that it is a “realistic goal” that the 28-page section of the 9/11 Commission Report would be available as early as June. “We are in the position of trying to coordinate interagency position on the declassification of the 28 pages,” he told attendees of an event sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor,The Hill reported on Monday. Clapper’s statement followed similar remarks made Sunday by Sen. Bob Graham (R-Fla.), who was co-chairman of the bipartisan congressional inquiry into the 9/11 attack. Graham and others familiar with the report have alleged that...

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Want to Fight the Terrorist Enemy? Start With Allies Like Saudi Arabia

by Matt Purple – “With friends like these” It began, as these things usually do, with a carrot. After President Obama assailed Saudi Arabia for being a “free rider” in an interview with The Atlantic, Prince Turki al Faisal published a rejoinder at Arab News where he trumpeted Saudi-American cooperation. The message was clear: Lay off the criticism and we’ll stand by you. The stick came a month later. Stung by the introduction of a bill in Congress that would open their government to lawsuits from 9/11 victims, the Saudis threatened to divest in $750 billion of U.S. government assets. You expose us and we’ll damage your economy. It was a superfluous move—Obama has already vowed to fight the legislation—and, for the typically reserved Saudis, an unusually brusque one. You might even call it geopolitical blackmail, which several of the 9/11 families did. The Saudi-American friendship has hit a breaking point....

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Why A Once Iron-Clad Alliance Is Quaking — And Why It Took So Long To Falter

by BEENISH AHMED – President Obama received a rather lukewarm reception from Saudi royals when he landed in Riyadh on Wednesday. Saudi social media commentators noted that he was met with a reception led by the city’s mayor instead of King Salman, who greeted regional leaders with a great deal more gusto right after they landed. Nor did Obama exchange kisses with the Saudi leader, as his predecessor George W. Bush once did. But the alliance between Saudi Arabia and the United States is not quite what it used to be. Tensions have reached new heights in recent weeks among suggestions that the Kingdom’s money was used to fund the 9/11 hijackers – three-fourths of whom were Saudi nationals. A proposal in Congress that might allow victims of that attack to sue the Kingdom if it’s found to have supported terrorism has further chilled relations. Saudis also feel snubbed by...

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28 Pages That Could Implicate Saudi Arabia In 9/11

by JUSTIN SALHANI – As President Obama prepares for a trip to Saudi Arabia later this month, a CBS 60 Minutes segment has rekindled calls to declassify the 28 pages omitted from the 2003 report about the 9/11 attacks. The 28 pages are believed to expose a number of links between various officials in Saudi Arabia and the 9/11 hijackers — 15 of 19 of whom were Saudi citizens. A CIA watchdog report from last year says there is no evidence that the Saudi government “knowingly and willingly” supported al-Qaeda’s attack, but many congressmen believe the 28 pages could indicate heavy Saudi involvement in the 9/11 attacks. “I think it is implausible to believe that 19 people, most of whom didn’t speak English, most of whom had never been in the United States before, many of whom didn’t have a high school education — could’ve carried out such a complicated...

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First European Country Votes To Stop Selling Weapons To Saudi Arabia

by JUSTIN SALHANI – International pressure over Saudi Arabia’s human rights violations in Yemen increased on Tuesday as the Dutch parliament voted to ban arms exports to Saudi Arabia. The vote makes the Netherlands the first European Union country to take action on an European Parliament motion calling for an embargo on selling weapons to the Saudis. The bill quoted U.N. statistics saying 6,000 civilians have been killed in Yemen by a Saudi-led airstrike campaign that is supported by the United States. Aggressive action in Yemen wasn’t the only motivation for the Netherlands to impose an arms-trade embargo, as the Dutch also cited Saudi Arabia’s execution record for 2016. The Gulf kingdom has already executed 70 people — 47 of them killed on January 2 for charges of terrorism. France and the UK are major arms suppliers to the Saudis but are yet to implement the embargo despite growing pressure. According...

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Russia and Turkey Exchange Threats as War Tensions Reverberate Along Syrian Border

by Jon Queally – ‘What happens next is anything but clear.’ A bomb blast in the Turkish capital of Ankara on Wednesday—which killed dozens of people and injured scores of others—arrived alongside increasing global worries about how Turkey is responding to shifting developments on the other side of its border with Syria where a brutal civil war and international fight against the Islamic State continues. Over the recent days and weeks, the Syrian armed forces of President Bashar al-Assad, backed by Russian airstrikes and the Syrian Kurdish militia known as the YPG, have closed off vital supply routes of ISIS and opposition fighters while capturing long-held territory near the strategically-situated town of Azaz and the rebel stronghold of Aleppo in northwestern Syria. As Reuters reports: Russian bombing has transformed the five-year-old Syrian civil war in recent weeks, turning the momentum decisively in favor of Moscow’s ally President Bashar al-Assad. The Syrian...

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Western Powers Protect Arms Markets Ignoring Civilian Killings

by Thalif Deen – UNITED NATIONS – The West continues its strong political and military support to one of its longstanding allies in the Middle East – Saudi Arabia –- despite withering criticism of the kingdom’s battlefield excesses in the ongoing war in neighboring Yemen. A Saudi-led coalition has been accused of using banned cluster bombs, bombing civilian targets and destroying hospitals – either by accident or by design—using weapons provided primarily by the US, UK and France. The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said last week the armed conflict in Yemen continues to take a terrible toll on civilians, with at least 81 civilians reportedly killed and 109 injured in December. As a result, the toll of civilian casualties, recorded between 26 March and 31 December 2015, are estimated at more than 8,000 people, including nearly 2,800 killed and more than 5,300 wounded. But Western powers...

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The Execution of Nimr Al-Nimr: One More Reason to Re-evaluate the Toxic US-Saudi Alliance

by Medea Benjamin – The brutal Saudi execution of Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr Al-Nimr has led to protests around the globe, as well as the burning of the Saudi Embassy in Tehran, followed by the Saudi severing of relations with Iran. This exacerbation of Sunni-Shia tensions is the result of the reckless Saudi action against a popular, nonviolent Shia leader. Also reckless is the US government’s response, which has failed to condemn the Saudi government and distance itself from the abusive regime. On January 2, the Saudi government executed 47 people, most of them by beheading. Those executed included Sunnis convicted of Al Qaeda-affiliated attacks, as well as Shia opponents—Sheik Nimr Al-Nimr and three others arrested when they were still juveniles. The killing of Al-Nimr has sparked a massive reaction because he was a prominent religious leader who defended the Shia minority and criticized the abuses—both domestic and foreign—of the Saudi...

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Saudi Arabia ‘Torpedoes’ American Middle East Policy With Execution Of Shia Cleric

by JUSTIN SALHANI – Tension between Saudi Arabia and Iran has long festered via regional proxy wars, but the execution of a prominent Saudi Shia cleric by Riyadh over the weekend and the subsequent reactions could affect the United States’ interests in the Middle East. “The Saudi decision to execute this Shia cleric was a direct challenge to US policy in the region,” Middle East Scholar Vali Nasr, told NPR. “In fact it torpedoes America’s approach which has been that we should put other issues aside and focus on defeating ISIS and ending the war in Syria and that requires Iran and Saudi Arabia to get on the same page.” Saudi’s foreign ministry announced the execution of Nimr al-Nimr and 47 others on Jan. 2. “Here was a prominent, outspoken cleric who articulated the feelings of those in the country’s Shia minority who feel marginalized and discriminated against,” the BBC’s...

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Saudi Arabia Cuts Diplomatic Relations with Iran

by Al Jazeera Staff – Iranian diplomatic mission to be told to leave kingdom within 48 hours as Saudis evacuate embassy staff from Tehran Saudi Arabia has announced it is severing diplomatic ties with Iran following Saturday’s attack on its embassy in Tehran during protests. Adel al-Jubeir, the Saudi foreign minister, made the announcement on Sunday while the foreign ministry announced that it would ask the Iranian diplomatic mission to leave the kingdom within 48 hours. The Saudi foreign ministry also announced that the staff of its diplomatic mission had been evacuated and were on their way back to the kingdom. Reports said the plane carrying the Saudi staff have landed in Dubai, United Arab Emirtes. READ MORE: The oil price, Iran and Saudi’s economy At a press conference in Riyadh, Jubeir said that during Saturday’s protests in Tehran, the Saudi diplomatic representative there asked for help from the Iranian foreign...

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Rights Group Says Disregard for Civilian Life by US and Saudi Arabia Is ‘Appalling’

by Sarah Lazare – Human Rights Watch blasts Saudi-led coalition for apparent war crimes and failure to investigate The United States has been party to numerous apparent war crimes committed by the Saudi-led military coalition in Yemen, yet—along with all nations responsible—is violating international requirements to investigate bombings of homes, schools, and refugee camps, Human Rights Watch (HRW) declared on Monday. Coming just hours after peace talks concluded with no clear resolution to the nearly nine-month-old conflict, the report finds that the coalition launched six “apparently unlawful airstrikes” in residential areas of Sanaa, Yemen’s capital, that killed a total of 60 civilians during September and October. One September 13 bombing of a home in Sanaa’s old city, which is protected as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, killed 18 civilians and wounded far more. Abd al-Khalik Muhammad al-Khamisi, who was at home with his family 50 meters from where the bomb hit,...

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To Help Thwart ISIS, Let’s Take Baby Steps Away From Saudi Arabia and Turkey

by Robert Naiman – Here’s two things we know for sure from key advances of the Obama Administration’s foreign policy: our relationships with other countries aren’t set in stone, and the choices aren’t merely “friend” and “foe.” We can shake hands without getting married, and we can pivot away without getting divorced. We can change our relationship with a country from “enemy with unremittingly hostile relations” to “adversary with a cordial relationship and modest cooperation” (Cuba, Iran.) We can change our relationship with a country from “joined at the hip” to “pretty good friends” (Israel.) In order to help us thwart ISIS, let’s move Saudi Arabia and Turkey into the Israel category. Let’s downgrade them from “joined at the hip” to “pretty good friends.” This will enable us to pursue a more aggressive policy against ISIS, because the main constraint against doing so in the past has been our closeness to...

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Doubts Linger Over Saudi-Led, Islamic Anti-Terrorism Coalition

by JUSTIN SALHANI – Saudi Arabia announced on Monday that it will lead an anti-terror military alliance of predominantly Muslim countries, with a joint operations center located in Riyadh. The formation of this coalition comes amid calls for Gulf states to do more to comprehensively fight radicalism. This new anti-terror alliance has drawn skepticism from some analysts for a number of reasons. Gulf states faced heavy criticism for funding regional proxies, particularly in the Syrian civil war, including certain extremist groups. Saudi Arabia in particular has come under fire as of late, with many commentators suggesting that the exportation of their Wahhabi ideology is to blame for the rise of extremists around the Muslim world. It’s unclear what effect the new coalition will have on the U.S.’ fight against ISIS, as Saudi Arabia provided few details, other than that the coalition would focus on more than just fighting ISIS. But...

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Guns Deter Terrorist Attacks! Except in All the Places With Lots of Guns

by kos – Among the river of stupid that came out of GOP mouths this weekend was the popular suggestion that an armed Parisian populace would’ve saved lives. For example, there was Donald Trump: “Had there been some guys with a gun, there would have been a shootout and probably the primary people that would have got whacked would have been the killers,” Trump said on CNBC’s “Squawk Box.” “You can’t get any tougher than Paris, and you can’t get any tougher than France” on gun control, he continued. “They just said, come here, boom, come here, boom…shot these people at will.” So just a day before Paris, ISIS-aligned terrorists killed at least 43 people in Beirut, Lebanon, a country that is swimming in weaponry. “In Lebanon, if you buy 1 million guns, you sell 1 million guns. There is no security, and people want to be able to defend themselves,” he told NOW. “All...

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Despite Atrocities, US Approves $1.29 Billion Deal to Re-Arm Saudi Arabia

by Sarah Lazare – The Pentagon announced on Monday that the U.S. has approved a $1.29 billion arms sale to Saudi Arabia, despite widespread mounting evidence of the country’s mass atrocities and possible war crimes in neighboring Yemen. The U.S. State Department on Friday approved the sale of over 10,000 bombs, munitions, and weapons parts produced by Boeing and Raytheon. This includes 5,200 Paveway II “laser guided” and 12,000 “general purpose” bombs. “Bunker Busters,” also included in the deal, are designed to destroy concrete structures. “The proposed sale augments Saudi Arabia’s capability to meet current and future threats from potential adversaries during combat operations,” the Defense Security Cooperation Agency, which is part of the U.S. Department of Defense, said in an announcement of the deal released Monday. But Raed Jarrar, government relations manager for the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), told Common Dreams: “Sending additional weapons to the Middle East will...

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Judge Dismisses 9/11 Case Against Saudi Arabia

A US judge has dismissed claims against Saudi Arabia by families of victims of the September 11, 2001, attacks, who accused the country of providing material support to al-Qaeda. US District Judge George Daniels in Manhattan, New York, said Saudi Arabia had sovereign immunity from damage claims by families of nearly 3,000 people killed in the attacks, and from insurers that covered losses suffered by building owners and businesses. “The allegations in the complaint alone do not provide this court with a basis to assert jurisdiction over defendants,” Daniels wrote. The victims had sought to supplement their case with new allegations to avoid that result, including based on testimony they secured from Zacarias Moussaoui, a former al-Qaeda operative imprisoned for his role in the attacks, Reuters reported. Daniels said even if he allowed the plaintiffs to assert those new claims, doing so would be “futile, however, because the additional...

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Groups Aim to Expose Bloody Relationship Between US and Saudi Arabia

by Sarah Lazare – Six months into their bombing campaign against Yemen, Saudi Arabian King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and U.S. President Barack Obama will hold a Washington, D.C. meeting later this week—the monarch’s first since taking the throne. The world leaders will be confronted by protests and petitions denouncing the two countries’ “special relationship,” which rights campaigners say is driving the rising civilian death toll in Yemen—and war and sectarianism across the Middle East. “Twenty-four million people are slowly dying and that is at the hands of the United States government for backing Saudi Arabia’s illegal war in Yemen,” Rooj Alwazir, a Yemeni activist currently based in the U.S. who co-founded Support Yemen Media, told Common Dreams. “Saudi Arabia is engaging in war crimes and the United States is blatantly supporting it,” Alwazir continued. “In addition to the bombs being rained down over the entire 24 million people, 21 million...

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Saudi Arabian Women Finally Get A Vote. But Will They Have A Voice?

by BEENISH AHMED – Women in Saudi Arabia began registering to vote over the weekend — for the first time in that country’s history. They will allowed to sign up to contest elections next weekend. “The participation of the Saudi women in the municipal elections as voters and candidates was a dream for us,” Jamal Al-Saadi, the first women to register to vote in the city of Madinah told the Saudi Gazette. “The move will enable Saudi women to have a say in the process of the decision-making.” While it’s a significant step, many advocates have noted that the limited freedom of women in Saudi Arabia and a largely closed political system render the reform virtually meaningless. Adam Coogle of Human Rights Watch noted that many Saudi women do not have the ID cards that will be required of them in order to vote. “In principle, all Saudi women can obtain...

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Who’s the Real Troublemaker in the Middle East?

by Medea Benjamin – Except for maybe the Affordable Care Act, nothing gets Republican politicians fired up like Iran. In the first GOP debate alone, Scott Walker promised that he’d tear up the Iran nuclear deal on day one of his presidency. Carly Fiorina blamed the country for “most of the evil that is going on in the Middle East.” Mike Huckabee vowed to topple the “terrorist Iranian regime and defeat the evil forces of radical Islam.” Oddly, when the candidates complain about the “evil forces of radical Islam” or trouble in the Middle East, they never seem to mention Saudi Arabia. Iran’s no democratic paradise. But on many counts, Washington’s Saudi allies are even worse. The Saudi royals crush dissent with an iron fist, spread extremist ideology, and invade their neighbors with impunity. Domestically, the Saudi regime oppresses women, religious minorities, and millions of foreign workers. And it brutally represses criticism from human rights...

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Families of 9/11 Victims On Verge of Proving Government Cover Up in Court

by True Activist – For many years, rumors have circulated regarding the U.S. government’s involvement in an active cover-up of a sinister connection between Saudi Arabia and the terrorist attacks of 9/11. In fact, 28 redacted pages from a congressional intelligence report  are said to contain damning information that implicates the Saudis in the 2001 mass murder of American citizens. Despite a bipartisan effort to release the information, the now notorious 28 pages are still being withheld from the public under the predictable guise of “national security.” Now, thanks to a federal lawsuit in a Manhattan court, there may be a light at the end of the tunnel. Two authors of the concealed pages may soon be called to testify in a court case currently pending against the kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Former FBI investigator Michael Jacobson and former Justice Department attorney Dana Lesemann, both of whom investigated the terror strikes for the FBI, were given the assignment to track...

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Saudi Arabian Airstrike Kills 120 Civilians as US-Backed War in Yemen Rages

by Jon Queally – Humanitarian crisis continues with no end in sight as forces armed and supported by the United States continue to terrorize the people of Yemen Intense fighting between Houthi factions and Yemeni forces allied with a Saudi-backed military campaign continued on Sunday, just a day after the killing of approximately 120 civilians by a Saudi airstrike spurred an impromptu call for a five-day ceasefire in the war-torn and poverty-stricken country. According to the Associated Press: The airstrikes late Friday hit workers’ housing for a power plant in Mokha, flattening some of the buildings to the ground A fire erupted in the area, charring many of the corpses, including children, women and elderly people. Wahib Mohammed, an eyewitness and area resident, said some of the bodies were torn apart by the force of the blast and buried in a mass grave on Saturday. Some of the strikes also...

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As Propaganda Rains Down in US, Real Bombs Kill Scores of Civilians in Yemen

By Jon Queally, Common Deams – Just as a fear-soaked yet uneventful Fourth of July weekend came to an end in the United States, it was reported out of the impoverished and war-torn country of Yemen on Monday that a series of airstrikes by Saudi Arabia — which is receiving ongoing military intelligence and logistical support from the U.S. — had killed one hundred or more innocent people, including men, women, and children. According to reports, at least 45 people were killed and another 50 wounded after Saudi Arabia warplanes bombed a market in Lanj province near the southern port city of Aden. “I came right after the explosion and saw dozens of dead strewn about and a sea of blood, while the wounded were being evacuated to nearby hospitals,” resident Abu-Ali al-Azibi told the Associated Press. “ blood from people mixed with that of the sheep and other livestock at...

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‘Secretive Dictatorship’ Exposed as Wikileaks Publishes Massive Trove of Saudi Cables

By Sarah Lazare, Common Dreams – WikiLeaks on Friday began publishing more than half a million top-secret documents from Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Ministry, including communications from Saudi embassies across the globe, information from other state institutions, and correspondence with foreign entities. While analysts have not yet pored through the documents, the files are poised to expose the Saudi government, whose atrocious human rights record is being put on display with its ongoing bombing and blockade of Yemen. They could also shed light on the relationships between Saudi Arabia and its close allies throughout the region and world, including the United States. WikiLeaks said that the massive trove of cables will be published in bunches of tens of thousands over the next few weeks. As of Friday, at least 61,205 documents had been published, with more troves expected in coming days. The cables are being hosted on an online database and can be...

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