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The Next Battle in Yemen

Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) is preparing Yemen's battle from the South.

The resigned president Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi secretly left his house in Sana'a and fled to Aden. The GCC-backed president rescinded his resignation and attempted to reclaim his position again.

Earlier on September 21, Iran-backed Houthis captured the capital Sana'a and controlled the main governmental institutions.

Ministerial communiqué from the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) asked the Security Council to authorize the use of military intervention in Yemen under Chapter 7 of the UN charter.

The UN Security Council Resolution 2201 (2015) includes three key elements:

First, while deploring the Houthis' control of key government institutions, the resolution emphasised the return to the GCC Initiative and the National Dialogue Conference outcomes as the legal foundations of Yemen's transitional period.
Second, the resolution called for the release of the president, Prime Minister Khalid Bahah, and other members of the Yemeni government.
Finally, the Security Council requested Ban to report back to the council on the implementation of this resolution after two weeks.

The ambassadors of Saudi Arabia and Qatar on Wednesday resumed their work in Aden, the Red Sea port city where Yemen’s President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi fled after escaping house arrest in Sana’a imposed by the powerful Houthi movement, a Gulf source told Asharq Al-Awsat.

An Iranian deputy foreign minister has warned against foreign interference in Yemen, saying the disintegration of the Arab country would benefit "no side" in the Middle East region.

“Moving towards Yemen’s disintegration will be to the benefit of no side in the region,” Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, the Iranian deputy foreign minister for Arab and African affairs, said on Friday.

The Iranian official warned those seeking to impose a civil war in Yemen against making a strategic miscalculation with respect to the Arab country.

He said that the Yemeni people and leaders would not allow their “united” country to turn into another Somalia or Libya.

The mentioned Saudi newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat (link) mistakenly reported: "Aden, the Red Sea port city". In fact, Aden's water boundaries are the Arabian Sea and Gulf of Aden. But not the Red Sea.
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HSBC Involved in Serious Criminal Activity

The banking giant HSBC is today accused by a former Director of Public Prosecutions of engaging in “a systematic and profitable collusion in serious criminal activity”.

In a damming intervention Lord Ken Macdonald, who led the Crown Prosecution Service until 2008, said there existed “credible evidence” of HSBC’s involvement in “grave” cross border crimes that should have been the subject of urgent and “sustained criminal investigation” in the UK.

Lord Macdonald added that a decision by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs not to investigate HSBC for its role in facilitating possible tax evasion was “seriously legally flawed”.

Lord Macdonald’s intervention will increase the pressure both on the bank, which reports its full year results today, and HMRC. It comes as the Liberal Democrat Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander called for new laws to be introduced to crack down on tax evasion before the next election.

Until now HMRC has claimed it received the details of accounts held by clients of HSBC Suisse under strict international treaty conditions, which it said, limited their use of the data to only to pursuing tax offences.
Source: The Independent
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Arabic Words in English

Algorithm and sofa, coffee and apricot, algebra and zero, and so many more are the gift of Arabic to English.

The East and West have been meeting for centuries, leaving their mark on both Arabic and the languages of Europe. Here are 40 English words that came from the Arab Middle East.
Arabic words generally didn't enter English directly. They usually arrived through other European languages, chiefly Spanish and Italian, and were of two main types: scientific terms - reflecting the preeminence of the Arab world in science during the Middle Ages, and the names of goods, reflecting both the origin of the goods and the status of Arab merchants in trade during this period.

The concept of nothingness in math

First and foremost, the world have the Arabs to thank for the word zero, if not the concept, though it isn't clear which civilization invented it first – the Indians or the Babylonians. The word "zero" is a corruption of the Arabic word for nothing, sifr, which is itself a mistranslation of śūnya, the Sanskrit word for "empty". In contemporary Arabic sifr means both "zero" and "nothing".

Sifr is also the origin of cipher and naturally enough decipher.

While on numbers, the English word algebra comes from the Arabic word al-jabr, which means “the restoration.” It derives from the title of the 9th century book "‘Al-kitāb al-muḵtaṣar fī ḥisāb al-jabr wal-muqābala" (“The Concise Book on Calculation by Restoration and Compensation”) by the Persian polymath Muḥammad ibn Mūsā al-Khwārizmī. The book was translated into Latin in the 12th century, and eventually al-jabr morphed into algebra, which took on the sense we know today.

This was not al-Khwārizmī’s only contribution to English. His name itself, which means “the native of Khorezm” (currently Khiva, Uzbekistan), became the English word algorithm.
Moving on to chemistry, alkali (the opposite of acid) comes from the Arabic word al-qali (“soda ash”). Quite ironically, the English word alcohol comes from Arabic al-kohl (“kohl”), powdered antimony used as eye makeup. The Arabic word entered European languages in the Middle Ages, originally meaning kohl, then fine powder, then essence - and then ethanol, the essence of wine.

In the field of astronomy and navigation, Arabic can chalk up claims to azimuth, from as-sumūt (“the directions”) and also the related zenith, from samt-al-rā's (“the direction of the head”).
Nadir (the lowest point) similarly derives from naẓīr as-samt (“opposite the direction”).

Arabs were such important trading partners to Europe, and many words from commerce originate in Arabic. Arsenal comes from the Arabic dār al-ṣināʿa (“house of manufacturing”) and magazine come from makhāzin (“storehouse”). Jar comes from Arabic jarrah and ream (as in a quantity of paper) comes from rizma.

Then there are the many products Arab traders introduced to Europe: Artichoke comes from Arabic al-ḵaršūfa, carob from ḵarrūba, coffee from qahwa, saffron comes from zaʿfarān, sumac (the red spice, not the poisonous plant) comes from summāq, caraway (as in seeds) comes from al-karawiyā, tarragon from ṭarkhōn (which probably itself originates in Greek), and tamarind come from the Arabic tamr hindī (“Indian date”).
The chain starting in Sanskrit

Both lime and lemon come from Arabic līma, though ultimately both words came through Persian, from the Sanskrit word nimbū.

Orange made a similar journey from India, starting with one of the south Indian Dravidian languages, perhaps the Tamil nāram, then via Sanskrit and Persian to Arabic nāranj, which eventually made its way to English by way of Italian, (possibly Portuguese), and French.

The related tangerine gets its name from the Moroccan port city of Tangier, from where the small citrus had once been shipped.

Aubergine, another name for the noble eggplant, originated in the Sanskrit word vātiga-gama (“plant that cures wind”), which made its way to Persian in the form of bâdengân, which was transmitted to Arabic al-badinjān, which made its way into Catalan albergínia, then French aubergine and finally into English.
 Apricot probably started its way in the Latin word praecoquum (“ripe before its time” or “precocious”), which made its way into Greek praikókion, which then made its way into Arabic as al-burqūq, which returned to Europe through Italian and Spanish, then to French and eventually to English.

Cotton comes from qoton, jasmine from yasmīn (possibly of Persian origin), and hashish, or for short hash, comes from the Arabic hashīsh (“dried herb”). The drug also gave its name to a religious sect renowned for smoking the stuff and also to its method of eliminating the competition - the ḥashāshīn, which begot the English word assassin.

Some furniture items also originated far far away: mattress came from the Arabic maṭraḥ (“a place where something is thrown”) and sofa from the Arabic soffa (”long low seat”).

And finally, for dessert, candy has its origins in India but came to Europe via the Arabic word qandī (“sugared”). Sugar came more directly from the Arabic sukkar - as did the words syrup, sherbet, and sorbet, all of which came from the Arabic word sharāb, which does not however mean anything sweet. It simply means "beverage".
Source: World Bulletin
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Professor Juan Cole - Exposed

Professor Juan Cole
Juan Cole is Professor of History at University of Michigan. I think he is one of well-knowledgeable Western professors on the Arab and middle eastern affairs. Nevertheless, knowledge does not determine the scientist's moral stances. For example, persons who develop biological and nuclear weapons are essentially scientists but there is a debate on their moral stances, because weapons of massive destruction are blind and do not select the targeted enemy in certain population.

I should emphasize that I have nothing to do with Professor Cole's personal affairs, but I want to expose his stances as an intellectual and scientist. Moreover, I have published two articles from his website (Informed comments).

As I followed professor Cole in Twitter, I have noticed that he retweeted a pro-GCC propaganda criticizing Hezbollah and Iran. However, he never (during the period I followed him) mentioned the Qatari role in supporting fundamental groups in the Arab world. More specifically, ISIS ideology (i.e., Wahhabism) is the same of the Qatari dynasty, and he, undoubtedly, knows they support al-Qaeda affiliated groups in Syria, Libya and Iraq. General Dempsey admitted the role of US Arab allies in supporting terrorists in Syria.

Professor Juan Cole promoting Doha-based institute via twitter

Why does professor of History at University of Michigan invite his followers to join Qatar-funded institute?

An apologist: Qatar reforms?

He titled a post in his "informed comments" as: "Under World Cup Pressure, Qatar reforms Guest Worker Laws, abolishes Sponsorship System" and continued to say: "Qatar, host of the 2022 football World Cup, said Wednesday it will abolish its controversial sponsorship system for foreign workers, whose treatment in the energy-rich state has stirred mounting international criticism. FIFA chief Sepp Blatter described…"

But the fact is horrific. Qatar has a black file regarding the workers' rights which reaches slavery, according the international organizations. So why he used a very soft and criticism-free language when the topic refers to the Qatari ruling dynasty?
Moreover, he posted: "Qatar is the Red Prince of the Middle East. Despite being fabulously wealthy because of its natural gas exports, its foreign policy has been populist...". populist??

Twitter again

The result was: he blocked me. But why?
By the way, my response was spontaneous with no pre-existing stances toward him. In contrast, I was one of his fans.

Unfortunately, this person who introduces himself as "Public intellectual: Global affairs, Environment, Human Rights, Progressive Politics, Poetry & Literature, Pop Culture, Spirituality", is defending one of the autocratic and totalitarian monarchy in which the dynasty spending the national wealth to support this or that militia in Syria and Libya.

He has the right to respond any way.

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US Spy Operation Manipulates Social Media

Military's 'sock puppet' software creates fake online identities to spread pro-American propaganda 

The US military is developing software that will let it secretly manipulate social media sites by using fake online personas to influence internet conversations and spread pro-American propaganda.

A Californian corporation has been awarded a contract with United States Central Command (Centcom), which oversees US armed operations in the Middle East and Central Asia, to develop what is described as an "online persona management service" that will allow one US serviceman or woman to control up to 10 separate identities based all over the world.

The project has been likened by web experts to China's attempts to control and restrict free speech on the internet. Critics are likely to complain that it will allow the US military to create a false consensus in online conversations, crowd out unwelcome opinions and smother commentaries or reports that do not correspond with its own objectives.

The discovery that the US military is developing false online personalities – known to users of social media as "sock puppets" – could also encourage other governments, private companies and non-government organisations to do the same.

The Centcom contract stipulates that each fake online persona must have a convincing background, history and supporting details, and that up to 50 US-based controllers should be able to operate false identities from their workstations "without fear of being discovered by sophisticated adversaries".

Centcom spokesman Commander Bill Speaks said: "The technology supports classified blogging activities on foreign-language websites to enable Centcom to counter violent extremist and enemy propaganda outside the US."

He said none of the interventions would be in English, as it would be unlawful to "address US audiences" with such technology, and any English-language use of social media by Centcom was always clearly attributed. The languages in which the interventions are conducted include Arabic, Farsi, Urdu and Pashto.

Centcom said it was not targeting any US-based web sites, in English or any other language, and specifically said it was not targeting Facebook or Twitter.

Once developed, the software could allow US service personnel, working around the clock in one location, to respond to emerging online conversations with any number of co-ordinated messages, blogposts, chatroom posts and other interventions. Details of the contract suggest this location would be MacDill air force base near Tampa, Florida, home of US Special Operations Command.

Centcom's contract requires for each controller the provision of one "virtual private server" located in the United States and others appearing to be outside the US to give the impression the fake personas are real people located in different parts of the world.

It also calls for "traffic mixing", blending the persona controllers' internet usage with the usage of people outside Centcom in a manner that must offer "excellent cover and powerful deniability".

The multiple persona contract is thought to have been awarded as part of a programme called Operation Earnest Voice (OEV), which was first developed in Iraq as a psychological warfare weapon against the online presence of al-Qaida supporters and others ranged against coalition forces. Since then, OEV is reported to have expanded into a $200m programme and is thought to have been used against jihadists across Pakistan, Afghanistan and the Middle East.

OEV is seen by senior US commanders as a vital counter-terrorism and counter-radicalisation programme. In evidence to the US Senate's armed services committee last year, General David Petraeus, then commander of Centcom, described the operation as an effort to "counter extremist ideology and propaganda and to ensure that credible voices in the region are heard". He said the US military's objective was to be "first with the truth".

This month Petraeus's successor, General James Mattis, told the same committee that OEV "supports all activities associated with degrading the enemy narrative, including web engagement and web-based product distribution capabilities".

Centcom confirmed that the $2.76m contract was awarded to Ntrepid, a newly formed corporation registered in Los Angeles. It would not disclose whether the multiple persona project is already in operation or discuss any related contracts.

Nobody was available for comment at Ntrepid.

In his evidence to the Senate committee, Gen Mattis said: "OEV seeks to disrupt recruitment and training of suicide bombers; deny safe havens for our adversaries; and counter extremist ideology and propaganda." He added that Centcom was working with "our coalition partners" to develop new techniques and tactics the US could use "to counter the adversary in the cyber domain".

According to a report by the inspector general of the US defence department in Iraq, OEV was managed by the multinational forces rather than Centcom.

Asked whether any UK military personnel had been involved in OEV, Britain's Ministry of Defence said it could find "no evidence". The MoD refused to say whether it had been involved in the development of persona management programmes, saying: "We don't comment on cyber capability."

OEV was discussed last year at a gathering of electronic warfare specialists in Washington DC, where a senior Centcom officer told delegates that its purpose was to "communicate critical messages and to counter the propaganda of our adversaries".

Persona management by the US military would face legal challenges if it were turned against citizens of the US, where a number of people engaged in sock puppetry have faced prosecution.

Last year a New York lawyer who impersonated a scholar was sentenced to jail after being convicted of "criminal impersonation" and identity theft.

It is unclear whether a persona management programme would contravene UK law. Legal experts say it could fall foul of the Forgery and Counterfeiting Act 1981, which states that "a person is guilty of forgery if he makes a false instrument, with the intention that he or another shall use it to induce somebody to accept it as genuine, and by reason of so accepting it to do or not to do some act to his own or any other person's prejudice". However, this would apply only if a website or social network could be shown to have suffered "prejudice" as a result.

• Source: The Guardian, March 2011

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‘Self-Radicalized': Islamophobic Buzzwords never applied to White Terrorists

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) –
Did a self-radicalized lone wolf white terrorist kill three young Muslim students in cold blood in Chapel Hill? It is a kind of a stupid question, but its stupidity is just more apparent when asked of someone with an English last name. What does self-radicalized or lone wolf even mean?
Craig Hicks constantly shared anti-Muslim and anti-Christian links on social media and proclaimed to believers, ““I have every right to insult a religion that goes out of its way to insult, to judge, and to condemn me as an inadequate human being — which your religion does with self-righteous gusto…” I think we may conclude that he didn’t like Muslims, and one of the victims told her father that before her death. While he may have been provoked to his rage by a parking incident and while he clearly is one egg short of an omelette, the “new atheist” discourse of believers as oppressive and coercive per se is part of his problem.
Father of murdered student
“Terrorism” has been racialized in the American press and law enforcement community, marked as having to do with Muslims but almost never used to refer to people of northern European background. A few years ago, when a police spokesman said that “We have concluded that event was not terrorism,” likely what he meant is that no Muslims were involved or that no cell or organization was.
Racializing dissent has an old genealogy in American politics. In the early twentieth century, Jewish-American immigrants were suspected of socialism and Italian-Americans of anarchism. In the Red Scare of 1917-1920, workers who joined labor actions were falsely accused of Communism and were targeted for mob violence, especially if they had “foreign names.” African-Americans who had come north to work in factories during the war, filling a domestic labor shortage, were likewise tagged as subversive. Somehow persons of English ancestry with names like Worthington — even if they were blue collar workers– were not assumed to be Communists or foreign agents or radicals. Russian-Americans were deported. In Illinois after the war, a mob attacked Italian-Americans and razed their homes.
Today it is Muslim-Americans who have been stereotyped as radicals, although the vast majority of them are actually pillars of the establishment and they are better off educationally and financially than the average American. But how to characterize Muslim individuals who committed violence, who were unconnected to any radical network and who were clearly simply mentally ill? Initially Islamophobic diction wasn’t deployed in their regard. But over time, those promoting bigotry managed to make it respectable to sweep even these often mentally fragile individuals up into “terrorism.” The buzzwords used were “lone wolf” and “self-radicalized.”
Terrorism as it was defined in the Federal code in the 1990s made some sense. It was a non-state group that committed violence against civilians for political purposes. The modern democratic state is supposed to have a monopoly on violence (police, army) and people are supposed to seek to influence politics non-violently, by organizing in parties and contesting elections. A group that appointed itself (and was elected by no one) to carry out violence to achieve political goals is a danger to democratic society, usurping the role of the state illegitimately.
But to characterize one unbalanced individual, unconnected to a cell or network, who hits out at a few individuals or a soft target, as a “terrorist”makes little sense. It makes no sense at all except if the word “terrorist” is deprived of its legal meaning, as above, and simply used to denote “Muslim who commits violence for other than purely criminal reasons.” Thus, an official applied the term ‘terrorism’ to jihadi Zale Thompson’s attack on four NY policemen with an axe. Note that the 1990s Federal code would have excluded that attack, horrible as it was, because it was not civilians who were targeted and Thompson was not a group. It also isn’t clear what political goal was furthered. As Gawker’s Hamilton Nolan argued, that was a criminal act. Otherwise, expanding terrorism to cover such one-off acts has the effect of terrorizing society by keeping it on its toes and making it haunted by crackpots.
Moreover, the T-word is almost never applied to ‘lone wolf,’ ‘self-radicalized’ white people who go berserk their neighbors. I wrote last spring,
we had the horrible day-before-Passover attack on two Jewish community facilities outside Kansas City, KS allegedly committed by a Grand Dragon of the Ku Klux Klan, which left 3 people dead. My heart goes out to the innocent victims of hate. I put “Kansas” and “terrorism” in a search of Google News and did not get a single hit on this incident, which tells me that no US news services are describing it that way. Heck, the LA Times said authorities are cautioning that it is too soon even to call the shootings a “hate crime.” Since the shooter is said to have shouted “Heil Hitler,” I’m going to go out on a limb and say it was a hate crime. And I’m also pretty sure it was a form of terrorism. Likewise, if you search for Wade Michael Page, the white supremacist who shot down Sikhs, “and terrorism,” you only get opinion pages and blogs, not MSM sites. But a where a lone gunman committing a hate crime is a Muslim, there’s a demand to use the T-word. Moreover, there is the peculiar American practice of laying collective guilt on all Muslims for what any one wacko amongst them does. White people get a pass on having violent and destructive wackos among them.
Let’s retire the ‘war on terror’ (terrorism is a tactic) and the diction of the ‘lone wolf’ and ‘self-radicalized.’ Society has a few criminals and deviants. When they break the law they become criminals and they should be brought to justice. Obsessing about “terrorists” out there somewhere, and implicitly racializing the phenomenon, is a good way to lose what liberties we still have left.
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Saudi Arabia: Between Iraq And A Hard Place

An inflexible, oil-rich state run by an elderly, out-of-touch elite in cahoots with kleptocratic, self-dealing vested interests, how long does Saudi Arabia have to wait for a true reformer? And what’s going to happen in the meantime?
By Jeffrey Cavanaugh, Mint Press News 

The recent passing of Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz and the ascension of his brother Salman to the throne of Saudi Arabia highlights that this most quiescent of countries is anything but. As this space reportedin July, the late king had recently issued a royal decree establishing not only his own successor but that of the next king as well. In theory, King Salman could overturn this decision, but as things stand the next monarch after the present one to follow his brother into the great beyond will be Prince Muqrin, now 68. 

Although much has been made of the late Saudi king’s reformist efforts, the reality is that, like his neighbors and predecessors, Abdullah was a cruel despot, who relied on a combination of routine and systematic brutality, welfare-state easy living and oil-fueled radical fundamentalism to keep his country under his family’s thumb. Under his watch, militant Salafism — much of which is supported by the Saudi elite and their clients among the Gulf Arab states, and actually taught in Saudi schools — burrowed itself into the heart the Arab world after first feasting upon the Kingdom’s oil wealth.

A Frankenstein movement turns on its creator

Unfortunately for the Saudi monarchy this reliance on religion seems to be backfiring. Instead of pacifying the country’s population and further legitimizing the royal family’s power, radical religion has empowered arevolutionary movement that increasingly sees the House of Saud as its real enemy. This philosophy was first articulated in 1979 when, in a mirror of Iran’s Islamic Revolution, religious radicals seized the Grand Mosquein a bid to start a popular uprising in Saudi Arabia. It failed, but liberal social reforms were thereafter permanently put on hold and the kingdom’s swing to the religious right has done little in the meantime to actually mollify discontent, religious or otherwise.
That’s because the monarchy and its parasitic royal family are understood by everyone in the region, especially in the country itself, to be corrupt to the core. Like the French aristocracy before the revolution or the Communist Party in the old Soviet Union or China today, they monopolize wealth and power at their countrymen’s expense and force everyone from commoner to corporate titan to pay homage to one scion of the family or another. Like The Party in the officially atheist states Saudi Arabia covertly fought in the 1980s, The Family ultimately serves no one but itself.
This basic discontent with the royal family could long be deflected in two ways. The first and most obvious was through welfare spending, while the second was the funneling of anger at the domestic state of affairs into righteous religious conflict abroad. This latter strategy saw Riyadh funneling both troublemakers and moneyinto the anti-Soviet struggle in Afghanistan during the 1980s, which ultimately bore bitter fruit in the form ofal-Qaida in the 1990s and 2000s. Not satisfied with this disaster, however, Riyadh has done it one better byreplicating the policy of using shadowy militant groups it really doesn’t control in its not-so-clandestine efforts to combat Iran’s growing influence in the Middle East.
Yet this policy of using rebels to combat Iran’s battle-hardened clients in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere has taken a disastrous turn. Instead of pushing back Tehran, these Saudi-funded holy warriors have created a revolutionary army that has now taken over large portions of Sunni Syria and Iraq. They even threaten the kingdom itself, a point driven violently home when ISIS claimed responsibility for the killing of two Saudi border guardsmen and their commanding general in an apparent suicide attack on Jan. 5. This must strike panic into the Saudi elite because although Saudi Arabia has seen terrorism before, it has never been so clearly linked to a seemingly viable alternative to the family’s rule so close to their own borders.
Saudi princes are now finding to their discomfort that it is one thing to fund a revolutionary movement a thousand miles away, but quite another to do so next door. Coupled with the recent loss of much of South Yemen to the pro-Iranian Houthis, Riyadh must by now be finding its maneuvering room growing narrower by the day.

The oil weapon is a double-edged sword

There is also the old standby for the royal family: the kingdom’s famous welfare state. Things here are taking a troubling turn as Saudi Arabia is finding that competitors — most notably the hydraulic frackers in the United States as well as conventional oil powers like Russia and Brazil — have eaten away at its market share. The kingdom’s response has been to open the spigots in order to flood global markets with cheap Saudi crude in the hopes of crushing the competition, but as a consequence oil prices have plummeted and threaten to take over $300 billion away from the Gulf’s economies, Saudi Arabia’s included. This is problematic because the kingdom’s welfare spending and newfound defense commitments require oil to be priced much higher, at around $90 per barrel, for the government’s budget to be balanced.
Thus, Saudi Arabia will eventually be forced to make spending cuts — an unpalatable choice given the need to confront Iran and to keep up the status quo at home — or take on debt in order to make up the difference. Debt will be the obvious short-term choice due to the political dangers involved in cutting spending, but this raises the possibility of the kingdom eventually getting caught up in a debt trap as low prices force it to borrow more and more. If low prices continue, the long-term possibility of an economic collapse will loom as Riyadh finds itself unable to fund welfare at home and conflict abroad with Iran, while also simultaneously fighting a price war with its competitors.

Uncle Sam’s shifting sands

The bright side of all this is that Iran is arguably in worse economic straits than Saudi Arabia, while Russia, Iran’s main ally and another major oil power, is also facing financial ruin. In theory, Iran should give out first, but several factors mitigate against Iran’s economic weakness. First, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Arab states’ ISIS Frankenstein is now so reviled and hated that everyone, including even Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Arab states themselves, are fighting against it. This means that Iran is not fighting Saudi proxies alone, but is getting the assistance of the U.S., the Kurds and others, too — in Iraq, at least. Although the same does not apply in Syria, the fact nonetheless remains that Western bombs falling on ISIS in Iraq implicitly aid Syrian President Bashar Assad’s war against similar forces in neighboring Syria.
This in turn puts Iran and the U.S. into the odd position of being allied together in common cause against Saudi-inspired — and often Saudi-funded — Sunni extremism. Although this is not yet likely to last long, it nonetheless puts Saudi Arabia in an uncomfortable position that it has never really been in before: It’s the odd man out in Uncle Sam’s complex relations with the countries of the Middle East. What’s more, this strange situation could possibly continue as two other factors converge to bring Iran and the U.S. closer together.
The first, ironically, is Tehran’s nuclear program. Although very few people in the Middle East, including in Iran itself, would like to see Iran go nuclear, the U.S. does not yet seem willing to go to war with Tehran to ensure that it does not do so. This gives Iran a crucial bargaining chip with Washington that Saudi Arabia does not have: the ability to give the U.S. a huge strategic win in the form of inspections and a public dismantling of its nuclear program. What Iran may get in return for its program is not yet clear, but it would surely involve a lessening of tensions with the West, sanctions relief and perhaps a certain amount of strategic indifference as Tehran continues to confront Riyadh in their ongoing Cold War.
The second factor, in turn, could in the long-run prove even more valuable a trump card for Iran to play: democracy. Although Iran’s democracy is weak and still trodden upon by conservative clerics and much of the revolutionary establishment, both of which have a vested interest in maintaining a conflict with the U.S., the existence of the pro-Democratic Green movement and their recent success in forcing the election of reformist, or at least non-hardline, Hassan Rouhani as Iran’s president speaks to the degree that the consent of the governed must be at least somewhat adhered to Iran. Indeed, the very fact that Iran’s conservative elements felt the need to steal the country’s 2009 presidential election out from under liberal reformers reflects just how important a role elections, democracy and thus the public play in Iran’s politics.

Is Riyadh now the odd man out?

All this is missing from Saudi Arabia, which has increasingly played the role of counterrevolutionary, Czarist Russia in the Mideast’s recent rendition of 1848. Rather than backing democrats, Riyadh threw its support toward Egypt’s autocrats and Yemen’s strongman presidents in a futile bid to preserve both a broad, anti-Iranian Sunni alliance and authoritarian, non-democratic rule throughout the Middle East. It even sent in the tanks when anti-government protesters in Bahrain threatened that country’s quiet and compliant client Sunni king. Given U.S. preference for democracy in the Arab world, this, too, puts Washington and Riyadh at odds. This notion was recently pointed out by reporters who noted that the late Saudi king “could not stand” Obama due to the president’s support for democracy movements throughout the Arab heartland.
Looking forward, all this bodes ill for the aging despots running Saudi Arabia. A revolutionary army that appeals to a large number Saudis sits across their border. Their traditional enemy, Iran, has made huge strides and has effectively encircled the kingdom to the north, south and east. Worse, technological changes have brought new oil supplies to market in a way that threatens the monarchy’s ability to pay for the guns and butter it needs to keep up its Cold War with Iran and buy off loyalty at home. Finally, and most depressingly, Iran and the U.S. seem to be slowly moving toward a détente of sorts reminiscent of Washington’s opening to Beijing during the last century’s Soviet-American Cold.

The Brezhnev is dead! Long live the Brezhnev!

Pity the elderly men now calling the shots in the Arab World’s most powerful country. They face a host of problems — many of which they’ve brought about themselves; many of which seem unlikely to be solved easily or peacefully. Strong leadership at the top that looks to end both the country’s Cold War with Iran and its dependence on ultra-conservative Islam as a legitimizing ideology would go a long way toward solving those problems, but it is extremely doubtful that the wizened hands now calling the shots there will show the gumption needed to turn the Saudi ship of state from its current disastrous course.
Thus, Saudi Arabia today is what the Soviet Union was under Leonid Brezhnev: an inflexible, oil-rich state run by an elderly, out-of-touch elite in cahoots with kleptocratic, self-dealing vested interests that can neither swerve from their conflict with the outside world nor loosen their dependence on a suffocating ideology that deprives the country and its people of the breathing room they need to survive a changing world. In the USSR, Brezhnev was eventually replaced by Andropov and Chernenko, a short-lived pair followed by the tragicGorbachev and the collapse his too-late reforms caused.
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The World, ISIS and The Oppressed Palestinians

Because the world is now ruled by injustice, the story of the Palestinian child Mohammad Abu Khdeir who was burnt alive did not go viral in the main stream media.

The story is not fresh, but the unjustified brutal burning of the Jordanian pilot, and its world wide coverage reminded me with the story of Mohammad Abu Khdeir.

It is documented now that the human brain depends on comparison to distinguish between various scenes, and this is the cornerstone of the visual illusion.

The main stream media focused on the burning of the Jordanian pilot, not because of humanity, or because the pilot is an Arab Muslim, or because the event was shocking. The concealed reason is because the Western alliance against ISIS and its Arab allies need a further solid justification to intervene in the Syrian and Iraqi conflicts.

I will give a clear proof in this regard, which is:
The U.S. government and its European allies can block ISIS's websites and their social media accounts. It is not difficult for Spying agencies to establish ( I'm sure they already have) algorithmic software to classify suspected websites related to ISIS. However, they need two things:
Firstly, to track al-Qaeda related materials.
Secondly, to allow al-Qaeda cyber-propaganda which terrifies people. All that to create a solid justification for interventions.

Here is another example based on comparison too, why do the U.S. government and its European allies able to apply sanctions against Iran and Cuba, but they couldn't prevent oil trafficking by ISIS?

"Mohammed Abu Khdeir was found burned to death  after disappearing on 2 July. Forensic analysis of his remains suggested he was still alive when he was set alight.

Israeli public attention to the 16-year-old’s murder has been diverted by the Israel-Gaza fighting that has so far killed more than 170 Palestinians, but it remains an explosive issue for Palestinians."

"At least 151 Palestinian children are currently being held as "security prisoners" in Israeli jails, Palestinian legal monitor Military Court Watch said in a statement on Tuesday.

The group said that 47 percent of those are being held inside Israel in violation of the Geneva Conventions, which prevents the transfer of detainees outside of occupied territory as it limits their families' and lawyers' abilities to visit.

The numbers highlight the continuing hardships facing Palestinian children in Israeli jails, who comprise the most vulnerable group of the 5,528 Palestinians being held in Israeli jails in total."

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The Ridiculous Revenge Strategy Against ISIS

ISIS released a footage showing the captured Jordanian pilot being brutally burnt in a Hollywoodish scene.
Technically, the brutal scene was professionally filmed. It was taken from various angles with high-resolution lenses. They also prepared the scene very well as there were a cage and the fighters wore military uniforms inspired by the Afghani traditional dressing.
ISIS succeeded in sending a brutal message to the world.
The message is also intended to terrify members of the coalition against them.

The revenge

A few hours after the footage released, the Jordanian king delivered a brief televised speech from Washington. He asked the Jordanian people to unite against what he described a misled thugs using the banner of Islam. At the next dawn, Jordanian state television reported that two prisoners had been executed before dawn. One of them was Sajida al-Rishawi, the Iraqi woman militant who was sentenced to death for her role in a 2005 suicide bombing in Amman that killed 60 people.

“Jordan confirmed on Wednesday that “The Jordanian King Abdullah II will participate personally on Thursday in conducting air strikes against the shelters of the terrorist ISIL organization to revenge the execution of the Jordanian pilot Maath al-Kassasba by the ISIL.”
Media outlets reported the King Abdullah II as saying “The war against ISIL will not end and we will fight them in their shelters.”
The Jordanian air force carried out air strikes against Islamic State targets in Mosul, killing 55 including a top IS commander known as the “Prince of Nineveh,” Iraqi media reported Wednesday.”

The 'ridiculous strategy'

Airstrikes against ISIS's locations are, so far, the mainstay strategy. However, al-Qaeda affiliated groups have no pyramidal command, but they are cluster groups share a common ideology and they often fight each other for zones of influence. For example, ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra are bitter enemies, although they have the same ideology.

Cartoon by Carlos Lattuf
However, Iran and its Iraqi allies are effectively fighting ISIS on the battlefield. They eradicated ISIS from many Iraqi districts in al-Anbar and Takreet.

“Baghdad was prevented from falling because of the presence and assistance of the Islamic republic,” Yadollah Javani, a senior adviser to Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, declared as pictures of the general with a group of Kurdish peshmerga fighters were aired on Iran’s state TV.

“With the Islamic republic’s help, experience and advice, the people of Iraq have blocked the actions of Daesh [Isis in Arabic].” Suleimani was risking martyrdom, Javani said. “We will not let insecurity come close to our borders.”

The League of the Righteous is now one of the more effective fighting forces on the Shiite side in Iraq, backing up the lackluster Iraq National Army (also now mostly Shiite) against Daesh/ ISIL or ISIS.  The campaign to save the Shiite Turkmen of Amerli from Daesh was spearheaded by LOTR last fall.  The effort received close air support from… the United States Air Force.  LOTR and other militiastook Jurf al-Sakhr in October– a Sunni town formerly under the thumb of Daesh.Likewise, the US is allegedly providing weaponry, or having weaponry provided to, the Shiite militias– even heavy weaponry like a tank.

Notably, ISIS is a professional terrorist group as they control a Syrian-Iraqi zone exceeds the area of France, and they have effective 'terrifying' propaganda, or may be the Western governments allow ISIS's internet appearance to justify interventions.

Airstrikes will not defeat ISIS. In contrast, they will irritate the local community against foreign attacks. However, as long as ISIS's ideology is present, such groups will be 'hatched' in the hot spots, such as: Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Pakistan and Kashmir.
Criminalization the Wahhabi ideology(syn. Takfiri or Salafi ideology) is the first and most important step to eliminate al-Qaeda style groups, although this step will take some time to get the results.
Drying sources of funds and prevent logistic supply will play a major role to defeat such neo-fascistic thugs.

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Ironies of Empire: The US Current Allies In Iraq

The revelation by the Washington Post’s Adam Goldman and Ellen Nakashima that the car-bomb assassination of Hizbullah commando Imad Mughniyah in Damascus in 2008 was a joint CIA/ Israeli Mossad operation comes at an awkward time for Washington.

The administration of George W. Bush did not target Mughniyah because of his alleged involvement of past actions against the US, such as the Beirut embassy bombing and the carbombing of the Maine barracks there in 1983.  Rather, Bush was angry about the killing of 5 US soldiers in Iraq’s Karbala in 2007 by a Shiite group trained by Hizbullah, training he suspected Mughniyah was directing from Damascus.

That 2007 operation in Karbala that killed the 5 US troops was carried out by the League of the Righteous (LOTR), a guerrilla group that had hived off in 2006 from cleric Muqtada al-Sadr’s Shiite Mahdi Army militia. The US gained intelligence that the League of the Righteous was being trained in making roadside bombs and guerrilla tactics by Lebanon’s Hizbullah, at the direction of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps.  In the period 2006-2011, the League of the Righteous claimed to have carried out 6,000 attacks on US forces in Iraq.  This seems to me exaggerated; they were probably only 3,000 or so strong.  In any case my recollection is that in Al-Anbar Province in 2006 alone, al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia and other Sunni groups launched 10,000 attacks a month, so these LOTR Shiite activities (only about 100 attacks a month, including sniping, throughout the country) were minor in comparison.

After the US departure from Iraq in 2011, the League of the Righteous developed a civil political wing and ran for parliament.  It supports, more strongly than does Sadr’s group, the Iranian form of theocracy or rule by a leading cleric.

So here’s the kicker.  The League of the Righteous is now one of the more effective fighting forces on the Shiite side in Iraq, backing up the lackluster Iraq National Army (also now mostly Shiite) against Daesh/ ISIL or ISIS.  The campaign to save the Shiite Turkmen of Amerli from Daesh was spearheaded by LOTR last fall.  The effort received close air support from… the United States Air Force.  LOTR and other militiastook Jurf al-Sakhr in October– a Sunni town formerly under the thumb of Daesh.Likewise, the US is allegedly providing weaponry, or having weaponry provided to, the Shiite militias– even heavy weaponry like a tank (see today’s entry from Niqash below).

These developments signal that the Israeli and US struggle with Hizbullah is not white hats versus black hats where all the lines are clearly drawn.  Mughniyah, deemed in 2008 a danger to US troops in Iraq, helped train the very forces with which the United States is now de facto allied against the phony ‘caliphate’ of Daesh’s Ibrahim Samarrai in northern and Western Iraq.  And to the extent that LOTR, the Mahdi Army and the Badr Corps, all Shiite militias, were attacking al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia (which morphed into the Islamic State of Iraq and then Daesh over time), there was a sense in which the US had an alliance of convenience with them even in 2008.  That the League of the Righteous pointed their guns both at their arch-enemy (the Islamic State of Iraq) and at their sometime ally (the US) just shows how complicated and contradictory that world of violence, guerrilla operations, ethnic cleansing, and illegal military occupation was.

Washington in the past 15 years, with its violation of the UN Charter and numerous treaty obligations and its casual assassinations and torture (all contravening US statutes), helped unleash a vast wave of violence on Iraq– displacing millions to this day, and setting the stage for massive campaigns of ethnic cleansing and the rise of Daesh religious extremism (there was no al-Qaeda or al-Qaeda offshoots in Iraq before Bush invaded).

In that world, it is frankly not easy to see the Bush administration, with its illegal war of aggression on and military occupation of oil-rich Iraq, as the good guy.  Mughniyyah inflicted a lot of damage on US interests; but those interests in Iraq, at least, were so murky and dark that he may have sometimes had international law (which allows for resistance to foreign military occupation) on his side at a time that Washington decidedly did not.  And now, the force he trained at the cost of his life is an ally of convenience with the very agency that rubbed him out (and personnel of which he had earlier rubbed out).
There must be a more lawful and ethical way for the US to proceed in the world than this.
Source: Informed comments, by Juan cole
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