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Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman: A Chance to Shine

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Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman: A Chance to Shine

CDHR Commentary: Propelling Mohammed Bin Salman into a position of assured succession to the Saudi throne has been in the making since his father, King Salman, inherited the throne in January 2015. Some people are questioning what prompted the King to advance his son up the line of succession now.

It is difficult to evaluate with certainty the chain of events that led to King Salman’s June 21, 2017 decree to promote his son to Crown Prince. Those intimately familiar with the mindset of the ruling princes, their primary objective and how they operate can safely speculate about what may have transpired within the high-walled royal court and interpret what went on during the Allegiance Commission and rituals of mandatory public support for the Crown Prince.

Given King Salman’s well-known convictions that Saudi Arabia is the ruling family’s private property, he wanted to make sure that the self-proclaimed royal ownership of the country remains intact before he disappears from the political landscape. In light of the unprecedented marginalization of many experienced and powerful princes that King Salman orchestrated when he inherited the throne in 2015, he fears that the royal family could be thrown into disarray after his reign. Therefore, in order to insure absolute continuity of his family’s rule, it’s safe to assume that King Salman decided to take action now, thus designating his trusted, but inexperienced, reckless, hawkish and risk taking favorite son Mohammed to be the next king while the father is still coherent to tutor him in how to be an iron-fisted ruler. Additionally, one can assume that King Salman wants to secure acceptance and support for Mohammed as king by the rest of the multitude of disgruntled royals. It is also probable that King Salman may step aside (abdicate) and let his son ascend to the throne and rule the country under the father’s supervision.

Regardless of the reasons that led to King Salman’s decision to put the fate of his domestically and regionally threatened kingdom in the hands of Crown Prince Mohammed, the future young king has an unprecedented opportunity to transform the archaic Saudi form of governing and the oppressive norms of Saudi society. Mohammed can apply his risk-taking actions internally to improve the well-being of the population as opposed to undertaking dangerous military adventures against the country’s neighbors. For instance, Mohammed ought to remove all barriers to women’s equality, remove many of the traditional social taboos, cut treasury-draining allowances to all royals, curtail clerics’ role in shaping public policy, institutionalize inclusive standards for accountability and transparency and transform the educational system to teach non-sectarian, tolerant and scientific subjects and values.

However, in order for Crown Prince Mohammed to institute such daunting reforms, he would need not only support from powerful hostile royals, but from a skeptical public. Since his rise to power from almost total obscurity, he has created more hardships than benefits for the population. He has cut public salaries, initiated new and increased existing taxes, cut some of the state’s subsided social programs and re-enforced political repression.

Given his age and the bloated expectations of the country’s young population, Crown Prince Mohammed needs to work to restore public trust. He ought to form a representative council of his royal and non-royal male and female peers to draft and debate openly comprehensive reform plans to modernize the country’s political, social, religious and economic institutions. By his own admission, Prince Mohammed predicted that the burden of the reforms must be equally distributed across the board (including royals), without which the country could be plunged into chaotic upheaval.

It remains to be seen whether Prince Mohammed will use his power when he ascends to the throne to improve the people’s lives or continue his forefathers’ practices of squandering public wealth, repressive rule, social inequality, religious intolerance and reliance on procured lobbyists and external powers’ protection to prolong the unsustainable status quo.

 

Settling Scores with Qatar in the Guise of Defeating Terrorism

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Settling Scores with Qatar in the Guise of Defeating Terrorism

CDHR Analysis: The same autocratic Arab and African regimes that the Saudis recruited and led to commit what the UN defined as war crimes in Yemen are now plotting against the Emir of Qatar, Tamim, who by comparison is more progressive and enlightened than the monocracies that are blockading his country. Their intent is to overthrow the Emir and subjugate Qatar’s small population.

Bolstered by the Trump Administration, the three major players in the Saudi-led coalition (Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Egypt) thus intend to control Qatar’s domestic and foreign policies, in the guise of starving terrorism and stabilizing the Middle East.

It’s incredibly ludicrous that the Saudi regime and its like-minded cohorts are blockading Qatar, allegedly to defeat terrorist villains, while conscripting war criminals like the President of the Sudan, Omar Hasan Al-Bashir, to inflict death and destruction on the poverty-stricken Yemeni people.

Shouldn’t hiring Al-Bashir’s army to inflict death and destruction in Yemen be considered the pinnacle of terrorism? Hasn’t Saudi Arabia been branded as a financier of Sunni terrorism worldwide and the “Fountainhead of Extremism and Terrorism,” not only by its enemies, but by its closest allies -- including our own eminences, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President Trump?

Despite their public pretences, the Saudis’ objectives are plainly to even old scores and in doing so to pummel Qatar into submission.

The Saudi strategy to control Qatar dates from Qatar’s independence from the British mandate in 1971. When British colonial rule ended, the Qatari dynasty rejected a British/Saudi proposal to become part of the Trucial States, which includes Abu Dhabi, Ajman, Dubai, Fujair, Ras Al-Khaimah, Sharjah, and Umm Al-Quwain. These are now collectively known as the United Arab Emirates.

After Qatar’s independence from Britain, Saudi Arabia took on the role of “protector” of Qatar.  The Emir took policy directions from Al Saud” (the Saudi kings.)

However, Saudi dominance over the Qatari domestic and foreign affairs suffered when Crown Prince Hamad Al-Thani (the father of the current Emir) deposed his father Khalifa in 1995. Emir Hamad embarked on massive political, social, educational and economic reforms. The Saudis and other Gulf rulers resented this for a variety of reasons. These included their fears that the initial bloodless palace coup could set a precedent to be emulated in their own kingdoms.

The overthrow of Emir Khalifa in 1995 initiated a series of events that led to the current Saudi/Qatari crisis. The Saudis were riled by the defiant new Emir’s pursuit of independent domestic and foreign policies of a sort and scope which, in the Saudi view, threatened their regional and global preeminence, and conceivably their political survival.

One of the first bold and most far-reaching actions that Emir Hamad took was the establishment of the pan-Arab satellite channel Aljazeera in 1996. For the first time in their history, the Arab masses were granted a forum where their voices could be heard and where all subjects and opposing views were discussed freely by provocative personalities, including severe critics of authoritarian Arab regimes, former Muslims, religious extremists, Israeli officials and journalists and harsh critics of Shariah law.

Discussions of Arab regimes’ intolerance, corruption, oppression, institutionalized taboos and inequality could now be watched 24 hours a day. The Gulf Arab rulers have thus accused Aljazeera of being a destabilizing tool used to undermine their dynastic legitimacy and to incite their disenfranchised populations, especially their repressed Shi’a minorities, to revolt.

For example, Aljazeera’s unrelenting and unabashed exposure of the Arab regimes’ tyranny was blamed for the unprecedented Arab mass uprising known as the Arab Spring. This toppled the Saudis’ autocratic allies in Egypt and Tunisia and paved the way for the Muslim Brotherhood to win the Egyptian presidency. The Muslim Brotherhood’s charter calls for the abolition of hereditary rule.

In addition, Qatar adopted a policy of reaching out to all Muslim regimes and groups, including Iran, Hamas, the Taliban, Hezbollah and others. The Qataris have seen this as a defensive, self-preservation practice.  The Saudis, obviously see it as support for the Saudis’ regional hegemonical competitors. The Saudis therefore seized an opportunity to achieve objectives that they had shelved for decades.

This Saudi instigated maneuver is likely to fail or to create another Middle East hot spot where external powers, like Turkey, Iran and Russia, unfriendly to the Gulf rulers and to their Western allies, will take advantage of the current turmoil to advance their own interests and undermine the Americans’.

President Trump, whose unfamiliarity with the complexity of the situation is exceeded only by his eagerness to strike a bold posture, has made a misstep. Qatar hosts the United States’ most important military instillation in the region. This is in part because the Saudis would not tolerate the US presence on their own soil. Instead of heating up rivalries in the Gulf area and becoming more of a partisan than a moderator, President Trump’s impetuosity could result in long term damage to American strategic and economic interests.

 

“Saudi Arabia is a Destination for Human Trafficking & Modern-day Slavery”

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“Saudi Arabia is a Destination for Human Trafficking & Modern-day Slavery”

CDHR Commentary: After a recent meeting at the UN about human trafficking, the Saudi deputy representative to the UN, Saad Al-Saad, was quoted saying that “Saudi Arabia has reaffirmed its strong rejection of all forms of human trafficking and promised to double efforts to eliminate it in coordination with the international community, by ratifying international conventions and treaties on human trafficking.”  He continued, ‘…the majority of victims {of human trafficking} are women, girls and children.’

The Saudi representative to the useless international forum, the UN, is right about the victims of human trafficking. Tragically, Saudi Arabia (the government he represents) has one of the world’s worst records on human rights in general, specifically as they relate to “women, girls and children.”

“Ratifying international conventions and treaties on human trafficking” is worthless unless implemented, enforced and scrutinized by independent civil society and a free press, none of which is permitted in Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia is a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and a signatory to its stringent, wide-range shielding rules and regulations regarding women’s equality and migrant workers’ and their families’ rights. Yet, Saudi women remain marginalized, and abuses of migrant workers, especially maids, are rampant. This is mostly due to the fact that universal declarations on human rights are conveniently considered un-Islamic; therefore, implementing them would be considered blasphemous repudiation of Islam’s unsurpassable teachings. However, this male self-serving arrangement is being increasingly and impatiently challenged by its primary repressed targeted segment of Saudi society, women, as this video demonstrates.

By definition, “Human trafficking is the trade of humans, most commonly for the purpose of sexual slavery and for… providing a spouse in the context of forced marriage.”

Under the Saudi/Wahhabi retributive Shariah-based judicial system, child marriage is legally enforced, gang-raped women can be sentenced to flogging and imprisonment for luring men and polygamy (up to four wives per man) are normal practice. The unspeakable practice of child marriage is religiously sanctioned as stated by the Saudi Mufti, the highest religious authority and overseer of the Saudi educational system and enforcer of the state’s smothering social taboos, which are based on his and his subordinates’ (senior clerics) arbitrary interpretation of proper social conduct.

Why Saudi Arabia is branded “a Destination for Human Trafficking & Modern-day Slavery?”

It’s estimated that there are between 9 and 10 million defenseless expatriate laborers in Saudi Arabia, of which two to three million are maids. These maids are mostly poverty stricken Asian and African women who traveled to Saudi Arabia in the hope of earning honest income to feed their starving families they left behind in their poverty ravished homelands. As has been abundantly documented by human rights groups and some western governments, they are not only overworked and underpaid, but many (if not most of them) are sexually abused, beaten, starved and burned.  The inhumane treatment of many of the maids in Saudi Arabia has been highlighted by this organization (CDHR), Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and the US Department of State, among many others, including some Saudi newspapers.

However, maltreatment of Saudi women is producing a corps of right activists, mostly women, but some men too. They are saying enough is enough, not only to institutionalized male domination, but to the ruling elites, the real culprits behind child marriage, human trafficking and doctrinal extremism. Despite the deleterious conditions under which they operate and the heavy price they pay, Saudi women are in the forefront of challenging one of the world’s most extremist and misogynistic ruling class that treat women with utter contempt for no other reason than their gender.

Supporting Saudi women’s struggle against vilification and exploitation serves far-reaching objectives, including extracting the claws of religious extremism and its byproduct, terrorism.

 

Objectives and Impact of the Failing War in Yemen,

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Center for Democracy and Human Rights in Saudi Arabia, CDHR, Washington DC

September 15, 2016

Objectives and Impact of the Failing War in Yemen, Blaming America and Honor Killings

CDHR’s Analysis and Commentaries

At What Price Supporting Saudis’ Invasion and Destruction of Yemen?

CDHR Commentary: Motivated to restore US relations with Iran for many reasons, including taking charge of executing American polices in the Arab World directly instead of going through the Saudis, the Obama Administration negotiated a controversial nuclear deal with Iran as a pre-requisite to normalization of US/Iranian relations. Having been accused throughout his Administrations of lacking understanding of and clear direction in the Middle East, President Obama wanted to prove to his domestic critics and staunch opponents of the nuclear deal with Iran that his Administration can initiate and implement pragmatic foreign policies, even when he understands that the outcome is not risk free, but is more desirable than the alternative: war with Iran.

Furthermore, the regional tumult and Iran’s rising influence in the Middle East, prompted the US, its allies and other major powers to reach out to the Iranian theocracy, hypothetically mitigating many of the dangerous threats facing the region and the international community. This shift of global attitude toward Iran shook the foundation of the Saudi autocracy.

Through sheer force and application of a ruthless religious doctrine, the Saudi monarchs created and ruled a compliant society for decades, thus presenting themselves and their high-handedly ruled desert kingdom as a bastion of stability, guardians of Western interests and most fit to mediate conflicts (many of which they create) in the Middle East. For many decades, the Saudi rulers, with unwavering support and protection from Western powers, made sure that their regional competitors were crushed, neutralized or rendered incapable of providing the services the Saudis could deliver. Given this history, the Saudi rulers dreaded losing their regional and global favored position to Iran, reacting with anger and defiance to the proposed nuclear deal. Accordingly, they tried to sabotage the US/Iran nuclear agreement in order to prevent any US/Iran rapprochement.

Saudi opposition to the Iran nuclear deal put President Obama’s Administration in a vulnerable position: either to have the Saudis side with his adamant domestic opponents to the nuclear deal or to yield to the Saudis’ extorting demands to support their catastrophic invasion of Yemen in return for approving the US/Iran agreement. Tragically, the Administration’s determination to conclude an agreement with Iran caused it to overlook the risks and consequences of its endorsement of and provision of material and intelligence support for the Saudis’ invasion of Yemen.

Yemen, with a population of 26 million unruly poverty-stricken tribesmen, occupies a vital trade and strategic security location. It shares rugged long borders with southern Saudi Arabia and Oman, both of which have close ties to the US and its western allies. Yemen sits between Saudi Arabia, the Gulf of Aden and the Arabian Sea. Most importantly, Yemen is located along the narrowest stretch of the Red Sea, known as the Strait of Bab Al-Mandeb, through which most of the oil from the Gulf Arab states and Iran is exported to international markets. Yemen is only a short boat ride from Somalia, home to one of the deadliest Wahhabi-inspired terrorist groups, Al-Shabab, which controls most of Somalia and is notoriously known for attacking neighboring African countries and for hijacking ships for ransom. Yemen is also the ancestral homeland of Osama Bin Laden, the founder and financier of Al-Qaeda, which is the most evident beneficiary of the Saudi invasion of Yemen. Prior to the Saudi invasion in March 2015, Yemen was isolated and uninvolved in any of the Shi’a/Sunni conflicts raging in the Arab World.

The Saudi invasion and US support for it will have far-reaching and enduring costly consequences for Yemen, its neighbors and the international community, specifically the US. The costly and unnecessary Saudi invasion of Yemen includes: the pulverization of Yemen’s meager infrastructure and underdeveloped economy; thousands of its citizens, mostly civilians, have been killed, maimed, starved and/or displaced; Yemenis have been turned against each other as they never were before--Sunnis v. Zaidis/Houthis, North v. South and tribe v. tribe. Given the catastrophic destruction of their ancient country, most Yemenis feel they have nothing to lose. Their unbearable domestic conditions created by the war will likely lead millions of Yemenis to intensify violence against each other, to seek revenge against neighboring countries and to join Al-Qaeda and ISIS, which are already gaining swaths of territory and increased membership in Yemen as a result of the Saudi invasion.

Potential regional and global consequences of the Saudi invasion of Yemen include attacks on Saudis’ oil installations and disruptions of shipments through Bab Al-Mandab, which could create economic havoc worldwide.

Finally, despite US, European and Saudi officials’ rhetoric of weakening ISIS and other terrorist groups, one of the major consequences of the Saudi invasion and destruction of Yemen will likely result not in weakening terrorist groups, but in increasing their memberships and expanding their violent activities.  It begs the question as to why the Obama Administration endorsed a war whose predictable consequences include amplified terror attacks on the voiceless Saudi people, the US and on other democratic societies.

Saudi Oligarchy: Endangering a Strategic Region and Sacrificing its Large Minority Population

CDHR Commentary: Nestled in the shadows of the mountain chain that demarcates the more than one thousand mile Saudi/Yemeni border, the isolated approximately 6oo thousand Ismailis living in the ancient (3,000 years of thriving Jewish/Christian civilizations before Islam) and agriculturally rich Najran region have become victims of their government’s injudicious invasion of Yemen 18 months ago.  Due to Najran’s border-sharing with north Yemen (the Houthi’s region), the Yemenis are intimately familiar with mountain crossings into and from southern Saudi Arabia. This geographic reality and the formidable terrain render the area nearly impossible to defend. Most of the frequent attacks on the Najran region are carried out by individuals and small groups using mostly rocket propelled grenades and other light arms.

While the Yemenis’ intended targets are the Saudi military installations in and around Najran, many of their deadly projectiles miss their targets and inflict death and destruction on civilians. The Saudi war planners must have known and expected that the Yemenis would respond to the destruction of their impoverished country with a vengeance wherever and whenever they could. The planners knew that Najran would be a main target.

Given this reality, it’s safe to assume that the planners of the invasion of Yemen factored heavy shelling of Najran into their strategic calculation, in the hope of achieving two objectives:

To prove to the maltreated Ismailis of Najran that their government will defend them, thus winning the Ismailis’ goodwill and support for a war for which they are paying a heavy price.

To turn the Ismailis against the Yemenis, especially the Houthis with whom they share cultural and tribal ties and the Shi’a offshoot religious orientation.

By creating an environment of enduring hostility between the oppressed people of Najran (due to their religious orientation) and the minority Houthis of Yemen, the Saudi rulers hope to engender a lasting enmity toward Iran, which is supporting the Houthis and whom the Saudis and other Gulf rulers blame for inciting their Shi’a citizens to revolt.

Although strategically useful for the Saudi government’s purposes, the heavy toll the people of Najran pay for their government’s ongoing war in Yemen seldom makes it to national or foreign media. This is partially due to the Saudi government’s censorship of the news and partially due to the Najran region’s geographic and religious isolation. Additionally, most Saudis and other Sunni Muslims consider the Ismailis heretics, who are enemies of the state’s official Wahhabi-based religion, thus not only unworthy of equality or protection, but physically dispensable. This tragic and dangerous attitude is publicly reiterated and reinforced by the Saudi government’s powerbase, the religious establishment.

While the recipients of the Saudi-led and -purchased coalition’s onslaught are the poverty stricken Yemenis, Saudi citizens, specifically the Ismailis of Najran, are paying a heavy price in human and material terms. The Saudis’ objective in amassing the deadly Arab military coalition is not only to dissuade the Yemenis from allying themselves with Iran, as they claim, but to create lasting instability in Yemen, which the Saudis could use to justify their intended occupation of the oil rich and strategic regions of southern Yemen, e.g., Marib and the Bab Al-Mandab waterway.

This strategy is a trademark of external and internal Saudi/Wahhabi survival skills. Description of the Saudis as “Both the Arsonists and the Firefighters” is quite apt. They create hostile and destabilizing situations that they can use to keep their potential enemies or presumed friends mired in internal conflicts, as exemplified by the current struggles in Iraq, Syria, Egypt and Pakistan. Subsequently, they maneuver to make themselves indispensable to solving the crisis they created. Domestically, the Saudi rulers use the same tactics to suppress their citizens in the name of stability and security. This is a tactic that pays dividends internally, as many Saudis credit their ruthless regime for preventing domestic turmoil like that occurring in many parts of the Arab World.

Similar tactics, using the threat of extremism and terrorism, are being directed at the West. The question is, how long can the Saudi regime continue to use these deadly, destabilising and blackmailing tactics before they are dealt a crippling blow in response to their lethal doctrine and military adventures?

Don’t Blame America for Muslim’s Indoctrination

CDHR Commentary: The only people that poisoned Muslim minds and turned them against each other and against non-Muslims are the theocratic and autocratic Muslim governments, their severely censored mainstream media, their zealot clerics and their pre-modern institutions. Muslims, from cradle to grave,  are trained into rejecting  and spitting on the American democratic values, lifestyle, dress code, foods and into trampling on women's, religious minorities' and non-Muslims' rights.

It does not make any difference what America does, most Muslims will continue to accuse it of every social, political and economic ills that have plagued their societies long before America existed.

The story teller of this exaggerated piece ought to be promoting American empowering democratic values when she visits and dines with absolute Muslim dictators so that the 1.5 billion disenfranchised Muslims can decide for themselves and be the authors of their destiny.

Honor Killings: Murdering Muslim Women Continues

CDHR Commentary: Murdering women for sex before and/or out of marriage continues in all Muslim and Arab lands. In this case, this aspiring 28 year old British citizen was lured to visit her family in Pakistan, then was tortured, raped and suffocated by her family for leaving one brand of Islam (Sunni) and embracing another (Shi'a.)

Christians, Jews, Buddhists and Hindus do not get their heads detached from their bodies for condemning and leaving their beliefs or indulging in human and social activities they desire.

Murdering and marginalizing Muslim women for choosing the lifestyle that suits their social, economic, religious, political and natural needs and desires is an issue that women, regardless of race, status, religion or ethnicity ought to highlight, condemn and pressure their governments and businesses to impose sanctions against and declare countries that continue to employee this savage practice (honor killings) global pariahs.

Women continue to suffer (some more than others) from lack of job opportunities and economic disparity. Improving women’s conditions in any part of the world benefits all women worldwide.

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