Friday, August 3, 2007

Between Tehran and Jerusalem

by David Govrin from Haaretz

These developments are taking place against the background of what looks like a "cold war" between the Arab world's Sunni and Shi'ite camps. The Shi'ites, who constitute 10 to 15 percent of all the Muslims in the Arab world, see the strengthening of Iran as an opportunity to challenge the balance of power between them and the Sunni majority. The transfer of Iraq to Shi'ite control, for the first time in its history, constitutes a first step for them on the way to a comprehensive change in the balance in the region. Giving expression to the Shi'ite demographic majority and the translation of this into significant political representation in the government of Lebanon headed by Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, or alternatively the toppling of that government by Hezbollah and its followers, fit into this strategy very well. This forecast is worrying the Sunni leadership, headed by the Saudis.

Opposition to Saudi arms deal grows

by Kevin Bogardus from The Hill

A bipartisan effort in Congress to stop a proposed multibillion-dollar arms deal with Saudi Arabia is gaining steam, and 114 lawmakers have now declared their opposition to the plan, which the Bush administration says would stabilize the Middle East ... While Ferguson was the lone Republican to support the effort earlier this week, the number of GOP lawmakers who vowed to take action has swollen to 18. “It represents the tip of the iceberg,” said Weiner. The New York Democrat expects the number of lawmakers willing to block the deal to grow once the details of the arms sale reach Capitol Hill, likely this September. Press reports describe Saudi Arabia as buying satellite-guided munitions and naval vessels, among other items, worth up to $20 billion, from the United States.

Buying arms from U.S. is a bad deal for Saudis

by Mansour O. El-Kikhia from a San Antonio Express-News editorial

The deal is a miserable one for the Arabs because it will ensure a perpetual Saudi-Iranian conflict when there is little need for it. The Saudis are taking on President Bush's war and they will be sorry. Bush and most of America don't like them, and in the end they will gain the enmity of Iran. Second, Saudi Arabia is America's largest creditor after China, but there are better ways to help the U.S. besides wasting money on military hardware destined to rust in a merciless desert. Third, under the guise of balance, the increased aid to Israel will be used to make life more miserable for the Palestinians by building more settlements and expropriating more Palestinian lands.

Taj Mahal faces fresh threat from Saudi terror group

by Deepak Gidwani from the Mumbai Daily News & Analysis

The group, mainly comprising students, has been circulating a fatwa issued by clerics belonging to the Wahabi sect of Muslims for demolition of all ostentatious tombs and mausoleums. Taj Mahal, Humayun’s Tomb in Delhi and other such historical monuments could be on the target of this group. The startling revelation was made by renowned cleric and President of the All India Shia Personal Law Board (AISPLB) Mirza Mohd Athar here on Wednesday. “The Saudi Arabian government is under the influence of Wahabis. They are out to destroy our sacred mausoleums,” he said, adding: “According to Wahabis any form of ostentation in religion is un-Islamic. This is extreme intolerance. I would call it complete madness.” The fatwa issued by the Wahabi clerics calls for destroying Imam Hussain’s mazaar in Karbala, Hazrat Ali’s grave in Najaf, the mausoleum of Hazrat Ali’s daughter Zainab in Syria, Sayed Al-Badawi’s maqbara and Masjid-e-Imam Hussain in Egypt, among other such monuments venerated equally by the Shia and Sunni sects.

Libel Suit Leads to Destruction of Books

by Gary Shapiro from The New York Sun

Cambridge University Press has agreed to destroy all unsold copies of a 2006 book by two American authors, "Alms for Jihad," following a libel action brought against it in England, the latest development in what critics say is an effort by Saudis to quash discussion of their alleged role in aiding terrorism ... A professor at Emory University, who won a libel suit in Britain brought against her and Penguin, Deborah Lipstadt, likewise told The New York Sun that this action by Cambridge University Press was a "frightening development." She said that it seemed to her that the Saudis were "systematically, case by case, book by book" challenging anything critical of them or anything that linked them to terrorism. She said that she could not think of any publisher that would now accept a manuscript critical of the Saudis. "This affects not only authors but readers," she said, adding that "ideas are being chased out of the marketplace."

China refinery work delay may hit Saudi oil deal

from the Gulf Daily News

The Chinese energy giant Sinopec has yet to finalise a $1.2 billion deal for state-run Saudi Aramco to take a stake in the project, or how much crude the world's top oil exporter will sell to the plant. A delay means Saudi Aramco will have to readjust its supply plans into Asia, with China its main buyer in the region. Riyadh was expected to take a 25% stake in the Qingdao plant, its second China refinery deal, and supply up to 80% of the plant's crude requirement. "It's not certain now - the deal with the Saudis," said one source. The deferment is expected to put a damper on China's hefty crude oil imports - growing at 11.2% in the first half of this year from a year ago - as the world's second-largest oil user plans to raise its refining capacity by some 10% next year ... A second source, who put the delay to end of next year, linked the move to the sudden resignation in June of former chairman Chen Tonghai, an industry veteran Chinese media said was under investigation for alleged graft.