Friday, September 7, 2007

Where Are the Good Saudis?

by Rasheed Abou-Alsamh from Rasheed's World

MY story on abused domestic helpers appeared in the Christian Science Monitor today, and a Saudi friend that I sent it to noticed the difference in the tone I used in it compared to my stories in Arab News. She rightly guessed that articles for Arab News are subject to self-censorship because of the red-lines laid down by the Saudi government and the still-conservative society we live in. She also noted, rightly, that not all Saudi employers are monsters, and wondered when more nuanced articles about life in Saudi Arabia would appear in the Western press. I replied that I had tried to find a Saudi group that advocates for abused foreign workers, but that unfortunately I couldn't find any. I even sent questions to the National Society for Human Rights, but more than a week later they still had not replied. So I ask: Where are all the decent-minded Saudis who treat their maids well? Why don't they speak out against all of these workers who are being beaten to death nearly every month? Why doesn't he silent majority speak up?!

Iraq Press Roundup

by Hiba Dawood from UPI

Kurdish Al Ahali newspaper quoted the head of the Iraqi National Congress, Ahmad Chalabi, as saying: "The U.S. administration is calling for disarming the militias but at the same time they have armed 12,000 Sunni tribesmen in and around Baghdad led by officers from Saddam's National Guard forces. In the meantime, the U.S. ignored the Iraqi government's opposition to this decision." He also accused neighboring countries of adding to the instability in Iraq. "Saudi Arabia and Jordan don't directly support terrorism, but they host groups who issue fatwas that encourages terrorism in Iraq," he said. "Syria thinks that the U.S. might use Iraq as a means against them in regard to Lebanon and Israel. Iran thinks the U.S. might use Iraq as a base to attack them. And Turkey is afraid of PKK actions," he said.

16 Gitmo Detainees Sent to Saudi Arabia

from AP

The group marked the latest of several large transfers to the kingdom since May 2006 that have reduced the population of Saudi detainees, once among the largest contingents at Guantanamo, to fewer than 40, according to figures maintained by The Associated Press ... The detention of Saudis at the U.S. Naval Base in southeast Cuba has been a source of tension with Riyadh, a close U.S. ally. Three Saudis have committed suicide inside the prison camp since it opened in 2002, according to the U.S. military ... Of the 759 people who have been held at Guantanamo, 136 have been Saudis, the second-largest group behind Afghan nationals, according to Defense Department documents released to the AP. About 340 detainees remain in Guantanamo on suspicion of links to terrorism, al-Qaida or the Taliban. Most have been held for years without being charged.

Out but not over

by Lucy Fielder from Al-Ahram Weekly

The question of who funded and supplied Fatah Al-Islam -- a Salafi group made up of Lebanese, Saudis and other Arabs as well as some Palestinians -- is likely to remain a subject of fierce debate. The US- and Saudi-backed governing 14 March movement accused Syria of backing the militants, who split off from Syrian-backed Fatah Al-Intifada in November. Fatah Al-Islam and Syria deny this, and government critics have accused powerful Sunni leader Saad Al-Hariri of backing the group to court hardline Islamist support to counterbalance Hizbullah's Shia guerrillas ... Prejudice against the refugees is rife, partly because of fears Lebanon's fragile sectarian balance would be tipped if the mainly Sunni Palestinians were absorbed. Many Lebanese view the heavily armed Palestinian presence in south Lebanon as the spark that ignited civil war in 1975.

Reform Draws Fire For Muslim Outreach

by Stewart Ain from The Jewish Week

Rabbi Yoffie disclosed his efforts to open a dialogue with Muslims in a speech last Friday at the annual convention of the Muslim group, the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), in Rosemont, Ill. Daniel Pipes, founder and director of the Middle East Forum and a counter-terrorism expert, called Rabbi Yoffie’s outreach to ISNA "well-intentioned but very misguided. There needs to be an acknowledgement that ISNA is an Islamic organization, Wahhabi in outlook, which is deeply problematic." ... Rabbi Yoffie said the leadership of ISNA has changed since its founding 45 years ago and has issued "major statements" denouncing terrorism and calling for peace in the Middle East based on a two-state solution. But just last week, Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-Mich.), the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, sent a letter to the U.S. Attorney General’s office criticizing its decision to send representatives to the ISNA convention. He noted that the Justice Department earlier this year had labeled ISNA a branch of the Muslim Brotherhood in the U.S., the parent organization of Hamas and al Qaeda.

Saudi-UK’s US$8bn fighter aircraft deal close to completion

by Christina Corbett from Arabian Business

In addition to the supply of Typhoon aircraft, also covered is the upgrading of Saudi Arabia's Tornado aircraft and the provision of advanced weapons systems. This will make the Saudi defence force's capability equal to that of the British armed forces in terms of hardware and equipment, and potentially "second only to that of the US," according to our source ... Much of the impetus behind Saudi Arabia's acquisition of new military equipment is accredited to the aggressive stance adopted by neighbouring Iran. The ‘understanding document' between the British and Saudi Arabian governments underpinning the original Al Yamamah deal (‘dove' in English) was signed nearly two years ago in late 2005, however the project has been beset by corruption allegations in which members of the Saudi Royal family were implicated.

Analysis: Iran looks to Africa

By Derek Sands from UPI

Iran’s interest in Africa may not only be driven by practical business reasons. A desire to spread its own brand of Shia Islam may also motivate Tehran, according to James Phillips, a Middle East analyst at the conservative Heritage Foundation, a Washington think tank. Iran’s radical regime sees itself as the vanguard of Islamic revolution throughout the Muslim world and it seeks to expand its influence, particularly in opposition to Saudi Arabia’s Wahhabi influence. So there is kind of an ideological competition going on with Saudi Arabia, as well as ideological confrontation with the United States and the West," Phillips said.