Friday, October 19, 2007

Saudi School in US Faces Closure

by Barbara Ferguson from Arab News

The US Commission on International Religious Freedom has released a report that criticizes what it calls a lack of religious freedom in Saudi society. The report also says Saudi schools promote religious extremism. The report specifically urges Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to engage Saudi Arabia about the Islamic school outside Washington, which may violate US law because of evidence it is run by the Saudi Embassy in the United States. It said that Saudi Arabia has failed to take substantial steps to promote religious tolerance, despite assurances from the Bush administration that the Kingdom has made progress on reforms, the US watchdog said yesterday ... The commission criticized the United States for failing to move US-Saudi relations beyond what it said were pragmatic concerns about Middle East politics and oil during successive US administrations. “Many observers contend that, even now, the US does not want to jeopardize important bilateral security and economic ties by pushing for political and human rights reforms,” the report said.

An Islamic Nuclear Race?

by Peter Glover from Energy Tribune

A. F. Alhajji, professor of energy economics at Ohio Northern University and expert on Middle East energy markets, says; "The recent economic boom in the Gulf brought its own problems: higher income, growing populations, increased numbers of expatriates…and expansion of petrochemicals has increased the demand for electricity to unprecedented levels." ... Since September 2006, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman, Kuwait, U.A.E., Morocco and Jordan each announced plans to obtain nuclear energy “for peaceful purposes.” In addition, Algeria signed with Russia and Libya signed with France in deals for nuclear development/cooperation. While the threat from electricity shortages is genuine, King Abdullah of Jordan intimated why so many states in the region are pursuing nuclear. “The rules have changed on the nuclear subject throughout the region,” he said in early 2007. Thus, it appears that the Middle East’s nuclear surge is being fueled by both economic expediency and sectarian fear.

Seek common ground to dry up oil reliance

by Cal Thomas from Tribune Media Services

Might it be possible for the Church of Global Warming crowd and the Church of Free Enterprise to come together for the common purpose of reducing our reliance on foreign oil? CGW fundamentalists would get what they want - a reduced carbon footprint and supposedly lower global temperatures (go ahead and let them believe it) - while CFE parishioners would rejoice that Saudi Arabia's hold on us (not to mention its use of our money to underwrite terrorism) could be broken. If we would launch an energy independence program with the intensity of a Marshall Plan for Europe, or a man-on-the-moon project, to liberate ourselves from the petroleum despots by developing synthetic fuels and finding new energy sources closer to home - especially nuclear power - we could strike a blow against the Islamofascists more damaging than bombs and bullets. This will require leadership at the highest level, and it will require a conservative of sufficient stature not to be labeled a compromiser or a fool. Anyone out there who meets the test? And would Al Gore bring his legions with him to the table?

Promoting Arab Democracy (or Not): What the Past Should Tell Us about the Future (Part I)

by J. Scott Carpenter from The Washington Institute for Near East Policy

The issue of democratization in Arab countries will persist regardless of who is the next U.S. president. For policymakers, therefore, the question has become one of tactics, not strategy. If the United States gives up on the democracy agenda, it will be forced to choose between increasingly decrepit autocrats and antidemocratic Islamists. Such a decision would also undermine U.S. credibility among those who have begun to trust the United States. Washington needs partners in the battle of ideas, and if those who are willing to fight do not believe that America stands by what it says, they will give up. Finally, abandoning democracy promotion would be the equivalent of waving the white flag in the battle of ideas. Holding up a standard of managed autocracy is not motivational -- sooner or later people will demand real change. Hopefully, the United States will be on the right side of history when that change occurs.

Asymmetry In The War On Terror

by Mark Steyn from The Evening Bulletin

The most successful example of globalization is not Starbucks or McDonald's but Wahhabism, an obscure backwater variant of Islam practiced by a few Bedouin deadbeats that Saudi oil wealth has now exported to every corner of the earth - to Waziristan, Indonesia, the Caucasus, the Balkans, Amsterdam, Stockholm, Toronto, Portland, Dearborn and Falls Church ... So many of the administration's present problems derive from a squeamishness about ideological confrontation that any effective "Long Telegram" would have to address. When the president declared a "war on terror," cynics understood that he had no particular interest in the IRA or the Tamil Tigers but that he was constrained from identifying the real enemy in any meaningful sense: In the fall of 2001, a war on Islamic this or Islamo that would have caused too many problems with Gen. Musharraf and the House of Saud and other chaps he wanted to keep on side.

Saudi Arabia: Blogging Continues to Gain Momentum

by Abdul Ilah al Khalifi from Asharq Al-Awsat

Despite the fact that blogging remains relatively new to the kingdom, the number of weblogs based out of Saudi Arabia is estimated to be over 1,000, launched by both men and women, according to members of The Official Community for Saudi Bloggers (OCSAB). Basem al Sallum, one of the kingdom's pioneering bloggers, expects blogging to become a valuable source of information, in addition to providing a large platform that will nurture literary, scientific, and cultural creative works ... Dr. Suliman Merdad, deputy governor of Kingdom’s Communication and Information Technology Commission, stated that the CITC does not monitor blogs, but that “blogs are subject to the same treatment as websites; they are blocked when they contain objectionable material such as pornography in particular, and other things in general, and things that go against the established principles of our religion and national regulations.”

Hillary's Mystery Money Men

by Russ Baker and Adam Federman from The Nation

Throughout their political careers, Bill and Hillary Clinton have repeatedly associated with people whose objectives seemed a million miles from "a place called Hope." Among these Alan Quasha and his menagerie--including Saudi frontmen, a foreign dictator, figures with intelligence ties and a maze of companies and offshore funds--stand out. "That Hillary Clinton's campaign is involved with this particular cast of characters should give people pause," says John Moscow, a former Manhattan prosecutor. In the late 1980s and early '90s he led the investigation of the corrupt Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI) global financial empire--a bank whose prominent shareholders included members of the Harken board. "Too many of the same names from earlier troubling circumstances suggests a lack of control over who she is dealing with," says Moscow, "or a policy of dealing with anyone who can pay."

GE finances SABIC's $9.2 billion acquisition of GE Plastics

by Jeff Wilson and Ned Reynolds from GE Commercial Finance Corporate Lending

GE Commercial Finance Corporate Lending today announced it served as co-administrative agent in a $9.2 billion financing for SABIC Innovative Plastics Holding B.V. The facility included $7.7 billion of senior secured debt and $1.5 billion in senior notes. The financing was used to support the acquisition of GE’s Plastics business by Saudi Basic Industries Corporation (SABIC) ... “The petrochemical and plastics industries have experienced a solid upturn during the last three years, and companies like SABIC are strategically investing to create a global growth platform and serve global demand,” said Deepak Ghosh, chemicals and plastics industry leader for GE Corporate Lending. “With more than $4 billion invested in the sector, we’re focused on this market and the trends impacting it.”