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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #50 on: October 27, 2013, 04:05:46 PM »



http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/27/world/middleeast/a-mostly-quiet-effort-to-put-saudi-women-in-drivers-seats.html?nl=todaysheadlines&emc=edit_th_20131027
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #51 on: October 31, 2013, 02:44:31 PM »


http://www.clarionproject.org/news/saudi-arabia-behead-hajj-pilgrim
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #52 on: March 20, 2014, 10:51:12 PM »

 Saudi Arabia Wages Jihad Against Jihadism
Security Weekly
Thursday, March 20, 2014 - 03:00 Print Text Size
Stratfor

By Kamran Bokhari

Most discussions of Saudi Arabia and jihadists tend to focus on Riyadh's key role in producing the different variants of jihadism that have emerged since the 1970s. Although this narrative is true, it is dated. Often, once a narrative is formed it remains in currency even after it has become obsolete. This is because reality is usually more complex than presented and is constantly evolving, making it hard for observers to keep up with the shifts taking place. Despite the persistent narrative, in recent years Saudi Arabia has been waging a growing fight against jihadism. If al Qaeda's ideology is to be defeated, it is essential that the Saudis succeed in their efforts.

The news that the Saudi government on March 7 declared two al Qaeda-linked groups in Syria to be terrorist organizations confounded many. In a statement issued by the Interior Ministry, the kingdom formally blacklisted Jabhat al-Nusra (al Qaeda's official branch in Syria) and its rival, the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant. Riyadh included the two along with the Saudi branch of Hezbollah and Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood.

The move against Hezbollah, the Shiite militant group linked to its parent organization in Lebanon, is obvious, given the sectarian struggle in the region. Similarly, the Muslim Brotherhood's calls for a republican form of Islamism, which run counter to the monarchy's interests, inform the historic animosity between the Saudis and the Brotherhood. However, the Saudis' denouncement of two groups that share the goal of toppling the Syrian regime -- especially when Damascus and its main regional patron, Iran (the Saudis' principal foe), have the upper hand in the civil war -- is notable. Even though the Saudis do not support Jabhat al-Nusra or the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, they benefit from the attacks that these two groups conduct against the Syrians and their Iranian/Shiite allies.

More important, the nuclear negotiations between Tehran and Washington are leading Iran to international rehabilitation and highlighting the divergence in U.S. and Saudi regional interests. Under these circumstances, why is the Saudi kingdom outlawing two groups that make up a large portion of the forces battling the Syrian state?
The Saudis' Reasoning

Recently, we explained how Saudi Arabia cannot effectively combat Iran unless it deals with al Qaeda and transnational jihadism. Al Qaeda and transnational jihadism are, in many ways, the unintended consequences of the Saudis using Salafism and jihadism as instruments to promote their foreign policy interests. For some time, the Saudis pursued this same policy in Syria, but it only created more problems.

Groups like Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant have hijacked the anti-Iran/Shia ethnic and sectarian cause. Moreover, the Syrian regime bounced back last year -- aided by infighting among and against the jihadists -- and began retaking territories lost to the rebels. In addition, the United States and the West have held back support for the non-jihadist rebel groups for fear that jihadists would be the main beneficiaries of regime collapse in Syria.

This situation has forced the Saudis to overhaul their policy on Syria. A key component of this is the cultivation of a rebel force of relatively moderate Salafists and jihadists who are equally opposed to the Alawites and al Qaeda. This policy has yet to produce dividends because the Saudis face a strategic dilemma: Al Qaeda and transnational jihadists are challenging the Saudi monarchy's status as the ultimate authority over Salafism.

This is where Saudi Arabia has a problem in competing with Iran. Arab Shiite militant groups such as Hezbollah and others remain aligned with Iran, or at least do not wish to confront Iran. In contrast, many Salafist-jihadist militants fighting Tehran and the Shia also want to assume leadership of the Sunni world -- and have targeted the Saudi monarchy directly. This puts the Salafist-jihadists on a collision course with Saudi Arabia. From the Saudi perspective, Iran and the Shia represent the "other" and are thus easy to confront. The jihadists, however, are part of the "self" and are thus more difficult to deal with.
Challenges to the Saudi Fight Against Jihadists

Saudi efforts against jihadists are not new. During the mid-2000s, Saudi Arabia put down the al Qaeda insurgency within the kingdom. This forced the jihadists to relocate to Yemen, where the Saudis have largely been able to contain the problem.

The Arab Spring, however, has greatly complicated matters and constrained the Saudis' ability to act in the way they have previously at home or south of their border. Weakening autocratic regimes have created space for the jihadists to expand. At a time when the Saudis need to focus on the challenge posed by the Iranians and their Arab Shiite allies, Riyadh's attention is being diverted.

The jihadist threat from within the Sunni/Arab milieu not only distracts the Saudis from the larger threat of an assertive Iran, it also undermines the Saudi aim of assuming regional leadership. In this regard, Riyadh has two problems: countering the perception that Saudi foreign policy is largely responsible for the proliferation of transnational jihadism and the reality that Saudi Arabia's actions tend to work in favor of al Qaeda's agenda.

Ultimately, the challenge that the Saudis face is hardwired into the nature of their polity, the official ideology of which is Salafism. With the exception of a few occasions (such as the uprising of the Ikhwan militia in the late 1920s, the resistance to modernity in the 1960s, the uprising in 1979 and the short-lived insurgency in the mid-2000s), the Saudis have been able to combat the competing notion of Salafist-jihadism. Indeed, within the confines of the kingdom, the Saudis do not face any competition to their ownership of Salafism.

The problems occur outside their borders, where non-state actors who offer a competing view of Salafism abound and Saudi control is limited. From the Saudi point of view, jihad is only legitimate when sanctioned by the rulers (more specifically, an Islamic polity), which is the Saudi view of the struggle against the Syrian regime. Because it does not control the discursive boundaries of this type of jihad, the Saudis cannot control the actions of groups like Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, which tend to subvert Saudi imperatives for their own ambitions. More specifically, rather than launching the war itself, the Saudi state is using non-state proxies to wage war. This empowers the non-state proxies, who then turn on the Saudi regime, which they consider corrupted.

As a result, the Saudis are less able to leverage jihadists for their strategic objectives. Instead, the jihadists are exploiting the Saudi moves for their transnational ambitions. Well aware of this problem, Riyadh is trying to counter the jihadists on both the ideological and practical levels.

On the practical level, the kingdom is trying to control the flow of money and weapons and give training and diplomatic support to the rebels who oppose al Qaeda and transnational jihadism. But there are limits to exercising such control because the battlefield is fluid. Once deployed, human and material resources can interact in unexpected ways, leading to undesirable outcomes.

Compounding the problem is that ideologies are much harder to control, especially in this age of social media. We are seeing this in the intra-jihadist debate centered on Syria, where leading jihadist theoreticians such as Abu Qatada and Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi of Jordan are having a hard time trying to counter the formulations of those who support the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, which no longer takes orders from al Qaeda. If such bona fide jihadist ideologues are struggling to maintain influence over the jihadist landscape, then the Saudis are even more removed from the context.

In essence, the core problem the kingdom faces is that Salafist and jihadist ideas have evolved well beyond the limits the Saudis prefer. This is why the state that exported Salafism and supported jihadists around the world for decades now cannot focus on the real issues -- countering Iran and managing the Arab Spring -- because it is distracted by Salafist-jihadists and is now working against the very forces it fostered.

Read more: Saudi Arabia Wages Jihad Against Jihadism | Stratfor
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #53 on: March 28, 2014, 08:42:27 AM »

Obama Seeks to Repair Ties in Visit to Saudi Arabia
________________________________________
 
U.S. President Barack Obama will visit Saudi Arabia Friday seeking to repair fractured relations with the kingdom. The United States and Saudi Arabia have forged a strategic alliance over the last seven decades, but have seen increased divisions since the uprisings that ousted former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Relations have particularly soured as the United States has worked to negotiate a nuclear deal with Iran and failed to initiate a military intervention in Syria, where the Saudis are supporting the mainly Sunni opposition to President Bashar al-Assad. A goal of Obama's visit is to convince Saudi Arabia that U.S. relations with Iran will not compromise Washington's commitment to Saudi security. However, Saudi Arabia may not be persuaded, according to one Saudi official "The U.S. has underwritten the regional security order for the past 70 years and it sees now as a good time to disengage. We will have to do it all ourselves."

Marc:  This little paragraph brushes over the presence of AQ type groups such as Al Nusra in Syria.  The implications of the quote from the Saudi official are profound.
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« Reply #54 on: March 28, 2014, 10:33:17 AM »

The world is waking up to the reality of the end of pax Americana.

I guess we need a reset button and some extra deep bows from Buraq.
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #55 on: July 30, 2014, 10:52:37 AM »

 Saudi Arabia's Religious Scholars Are a Double-Edged Sword
Analysis
July 30, 2014 | 0419 Print Text Size
Saudi Arabia's Ulema Represent a Double-Edged Sword
Saudi policemen stand guard in front of the Al-Rajhi mosque in central Riyadh in 2011. (FAYEZ NURELDINE/AFP/Getty Images)
Summary

There are signs that imams of influential mosques in Saudi Arabia are re-creating distance between themselves and the Saudi government. For instance, imams recently resisted the government's call to condemn an attack on Saudi soil by Yemen-based al Qaeda fighters. Although it is an early indicator, this bodes ill for Saudi Arabia's counterterrorism strategy. Riyadh's dilemma is that the group of religious scholars and preachers, a group known as the ulema, whose ideas have given way to jihadism is also the antidote to violent extremism. Without the robust support of the ulema class, the Saudis cannot combat the jihadism that threatens the kingdom on its northern and southern borders.   
Analysis

The identity of the Saudi kingdom is a religious one based on the Salafist ideology of its founding theoretician, Muhammad bin Abdulwahab, a puritanical scholar from the Nejd region of the Arabian Peninsula. His pact with the patriarch of the royal family, Muhammad bin Saud, led to the founding of the first Saudi state in 1744 and the establishment of a monarchy. The legitimacy of the monarchy has been based on religion and manifested by the support of the ulema, which have grown into a massive power center over the centuries.
The Ulema as Tools for Containment

This ultra-conservative establishment of religious scholars has been an important tool that the House of Saud has used to prevent the rise of opposition groups. The Saudis have had great success with this strategy, whether the opponents were left-wing secular Arab nationalists, Islamists or even Salafists and jihadists who see the royal family and its supporters as having deviated from the founders' intent. The religious scholars' adherence to the Koranic verse "Obey Allah and obey his Messenger (Mohammed) and those in authority among you" has proved extremely helpful in maintaining a consensus against more extreme and radical elements.

The utility of the ulema has been seen on a number of occasions throughout the modern Saudi state's history, most recently in the kingdom established in the aftermath of WWI. Its founder, King Abdulaziz bin Abdulrehman, with the backing of the ulema in 1929, obliterated the Ikhwan, a religious and tribal militia that had gone rogue after helping Abdulaziz seize most of the areas that form the modern kingdom. Abdulaziz's son, King Faisal, used the ulema's support in 1963 to move against religious extremists opposed to introducing television in the kingdom. In 1979, his successor, King Khalid, was able to get the ulema to support his decision to allow French commandos to deploy and help regain control of the Holy Mosque in Mecca from a group of renegade Salafist militants under the leadership of Juhayman al-Otaibi.

In 1994, King Fahd had to deal with opposition from within the community of religious scholars. Some of the members rose up -- albeit peacefully and through sermons -- calling for reforms and better adherence to Islamic principles while voicing opposition to the stationing of U.S. forces in the kingdom. The latest and perhaps most significant example of the monarchy's use of the ulema was under King Abdullah's administration, when Riyadh defeated the kingdom's branch of al Qaeda, with critical assistance from the religious scholars, in 2005-2006.
Changes Within the Ulema

Riyadh's continued success in rallying the religious establishment notwithstanding, the ulema class has gone through a great deal of change and internal fragmentation. There are significant factions that are uncomfortable -- to say the least -- with the monarchy's policies, especially those involving reforms. More important, there is considerable overlap between the ideas of the ulema and of transnational jihadists. The jihadists have used this common ground to maintain pockets of latent influence within the kingdom. Moreover, there is sympathy for the jihadists among the ulema ranks.

An undersecretary at the Islamic Affairs Ministry told the kingdom's English daily Arab News on July 19 that authorities were investigating imams of 17 mosques in the capital who, in their Friday sermons, refused to condemn a jihadist attack on the kingdom's border with Yemen. Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula militants based in Yemen conducted the cross-border raid on the al-Wadia border post near the small Saudi frontier town of Sharurah. It left four border guards and another Saudi citizen dead. Another report in the daily al-Watan quoted the Islamic Affairs Ministry as saying that some 100 imams ignored the call to condemn the incident.
Saudi Arabia and the Regional Jihadist Threat
Click to Enlarge

Under new management, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula re-established itself in Yemen in 2009 and has remained more or less contained there. The ouster of former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh's regime during the Arab Spring has aggravated divisions in Yemen, where a variety of forces are tearing the state apart. The resulting anarchy in Yemen has enabled the al Qaeda branch to expand in the country and use it as a base to strike Saudi Arabia.

While the Saudis are trying to deal with al Qaeda on their southern flank, another far more powerful transnational jihadist group has appeared to the north. The Islamic State, which declared the re-establishment of the caliphate in its controlled areas in Syria and Iraq, has emerged as a major threat to the kingdom. In order to protect itself, the kingdom deployed 30,000 soldiers to its border with Iraq after Iraqi soldiers reportedly abandoned posts on their side of the boundary in the wake of the Islamic State offensive. On July 18, Saudi security forces raised the threat level in light of intelligence about an Islamic State plot to attack critical infrastructure, particularly desalination plants, in the country.

Under these conditions, it makes sense for the Saudis to target the belligerent ulema. What is surprising, though, is that the authorities revealed their investigations via Saudi media. Normally such matters would be dealt with quietly, and more senior ulema would be involved in an effort to persuade the defiant imams to obey their rulers' orders. That did not happen, however, and the government decided to leak the investigations to the media. This suggests that the problem is not with a few of the ulema but is more widespread. It also suggests that the government is trying to create a national consensus against the dissidents. The disobedient imams appear to be a small group within the wider body of the ulema, but the number of such religious figures could grow.
Jihadists' Strengthening Position

In the past, the jihadists were a small movement and, despite the ambiguity within religious circles, there was not much support for them. But now that jihadists are gaining strength in the region, they are better positioned to parlay latent feelings of sympathy into more substantive support. The quandary for the Saudis is that the ulema class is an incubator for the ideas that promote jihadism as well as the means by which to fight Islamist militancy. Taken into account the country's youths -- increasingly educated, socially and politically aware, unemployed and inspired by the Arab Spring -- and the allure of resurgent jihadist fervor is an even more dangerous threat for Riyadh.

The jihadists are in a position to more effectively challenge the monopoly of influence that the monarchy has long enjoyed over the kingdom's religious scholars. To a great degree, this has to do with overlapping jihadist and Saudi interests, especially those related to fighting the Shia and Iran. Saudi efforts to enact social reforms also create space for the jihadists to exploit. Riyadh has been stretched thin as it deals with the fallout of the Arab Spring in the region, a fact that works to the jihadists' advantage as well. Finally, there is the matter of transitioning leadership from the second- to third-generation of princes.

Most of all, the perception that the monarchy is weak and ineffective in foreign policy matters, contrasted with a jihadist movement that is gaining support, could influence many in the ulema's ranks to quietly support both sides. Thus, the thing to watch for is whether the Saudis -- who have proved extremely resilient for nearly three centuries -- can deal with a much larger jihadist challenge than they have faced before and continue to use the ulema to wage jihad against jihadism.   

Read more: Saudi Arabia's Religious Scholars Are a Double-Edged Sword | Stratfor
Follow us: @stratfor on Twitter | Stratfor on Facebook
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #56 on: January 07, 2015, 04:33:35 PM »

 Saudi Arabia Faces Challenges in the New Year
Geopolitical Weekly
January 6, 2015 | 09:00 GMT Print Text Size
Stratfor

By Michael Nayebi-Oskoui

The Middle East is one of the most volatile regions in the world it is no stranger to upheaval. The 2009 uprisings in Iran and the brinksmanship of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's government were followed by the chaos of the Arab Spring, the spillover of the Syrian conflict into Iraq and a potential realignment of the U.S.-Iranian relationship. Unlike recent years, however, 2015 is likely to see regional Sunni Arab interests realign toward a broader acceptance of moderate political Islam. The region is emerging from the uncertainty of the past half-decade, and the foundations of its future are taking shape. This process will not be neat or orderly, but changes are clearly taking place surrounding the Syrian and Libyan conflicts, as well as the region's anticipation of a strengthened Iran.

The Middle East enters 2015 facing several crises. Libyan instability remains a threat to North African security, and the Levant and Persian Gulf must figure out how to adjust course in the wake of the U.S.-Iranian negotiations, the Sunni-Shiite proxy war in Syria and Iraq, and the power vacuum created by a Turkish state bogged down by internal concerns that prevent it from assuming a larger role throughout the region. Further undermining the region is the sharp decline in global oil prices. While Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates will be able to use considerable cash reserves to ride out the slump, the rest of the Middle East's oil-exporting economies face dire consequences.

For decades, long-ruling autocratic leaders in countries such as Algeria and Yemen helped keep militancy in check, loosely following the model of military-backed Arab nationalism championed by Gamal Abdel Nasser in Egypt. Arab monarchs were able to limit domestic dissent or calls for democracy through a combination of social spending and repression. The United States not only partnered with many of these nations to fight terrorism especially after September 2001 but also saw the Gulf states as a reliable bulwark against Iranian expansion and a dangerous Iraq led by Saddam Hussein. Levantine instability was largely contained to Lebanon and the Palestinian territories, while Israel's other neighbors largely abided by a tacit agreement to limit threats emanating from their territories.

Today, Saddam's iron grip on Iraq has been broken, replaced by a fractious democracy that is as threatened by the Islamic State as it is by its own political processes. Gone are the long-time leaders of states like Tunisia, Libya and Egypt. Meanwhile, Algeria, Saudi Arabia and Oman are facing uncertain transitions that could well take place by year's end. The United States' serious dialogue with Iran over the latter's nuclear program, once a nearly unthinkable scenario for many in the Gulf, has precipitated some of the biggest shifts in regional dynamics, especially as Saudi Arabia and its allies work to lessen their reliance on Washington's protection.

The Push for Sunni Hegemony

Riyadh begins this year under considerably more duress than it faced 12 months ago. Not only is King Abdullah gravely ill (a bout of pneumonia forced the 90-year-old ruler to ring in the new year in the hospital and on a ventilator), but the world's largest oil-producing country has also entered into a price war with American shale producers. Because Saudi Arabia and its principal regional allies, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates, boast more than a trillion dollars in cash reserves between them, they will be able to keep production levels constant for the foreseeable future.

However, other OPEC producers have not been able to weather the storm as easily. The resulting 40 percent plunge in oil prices is placing greater financial pressure on Iran and the Shiite-dominated government in Iraq, Saudi Arabia's largest sectarian and energy rivals. Riyadh's careful planning and building of reserves means the Saudi kingdom's economic security is unlikely to come under threat in the next one to three years. The country will instead continue to focus on not only countering Iran but also rebuilding relationships with regional Sunni actors weakened in previous years.

Riyadh's regional strategy has traditionally been to support primarily Sunni Arab groups with a conservative, Salafist religious ideology. Salafist groups traditionally kept out of politics, and their conservative Sunni ideology was useful in Saudi Arabia's competition against Iran and its own Shiite proxies. Promoting Salafism also served as a tool to limit the reach of more ideologically moderate Sunni political Islamists like the Muslim Brotherhood and its affiliates, groups Riyadh sees as a threat because of their success in organizing grassroots support and fighting for democratic reforms.

With rise of external regional pressures, however, Gulf monarchies such as Saudi Arabia are re-evaluating their relationships with the Muslim Brotherhood. Internal threats posed by Salafist jihadists and a desire to limit future gains by regional opponents are pushing countries such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to try to forge a relationship with the Muslim Brotherhood to limit the risks posed by rival groups in the region.

Restoring relations with the Muslim Brotherhood will also have effects on diplomatic relations. Qatar has long been a supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood, a fact that has strained its relations with other countries Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates even went so far as to close their embassies in Qatar. However, the continuation of the United States' rapprochement with Iran and Riyadh's own discomfort with the rise of Salafist jihadist groups has made it reconsider its stance on political Islamism. Riyadh, Bahrain and Abu Dhabi's agreement to resume diplomatic ties with Doha, and the latter's consideration of changing its relationships with Egypt and Libya, points to a shift in how the bloc's engagement with the Muslim Brotherhood has the potential to streamline the Gulf Cooperation Council's (GCC) efforts in the region.

The Gulf monarchies' attempt at reconciling with political Islamists can potentially benefit the GCC. For its part, Qatar has engaged with the staunchly anti-Islamist Libyan government in Tobruk, and it appears tensions with President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi's government in Egypt have calmed. Both scenarios point to the likelihood of the GCC moving closer to adopting a more unified regional stance beginning in 2015, one more in line with Riyadh's wishes to preserve the framework of the council.

This improvement in relations comes at a critical moment. With the United States and Iran undergoing a rapprochement of their own, the Gulf monarchies will try to secure their own interests by becoming directly involved in Libya, Syria and potentially Yemen. This military action will also aim to project strength to Iran while also filling the strategic void left by the absence of Turkish leadership in the region, especially in the Levant.

However, Qatar has been opposed to this course of action in the past. Despite its small size, the country has used its wealth and domestic stability to back a wide array of Islamist groups, including the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, Ennahda in Tunisia and rebel groups in Syria. Tensions between Qatar and regional allies came to a head in 2014 in the aftermath of Saudi and Emirati support for the July 2013 uprising that ousted the Doha-backed Muslim Brotherhood government in Egypt. The tension threatened the stability of the GCC and caused rebel infighting in Syria. This disconnect in Gulf policy has had wide regional repercussions, including the success of Islamic State militants against Gulf-backed rebel groups in Syria and the Islamic States' expansion into Iraq.

Without foreign military intervention on behalf of the rebels, no faction participating in the Syrian civil war will be able to declare a decisive military victory. As the prospects of a clear-cut outcome become less realistic, Bashar al Assad's Russian and Iranian backers are increasing diplomatic efforts to negotiate a settlement in Syria, especially as both are eager to refocus on domestic woes exacerbated by the current drop in global energy prices. Kuwait's recent decision to allow the Syrian regime to reopen its embassy to assist Syrian expats living within its borders points to a likelihood that the Gulf states are coming to terms with the reality that al Assad is unlikely to be ousted by force, and Sunni Arab stakeholders in the Syrian conflict are gradually giving in to the prospect of a negotiated settlement. A resolution to the Syrian crisis will not come in 2015, but regional actors will continue looking for a solution to the crisis outside of the battlefield.

Any negotiated settlement will see the Sunni principals in the region led by the GCC and Turkey work to implement a competent Sunni political organization that limits the authority of a remnant Alawite government in Damascus and future inroads by traditional backers in Tehran. Muslim Brotherhood-style political Islam represents one of the potential Sunni solutions within this framework, and with Saudi opposition to the group potentially fading, it remains a possible alternative to the variety of Salafist options that could exist to include jihadists. Such a solution ultimately relies on a broader democratic framework to be implemented, a scenario that will likely remain elusive in Syria for years to come.
North Africa's Long Road to Stability

North African affairs have traditionally followed a trajectory distinct from that of the Levant and Persian Gulf, a reality shaped as much by geography as by political differences between the Nasser-inspired secular governments and the monarchies of the Gulf. Egypt, Saudi Arabia's traditional rival for leadership of the Sunni Arab world, has become cripplingly dependent on the financial backing of its former Gulf rivals. The GCC was able to use its relative stability and oil wealth to take advantage of opportunities to secure its members' interests in North Africa following the Arab Spring. As a result, Cairo has become a launching pad for Gulf intentions, particularly UAE airstrikes against Islamist militants in Libya and joint Egyptian-Gulf backing of renegade Gen. Khalifa Hifter's Operation Dignity campaign.

Like Syria, Libya represents a battleground for competing regional Sunni ambitions. Qatar, and to a lesser extent Turkey, backed Libya's powerful Islamist political and militia groups led by the re-instated General National Congress in Tripoli after the international community recognized the arguably anti-Islamist House of Representatives in Tobruk. Islamist-aligned political and militia forces control Libya's three largest cities, and Egyptian- and Gulf-backed proxies are making little headway against opponents in battles to gain control of Tripoli and Benghazi, prompting more direct action by Cairo and Abu Dhabi.

Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates are primarily concerned with the possibility of Libya, an oil-rich state bordering Egypt, becoming a wealthy backer of political Islam. Coastal-based infighting has left much of Libya's vast desert territories available for regional jihadists as well as a host of smuggling and trafficking activities, posing a significant security risk not just for regional states but Western interests as well. Egyptian and Gulf attempts to shape outcomes on the ground in Libya have proved largely ineffective, and Western plans for reconciliation talks favor regional powers such as Algeria a traditional rival to Egyptian and Gulf interests in North Africa that are more comfortable working with political actors across a wide spectrum of political ideologies to include Muslim Brotherhood-style Islamism.

Libya will likely find itself as the proving ground for the quid pro quo happening between the participants of the intra-Sunni rift over political Islam. In exchange for Saudi Arabia and its partners reducing their pressure on Muslim Brotherhood-style groups in Egypt and Syria, Qatar and Turkey are likely to work more visibly with Tobruk in 2015 in addition to pushing Islamist proxies into a Western-backed national dialogue. Libya's overall security situation will not be settled through mediation, but Libyan Islamists are more likely to re-enter a coalition with the political rivals now that both sides' Gulf backers are working toward settling differences themselves.
Regional Impact

Dysfunction and infighting have marred attempts by the region's Sunni actors to formulate a cohesive strategy in Syria. This has enabled Iran to remain entrenched in the Levant albeit while facing pressure and to continue expending resources competing in arenas such as Libya and Egypt. The next year will likely see an evolving framework where Saudi Arabia and Qatar, and to a lesser extent Turkey, will reach a delicate understanding on the role of political Islam in the region. 2014 saw a serious reversal in the fortunes of Muslim Brotherhood-style groups, which inadvertently favored even more far-right and extremist groups such as the Islamic State as the Gulf's various Sunni proxies were focused on competing with one another.

Iran's slow but steady push toward a successful negotiation with the United States, as well as the threats posed by militant Islam throughout the Levant, Iraq and North Africa, is necessitating a realignment of relationships within the Middle East's diverse Sunni interests. Less divisive Sunni leadership will be instrumental in coordinating efforts to resolve the conflicts in both Libya and Syria, although resolution in both conflicts will remain out of reach in 2015 and some time beyond.

A more robust Sunni Arab position, especially in Syria and the Levant, will likely put more pressure on Iran to reach a negotiated settlement with the United States by the end of the year. While a settlement may seem harmful to Gulf interests, the GCC is shifting toward a pragmatic acceptance of an agreement, similar to Riyadh's begrudging accommodation of a future role for the Muslim Brotherhood in the Middle East. The GCC's new goal is to limit Tehran's opportunities for success rather than outright denying it. Part of this will be achieved through an ongoing, aggressive energy strategy. The rest will come from internal negotiations between Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Qatar and Turkey.

The next year will see the Sunni presence in Syria attempt to coalesce behind rebels acceptable to Western governments that are eager to see negotiations begin and greater local pushback against the Islamic State. More cohesive Gulf leadership will also present a more effective bulwark against Iranian and Alawite interests in the Levant. Most important, however, is the opportunity for regional Sunnis, led by Saudi Arabia, to present a more mature and capable response to mounting pressures. Whether through more assertive military moves in the region or by working with states such as Qatar to steer the Muslim Brotherhood rather than embolden the Islamist opposition, 2015 will likely see a shift in Sunni Arab strategies that have long shaped the region.

Read more: Saudi Arabia Faces Challenges in the New Year | Stratfor
Follow us: @stratfor on Twitter | Stratfor on Facebook
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« Reply #57 on: January 21, 2015, 11:48:49 AM »

http://pjmedia.com/tatler/2015/01/21/new-saudi-border-security-policy-shoot-on-sight/

Perhaps the pumping is primarily motivated by a fear of The I.S.

They take S.A., the caliphate will pretty much be unstoppable.
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« Reply #58 on: January 26, 2015, 12:10:50 PM »

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/26/world/middleeast/saudis-expand-regional-power-as-others-falter.html?emc=edit_th_20150126&nl=todaysheadlines&nlid=49641193&_r=0
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« Reply #59 on: January 29, 2015, 01:15:56 AM »

Russia Hacks its way to Victory
Posted: 28 Jan 2015 03:12 PM PST
Here's an interesting strategy that is in the near term adjacent possible.   It is one of the few strategies that could make a relatively unknown hacker a multi-billionaire overnight. 
 
____
Russia has been in the throes of a financial crisis since Saudi Arabia began driving down oil prices last fall.  Until the Russians reverse this economic assault, Russia will remain weak and vulnerable.  For example:
   the ruble will remain in crisis,
   European sanctions over Russian intervention in the Ukraine will continue to cause meaningful economic pain, and
   Russian bonds will still be considered "junk" by the global markets.
Reversing the Pain
Of course, Putin does have one way out.  He needs to increase the price of oil.  But how?  There's only one way to accomplish this quickly and easily;  destabilize Saudi Arabia.    Fortunately for Putin, the tool necessary to do this (and make a fortune in the process) is readily available. 
Russia has three great exports: oil, natural  gas, and criminal hacking.  To do this Putin needs to connect Russian criminal hackers with ISIS.  Once they make the introductions required, things could move forward very rapidly while providing the Russian government copious plausible deniability.  What would be the potential result?  Here's one scenario:
1.   Russian criminal groups would hack Saudi Arabia's northern border's defense grid (taking down radar towers, imaging systems) and the country's communications system (cell phones and military communications). 
2.   ISIS would then use the blackout to bring a couple of thousand jihadis across the border in one quick movement.  ISIS would overrun isolated border outposts seizing equipment and routing troops.  It would then move south (with a particular emphasis on the city of Arar in NW Saudi Arabia  (it houses the command and control facility for the entire northern border).
3.   ISIS expands as hacking/disorder continues.  Direct attacks by ISIS with Russian hacking support disrupts Saudi oil production (etc.).  Oil prices shoot to the moon.  Russian hackers, ISIS, and the Russian government all make billions from the increase in the price of oil (both by going long on oil in the market and  through the direct sales of product they produce).
Why a Saudi Hack is so Easy
The Saudis are the perfect target for hackers.  It's hard to imagine a country with more vulnerable to cyberattack.  Here's why:
   Saudi defensive systems and infrastructure have been cobbled together from external contractors who often win their contracts by bribing the royal family.  It's a motley collection of tools with lots of vulnerabilities. 
   Financially motivated guest workers do most of the real work in the Kingdom.  These people are easy to bribe/coerce/etc.  to get access to critical systems. 
   The Saudi government/military is extremely reliant on positive command and control.  So, if you can isolate command and control from the troops/population, panic will rapidly ensue. 
JR
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #60 on: February 15, 2015, 11:32:05 PM »

ISIS isn't the long term problem, Saudi Arabia is
Posted: 13 Feb 2015 09:32 PM PST

Here's a new way to think about something that should be obvious...

To the politicians in DC and financiers in New York, Saudi Arabia is an island of stability in a sea of chaos.  A reliable ally, willing to keep the oil flowing, year in and year out.  A place that's not vulnerable to the instability that routinely guts the countries around it.

Of course, that line of thinking is utterly misguided.  The opposite is true. 

In reality, Saudi Arabia is extremely fragile and much of the chaos we see in the Middle East is due to the way Saudi Arabia avoids falling to pieces.  Worse, we are largely to blame for this.  We go along with this charade, and our willingness to play along is doing much of the damage.

To understand why this illusion Saudi stability is so toxic, let's dig into a very smart idea from thermodynamics called dissipative structures.  In fact, the idea was so good that won Ilya Prigogine the Nobel prize in Chemistry.  Prigogine's idea provides us with insight into how everything from how biological structures (e.g. bacteria, apes...) to natural phenomena (e.g. tornadoes) to social systems (e.g. nation-states) build order and prevent collapse.

The important part of this idea for us, is that all dissipative structures grow by exporting or expelling waste products into an external environment.  In other words, they achieve "order" by getting rid of the disorder produced by building it. 

Here it is in very simple terms.  Within biological structures, eating produces the energy needed to build and maintain an organism.  In turn, consuming food produces disorder in the form of feces.  Organisms expel feces into the outside world because holding onto it is dangerous.  The same process is true with almost all complex structures. With automobiles, it's exhaust fumes. With complex social systems, it is everything from warfare to pollution.

We could spend all day on this idea, but let's cut to the chase and apply this framework to Saudi Arabia.  Saudi Arabia is a particularly expensive dissipative structure because it is extremelyrigid, anachronistic, and unchanging.   To maintain this archaic structure despite the titanic forces of globalization trying to pull it apart, it must export an incredible amount of disorder (entropy) into the surrounding region.  Disorder such as:

   A corrosive fundamentalist ideology.  The KSA's Wahhabism fuels both ISIS and al Qaeda.

   Violent zealots.  The vast majority of the hijackers during 9/11 were Saudi as well as thousands of ISIS members.

   Financial support.  Saudi Arabia provided the start-up funding for both al Qaeda and ISIS.   

Obviously, this entropy has come at a cost to everyone in the world.  It has been causing instability in the countries around in the Middle East.  It caused the terrorism of 9/11 and the recent rise of ISIS in Syria, Iraq, and Libya.   

Worse, the damage being done by Saudi Arabia is getting worse with each passing year as it continues to defy the inexorable gravitational attraction of a fluid, dynamic, and tightly integrated global system. 

That's the problem. 

This means that even if ISIS is defeated in the next couple of years, Saudi Arabia's dysfunction will produce something worse soon thereafter. 
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G M
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« Reply #61 on: February 15, 2015, 11:43:07 PM »

One should examine what motivates the Saudis. That is the core problem.
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« Reply #62 on: February 24, 2015, 12:31:52 AM »

Good idea GM.  Let's do that:

Three Saudi Options
Posted: 23 Feb 2015 09:50 AM PST
Saudi Arabia sees ISIS as an existential threat.  It has a reason to be scared, ISIS is a Wahabi jihad with updated technologies (social media) and techniques (open development).   That means when push comes to shove, Saudi troops will either a) turn tail and run or b) join up in droves.  To avoid this, the Saudis might attempt something radical:
1.   Build a completely useless multi-billion dollar wall around the country. Oh wait, they are already doing that.
2.   Ramp support for al Qaeda.  Optimally, a big al Qaeda on a western target would force the US to fully engage ISIS, since ISIS is a physical target and al Qaeda isn't.  Was al Qaeda's attack on Charlie Hebdo (and the Jewish deli) a Saudi funded endeavor to start the process?
3.   Hire western mercenaries to push ISIS around.  Erik Prince has been trying to sell this option for years and is waiting in the wings to get it going.  A few billion spent this way might be sufficient to turn the tide on ISIS.
 

The Middle East doesn't Matter Anymore
Posted: 23 Feb 2015 09:15 AM PST
Back in 2003, the US was headed towards complete dependence on foreign oil.  Additionally, the demand for energy (particularly from China) was growing far faster than production, which meant an energy price spike was inevitable. 
 
Of course, this could be avoided if another big source of oil was found and exploited.  However, based on existing production technology, the only big fields left untapped were in Iraq, but due to sanctions (limiting production to 2m barrels a day, far less than the 8 m bpd projected to be possible).
The result was inevitable.  The US invaded Iraq to free up production (that's largely why the fields were secured in the first couple of days of the invasion), but it screwed up.  The national security "brain-trust"  didn't anticipate that the Iraqi guerrillas would disrupt this production so effectively (I covered this in detail on this blog and in my book).  The result?  Iraq produced less oil, for years after the invasion, than it did under sanctions.
That loss of production in combination with disruption caused by Nigerian guerrillas (who copied the success of the Iraqis), produced an energy crunch that drove the global economy into a massive recession.  Worse, this recession became a decade long depression due to the disruption caused by the banks and hedge funds we allow to hack the global financial system. 
One of the benefits of this oil crunch was that high prices spurred technological innovation that led to an upheaval in the US energy system over the last decade.  New technology has enabled US oil and natural gas production to boom. Not only that, this tech enables energy production to scale industrially -- that's a big change if you understand the implications. 
The most immediate benefit of a return to US energy autonomy has been lower natural gas, oil, and gasoline prices (autonomy that will only grow as solar zooms). However, there's other benefits that should be obvious too.  Since the US isn't dependent on Middle Eastern energy anymore, US national security policy will be decoupled from Middle Eastern conflicts.  Like it or not, this is inevitable. 
What does this mean?
   If the US does get involved in Middle East conflicts it's due to outdated policy and doctrine.
   Nobody in the West will do anything to stop the spread of ISIS (as a humanitarian crisis it rates well below Rwanda). 
   Saudi Arabia is going to get desperate to get the US to intervene.  It sees ISIS as an existential threat.  How will it do that?  I've got some ideas...
 

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« Reply #63 on: March 14, 2015, 11:26:23 AM »

Pasting this post from YA on the Iran forum here as well:

This has been known on many pak discussion forums for years,,,

Saudi Arabia prepares for Iran nuclear deal
Saudi Arabia is quietly preparing for an international nuclear agreement with Iran that it fears will rehabilitate its Shiite Persian rival. King Salman bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud's approach eschews the public spectacle of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's speech to Congress (indeed, the Saudis don't want any association with Israel) and instead focuses on regional alliances to contain an emergent Iran.

Author Bruce RiedelPosted March 8, 2015

The Saudis publicly welcomed US Secretary of State John Kerry's assurances in Riyadh last week that Washington will not accept a bad nuclear deal with Iran, and that a deal will not inaugurate a grand rapprochement between Washington and Tehran. They remain deeply skeptical about the negotiations, however, and are preparing for any outcome in the P5+1 process.

The Saudis recognize that a successful deal between Iran, the US, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany will enjoy broad international backing and United Nations endorsement. Riyadh has no interest in being isolated in a dissenting minority with Netanyahu against a deal backed by a global majority. The royal family despises Israel, and Netanyahu is regarded as a war criminal by most Saudis. Any hint of mutual interest with Israel is unpalatable in the kingdom.

So the Saudi approach is to strengthen its regional alliances for long-term confrontation with Tehran. Most immediately, this means strengthening the unity of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). It has strong allies in Abu Dhabi and Manama. In Riyadh's eyes, there are two weak links in GCC collusion against Iran: Oman and Qatar. Neither is likely to give up their bilateral lucrative ties to Iran, but Salman is pressing both to adhere to GCC unity and not facilitate Iranian subversion.

Yemen is the key GCC battlefield. The victory of the Iranian-backed Zaydi Shiite Houthis in seizing control of most of north Yemen, including Sanaa, has led the Saudis and the GCC to move their embassies to Aden, where they are trying to back the tattered remnant of the Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi regime in south Yemen. The inauguration of Sanaa-Tehran air flights last month, a first, only underscores the extent of Iran's success in achieving a key goal in the kingdom's backyard and in its historically weak underbelly. The Saudis are on the defense in Yemen.

Egypt is Riyadh's key Arab partner. The kingdom played an important role in bringing Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to power, and Salman met him a week ago to coordinate closely on regional issues, especially Iran. Cairo is too preoccupied with its own domestic terror threat from the Islamic State (IS) and spillover from Libya's disintegration to be very helpful against Iranian machinations elsewhere, however, and is more of a liability (especially financially) than an asset, albeit one Saudi Arabia is determined to keep afloat.

The Shiite government in Baghdad is regarded as a long-lost Arab partner. The Saudis expect Iran to emerge as the big winner in the war with IS, no matter how long it takes and how bloody it is. The Saudis know history, geography, demography and sectarian affiliation favor Iran in Iraq. They believe that President George W. Bush made a colossal error in 2003 and that President Barack Obama has made an "unholy alliance" today with Iran in Iraq. The only option now is to contain the Shiite breakthrough here, too.

Syria has been lost to Iran as well, but Riyadh still hopes to oust Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The Saudis are pouring money into the Lebanese army, as a potential brake on Hezbollah, along with the French. Salman also recently met with Jordan's King Abdullah to coordinate with Amman on Syria and with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan as well.

Riyadh's most crucial ally is Pakistan, the only Muslim nuclear weapons state. Last year, for the first time, the Saudis publicly displayed their vintage Chinese-made intermediate-range ballistic missiles the only ones they have that can reach Tehran at a military parade. In the reviewing stands was Pakistani Chief of Army Staff Gen. Rahul Sharif, the man who controls Pakistan's nuclear arsenal. It is the fastest growing nuclear arsenal in the world, and the Saudis have been helping to pay for its development since the 1970s. It was a very calculated signal.

Salman, in late February, summoned the Pakistani prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, to Riyadh. The highly unusual and urgent public invitation was linked in the Pakistani press to "strategic cooperation" against Iran. Salman visited Islamabad a year ago as crown prince and gave Sharif a $1.5 billion grant to reaffirm the Saudi-Pakistani strategic accord. Sharif spent three days in the kingdom last week in response to the king's invitation. He received a royal reception.

One immediate result of the talks is a plan for Pakistan to move its embassy in Yemen to Aden.

The speculation in Islamabad is that the king sought assurances from Sharif that, if the Iran negotiations produce either a bad deal or no deal, Pakistan will live up to its longstanding commitment to Saudi security. That is understood in Riyadh and Islamabad to include a nuclear dimension.

Sharif also visited the kingdom in January of this year. He was apparently told that then-King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud was at death's door, and Sharif came to pay his respects and meet with Salman before the king died. No other leader was given this advance notice another sign of the critical importance of the Saudi-Pakistani axis.

​The exact details of what the Pakistani nuclear commitment to the kingdom includes is, of course, among the most closely held secrets of our world. Both Riyadh and Islamabad prefer to maintain ambiguity and deniability.

The Saudis have not given up on Obama; the United States is still their oldest ally. Washington is too important to irritate with speeches. The Saudis prefer a more subtle approach.



Read more: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2015/03/saudi-arabia-prepares-for-iran-nuclear-deal.html##ixzz3UN27uGzE
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #64 on: March 25, 2015, 06:48:29 AM »

http://link.foreignpolicy.com/view/525443c6c16bcfa46f732b5d2f756.1xkg/41ba70b0
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« Reply #65 on: March 25, 2015, 01:22:23 PM »

http://www.i24news.tv/en/news/international/middle-east/63570-150308-saudi-arabia-becomes-world-s-biggest-arms-importer-amid-regional-concerns

I posted on the Middle East thread that I would bet Saudis are already working on nuclear weapons.   They are proactive not reactive in general.
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