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Crafty_Dog
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« on: February 25, 2011, 11:16:09 PM »

Saudi Arabia and the Context of Regional Unrest
On Thursday, much of the global media remained fixated on the continuing turmoil in Libya, but STRATFOR’s attention was drawn to Saudi Arabia. According to a DPA report, a Saudi youth group called for a peaceful demonstration on Friday in the kingdom’s western Red Sea port city of Jeddah, in an expression of solidarity with anti-government protesters in Libya. The group, calling itself Jeddah Youth for Change, distributed a printed statement throughout Riyadh asking people to demonstrate near the al-Beia Roundabout and vowed not to give up its right to demonstrate peacefully.

Ever since the mass risings spread from Tunisia to other parts of the Arab world, the key question has been whether or not the Saudi kingdom could experience similar unrest. The reason why this question is posed is two-fold: 1) The country is the world’s largest exporter of crude, and any unrest there could have massive ramifications for the world’s energy supply; and, 2) The Saudi socio-political culture is such that public demonstrations have been an extremely rare occurrence.

Riyadh’s actions since the ouster of the Tunisian and Egyptian presidents show its grave concern that the regional unrest could spread to Saudi Arabia. Domestically, the Saudi state announced a new $11 billion social welfare package. Regionally, the Saudis have been working hard to ensure that the protests in bordering countries do not destabilize those states (particularly Bahrain and Yemen), which could have a spillover effect into the kingdom.

“The Saudis will have to balance between the need to sustain old relationships such as those with the ulema class and new ones with the Shiite minority and liberal segments of society.”
Since the establishment of their first polity in 1744, the Saudis have demonstrated remarkable resilience and skill in dealing with challenges to their authority. They have weathered a litany of problems in their nearly 270-year history. These include a collapse of their state in the face of external aggression on two occasions (1818 and 1891), feuds within the royal family leading to the abdication of a monarch (1964), the assassination of a second at the hands of a nephew (1975), challenges from the country’s highly influential and expansive ulema class (1960s and 1990s), and rebellions mounted by religious militants on three occasions (1929, 1979 and 2003-04).

The unique nature of the Saudi state and its shared religious and cultural norms in part explain its ability to deal with such threats. Unlike many authoritarian Arab countries, the Saudi state is not detached from the average man; instead, it is very much rooted in the masses. The House of Saud is not the typical elite royal family; on the contrary, it is connected to the entire tribal landscape of the country through marriages.

In addition to the tribal social organization, there is a considerable degree of homogeneity of religious and cultural values. The historical relationship between the House of Saud and the Wahhabi religious establishment has proven effective in sustaining the legitimacy of the regime. Reinforcing all these bonds is the country’s oil wealth.

This arrangement has served the Saudis well for a very long time. But it now appears that they have reached a significant impasse — for a number of reasons.

First, the kingdom is due for a major leadership change considering that the king and the top three princes are extremely old and could die in fairly quick succession. Second is the rise of the kingdom’s archrival, Iran, and its Arab Shiite allies (in Iraq, Lebanon and now Bahrain), which represents the biggest external threat to the kingdom. Third, the regional wave of popular unrest, demanding that the region’s autocratic regimes make room for democracy, is something the Saudis have not had to deal with thus far.

The configuration of the Saudi state and society will likely serve as an arrestor to serious unrest. This means Saudi Arabia is unlikely to be immediately overwhelmed by protests, as has been the case with Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Bahrain. But the kingdom is unlikely to contain such pressures for long, especially as a new generation of leaders assumes the mantle.

The future rulers will likely build upon the cautious reforms that have been spearheaded by King Abdullah in recent years. But in the emerging regional climate, it will be difficult to manage the pace and direction of reforms. The Saudis will have to balance between the need to sustain old relationships such as those with the ulema class and new ones with the Shiite minority and liberal segments of society.

« Last Edit: March 07, 2011, 12:21:38 PM by Crafty_Dog » Logged
G M
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« Reply #1 on: February 26, 2011, 03:29:36 AM »

We lose Saudi, it's a new and very ugly world.
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #2 on: March 02, 2011, 11:56:02 PM »

Fear of Domestic Unrest in Saudi Arabia
Unrest in the Persian Gulf region has been limited to small countries like Bahrain, Yemen and Oman. On Tuesday, however, the region’s powerhouse, Saudi Arabia, seemed to be inching closer to unrest within its borders. Reuters reported that authorities in the Eastern Province city of al Hafouf arrested a Shiite cleric who, in a sermon during congregational prayers last Friday, called for a constitutional monarchy. Reuters quoted a local rights activist as saying that state security forces arrested Tawfiq al-Amir, who was previously detained for demanding religious freedom.

“The Saudis fear that any gains made by the Bahraini Shia could energize the kingdom’s Shiite minority.”
Ever since popular risings toppled the Tunisian and Egyptian presidents, the Saudis have worried about the potential for unrest within the kingdom. But when street demonstrations erupted in neighboring Bahrain, Saudi Arabia became even more concerned because Bahrain’s opposition is largely made up of the small island country’s 70 percent Shiite majority.

Terrified at the prospect of empowerment of the Bahraini Shia, Riyadh has been closely working with Manama to contain the unrest. The Saudis fear that any gains made by the Bahraini Shia could energize the kingdom’s Shiite minority (estimated at 20 percent of the population, concentrated in the oil-rich Eastern Province and linked to Bahrain via a causeway). The arrest of the Saudi Shiite cleric, however, could accelerate matters. The world’s largest exporter of crude could experience unrest even before the Bahraini Shia are able to extract concessions from their minority Sunni rulers.

Compounding matters for the Saudis is the fact that this is not just a sectarian rising: There are a great many Sunnis within the kingdom who desire political reforms, too. Such demands create problems for the house of al-Saud at a time when the royal family is reaching a historic impasse due to an aging leadership.

Between the need to manage the transition, contain the general calls for political reforms, and deal with a restive Shiite population, the Saudi kingdom becomes vulnerable to its archrival, Iran, which is looking at the regional unrest as an opportunity to project power across the Persian Gulf. Even if there had been no outbreak of public agitation, Arabian Peninsula leaders were gravely concerned about a rising originating in Iran. From the Saudis’ point of view, the 2011 withdrawal of American forces from Iraq will leave them exposed to an assertive Iran.

And now, domestic turmoil, especially turmoil involving the Shia, exacerbates matters for the Saudis. Political reforms in the kingdom threaten the Saudis’ historic hold on power. But any such reforms also translate into enhanced status of the minority Shiite population, which in turn means more room for potential Iranian maneuvers.

The Saudis are thus facing a predicament in which pressures to effect change on the domestic level have serious geopolitical implications.

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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #3 on: March 06, 2011, 06:21:18 PM »

Saudi Arabia was yesterday drafting up to 10,000 security personnel into its north-eastern Shia Muslim provinces, clogging the highways into Dammam and other cities with busloads of troops in fear of next week's "day of rage" by what is now called the "Hunayn Revolution".


Saudi Arabia's worst nightmare – the arrival of the new Arab awakening of rebellion and insurrection in the kingdom – is now casting its long shadow over the House of Saud. Provoked by the Shia majority uprising in the neighbouring Sunni-dominated island of Bahrain, where protesters are calling for the overthrow of the ruling al-Khalifa family, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia is widely reported to have told the Bahraini authorities that if they do not crush their Shia revolt, his own forces will.

The opposition is expecting at least 20,000 Saudis to gather in Riyadh and in the Shia Muslim provinces of the north-east of the country in six days, to demand an end to corruption and, if necessary, the overthrow of the House of Saud. Saudi security forces have deployed troops and armed police across the Qatif area – where most of Saudi Arabia's Shia Muslims live – and yesterday would-be protesters circulated photographs of armoured vehicles and buses of the state-security police on a highway near the port city of Dammam.

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/saudis-mobilise-thousands-of-troops-to-quell-growing-revolt-2232928.html
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #4 on: March 07, 2011, 06:43:41 AM »



http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-02-27/dubai-shares-rise-on-investor-bets-declines-are-overdone-deyaar-advances.html
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ccp
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« Reply #5 on: March 07, 2011, 10:30:31 AM »

"where most of Saudi Arabia's Shia Muslims live"

10% of Saudi Arabia is Shia.  It seems that whereever the Shia are they are proxies for Iran.

In a population of every 27 million that means 2.7 mill are Shia.  They can easily muster thousands to walk the streets.  Yet they are really a small minority.
20K is nothing.

 
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #6 on: March 07, 2011, 12:21:15 PM »

Are the Shia dispersed, or are they concentrated in certain regions of the country?  My understanding is the latter.

Also, in Bahrain they are 70% and protesting for "freedom and democracy"? We may be concerned about the US 5th Fleet's base there, but how can we oppose this without losing credibility?
« Last Edit: March 07, 2011, 12:23:07 PM by Crafty_Dog » Logged
Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #7 on: March 10, 2011, 10:43:43 AM »

Tuesday, March 8, 2011   STRATFOR.COM  Diary Archives 

Bahrain's Shiite Split

A recently formed Bahraini Shiite opposition coalition issued a joint statement Tuesday in which it vowed to push for the creation of a republic in Bahrain. As Bahrain has been governed by the al-Khalifa Sunni monarchy for more than two centuries, this is quite a bold aspiration, and eclipses the demands issued by the protest movement thus far. Until now, the predominately Shiite protesters have called for the resignation of the government and other political reforms, but not outright regime change.

The coalition, dubbed the “Coalition for a Republic,” is made up of three Shiite groups: the Haq Movement, the Wafa Movement and the lesser-known London-based Bahrain Islamic Freedom Movement. It does not include the more moderate Al Wefaq Movement, which is significant. Al Wefaq is not only the leading Shiite opposition party (it won 18 of the 40 seats in the lower house during the 2006 elections, though it walked out in protest after the crackdown on demonstrators in February), it also has been the leading player in the opposition coalition that the government has sought to engage for the past several weeks. Though the protesters on the streets have proven that they are not all Al Wefaq followers (many are devoted supporters of the Haq Movement’s founder, Hassan Mushaima), it is still widely believed that Al Wefaq has more support with Bahrain’s Shia.

“The emergence of the ‘Coalition for a Republic’ gives Tehran an additional tool with which it can pressure the al-Khalifa regime, one that differs somewhat from the more moderate Al Wefaq.”
There is now an open split in the Bahraini Shiite community, with one side (led by Al Wefaq) continuing with calls for Bahrain’s prime minister to step down and for the Sunni monarchy to grant the majority Shiite population a greater share of political power, and the other (led by Haq and Wafa) calling for a complete toppling of the monarchy.

The trait that the Haq and Wafa factions have in common is that they are likely both operating under varying levels of influence from Iran, which is the object of immense suspicion these days in Manama’s royal court (not to mention Riyadh’s). As the protector of Shia throughout the Persian Gulf region, Tehran has an interest in fomenting instability wherever a significant Shiite population exists in a country run by Sunnis. Bahrain, situated in the Persian Gulf just off the coast of Iran’s regional rival, Saudi Arabia, fits the bill, as roughly 70 percent of its residents are Shia. Since the 1979 Iranian Revolution, the Bahraini regime has lived in a constant state of unease in relation to its eastern neighbor. But the presence of the U.S. Navy Fifth Fleet is a nice reminder to Tehran that Bahrain has friends in high places.

Though there is no explicit evidence that Iran is behind the creation of this new hard-line Shiite coalition, Tehran is known to have ties to its leader, Mushaima, while the founder and leader of Wafa, Abdulwahab Hussein, is also known for his more extreme viewpoints. The emergence of the “Coalition for a Republic” gives Tehran an additional tool with which it can pressure the al-Khalifa regime, one that differs somewhat from that of the more moderate Al Wefaq.

It would be presumptuous to believe that Iran has total influence over every Shiite opposition group throughout the region. That said, Iran has learned over the years how to effectively play the divisions within these Shiite camps to its advantage, thereby multiplying its options and acting as a spoiler to rival countries with competing interests. This has been exemplified in Iraq, where Iran has a relationship with myriad Shiite actors, from more independent-minded nationalists like Muqtada al-Sadr to more traditional Iranian allies like Ammar al-Hakim. There is a lot of utility in maintaining influence over multiple factions of dissent in a neighboring country, which leads STRATFOR to believe that the creation of this new coalition may be the first signs of a (likely milder) version of the “Iraqization” of the Bahraini Shia. Mushaima (or perhaps eventually Hussein) would play a similar role to al-Sadr; Al Wefaq would mimic the role of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

While the existence of two competing Shiite groups allows Iran more tools with which to influence the events in Bahrain, a split in the Shiite opposition also allows the al-Khalifas (and by extension, the Saudis) an opportunity to try to weaken the protest movement. Al Wefaq will play a central role in this strategy to have a decent chance of success. Though Al Wefaq could always decide that it would rather unite with those calling for an overthrow of the regime, it proved in its decision not to boycott the 2006 parliamentary elections that it is willing to sacrifice some of its principles if it means advancing its political goals.

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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #8 on: March 10, 2011, 03:49:07 PM »

Red Alert: Saudi Police Fire On Protesters In Oil Hub
March 10, 2011 | 1946 GMT
Saudi police have reportedly opened gunfire on and launched stun grenades at several hundred protesters March 10 rallying in the heavily Shiite-populated city of Qatif in Saudi Arabia’s oil-rich Eastern Province.

The decision to employ violence in this latest crackdown comes a day before Friday prayers, after which various Saudi opposition groups were planning to rally in the streets. Unrest has been simmering in the Saudi kingdom over the past couple weeks, with mostly Sunni youth, human rights activists and intellectuals in Riyadh and Jeddah campaigning for greater political freedoms, including the call for a constitutional monarchy. A so-called “Day of Rage” of protests across the country has been called for March 11 by Facebook groups Hanyn (Nostalgia) Revolution and the Free Youth Coalition following Friday prayers.

What is most critical to Saudi Arabia, however, is Shiite-driven unrest in the country’s Eastern Province. Shiite activists and clerics have become more vocal in recent weeks in expressing their dissent and have been attempting to dodge Saudi security forces. The Saudi regime has been cautious thus far, not wanting to inflame the protests with a violent crackdown but at the same time facing a growing need to demonstrate firm control.

Yet in watching Shiite unrest continue to simmer in the nearby island of Bahrain, the Saudi royals are growing increasingly concerned about the prospect of Shiite uprisings cascading throughout the Persian Gulf region, playing directly into the Iranian strategic interest of destabilizing its U.S.-allied Arab neighbors. By showing a willingness to use force early, the Saudi authorities are likely hoping they will be able to deter people from joining the protests, but such actions could just as easily embolden the protesters.

There is a strong potential for clashes to break out March 11 between Saudi security forces and protesters, particularly in the vital Eastern Province. Saudi authorities have taken tough security measures in the Shiite areas of the country by deploying about 15,000 national guardsmen to thwart the planned demonstrations by attempting to impose a curfew in critical areas. Energy speculators are already reacting to the heightened tensions in the Persian Gulf region, but unrest in cities like Qatif cuts directly to the source of the threat that is fueling market speculation: The major oil transit pipelines that supply the major oil port of Ras Tanura — the world’s largest, with a capacity of 5 million barrels per day — go directly through Qatif.

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prentice crawford
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« Reply #9 on: March 10, 2011, 04:49:54 PM »

Woof,
 More coverage on Saudi uprising

www.msnbc.msn.com/id/42013013/ns/world_news-mideastn_africa               
                         P.C.
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G M
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« Reply #10 on: March 10, 2011, 04:52:40 PM »

The house of Saud will go the full Ka-daffy.
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #11 on: March 11, 2011, 11:49:21 PM »

Middle East Tensions Rise With Saudi Protest

Simmering tensions in the predominantly Shiite area of Saudi Arabia’s Eastern province boiled to the surface Thursday, when riot police fired what were reportedly rubber bullets on a demonstration of up to 800 people in the town of Qatif. Though no one was killed, and only a few were reportedly injured, the Saudi security forces proved true to authorities’ pledge earlier in the week that protests in the Kingdom are banned and will not be tolerated.

The incident briefly caused oil prices to spike after having dipped earlier in the day as nervous investors reacted over reports of shots fired at protesters in the main oil-producing region of the world’s largest petroleum producer. The fear was that the same style of protests that first erupted in Tunisia, expanding across much of the Middle East and flaring up in Bahrain, had now finally spread to Saudi Arabia. Though there have been a handful of minor demonstrations in the Eastern province in recent weeks, this was the first time clashes had erupted with security forces. It happened just a day before planned, nationwide demonstrations were scheduled on Facebook. One such group has attracted more than 30,000 members (an unknown number of whom actually reside in Saudi Arabia) in its attempt to replicate the “Day of Rage” that Egypt’s pro-democracy movement made famous after noon prayers on Jan. 28.

“There will undoubtedly be people taking to the streets in Saudi Arabia on Friday. The question is, how many? And, even more importantly, will the security forces be able to clamp down without bloodshed?”
March 11 will be the first major test of whether Saudi Arabia is truly immune to the contagion that helped to overthrow Tunisia and Egypt’s presidents, and now has regimes in Bahrain and Yemen feeling pressured. Certainly, the House of Saud is taking the potential for unrest seriously, as the royal family has seen that the failure to do so in other countries often ended badly. The regime, unsurprisingly, has responded by combining the carrot with the stick, implementing a series of economic concessions in recent weeks aimed at ameliorating popular grievances, in addition to arresting those encouraging its citizens to protest and urging the clergy, Consultative Council and religious police to remind the nation that public demonstrations are prohibited.

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal urged people on Wednesday to remember that dialogue is the solution to social grievances, not protest, and warned that Riyadh had increased security forces in potential trouble spots to clamp down on anyone that failed to take note. Though the Eastern province – home to the vast majority of Saudi Arabia’s Shia, who make up an estimated 15 percent of the nation’s population – is the area considered by many to be the most likely to experience significant unrest, there are locations across the country that have been named in advance by the online organizers of the March 11 demonstrations. This includes Jeddah, Riyadh, Jezan and even Mecca.

Undoubtedly, there will be people taking to the streets on Friday. The question is, how many? And, even more importantly, will the security forces be able to clamp down without bloodshed?

Saudi Arabia’s regional rival, Iran, is hoping that the answers to those questions will be “a lot” and “no.” Tehran is suspected to be responsible for much of the unrest in Bahrain, and knows that the Shia of the eastern Arabian Peninsula are taking note of the developments across the causeway in the Saudi kingdom. Whether or not the Iranians have significant links in the Shiite zones of Saudi Arabia is unknown, but that doesn’t change the fact that Tehran has an interest in the situation becoming hectic there.

Saudi Arabia is a unique case when compared to other Arab states that have been affected by the Tunisian contagion. It will be much more challenging to enact political change there than in other countries because the royal family is able to use its immense oil wealth to pacify dissent, and blunt popular support for those who think the royal family should give way to a constitutional monarchy. In addition, the Sunnis are a majority in the kingdom, meaning that this is no Bahrain. It is also noteworthy that the royal family has more than 5,000 princes across the country, thus Saudi Arabia is not being run by a top-heavy power structure that is out of touch with popular sentiment.

March 11 is only the first of two planned “Days of Rage,” the second being March 20. But as Friday prayers are always an easier way to organize protests in the Muslim world due to the volume of people already out on the streets, all eyes should be on the Arabian Peninsula.

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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #12 on: March 14, 2011, 12:19:08 PM »


By George Friedman

Saudi Arabia is leading a coalition force into Bahrain to help the government calm the unrest there. This move puts Iran in a difficult position, as Tehran had hoped to use the uprising in Bahrain to promote instability in the Persian Gulf region. Iran could refrain from acting and lose an opportunity to destabilize the region, or it could choose from several other options that do not seem particularly effective.

The Bahrain uprising consists of two parts, as all revolutions do. The first is genuine grievances by the majority Shiite population — the local issues and divisions. The second is the interests of foreign powers in Bahrain. It is not one or the other. It is both.

The Iranians clearly benefit from an uprising in Bahrain. It places the U.S. 5th Fleet’s basing in jeopardy, puts the United States in a difficult position and threatens the stability of other Persian Gulf Arab states. For the Iranians, pursuing a long-standing interest (going back to the Shah and beyond) of dominating the Gulf, the uprisings in North Africa and their spread to the Arabian Peninsula represent a golden opportunity.

The Iranians are accustomed to being able to use their covert capabilities to shape the political realities in countries. They did this effectively in Iraq and are doing it in Afghanistan. They regarded this as low risk and high reward. The Saudis, recognizing that this posed a fundamental risk to their regime and consulting with the Americans, have led a coalition force into Bahrain to halt the uprising and save the regime. Pressed by covert forces, they were forced into an overt action they were clearly reluctant to take.

We are now off the map, so to speak. The question is how the Iranians respond, and there is every reason to think that they do not know. They probably did not expect a direct military move by the Saudis, given that the Saudis prefer to act more quietly themselves. The Iranians wanted to destabilize without triggering a strong response, but they were sufficiently successful in using local issues that the Saudis felt they had no choice in the matter. It is Iran’s move.

If Iran simply does nothing, then the wave that has been moving in its favor might be stopped and reversed. They could lose a historic opportunity. At the same time, the door remains open in Iraq, and that is the main prize here. They might simply accept the reversal and pursue their main line. But even there things are murky. There are rumors in Washington that U.S. President Barack Obama has decided to slow down, halt or even reverse the withdrawal from Iraq. Rumors are merely rumors, but these make sense. Completing the withdrawal now would tilt the balance in Iraq to Iran, a strategic disaster.

Therefore, the Iranians are facing a counter-offensive that threatens the project they have been pursuing for years just when it appeared to be coming to fruition. Of course, it is just before a project succeeds that opposition mobilizes, so they should not be surprised that resistance has grown so strong. But surprised or not, they now have a strategic decision to make and not very long to make it.

They can up the ante by increasing resistance in Bahrain and forcing fighting on the ground. It is not clear that the Bahraini opposition is prepared to take that risk on behalf of Iran, but it is a potential option. They have the option of trying to increase unrest elsewhere in order to spread the Saudi and Gulf Cooperation Council forces, weakening their impact. It is not clear how much leverage the Iranians have in other countries. The Iranians could try to create problems in Saudi Arabia, but given the Saudis’ actions in Bahrain, this becomes more difficult.

Finally, they can attempt an overt intervention, either in Bahrain or elsewhere, such as Iraq or Afghanistan. A naval movement against Bahrain is not impossible, but if the U.S. Navy intervenes, which it likely would, it would be a disaster for the Iranians. Operations in Iraq or Afghanistan might be more fruitful. It is possible that Shiite insurgents will operate in Iraq, but that would guarantee a halt of the U.S. withdrawal without clearly increasing the Iranians’ advantage there. They want U.S. forces to leave, not give them a reason to stay.

There is then the indirect option, which is to trigger a war with Israel. The killings on the West Bank and Israeli concerns about Hezbollah might be some of Iran’s doing, with the emphasis on “might.” But it is not clear how a Hezbollah confrontation with Israel would help Iran’s position relative to Saudi Arabia in the Persian Gulf. It diverts attention, but the Saudis know the stakes and they will not be easily diverted.

The logic, therefore, is that Iran retreats and waits. But the Saudi move shifts the flow of events, and time is not on Iran’s side.

There is also the domestic Iranian political situation to consider. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has been strong in part because of his successful handling of foreign policy. The massive failure of a destabilization plan would give his political opponents the ammunition needed to weaken him domestically. We do not mean a democratic revolution in Iran, but his  enemies among the clergy who see him as a threat to their position, and hard-liners in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps who want an even more aggressive stand.

Ahmadinejad finds himself in a difficult position. The Saudis have moved decisively. If he does nothing, his position can unravel and with it his domestic political position. Yet none of the counters he might use seem effective or workable. In the end, his best option is to create a crisis in Iraq, forcing the United States to consider how deeply it wants to be drawn back into Iraq. He might find weakness there that he can translate into some sort of political deal.

At the moment we suspect the Iranians do not know how they will respond. The first issue will have to be determining whether they can create violent resistance to the Saudis in Bahrain, to both tie them down and increase the cost of occupation. It is simply unclear whether the Bahrainis are prepared to pay the price. They do seem to want fundamental change in Bahrain, but it is not clear that they have reached the point where they are prepared to resist and die en masse.

That is undoubtedly what the Iranians are exploring now. If they find that this is not an option, then none of their other options are particularly good. All of them involve risk and difficulty. It also requires that Iran commit itself to confrontations that it has tried to avoid. It prefers cover action that is deniable to overt action that is not.

As we move into the evening, we expect the Iranians are in intense discussions of their next move. Domestic politics are affecting regional strategy, as would be the case in any country. But the clear roadmap the Iranians were working from has now collapsed. The Saudis have called their hand, and they are trying to find out if they have a real or a busted flush. They will have to act quickly before the Saudi action simply becomes a solid reality. But it is not clear what they can do quickly. For the moment, the Saudis have the upper hand. But the Iranians are clever and tenacious. There are no predictions possible. We doubt even the Iranians know what they will do.


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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #13 on: March 14, 2011, 04:33:06 PM »

Analyst Reva Bhalla examines the Iranian dilemma with the Gulf Cooperation Council’s decision to deploy forces to Bahrain.


Editor’s Note: Transcripts are generated using speech-recognition technology. Therefore, STRATFOR cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.

The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries announced Monday that they were deploying military forces to Bahrain under the umbrella of the joint Peninsula Shield Forces. Now this is basically the U.S.-Saudi overt countermove to an Iranian covert destabilization campaign that it has been pursuing in the Persian Gulf region. The question now is how will the Iranians respond?

The reports of the GCC deployment comes just two days after U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates paid a visit to the Bahraini capital. The United States, the Saudis, and the rest of the GCC states have been monitoring very closely the level of Iranian involvement in the Bahraini opposition, understanding very well that the Iranians have a strategic interest in reshaping the political reality of the region in favor of the Shia, thereby destabilizing the balance of power in the region and placing in jeopardy vital U.S. military installations.

Understanding what’s at stake, the GCC countries have made their countermove to Iran’s destabilization campaign and are doing so with apparent U.S. backing. The question now is what do the Iranians do? The Iranians have in place a number of assets in Bahrain to escalate the protests there. But the more stories that come out on Shiites getting killed in the streets by Sunni forces in the security apparatus, the more pressure Iran would be putting on itself to get more overtly involved in the Bahraini crisis. It really isn’t clear that the Iranians are prepared to take such an overt option.

The Iranians much prefer operating in a covert space to shape the political realities on the ground. They did this very effectively in Iraq and Afghanistan, which they saw as a very high-reward and low-risk effort in order to get its strategic objectives met.

In the case of Bahrain, the Iranians face major logistical constraints in trying to project military power to an island that’s nestled between Saudi Arabia and Qatar – two Sunni powers — and an island that is also shielded by the U.S. 5th Fleet. Now the Iranians could choose to stand back but they would do so at the risk of looking ineffectual at a time when Shiites are coming under threat of Sunni forces. On the other hand, the Iranians could stick to their covert plan and use its covert assets in places like Afghanistan, Lebanon or even Saudi Arabia to try to ratchet up crises elsewhere in order to avoid having to get embroiled in a situation it doesn’t want to in Bahrain.

In the case of Iraq, of course the Iranians have a number of covert assets in place up to grab the U.S. attention there but that could also backfire. The United States is in the midst of withdrawal from Iraq and the more the Iranians get involved there, the more justified the United States would theoretically be in delaying its plans for withdrawal, which could completely derail the Iranian plan to consolidate its influence in the heart of the Arab world using its Shiite assets in Iraq.

The Iranian roadmap in the Persian Gulf appears to be off-track as a result of a pretty overt U.S. and Saudi countermove in the region. Now it’s not clear yet what the Iranians’ next steps are going to be, and it’s not clear that the Iranians know that either – but you can bet there is a lot of heavy debate taking place right now in Tehran.

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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #14 on: March 15, 2011, 01:54:14 PM »

Due to our attention deficit created by Libya and Japan, this major story is not getting much attention.  Some huge details here: Saudis into Bahrain against the wishes of Baraq, ambassadors withdrawn between Iran and Bahrain, an apparently determined majority of the population against the rule of those who enable the presence of our 5th Fleet, and more.  Heads up folks!

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MANAMA—Bahrain declared a three-month state of emergency and handed wide powers to the armed forces, as it moved to quell weeks of demonstrations by mainly Shiite protesters a day after the arrival of Saudi troops.

Bahrain also temporarily withdrew its ambassador from Tehran, after Iran described the arrival of the troops as an "occupation."

 WSJ's Jerry Seib reports Saudi Arabia has sent troops to quell violence in Bahrain, in defiance of a U.S. order not to get involved.
.Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia denied a report that one of its soldiers had been shot dead by a protester.

Bahrain television reported a member of the security forces had died after being run over by a protester. The government said the state of emergency gives Bahrain's army and security forces a mandate "to take the measures and procedures necessary to preserve the safety of the nation and its people." Bahrain has seen violent clashes over the past few days between security forces, antigovernment demonstrators and pro-regime loyalists, marking an escalation of tensions in the strategic Arab Gulf state, where a swelling number of protesters have taken control of the key financial district and are calling for the downfall of the monarchy.

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.On Tuesday, members of opposition groups reported clashes in Sitra and Shiite and Sunni villages near the capital between progovernment and antigovernment parties.

"There have been attacks in six villages," said Abdul Khalil, a senior member of the moderate Al Wefaq party. "They [pro-government mobs] attacked the Shia and Sunni villages. They had guns and security forces had to use tear gas. This is a terrible and complicated situation."

In the Shiite town of Sitra, pro-government vigilantes armed with knives, swords and batons went on a rampage through the village, one eyewitness said. Police had mobilized outside the local health center by late afternoon, said Mustafa Altooq, 38 years old, who went to visit his wounded brother. He described a chaotic scene of bodies being brought to the health center in the back of cars.

Ali Ibrahim, a consultant at the capital's Salmaniya hospital, said a Sitra man in his 20s died of a serious skull injury, and about an additional 60 people were being treated at the hospital from wounds inflicted by bird shot and rubber bullets. He said casualties were arriving from clashes in villages near Manama.

 Bahrain's king announces a state of emergency a day after Saudi forces arrived to help quell mass protests in the country. Video courtesy of Reuters.
.The White House on Tuesday called for "calm and restraint" on all sides, warning that the use of force and sectarian violence by either the Saudis or Shiite opposition groups "will only worsen the situation."

On Monday, Gulf Cooperation Council states responded to a request from Bahrain's ruling al-Khalifa family to dispatch the first deployment of Arab troops across national borders since a revolt in Tunisia in December sparked unrest across the Arab world.

Saudi Arabia said that 1,000 of its soldiers took part and the United Arab Emirates said that 500 of its police officers had arrived at Bahrain's request.

On Tuesday, police helicopters circled overhead as tens of thousands of antigovernment demonstrators marched through the capital to protest the presence of Gulf troops in Bahrain and to call for the downfall of the monarchy.

They marched peacefully to the Saudi Arabian Embassy in the heart of Manama's financial district.

"If we don't win, then we will die," said Muntadar Jaffa, a 20-year-old engineering student who lives on the outskirts of Manama. "People will not leave the streets or go home."

The U.S. is deeply concerned about hard-liners within the Shiite community, who have longstanding ties to Iran and Hezbollah and could try to provoke a military response from the Saudis, risking a wider conflict, officials said.

The U.S. hopes to avoid further escalation. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, on a visit to Egypt in Cairo, spoke with Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud about the situation in Bahrain. She said she was "particularly concerned" about the violence and the potential for escalation. About her call to the foreign minister, Mrs. Clinton said she told him all sides "must take steps now to negotiate toward a political solution," not a military one.

The State Department dispatched Jeffrey Feltman, acting assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern Affairs, to Bahrain, where he "working the issue aggressively on the ground as we speak," said White House spokesman Tommy Vietor.

The U.S. had tried, unsuccessfully, to persuade its Saudi allies to keep their forces out of the fray.

Tensions between President Barack Obama and the Saudi king flared in February over Mr. Obama's push for the immediate exit of President Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, rather than the graceful exit supported by the Saudis.

Officials and diplomats said the Saudis now appeared to be charting a largely independent course in response to unrest in Bahrain.

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« Reply #15 on: March 15, 2011, 02:02:36 PM »


"The U.S. hopes to avoid further escalation. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, on a visit to Egypt in Cairo, spoke with Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud about the situation in Bahrain. She said she was "particularly concerned" about the violence and the potential for escalation. About her call to the foreign minister, Mrs. Clinton said she told him all sides "must take steps now to negotiate toward a political solution," not a military one.

The State Department dispatched Jeffrey Feltman, acting assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern Affairs, to Bahrain, where he "working the issue aggressively on the ground as we speak," said White House spokesman Tommy Vietor.

The U.S. had tried, unsuccessfully, to persuade its Saudi allies to keep their forces out of the fray.

Tensions between President Barack Obama and the Saudi king flared in February over Mr. Obama's push for the immediate exit of President Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, rather than the graceful exit supported by the Saudis."

Smart power! Better get State working on translating "reset button" into arabic, stat!
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« Reply #16 on: March 15, 2011, 02:43:04 PM »

http://hotair.com/greenroom/archives/2011/03/15/saudius-strains-show-as-bahrain-declares-a-state-of-emergency/

Saudi/US strains show as Bahrain declares a “state of emergency”

posted at 1:37 pm on March 15, 2011 by Bruce McQuain


Yes it’s another fine mess.  Of course while the Japanese tragedy and the struggles with their nuclear power plants has sucked all the air out of news elsewhere, there is, in fact much news elsewhere.  And not the least of it is coming out of the Middle East where Saudi troops, as a part of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), moved into Bahrain ostensibly to “guard government facilities”.

The GCC is composed of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, UAE, Bahrain, Oman and Kuwait.   It was created in 1991 (think Iraq invasion of Kuwait), the 6 members share common borders and are committed by their charter to help each other in times of need.

The action by the GCC, as you might imagine, is in direct conflict with how the White House has indicated it would prefer the situation in Bahrain be resolved.  Obviously that’s not carried much weight with the GCC.

    The move created another quandary for the Obama administration, which obliquely criticized the Saudi action without explicitly condemning the kingdom, its most important Arab ally. The criticism was another sign of strains in the historically close relationship with Riyadh, as the United States pushes the country to make greater reforms to avert unrest.

    Other symptoms of stress seem to be cropping up everywhere.

    Saudi officials have made no secret of their deep displeasure with how President Obama handled the ouster of the Egyptian president, Hosni Mubarak, charging Washington with abandoning a longtime ally. They show little patience with American messages about embracing what Mr. Obama calls “universal values,” including peaceful protests.

The GCC move has prompted both Robert Gates, Secretary of Defense and Hillary Clinton, Secretary of State, to cancel upcoming visits to Saudi Arabia.

Again, the apparent genesis of these tensions appear to be related to the way the US handled Egypt.  It has caused the Saudis and other GCC nations to trust the US less than before:

    The latest tensions between Washington and Riyadh began early in the crisis when King Abdullah told President Obama that it was vital for the United States to support Mr. Mubarak, even if he began shooting protesters. Mr. Obama ignored that counsel. “They’ve taken it personally,” said one senior American familiar with the conversations, “because they question what we’d do if they are next.”

    Since then, the American message to the Saudis, the official said, is that “no one can be immune,” and that the glacial pace of reforms that Saudi Arabia has been engaged in since 2003 must speed up.

Obviously the Saudi’s have their own ideas of how to handle this and apparently aren’t taking kindly to the US attempting to dictate how it should handle it’s internal affairs.  And, given the treatment of Mubarak, the Saudi rulers can’t help but feel that they’re just as likely to be thrown under the bus if protests were to escalate as was Mubarak.

Consequently, they’ve decided to go their own way and handle it with force within the GCC  while throwing money at the problem within the Saudi Kingdom.  Speaking of the latter:

    One of President Obama’s top advisers described the moves as more in a series of “safety valves” the Saudis open when pressure builds; another called the subsidies “stimulus funds motivated by self-preservation.”

    Saudi officials, who declined to comment for this article to avoid fueling talk of divisions between the allies, said that the tensions had been exaggerated and that Americans who criticized the pace of reforms did not fully appreciate the challenges of working in the kingdom’s ultraconservative society.

Of course the difference between their “stimulus funds” and ours is they actually have the money.   But it is ironic to see the adviser describe “stimulus funds” in those terms isn’t it?  The actual point here should be evident though.  The GCC has rejected the “Bahrain model” as the desired method of addressing the unrest.  As you recall that was the “regime alteration” model, v. the regime change model.

So where does that leave us?

    Demonstrating to Iran that the Saudi-American alliance remains strong has emerged as a critical objective of the Obama administration. King Abdullah, who was widely quoted in the State Department cables released by WikiLeaks as warning that the United States had to “cut off the head of the snake” in Iran, has led the effort to contain Iran’s ambitions to become a major regional power. In the view of White House officials, any weakness or chaos inside Saudi Arabia would be exploited by Iran.

    For that reason, several current and former senior American intelligence and regional experts warned that in the months ahead, the administration must proceed delicately when confronting the Saudis about social and political reforms.

    ”Over the years, the U.S.-Saudi relationship has been fraught with periods of tension over the strategic partnership,” said Ellen Laipson, president of the Stimson Center, a public policy organization. “Post-September 11 was one period, and the departure of Mubarak may be another, when they question whether we are fair-weather friends.”

That phone keeps ringing at 3am, doesn’t it?

Questions: given the “critical objective” as outlined above, is it smart to cancel visits by SecDef and SecState?  Doesn’t that possibly signal lack of support for the Saudis and play into the perception the US is a fair-weather friend?  Doesn’t that promise the possibility of more actions the Saudi’s might take that will be contra to the US’s advice?   Isn’t now the time to be going in there and making the case with top leaders and showing support while trying to twist a few arms to ramp down the situation instead of canceling?

UPDATE: Bahrain declares a “state of emergency”. 2 protesters killed 200 wounded. 1 Saudi soldier reported to have been killed.

Here’s a little insight into the Iranian connection mentioned above:

    The entrance of foreign forces, including Saudi troops and those from other Gulf nations, threatened to escalate a local political conflict into a regional showdown; on Tuesday, Tehran, which has long claimed that Bahrain is historically part of Iran, branded the move “unacceptable.”

    […]

    “The presence of foreign forces and interference in Bahrain’s internal affairs is unacceptable and will further complicate the issue,” Ramin Mehmanparast, the Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman, said at a news conference in Tehran, according to state-run media.

    Even as predominantly Shiite Muslim Iran pursues a determined crackdown against dissent at home, Tehran has supported the protests led by the Shiite majority in Bahrain.

    “People have some legitimate demands, and they are expressing them peacefully,” Mr. Memanparast said. “It should not be responded to violently.”

    He added, “We expect their demands be fulfilled through correct means.”

You have to love their chutzpah.  A little analysis:

    The Gulf Cooperation Council was clearly alarmed at the prospect of a Shiite political victory in Bahrain, fearing that it would inspire restive Shiite populations in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait to protest as well. The majority of the population in Saudi Arabia’s oil-rich eastern provinces is Shiite, and there have already been small protests there.

    “If the opposition in Bahrain wins, then Saudi loses,” said Mustafa el-Labbad, director of Al Sharq Center for Regional and Strategic Studies in Cairo. “In this regional context, the decision to move troops into Bahrain is not to help the monarchy of Bahrain, but to help Saudi Arabia itself .”

So that’s the lens by which much of what happens should be viewed – two regional rivals, each aligned with a different sect of Islam as well as different ethnic groups (Arab v. Persian) attempting to take advantage of a situation in the case of Iran, or trying to prevent change that would favor Iran in the case of Saudi Arabia.

The possible result?

    An adviser to the United States government, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the news media, agreed. “Iran’s preference was not to get engaged because the flow of events was in their direction,” he said. “If the Saudi intervention changes the calculus, they will be more aggressive.”

Of course they have their own problems at home, but Iran will probably, at least covertly, try to support the opposition in Bahrain.  It is obviously perceived to be in their best interest to do so.

The primary reason that Bahrain has ended up asking the GCC in is because the recommended way to resolve the crisis, negotiate with the oppositions, was rejected by the opposition. As I mentioned in the earlier post about regime realignment, the entire process hinged on the opposition being willing to engage in honest, good faith negotiations with the government.  It appears the Bahranian royal family at least made an attempt to do the things necessary as advised by the US:

    The royal family allowed thousands of demonstrators to camp at Pearl Square. It freed some political prisoners, allowed an exiled opposition leader to return and reshuffled the cabinet. And it called for a national dialogue.

    But the concessions — after the killings — seemed to embolden a movement that went from calling for a true constitutional monarchy to demanding the downfall of the monarchy. The monarchy has said it will consider instituting a fairly elected Parliament, but it insisted that the first step would be opening a national dialogue — a position the opposition has rejected, though it was unclear whether the protesters were speaking with one voice.

Indeed.  But it doesn’t matter now, does it? Events have apparently moved beyond that.  The likelihood of this simmering down to the point that such negotiations and dialogue could occur seem remote – especially with Iran in the background keeping this all stirred up.

We live in interesting times.


Bruce McQuain blogs at Questions and Observations (QandO), Blackfive, the Washington Examiner and the Green Room.  Follow him on Twitter: @McQandO
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« Reply #17 on: March 15, 2011, 03:06:29 PM »

A tangential observation:

What lesson might the House of Saud be drawing from the apparent success of Kaddaffy Duck vs. the results obtained by Mubarak?

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« Reply #18 on: March 16, 2011, 12:07:18 PM »


Saudi troops in Bahrain opened fire on Bahraini demonstrators in Manama’s Pearl Square on March 16, Iran’s Al-Alam Television reported. According to Al-Alam Television, Shiite mosques in Bahrain are urging people to commence a jihad. In addition, the Iranian station reported that Saudi and Bahraini forces fired at hospitals to prevent injured people from getting treatment.

The report of firing is significant in itself. The manner in which Iranian television is portraying the matter, whether true or not, is even more significant. In claiming both that Saudi troops are firing on hospitals and that the clergy have called for jihad, the Iranians are staking out a position designed to maximize the injustice of the Saudi intervention, to maximize Bahraini resistance and to turn the crisis from a political issue into a religious one.

If this becomes a general theme in Iranian media, it means Iran is establishing a framework in which the Saudis become an almost irreconcilable enemy and Bahrain a battleground in a religious conflict. Given Iran’s position, it becomes impossible for Tehran to remain neutral and not provide significant aid to the Bahraini Shiites. The degree and type of aid is uncertain, but obviously it commits the Iranians to some action and lays the justification for a more general confrontation between Saudi Arabia and Iran. Justification is not action, but actions of this sort require justification.

The Saudis are clearly attempting to crush resistance quickly with the use of direct force. The Iranians are attempting to rally the Bahrainis. However, framed as jihad, it raises the possibility of the conflict not only escalating in Bahrain but of Sunni-Shiite conflict emerging and intensifying elsewhere. There have been reports of some clashes in Iraq, which is clearly the primary battleground.

The theory STRATFOR has worked from has been that the uprising in Bahrain, whatever its origins, is going to be used by Iran in order to generally enhance its position in the Persian Gulf. Bahrain was a starting point in a broader strategy. Obviously, the longer the Bahrainis resist, the more effective the strategy. The Saudis have acted to crush the Bahraini rising. The Iranians have countered by setting the stage for intensification.

The question now is whether the Saudi attacks intimidate the demonstrators or cause them to become more aggressive.

Editor’s note: A previous version of this piece incorrectly stated that several media outlets reported Saudi troops fired on Bahraini demonstrators in Manama’s Pearl Square on March 16. Iran’s Al-Alam Television reported Saudi troops firing while other outlets reported the incident as Bahraini troops firing on protesters in Pearl Square. The piece has since been corrected.



Read more: Saudi Troops Reportedly Fire On Bahraini Protesters | STRATFOR
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« Reply #19 on: March 16, 2011, 12:10:38 PM »

Hmmmmmm.....

I wonder what sort of bold leadership move Obama will make to resolve this.


Right after the final four and the vacation to Rio.
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« Reply #20 on: March 16, 2011, 12:31:55 PM »



History Repeats Itself in Eastern Arabia

For the second time in less than two years, Saudi Arabia deployed troops beyond its borders to contain Shiite unrest in its immediate neighborhood. In late 2009, Saudi forces fought to suppress Houthi rebels in the country’s Shiite borderland to the south in Yemen. This time around, a Saudi-led force, operating under the umbrella of the Gulf Cooperation Council’s (GCC) Peninsula Shield Force, deployed forces to the Sunni-ruled island kingdom of Bahrain to suppress Shiite unrest.

The Saudi royals, highly dependent on the United States for the security of their regime, do not deploy their forces without good reason — especially when they already have their own simmering Shiite unrest to deal with in the country’s oil-rich eastern region and are looking at the potential for instability in Yemen to spill into the kingdom from the south.

From the Saudi perspective, the threat of an Iranian-backed destabilization campaign to reshape the balance of power in favor of the Shia is more than enough reason to justify a deployment of forces to Bahrain. The United States, Saudi Arabia and its GCC allies have been carefully monitoring Iran’s heavy involvement in fueling Shiite protests in their Sunni sheikhdoms and understand the historic opportunity that Iran is pursuing.

“From the Saudi perspective, the threat of an Iranian-backed destabilization campaign to reshape the balance of power in favor of the Shia is more than enough reason to justify a deployment of forces to Bahrain.”
The historical attraction of Bahrain lies in its geography. Bahrain is a tiny island nestled between the Arabian and Qatar peninsulas. It is vulnerable to external interference and valuable to whomever can lay claim to its lands, whether that be the Shia, the Sunni or any outside power capable of projecting authority to the Persian Gulf. Control of the island together with the Strait of Hormuz allowed for domination of the Indian Ocean trade along the Silk Road and the Arabian trade route from Mecca to the Red Sea.

The isles of Bahrain, along with the oases of al Qatif and al Hasa (both located in the modern-day Eastern province of Saudi Arabia), have been the three key economic hubs of the eastern Arabia region since antiquity. Bahrain sat atop a wealth of natural pearls while all three of these areas traded dates and spices and later on, oil, with buyers abroad. Critically, Bahrain, al Qatif and al Hasa have also been heavily populated with Shiite peoples throughout their history.

As a result, Bahrain, al Qatif and al Hasa have vacillated between Sunni and Shiite domination for hundreds of years. The Bahraini island can never exist comfortably in either domain. As a natural extension of the Arabian Peninsula, it would often fall under the influence of roaming Sunni Bedouin tribes, which found it difficult to subjugate the majority Shiite inhabitants. When under Shiite domination, as it was during the century-and-a-half-reign of the Banu Jarwan in the 14th century and during the 17th century with the rise of the Persian Safavid empire in Iran, the Shia in Bahrain struggled to fend off Sunni incursions without significant foreign backing. The Persians, sitting some 125 miles across the Persian Gulf, would often find it difficult to project power to the island, relying instead on the local religious elite, traders, judges and politicians to assert their will, but frequently finding themselves outmatched against outside powers vying for control and/or influence over eastern Arabia. From the Portuguese to the Ottomans to the British (and now) to the United States, each of these outside forces exercised a classic balance of power politics in playing Sunni and Shiite rivalries off each other, all with an eye on controlling, or at least influencing, eastern Arabia.

History repeated itself Monday.

A Saudi-led contingent of Arab forces crossed into Bahraini territory in defense against an Iranian-led attempt to reorient eastern Arabia toward the Shia. And yet again, the Persians are facing a strategic dilemma in projecting power to aid its Shiite proxies living in Sunni shadows. At the same time, the predominant naval power of the Persian Gulf, the United States, is pursuing its own strategic aim of shoring up the Sunni forces to counterbalance a resurgent Iran. It remains to be seen how this latest chapter unfolds, but if history is to serve as a guide, the question of whether Bahrain remains in Sunni hands or flips to the Shiite majority (currently the less likely option) will serve as the pivot to the broader Sunni-Shiite balance of power in the Persian Gulf.

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« Reply #21 on: March 16, 2011, 12:36:59 PM »

I wonder at the covert moves the Saudis and other sunni gulf arab states are making right now. I bet some are looking for nuclear technology as we speak.
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« Reply #22 on: March 16, 2011, 12:46:39 PM »

As has been pointed out many times before, there is never a power vacuum in human affairs. Those that decry America being the "global cop", strap yourselves in. You might find yourself missing the stability once provided by the US sooner than you think.
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« Reply #23 on: March 17, 2011, 02:08:33 AM »

By SIMON HENDERSON
It is easy to see where Bahrain went wrong. It is much more difficult to figure out how to make it go right.

An indigenous Shiite Muslim population outnumbers Sunni citizens by two-to-one, but Shiites are socially and economically discriminated against by the Sunni ruling family. Despite little oil wealth, the al-Khalifa family has evolved over the past 10 years from a benign dictatorship into what often seems like an institutionalized kleptocracy.

The small island in the Persian Gulf, sandwiched between the mainland of Saudi Arabia and the peninsula of Qatar, is the latest Arab state to be swept by this winter's political winds of change. But it is no Egypt or Tunisia, where sweeping away the elderly dictator and his immediate family allows for a fresh start.

Demographically, Bahrain can be likened to Saddam Hussein's Iraq. Saddam's Iraq also had a majority Shiite Muslim population; his notionally secular Baath Party was a fig leaf for Sunni Muslim control.

King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa is no Saddam, and his son, Crown Prince Salman, is no Uday, but there is the same distrust of Shiites among the ruling family as there was in the Iraqi dictator's Revolutionary Command Council. An American visitor, once hosted at a diplomatic dinner, was shocked to hear a member of the al-Khalifa family declare: "Shiites are like carpets. They are better when they are beaten."

Historians might judge the beginning of Saddam's decline from the time when his extended family stopped being the foundation of his regime and became a liability. Rivalries among cousins meant that whole branches had to be ruthlessly cut off. Marriages meant in-laws challenged the pecking order.

The al-Khalifa haven't had schisms of Babylonian proportions. Instead, the family has grown laterally while the reins of political power have remained firmly in the hands of the king, a variety of cousins, and the king's uncle, Sheikh Khalifa, who has been prime minister for more than 40 years. They, and other members of the tribe, have profited from the huge commercial expansion of Bahrain. Ordinary citizens—probably around 600,000 in total—have benefited from the trickle down, though the Shiite community less so.

No longer an oil producer of any consequence, Bahrain has still benefited from the high oil prices of recent years. Its banks have a reputation for efficiency. Its hotels, bars and restaurants have attracted many visitors, including Saudis who can drive across a 16-mile causeway completed in the 1980s.

A particular scheme for the al-Khalifa family has been gaining a slice of the action in resorts and luxury housing projects built on artificial islands constructed in the shallow coastal waters. When some of this activity stopped Shiite villagers from harvesting their traditional fishing grounds, there were protests. This week, protesters were further enraged by alleged documentary evidence that the prime minister had bought reclaimed land in the prestigious harbor area for the equivalent of $3 and then resold it for huge profit.

One assumes that when Assistant Secretary of State for the Near East Jeffrey Feltman caught the first plane to Manama this week after Saudi forces rolled across the causeway, democracy was his main talking point. From the Bahraini side, it was almost certainly Iran. The al-Khalifa, who remember the pre-1970s when Tehran claimed the island, tend to see a bearded mullah under every bed.

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An anti-government protester steps on a torn poster of King Hamad bin Issa al-Khalifa in Manama.
.This week's violence—especially yesterday's crackdown on protesters camped out in the iconic Pearl Roundabout, in which at least six were killed—does not auger well for a return to civil political dialogue. Although the U.S.-educated crown prince had offered concessions, like fair voting districts and combating corruption, on March 13, just before Saudi troops arrived, his harder-line kin almost certainly advocate taking them off the table. Indeed, they probably demand the removal of the table itself.

The U.S. has cards to play but is keen to do so discreetly. It needs to press the ruling family for reform while telling the divided opposition not to reject all compromise. Washington is anxious not to be perceived, by either side, as being part of the problem. The headquarters of the U.S. Fifth Fleet, situated adjacent to a suburb of Manama, is a crucial part of the efforts to block Iran's nuclear ambitions and counter any interference with the flow of oil.

Almost worse than the mess in Manama, this crisis reveals that the U.S. and Saudi Arabia are no longer on the same page. Riyadh perceives the White House as demanding universal freedoms from its friends, but not from its adversaries like Iran. The Shiites of Bahrain see themselves as "Baharna," indigenous Bahrainis, rather than putative Iranians. But events are pushing them ever closer to Tehran, where they will surely be greeted with open arms.

Mr. Henderson is the director of the Gulf and Energy Policy Program at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

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« Reply #24 on: March 17, 2011, 08:48:04 PM »



By KHALID ALNOWAISER
Your Majesty,

As a Saudi national, I am writing to say how pleased I am to see that you've returned to the Kingdom after successful medical treatment. I am sure this feeling is shared by all Saudis, since your citizens not only hold you in high esteem, but view you as the symbol of stability in our country.

Having said that, please permit me to express my concern about the many challenges that now face Saudi Arabia. As you know, the entire Middle East is experiencing profound political turmoil. Regional events have shown that the power of any political system depends upon how strong, peaceful and transparent the relationship is between a regime and its people.

Notwithstanding some positive steps taken in recent years, reform has too often not been achieved. Given recent events, our country needs to make meaningful changes, and we need to do so urgently.

A first step would be to establish institutions that can be real partners with the government. The reformation of the Shura Council in 1993 was a move in the right direction, but in its current form it is not up to the huge challenges that the country faces. We need an effective council that can take part in political decision-making. This can be achieved only if the council members are popularly elected rather than appointed. An effective council will not threaten the regime but rather will help reduce its huge responsibilities.

Like any other successful country, Saudi Arabia must have a social contract that clearly defines the rights and obligations of individuals and the government. This will never be accomplished until there is a formal national constitution. Without one, personal freedom is not guaranteed, which causes social unrest.

The holy Quran is not a constitution, since a constitution is the product of human beings. By contrast, the Quran is the creation of Allah—though it must form the main basis of our constitution since Saudi Arabia is the birth place of Islam.

It's also time to take the initiative to educate Saudis about political rights. This will allow the Kingdom to differentiate itself from other countries where repression exists. Greater political rights will lead to more political stability. Simply stated, if a person knows his political rights, he can work with his government to build the nation. If not, he may be easily solicited by terrorist groups.

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Saudi children celebrate King Abdullah's arrival in Riyadh last month.
.Economically, we need realistic strategies to solve the Kingdom's chronic problems. Though strategic development plans are announced with great fanfare, they accomplish little. The central management approach adopted by the government should be reconsidered, and regional authorities must be given more power over their affairs. Decentralization should reduce bureaucratic inefficiencies and limit situations like the flooding of Jeddah in 2009 and 2011, in which scores died because the city lacks a decent sewage system. This, despite the fact that we are a wealthy nation sitting on 25% of the world's oil reserves.

Our over-dependence on oil revenue is another important issue that needs to be addressed. We must stop relying on rising oil prices and focus instead on creating alternative sources of revenue.

Current unemployment, as much as 40% among Saudi youth, persists despite efforts to privilege Saudi workers over foreign ones. The housing situation is also dire—it's unacceptable to see one person who owns vast areas of land, while others struggle to afford a basic home. For the sake of political stability and the future of the country, we need to take the issue of wealth distribution seriously.

The recent measures (worth $36 billion) taken by your Majesty for the benefit of Saudis are welcome. Although Saudis appreciate your generosity, our concern is that this may result in a society that is more dependent on the government and less willing or able to rely upon individual initiatives. What all Saudis need—especially our youth—are opportunities, jobs, hope and real political, economic and civil reforms that promote productivity and build up Saudi Arabia.

To establish principles for respecting the law and the legal system, our courts must undergo a major review. This can be achieved by developing effective regulations, promoting accountability and transparency, and combating corruption (which has spread in an unprecedented way) so citizens can continue to trust the government. I hope that Your Majesty's excellent initiative in providing $2 billion aimed at developing the Kingdom's legal system will result in a totally independent constitutional court, which would be a valuable addition to the judiciary.

In terms of education, we need to develop a modern system that cannot be meddled with by anyone—especially those who want the country to continue to live in the past. Philosophy, logic, arts, languages and other modern sciences must be promoted and be part of the mandatory curriculum beginning in elementary school.

Socially, some serious decisions need to be made, particularly with respect to women. Women must have equal opportunity and the rights that men enjoy. Disregarding issues of gender equality will not serve the long-term interests of the country and will only cause discontent and compromise public security.

The Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, which monitors the personal behavior of women and youth, is totally unacceptable, not only for a country that is a member of the G-20 but for any country that exists in the 21st century. It's time to abolish this commission in its entirety, especially since its practices clearly violate the 1948 U.N. Declaration of Human Rights, which entitles every individual to freedom and dignity.

The current religious rhetoric in our country is outmoded and is sending the wrong message to the world about our progress. I urge Your Majesty to intervene and take the necessary action to reflect the true and positive picture of Islam and Saudi Arabia, and not to allow those who are using religion as a tool to infringe people's rights and freedoms.

In light of the Internet and satellite TV, it is now impossible to hide what happens inside any country. Thus, we need to act proactively rather than defensively to protect our homeland from the political turmoil roiling the Middle East. I am certain that Your Majesty will, with your wisdom, enlightened leadership, and full faith in the Saudi people, make the right decisions for our beloved country.

Mr. Alnowaiser is a lawyer based in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

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« Reply #25 on: March 20, 2011, 12:55:02 PM »

http://formerspook.blogspot.com/2011/03/saturday-skedaddle.html

Friday, March 18, 2011
The Saturday Skedaddle

UPDATE//19 March//The U.S. Navy is denying that our 5th Fleet has departed Bahrain. But western diplomatic sources the the World Tribune that only a "skeleton staff" remains at fleet headquarters in Manama. Likewise, those sources also confirm our assessment: the U.S. has written off the current government in Bahrain, and is preparing for its near-term collapse. We should also note that the USS Enterprise carrier battle group remains in the Red Sea, despite the start of No-Fly Zone operations over Libya.

The presence of the Enterprise in that area suggests that Washington is focused on the situation in Yemen and Bahrain. If the governments in those countries collapse, the U.S. would need the "Big E" to support evacuation operations in one (or both) locations. Put another way, you don't keep a fleet carrier (with dozens of fighter aircraft) out of the Libya operation unless you're worried about other contingencies.
****

Almost without notice, ships of the U.S. 5th Fleet in Bahrain slipped from their berths and headed into the Persian Gulf early Saturday. An "extended" exercise with Oman was the official reason given, but few believe it. As the security situation in the Manama continues to deteriorate, the Navy cannot afford to have even a single vessel--and its crew--in a port that may be hostile in a few days (or less).

Radio talk show host John Batchelor was among the first to report the news. Experts he spoke with said our relations with key Middle East allies have reached the breaking point:

The news from Manama, the capital of the small island state of Bahrain, is that the Fifth Fleet HQ has gone on maneuvers to Oman for an indefinite time frame. In sum, bug-out from the proxy war in Bahrain between Riyadh and Tehran. Am told that the IRGC has staffed and funded the so-called protesters. The social media messaging that now floods the web, #bahrain, is suspect of being an IRGC disinformation campaign. Of most significance, am told the Bahrain confrontation marks the breakdown of the 65-year-long alliance between Washington and Riyadh. The Kingdom has now turned away. China through the Pakistan connection looks like the choice to replace the US. Spoke Barry Rubin, GLORIA, to learn that Egypt is also tumbling away from the US. Pat Lang, Sic Semper Tyrannis, said that Cairo is looking for another sponsor. What has caused this break between Washington and its allies in the Middle East? Am told that the White House is deaf to experienced diplomats in the region. That the White House is piously ideological in supporting so-called democratic-leaning youth protesters despite the evidence that the "yuppie bloggers" are either naive ideologues themselves, without experience in governance or diplomacy, or else they are tools of the anarchists, Islamists and Twelvers. Asked Barry Rubin if the US is on the brink of losing Egypt. Answer: over the brink. Asked Pat Lang if there was any repairing break with Riyadh. Answer: no.

We should point out that both Lang and Rubin represent the minority viewpoint in these matters, but they are not alone in their thinking by any means. With American vacillation and weakness on display throughout the Middle East, long-time allies are maneuvering for their own survival, and looking for anyone (read: not Iran) who can guarantee their security.

Also of interest is the claim that Tehran is fomenting the unrest, through its IRGC. Before readers dismiss that as a conspiracy theory or crazy talk, remember: Hillary Clinton said essentially the same thing during Congressional testimony last week. Oddly enough, the MSM has yet to follow up on Mrs. Clinton's claim.

Given our retreat across the region, moving ships U.S. Navy vessels (and their crews) of Manama was the prudent thing to do. Now, the speculation is over when they might return. At the moment, the optimistic answer is "no time soon." The worst-case scenario is "never."

We're waiting to hear if the 5th Fleet Commander has shifted his flag to sea. That move, along with the sudden departure of our ships, suggests we have no confidence in the ability of security forces to contain the unrest, and we're preparing for a likely collapse of the Bahrain government.

Meanwhile, our commander-in-chief is reportedly having a swell time in Rio.
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« Reply #26 on: March 20, 2011, 01:02:57 PM »

As our VP would say "This is a big fcuking deal"!

UPDATE 1-Saudi Aramco comes closer to China with crude deal


Sun Mar 20, 2011 4:44pm IST

* Planed refinery to process 200,000 bpd of Saudi crude

* Aramco CEO says still seeking the right commercial terms

* CEO says Saudi Arabia is China's "supplier of choice" (adds Aramco CEO quotes)

By Chris Buckley and Koh Gui Qing

BEIJING, March 20 (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia's Aramco is building on its ties with China, with plans to supply crude to a refinery in the southwest of the country, where Beijing is building an oil and gas pipeline that slices through Myanmar.

Aramco Overseas Company, a subsidiary of Saudi Aramco [SDABO.UL], said it had signed a memorandum of understanding with PetroChina Company Ltd, a subsidiary of China's state-owned oil giant CNPC [CNPET.UL], this week.
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« Reply #27 on: March 20, 2011, 09:44:12 PM »

Bahrain has the fastest growing economy in the Arab world. Bahrain also has the freest economy in the Middle East according to the 2011 Index of Economic Freedom published by the Heritage Foundation/Wall Street Journal, and is tenth freest economy overall in the world.  Now it is also center of distrust and conflict between Saudi and Iran.
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http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/columnists/concoughlin/8389222/Why-the-Bahrain-rebellion-could-prove-calamitous-for-the-West.html

Why the Bahrain rebellion could prove calamitous for the West

Saudi Arabia's support for the Gulf state risks drawing Iran into the conflict, writes Con Coughlin.

By Con Coughlin 8:39PM GMT 17 Mar 2011

The issue occupying diplomats at the UN yesterday was how best to respond to the Libyan crisis. But an even graver threat to our future prosperity and security is unfolding in the tiny Gulf state of Bahrain.

At first glance, the decision by Bahrain's Sunni royal family to call in the Saudis to help quell an anti-government revolt by Shia protesters might seem the logical outcome to a dispute that showed no sign of a peaceful resolution. Ever since the protesters made the Pearl roundabout the epicentre of their campaign in mid-February, the ruling family has made strenuous efforts to meet their demands. Sheikh Salman al-Khalifa, the Crown Prince, has repeatedly sought to open a dialogue with the demonstrators, with a view to addressing their concerns. But the more the royal family has attempted to reach out, the more intransigent the demands of the protest movement have become.

When I visited the country with William Hague, the Foreign Secretary, in early February, the first rumblings of discontent were evident. Leaders of the Bahraini Shia, who constitute a clear majority of the population, were seeking to replicate the anti-government protests then taking place in Egypt's Tahrir Square.

But unlike the Cairo protests, which demanded the removal of President Hosni Mubarak, I was assured by our diplomats that the Bahrainis' agenda was more modest. They weren't calling for the overthrow of the Sandhurst-educated King Hamad al-Khalifa; they were more interested in reform than revolution. Like many protesters throughout the Arab world, their main concern was to improve their economic lot. As one diplomat put it: "The protests are anti-government rather than anti-Khalifa."

But the mood darkened considerably in the weeks after the demonstrators set up camp on Pearl roundabout, not least because of the security forces' heavy-handed response to the initial protests, which led to several deaths and many injuries. There was a dramatic escalation in the protesters' demands, with the more militant calling for the removal of the royal family and the establishment of a Shia state.

The Sunni-Shia divide in the country is particularly problematic because of the close family connections many Shia have to Iran. An estimated 30 per cent of Bahraini Shia are of Persian descent, and maintain contact with relatives in Iran. In the past, this has enabled Iran's Revolutionary Guards to establish terrorist cells in the kingdom, aimed at destabilising the monarch. In 1981, a Tehran-organised plot to overthrow the government was uncovered. Bahraini security officials are constantly on the alert for signs of Iranian meddling, and have accused some members of the opposition Shia movement of being funded by Tehran.

The issue is further complicated by Iran's long-standing insistence that it has a legitimate territorial claim over Bahrain. A recent Iranian newspaper editorial claimed that the kingdom was in fact a province of Iran. It is because of these simmering tensions between the states that the royal family's decision this week to call for Saudi reinforcements is fraught with danger.

Since the 1979 Islamic revolution, the ayatollahs have assumed a protective role over the world's Shia. They will not have taken kindly to the sight of 1,000 Saudi troops driving across the 15-mile causeway that links their country to Bahrain, in support of their fellow Sunni royalists.

Iran's relations with the fundamentalist Wahhabi Sunni sect that dominates Saudi Arabia is strained at the best of times. Iran was accused of planning a truck bomb attack that destroyed the US military base at Dharhran in 1996, and in 2003 the Revolutionary Guards were implicated in a series of similar bombings in Riyadh, the Saudi capital. Saudi also accuses the Revolutionary Guards of trying to foment unrest among its own Shia, who constitute around 5 per cent of its 19 million population. The majority live in the Eastern Province, which is also the location of Saudi's vast oil wealth. Last week, when Saudi anti-government demonstrators attempted to stage a "day of rage", most of the disturbances took place in the Shia towns, where the security forces fired tear gas and rubber bullets.

Iran has responded to the Saudi intervention by cutting diplomatic ties with Bahrain and denouncing the reinforcements as "unacceptable". There is considerable concern within British security circles that the situation could spread into a wider conflict between Iran and Saudi Arabia, with calamitous consequences for the West. "They are always squaring up to each other," a senior Whitehall security official told me this week. "But just imagine if it spilled over into open conflict. Not only would we have a major conflict on our hands in the Gulf: the West would be cut off from its major energy supplier."
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #28 on: March 21, 2011, 10:14:45 AM »

Pravda on the Beach (the Left Angeles Times) reports this morning the up to 80 protestors have been removed from the hospital by authorities.
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« Reply #29 on: March 22, 2011, 07:59:06 AM »

MANAMA, Bahrain — When Bahrain’s pro-democracy movement began its demonstrations in Pearl Square last month, Atif Abdulmalik was supportive. An American-educated investment banker and a member of the Sunni Muslim elite, he favored a constitutional monarchy and increasing opportunities and support for the poorer Shiite majority.

But in the past week or two, the nature of the protest shifted — and so did any hope that demands for change would cross sectarian lines and unite Bahrainis in a cohesive democracy movement. The mainly Shiite demonstrators moved beyond Pearl Square, taking over areas leading to the financial and diplomatic districts of the capital. They closed off streets with makeshift roadblocks and shouted slogans calling for the death of the royal family.
“Twenty-five percent of Bahrain’s G.D.P. comes from banks,” Mr. Abdulmalik said as he sat in the soft Persian Gulf sunshine. “I sympathize with many of the demands of the demonstrators. But no country would allow the takeover of its financial district. The economic future of the country was at stake. What happened this week, as sad as it is, is good.”

To many around the world, the events of the past week — the arrival of 2,000 troops from Saudi Arabia and other neighbors, the declaration of martial law, the forceful clearing out of Pearl Square, the military takeover of the main hospital and then the spiteful tearing down of the Pearl monument itself — seem like the brutal work of a desperate autocracy.

But for Sunnis, who make up about a third of the country’s citizenry but hold the main levers of power, it was the only choice of a country facing a rising tide of chaos that imperiled its livelihood and future.

“How can we have a dialogue when they are threatening us?” Sheik Khalid bin Ahmed al-Khalifa, the foreign minister and a member of the royal family, asked Friday night at a news conference.

On Sunday, Bahrain was returning to a level of normality, with schools restarting, traffic returning and shops reopening. Indeed, in an overnight report posted on the official Bahrain News Agency, King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa said that a “fomented subversive plot,” brewing for 20 or 30 years, had failed.

But many Shiites stayed home from work in protest of recent events, some checkpoints and curfews remained and a sense of political paralysis prevailed. No political dialogue seemed likely soon.

For government supporters here, it was the way protesters blocked the financial district that was especially worrisome. They say they worry mostly about what happened to Lebanon. Beirut was once the financial capital of the Middle East. Then sectarian tensions among Sunnis, Shiites, Christians and Druze, exacerbated by meddling of foreign powers, broke out in the mid-1970s, leading to civil war.

Not only did the country tear out its own heart, the financial business there pulled out and never returned. Today, much of that business is here in Bahrain. Downtown Manama has mushroomed. Bahrainis worry that if Sunni-Shiite sectarianism grows out of control, the financial business will again pick up stakes and move to the waiting competitors, Dubai and Qatar.

Urgent measures were therefore needed, the government’s defenders say, and they are grateful they were taken. The demonstrators, they argue, had allowed their cause to be taken over by hard-liners inspired by — or linked to — Iran.

No evidence of such links has been presented, and Shiite leaders here deny that they are doing Iran’s bidding. Still, the walls of some Shiite mosques in Bahrain bear portraits of Iranian and Lebanese Hezbollah spiritual figures, and ties to Iran run deep among many Shiites in the country.

The takeover of Salmaniya Hospital by the military especially shocked the world. But Hala Mohammed is a Sunni doctor at the hospital and said that in recent weeks it had turned into a mini-Pearl Square with tents and radical posters.

“The doctors who supported the protesters were suddenly issuing decrees on behalf of the entire medical community,” she said. “They had politicized a medical institution. The government didn’t occupy it, it freed it and I am grateful.”

Rana Abdulaal said that many Sunnis like herself had felt imprisoned in their homes for the past month. She said she expected the Shiite opposition to accept offers to begin a dialogue with the government, but it instead refused to join one. “If the government had not acted, there would have been a civil war,” she said, with Sunnis marching on Pearl Square.

======================

Page 2 of 2)



What also troubles Mr. Abdulmalik, the banker, is the way in which Bahrain has been grouped recently in discussions abroad with Libya and Yemen. The elite here think of their country as more like the Persian Gulf’s version of Singapore — a liberal, sophisticated place that is culturally far more open than its neighbors.

On Saturday afternoon, Mr. Abdulmalik led two visitors around Muharraq, the original capital of Bahrain, a warren of lovely alleys and 200-year-old homes being gracefully restored as museums and cultural spaces, because his company supports these projects. By chance, the country’s culture minister, Sheika Mai bint Mohammed al-Khalifa, was at one of the houses.
Ms. Khalifa wears her shoulder-length hair uncovered and was in trousers and sneakers in the Abdullah Al Zayed House, the home of the first newspaper publisher in the gulf, being restored by her foundation.

“Bahrain has always been open, and we don’t want to see it turned into another Iran,” Ms. Khalifa said. In the nearby cultural center her foundation runs, philosophers, poets and thinkers from around the world have taken part in a weekly lecture program. But the program and others like it have ground to a halt because of the recent troubles; a large meeting that Bahrain was planning to host has been suddenly moved to Paris.

Much of the push for democratic reform here, as elsewhere in the region, has come from economic hard times. Bahraini supporters of the government note that in this country there is free education, free medical care, heavily subsidized housing as well as no taxes. Budgetary troubles meant home construction was delayed, pushing some of the poor to join the demonstrations.

“The last few years were very difficult because of the financial crisis,” said Mr. Abdulmalik, the banker. “But that crisis was not so bad because we were dealing with facts. In the last month, we have been dealing with emotions. I told the demonstrators, ‘This country is developing, and you will stifle it.’ Something had to be done, and it was.”
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« Reply #30 on: March 22, 2011, 09:56:08 AM »

http://pajamasmedia.com/blog/as-bahrain-reels-iran-stretches-its-tentacles/?singlepage=true

As Bahrain Reels, Iran Stretches Its Tentacles
The mullahs seize an opportunity.
March 21, 2011 - by Banafsheh Zand-Bonazzi


In retaliation for the UAE and Saudi Arabia’s decision to deploy troops to Bahrain, Iran’s hardliners have called for the deployment of suicide bombers there in support of the Shiite protesters.

Iran-Bahrain relations hit an all-time low when the Sunni government of Bahrain called on the Gulf Cooperation Council countries to dispatch troops to Bahrain to assist in quelling the uprising by majority Shiite Muslims against the Sunni leadership. Now six people are reported dead and hundreds injured.

It is unclear how much of a role the Gulf forces played in quashing the protesters. Demanding an answer, Tehran summoned the Saudi ambassador and recalled its own ambassador from Bahrain. Now there is also news that Basiji, the auxiliary Iranian militia, have attacked the Saudi consulate in Mash’had and broken its windows.

One Iranian regime-run site, Shia-Online, published a letter from Bahraini Shiites who have made an appeal to Khamenei calling on the Iranian regime for support. Another, Shia News, published a registration form for those wishing to participate in suicide bombings in Bahrain, the Gulf countries, and all around the world. And another (there are hundreds), Reja News, wrote that Saudi Arabia’s intervention in Bahrain is another attempt on their part to try to shift the power base within the Persian Gulf region.

In the midst of this feigned concern for the people of Bahrain, the Basiji students issued a statement that announced the willingness of the “Association of Independent Muslim Students” to travel to the country in a show of support — as auxiliary forces.

The Iranian regime has been active in creating a number of front NGOs whose mission it is to recruit people throughout the Muslim countries where Iran hustles for influence to accept suicide bombing missions. The mandate is pretty straightforward: “action against the Kafer or infidels and enemies of the Islamic people.”
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« Reply #31 on: April 07, 2011, 12:47:42 PM »


"The U.S. hopes to avoid further escalation. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, on a visit to Egypt in Cairo, spoke with Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud about the situation in Bahrain. She said she was "particularly concerned" about the violence and the potential for escalation. About her call to the foreign minister, Mrs. Clinton said she told him all sides "must take steps now to negotiate toward a political solution," not a military one.

The State Department dispatched Jeffrey Feltman, acting assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern Affairs, to Bahrain, where he "working the issue aggressively on the ground as we speak," said White House spokesman Tommy Vietor.

The U.S. had tried, unsuccessfully, to persuade its Saudi allies to keep their forces out of the fray.

Tensions between President Barack Obama and the Saudi king flared in February over Mr. Obama's push for the immediate exit of President Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, rather than the graceful exit supported by the Saudis."

Smart power! Better get State working on translating "reset button" into arabic, stat!


http://hotair.com/archives/2011/04/07/obama-losing-the-saudis/

Hey JDN, remember when you were crowing about Obama winning? How's that working out?
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #32 on: April 10, 2011, 09:26:53 AM »



MANAMA, Bahrain—Nearly a month after the arrival of troops from Saudi Arabia, Bahrain has become more deeply divided along sectarian lines and is thus a growing threat to become a flashpoint in the broader confrontation between the U.S. and its Arab allies and Iran in the Persian Gulf.

Although Bahrain is a tiny island with a population of fewer than one million people, its large Shia Muslim population and its location between Sunni Muslim-dominated Saudi Arabia and Shia Muslim-led Iran has made unrest there a focal point of regional security concerns for both the U.S. and the Arab monarchies of the Persian Gulf, especially Saudi Arabia.

After meeting with King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia on Wednesday, U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said publicly that the U.S. has "evidence" of Iranian meddling in Bahrain. He declined to reveal what proof the U.S. had of Iranian interference. Bahrain's government, led by a ruling Al Khalifa family long allied with the Sunni rulers of Saudi Arabia, has complained vociferously about Iran's vocal support for the island's Shia population and provocative coverage on Iranian-backed television stations that reach Bahrain.

Like Mr. Gates and the Saudis, the Bahraini government also has intimated knowledge of more direct efforts by Iran and its ally Hezbollah, the Lebanese militant group, to incite unrest in Bahrain. The Bahrain government also has offered no evidence of specific plots or operational links between Iranian groups or Hezbollah and Bahrianis involved in the protests.

U.S. officials have said they don't believe Iran or other outside groups were behind large-scale demonstrations in Bahrain over the past two months. But they remain concerned that heightened sectarian tensions could provide openings for Iran and Hezbollah to expand their influence in Bahrain and elsewhere in the region.

Yet tensions show little sign of abating as Bahrain's government has expanded a forceful crackdown, arresting hundreds of opposition leaders, activists and protesters under an emergency decree. Most, though not all, are Shiites. Between 300 and 400 people have been detained, many in nighttime raids on their homes, according to human-rights activists. Meanwhile, government-owned companies have announced they have fired hundreds of employees who missed work during the protests or were identified as participating in protests the government considered illegal or inappropriate.

Teachers, doctors and other professionals the government accuses of participating in protests—some of them at their workplaces—also have lost their jobs, and more than a dozen have been jailed. Al Wefaq, the leading mainstream Shiite political party, said a total of 1,000 workers have lost their jobs at the national oil company, the national telecom company and other government firms. The companies have announced smaller numbers, totaling several hundred workers. They have said the workers violated contracts and left work during strikes that were called illegally by union leaders.

The government also shut down the country's sole independent newspaper this week after it published what the government described as "false" photos of demonstrators being beaten. The paper was allowed to begin publishing the next day after its prominent editor, Mansoor al Jamri, resigned. He said editors published the photos without realizing they were from demonstrations that weren't in Bahrain.

Opposition leaders and activists say the government's crackdown appears aimed at stifling all dissent along with protests. "They don't want people to open their mouths," said Abdulla Alderazi, head of the Bahrain Human Rights Society. "But you're just adding fuel to the fire."

The opposition groups, which carried on talks with the government but declined full-scale negotiations before troops from across the causeway that links the island to Saudi Arabia arrived, say they now are willing to negotiate with mediation. But the government, which feels pressure from the minority Sunni Muslim population to deal harshly with protest leaders, has announced that political reform discussions take place in the partially elected Parliament.

That's likely to mean the Shiite opposition groups won't participate. Opposition politicians resigned during the protests. This week, the remaining, largely Sunni parliamentarians, accepted most of those resignations.

"We will have a dialogue through the parliament," said Isa AlKooheji, a Sunni parliamentarian who participated in the previous discussions with the opposition parties before the talks broke down.

The government is moving to address some economic demands by the Shiite community, which has long complained of discrimination and inequities. This week, the government approved plans to build 50,000 new homes over the next decade. The program will be funded in part with a $10 billion aid package the other Gulf Arab states have agreed to provide over the next 10 years.

Still, many leaders on both sides of the divide worry that tensions will only continue to rise until some sort of political solution can be found to bring both communities back into negotiations or meaningful political reforms. "We have a sectarian divide like Bahrain hasn't seen in a hundred years," said one person close to the government. "There's no question that a political solution is the only way out."

Write to Bill Spindle at bill.spindle@wsj.com

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« Reply #33 on: April 14, 2011, 06:03:19 PM »

China Expands Naval Presence through Jeddah Port Call
Publication: China Brief Volume: 10 Issue: 25
December 17, 2010 05:34 PM Age: 118 days
Category: China Brief, In a Fortnight, Military/Security, Foreign Policy, China and the Asia-Pacific, Middle East, Home Page
By: Russell Hsiao
 
Chinese Rear Admiral Wei Xueyi (L), Saudi Rear Admiral Abdullah Al-Sultan (C), and Chinese Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Yang Honglin (R)
China’s naval presence on the global stage is expanding. While counter-piracy and escort operations in the Gulf of Aden and Arabian Sea have significantly contributed to the Chinese navy's growing profile, foreign port visits by its naval vessels to the Gulf region are emerging as an important element in Chinese naval strategy. China’s overseas naval presence is an important measure of its great power status, and port visits are an effective means of projecting naval power. The Chinese Navy's growing naval activism was recently highlighted by an unprecedented visit by the People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) at Jeddah Port in Saudi Arabia. On November 27, China's sixth naval escort flotilla arrived at the port of Jeddah. The port call was officially billed as a five-day "goodwill" visit and marks the first ever call to Saudi Arabia by Chinese naval vessels (Xinhua News Agency, November 28; Fmprc.gov.cn, November 29). In light of the apparent expansion of the diplomatic mission of the PLAN, a careful study of Chinese port visit activities may provide useful insights into Chinese foreign policy objectives.

The sixth naval escort flotilla just completed a five-month long escort mission in the Gulf of Aden off the coast of Somalia. According to the official Xinhua News Agency, the flotilla, which is under the command of the chief of staff of the PLAN South Sea Fleet, Rear Admiral Wei Xueyi, included the Chinese Navy’s largest surface combatant, the amphibious dock landing ship Kunlunshan, missile destroyer Lanzhou, and supply ship Weishanhu (Xinhua News Agency, November 28). A reception that was reportedly organized on the deck of Kunlunshan was attended by Rear Admiral Abdullah Al-Sultan, the commander of the Saudi Navy's Western Fleet and other officers. Chinese Ambassador Yang Honglin, Consul General Wang Yong, Military Officer Zhang Zhuoyong, and hundreds of people from the business community were also in attendance (China Review News, November 28; Fmprc.gov.cn, November 29).

The Chinese Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Yang, hailed the sixth naval flotilla's port call as an important milestone in the two countries’ military exchanges that will benefit the deepening of their "strategic friendly relations" (China Review News, November 28). Rear Admiral Abdullah Al-Sultan expressed hope that the visit will help advance the two countries' military exchanges and cooperation, and contribute to the comprehensive development of bilateral relations (China Review News, November 28). Indeed, the port visit will likely enhance cooperation between the Chinese and Saudi navies, promote mutual understanding, and further strengthen lines of communication between the two militaries.



http://www.jamestown.org/programs/chinabrief/single/?tx_ttnews%5Btt_news%5D=37292&tx_ttnews%5BbackPid%5D=25&cHash=70a403bdf6
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« Reply #34 on: April 17, 2011, 12:28:22 PM »

I wonder at the covert moves the Saudis and other sunni gulf arab states are making right now. I bet some are looking for nuclear technology as we speak.

http://arabnews.com/saudiarabia/article354625.ece

Kingdom and China to sign nuclear cooperation pact

Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah gestures while chairing the weekly Cabinet meeting in Riyadh on Monday. (SPA)


 By ARAB NEWS

Published: Apr 12, 2011 00:34 Updated: Apr 12, 2011 00:35

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia on Monday announced its plan to sign a nuclear cooperation agreement with China. The Cabinet said it has authorized Hashim Yamani, president of the King Abdullah City for Nuclear and Renewable Energy, to hold talks with Chinese officials to reach a deal for peaceful use of atomic energy.


The new move comes after the Kingdom signed its first ever nuclear treaty with France in February. Yamani, who signed that agreement, said it would pave the way for the Kingdom's long-term plans to build power stations utilizing alternative energy sources to produce electricity and water.

The agreement allows the two countries to cooperate in the fields of production, use and transfer of knowledge regarding the peaceful uses of nuclear energy.

Saudi Arabia has decided to make use of alternative resources such as atomic, solar, geothermal and wind power to meet its growing energy requirements.

Power demand is forecast to increase by 8 percent annually in the Kingdom. Demand for electricity in Saudi Arabia is expected to triple by 2032, which will give rise to the need for energy plants with a total of 80 gigawatts of installed capacity.

Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah, who chaired the Cabinet meeting at Al-Yamamah Palace in Riyadh, briefed the ministers on the outcome of his talks with US Defense Secretary Robert Gates and the content of a letter he received from Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa.

The Cabinet discussed the latest developments in some Arab countries. It also welcomed the GCC’s call on the Yemeni government and opposition to meet in Saudi Arabia for talks aimed at reinforcing peace and stability in the country and achieving the hopes and aspirations of the Yemeni people.

The Cabinet also welcomed the statements made by the Organization of the Islamic Conference and the Muslim World League condemning Iran’s interference in the internal affairs of GCC countries.

It denounced Israel’s airstrikes on Palestinians in Gaza and its decision to construct more Jewish settlements in occupied Jerusalem. The Cabinet urged the international community to pressure Israel to stop its crimes against the Palestinians and protect their rights.
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« Reply #35 on: April 17, 2011, 12:35:22 PM »



http://www.jamestown.org/single/?no_cache=1&tx_ttnews%5Btt_news%5D=26441A.q. Khan's China Connection

Publication: China Brief Volume: 4 Issue: 9

April 28, 2004 08:00 PM Age: 7 yrs



By: Mohan Malik

When it comes to their friends and allies, the nuclear weapons states have long turned a blind eye or actively supported proliferation, in violation of their Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty commitments. Geopolitical and national security interests, balance-of-power considerations and alliance commitments always override non-proliferation concerns, norms and laws. China is a case in point. Beijing's reaction to recent revelations concerning the proliferation activities of Pakistani nuclear scientist Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan has not drawn much attention or analysis, despite the fact that China has been and is likely to remain a source of supplies for Pakistan's nuclear weapons program. Several recent developments have once again highlighted not only the central role that Beijing has played in the nuclearization of the world's most volatile regions, but also Dr. Khan's intimate links with China's nuclear establishment. Interestingly, the Chinese seem to have been thoroughly beaten in the proliferation game by their own clients and allies - Pakistan and North Korea.

 

Reacting to reports about the Khan nuclear network, the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson urged Islamabad to undertake the investigations "properly" and bring them to a conclusion "quickly." The Chinese preference for conducting investigations "properly" and ending them "quickly" reveals Beijing's apprehensions over exposing the Chinese nuclear establishment's long standing ties with Khan. His numerous visits to China's nuclear installations over the last three decades and gains accrued to China's weapons program from the Dutch centrifuge technology stolen by Khan in the mid-1970s are particularly sensitive issues for Beijing. A senior member of the Pakistan Muslim League (Quaid-e-Azam) told a Pakistani journalist in early February that "Chinese officials had expressed a desire for the proliferation inquiry to end quickly as they feared that Dr. Khan would publicly detail his network's 'China connection,' thereby embarrassing a crucial ally that Pakistan considers a strategic counterweight to India."
 
 

Thus, in contrast with the stance adopted by the International Atomic Energy Agency and many other countries that called for a "thorough," "comprehensive," "objective and impartial" inquiry into the Khan saga, Beijing obviously fears an open ended inquiry. According to The Nation (February 16, 2004), China's deputy chief of mission in Islamabad expressed regret over the turning of "Pakistan's famous scientist Dr. A. Q. Khan from a 'hero to a zero' status." Furthermore, Beijing fully supported General Musharraf's decision to pardon Dr. Khan for all his "nuclear sins."
 
 

However, China's initial attempts to play the role of a disinterested, neutral bystander in the fast unraveling nuclear network came to an abrupt halt soon after fresh evidence of the China-Pakistan-Libya nexus turned up in the 55,000 tonnes of nuclear material and documents that Libya turned over to the United States and which was flown to the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee in early 2004. Apparently, the design that Khan delivered to the Libyans in the shopping bag of his Islamabad tailor was of a Chinese nuclear weapon tested on October 27, 1966. As soon as Libyan arms designs sold by Khan were traced to China, Washington's leverage over Beijing increased significantly. The evidence provided clinching proof of Beijing's involvement in Pakistan's nuclear weapons program and insights into the state of both Chinese and North Korean nuclear weapons capabilities. It also raised new questions about the extent and nature of Chinese contributions to Pakistan's nuclear proliferation activities. Although the bomb designs sold to Libya were of a 1960s Chinese vintage, an analysis of Pakistan's May 1998 nuclear tests reveals that China supplied more advanced nuclear weapons designs of the late 1980s and early 1990s to Pakistan, which may have been shared with other countries. Furthermore, it is inconceivable that Chinese security agencies were unaware of Pakistan's nuclear dealings with North Korea, Iran and Libya.
 
 

In a departure from the past, Beijing did not deny the report on Chinese-Pakistani links with Libya's nuclear weapons program but launched an "investigation" of its own, while reiterating its non-proliferation commitments. Asked to comment on the Washington Post (February 15, 2004) report about the discovery of some Chinese language documents in Libya giving detailed instructions for assembling an implosion-type nuclear bomb, Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhang Qiyue said: "The Chinese side is seriously concerned by the related reports and we are trying to get more information on this issue." She declined, however, to comment on a Reuters report (February 15, 2004) about U.S. officials' claim that "China is still helping Pakistan and Saudi Arabia with nuclear weapons and missile development despite Beijing's promises to control arms proliferation." Since Zhang's statement of February 17, Beijing has said nothing on the outcome of its "investigation" nor has Washington revealed any more information on Libya's "China connection."

 

Interestingly, almost two weeks later, on March 5, the U.S. State Department declassified government documents on "China, Pakistan, and the Bomb: 1977-1997." These shed new light on three decades of U.S. concern over China's nuclear cooperation with Pakistan. According to one of the declassified documents, "China has provided assistance to Pakistan's program to develop a nuclear weapon capability in the areas of fissile material production and possibly also in nuclear device design." Soon thereafter, the Bush Administration imposed sanctions against private Chinese entities for proliferation activities.
 
 

The proliferation modus operandi - whether in China or Pakistan - remains strikingly similar: first, complete denial and protestations of innocence; second, when that becomes unsustainable in the face of mounting evidence to the contrary, denial of state sponsorship; third, shift of responsibility to some rogue individuals or non-state actors, followed by some token "action" against them; fourth, when even this becomes unsustainable or if sanctions are imposed, some stronger action (in the form of new policy guidelines, attribution of responsibility to previous administrations, and "sacrifice" of some individuals to salvage the regime's reputation) and new assurances to the international community that past proliferation activities have now been "completely and permanently shut down." This cycle is repeated despite the fact that state accountability cannot be absolved on grounds that proliferation was the result of private enterprise.
 
 

Many U.S. officials believe that embarrassing revelations about the transfer of Chinese nuclear weapon designs to Libya and possibly other countries by a Pakistani proliferation network would force Beijing to reevaluate the strategic costs of its proliferation activities in the larger interests of stability in the Middle East and China's desire to project its image as a responsible great power. Beijing's recent decision to join the Nuclear Suppliers Group is cited as another indication of China's desire for full participation in the nonproliferation regime and a move away from the balance-of-power approach that has hitherto characterized its proliferation policy.
 
 

However, many long time China-watchers see no evidence of Beijing abandoning its national security strategy based on the principle of "containment through surrogates" that requires proliferation to countries that can countervail its perceived rivals and enemies. Believing that proliferation is inevitable, the Chinese military has long practiced what John Mearsheimer calls "managed proliferation" it calls for providing nuclear or missile technology to China's friends and allies (Pakistan, Iran, North Korea) so as to contain its rivals through proxies (India in South Asia, the United States in the Middle East and Japan in East Asia). Beijing has also engaged in proliferation to pressure Washington to curb its arms sales to Taiwan.
 
 

Many proliferation-watchers believe that China will not stop playing "the proliferation card," as it is the most powerful bargaining chip Beijing possesses, leaving "the China shop" open for business to a select few. Given the Pakistani nuclear program's heavy dependence on external suppliers, a complete shutting down of the Khan nuclear bazaar could lead to the progressive degradation of Pakistan's nuclear deterrent - an outcome that Beijing cannot accept because China's geostrategic interests require a nuclear-armed Pakistan to pin down India. In other words, having made huge strategic investments in Pakistan over the last four decades, China will not remain a mute spectator to the gradual denuclearization of Pakistan. Therefore, Islamabad's dependence on Beijing for both missiles and nukes will increase, not decrease, if it is to keep up with India.
 
 

As in the past, contradictions between Beijing's grand strategy and nonproliferation objectives, China's military alliances, and commercial goals will continue to dictate Beijing's proliferation policy. This tension also explains China's reluctance to sign on to the U.S.-led Proliferation Security Initiative under which countries pledge to interdict shipments of weapons of mass destruction.
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #36 on: April 18, 2011, 03:31:19 AM »

Why is this piece on this thread?

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G M
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« Reply #37 on: April 18, 2011, 06:36:46 AM »

Because it lends background context for the China-Saudi nuclear pact:
Quote from: G M on March 16, 2011, 10:36:59 AM

I wonder at the covert moves the Saudis and other sunni gulf arab states are making right now. I bet some are looking for nuclear technology as we speak.


http://arabnews.com/saudiarabia/article354625.ece

Kingdom and China to sign nuclear cooperation pact

Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah gestures while chairing the weekly Cabinet meeting in Riyadh on Monday. (SPA)


 By ARAB NEWS

Published: Apr 12, 2011 00:34 Updated: Apr 12, 2011 00:35

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia on Monday announced its plan to sign a nuclear cooperation agreement with China. The Cabinet said it has authorized Hashim Yamani, president of the King Abdullah City for Nuclear and Renewable Energy, to hold talks with Chinese officials to reach a deal for peaceful use of atomic energy.

Perhaps not so peaceful.
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G M
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« Reply #38 on: April 18, 2011, 09:27:57 AM »

As our VP would say "This is a big fcuking deal"!

UPDATE 1-Saudi Aramco comes closer to China with crude deal


Sun Mar 20, 2011 4:44pm IST

* Planed refinery to process 200,000 bpd of Saudi crude

* Aramco CEO says still seeking the right commercial terms

* CEO says Saudi Arabia is China's "supplier of choice" (adds Aramco CEO quotes)

By Chris Buckley and Koh Gui Qing

BEIJING, March 20 (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia's Aramco is building on its ties with China, with plans to supply crude to a refinery in the southwest of the country, where Beijing is building an oil and gas pipeline that slices through Myanmar.

Aramco Overseas Company, a subsidiary of Saudi Aramco [SDABO.UL], said it had signed a memorandum of understanding with PetroChina Company Ltd, a subsidiary of China's state-owned oil giant CNPC [CNPET.UL], this week.

http://www.cnbc.com/id/42637280

Saudi Arabia's oil minister said on Sunday the kingdom had slashed output by 800,000 barrels per day in March due to oversupply, sending the strongest signal yet that OPEC will not act to quell soaring prices.

So let's see if China gets special treatment from Saudi over oil supplies.
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #39 on: April 20, 2011, 08:32:54 AM »

Saudi Arabia's Iranian Conundrum

Iran warned Saudi Arabia on Monday of the dire consequences of Riyadh’s intervention in Bahrain. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s adviser for military affairs, Maj. Gen. Yahya Rahim Safavi, told journalists, “The presence and attitude of Saudi Arabia (in Bahrain) sets an incorrect precedence for similar future events, and Saudi Arabia should consider this fact that one day the very same event may recur in Saudi Arabia itself and Saudi Arabia may come under invasion for the very same excuse.” A post-U.S. Iraq renders the Saudi kingdom vulnerable to a future Iranian invasion.

The remarks made by Safavi, who formerly served as commander of Iran’s elite military force, the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (1997-2007), constitute the first time Tehran has issued such a direct warning. The Saudis and the Iranians have had tense relations since the founding of the Islamic republic in 1979 and increasingly so since the U.S. invasion of Iraq toppled the Baathist regime, which led to a Shiite-dominated Iraqi state and the empowering of Iran. But never before has Iran issued a public statement about an invasion of the Saudi kingdom.

“The key problem for Saudi Arabia is that Tehran doesn’t have to actually resort to war to achieve its ends.”
So, why is the Persian Shiite state engaging in such threats now? The Saudi move to intervene in neighboring Bahrain, where popular unrest was largely waged by the Shiite majority, threatened to topple a Sunni monarchy. Well aware of the implications, the Saudis embarked on their first long-term, overseas military deployment, sending in 1,500 troops to help Bahraini forces crush the Shiite opposition.

The Saudi move succeeded in quelling the unrest (for now at least), which placed Iran in a difficult position. Lacking the capability to physically aid their fellow Shia in the Persian Gulf, the Iranians were caught in an awkward situation. Iran had to do more than issue diplomatic statements and engineer protests against the Saudis and their allies.

Warning the Saudis that they too could be invaded on the same pretext that they used to go into Bahrain is definitely an escalation on the part of the Iranians. Since Iran making good on its threat is unlikely to happen anytime soon (given that the United States would not stand by and allow Iran to attack Saudi Arabia), this can be argued as yet another hollow threat. A more nuanced examination of the situation, however, suggests that Tehran is not just simply engaging in bellicose rhetoric.

Instead, Iran is trying to exploit Saudi fears. The Wahhabi kingdom fears instability (especially now when it is in the middle of a power transition at home and the region has been engulfed by popular turmoil). The clerical regime in Iran sees regional instability as a tool to advance its position in the Persian Gulf region.

Riyadh can never be certain that Tehran won’t ever attack but Iran would have to overcome many logistical difficulties to make good on its threat. The Saudis are also not exactly comfortable with the idea of overt military alignment with the United States. The last time the Saudis entered into such a relationship with the Americans was during the 1991 Gulf War and it lead to the rise of al Qaeda.

Put differently, any conflict involving Iran entails far more risks than rewards for the Saudis. Cognizant of the Saudi perceptions, the Iranian statement is designed as a signal to the Saudis that they should accept Iran as a player in the region or be prepared to deal with a very messy situation. The key problem for Saudi Arabia is that Tehran doesn’t have to actually resort to war to achieve its ends. But Riyadh’s efforts to counter Iran and its Arab Shiite allies are likely to create more problems for the Saudis because crackdowns are contributing to long-term instability in the region and causing agitation among the Shia, which Iran can use to its advantage.

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« Reply #40 on: May 12, 2011, 08:29:52 AM »



Iranian Flotilla a Calculated Gamble

A little-known Iranian activist group called the Islamic Revolution Supporters Society announced Tuesday in Tehran that a flotilla of humanitarian activists would set sail for Bahrain from Iran’s southern port city of Bushehr on May 16. The “Solidarity with Oppressed Bahraini People” flotilla would be Iran’s way of calling attention to the Saudi and Bahraini governments for what Iran perceives as the subjugation of a Shiite majority by Sunni rulers. Iran’s Red Crescent Society has spoken in the past about readying aid for Bahrain, but this is the first time we’ve seen an Iranian activist group describe concrete plans to send an aid flotilla to Bahrain.

The aid flotilla public-relations tactic is not new, nor is it unique to Iran. In May of last year, a Turkish humanitarian activist group attempted to send an aid flotilla to the Gaza Strip. Israeli commandos boarded a ship and ended up killing nine civilians. Though accounts of which side initiated the provocation remain in dispute, the diplomatic outrage that ensued scored Ankara a great deal of credibility within the Arab world while largely portraying Israel as an aggressor. In perhaps the most classic illustration of this tactic, the Exodus ship in 1947, carrying Holocaust survivors, broke through a British blockade en route to Palestine. The story was later made into a book and film that vilified the British, portrayed the Zionists as anti-imperialists and played a key role in shaping global perceptions toward the creation of the state of Israel.

Iran is hoping for a similar propaganda feat. Even if the flotilla never makes it to Bahrain’s shores or even fails to set sail — a likely prospect, given that the ships would encounter heavy resistance from Bahraini and Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) forces, with the U.S. 5th Fleet standing by from Manama — Iran could still use the affair to try to portray itself as the brave guardian of its Shiite brethren and the Sunni Gulf Arab states as U.S.-dependent assailants. In the early days of the Arab uprisings, Iran seized an opportunity to fuel Shiite dissent in Bahrain, hoping that a sustained crisis there would eventually lead to the empowerment of Shia in eastern Arabia. A quick response by Saudi-led GCC forces has kept Iran from obtaining results in the early phase of this campaign, but time and the current geopolitical dynamics still work in Iran’s favor. In the longer term, Tehran still hopes to reinvigorate growing Shiite grievances by exploiting incidents that highlight a broader Sunni interest in keeping Shia politically disabled.

“By threatening to send an aid flotilla and peacekeepers to Bahrain and hinting at invasions of Saudi Arabia, Iran forces the Bahrainis, Saudis and the Americans to contemplate the risks of direct clashes with Iranians.”
Nonetheless, an attempt to sail a flotilla to Bahrain across troubled diplomatic waters creates the possibility of an incident that would make the Gaza flotilla affair appear minor in comparison. One wrong move by any one side, and a public-relations move could rapidly escalate into a military showdown in which Iran is left with the uncomfortable choice of standing down and taking a credibility hit for failing to come to the aid of Iranian civilian aid workers, or squaring off in a losing fight against the world’s most powerful navy. There are no clear indications yet that Iran will in fact sail the aid flotilla, but a worst-case scenario in the Persian Gulf region would have obvious consequences for global energy prices.

As Iran debates the pros and cons of this flotilla gamble, its diplomatic efforts to sow fissures within the Sunni Arab camp are proceeding apace. In the past week alone, Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi has traveled to Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Oman. Over the past month, hints of a developing Iranian-Egyptian diplomatic rapprochement have also come to light. The Sunni Arab states may not agree on a lot of things, but — with the exception of Syria, which has a complex alliance with Iran — they do by and large agree on the strategic need to keep Iran at bay. Iran is now trying to chip away at this rare display of Arab solidarity through diplomatic outreach to countries that are too physically distant to feel meaningfully threatened by the Persians (like Egypt) and countries that are more demographically secure, too small, and/or economically entwined with Iran to engage in provocations against it (Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Oman).

As for the stalwart Sunni regimes, like Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, who are leading the resistance against Iranian power projection in the Persian Gulf, Tehran seems to be relying more on scare tactics to try to coerce them to the negotiating table. By threatening to send an aid flotilla and peacekeepers to Bahrain and hinting at invasions of Saudi Arabia, for example, Iran forces the Bahrainis, Saudis and the Americans to contemplate the risks of direct clashes with Iranians. Whether or not Iran follows through with such threats is an important question. If Iranian rhetoric remains just that then the Sunni Arab states are far more likely to throw their efforts into building a shield against Iran than to be pressured into searching for a diplomatic rapprochement with Iran. The flotilla announcement is the latest on Iran’s list of strategic gambits, but it will take more than talk for Tehran to demonstrate it has the backbone to meaningfully challenge a U.S.-backed Arab alliance.

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« Reply #41 on: May 15, 2011, 11:04:41 AM »



The complete article can be found at http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/15/world/middleeast/15prince.html?_r=1&hp=&pagewanted=print

May 14, 2011
Secret Desert Force Set Up by Blackwater’s Founder
By MARK MAZZETTI and EMILY B. HAGER

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates — Late one night last November, a plane carrying dozens of Colombian men touched down in this glittering seaside capital. Whisked through customs by an Emirati intelligence officer, the group boarded an unmarked bus and drove roughly 20 miles to a windswept military complex in the desert sand.

The Colombians had entered the United Arab Emirates posing as construction workers. In fact, they were soldiers for a secret American-led mercenary army being built by Erik Prince, the billionaire founder of Blackwater Worldwide, with $529 million from the oil-soaked sheikdom.

Mr. Prince, who resettled here last year after his security business faced mounting legal problems in the United States, was hired by the crown prince of Abu Dhabi to put together an 800-member battalion of foreign troops for the U.A.E., according to former employees on the project, American officials and corporate documents obtained by The New York Times.

The force is intended to conduct special operations missions inside and outside the country, defend oil pipelines and skyscrapers from terrorist attacks and put down internal revolts, the documents show. Such troops could be deployed if the Emirates faced unrest in their crowded labor camps or were challenged by pro-democracy protests like those sweeping the Arab world this year.

The U.A.E.’s rulers, viewing their own military as inadequate, also hope that the troops could blunt the regional aggression of Iran, the country’s biggest foe, the former employees said. The training camp, located on a sprawling Emirati base called Zayed Military City, is hidden behind concrete walls laced with barbed wire. Photographs show rows of identical yellow temporary buildings, used for barracks and mess halls, and a motor pool, which houses Humvees and fuel trucks. The Colombians, along with South African and other foreign troops, are trained by retired American soldiers and veterans of the German and British special operations units and the French Foreign Legion, according to the former employees and American officials.

In outsourcing critical parts of their defense to mercenaries — the soldiers of choice for medieval kings, Italian Renaissance dukes and African dictators — the Emiratis have begun a new era in the boom in wartime contracting that began after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. And by relying on a force largely created by Americans, they have introduced a volatile element in an already combustible region where the United States is widely viewed with suspicion.

The United Arab Emirates — an autocracy with the sheen of a progressive, modern state — are closely allied with the United States, and American officials indicated that the battalion program had some support in Washington.

“The gulf countries, and the U.A.E. in particular, don’t have a lot of military experience. It would make sense if they looked outside their borders for help,” said one Obama administration official who knew of the operation. “They might want to show that they are not to be messed with.”

Still, it is not clear whether the project has the United States’ official blessing. Legal experts and government officials said some of those involved with the battalion might be breaking federal laws that prohibit American citizens from training foreign troops if they did not secure a license from the State Department.

Mark C. Toner, a spokesman for the department, would not confirm whether Mr. Prince’s company had obtained such a license, but he said the department was investigating to see if the training effort was in violation of American laws. Mr. Toner pointed out that Blackwater (which renamed itself Xe Services ) paid $42 million in fines last year for training foreign troops in Jordan and other countries over the years.

The U.A.E.’s ambassador to Washington, Yousef al-Otaiba, declined to comment for this article. A spokesman for Mr. Prince also did not comment.

For Mr. Prince, the foreign battalion is a bold attempt at reinvention. He is hoping to build an empire in the desert, far from the trial lawyers, Congressional investigators and Justice Department officials he is convinced worked in league to portray Blackwater as reckless. He sold the company last year, but in April, a federal appeals court reopened the case against four Blackwater guards accused of killing 17 Iraqi civilians in Baghdad in 2007.

To help fulfill his ambitions, Mr. Prince’s new company, Reflex Responses, obtained another multimillion-dollar contract to protect a string of planned nuclear power plants and to provide cybersecurity. He hopes to earn billions more, the former employees said, by assembling additional battalions of Latin American troops for the Emiratis and opening a giant complex where his company can train troops for other governments.

Knowing that his ventures are magnets for controversy, Mr. Prince has masked his involvement with the mercenary battalion. His name is not included on contracts and most other corporate documents, and company insiders have at times tried to hide his identity by referring to him by the code name “Kingfish.” But three former employees, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of confidentiality agreements, and two people involved in security contracting described Mr. Prince’s central role.

The former employees said that in recruiting the Colombians and others from halfway around the world, Mr. Prince’s subordinates were following his strict rule: hire no Muslims.

Muslim soldiers, Mr. Prince warned, could not be counted on to kill fellow Muslims.

A Lucrative Deal

Last spring, as waiters in the lobby of the Park Arjaan by Rotana Hotel passed by carrying cups of Turkish coffee, a small team of Blackwater and American military veterans huddled over plans for the foreign battalion. Armed with a black suitcase stuffed with several hundred thousand dollars’ worth of dirhams, the local currency, they began paying the first bills.

The company, often called R2, was licensed last March with 51 percent local ownership, a typical arrangement in the Emirates. It received about $21 million in start-up capital from the U.A.E., the former employees said.

Mr. Prince made the deal with Sheik Mohamed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, the crown prince of Abu Dhabi and the de facto ruler of the United Arab Emirates. The two men had known each other for several years, and it was the prince’s idea to build a foreign commando force for his country.

Savvy and pro-Western, the prince was educated at the Sandhurst military academy in Britain and formed close ties with American military officials. He is also one of the region’s staunchest hawks on Iran and is skeptical that his giant neighbor across the Strait of Hormuz will give up its nuclear program.

“He sees the logic of war dominating the region, and this thinking explains his near-obsessive efforts to build up his armed forces,” said a November 2009 cable from the American Embassy in Abu Dhabi that was obtained by the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks.

For Mr. Prince, a 41-year-old former member of the Navy Seals, the battalion was an opportunity to turn vision into reality. At Blackwater, which had collected billions of dollars in security contracts from the United States government, he had hoped to build an army for hire that could be deployed to crisis zones in Africa, Asia and the Middle East. He even had proposed that the Central Intelligence Agency use his company for special operations missions around the globe, but to no avail. In Abu Dhabi, which he praised in an Emirati newspaper interview last year for its “pro-business” climate, he got another chance.

Mr. Prince’s exploits, both real and rumored, are the subject of fevered discussions in the private security world. He has worked with the Emirati government on various ventures in the past year, including an operation using South African mercenaries to train Somalis to fight pirates. There was talk, too, that he was hatching a scheme last year to cap the Icelandic volcano then spewing ash across Northern Europe.

The team in the hotel lobby was led by Ricky Chambers, known as C. T., a former agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation who had worked for Mr. Prince for years; most recently, he had run a program training Afghan troops for a Blackwater subsidiary called Paravant.

He was among the half-dozen or so Americans who would serve as top managers of the project, receiving nearly $300,000 in annual compensation. Mr. Chambers and Mr. Prince soon began quietly luring American contractors from Afghanistan, Iraq and other danger spots with pay packages that topped out at more than $200,000 a year, according to a budget document. Many of those who signed on as trainers — which eventually included more than 40 veteran American, European and South African commandos — did not know of Mr. Prince’s involvement, the former employees said.

Mr. Chambers did not respond to requests for comment.

He and Mr. Prince also began looking for soldiers. They lined up Thor Global Enterprises, a company on the Caribbean island of Tortola specializing in “placing foreign servicemen in private security positions overseas,” according to a contract signed last May. The recruits would be paid about $150 a day.

Within months, large tracts of desert were bulldozed and barracks constructed. The Emirates were to provide weapons and equipment for the mercenary force, supplying everything from M-16 rifles to mortars, Leatherman knives to Land Rovers. They agreed to buy parachutes, motorcycles, rucksacks — and 24,000 pairs of socks.

To keep a low profile, Mr. Prince rarely visited the camp or a cluster of luxury villas near the Abu Dhabi airport, where R2 executives and Emirati military officers fine-tune the training schedules and arrange weapons deliveries for the battalion, former employees said. He would show up, they said, in an office suite at the DAS Tower — a skyscraper just steps from Abu Dhabi’s Corniche beach, where sunbathers lounge as cigarette boats and water scooters whiz by. Staff members there manage a number of companies that the former employees say are carrying out secret work for the Emirati government.

Emirati law prohibits disclosure of incorporation records for businesses, which typically list company officers, but it does require them to post company names on offices and storefronts. Over the past year, the sign outside the suite has changed at least twice — it now says Assurance Management Consulting.

While the documents — including contracts, budget sheets and blueprints — obtained by The Times do not mention Mr. Prince, the former employees said he negotiated the U.A.E. deal. Corporate documents describe the battalion’s possible tasks: intelligence gathering, urban combat, the securing of nuclear and radioactive materials, humanitarian missions and special operations “to destroy enemy personnel and equipment.”

One document describes “crowd-control operations” where the crowd “is not armed with firearms but does pose a risk using improvised weapons (clubs and stones).”

People involved in the project and American officials said that the Emiratis were interested in deploying the battalion to respond to terrorist attacks and put down uprisings inside the country’s sprawling labor camps, which house the Pakistanis, Filipinos and other foreigners who make up the bulk of the country’s work force. The foreign military force was planned months before the so-called Arab Spring revolts that many experts believe are unlikely to spread to the U.A.E. Iran was a particular concern.

An Eye on Iran

Although there was no expectation that the mercenary troops would be used for a stealth attack on Iran, Emirati officials talked of using them for a possible maritime and air assault to reclaim a chain of islands, mostly uninhabited, in the Persian Gulf that are the subject of a dispute between Iran and the U.A.E., the former employees said. Iran has sent military forces to at least one of the islands, Abu Musa, and Emirati officials have long been eager to retake the islands and tap their potential oil reserves.

The Emirates have a small military that includes army, air force and naval units as well as a small special operations contingent, which served in Afghanistan, but over all, their forces are considered inexperienced.

In recent years, the Emirati government has showered American defense companies with billions of dollars to help strengthen the country’s security. A company run by Richard A. Clarke, a former counterterrorism adviser during the Clinton and Bush administrations, has won several lucrative contracts to advise the U.A.E. on how to protect its infrastructure.

Some security consultants believe that Mr. Prince’s efforts to bolster the Emirates’ defenses against an Iranian threat might yield some benefits for the American government, which shares the U.A.E.’s concern about creeping Iranian influence in the region.

“As much as Erik Prince is a pariah in the United States, he may be just what the doctor ordered in the U.A.E.,” said an American security consultant with knowledge of R2’s work.

The contract includes a one-paragraph legal and ethics policy noting that R2 should institute accountability and disciplinary procedures. “The overall goal,” the contract states, “is to ensure that the team members supporting this effort continuously cast the program in a professional and moral light that will hold up to a level of media scrutiny.”

But former employees said that R2’s leaders never directly grappled with some fundamental questions about the operation. International laws governing private armies and mercenaries are murky, but would the Americans overseeing the training of a foreign army on foreign soil be breaking United States law?

Susan Kovarovics, an international trade lawyer who advises companies about export controls, said that because Reflex Responses was an Emirati company it might not need State Department authorization for its activities.

But she said that any Americans working on the project might run legal risks if they did not get government approval to participate in training the foreign troops.

Basic operational issues, too, were not addressed, the former employees said. What were the battalion’s rules of engagement? What if civilians were killed during an operation? And could a Latin American commando force deployed in the Middle East really be kept a secret?

Imported Soldiers

The first waves of mercenaries began arriving last summer. Among them was a 13-year veteran of Colombia’s National Police force named Calixto Rincón, 42, who joined the operation with hopes of providing for his family and seeing a new part of the world.

“We were practically an army for the Emirates,” Mr. Rincón, now back in Bogotá, Colombia, said in an interview. “They wanted people who had a lot of experience in countries with conflicts, like Colombia.”

Mr. Rincón’s visa carried a special stamp from the U.A.E. military intelligence branch, which is overseeing the entire project, that allowed him to move through customs and immigration without being questioned.

He soon found himself in the midst of the camp’s daily routines, which mirrored those of American military training. “We would get up at 5 a.m. and we would start physical exercises,” Mr. Rincón said. His assignment included manual labor at the expanding complex, he said. Other former employees said the troops — outfitted in Emirati military uniforms — were split into companies to work on basic infantry maneuvers, learn navigation skills and practice sniper training.

R2 spends roughly $9 million per month maintaining the battalion, which includes expenditures for employee salaries, ammunition and wages for dozens of domestic workers who cook meals, wash clothes and clean the camp, a former employee said. Mr. Rincón said that he and his companions never wanted for anything, and that their American leaders even arranged to have a chef travel from Colombia to make traditional soups.

But the secrecy of the project has sometimes created a prisonlike environment. “We didn’t have permission to even look through the door,” Mr. Rincón said. “We were only allowed outside for our morning jog, and all we could see was sand everywhere.”

The Emirates wanted the troops to be ready to deploy just weeks after stepping off the plane, but it quickly became clear that the Colombians’ military skills fell far below expectations. “Some of these kids couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn,” said a former employee. Other recruits admitted to never having fired a weapon.

Rethinking Roles

As a result, the veteran American and foreign commandos training the battalion have had to rethink their roles. They had planned to act only as “advisers” during missions — meaning they would not fire weapons — but over time, they realized that they would have to fight side by side with their troops, former officials said.

Making matters worse, the recruitment pipeline began drying up. Former employees said that Thor struggled to sign up, and keep, enough men on the ground. Mr. Rincón developed a hernia and was forced to return to Colombia, while others were dismissed from the program for drug use or poor conduct.

And R2’s own corporate leadership has also been in flux. Mr. Chambers, who helped develop the project, left after several months. A handful of other top executives, some of them former Blackwater employees, have been hired, then fired within weeks.

To bolster the force, R2 recruited a platoon of South African mercenaries, including some veterans of Executive Outcomes, a South African company notorious for staging coup attempts or suppressing rebellions against African strongmen in the 1990s. The platoon was to function as a quick-reaction force, American officials and former employees said, and began training for a practice mission: a terrorist attack on the Burj Khalifa skyscraper in Dubai, the world’s tallest building. They would secure the situation before quietly handing over control to Emirati troops.

But by last November, the battalion was officially behind schedule. The original goal was for the 800-man force to be ready by March 31; recently, former employees said, the battalion’s size was reduced to about 580 men.

Emirati military officials had promised that if this first battalion was a success, they would pay for an entire brigade of several thousand men. The new contracts would be worth billions, and would help with Mr. Prince’s next big project: a desert training complex for foreign troops patterned after Blackwater’s compound in Moyock, N.C. But before moving ahead, U.A.E. military officials have insisted that the battalion prove itself in a “real world mission.”

That has yet to happen. So far, the Latin American troops have been taken off the base only to shop and for occasional entertainment.

On a recent spring night though, after months stationed in the desert, they boarded an unmarked bus and were driven to hotels in central Dubai, a former employee said. There, some R2 executives had arranged for them to spend the evening with prostitutes.

Mark Mazzetti reported from Abu Dhabi and Washington, and Emily B. Hager from New York. Jenny Carolina González and Simon Romero contributed reporting from Bogotá, Colombia. Kitty Bennett contributed research from Washington.
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« Reply #42 on: June 30, 2011, 10:58:02 AM »

The Greater Game in Bahrain

According to rumors cited by anonymous Bahraini and Saudi government sources on Tuesday, the 1,000-plus Saudi-led Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) force, deployed to Bahrain in the spring to quell a Shia-led uprising, has begun to withdraw now that the security situation on the island has largely stabilized. STRATFOR sources in the Saudi and Bahraini governments clarified that there will be a reduction of GCC forces, but not a full withdrawal. A Saudi source went on to explain that a permanent base will be built to station a stripped-down Saudi-led force, ready to deploy on short notice, with Saudi reinforcements less than three hours away across the Bahrain-Saudi causeway.

When GCC forces intervened in Bahrain in mid-March at the request of the Bahraini royal family, the Arab monarchies of the Persian Gulf were in panic mode. A Shia-led uprising in Bahrain had the potential to activate dissent among Shiite population centers in Eastern Arabia, particularly in Saudi Arabia’s oil-rich Eastern Province. The potential for dissent was especially elevated if Iran could bring its forces to bear under the right circumstances. Led by Saudi Arabia, the GCC moved swiftly to help Bahrain clamp down on demonstrations, using their combined security and intelligence powers to identify and neutralize suspected Iranian assets across Bahraini society.

“What STRATFOR is wondering is whether Riyadh, unable to fully trust U.S. intentions, is seriously considering reaching its own accommodation with Iran.”
So far, the GCC’s handling of the crisis in Bahrain has worked. The most destabilizing elements within the opposition have been jailed and a large number of Bahrainis support a return to normalcy on the streets. The Bahraini government is shifting from restoration to maintenance of law and order, gradually reducing the security presence on the streets. Beginning July 2, the government will open a National Dialogue with various civil society groups. The government aims to give the impression that it is sincere about addressing opposition demands, so long as those demands are discussed in an orderly setting. It should be noted that the National Dialogue so far does not include Bahrain’s largest Shiite opposition group, Al Wefaq.

The sight of GCC forces heading home in armored vehicles while Bahraini government officials talk to a select group of opposition leaders may create the impression that calm has returned to Bahrain. However, a much deeper dynamic between the Arabs and Persians needs to be understood as these events unfold. Iran may not have been able to fully exploit the wave of Shia-led unrest that hit Bahrain, and Tehran has historically faced considerable constraints in projecting influence to its co-religionists in Eastern Arabia. Nevertheless, STRATFOR has also picked up indications that Iran was playing a much more deliberate game — taking care to conserve its resources while counting on the perception of a Wahhabist occupation of Shiite-majority land to exacerbate local grievances and stress the GCC states over time. With the Arab states on edge, Iran’s primary aim is to ensure a full withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq — an area where threats to the Islamic republic have historically originated.

This reality stresses Saudi Arabia, a state already bearing the burden of managing an explosive situation in Yemen while sorting out succession issues at home and, most critically, trying to figure out the best path forward in dealing with Iran. It is increasingly evident that the United States is too distracted to meaningfully counterbalance Iran in the near term, especially as Tehran appears to have the necessary leverage to prevent the United States from extending its military presence in Iraq. Saudi Arabia and its Arab allies are left wondering if the United States will temporarily set aside its broader conflict with Tehran and forge a short-term understanding with the Islamic republic. Such an understanding could expand Iran’s sphere of influence in the region on U.S. terms, leaving Saudi Arabia with a deep sense of betrayal and vulnerability. There are no clear indications that negotiations between the United States and Iran have reached such a juncture, but the Saudis have to reckon with the possibility. STRATFOR is wondering whether Riyadh, unable to fully trust U.S. intentions, is seriously considering reaching its own accommodation with Iran first.

This logic is what led STRAFOR today to take a closer look at what was happening behind the scenes of the rumored Saudi withdrawal from Bahrain. The GCC states and Iran are at an impasse. The Arabs demand that Iran cease meddling in their affairs and Iran counters that GCC forces must first withdraw fully from Bahrain. In explaining the plan for the reconfiguration of GCC forces in Bahrain, a Saudi diplomatic source mentioned ongoing talks between Saudi Arabia and Iran and said there are indications that Iran may be backing off its covert activities in Bahrain. This claim obviously merits further investigation. If true, it could represent a preliminary yet highly important step in a developing Saudi-Iranian dialogue. Neither side would be expected to back down completely in the early stages of this dialogue, but a show of good faith, such as a reduction in GCC forces ahead of National Dialogue talks in Bahrain, could set the mood for further talks.

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« Reply #43 on: October 14, 2011, 05:00:04 AM »



Saudi Arabia's Limited Options Against Iran
Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal on Thursday vowed revenge for an  alleged plot by Tehran to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the United States with the help of someone claiming to be a member of a Mexican drug cartel. Al-Faisal described the plot as a cowardly attempt by the Iranians to spread their influence abroad through “murder and mayhem” and asserted, “We will not bow to such pressure, we hold them accountable for any action they take against us.” He then said that any action taken by Iran against Saudi Arabia would be met with a “measured response.” When asked to clarify what that response might look like, al-Faisal demurred and replied, “We have to wait and see.”
Ever since the United States went public on Tuesday with the Iranian plot, many have questioned the obvious lack of sophistication and the level of state sponsorship in the operation. Even if this alleged Iranian plot never came to light, however, the Saudis would still be facing the same strategic dilemma and constraints in dealing with its Persian neighbor.
“Saudi Arabia has every interest in trying to convince Iran in the coming months that Riyadh has the will, capability and U.S. support necessary to respond to any Iranian act of aggression.”
Saudi Arabia is facing a nightmare scenario in the Persian Gulf. By the end of the year, the United States is scheduled to complete its troop withdrawal from Iraq, and whatever troop presence the United States tries to keep in Iraq past the deadline will not be enough to convince anyone, especially Saudi Arabia and Iran, that the United States will be able to prevent Iran from emerging as the dominant force in the Persian Gulf region. These next few months are therefore critical for Tehran to reshape the politics of the region while the United States is still distracted, Turkey is still early in its rise and Iran still has the upper hand. Iran can only achieve this goal of regional hegemony if it can effectively exploit the vulnerabilities of its Arab neighbors — especially Saudi Arabia — who are extremely unnerved by the thought of the United States leaving behind a power vacuum in the region for Iran to fill.
Iran’s main strategic intent is to convince the United States and Saudi Arabia that there is no better choice but to reach an unsavory accommodation with Tehran, one that would be negotiated in Iran’s favor and grant Tehran the regional legitimacy it’s been seeking for centuries. The Saudis want to prevent this scenario at all costs, and so can be expected to do everything it can to show Washington that Iran is too dangerous to negotiate with and that more must be done by the United States to keep Iran contained behind its mountain borders. Purported Iranian plots aimed at assassinating Saudi diplomats certainly help underscore that message, but there is still little hiding the fact that the United States simply doesn’t have good options in dealing with Iran in the near term.
The United States doesn’t have the resources to devote to blocking Iran in Iraq, or engaging in military action against Iran. In today’s fragile global economic environment, the Iranian retaliatory option of mining and attempting to shut down the Strait of Hormuz, through which 40 percent of the world’s seaborne trade passes through each day, remains a potent deterrent. In describing how it intends to hold Iran accountable for this alleged assassination plot, the White House has focused on increased sanctions, but by now it should be obvious that Iran will find ways to insulate itself from sanctions and continue its day-to-day business with a multitude of shell firms looking to make a profit in trading with Iran at higher premiums.
Given that the United States is Saudi Arabia’s main security guarantor, the lack of U.S. options means that Saudi Arabia also has very few, if any, good options against Iran in the current threat environment. Saudi Arabia’s best geopolitical weapon is its oil wealth, but even the threat of flooding the oil markets to cut into Iran’s own oil revenues carries its fair share of complications. Saudi Arabia claims that it would take 30 to 60 days to reach a maximum level of output around 12.5 million barrels per day, but they would have to sustain that level of production for an extensive period of time in today’s depressed market to begin to make a serious dent in Iran’s oil income. There are already questions about whether Saudi Arabia has the capability to surge production on this scale, not to mention the complications it would face from other oil producers that would also suffer the consequences of an oil flood in the markets. So far, there hasn’t been any indication that Saudi Arabia is prepared to go this route in the first place.
Saudi Arabia also has the more traditional option of backing dissidents and Sunni militants in Iran, Iraq, Lebanon and Syria in an effort to undercut Iran’s growing influence in the region, but engaging in a full-fledged proxy battle with Iran also carries major implications. Of most concern to Saudi Arabia is Iran’s likely covert response along the eastern littoral of the Arabian Peninsula. Saudi Arabia is already extremely concerned with the situation in Bahrain, where it fears growing Shiite unrest will cascade into Saudi Arabia’s oil-rich, Shiite-concentrated Eastern Province. Iran’s capabilities in this region are more limited relative to its covert presence in Iraq and Lebanon, but the Saudi regime is on the alert for signs of Iranian prodding in this tense Sunni-Shiite borderland. A rare security incident in Qatif in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province Oct. 3 clearly highlighted this threat when a group of Shiite rioters reportedly shot automatic weapons at security forces.
Saudi Arabia has every interest in trying to convince Iran in the coming months that Riyadh has the will, capability and U.S. support necessary to respond to any Iranian act of aggression. The reality of the situation, however, reveals just how constrained the Saudi regime is in trying to contain their historic Persian rivals.
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« Reply #44 on: May 17, 2012, 11:13:51 AM »


Saudi Nightmares by Robert D. Kaplan and Kamran Bokhari
May 16, 2012 | 0900 GMT
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Stratfor
By Robert D. Kaplan and Kamran Bokhari

The Saudi royals live with an all-consuming fear -- that of an American understanding with Iran. The Saudis know that the American estrangement from Iran is unnatural and cannot go on forever. It has already lasted a third of a century, almost a decade longer than America's estrangement from Communist China. The Saudis also know that the logic of the present standoff over Iran's nuclear ambitions must lead -- through war or peace -- to some sort of American-Iranian dialogue about the two countries' core interests in the Middle East.

The United States had excellent relations with both Saudi Arabia and Iran up to 1978, but that was during the Cold War, when both countries were implicitly aligned with the Western camp against the Soviets. It was also during the rule of Iran's shah, an absolute ruler who was seen as predictable and responsible -- much more so than the competing power centers, both clerical and not, that constitute Iran's current regime.

Contemporary Iran is fervently Shiite and thus hostile to Saudi Arabia's austere Sunni Wahhabi religious establishment in a way that the shah's secular regime was not. For example, the shah did not encourage rebellious Shia in neighboring Bahrain and in eastern Saudi Arabia itself, as the Iranian leaders are now doing.

But there is something deeper about Saudi insecurities. The Saudis see a strong and vibrant Shiite power bloc in Iran and Iraq -- to be accorded recognition of sorts by the United States, at some point -- looming across the gulf just as other factors, both internal and external, potentially threaten Saudi power.

The Saudis are extremely uncomfortable with the post-9/11 world. Previously, they could export their internal problems, in the form of radical Wahhabis, allowing them to establish anti-American madrassas and movements throughout the House of Islam, from Morocco to Indonesia, but not within the kingdom itself. However, for the past decade the Saudis have had the Americans bearing down on them to monitor and arrest these radical elements, creating enemies that the regime never had in the past.

Then there is Yemen. Instability in Yemen has always been a problem for Saudi Arabia. Though Yemen has only a quarter of Saudi Arabia's land area, its population is almost as large, so that the all-important demographic core of the Arabian Peninsula is in its mountainous southwest corner. The spillover of Yemeni tribal insurrection and weapons and drug smuggling into Saudi Arabia's Asir, Najran and Jizan provinces -- whose tribal cultures are almost identical with that of Yemen -- is not new. Moreover, Najran and Jizan have large Ismaili populations while on the Yemeni side of the border there are many al-Houthis, all offshoots of mainstream Shi'ism. The Saudis know that because of the Arab Spring and the attendant undermining of longtime Yemeni strongman Ali Abdullah Saleh, the level of chaos inside Yemen has risen substantially and will not subside, with al Qaeda trying to establish footholds in the region. Yemen could easily disintegrate into its constituent parts, making it harder for the Saudis to govern their own southwest.

Yemen demonstrates a larger and more profound problem for the Saudis: the very artificiality of their own state in a peninsula where Yemen is just one region among several. Saudi Arabia is specifically Najd, the parched and deeply conservative upland in the heart of the Arabian Peninsula, home to the al Sauds, who have always had difficulty holding the maritime peripheries. To wit, Hijaz, along the Red Sea in western Saudi Arabia, has always been in a state of tension with Najd in the center. For while the holy cities of Mecca and Medina connote Muslim religiosity in the Western mind, the truth is somewhat the opposite: It is the very pilgrimage of Muslims from all over the Islamic world that lends a certain cosmopolitanism to these holy cities, and thus to the surrounding Hijaz. Hijaz, Yemen, Oman and the Gulf Arab sheikhdoms all manifest the Greater Indian Ocean world from which Najd is isolated. Thus, unlike Iran, which holds the entire Iranian plateau, Saudi Arabia does not govern the whole Arabian Peninsula, and even within its own kingdom, the Saudi power structure is in a state of tension.

The Saudis fear chaos, in other words.

The Saudis also know that their own governing elite is deteriorating. Saudi Arabia is a state that, as its name attests, is based on loyalty not to a terrain or an idea but to a family. Abdulaziz Ibn Saud, who built the Najdi-centered state by conquering Hijaz in 1925, along with his son Faisal bin Abdulaziz (the third monarch), dominated the first generation of Saudi rulers. The second generation was dominated by the so-called Sudeiri Seven -- the seven sons of Ibn Saud's favorite wife, Hassa bint Ahmad al-Sudeiri -- who oversaw political life, often as kings, and lent coherence to the family and thus to the ruling power structure. But that group is disappearing. The current crown prince, Naif, the third oldest Sudeiri, is 80. In the third generation, 19 grandsons will compete with 16 surviving sons of Ibn Saud on the Allegiance Council, appointed in 2006 to formalize the succession process. And there are many more grandsons outside the council. This is too large a group not to engage in complex factionalism, which will weaken the state, even as such infighting makes it harder to deal with pressing challenges.

Then there is the United States, which Saudi Arabia has been forced to rely on but which, especially in recent years, owing to the debacle of Iraq, it has never really trusted. And why should the Saudis trust America? The Saudis are not blind to the shale gas revolution in North America, which, along with the availability of tar sands oil from Canada, might significantly reduce American dependence on Middle Eastern energy over the next decade and beyond. The less oil imported from the Persian Gulf, the less of a national interest the United States will have in buttressing Saudi Arabia and the Saudi near-abroad. True, the United States will still want Gulf oil protected for the benefit of the global system, but that is a far more insignificant need compared to America's own requirement for energy, which will henceforth be met increasingly in the Western Hemisphere.

Finally, there is the unsettling knowledge that despite the anti-American radicalism of the Iranian regime over the decades, even a partial policy shift in Tehran would expose how much closer Americans and Iranians are to each other culturally than are Americans and Saudis. Iran rests on an ancient and urbanized civilization, begetting a richness in literature, cinema and the arts. Even with the mullahs in power, Iranian women drive cars and motorcycles and wear makeup. Armenian and other churches are in evidence in Tehran. This is all a far cry from the suffocating conservative atmosphere of Riyadh.

The Saudis know that only the present moment witnesses an American tilt toward the Sunni world. An understanding with Iran would lead the United States to coolly and conveniently play both sides of the Sunni-Shiite split against the other, which would naturally fit into an American balance of power strategy. A divided House of Islam truly serves American and Israeli interests perfectly. The decades ahead do not look kind to Saudi Arabia, a country with a diminishing underground water table, a significant demographic youth bulge and unemployment among young men as high as 40 percent.

The Saudis' nightmare is that they are alone, with a potential energy-rich America in less need of them, even as the Arabian Peninsula politically begins to disintegrate. Meanwhile, Shiite Iran -- heir to an ancient superpower, rather than the artificial contraption of one family -- over time normalizes its ties with the West. That you can peer into the future does not always mean you can alter it. That is the Saudi dilemma.


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Read more: Saudi Nightmares by Robert D. Kaplan and Kamran Bokhari | Stratfor
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« Reply #45 on: May 17, 2012, 01:22:01 PM »

From this week's Economist a look at the ancient rivalry:

http://www.economist.com/node/21554513
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« Reply #46 on: June 01, 2013, 08:58:35 AM »

Oman's Geopolitical Centrality
Global Affairs
WEDNESDAY, MAY 29, 2013 - 04:00 Print  - Text Size +
Stratfor
By Robert D. Kaplan

Stratfor regularly highlights countries that the media overlooks but that are nevertheless geopolitically important. Poland and Azerbaijan are good examples. Poland, especially if Russia can undermine the independence of Ukraine, is the bellwether state of Central-Eastern Europe. Western-leaning Azerbaijan, wealthy in hydrocarbons, adjoins Iran and is the potential political heartland of Iran's powerful Azeri Turk minority. Oman, at the southeastern tip of the Arabian Peninsula, also belongs in this category. Indeed, the Greater Indian Ocean will be the maritime organizing principle of the 21st century world, and perhaps no country (other than India itself) sits astride it more than Oman. Remember that the Arabian Sea -- the entire western half of the Indian Ocean -- used to be called the Sea of Oman.

Oman occupies the most central maritime transshipment point between the Indian subcontinent and Africa, the two regions of the world that will see the largest population growth and perhaps the largest growth of middle classes in coming decades. Oman, moreover, is geographically situated between Iran and Saudi Arabia, the two great rival sectarian states in the Muslim Middle East. Not surprisingly, Oman has often served as a quiet, diplomatic go-between for Iran and the United States.

Oman's diplomatic value underscores how its locational advantages are amplified by its political ones. In Sultan Qaboos bin Said al Said, Oman quite simply has the best educated and among the most enlightened leaders in the Arab world. He is an absolute ruler with sophisticated liberal values. When the Arab Spring led to sustained protests in the capital of Muscat, Sohar and other Omani cities, Qaboos deftly allowed the demonstrations to proceed, then strengthened the role of the elected Shura Council, replaced older ministers with young ones, arrested some of the protest leaders and in general maneuvered in such a way that while the authorities were heavily criticized, his own prestige and power were largely unaffected. Thus, he has emerged from the Arab Spring in a comparatively stronger position vis-a-vis other leaders in the Middle East.

Oman now finds itself in the difficult but enviable position of being able to concentrate on the ultimate challenge of modern societies: building responsive and transparent institutions that ultimately make the role of the ruler himself less paramount. Of course, this is the task of societies throughout the Middle East, but few can conduct this experiment under such advantageous conditions as Oman: A country with a deeply respected ruler who is not under political siege, and who also has access to hydrocarbon revenues for at least another decade or so.

Certainly, Oman's political transition is not without grave risks. Sultan Qaboos is in his 70s and in uncertain health, without an obvious successor. Nevertheless, stability, like power itself, is relative. And relatively speaking, Oman's political prospects look brighter than many other places in the Arab world. Therefore, given Oman's reasonably secure political outlook, let's look more closely at geopolitical and geo-economic developments here.

Oman is taking advantage of its Indian Ocean centrality by building and enlarging a network of ports -- Salalah, Duqm, Muscat and Sohar. Salalah, in the southwestern province of Dhofar -- close to the border with Yemen -- has the advantage of ultra-transshipment centrality between India and Africa and between the Persian Gulf and the Red Sea. In the world of container traffic, Salalah already is a transshipment point for the entire navigable, southern rimland of Eurasia from northeastern Asia to East Africa and the Suez Canal. Salalah's expected further expansion will benefit from this fact. Salalah, moreover, lies safely outside the Persian Gulf -- as, especially, does Sohar at the other end of Oman, close to the Strait of Hormuz.

There are plans to link Sohar and Salalah by road, rail and perhaps even pipelines to ports in the United Arab Emirates (like Jebel Ali) and as far north as Kuwait. Were there ever a military cataclysm in the Gulf -- inside the Strait of Hormuz, that is -- Omani ports could figure more prominently.

By using Salalah, ships en route from Asia or the Indian subcontinent to Africa or the Mediterranean need not steer off course into the Persian Gulf. By using Sohar, ships avoid passing through the narrow and potentially treacherous Strait of Hormuz while still (in the future) being connected by road or rail to nearby ports inside the strait. Duqm, more or less midway between Salalah and Sohar, will serve to connect Salalah and Sohar on the same rail network. The development of Duqm serves the unstated political purpose of keeping Oman's somewhat disparate regions economically united.

For the time being, Oman's ports and geography will be important to the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. U.S. military transport planes will be flying equipment from Afghanistan to the Omani airfield at Thumrait in western Dhofar, which is only a short drive to Salalah port. (Because of the high plateau where Thumrait sits, the airfield carries the benefit of lying outside the coastal monsoon belt.) For this and other reasons, Oman sees regular visits by the combatant commander of U.S. Central Command and other U. S. four-star generals. Indeed, U.S. P-3 surveillance planes already fly out of Masirah, an island off north-central Oman, and Oman remains critical for American plans to locate 80 percent of its air and naval assets inside the Persian Gulf region but outside the Strait of Hormuz.

If one thinks of a mid-21st century world in which a fluid Eurasian strategic geography replaces the old geography divided by traditional Cold War and post-Cold War area studies, a world in which railways and pipelines link energy fields in Central Asia with ports in the Middle East both inside and outside the Persian Gulf, a world in which China and India are deeply enmeshed with Africa and the Mediterranean by way of maritime trade and natural resource transfers, the centrality of Oman only increases.

Obviously, the short-term in geopolitics presents real dangers to Oman. A war in the Persian Gulf between the United States and Iran could close ports inside the Strait of Hormuz before the rail and road links are in place to take goods to Omani ports, outside the strait. More crucially, a war between the United States and Iran puts Oman in an extremely delicate diplomatic position: Oman has arguably been among America's closest and quietest allies in the Arab world, even as it maintains close relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran. Supporting America in such a conflict would be difficult: From the Omani perspective, Iran represents a big power right next door, while the United States (though even more powerful) is far-away. Sanctions against Iran, meanwhile, have had a very negative impact on Oman's economy. This is because Oman lacks a local Iranian business community of the scale that exists, for example, in the United Arab Emirates, which can allow for the kind of bilateral trade that escapes sanctions.

The point is, watch Oman: a fascinating domestic laboratory of political evolution in a most vital geopolitical environment.



Read more: Oman's Geopolitical Centrality | Stratfor
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« Reply #47 on: July 01, 2013, 11:22:05 AM »

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-23119656
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« Reply #48 on: October 23, 2013, 07:16:35 PM »

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2472680/Saudi-Arabia-severs-diplomatic-ties-US-response-conflict-Syria.html

Saudi Arabia severs diplomatic ties with US over response to conflict in Syria
 Saudi Arabia is an important ally to the U.S. as it provides a secure source of oil
 Saudi diplomats now promise a 'major shift' in relations with the U.S. over inaction in the conflict in Syria
 Secretary of State John Kerry says he is committed to keeping a good relationship with the Saudis

By Reuters Reporter
 
PUBLISHED:19:27 EST, 22 October 2013| UPDATED: 12:01 EST, 23 October 2013
 
 
Upset at President Barack Obama's policies on Iran and Syria, members of Saudi Arabia's ruling family are threatening a rift with the United States that could take the alliance between Washington and the kingdom to its lowest point in years.

 
Saudi Arabia's intelligence chief is vowing that the kingdom will make a 'major shift' in relations with the United States to protest perceived American inaction over Syria's civil war as well as recent U.S. overtures to Iran, a source close to Saudi policy said on Tuesday.

 
Prince Bandar bin Sultan told European diplomats that the United States had failed to act effectively against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, was growing closer to Tehran, and had failed to back Saudi support for Bahrain when it crushed an anti-government revolt in 2011, the source said.
 




'Major change': Prince Bandar Bin Sultan said the kingdom will make a "major shift" in relations with the United States
 
'The shift away from the U.S. is a major one,' the source close to Saudi policy said. 'Saudi doesn't want to find itself any longer in a situation where it is dependent.'

 
It was not immediately clear whether the reported statements by Prince Bandar, who was the Saudi ambassador to Washington for 22 years, had the full backing of King Abdullah.

 
The growing breach between the United States and Saudi Arabia was also on display in Washington, where another senior Saudi prince criticized Obama's Middle East policies, accusing him of 'dithering' on Syria and Israeli-Palestinian peace.
 
 
 

 

In unusually blunt public remarks, Prince Turki al-Faisal called Obama's policies in Syria 'lamentable' and ridiculed a U.S.-Russian deal to eliminate Assad's chemical weapons. He suggested it was a ruse to let Obama avoid military action in Syria.

 
'The current charade of international control over Bashar's chemical arsenal would be funny if it were not so blatantly perfidious. And designed not only to give Mr. Obama an opportunity to back down (from military strikes), but also to help Assad to butcher his people,' said Prince Turki, a member of the Saudi royal family and former director of Saudi intelligence. 






Kerry welcomes Iranian diplomacy
 








Inaction: The Saudis say they are getting upset by President Obama's inaction in dealing with the conflict in Syria
 
The United States and Saudi Arabia have been allies since the kingdom was declared in 1932, giving Riyadh a powerful military protector and Washington secure oil supplies.

 
The Saudi criticism came days after the 40th anniversary of the October 1973 Arab oil embargo imposed to punish the West for supporting Israel in the Yom Kippur war.

 
That was one of the low points in U.S.-Saudi ties, which were also badly shaken by the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States. Most of the 9/11 hijackers were Saudi nationals.

 
Saudi Arabia gave a clear sign of its displeasure over Obama's foreign policy last week when it rejected a coveted two-year term on the U.N. Security Council in a display of anger over the failure of the international community to end the war in Syria and act on other Middle East issues.

 
Prince Turki indicated that Saudi Arabia will not reverse that decision, which he said was a result of the Security Council's failure to stop Assad and implement its own decision on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

 



Picking sides: Russian President Vladimir Putin, seen here with bin Sultan, has sided with the Syrian government in the conflict
 
'There is nothing whimsical about the decision to forego membership of the Security Council. It is based on the ineffectual experience of that body,' he said in a speech to the Washington-based National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations.

 
In London, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said he discussed Riyadh's concerns when he met Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal in Paris on Monday.

 
Kerry said he told the Saudi minister no deal with Iran was better than a bad deal. 'I have great confidence that the United States and Saudi Arabia will continue to be the close and important friends and allies that we have been,' Kerry told reporters.

 
Prince Bandar is seen as a foreign policy hawk, especially on Iran. The Sunni Muslim kingdom's rivalry with Shi'ite Iran, an ally of Syria, has amplified sectarian tensions across the Middle East.

 
A son of the late defense minister and crown prince, Prince Sultan, and a protégé of the late King Fahd, he fell from favor with King Abdullah after clashing on foreign policy in 2005.

 
But he was called in from the cold last year with a mandate to bring down Assad, diplomats in the Gulf say. Over the past year, he has led Saudi efforts to bring arms and other aid to Syrian rebels.

 
'Prince Bandar told diplomats that he plans to limit interaction with the U.S.,' the source close to Saudi policy said.

 



Secretary of State John Kerry says he's confident the U.S. will continue to have a good relationship with Saudi Arabia
 
This happens after the U.S. failed to take any effective action on Syria and Palestine. Relations with the U.S. have been deteriorating for a while, as Saudi feels that the U.S. is growing closer with Iran and the U.S. also failed to support Saudi during the Bahrain uprising," the source said.

 
The source declined to provide more details of Bandar's talks with the diplomats, which took place in the past few days.

 
But he suggested that the planned change in ties between the energy superpower and the United States would have wide-ranging consequences, including on arms purchases and oil sales.

 
Saudi Arabia, the world's biggest oil exporter, ploughs much of its earnings back into U.S. assets. Most of the Saudi central bank's net foreign assets of $690 billion are thought to be denominated in dollars, much of them in U.S. Treasury bonds.

 
'All options are on the table now, and for sure there will be some impact,' the Saudi source said.

 
He said there would be no further coordination with the United States over the war in Syria, where the Saudis have armed and financed rebel groups fighting Assad.

 
The kingdom has informed the United States of its actions in Syria, and diplomats say it has respected U.S. requests not to supply the groups with advanced weaponry that the West fears could fall into the hands of al Qaeda-aligned groups.

 



Saudi intelligence chief Prince Turki Al Faisal also is outraged the international community has let the war continue in Syria
 
Saudi anger boiled over after Washington refrained from military strikes in response to a poison gas attack in Damascus in August when Assad agreed to give up his chemical weapons arsenal.

 
Representative Chris Van Hollen, a member of the U.S. House of Representatives' Democratic leadership, told Reuters' Washington Summit on Tuesday that the Saudi moves were intended to pressure Obama to take action in Syria.

 
'We know their game. They're trying to send a signal that we should all get involved militarily in Syria, and I think that would be a big mistake to get in the middle of the Syrian civil war,' Van Hollen said.

 
'And the Saudis should start by stopping their funding of the al Qaeda-related groups in Syria. In addition to the fact that it's a country that doesn't allow women to drive,' said Van Hollen, who is close to Obama on domestic issues in Congress but is less influential on foreign policy.

 
Saudi Arabia is concerned about signs of a tentative reconciliation between Washington and Tehran, something Riyadh fears may lead to a 'grand bargain' on the Iranian nuclear program that would leave Riyadh at a disadvantage.

 
Prince Turki expressed doubt that Obama would succeed in what he called an 'open arms approach' to Iran, which he accused of meddling in Syria, Lebanon, Yemen, Iraq and Bahrain.

 
'We Saudis observe President Obama's efforts in this regard. The road ahead is arduous,' he said. 'Whether (Iranian President Hassan) Rouhani will succeed in steering Iran toward sensible policies is already contested in Iran. The forces of darkness in Qom and Tehran are well entrenched.'

 
The U.N. Security Council has been paralyzed over the 31-month-old Syria conflict, with permanent members Russia and China repeatedly blocking measures to condemn Assad.

 
Saudi Arabia backs Assad's mostly Sunni rebel foes. The Syrian leader, whose Alawite sect is derived from Shi'ite Islam, has support from Iran and the armed Lebanese Shi'ite movement Hezbollah. The Syrian leader denounces the insurgents as al Qaeda-linked groups backed by Sunni-ruled states.

 
In Bahrain, home of the U.S. Fifth Fleet, a simmering pro-democracy revolt by its Shi'ite majority has prompted calls by some in Washington for U.S. ships to be based elsewhere.

 
Many U.S. economic interests in Saudi Arabia involve government contracts in defense, other security sectors, health care, education, information technology and construction.


Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2472680/Saudi-Arabia-severs-diplomatic-ties-US-response-conflict-Syria.html
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« Reply #49 on: October 25, 2013, 11:24:14 AM »

http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2013/10/21/this_is_not_how_a_protection_racket_is_supposed_to_work
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