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Author Topic: Saudi Arabia & the Arabian Peninsula  (Read 6358 times)
Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #50 on: October 27, 2013, 04:05:46 PM »



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


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

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

By Kamran Bokhari

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read more: Saudi Arabia's Religious Scholars Are a Double-Edged Sword | Stratfor
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