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Ed Webb

Kuwaiti activists targeted under GCC security pact - Al-Monitor: the Pulse of the Middl... - 0 views

  • Kuwaiti civil society is one of the most vibrant in the Gulf, hence its early rejection of the GCC Internal Security Pact, which was interpreted as yet another attempt to silence dissent in their own country. Many Kuwaiti activists resented Saudi hegemony, which the pact is meant to strengthen not only in the small emirate but the other ones, too. It is evident now that criticizing Saudi Arabia is taboo, the violation of which definitely leads to perhaps several years in prison. Kuwaiti apprehensions were not unfounded but they couldn't do much about the treaty that was ratified by their parliament. Several opposition groups boycotted the elections that eventually produced a docile body.

    On the other side of the border, there was no debate or controversy related to the pact as Saudis are completely disenfranchised. The only consultative council they have is appointed by the king and has no power to discuss security pacts with the GCC or other countries.

  • there is more to the recent detentions at the request of Saudi Arabia than simply freedom of speech. Regardless of their ideological affiliations, all the detainees belong to tribes that have historically lived between Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. Also all the detainees have gone beyond their Bedouin way of life to acquire education, political visions and determination to be part of states established when they were lacking skills. The governments of most GCC countries prefer the tribal Bedouin population to remain as part of folklore. Their ancient tents, camels and coffee pots are a reminder of a pure Arabian heritage, lost under the pressure of globalization, foreign labor populations and the ethnic diversity of the coastal states. So Gulf leaders, including the Kuwaitis and Saudis, prefer the Bedouin to be in the museum and the folklore heritage festivals rather than in public squares, demonstrating against corruption and calling for true citizenship
  • Today, not only Saudi Arabia but also Kuwait have to manage a different citizen, namely the "tribal moderns” who speak the language of human rights, freedom of speech, civil society, accountability, anti-corruption, elections and democracy. Such slogans are written on placards, chanted in demonstrations in Kuwait and virtually circulated in Saudi Arabia, as demonstrations are banned.
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  • The tribal moderns may endorse Islamism, or liberal democracy, but the fact of the matter remains constant. From the perspective of regimes, they are a dangerous bunch, simply because if they invoke tribal solidarities, they may be heeded by their fellow cousins, both imaginary and real.
  • No doubt, activists in Kuwait and other GCC countries will fall under the heavy weight of a pact designed above all to control, monitor and punish dissidents. The GCC itself may not move from cooperation to unification in the near future but it has certainly become yet another mechanism to silence peaceful and legitimate opposition across borders.

    Read More: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2015/03/saudi-gcc-security-dissident-activism-detention-opposition.html

    Madawi Al-Rasheed
    Columnist 

    Dr. Madawi Al-Rasheed is a columnist for Al-Monitor and a visiting professor at the Middle East Centre at the London School of Economics and Political Science. She has written extensively about the Arabian Peninsula, Arab migration, globalization, religious trans-nationalism and gender. On Twitter: @MadawiDr

Ed Webb

Gulf states launch joint command to counter Isis and Iran - FT.com - 1 views

  • Bahrain’s foreign minister says Gulf states are launching a joint military command based in Saudi Arabia to counter threats from militant jihadis and Shia Iran.
  • Sheikh Khalid al-Khalifa said the joint command force, which analysts say will eventually have several hundred thousand soldiers under its control, would begin military operations after a Gulf Co-operation Council summit due to take place later this month in Qatar.
  • “Look at the fragmentation in Iraq and the abominable situation in Syria,” Sheikh Khalid told the Financial Times in an interview. “If Afghanistan was a primary school for terrorists, then Syria and Iraq are a university for them – these are serious threats and lots of people from our country have gone and joined them.”
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  • Sheikh Khalid, a member of the Bahraini royal family, said the new military body, first mooted two years ago, would start “working from now” to co-ordinate against what he said was a growing threat from Iran and unrest in Yemen.
  • According to the agreement, Qatar is to match Saudi and Emirati financial aid to the Egyptian government and is to end support for the Muslim Brotherhood, which Sheikh Khalid accused of carrying out terrorist attacks in Egypt.

    Qatar’s powerful media empire, centred around Al Jazeera television, is also expected to change its editorial stance, said Sheikh Khalid, which will “stop Al Jazeera putting bad coverage on events in Egypt or anti-Egyptian government coverage”.

  • The Qatari government declined to comment on the agreement.
  • he conceded that Qatar may come back into the GCC fold “step by step”, and cited a “very unhelpful” report broadcast on Al Jazeera English on Bahrain’s parliamentary elections last month.
Ed Webb

The Arab War on Terror - 2 views

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    Useful for thinking about the long-term implications for US foreign policy in MENA of the GWOT.
Ed Webb

US-Russia confrontation could drift to Mideast - Al-Monitor: the Pulse of the Middle East - 1 views

  • The Middle East offers many opportunities for Putin to combine business with pleasure in challenging the United States. Consider its tumultuous strategic environment: a civil war in Syria, a potential civil war in Libya, ongoing political instability in Egypt and Iraq, simmering violence in Yemen, and political uncertainty almost everywhere else. Saudi Arabia and Qatar are deeply engaged in Syria’s war, as are Iran and Hezbollah. Saudi Arabia and Egypt (among others) are frustrated with the United States — the former over Syria and the latter over America’s intervention in its complex politics, where Washington seems to have been on almost every side at one point or another and has consequently alienated almost all sides. Uncertainty about Iran’s intentions further complicates all of this, as does a weakened relationship between the United States and Israel (where Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman appears to be one of Putin’s closer personal contacts among foreign officials). Meanwhile, China has surpassed the United States as the largest buyer of Middle East oil even as broader China-Middle East trade soars. Expanded Russian arms sales — or new Russian nuclear power plants — may only further destabilize the region.
  • Saudi Arabia and Syria are Russia’s principal security concerns in the Middle East; Moscow’s pre-eminent security interest is in minimizing its own domestic terrorism problem, which means supporting a strong Syrian government that can crack down on extremists and discouraging Saudi and other financial support, whether official or otherwise, for al-Qaeda-connected opposition groups in Syria and extremists in the former Soviet Union. Russia has long viewed Saudi Arabia and Qatar as key sources of support for Chechen militia groups and two Russian operatives were convicted in Qatar in 2004 for assassinating former Chechen leader Zelimkhan Yandarbiev to cut short his fund-raising activity there.
  • The Kremlin’s position as a veto-wielding permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, and its resulting place at the table in the P5+1 process, have been an enduring source of international visibility and influence only recently surpassed by Russia’s Syria role. Moscow also appreciates Iran’s restraint in the former Soviet region and, as a result, sees it as a valuable partner in managing Saudi Arabia. Fundamentally, however, some Russian officials have a conflicted attitude toward Iran, in that they welcome diplomacy as an alternative to US-led war or regime change, but are not especially eager for a US-Iran rapprochement that could undermine Tehran’s interest in their relationship.
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