Tag Archives: Saudi Arabia

When will they ever learn?


So, now we have a new Parliamentary Report from the UK which is sharply critical of the 2011 intervention in Libya. This follows on from the Chilcot report which was sharply critical of the 2003 intervention in Iraq.

I wonder if a few years down the track we will see a similar report sharply critical of the UK, French and US intervention in Syria?

The summary of the Libyan report reads in part:

“In March 2011, the United Kingdom and France, with the support of the United States, led the international community to support an intervention in Libya to protect civilians from attacks by forces loyal to Muammar Gaddafi. This policy was not informed by accurate intelligence. In particular, the Government failed to identify that the threat to civilians was overstated and that the rebels included a significant Islamist element. By the summer of 2011, the limited intervention to protect civilians had drifted into an opportunist policy of regime change. That policy was not underpinned by a strategy to support and shape post-Gaddafi Libya. The result was political and economic collapse, inter-militia and inter-tribal warfare, humanitarian and migrant crises, widespread human rights violations, the spread of Gaddafi regime weapons across the region and the growth of ISIL in North Africa. Through his decision making in the National Security Council, former Prime Minister David Cameron was ultimately responsible for the failure to develop a coherent Libya strategy.”

In Syria, we have seen the same interventionist approach. Hell bent on regime change, politicians in the UK, USA, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and NATO countries have blindly repeated the mantra “Assad must go.” They have exaggerated the suffering resulting from actions of the Syrian government (or more correctly, attributed all the suffering solely to the government). Recognise the clause above for Libya:

“This policy was not informed by accurate intelligence. In particular, the Government failed to identify that the threat to civilians was overstated and that the rebels included a significant Islamist element.”

By backing armed anti-government militia those advocates of “regime change” have ignored the inevitable anarchy and spread of terror that would result if their campaign is successful.

Again, recognise the clause above for Libya:

“That policy was not underpinned by a strategy to support and shape post-Gaddafi Libya. The result was political and economic collapse, inter-militia and inter-tribal warfare, humanitarian and migrant crises, widespread human rights violations, the spread of Gaddafi regime weapons across the region and the growth of ISIL in North Africa.”

When will these politicians learn these lessons from history?

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Barrel bombs, hell cannons, Aleppo and media bias

The result of terrorist shelling of Aleppo

I guess most readers have become familiar with barrel bombs – an indiscriminate weapon currently being used by government forces in the Syrian war. But how many have heard of “hell cannons?”

I hadn’t until recently and I think this shows the bias in our media coverage of the conflict. Hell cannons are an indiscriminate weapon used by rebel/jihadist forces, cause terror and  civilian damage and loss of life. Unfortunately, our media often seems to paint the picture that only government actions cause civilian losses.


“Rebels” load hell cannon with explosive filled gas bottle in Aleppo. (Getty)

This bias seems particularly bad in their current reporting of the civilian deaths in Aleppo. Here are some of the mythical stories our news media is promoting:

1: The government is not attacking a city held by “rebels” as many of our media stories imply. Rebels hold the smaller part of the city in the east and attacks by the government forces and its allies are aimed at removing them. There is also intensive fighting in areas around Aleppo – particularly in the north where Syrian and allied forces recently disrupted rebel supply lines with Turkey.

So, if anyone is attacking Aleppo it is the rebels/jihadists.

2: The claim that the government and its allies are attacking “moderate rebels” is biased propaganda. the anti-government militias are numerous and allegiances are complex. They often fight among themselves.  Some may well be “moderate” but they cooperate and are often integrated with Al-Nusra – the main terrorist/jihadist group in the area.

How does one define “moderate” in Syria, though? I guess one way is to characterize those rebel militia which accepted the recent cessation of hostilities and signed ceasefire agreements with the Syrian government, as outlined in the US/Russian initiative, as the real “moderates” ready to take part in a political solution. It would seem that the “rebel” militia fighting in Aleppo have not accepted the cessation of hostilities agreement.

3: I recently heard an Al Jazeera reporter imply that only the Russians and Syrian government classifies “rebel” groups like Al Nusra as “terrorists” implying this was unfair. Again biased propaganda. The UN specifically lists Al-Nusra, together with Daesh (ISIS) as a terrorist organisation. Those groups were specifically excluded from the cessation of hostilities agreement.

There is a media tendency to describe only Daesh as terrorist or to present the aim of the US-based coalition and the Russian Federation in Syria as fighting Daesh. US spokespersons seem to repeat that description. This is very misleading. The UN and the cessation of hostilities agreement make clear that Al-Nusra is also the enemy.

Al-Nusra is the Al-Qaeda group in Syria (ISIS/Daesh originally broke away from Al-Nusra). Its aims and programme are just as obnoxious as those of Daesh but Al-Nusra has been able to form links with other anti-government militia – often groups that have been backed, armed and financed by the US and its middle eastern allies (eg. Saudia Arabia and Qatar). Very often these militia are operating under the command and structures of Al-Nusra. The ability of Al-Nusra to form these arrangements probably means it will outlast Daesh – and may actually be the bigger danger.

The death of the “last pediatrician” in Aleppo?

A blatant example of bias has been the media claim that a pediatrician who died in the bombing or shelling of a hospital in the rebel-held eastern part of Aleppo meant Aleppo no longer had any pediatricians. Horrible Syrian government denying medical care for children!

But Dr Nabil Antaki, who works in Aleppo, responded to this propaganda with this:

“For three days now, these media outlets have been accusing the “Assad regime” of bombing an MSF hospital [Medecins sans Frontieres] to the east of Aleppo and of killing the last paediatrician in the city. This demonstrates that, for these media, the only priority is this pocket of the city where terrorists are embedded.

The three-quarters of Aleppo under Syrian Government control where numerous paediatricians are practicing is of no consequence for this media. We witnessed the same bias when Al Kindi, the biggest hospital in Aleppo, was targeted by terrorist mortars and then intentionally burnt down about 2 or 3 years ago. The media ignored this criminal act.”

He refers to this sort of propaganda as “lying by omission” saying:

“This media never mention the continuous bombardment and the carnage we have witnessed in western Aleppo where every single sector has been targeted. On a daily basis we see dozens of people murdered.

What makes these omissions even more despicable is that these areas represent 75% of Aleppo and there are 1.5 million people living in them. Compare this to the 300,000 living in the eastern zone which is occupied by terrorist groups.

This twisted narrative engenders the belief that these terrorist groups that are attacking us are actually the victims. Even more abhorrent, these media have distorted our “Save Aleppo” appeal, to make it look as if we are calling for Assad and the Syrian Army to cease hostilities!

This is FALSE. Added to which, they are not “Assad’s forces“, they are the national forces of the regular Syrian army that is defending the Syrian State.

The western and gulf media could at least have had the decency to mention the terrorist massacres of our people. For example, on Friday 30th April, when one of their mortars targeted a mosque at prayer time.”

Footnote: I find the New Zealand media pathetic in its coverage of events like the Syrian war and tend to search for other sources. I regularly watch Al Jazeera but now find their coverage of Syria extremely biased. Perhaps this is because the organisation is based in, and financed by Qatar, a sponsor (together with Saudi Arabia and Turkey) of anti-government forces in Syria.

Of late I notice that Al Jazeera has been smudging out the logos identifying sources in many of the videos they display. Can’t help thinking they wish to cover up they fact they are relying on the “rebel’ news media for their videos of action in Syria.

Pathetic if true.

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Nadine gives a necessary message to her fellow Muslims

TV host Nadine Al-Budair made this statement on the Saudi Rotana Khalijiyah TV on April 3. I hope she survives to say more.

We need more, much more, voices like this among Muslims.

Here are some extracts from a recent article of hers.

“Imagine a Western youth coming here and carrying out a suicide mission in one of our public squares in the name of the Cross. Imagine that two skyscrapers had collapsed in some Arab capital, and that an extremist Christian group, donning millennium-old garb, had emerged to take responsibility for the event, while stressing its determination to revive Christian teachings or some Christian rulings, according to its understanding, to live like in the time [of Jesus] and his disciples, and to implement certain edicts of Christian scholars…

“Imagine hearing the voices of monks and priests from churches and prayer houses in and out of the Arab world, screaming on loudspeakers and levelling accusations against Muslims, calling them infidels, and chanting: ‘God, eliminate the Muslims and defeat them all.’

“Imagine that we had provided an endless number of foreign groups with visas, ID cards, citizenships, proper jobs, free education, free modern healthcare, social security, and so on, and later a member of one of these groups came out, consumed by hatred and bloodlust, and killed our sons on our streets, in our buildings, in our newspaper [offices], in our mosques and in our schools.

“Imagine a Frenchmen or a German in Paris or Berlin leading his Muslim neighbor [somewhere] in order to slaughter him and then freeze his head in an ice box, in a cold and calculating manner… as one terrorist did with the head of an American in Riyadh years ago.

“Imagine that we visited their country as tourists and they shot at us, blew up car bombs near us, and announced their opposition to our presence [there] by chanting: ‘Remove the Muslims from the land of culture.’

“These images are far from the mind of the Arab or Muslim terrorist because he is certain, or used to be certain, that the West is humanitarian and that the Western citizen would refuse to respond [in this manner] to the barbaric crimes [of the Muslim terrorists]. Despite the terrorist acts of Al-Qaeda and ISIS, we [Muslims] have been on [Western] soil for years without any fear or worry. Millions of Muslim tourists, immigrants, students, and job seekers [travel to the West] with the doors open [to them], and the streets safe [for them].”

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Terrorism and the West’s obsession with oil

I think most people are pleased the authorities captured the suspects for the Boston Marathon bombing – and got one of them alive. There are a lot of issues raised by the Boston events over the last week, and I think this video about the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Centre is of at least tangential relevance.

Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick and the Imam.

We won’t know for some time what the motives of these bombers were, what international links they had and if they received help. But, in other cases involving acts of terrorism in the West by young men from immigrant families, one scenario appears common:

  1. Genuine problems for immigrant communities offer a breeding ground for discontent.
  2. This can cause radicalisation of some young men in the community.
  3. In some Muslim communities there are militant and fundamentalist Imams in the mosques whose teachings help inflame discontent and feed the radicalisation of the youth.
  4. Many, if not a large majority of Muslim Mosques in western countries, have relied on financial support from Saudi Arabia – particularly for their establishment. This is certainly true for New Zealand.
  5. Sometime support is also provided by importing Imams and teachers from Saudi Arabia – often members of fundamentalist sects themselves.
  6. I suspect that more moderate members of the Mosque may tolerate fundamentalist Imams because they respect older conservative members of the community who see value in criticism of western values, etc.

So we can have a quite inflammatory situation. Genuine discontent, radicalisation of youth and militant religious leaders feeding the radicalisation. In some, yes just a few, cases this can lead to terrorist activity. With the ironic aspect that finance to feed this problem comes from the western obsession with oil which has made Saudi Arabia very rich. It has also made the country immune to criticism for the export of militant Islam.

I realise some commenters might accuse me of “Islamophobia” for the above. But isn’t that part of the problem – the denial of criticism? After all, I am not criticising all Muslims, even all disaffected Muslims. I am not criticising the religion (not in this post anyway – but the ability to do so is part of living in a democratic, pluralist society). I am only criticising a situation which has an effect in only a small number of cases – but a dramatic effect.

Yes, I am also aware we have other disaffected communities in our society. We have fundamentalist, radical, priests and ministers in other religions.  That combination can also sometimes lead to terrorist activity, such as the bombing of clinics or murder of doctors. In the past non-religious groups have also promoted terrorism. Let’s not limit our concern just to Islamic terrorism.

But also, let’s not limit our ability to confront such problems by a naive form of multiculturalism which prevents any criticism and sweeps real problems under the carpet.

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Regarding women as animals

Credit: http://www.elle.fr/

This little shocker comes from the French magazine Elle   – Arabie Saoudite : les femmes pistées lorsqu’elles quittent le pays. Yes, the original is in French but here’s some extracts from the article translated by Google.

Saudi women are denied even a bit more freedom last week as the “Europe 1” radio reported that the Saudi authorities have implemented an electronic system that can alert families when these women leave the kingdom. Their “guardian” – in most cases their father, brother or uncle – are now notified by SMS when they go abroad.

This initiative reduces women to the status of slave was criticized on Twitter by Manal al-Sharif, an activist who fights for his country women can drive, they do not currently have the ability do. She was informed by a couple who went on a journey. The husband, who was with his wife received a text message from the immigration informing him that his wife was about to leave the international airport of Riyadh (capital of Saudi Arabia). ” backwardness “” Authorities use the technology to monitor women “, denounced the AFP novelist and columnist Badriya al-Bishr. He added: “This is the technology for a mentality backward. They want to keep prisoners. Government had better take care of those subject to domestic violence,” she concluded.

How does this system work? Are all women implanted with an electronic chip? Or does their passport information automatically initiate the warning?

Whatever the system it just shows how religious extremism (and often the not so extreme) ends up treating women like non-human animals.

Popes cunning straw mannery?

Thanks to DavidD's Blog

One would have thought Pope Bennie would be on his best behaviour during his visit to the UK. After all, it’s not exactly as if the people are keen on squandering such money on an unnecessary “state” visit. Nor is his standing very high at the moment with the role he played in covering up child abuse in his church.

But he is hardly off the plane than he makes extraordinary remarks suggesting that atheism was the key factor in Nazism. Well we all know how that tactic is used in internet discussion, don’t we. Godwin’s Law states: “As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches.” Mike Godwin formulated this in his sarcastic observation that, given enough time, all discussions—regardless of topic or scope—inevitably wind up being about Hitler and the Nazis.

But Bennie must be so desperate he actually started by invoking Goodwin’s law!

Of course he is well known for attempting to get a campaign going against the “evil secularism” he sees in Europe. He was helped in this by the Islamic leader King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia (see Interfaith dialogue to fight against human rights).

However, perhaps Paul Kirby has a point when she suggests this silly statement is an attempt at a tactical diversion (see Calling all Pope Protestors). After all, Bennie is no fool and he has presumable worked hard, together with the UK government, to limit the embarrassment this visit will cause. Paula says:

“My conclusion is that the Nazi remarks were a deliberate attempt to deflect the anticipated protests about the scandal of the child sex abuse cover-ups in the RCC.

We know from comments made before the visit that both the Vatican and the UK govt were deeply concerned that the visit might be overshadowed by the sex abuse issue; so what could be more natural than that they would have put their heads together to try to find a way to prevent that happening? And what better method could they possibly find than to launch an attack on the likely protestors – an attack of such grotesque obscenity that we would be immediately deflected into protesting about that rather than the real issue?

It is inconceivable to me that the UK government didn’t know exactly what was going to be in the pope’s speech at Holyroodhouse this morning. Not only that, but had that Nazi comparison been made about ANY other group in British society, government officials would have been falling over one another in their rush to distance themselves from it. The fact this hasn’t happened suggests very strongly to me that this was a put-up job, an indicator of their determination to prevent the visit turning into an embarrassment to the pope (and therefore the government), as well as of the depth of their fear that it might.”

Paula is appealing to demonstrators not to be distracted. She warns “If the protests during the rest of his tour focus on his comments about Nazis and valueless secularists, rather than the issue he fears most, then he will be chortling all the way back to the Vatican on Sunday.”

And that issue is child abuse.

Image credit Pope Godwin

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Universal Declaration of Human Rights

60yrsudhrlogoDecember 10 marks the 60th anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). This is an historic and foundational document. It is secular but receives extremely wide support from different political, religious and non-religious trends. It arose in part as a reaction to the horrors and violence of the Second World war –  particularly the Holocaust. But it has also been an inspiration for moral and social progress throughout the world – intermittent and unreliable as that has been.

AC Grayling is currently blogging in the Guardian on the UDHR – one article a day until December 10 (see AC Graylings articles on the UDHR). As always, his comments are worth reading.

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Secularism is good for religion

I mean “good” in two ways:

  • It helps reduce the tendency of religions to become cults with teachings and ideology more and more divorced from reality;
  • It helps reduce the tendency to define “outsiders” as dangerous, maybe even deserving of death for their “sins.”

Sam Fleischaker makes these points in an article Religion v. Secularism? Let’s Skip This Fight recently posted on the South Jerusalem blog. As a religious Jew, Sam is in favour of religious people of different “faiths” uniting on common issues. However, he deplores the current calls for unity emanating from the Madrid Interfaith Conference and Saudi King Abdullah. “Religious people should unite with one another, but will only continue to wreak havoc if they take secular people as their enemy. They will also harm themselves: the secular world is good for religion.”

[I question the very basis of “interfaith” activity as it is exclusive, limited to only religious people, and therefore has the danger of ignoring basic human rights. But clearly “interfaith” unity aimed at opposing or eliminating atheism (as in King Abdullah’s appeal) is downright dangerous. But that’s an aside].

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Interfaith dialogue and human rights

Abdullah opening Madrid Interfaith Conference

Abdullah opening Madrid Interfaith Conference

Well, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia got his – a Global Interfaith Dailogue. It helped that he financed the meeting. The meeting was held last week in Madrid, Spain.  After all such a dialogue would have been impossible in Saudi Arabia – which does make me wonder: If Abdullah is so interested in dialogue and understanding why isn’t he doing something about the situation in his own country? It’s not as if he has no influence there!

In his recent appeal for such dialogue Abdullah rather gave the game away (see Interfaith dialogue to fight against human rights). He revealed the purpose would be safeguarding humanity from “the disintegration of the family and the rise of atheism in the world – a frightening phenomenon that all religions must confront and vanquish.”

Some commentators were naturally sceptical about this meeting, although it was welcomed by at least one New Zealand blog.

So what has this rather stage-managed Madrid Conference achieved?

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