US Imposes Sanctions on Iran

Senate passes bill to impose new sanctions on Iran

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader, delivering a speech during a meeting in Tehran, Sept. 9, 2015. (Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader/AP Images)

(JTA) — The U.S. Senate overwhelmingly passed a bill that would impose new sanctions on Iran.

The measure adding sanctions on Iran due to its ballistic missile program, support for terrorism and human rights breaches passed Thursday in a 98-2 vote. It complies with the Iran nuclear agreement reached in 2015, which put restrictions on the country’s nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief.

Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., introduced the bill, which now must pass in the House of Representatives and be signed by President Donald Trump before being enacted. Only Sens. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Rand Paul, R-Ky., voted against it.

A day earlier, the Senate voted to adopt an amendment to the bill that would expand sanctions against Russia, CBS News reported.

The American Jewish Committee praised the bill’s passage.

“In the aftermath of the Iran nuclear deal, AJC has continued to raise concerns about Iran’s threatening behavior with our own and other governments,” Jason Isaacson, the group’s associate executive director for policy, said in a statement.

“Iran’s ballistic missile program, the regime’s support for international terrorism, and its blatant and egregious human rights violations should not be ignored. This bill demonstrates to the Iranian regime that they will not be tolerated.”

Christians United for Israel also lauded the measure, calling it a “good first step.”

“While the Iran nuclear agreement was sold to the American people with the promise that Tehran would moderate its behavior, the Islamic Republic continues to work to consolidate power and export bloodshed,” CUFI said in a statement. “Iran’s support for terror, ballistic missile program and human rights record demand U.S. action.”

Iranian Ignorance On Trump

showimageTrump win makes ‘no difference’ to Iran, says Khamenei

“We have no judgement on this election because America is the same America,” he told thousands of people during a public speech in Tehran, broadcast on state television.

“In the past 37 years, neither of the two parties who were in charge did us any good and their evil has always been directed toward us.”

It was his first reaction to the election of Trump, who during his campaign labelled last year’s nuclear deal between Iran and world powers a “disaster” and threatened to tear it up.

“We have no concerns. Thank God, we are prepared to confront any possible incident.”

Khamenei pointed to several bitter encounters with different US administrations, including the 1988 shooting down of an Iran Air passenger jet by the USS Vincennes that killed 290 people.

Tehran and Washington have not had formal diplomatic ties since 1980, when Islamist students stormed the US embassy and held staff hostage for 444 days.

Opposition to the US has remained a central plank of Iran’s foreign policy, despite last year’s nuclear deal.

Obama Prays Trump Keeps The Iran Deal (Ezekiel 17)

President Barack Obama takes questions from the media at his first press conference since Donald Trump won the 2016 presidential election. He talked about the need for a smooth transition and expressed hoped that Trump would keep some of his signature issues. (Photo: Kevin Dietsch/UPI/Newscom)

President Barack Obama predicted Monday that his successor might keep some of his major legacy items such as the Iran nuclear deal, the Paris climate agreement, and potentially even Obamacare, stating that President-elect Donald Trump isn’t ideological.

Trump will find that “reality will assert itself,” Obama said during his first post-election press conference.

“On a lot of issues, what you’re going to see is that now comes governing, now is the hard part,” Obama said.

The president had mostly cordial words for Trump, a Republican, whom he had a war of words with during the presidential campaign as he stumped for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

“I don’t think he is ideological and ultimately he is pragmatic,” @POTUS says.

Obama doesn’t believe Trump, a longtime New York businessman, will enter office with a particularly ideological agenda.

“He is coming to this office with fewer set hard and fast policy prescriptions than a lot of other presidents,” Obama said. “I don’t think he is ideological and ultimately he is pragmatic. That can serve him well as long as he’s got good people around him and he’s got a good sense of direction.”

Obama asserted this a day after a Trump interview on CBS’s “60 Minutes” aired, where the incoming president said he wanted to maintain some provisions of the Affordable Care Act, such as requiring coverage for pre-existing conditions and allowing people to remain on their parents’ health insurance up to age 26.

“This has been the holy grail for Republicans for the last six or seven years, we’ve got to kill Obamacare,” Obama said, later adding, “It’s one thing to characterize this as not working when it’s just an abstraction. Suddenly you’re in charge and you’re going to repeal it, well, what happens to those 20 million people that have health insurance?”

Obama also urged Trump not to reverse his 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, an executive action that shields the children of illegal immigrants from deportation.

The controversial Iran nuclear deal and the Paris climate agreement are matters Obama anticipates Trump might keep.

“Do I think the new administration will make some changes? Absolutely,” Obama said. “But these international agreements, the tradition has been that you carry them forward across administrations, particularly if after you examine them, you find out they are doing good for us.”

Obama defended the Iran deal as holding Iran accountable. He said:

The main argument against it was that Iran wouldn’t abide by the deal, that they would cheat. We now have over a year of evidence that they have abided by the agreement. That’s not just my opinion. That’s not just people in the administration. That’s the opinion of Israeli military intelligence officers who were part of a government that vehemently opposed the deal. So my suspicion is that when the president-elect comes in and meets with his Republican colleagues on the Hill, that they will look at the facts, because to unravel a deal that is working and preventing Iran from pursuing a nuclear weapon would be hard to explain.

Obama noted both the Iran nuclear agreement and the Paris climate agreement were multilateral deals, which will make it more difficult for the United States to withdraw unilaterally.

“Now, you’ve got 200 countries that have signed up for this thing,” Obama said. “The good news is, what we’ve been able to show over the last five, six, eight years is that it’s possible to grow the economy and possible to bring down carbon emissions as well.”

The Antichrist and Shiism (Revelation 13:18)

Iraq and the dead-end road to political resolution

Over the past two years the core foundation of the Iraqi Shiite camp was shaken more than once following the impact of events and alterations occurring in the political scene and balance of power among political players, diminishing the role of some and opening the door to newcomers to the scene. At the time, the results that granted the former Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki the parliamentary majority and the constitutional right to form the government were considered a victory for the new Shiite political forces in face of the traditional religious authorities.

However, the anti-coalition formed by the remaining political and religious parties and who pushed toward depriving al-Maliki from a third term, partly succeeded in its goals by excluding al-Maliki from the prime minister position, and thus re-shuffled the cards inside the Shiite camp, and sparked a crisis whose chapters continued to follow. Also, the representation of Shiite political forces inside the Iraqi parliament following that election established a situation of malfunction and imbalance in the political system, at least inside the Shiite camp, caused by the difference between the real weights of the political forces in the street and their representative quotas in the parliament. And perhaps, this introduction can play the role of a starting point to keep track of the political movement that stands behind the recent protests, in particular Moqtada al-Sadr and his followers.

The Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr declared himself after the election results the spearhead of the attack on al-Maliki, in a turn against the ambiguous alliance between them, whose signs started to show before the election. al-Sadr entering the line and fiercely taking the lead of the battle to exclude al-Maliki necessitated a quick Iranian intervention to contain the repercussions of the crisis and to prevent any further rifts inside the Shiite campaign, thus sacrificing the constitutional right that grants its first Iraqi ally Nouri al-Maliki the right to form a government, and declaring its support for the fragile coalition leading to the nomination of Haider al-Abadi, the nominee of the Islamic Da’wa party for the prime minister position. However the anti-Maliki Shiite coalition led by al-Sadr, considered that the priority was to dismantle the Pro-Maliki system from the Iraqi official bodies since it embodies the corruption and mismanagement in the state, a system which al-Maliki set and developed since he first became the Iraqi prime minister in 2006, by allocating position of power and privileges in different sections of the state apparatus for his allies and those close to him. Moreover, the significant decline in oil prices, that represents almost the only source of income in the country, the resulting aggravation of the economic problems, a budget deficit reaching 25%, and the fall of Mosul in the hand of the Islamic state in a shocking scene fanned the flame of the official and popular anger toward all what was happening, increased the tension among the different parties, and contributed to the charged atmosphere which led to the recent protests earlier this year. Before the February 2016 protests, the Prime-Minister-designate Haider al-Abadi adopted a neutral stance toward the polarized state between al-Maliki and his allies on one hand, and the opponents camp led by al-Sadr on the other. However, under the pretext of responding to the protests in the streets, his position became closer to that of al-Sadr camp, the thing that helped reaching consensus over the formation of a government of technocrats from the competent elite in charge of pulling the country out of the crisis.

Although this government received the support and the endorsement of several religious and political parties, most notably the Shiite Islamic Marja’ Ali al-Sistani, al-Maliki, and Moqtada al-Sadr, the Sadrist movement leader, who ended the two-weeks-strike carried by his supporters front of the gates of the Green Zone, however it has angered other parties of the front that backed al-Abadi for the Prime Minister position, especially the Islamic Supreme Council headed by Ammar al-Hakim, who own a large parliamentary bloc in the current Iraqi parliament.

The rift within the Shiite camp deepened after al-Abadi failed to pass the technocrat government, both in its first form or after the subsequent modifications which made it a multiparty technocrat government as an answer to al-Hakim demands. The religious authority in Najaf, in what many observers interpreted as a reflection of its frustration and a retreat from endorsing al-Abadi, announced that it will no longer give its weekly political statement regarding current affairs. Also, al-Abadi’s hesitation and his failed attempt to satisfy all parties has backfired.

As for al-Sadr, and in attempt to dominate the Shiite popular street and proclaiming himself its ultimate leader, he appeased the demands of the recent protest movement to the point of hyperbole populism and extremism which does not leave any space for political action, and it is impossible for al-Abadi to adopt or keep up with.

Moreover al-Sadr was able to attract a good portion of secular and nationalist Iraqis, now that his differences with Iran has surfaced, coupled with his history in resisting the American occupation, especially since he worked hard in the last two years on presenting himself as an Iraqi nationalist leader who went past the sectarian limits, In spite of all the show-off enormity in his quest to lead the protest movement. Besides, the course of events shows a possible imminent convergence between al-Maliki and al-Hakim, which could lead to an agreement pushing toward removing al-Abadi and replacing him with another candidates whose political problem is limited to the preparation for the 2018 elections, and so al-Abadi and his Allies’ struggling attempt, which many parties felt threaten by in the past two years, will be buried once and for all.

In addition to all this, the preparations for the liberation of Fallujah, which aimed to dismantle the most important stronghold of Sunni Jihadist in Iraq, has turned into a symbol for Shiite and national alignment, giving the new Shiite militias entering the Iraqi scene to reap more popularity and legitimacy for its political and military role, which means new Iranian power in the Iraqi scene due to this groups direct subordination to Iran, whether by strengthening the presence of these militias in the scene, or by Iranian pro-forces taking over various states agencies, especially since the Popular Mobilization Forces, which was formed from Shiite militant factions has been adopted as a reserve Military force under the government’s command.

The political Shiite class, in the first years that followed the US invasion of Iraq, took advantage of the international support it has gained, in addition to the financial receipts that flowed from Oil sales, and was able to provide through the new political system, mechanisms to contain and absorb wide Shiite social sectors, however, under the weight of international changes, new players storming the Iraqi scene, the escalating financial crisis, and the popular fidgetiness caused by the performance of this class. These mechanisms became weakened and unable to perform its previous role. Now, the new Iraqi generations which were not around in the years when the profits were distributed have stormed the squares, the streets and even the “Green Zone” in an effort to secure their own destinies in a country is begging for its own fate to be secured.

The Antichrist Appeals to the Iraqi Masses

Iraq rejects proposal to register Shia militia as party

Country’s official electoral commission rejects calls to allow Hashd al-Shaabi to register as party in advance of polls

By Ali Jawad

BAGHDAD

Iraq’s official electoral commission on Sunday rejected proposals to allow the Hashd al-Shaabi, an umbrella group of pro-government Shia militias, to register itself as a political party in advance of elections slated for next year.

The decision came one day after prominent Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr declared that the country’s next government would be a “government of militias” if the Hashd al-Shaabi were allowed to field candidates in provincial council and parliamentary polls slated for 2017 and 2018 respectively.

In a Sunday statement, the commission said it had based its decision on the fact that the Hashd al-Shaabi constituted a “military organization with links to the [Iraqi] security agencies”.

Iraq’s Political Parties Law, it went on to explain, which was ratified by parliament last year, prohibited the registration of “military or paramilitary organizations” as political parties.

On July 20, the electoral commission began the registration process for political parties that planned to participate in the upcoming elections.

According to Hashd al-Shaabi spokesman Karim al-Nouri, the militia group’s primary responsibility at present was to pursue the fight against the Daesh terrorist organization, which continues to hold large swathes of territory in war-torn Iraq.

“Our presence in the battlefield today is to confront Daesh,” al-Nouri told Anadolu Agency on Sunday.

“We didn’t want to arm ourselves, but the country’s dire security situation forced us to go from a civilian organization to a military one,” he said.

He added: “Several Hashd al-Shaabi leaders, including Hadi al-Amiri [a former Iraqi transport minister and current commander of the Hashd-affiliated Al-Badr Organization] is basically a politician, not a military figure.”

“Our main concern now is pursuing the fight against Daesh,” al-Nouri asserted.

Iraq has suffered a devastating security vacuum since mid-2014, when Daesh captured the northern city of Mosul along with vast swathes of territory in the country’s northern and western regions.

In recent months, the Iraqi army — backed by U.S.-led airstrikes and its allies on the ground, including the Hashd al-Shaabi — has since managed to retake much of the territory lost earlier to Daesh.

Nevertheless, the terrorist group remains in firm control of several parts of the country, including Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city.

Anadolu Agency website contains only a portion of the news stories offered to subscribers in the AA News Broadcasting System (HAS), and in summarized form. Please contact us for subscription options.

Antichrist Ousts Defense Minister

Iraqi parliament dismisses defense minister

PressTV 

The Iraqi parliament has dismissed Defense Minister Khalid al-Obeidi, who was recently embroiled in a corruption case.
Two unnamed lawmakers told AFP that the Iraqi parliamentarians voted on Thursday to withdraw their confidence from Obeidi by 142 votes to 102 in a secret ballot, while 18 abstained in the 328-seat legislature.

The no-confidence vote came weeks after a bitter feud that erupted between Obeidi and parliament speaker Salim al-Juburi over graft allegations.

On August 1, Obeidi went to the legislature to answer allegations of wasting billions of dollars in public funds and weakening the country’s armed forces in their fight against the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group.

During the questioning, however, he accused Juburi and several lawmakers of corruption.

Obeidi insisted that he was being challenged in retribution for his rejection of corruption, accusing the parliamentarians of seeking to blackmail him in order to pass corrupt deals, including a $1-billion catering contract, a $2.8-billion accord for armored vehicles, and a $421-million pact for US military Humvee vehicles.

On August 9, the Iraqi judiciary closed a corruption case against Juburi, citing a lack of evidence to proceed further.

The developments come as Iraqi Prime Minster Haider al-Abadi has faced calls to reform the country’s political structure in a bid to tackle corruption.

Earlier this year, the parliament was deadlocked for weeks over the premier’s efforts to reshuffle the cabinet.

Iraqi citizens also held sit-ins, called by firebrand cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, inside Baghdad’s highly fortified Green Zone aimed at keeping up pressure on the government to change ministers.

This is while the Iraqi army troops and allied volunteer forces are conducting large-scale military operations against the Daesh militants, who have been controlling swathes of land in the northern and western parts of the country since 2014.

The Iraqi army is gearing up for a major offensive in late September to purge Daesh from Mosul, the country’s second city. Iraqi forces have managed to wrest control of several areas in the southern parts of the city, among them the town of Qayyarah.

The Antichrist and His Sectarian Army (Rev 13:18)

Sunni fear grows as PMU participation in Mosul battle confirmed

Al Monitor 

BAGHDAD — The crisis over the participation of the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) in the battle for the liberation of Mosul, which will begin soon, has resurfaced. But this time the National Security Council officially agreed July 31 on the PMU participation in this battle. Iran and the United States also support the Iraqi government’s decision to include the PMU in the Mosul battle. US Ambassador to Iraq Stuart E. Jones said Aug. 22 that the participation of the PMU in the Mosul battle is solely an Iraqi decision. Iran’s secretary of the Supreme National Security Council, Ali Shamkhani, also supported the participation of the PMU in his meeting with the Iraqi parliament speaker, Salim al-Jabouri, on Aug. 21.

Sunni politicians objected to this approval because they do not want the units to take part. On Aug. 8, the press office of the head of the Mutahidoun bloc, Osama al-Nujaifi, issued a press statement talking about a meeting in Nujaifi’s office between the Sunni coalition and Jones on the same day and discussing several issues, mainly the Sunni stance regarding the PMU participation in the Mosul liberation battle.

The convening leaders of the Sunni blocs asserted that they disapprove of the PMU participation in the battle, claiming that the citizens of Mosul refuse this participation due to the violations committed by factions from the PMU during the liberation of other regions, such as Salahuddin and Fallujah.

The leaders believe that “this participation will send out bad messages to the citizens of Ninevah province and might be considered propaganda for the Islamic State [IS].” Nujaifi repeated his objection to the PMU participation in the Mosul battle in his meeting Aug. 21 with the Kuwait ambassador to Iraq.

Despite the objections to the PMU participation and the accusations against them, the leaders of these forces still insist on participating and could care less about the objectors.

In a quick response to the stance of the Mutahidoun bloc in this regard, member of the PMU Opinion Committee Karim al-Nuri described the meeting between the Sunni politicians and Jones as “shameful,” and said, “The PMU are essential forces that will certainly participate in the Mosul battle.”

In a press statement published Aug. 8 on the official website of the PMU, Nuri said, “The commander in chief of the armed forces, Haider al-Abadi, has decided on the PMU participation in the Mosul liberation battle as it is a military formation affiliated with the Iraqi security institution, and no foreign parties should intervene in the country’s internal affairs. The United States and any other parties cannot forbid the PMU from participating in the battle.”

Human Rights Watch (HRW) had called on the Iraqi army commanders July 31 to forbid militias, i.e., the PMU, that have a dangerous record of violations from participating in military battles in Mosul. HRW wrote, “In order for the government to abide by all possible measures to protect civilians and ensure the respect of the rules of war, it must stop these militias from participating in the Mosul battle.”

In this framework, Joe Stork, the deputy head of the Middle East Department at HRW, said in the same report, “Militias which constitute part of the PMU have committed heinous violations several times on a large scale sometimes, most recently in Fallujah. There were no consequences to their actions despite the government’s promises to launch an investigation. Iraqi leaders must spare civilians in Mosul the huge danger of militias that have a record of violations.”

The PMU participation in the Mosul liberation battle is not the only thing angering Sunnis, who were even more distressed to find out that leader of the Iranian Quds Force Qasem Soleimani might also participate in the battle. Mosul citizens are increasingly concerned about possible violations against them.

PMU spokesman Ahmad al-Asadi said in a statement July 30 that he hopes Soleimani would be present in the Mosul liberation battle because he has largely contributed to the battles against IS. He added that the PMU is so eager to have Soleimani participate that their desire might outweigh the will of the Iraqi government and the citizens of Mosul in regard to the presence of an Iranian official in the battles.

Apparently, Sadrist movement leader Muqtada al-Sadr also refused the participation of the PMU and said Aug. 8, in response to a question by one of his followers, “The Mosul liberation battle must be fully in the hands of the Iraqi security forces. We will not accept for the occupiers [United States] or any other party [PMU] to interfere.”

Sunni politicians and civilians in regions under IS control will not rest as long as there are forces that they think are out there to get them rather than free them, and as long as some armed factions are taking action without the knowledge of the Iraqi government. The latter will not be able to control all activities or forbid all human rights violations.

In case the PMU do participate in the Mosul liberation battle, it is very likely to result in human rights violations and clashes between the Shiite units and the Sunni National Forces that are led by Ninevah province’s former governor, Atheel al-Nujaifi. These factors are enough to obstruct the course of the battle.

The Sectarian Antichrist (Revelation 13:18)

Mahdi and MoqtadaNo freedom if sectarianism alive

The Jordanian Times 

Iraqis in Jordan are worried about the fall of Mosul, within the next few weeks, as announced by Baghdad.

The majority of Iraqis here are Shiites; they heard about the atrocities committed by Shiite militias against Sunni families in Fallujah and Tikrit following the liberation of villages from Daesh.

Living in a Sunni ambience in Jordan, Iraqi Shiites issued statements on May 23, 2016, against the rape and pillaging of Fallujah Sunni women by one Shiite militia called Saraya Ansar Al Aqeeda (Supporters of the Creed), led by Jalal All Din Al Saghir, who is member of Hashd Shaabi, or Popular Mobilisation Units, allowed by the Iraqi prime minister to be led by Qassem Suleimani, the notorious Iranian general who commands the Quds Brigades within the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps.

The Mosul liberation battle will create nearly 1 million refugees, as well as new cases of rape and pillage by the Hashd Shaabi, which does not abide by the discipline of regular army officers.

The ghost of the atrocities in Fallujah against Sunnis haunts these days the Iraqis in Amman who will feel the stigma of shame talking to their Sunni hosts.

Following the fall of Mosul to Daesh in June 2014, and the sudden surrender of four Iraqi army divisions, the supreme spiritual leader of Iraqi Shiites in Najaf, Ayatollah Ali Al Sistani, endorsed the formation of militias to guard holy places and protect Karbala shrines.

They total roughly 60,000 fighters distributed among Hizbollah-Iraq, Liwa Al Muntazar, Saraya Ashuraa and Saraya Ansar Al Aqeeda, which is the most vicious of all militias.

Its leader disobeyed Ayatollah Sistani and sent some of his fighters to the civil war in Syria to support Lebanon’s Hizbollah there.

As a mosque preacher, Saghir managed to issue many religious edicts (fatwa) to his followers to challenge the traditional hierarchy of clerics like Muqtada Al Sadr or Ammar Al Hikim of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq.

A defeat of Daesh in Mosul will be welcome news for many Jordanians and Iraqis. This stigma had marred our religion for centuries to come.

But rabid sectarianism will dominate Iraq and adjacent regions if a repeat of what was committed in Fallujah against Sunnis last year at the hands of the Popular Mobilisation Units militias is allowed to happen now by the revenge-hungry Ansar Al Aqeeda, who want to have a second foray of pillage, plunder and torture of Sunnis.

The Saudi Arabian Nuclear Horn (Daniel 7)

But for Nuclear Option Saudi Arms Purchases Increasing

Analysis by Emad Mekay

CAIRO (IDN) – Though nuclear blustering has remained hollow, Saudi Arabia has again increased its weapons imports and stood as the main catalyst for a climb of 10 percent (or $6.6 billion) in global weapons sales in 2015, according to a recent defence report. The rise is the latest sign betraying the level of anxiety in the conservative kingdom over what Saudi officials say is a threat from Iran.

The Saudis have recently been particularly rattled by the advances of Iranian foreign policy in the Middle East. Especially worrisome were the successes of Iranian-backed militias in Iraq and Syria.

That coupled with the sentiment that the Saudis are being let down by the United States, their traditional protectors, explain a spate of moves the Saudis are making to protect their backyard in some Arab countries.

Many experts in the Middle East say the measures include Riyadh preparing for the worst case scenario of a war with the more powerful Iran through such massive arms purchases.

According to the annual Global Defence Trade Report by IHS Inc., based in Englewood, Colorado in the U.S., Saudi Arabia and UAE bought $11.4 billion (17.5% of the global total) worth of war systems in 2015, up from $8.6 billion the year before.

The combined value of Saudi Arabia and the UAE’s defence imports is more than all of Western Europe’s defence imports combined,” said Ben Moores, senior analyst at IHS.

Saudi Arabia’s arms imports grew from $6 billion to $9.3 billion; an increase that is three times that of the entire sub-Saharan Africa market, according to the report. Riyadh’s arms purchases are forecast to rise to $10 billion by the end of 2016.

Global arms markets overall rose $6.6 billion, bringing the value of the global defence market in 2015 to $65 billion. Of those, the Middle East, now the scene for several wars and military operations where Saudi Arabia plays a crucial role, was the largest importing region, with a total of $21.6 billion in deliveries of weapons.

“The global defence trade market has never seen an increase as large as the one we saw between 2014 and 2015,” said Moores. “2015 was a record-breaking year.”

Among the top five importing countries in 2014, Taiwan, China and Indonesia left their positions for Australia, Egypt and South Korea in 2015. Egypt, another Middle Eastern nation, came in as the world’s fourth largest weapons importer mostly due to the largesse of its deep-pocketed backers – Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

Stemming Iranian influence

Riyadh is giving Egypt’s military rulers unprecedented aid. Sunni Egypt is seen by the Saudi leadership as another layer, albeit untested, of protection of the Gulf Arabs against the possible re-emergence of a Shiite Persian empire in Iran.

Riyadh has recently taken a proactive foreign policy elsewhere in the region as well and has not hesitated to engage in military action or fund armed operations.

To stem Iranian influence, Saudi Arabia is widely believed to be channelling weapons to Syrian Sunni rebels who are fighting Shiite government in Syria, a close ally of Tehran. Riyadh is engaged in the proxy war to dislodge Syria’s Bashar al-Assad, who belongs to the small Alawite Shiite minority subsect.

Saudi Arabia was quick to use military power to bolster a Sunni ruling Al-Khalifa family in Bahrain against a popular uprising that was part of the initial phase of the Arab Spring.

While Bahrain has largely quieted, the oil-rich kingdom is still active in a costly air war in Yemen against Iran-backed Shiite Houthi forces. The Saudi military adventure has only produced mixed results and failed to roll back Houthis who could control the southern Red Sea entry point. Iranian influence is increasing among Houthis leading to further strain on Saudi military and further enflaming Saudi apprehension.

Saudi nervousness continued to be in full display in the second half of July as it was seen seeking anti-Iran allies, even in previously unbelievable relations.

News broke July 22 that a Saudi delegation, headed by a former army general, made an unprecedented visit to Israel. This was a major development for risk-averse Saudis. While no Saudi official was included, it is widely believed that the visit would never have happened without official approval.

The message Riyadh was sending is that it is willing to change how it holds contacts with Israel, which is technically at war with Arab nations for its occupation of Arab and Palestinian land. Riyadh had previously used multilateral forms as a vehicle for contacts with the Jewish State.

Israel and Saudi Arabia are the two countries who favour a U.S. military action against Iran’s nuclear facilities and both fear Iran building nuclear weapons.

Nuclear weapons a security option?

As early as the beginning of 2016, Riyadh was still floating ideas it may seek nuclear weapons if it is left alone to face Iranian military might as one of its many security options.

A further sign of Saudi regional activism is that Riyadh and the UAE are pushing other countries in the Gulf Cooperation Council – Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain and Oman – to take a more unified security position against Iran.

Saudi Arabia is also working to diversify security relationships as hedges against perceived U.S. decline and weakening commitment. The country is moving towards France, for example, as a major weapons supplier.

The country whose leaders have long bragged about a strategic alliance with Washington has been more vocal in terms of foreign policy and often now speaks against the U.S. when they do not agree on the Iran policy as they did in the past.

This new-found activism accelerated under the leadership of Saudi King Salman, who came to office in 2015. The proactive measures taken by his ambitious son and heir-apparent, 30-year old Prince Mohammed bin Salman, mean that these are unlikely to ebb any time soon.

The changes were not lost on Santa Monica-based Rand Corporation. The influential U.S. organization however said in a recent report that the Saudi moves were not designed for a real and fundamental shift in policy away from its strategic alliance with the U.S. but were more to press Washington to play a greater role in the security of the Gulf Arab countries versus Iran.

Saudi doubt of U.S. commitment turned acute after U.S.–Iranian cooperation following the nuclear agreement. Saudi Arabia feels threatened by the increasing restlessness among Shiite populations throughout the Gulf and see that a sanctions-free Iran will have enough cash and resources to comfortably stir those minorities as it did in neighbouring Iraq.

Riyadh now routinely points to Tehran for inciting sectarian tension. Saudi TV stations host pundits non-stop who say that Iran wants to see a repeat of Shiite ethnic cleansing against Sunnis in Iraq. Riyadh has bankrolled several media outlets that criticize Shiites and Tehran on similar grounds.

Yet, the most concrete sign of worry remains the billions of dollars the country invests in weapons systems. [IDN-InDepthNews – 02 August 2016]

Iran Nukes Courtesy Of Obama

 Saudi Journalist: ‘Mullah Obama’ Is Paving Way For Iran To Go Nuclear

by DEBORAH DANAN
25 Jun 2016

Iranian Zarif and Obama Prayerful AP Photos

TEL AVIV – Saudi Arabia’s official daily Okaz published an article titled “Ayatollah Obama – A Tehran Love Story,” slamming President Barack Obama for going against traditional U.S. foreign policy by supporting Iran and abandoning the Middle East.

In the article, translated by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), columnist Muhammad Al-Sa’id argues that the Islamic Republic is exploiting “romantic” Obama’s naïve affinity for revolutionary countries to realize its own nuclear aspirations.

Al-Sa’id writes, “The U.S. has always viewed Iran as a rogue country that violates international law and sponsors terrorism – [terrorism] that has targeted the U.S. in many places around the globe.”

However, Al-Sa’id asserts, Obama’s legal and academic background, coupled with the fact that he grew up as part of a minority community, have shaped his personality to run counter to the traditional profile of American presidents.

Obama believes in revolutionary countries and feels that they are closer to his heart and his conscience than the veteran, stable nations. He believes Iran is a model for a successful revolution that can be improved upon, worked with, and transformed into a democratic revolution, as he sees in his senseless dreams. This is a romantic view that Obama holds.”

According to Al-Sa’id, officials at the Iranian foreign ministry have piggybacked on Obama’s delusions by “painting themselves as victims and as having adopted values of democracy and [human] rights.”

All the world’s liberals, like Obama … support liberal ideology, yet they turn a blind eye to the hypocrites who use it as a means to seize power,” he writes.

The danger with Obama, Al-Sa’id says, is his belief that the National Security Council can help realize the fantasy of a democratic revolution in Iran, “even if it claims the lives of tens of millions of innocent people.”

Iran’s journey into the Obama administration’s good graces started with providing intelligence on Al-Qaeda and other affiliated terrorist organizations. Iran even “sacrificed the lives of commanders” who were no longer of use to the Islamic Republic in order to prove that it is combating terror.

Al-Sa’id expounds on the “rich and influential” Iranian diaspora, which he claims number in the tens of thousands in Washington alone, who have set aside their political differences in order to serve the Iranian cause.

“Naturally, Saudi Arabia was in the crosshairs of Iran, which saw the personality of ‘Mullah Obama’ as a safe haven to realize its interests. The ripeness of the Iranian lobby [in the U.S.] and its infiltration into American media, and especially into the State Department, enabled Iran to do this,” he writes.