Is Malaysia in the Saudi-Yemen War?


FMT

‘Why are we entangled in Saudi-led war?’

Retired brigadier-general fears threat to Malaysia’s security.

KUALA LUMPUR: A retired brigadier-general has called for a review of the government’s decision to deploy Malaysian soldiers to Saudi Arabia, saying it could have repercussions on Malaysia’s security.

Speaking to FMT, Mohd Arshad Raji, who last served as the Royal Malaysian Army’s Chief of Staff for Field Headquarters, said he feared that Malaysia’s involvement in the Saudi-led military campaign against Yemen could provoke reactions from elements disagreeing with the campaign.

“When it comes to the involvement of our military overseas, we have to be cautious,” he said. “If it’s for humanitarian reasons and peacekeeping missions, then it’s fine. But I’m at a loss as to why we are sending people to that side of the world. I think we have enough problems in our own region.”

The campaign stretches back to March 2015 with the Saudis backing of Yemen President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi against Houthi rebels, who seized the Yemeni capital of Sanaa and other parts of the country.

The Saudi-led coalition includes Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates with some support from Egypt, Jordan, Morocco and Sudan. But a recent United Nations report said the United States was offering logistical support and intelligence activities and that officers from Britain, France and Malaysia were also working at the coalition’s headquarters in Riyadh.

Arshad said Malaysia should follow the example of Britain when it came to the deployment of troops.

He noted that any proposal to deploy British troops to other countries would be debated in parliament so that the public would be in the know.

“A soldier is someone’s son or father or brother,” he said. “The public has a right to know where we are sending our soldiers and why.”

Recently, in the wake of the UN report, Parti Amanah Negara told Putrajaya to come clean on whether Malaysia had joined the Saudi-led military campaign in Yemen.

The Defence Ministry is on record as having denied that Malaysian troops were involved, describing the allegations as baseless and slanderous.

The ministry said Malaysian soldiers had been sent to Saudi Arabia to prepare them for duties they might need to undertake, such as moving Malaysians out of Yemen if the need arose.

It added that the armed forces had been invited by Saudi Arabia to take part in its Northern Thunder military exercise, which was meant to foster unity among Muslim countries, not focus on military operations in Yemen.

 

http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/nation/2017/03/07/amanah-clarify-malaysias-involvement-in-yemen-war/

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Minister says global media, UN wrong on military’s role in Yemen

The official BN government stand is whatever the rest of the world reports are lies and whatever BN says is the absolute truth,… Read more

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Saudia Arabia to Sell All US Assets as Congress Overrides Obama Veto


ArmstrongEconomicsArmstrongEconomics

Congress voted to override Obama’s veto that families of those killed in the terror attacks on 9/11 would not be allowed to sue Saudi Arabia. This is the first time he has been overruled. This will open the courts in New York to some very interesting court battles, but Saudi Arabia will most likely sell off all US assets to prevent any US court from freezing their assets. If they take everything out of the USA, then they can ignore the courts and not defend at all exposing themselves to discovery rules that will be very intrusive.


White House Enraged At “Most Embarrassing Vote Ever” Senate Veto Override

ZeroHedge


President Obama is on track for his first veto override. Senators voted 97 to 1 to affirm a bill allowing 9/11 suits against Saudi Arabia.

A sweeping bipartisan majority in the Senate rejected President Obama’s veto of legislation that would allow families of those killed in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks to sue Saudi Arabia for any role in the plot, all but assuring that Mr. Obama would suffer the first override vote of his presidency.
The vote was 97 to 1, with only Senator Harry Reid, Democrat of Nevada, siding with the president.
Read more »

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Wahhabism – Extremist perversion of theology


NYTimes

Mohammad Javad Zarif: Let Us Rid the World of Wahhabism

wahhabi

Tehran — Public relations firms with no qualms about taking tainted petrodollars are experiencing a bonanza. Their latest project has been to persuade us that the Nusra Front, Al Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria, is no more. As a Nusra spokesman told CNN, the rebranded rebel group, supposedly separated from its parent terrorist organization, has become “moderate.”

Thus is fanaticism from the Dark Ages sold as a bright vision for the 21st century. The problem for the P.R. firms’ wealthy, often Saudi, clients, who have lavishly funded Nusra, is that the evidence of their ruinous policies can’t be photoshopped out of existence. If anyone had any doubt, the recent video images of other “moderates” beheading a 12-year-old boy were a horrifying reality check.

Since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, militant Wahhabism has undergone a series of face-lifts, but underneath, the ideology remains the same — whether it’s the Taliban, the various incarnations of Al Qaeda or the so-called Islamic State, which is neither Islamic nor a state. But the millions of people faced with the Nusra Front’s tyranny are not buying the fiction of this disaffiliation. Past experience of such attempts at whitewashing points to the real aim: to enable the covert flow of petrodollars to extremist groups in Syria to become overt, and even to lure Western governments into supporting these “moderates.” The fact that Nusra still dominates the rebel alliance in Aleppo flouts the public relations message.

محمدجواد ظریف: بیایید جهان را از وهابیت خلاص کنیم

سعودی ها میلیاردها دلار صرف صدور این انحراف افراطی ازدین کرده اند. این باید متوقف شود.

Saudi Arabia’s effort to persuade its Western patrons to back its shortsighted tactics is based on the false premise that plunging the Arab world into further chaos will somehow damage Iran. The fanciful notions that regional instability will help to “contain” Iran, and that supposed rivalries between Sunni and Shiite Muslims are fueling conflicts, are contradicted by the reality that the worst bloodshed in the region is caused by Wahhabists fighting fellow Arabs and murdering fellow Sunnis.

While these extremists, with the backing of their wealthy sponsors, have targeted Christians, Jews, Yazidis, Shiites and other “heretics,” it is their fellow Sunni Arabs who have been most beleaguered by this exported doctrine of hate. Indeed, it is not the supposed ancient sectarian conflict between Sunnis and Shiites but the contest between Wahhabism and mainstream Islam that will have the most profound consequences for the region and beyond.

While the 2003 American-led invasion of Iraq set in motion the fighting we see today, the key driver of violence has been this extremist ideology promoted by Saudi Arabia — even if it was invisible to Western eyes until the tragedy of 9/11.

The princes in Riyadh, the Saudi capital, have been desperate to revive the regional status quo of the days of Saddam Hussein’s rule in Iraq, when a surrogate repressive despot, eliciting wealth and material support from fellow Arabs and a gullible West, countered the so-called Iranian threat. There is only one problem: Mr. Hussein is long dead, and the clock cannot be turned back.

The sooner Saudi Arabia’s rulers come to terms with this, the better for all. The new realities in our region can accommodate even Riyadh, should the Saudis choose to change their ways.

What would change mean? Over the past three decades, Riyadh has spent tens of billions of dollars exporting Wahhabism through thousands of mosques and madrasas across the world. From Asia to Africa, from Europe to the Americas, this theological perversion has wrought havoc. As one former extremist in Kosovo told The Times, “The Saudis completely changed Islam here with their money.”

Though it has attracted only a minute proportion of Muslims, Wahhabism has been devastating in its impact. Virtually every terrorist group abusing the name of Islam — from Al Qaeda and its offshoots in Syria to Boko Haram in Nigeria — has been inspired by this death cult.

So far, the Saudis have succeeded in inducing their allies to go along with their folly, whether in Syria or Yemen, by playing the “Iran card.” That will surely change, as the realization grows that Riyadh’s persistent sponsorship of extremism repudiates its claim to be a force for stability.

The world cannot afford to sit by and witness Wahhabists targeting not only Christians, Jews and Shiites but also Sunnis. With a large section of the Middle East in turmoil, there is a grave danger that the few remaining pockets of stability will be undermined by this clash of Wahhabism and mainstream Sunni Islam.

There needs to be coordinated action at the United Nations to cut off the funding for ideologies of hate and extremism, and a willingness from the international community to investigate the channels that supply the cash and the arms. In 2013, Iran’s president, Hassan Rouhani, proposed an initiative called World Against Violent Extremism, or WAVE. The United Nations should build on that framework to foster greater dialogue between religions and sects to counter this dangerous medieval fanaticism.

The attacks in Nice, Paris and Brussels should convince the West that the toxic threat of Wahhabism cannot be ignored. After a year of almost weekly tragic news, the international community needs to do more than express outrage, sorrow and condolences; concrete action against extremism is needed.

Though much of the violence committed in the name of Islam can be traced to Wahhabism, I by no means suggest that Saudi Arabia cannot be part of the solution. Quite the reverse: We invite Saudi rulers to put aside the rhetoric of blame and fear, and join hands with the rest of the community of nations to eliminate the scourge of terrorism and violence that threatens us all.


Mohammad Javad Zarif is the foreign minister of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

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Saudi TV reports a suicide bombing near the Prophet’s Mosque in Medina, one of Islam’s holiest sites — Quartz


The chicken is coming home to roost

This is a developing story. We will update this post as new information becomes available. Saudi state television is reporting a suicide attack on a security center near the Prophet’s Mosque in Medina, considered the second-holiest site in Islam after the Grand Mosque in nearby Mecca. Both are destinations for millions of Muslim pilgrims each…

via Saudi TV reports a suicide bombing near the Prophet’s Mosque in Medina, one of Islam’s holiest sites — Quartz

How Saudi Arabia Turned Its Greatest Weapon on Itself


The New York Times

FOR the past half-century, the world economy has been held hostage by just one country: the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Vast petroleum reserves and untapped production allowed the kingdom to play an outsize role as swing producer, filling or draining the global system at will.

The 1973-74 oil embargo was the first demonstration that the House of Saud was willing to weaponize the oil markets. In October 1973, a coalition of Arab states led by Saudi Arabia abruptly halted oil shipments in retaliation for America’s support of Israel during the Yom Kippur War. The price of a barrel of oil quickly quadrupled; the resulting shock to the oil-dependent economies of the West led to a sharp rise in the cost of living, mass unemployment and growing social discontent.

“If I was the president,” Secretary of State Henry Kissinger fumed to his deputy Brent Scowcroft, “I would tell the Arabs to shove their oil.” But the president, Richard M. Nixon, was in no position to dictate to the Saudis.

In the West, we have largely forgotten the lessons of 1974, partly because our economies have changed and are less vulnerable, but mainly because we are not the Saudis’ principal target. Predictions that global oil production would eventually peak, ensuring prices stayed permanently high, never materialized. Today’s oil crises are determined less by the floating price of crude than by crude regional politics. The oil wars of the 21st century are underway.

In recent years, the Saudis have made clear that they regard the oil markets as a critical front line in the Sunni Muslim-majority kingdom’s battle against its Shiite-dominated rival, Iran. Their favored tactic of “flooding,” pumping surplus crude into a soft market, is tantamount to war by economic means: the oil trade’s equivalent of dropping the bomb on a rival.

In 2006, Nawaf Obaid, a Saudi security adviser, warned that Riyadh was prepared to force prices down to “strangle” Iran’s economy. Two years later, the Saudis did just that, with the aim of hampering Tehran’s ability to support Shiite militia groups in Iraq, Lebanon and elsewhere.

Then, in 2011, Prince Turki al-Faisal, the former chief of Saudi intelligence, told NATO officials that Riyadh was prepared to flood the market to stir unrest inside Iran. Three years later, the Saudis struck again, turning on the spigot.

But this time, they overplayed their hand.

When Saudi officials made their move in the fall of 2014, taking advantage of an already glutted market, they no doubt hoped that lower prices would undercut the American shale industry, which was challenging the kingdom’s market dominance. But their main purpose was to make life difficult for Tehran: “Iran will come under unprecedented economic and financial pressure as it tries to sustain an economy already battered by international sanctions,” argued Mr. Obaid.

Oil-producing countries, especially ones like Russia, with relatively undiversified economies, base their budgets on oil prices not falling below a certain threshold. If prices plunge below that level, fiscal meltdown looms. The Saudis expected a sharp reduction in oil prices not just to hurt the American fracking industry, but also to hammer the economies of Iran and Russia. That in turn would weaken their ability to support allies and proxies, particularly in Iraq and Syria.

The tactic had been brutally effective in the past. This was the grim scenario that confronted the shah in 1977 when the Saudis flooded the oil market to rein in Iran’s influence. The 1977 flood was not the sole cause of the Iranian revolution, but it certainly was a factor: The shah’s rule was destabilized just as Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini mounted his offensive to replace a pro-Western monarchy with a theocratic state. In that sense, the oil markets fueled the rise of political Islam.

The price of oil also helped end the Cold War. Then, like Russia today, the Communist superpower was a global energy producer heavily reliant on revenues from oil and gas. In 1985-86, the Saudis’ decision to flood the market — which some believe was encouraged by the Reagan administration — led to a collapse in prices that sent the Soviet economy into a tailspin.

“The timeline of the collapse of the Soviet Union can be traced to Sept. 13, 1985,” wrote the Russian economist Yegor Gaidar. “On this date Sheikh Ahmed Zaki Yamani, the minister of oil of Saudi Arabia, declared that the monarchy had decided to alter its oil policy radically.”

Today, in Russia, fully half of government revenue comes from oil and gas. Even if oil returns to $40 a barrel — it twice fell below $30 earlier this year — that depressed price still creates “a dangerous scenario,” according to Mikhail Dmitriev, a former Russian deputy economic minister. Inflation in Russia hit double digits last year; its sovereign wealth fund, which bails out struggling Russian companies, is depleted; and factory closings are fueling labor unrest.

Unhappily for President Vladimir V. Putin, Russia’s fiscal crisis has coincided with his military interventions in eastern Ukraine and Syria. If Russia’s economy worsens and Mr. Putin feels cornered, he may look for ways to distract the Russian people with more rally-round-the-flag provocations, as well as induce panic in the oil markets about supplies and gin prices back up.

Future shock has already arrived for oil producers like Venezuela, whose economy has been gutted by lost revenues from oil, which makes up 95 percent of its export earnings. With inflation predicted by the International Monetary Fund to reach 720 percent this year, Venezuela has become a financial zombie state — a harsh reminder of what can happen to countries that rely so heavily on a single unstable commodity price. President Nicolás Maduro is at the mercy of the markets that, every day, nudge his tottering regime nearer the abyss.

Another oil producer, Nigeria, is running out of money, hobbling President Muhammadu Buhari’s campaign against the Islamist Boko Haram insurgents in the northeast. The plunge in oil prices has also shaken Central Asia, where Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan have expressed interest in emergency bailouts from the I.M.F. and other lenders.

In the Middle East, reduced oil revenues have restricted Iraq’s ability to wage war against the Islamic State. Persian Gulf oil producers like Qatar and the United Arab Emirates estimate collective losses of $360 billion in export earnings in the past year. Such a big budgetary hole poses problems with maintaining order at home while fighting wars in Syria and Yemen, and propping up cash-strapped allies like Egypt.

And then there is Saudi Arabia itself.

All the evidence suggests that Saudi officials never expected oil prices to fall below $60 a barrel. But then they never expected to lose their sway as the swing producer within the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, or OPEC. Despite wishful statements from Saudi ministers, the kingdom’s efforts last month to make a deal with Russia, Venezuela and Qatar to restrict supply and push up prices collapsed.

The I.M.F. has warned that if government spending is not reined in, the Saudis will be bankrupt by 2020. Suddenly, the world’s reserve bank of black gold is looking to borrow billions of dollars from foreign lenders. King Salman’s response has been to promise austerity, higher taxes and subsidy cuts to a people who have grown used to state largess and handouts. That raises questions about the kingdom’s internal cohesion — even as the king decided to shoulder the burden of regional security in the Middle East, fighting wars on two fronts. Has there ever been an oil state as overleveraged at home and overextended abroad?

Meanwhile, by concluding the historic nuclear agreement, Iran is getting out from under the burden of economic sanctions. It will not be lost on Riyadh that this adds another oil producer to the world market that it can no longer control.

The instability and economic misery for smaller oil-producing states like Nigeria and Azerbaijan look set to continue. But that’s collateral damage. The real story is how the Saudis have been hurt by their own weapon.


 

Andrew Scott Cooper is the author of “The Oil Kings: How the United States, Iran and Saudi Arabia Changed the Balance of Power in the Middle East” and the forthcoming “The Fall of Heaven: The Pahlavis and the Final Days of Imperial Iran.”

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Start Preparing for the Collapse of the Saudi Kingdom


DefenceOne.Com

Saudi Arabia is no state at all. It’s an unstable business so corrupt to resemble a criminal organization and the U.S. should get ready for the day after.

For half a century, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has been the linchpin of U.S. Mideast policy. A guaranteed supply of oil has bought a guaranteed supply of security. Ignoring autocratic practices and the export of Wahhabi extremism, Washington stubbornly dubs its ally “moderate.” So tight is the trust that U.S. special operators dip into Saudi petrodollars as a counterterrorism slush fund without a second thought. In a sea of chaos, goes the refrain, the kingdom is one state that’s stable.

But is it?

In fact, Saudi Arabia is no state at all. There are two ways to describe it: as a political enterprise with a clever but ultimately unsustainable business model, or so corrupt as to resemble in its functioning a vertically and horizontally integrated criminal organization. Either way, it can’t last. It’s past time U.S. decision-makers began planning for the collapse of the Saudi kingdom.

In recent conversations with military and other government personnel, we were startled at how startled they seemed at this prospect. Here’s the analysis they should be working through.

Understood one way, the Saudi king is CEO of a family business that converts oil into payoffs that buy political loyalty. They take two forms: cash handouts or commercial concessions for the increasingly numerous scions of the royal clan, and a modicum of public goods and employment opportunities for commoners. The coercive “stick” is supplied by brutal internal security services lavishly equipped with American equipment.

The U.S. has long counted on the ruling family having bottomless coffers of cash with which to rent loyalty. Even accounting today’s low oil prices, and as Saudi officials step up arms purchases and military adventures in Yemen and elsewhere, Riyadh is hardly running out of funds.

Still, expanded oil production in the face of such low prices — until the Feb. 16 announcement of a Saudi-Russian freeze at very high January levels — may reflect an urgent need for revenue as well as other strategic imperatives. Talk of a Saudi Aramco IPO similarly suggests a need for hard currency.

A political market, moreover, functions according to demand as well as supply. What if the price of loyalty rises?

It appears that is just what’s happening. King Salman had to spend lavishly to secure the allegiance of the notables who were pledged to the late King Abdullah. Here’s what played out in two other countries when this kind of inflation hit. In South Sudan, an insatiable elite not only diverted the newly minted country’s oil money to private pockets but also kept up their outsized demands when the money ran out, sparking a descent into chaos. The Somali government enjoys generous donor support, but is priced out of a very competitive political market by a host of other buyers — with ideological, security or criminal agendas of their own.

Such comparisons may be offensive to Saudi leaders, but they are telling. If the loyalty price index keeps rising, the monarchy could face political insolvency.

Looked at another way, the Saudi ruling elite is operating something like a sophisticated criminal enterprise, when populations everywhere are making insistent demands for government accountability. With its political and business elites interwoven in a monopolistic network, quantities of unaccountable cash leaving the country for private investments and lavish purchases abroad, and state functions bent to serve these objectives, Saudi Arabia might be compared to such kleptocracies as Viktor Yanukovich’s Ukraine.

Increasingly, Saudi citizens are seeing themselves as just that: citizens, not subjects. In countries as diverse as Nigeria, Ukraine, Brazil, Moldova, and Malaysia, people are contesting criminalized government and impunity for public officials — sometimes violently. In more than half a dozen countries in 2015, populations took to the streets to protest corruption. In three of them, heads of state are either threatened or have had to resign. Elsewhere, the same grievances have contributed to the expansion of jihadi movements or criminal organizations posing as Robin Hoods. Russia and China’s external adventurism can at least partially be explained as an effort to re-channel their publics‘ dissatisfaction with the quality of governance.

For the moment, it is largely Saudi Arabia’s Shiite minority that is voicing political demands. But the highly educated Sunni majority, with unprecedented exposure to the outside world, is unlikely to stay satisfied forever with a few favors doled out by geriatric rulers impervious to their input. And then there are the “guest workers.” Saudi officials, like those in other Gulf states, seem to think they can exploit an infinite supply of indigents grateful to work at whatever conditions. But citizens are now heavily outnumbered in their own countries by laborers who may soon begin claiming rights.

For decades, Riyadh has eased pressure by exporting its dissenters — like Osama bin Laden — fomenting extremism across the Muslim world. But that strategy can backfire: bin Laden’s critique of Saudi corruption has been taken up by others and resonates among many Arabs. And King Salman (who is 80, by the way) does not display the dexterity of his half-brother Abdullah. He’s reached for some of the familiar items in the autocrats’ toolbox: executing dissidents, embarking on foreign wars, and whipping up sectarian rivalries to discredit Saudi Shiite demands and boost nationalist fervor. Each of these has grave risks.

There are a few ways things could go, as Salman’s brittle grip on power begins cracking.

One is a factional struggle within the royal family, with the price of allegiance bid up beyond anyone’s ability to pay in cash. Another is foreign war. With Saudi Arabia and Iran already confronting each other by proxy in Yemen and Syria, escalation is too easy. U.S. decision-makers should bear that danger in mind as they keep pressing for regional solutions to regional problems. A third scenario is insurrection—either a non-violent uprising or a jihadi insurgency—a result all too predictable given episodes throughout the region in recent years.

The U.S. keeps getting caught flat-footed when purportedly solid countries came apart. At the very least, and immediately, rigorous planning exercises should be executed, in which different scenarios and different potential U.S. actions to reduce the codependence and mitigate the risks can be tested. Most likely, and most dangerous, outcomes should be identified, and an energetic red team should shoot holes in the automatic-pilot thinking that has guided Washington policy to date.

“Hope is not a policy” is a hackneyed phrase. But choosing not to consider alternatives amounts to the same thing.

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Saudi Arabia, an ISIS That Has Made It


NYTimes