Saudi Arabia

THE SAUDIS AND IRANIANS NEED TO TALK:

AND WE NEED TO MAKE IT HAPPEN

 

In recent years I have worked deeply on quiet conflict management interventions from Afghanistan to Iran, but mostly in Syria. I have watched the unnecessary suffering of countless people, the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of Syrians, the greatest civilian displacement in Middle Eastern history, and I have watched it up close through the lives of my students and friends.

 

As an analyst my job is to study, inquire and reflect. Everything we conflict analysts, peace builders and trainers–Western, Muslim, Arab, Christian and Jewish–are learning from experience in the field, and from our students and friends all over the Middle East, is that we are caught in a deepening maelstrom of violent disasters due to the perpetual state of war between two states with radical philosophies that have been at loggerheads since 1979, Saudi …

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http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/06/15/us-iraq-usa-security-idUSKBN0EQ0UH20140615

Graham last week said American air strikes in Iraq will be needed to halt the advance of militants.

His comments about Iran broach an even more sensitive topic – putting the United States in potential collaboration with a country it suspects of developing nuclear weapons and supporting its own militant groups in places like Lebanon.

Iranian officials, closely allied with Maliki and watchful over the Shi’ite population centered in southern Iraq, have also been alarmed at the sudden seizure of territory by the ISIL.

 

The logic of intending to bomb a country like Iran in one part of the year, and then contemplate an alliance in the next year to defend Baghdad really needs to be defined and exposed. On one level, it is perfectly reasonable. if a year ago, allies Israel and Saudi Arabia were convincing us that Iran is the primary mortal threat, then we decide to …

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Drowning the Arab Spring in Gulf Oil

by mgopin on October 7, 2013 · 3 comments

my recent piece on why the Middle East region continues to resist change following the Arab Spring: http://www.middle-east-online.com/english/?id=61723

An except:

“The excessive, concentrated wealth that extractions industries created has notoriously depressed the empowerment of millions of people throughout modern history. But considering the unprecedented role of oil as the lifeblood of the global economy, it should come as no surprise that oil politics and rivalries have an especially destructive retardation effect on freedom in the Middle East.

Specifically, the rivalries of Qatar and Saudi Arabia are wreaking havoc on the legitimate rights of the Syrian people to resist the cruelties and tyrannies of the Syrian regime. They do so by allowing their citizens to fund jihadism that has undermined the emergence of a rational Syrian opposition that could be in a position to share power and eventually replace the current regime. The Gulf jihadist proxies know no compromise, no comprehension

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Get on the Right Side of History

by mgopin on September 24, 2011 · 0 comments

(A version of this essay was recently published in The Jerusalem Report.)

Across the world in the last 40 years politically organized religious forces have played an increasingly important role in national politics. From India to Indonesia, from Lebanon to Israel, from the United States to Russia, organized religion has increased its impact on politics.

We are also aware of the frightening rise of very violent religion, expressed through terror groups. For this reason, it is easy to misunderstand the relationship between religion on the one hand and between states and ethnic groups and their very secular interests, on the other hand.

Precisely because so many millions of people care about religion, religion has become an essential tool of secular state and ethnic interests. Indeed, what may seem to be a religious issue often turns out to be very secular state interests. Missing this relationship, it becomes easy

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AP: New al-Qaeda leader lived in U.S. for years – USATODAY.com.

— A suspected al-Qaeda operative who lived for more than 15 years in the U.S. has become chief of the terror network’s global operations, the FBI says, marking the first time a leader so intimately familiar with American society has been placed in charge of planning attacks.

Adnan Shukrijumah, 35, has taken over a position once held by 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who was captured in 2003, Miami-based FBI counterterrorism agent Brian LeBlanc told The Associated Press in an exclusive interview. That puts him in regular contact with al-Qaeda’s senior leadership, including Osama bin Laden, LeBlanc said.

Shukrijumah (SHOOK’-ree joohm-HAH’) and two other leaders were part of an “external operations council” that designed and approved terrorism plots and recruits, but his two counterparts were killed in U.S. drone attacks, leaving Shukrijumah as the de facto chief and

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(Originally published at Sh’ma: A Journal of Jewish Responsibility, in a very good issue dedicated to Iran. It will give you a good overview of thinking in the American Jewish community right now on the slowly moving crisis with Iran)

Over the past 25 years I’ve developed relationships across the Middle East; in Syria, specifically, over the past five years. While I traveled as a peacemaker, to be cautious I would emphasize my role as a professor and only reveal my role as a rabbi when it felt safe. I never experienced any negative comments because I am a rabbi; rather I heard from some a longing to meet with old Jewish friends. Experiences with Syrians have given me confidence that similar inroads can be made in Iran. What Iran shares with Syria, most importantly, is a historical tradition of religious pluralism and progressive religious thinking. There is still …

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Note this extremely well-argued realist piece from Robert Pelletreau and Ed Walker in the Boston Globe. All of my experience in Syria suggests to me that most of their points are accurate and should be appealing to the more rational side of the Bush team in its last months. It can only help the reputation of the Republicans to aggressively pursue a new approach to Syria right now. It could be the foreign policy success that has eluded them for eight years. Here is an excerpt:

Dr. Sami Taki, a close associate of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, said in late July that Syria might change its alliance with Iran if Syria achieves peace with Israel.

The United States stands to gain a great deal from an Israeli-Syrian agreement. Having served as US ambassadors to five Middle East countries, we are convinced that a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace is essential to

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Wahabism is generally a short-hand expression for conservative Saudi Arabian religion. It has become synonymous in the West, but also in the Islamic world, with a very repressive form of Islam that is responsible, at least in part, for the growth of militarism in the name of Islam. I must confess that over the years I generalized about Saudis and their religion, while actually knowing very little about their culture or their religion. I heard many bad stories from Muslims and non-Muslims alike, but I did not really take the time to ask Saudis themselves. In truth, Saudi Arabia is an extremely conservative society with many religious laws in place that I do not agree with. But that did not give me the right to malign a culture in its entirety. That was reverse bigotry in the name of tolerance.

Imagine the cognitive dissonance of an entire hall full of

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Badea Abu Al-Naja and Michael Cousins write important pieces on the revolutionary conference that has just taken place in Madrid sponsored by the Saudi Custodian of the Two Holy Places and the World Muslim League. In attendance were hundreds of prominent religious participants representing all the major religions of the world. The event was inaugurated by the two kings of Saudi Arabia and Spain, and the entire cabinet of Saudi leadership. I was there and can attest to the accuracy of these reports. The organizers bent over backwards to demonstrate a new era in Saudi embrace of world religions, and an attempt to develop a non-political track of interfaith engagement that would enhance global cooperation.

The level of responsiveness to participant concerns was at times astonishing. One day there was a very respectful comment from two people, including Rabbi Arthur Waskow, that it would be good if women could be …

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