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Iran Deal Empowers Hamas

Iran Deal Empowers Hamas Author: Khaled Abu Toameh Categories: Iran, Palestinians, Saudi Arabia    

Hamas, the Palestinian Islamist movement that has vowed to destroy Israel, is emerging as one of the biggest beneficiaries of the nuclear deal reached in mid-July between Iran and the world powers.

Emboldened by the deal, Hamas is now seeking to reap the fruits by tightening its grip on the Gaza Strip with the help of Iran. This, of course, is bad news for Hamas' rivals in the Palestinian arena, namely the Palestinian Authority (PA), as well as all those who still believe in the peace process between Israelis and Palestinians.

Shatter Zones

Shatter Zones Author: Michael J. Totten Categories: Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Yemen    

The chattering class has spent months bickering about whether or not the United States should sign on to a nuclear deal with Iran. Hardly anyone aside from the Saudis, however, seems to recognise that the Iranian government's ultimate goal is regional hegemony and that its nuclear weapons program is simply a means to that end.

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Riyadh's New Self-Reliance

Riyadh's New Self-Reliance Author: Yehonathan Tommer Categories: Middle East, Saudi Arabia    

Saudi Arabia's military intervention in March against Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen - without prior American coordination - indicates a new self-reliant foreign policy by the younger generation of the country's ruling family. They appear determined to curb an Iranian push for Shi'ite hegemony in the Persian Gulf and Arabian Sea, leading Israeli experts have noted.

Europa Europa: Wallström in Wonderland

Europa Europa: Wallström in Wonderland Author: Douglas Davis Categories: Europe, Middle East, Saudi Arabia    

Why do bad things happen to good people? It is a question that confounds philosophers and theologians. Now politicians are being confronted with it, too.

First among them is Sweden's Foreign Minister, Margot Wallström. Her good intentions have cost Sweden the good will of a large chunk of the Middle East, broken diplomatic ties and hundreds of millions of dollars in cancelled contracts.

Battle Lines

Battle Lines Author: Jonathan Spyer Categories: Iran, Middle East, Saudi Arabia    

In the last decade, the Middle East has been living through a political convulsion of historic proportions. Regimes that once appeared immovable have been destroyed or have receded. New forces have risen up and are making war over the ruins.


Hamas in difficulties/ Saudi Arabia and the Iran nuclear deal

Hamas in difficulties/ Saudi Arabia and the Iran nuclear deal Categories: Iran, Palestinians, Saudi Arabia, Updates    

This Update features two pieces on Hamas' increasingly difficult situation in Gaza. It also includes an analysis, following up on the last Update, on the Saudi Arabian reaction to the interim nuclear deal signed with Iran last weekend.

First up is Israeli counter-terror specialist Ely Karmon on Hamas' increasingly isolated situation internationally and domestic difficulties within their Gaza fiefdom. He notes that the fall of the Muslim Brotherhood regime in Egypt and the subsequent all-out efforts of the Egyptian army to close down smuggling into Gaza from Sinai have not only left Hamas in shock but also affected Hamas' internal regime in Gaza.

A Good Deal on Iran's Nukes? The Iranians certainly think so

A Good Deal on Iran's Nukes? The Iranians certainly think so Author: Or Avi-Guy Categories: Anti-Zionism, Iran, Israel, Middle East, Saudi Arabia, Updates    

When the delegates of the P5+1 convened in Geneva to finalise an interim agreement with Iran they were supposed to have one goal in mind - to stop Iran's nuclear program. 

So is the new interim deal a step towards "a future in which we can verify that Iran's nuclear program is peaceful and that it cannot build a nuclear weapon" as US President Obama put it?

The Iranians certainly don't seem to think so.

Hard Choices for Hamas

Hard Choices for Hamas Author: Pinhas Inbari Categories: Jordan, Palestinians, Saudi Arabia    

In December 2011, reports from several directions converged to suggest that Hamas is abandoning the sinking ship of Syria: that many senior cadres have already settled in Gaza and only the upper echelon of leadership that bears symbolic meaning still remains in Damascus. By and large those reports are correct. At the same time, Iran has cut its subsidy to Hamas, which now relies mostly on revenues from commerce through the smuggling tunnels, which can hardly support the Gazan economy.

Europa Europa: The Party is Over Author: Douglas Davis Categories: Europe, Israel, Middle East, Saudi Arabia    

Europe is peering into the abyss.

And the crisis is far from over. Indeed, it is likely to intensify in 2012 as financial contagion spreads from Ireland, Greece, Portugal, Spain and Italy to France, which holds large quantities of Italian debt, and then to Britain, which is exposed to substantial French debt. Italy, whose debt approaches A$3 trillion, has pushed realistic hopes of rescue beyond reach.

Just as dangerous, the financial crisis is accompanied by social and political upheaval. Already, two European governments - Papandreou's Greece and Berlusconi's Italy - have been swept away on tides of unsustainable debt. Their places have been taken by unelected technocrats. More heads may roll. More unelected governments may be on the way.


In the workplace? In a car? Middle East grapples over women's whereabouts

In the workplace? In a car? Middle East grapples over women's whereabouts Author: Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz Categories: Afghanistan/ Pakistan, Gulf states, Islamic Extremism, Middle East, Saudi Arabia, Updates    

As I wrote earlier this year, a great deal of the problems facing the Arab world as it stumbles towards democracy stem from a conservative culture that is inhibiting female participation in society. Some very illuminative data on this issue is provided by Sara Hamdan in today's International Herald Tribune. As Hamdan explains, initiatives to develop an entrepreneurial culture in the public-sector dominated Arab states only address a small part of the issue; a much greater problem facing the Arab states is the absence of a great deal of their population from the workforce, this segment being overwhelmingly female.

Encouraging entrepreneurs to start new companies is one way to tackle this problem and promote job creation ... Analysts say these efforts will not make a big difference, however, if social attitudes do not change in societies that traditionally embrace culturally enforced gender roles and the social traditions of a patriarchal hierarchy - particularly in the Gulf countries...

A Saudi scholar reveals what Arabs learn about the Holocaust

A Saudi scholar reveals what Arabs learn about the Holocaust Author: Or Avi-Guy Categories: Antisemitism, Holocaust/ War Crimes, Saudi Arabia    

Mansour Al-Hadj, a Saudi journalist, reveals in an article (Oct. 24) on the reformist website 'Aafaq', the dark truth about the teaching of the Holocaust in the Saudi education system, which is being projected around the world through Saudi institutions abroad. Al-Hadj writes about the distorted representation of the Holocaust he was exposed to in Saudi Arabia, especially due to the school curricula which failed to present this event as an atrocity, or even as a crime. Instead, according to his experiences, it encouraged eternal enmity against the Jews and other non-Muslims, sympathy towards Hitler's plan and taught that Muslims were destined to carry out a similar program of extermination of Jews in future.

Breakdown of Iranian attempted assassination of Saudi official on US soil

Breakdown of Iranian attempted assassination of Saudi official on US soil Author: Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz Categories: America, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Terrorism, Updates    

This morning (Australian time), US Attorney-General Eric Holder announced that two men had been charged with attempting to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the US and, more significantly, doing so on behalf of the Iranian government. The two men were Manssor Arbabsiar, a naturalised US citizen of Iranian origin, and Gholam Shakuri, who is believed to be in Iran. Incredibly, Arbabsiar cooperated with the US authorities once arrested and so much of the information on the assassination plot was collected from his testimony.

Naturally, the Iranian government has denied the allegations and blamed a Zionist conspiracy.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast called the claims a "prefabricated scenario" and a "ridiculous show...

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Sandstorm in an A, B, C, or is that a D-cup madam?

Sandstorm in an A, B, C, or is that a D-cup madam? Author: Allon Lee Categories: Islamic Extremism, Middle East, Saudi Arabia, Updates    

With apologies to Sydney's infamous beachside surf gang, let's call them "the other bra boys".

Turkish daily newspaper Hurriyet has reported on how the Saudi Arabian de facto ban on female participation in the workforce requires the hiring of men to sell intimate apparel to women, making the buying of lingerie both embarrassing and difficult:

This causes much embarrassment for women customers seeking advice on cup sizes in lingerie stores. The shops are also not allowed to have fitting rooms. And the biggest complaint is that male clerks in general try to guess customers' bra sizes by staring at their abayas.


Puppetry of the Predictable

Puppetry of the Predictable Author: Allon Lee Categories: Antisemitism, Egypt, Israel, Lebanon, Palestinians, Saudi Arabia, Updates    

An Egyptian religious TV channel has broadcast a mock trial of former leader Hosni Mubarak, who appears as a puppet, and is accused by child prosecutors, of being, essentially, a puppet of Israel.

The clip on al Hekma TV, includes a number of anti-Israel slurs that feed into the recurring motif of Israel and Jews as spoilers and poisoners of Egyptian society.


Indonesia's backlash against Saudi-style Islam

Indonesia's backlash against Saudi-style Islam Author: Michael Shannon Categories: Asia, Saudi Arabia, Updates    

The beheading of Ruyati binti Satubi - an Indonesian maid executed by Saudi authorities in June for the killing of an allegedly abusive Saudi employer - has stirred such revulsion in Indonesia that Islamic leaders there are openly challenging the harsh, Wahhabist creed of Islam that has gained a footing in Indonesia via the funding of religious schools.

A story by the Washington Post's Indonesia correspondent illustrates the depth of this backlash.

"Some Indonesians began to think that Wahhabism is the true teaching of Islam, but thanks to God, there has been a change of thinking," said Siraj, who heads Nahdlatul Ulama, an organization with about 50 million members and 28,000 Islamic boarding schools.

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Arab States Increase Pressure on Syria, Syria Blames American Conspiracy

Arab States Increase Pressure on Syria, Syria Blames American Conspiracy Author: Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz Categories: Gulf states, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Updates    

As yesterday's post noted, condemnation of Syria seems to have reached a tipping point - with more and more world leaders finally criticising the Assad regime, well into the fifth month of violence. Even "hacktivist" collective Anonymous have jumped on the bandwagon, hacking into the Syrian Ministry of Defence website and leaving photographs of mutilated protestors as long as a message of support in both English and Arabic...

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Can the PA (or Europe) Afford Palestinian Independence?

Can the PA (or Europe) Afford Palestinian Independence? Author: Geoffrey Levin Categories: Europe, Israel, Jordan, Middle East, Palestinians, Saudi Arabia, United Nations, Updates    

The Palestinian Authority (PA) "is broke", and according to a recent New York Times article, "the immediate cause of the crisis is the failure of foreign - especially Arab - donors to fulfill promises of aid." According to AP, Arab donations have decreased dramatically over the past couple years, as "in 2009, the Arab countries gave $462 million, a contribution that dropped to $287 million in 2010 and $78.5 million this year."

The predicament has led even the usually optimistic PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad to declare that "this is, without doubt, the worst financial crisis the Palestinian Authority has ever faced", noting that there could not be a worse time for this, with the PA's planned unilateral declaration of independence (UDI) coming up at the United Nations in September.

More than 150,000 state employees, whose salaries support a million people, had their wages cut in half this month. Palestinian banks have lent the government more than $1 billion and do not want to lend more. Some ministries have temporarily lost electricity because they have not paid their bills. Last week, the government ordered a reduction in the price of bread, leading to bakery strikes. Garbage is piling up.

Textbook antisemitism for Arab children

Textbook antisemitism for Arab children Author: Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz Categories: America, Antisemitism, Holocaust/ War Crimes, Jordan, Lebanon, Middle East, Palestinians, Saudi Arabia    

Hannah Rosenthal, the US State Department's Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat anti-Semitism, has just completed a visit to Lebanon, Jordan and Saudi Arabia in a bid to reduce the antisemitic content of their education syllabuses. As she told JTA, the State Department has found the textbooks produced in these countries to be replete with extremely offensive material regarding Jews, as well as Christians and women. The antisemitic subject matter included references to Jews as the "spawn of monkeys and pigs", as well as material from The Protocols of The Elders of Zion...

Saudi proliferation fears as Iran tests missiles

Saudi proliferation fears as Iran tests missiles Author: Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz Categories: International Security, Iran, Middle East, Saudi Arabia, Updates    

One of the strongest arguments in favour of preventing Iran from gaining nuclear weapons at all costs is the fear that, were Iran to develop a neclear arsenal, the balance of power in the Middle East would be severely undermined and as a result, other countries in that region would quickly start working on their own programs. This would lead to a far more dangerous world - where unstable regimes are in possession of the most devestating weapons known to humanity.

At a recent meeting in the UK, a Saudi diplomat has confirmed that...

Bahrain, Iran and US Policy

Bahrain, Iran and US Policy Author: Simon Henderson Categories: Gulf states, Iran, Middle East, Saudi Arabia    

Neither Saudi Arabia - which bankrolls much in Bahrain, from items on the national budget to King Hamad's personal Boeing 747-400 aircraft - nor the UAE seem amenable to the notion of Bahrain being a test case for the Obama Administration's policy of promoting universal freedoms of political expression.

Essay: The Great Rift Author: Y. Carmon, Y. Yehoshua, A. Savyon and H. Migron Categories: Iran, Middle East, Palestinians, Saudi Arabia, Syria    

The Saudi-Iranian conflict, whose various aspects - geostrategic, religious, ethnic and economic - have been affecting the Middle East for the past 30 years, began with the Islamic Revolution in Iran, led by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.