Archive for November 5, 2017

“We Are Going to Burn You Alive!”

November 5, 2017

“We Are Going to Burn You Alive!” Gatestone InstituteRaymond Ibrahim, November 5, 2017

Muslim Persecution of Christians, June 2017

“They defend freedom of worship in the West in order to ban it in their homeland. They fight to build mosques in someone else’s homeland whilst destroying churches and synagogues where they have power.” — Kamel Abderrahmani, Arab journalist, Algeria.

“ISIS publicly caged and burned alive 19 Yazidi girls for refusing to have sex with ISIS fighters, according to local activists. Yazidi leaders last year showed Fox News photographs of the Islamic jihadists burning babies to death on a slab of sheet metal, photos that show tiny, roasted bodies side by side as flames engulfed them.” — ISIS in Iraq, Fox News, June 14.

The Erdogan government seized at least 50 Syriac churches, monasteries, and Christian cemeteries, many of which were still active, in Mardin province, and declared them “state property.” — Turkey.

A presidential order replaced Christian education with Islamic Studies in secondary schools. While the subject, “Christian Religious Knowledge,” no longer exists, Islamic, Arab, and French studies have been introduced in the new curriculum…. The Christian Association of Nigeria further denounced this move “to force Islamic studies down the throats of non-adherents of the religion,” as being an “agenda deliberately crafted towards Islamization.” — Nigeria.

Jesuit Father Henri Boulad, an Islamic scholar of the Egyptian Greek Melkite rite, pulled no punches in an interview concerning the motives of Islamic terror and Western responses to it. “Islam is an open-ended declaration of war against non-Muslims” and those who carry out acts of violence and intolerance are only doing what their creed requires, said the priest. The interview continues:

Those who fail to recognize the real threat posed by Islam are naïve and ignorant of history, he said, and unfortunately many in the Church fall into this category.

Citing a letter he wrote last August to Pope Francis, Father Boulad said that “on the pretext of openness, tolerance and Christian charity — the Catholic Church has fallen into the trap of the liberal left ideology which is destroying the West.”

“Anything that does not espouse this ideology is immediately stigmatized in the name of ‘political correctness,'” he said.

The priest went so far as to chastise Pope Francis himself—a fellow Jesuit—suggesting that he has fallen into this trap as well.

“Many think that a certain number of your positions are aligned with this ideology and that, from complacency, you go from concessions to concessions and compromises in compromises at the expense of the truth,” the priest wrote to Francis.

Christians in the West and in the East, he wrote the Pope, “are expecting something from you other than vague and harmless declarations that may obscure reality.”

“It is high time to emerge from a shameful and embarrassed silence in the face of this Islamism that attacks the West and the rest of the world. A systematically conciliatory attitude is interpreted by the majority of Muslims as a sign of fear and weakness,” he said.

“If Jesus said to us: Blessed are the peacemakers, he did not say to us: Blessed are the pacifists. Peace is peace at any cost, at any price. Such an attitude is a pure and simple betrayal of truth,” he said.

The priest also stated his belief that the West is in an ethical and moral debacle, and its defense of Islam is a denial of truth.

“By defending at all costs Islam and seeking to exonerate it from the horrors committed every day in its name, one ends up betraying the truth,” he wrote.

June’s roundup of Muslim persecution of Christians around the world includes, but is not limited to, the following:

Muslim Attacks on and Desecration of Christian Churches

Philippines: On June 21 in the village of Malagakit, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) — which earlier pledged allegiance to the Islamic State — vandalized a Catholic church. Describing the desecration as “wicked,” the chief police inspector said the “crucifix and images of the Virgin Mary and Jesus Christ were destroyed while the sacred hosts were thrown all over the floor.” Cardinal Quevedo, who condemned the sacrilege in the strongest terms possible, challenged the leaders of the BIFF to punish its men who desecrated the chapel: “If the BIFF wants to have an image as a respecter of all religions, it must punish its members who perpetrated the odious desecration and educate all its members in strictly respecting other religions,” the prelate said. “Last month, terrorist gunmen also desecrated St. Mary’s Cathedral in Marawi, some 150 kilometers from Cotabato,” the report noted. “The gunmen were seen on a video [here] destroying religious images and burning the cathedral.”

Egypt: An Islamic terror cell consisting of six members, two of whom were described as “suicide bombers,” planning on bombing yet another Coptic Christian church in Alexandria, was exposed and arrested by police before they could launch their attack. According to a statement from the Egyptian Interior Ministry, “one attacker had planned to detonate an explosive vest inside the church and the other to blow himself up when police arrived to the scene.” Several similar, recent attacks on Christian churches in Egypt had left about 100 churchgoers dead and hundreds severely wounded.

Separately, authorities raided a church-owned building being used by the local Coptic Christian community for worship. After police removed furniture, Christian iconography and other items from the building, they chained down the doors to prevent Christians from entering the building. Christians had for some time tried to have the building legally recognized as a church, only to face a backlash from both local Muslims and authorities. According to a local Christian:

“During the early hours of Friday, June 16, we [Christians] were surprised to find the furniture, rugs, icons, pictures, and worship utensils … had been thrown outside and the building closed down with seals and chains. We took the belongings into our homes. We don’t know why the police did that.”

When dozens of church leaders met with the local governor insisting that they needed a place to worship, he told them the building they were using had been found to be in a state of disrepair and needed to be demolished.

Algeria: On June 9, the state oversaw the demolition of the Catholic church located in Sidi Moussa, 15 miles from Algiers. According to Kamel Abderrahmani, an Arab journalist who covered the incident:

“Algerian authorities found a very shallow argument to justify this anti-Christian act. According to the authorities concerned, the church was listed in the red category by the technical inspection services. The legitimate question that arises from this is, since the building was deemed in danger of collapse, why was it not restored and listed as part of the national heritage? The statement of the mayor was of unprecedented clarity. He had announced the construction of a mosque and a Quranic school on the same site. Such statements caused outrage, as many saw the demolition as an act of vandalism.”

Kamel also noted how the Algerian government had demolished other churches on other pretexts, and concluded by calling Muslim governments and activists “hypocrites”:

“If the mayor of Paris or Rome had destroyed a mosque to build a church, what would have happened? Sunni Muslims would have shouted scandal and Islamophobia! This question shows the hypocrisy of Islamists and their double standards. They defend freedom of worship in the West in order to ban it in their homeland. They fight to build mosques in someone else’s homeland whilst destroying churches and synagogues where they have power.”

Iraq: In June 2015, when Mosul was under the Islamic State’s control, the group had announced it was converting St. Ephrem Church into a “mosque of the mujahedeen.” The cross from the dome was broken off, and all Christian symbols were purged from within the house of worship. Now, months after Mosul was liberated, the occupied church was exposed as being used as a sex-slave chamber where approximately 200 Yazidi girls and women were abused by the Islamic State. A report recounts “ISIS’ depravity towards Yazidi women and girls. On the floor of the iconic house of worship lie tiny pieces of pink and yellow underwear and flower headbands belonging to the very young Yazidi sex slaves the barbaric terrorist group took captive.” The June 14 report also notes:

“Last week, according to local activists, ISIS publicly caged and burned alive 19 Yazidi girls for refusing to have sex with ISIS fighters, according to local activists. Yazidi leaders last year showed Fox News photographs of the Islamic jihadists burning babies to death on a slab of sheet metal, photos that show tiny, roasted bodies side by side as flames engulfed them….The butchered Christian building and its Yazidi remnants serve as chilling reminders of the genocide experienced by the two religious minorities.”

Spain: A Muslim man stormed a Christian church during a marriage ceremony, and started shouting “Allahu Akbar” — “Allah is greatest.” He “tried to throw liturgical objects around him to attack the priest and churchgoers,” according to a report. A number of wedding attendants managed to apprehend the 22-year-old Moroccan and hand him over to police, who reportedly charged him with “disturbing public order, crime against religious feelings and threats.” Police also investigated the church for potential explosives before permitting the wedding ceremony to resume. According to the officiating priest, the incident began when a “group of young troublemakers” started making offensive noises at the back of the church.

“Suddenly, someone started to shout and charged at the altar. A lot of people, including the bride’s mother, were crying, and there were people who had already jumped out of the pews because we did not know whether this person came alone or not, or if he was armed.”

Turkey: The Erdogan government seized at least 50 Syriac churches, monasteries, and Christian cemeteries, many of which were still active, in Mardin province, and declared them “state property.” According to the report, “The Syriacs have appealed to the Court for the cancellation of the decision.” The Chairman of Mor Gabriel Monastery Foundation — a 1,600 year-old monastery that was still in use and also seized — said, “We started to file lawsuits and in the meantime our enquiries continued.”

The Syriac Orthodox Mor Gabriel Monastery is one of at least 50 Syriac churches, monasteries, and Christian cemeteries in Mardin province, Turkey that were recently seized by the Turkish government and declared “state property.” (Image source: Nevit Dilmen/Wikimedia Commons)

The Muslim Slaughter of Christians

Pakistan: A Chinese Christian couple—Lee Zing Yang, 24, and his wife Meng Lisi, 26 — were abducted in Quetta and executed on the accusation that they were preaching Christ to Muslims; the Islamic State claimed responsibility for their killing and released “video footage showing the bloodied body of the Chinese man, Lee Zing Yang, taking his last breaths,” says a report. The Pakistani government cited the murdered couple’s “misuse of the terms of a business visa” as playing a major role in their deaths: “instead of engaging in any business activity they went to Quetta and under the garb of learning Urdu language … were actually engaged in preaching.”

Kenya: Armed Muslims connected to neighboring Somalia’s Islamic terrorist group, Al Shabaab, walked into an elementary school compound in Garissa and shot a Christian teacher to death. When a Muslim teacher interfered with their attempts to abduct another Christian teacher, “Al Shabaab got angry,” reported another anonymous teacher, “and told the teacher, ‘We are going to teach you a lesson for protecting the infidels,’ and immediately the two were carried away to unknown destination”—but not before the Somali militants proceeded to “beat Muslims of Somali descent at the school for housing Kenyan Christians.”

Philippines: More news and revelations concerning the jihadi uprising that began in late May in the Islamic City of Marawi appeared in June. The eight or nine Christians originally reported as being tied together and shot dead, execution style, had apparently first been ordered to recite the Islamic confession of faith, which they refused to do, an act leading to their execution. “Their bodies were reportedly thrown into the ditch, and a signboard was placed beside them reading ‘Munafik,’ which means traitor or liar,” said a report. “The assailants also asked Police Senior Inspector Freddie Solar to recite the Muslim creed, and as a non-Muslim [Christian] he too declined and was killed.” Seventeen others were found ritually decapitated or butchered by the Islamic State-affiliated militants. A priest and 13 parishioners from the St. Mary Cathedral were also kidnapped; the priest “appeared in a propaganda video on Tuesday (May 30) pleading for his life.”

Egypt: More eyewitness details concerning the Islamic State massacre of 29 Christian pilgrimstraveling to a Coptic monastery in the Egyptian desert in May 2017 emerged. One ten-year old boy, who witnessed the slaughter of his father, recounted:

“We [he and his 14-year-old brother] saw dead people, just dumped on the ground. They asked my father for identification then told him to recite the Muslim profession of faith. He refused, said he was Christian. They shot him and everyone else with us in the car…. Every time they shot someone they would yell God is great [Allahu Akbar].”

Although President Sisi had depicted the terrorists as “foreigners,” the ten-year-old said that the fifteen assailants “had Egyptian accents like us and they were all masked except for two of them … They looked like us and did not have beards.” The same report states that, a month after the massacre, the Egyptian government had failed to provide adequate security for the residents of Dayr Jarnous, a Christian village that was home to seven of those killed, “and has done nothing to help the victims’ families.”

Muslim Attacks on Christian Religious Freedom

Pakistan: A new blasphemy case was registered against yet another Christian. After Mohammad Irfan refused to pay a repair bill to Ishfaq Masih, a Christian who fixed his bicycle, the Muslim denounced the Christian of blaspheming against Islamic prophet Muhammad, leading to the Christian’s arrest. According to Masih’s cousin:

“During the argument, Irfan said that he obeys only one master, Prophet Muhammad, to which Ishfaq said that he was a Christian and his faith ends at Christ. Upon hearing this, Irfan raised a clamor that Ishfaq had blasphemed against Muhammad. Soon a mob gathered at the spot, and someone called the police, who took Ishfaq into custody.”

Mohammad Irfan also rallied a number of other Muslims — including Mohammad Irfan, Mohammad Nawaz, Mohammad Naveed, and Mohammad Tahir — who claimed that they “heard Ishfaq Masih say derogatory words against the Muslim prophet.” According to the Christian’s lawyer, only one of the four “witnesses” was even present during the altercation.

“Irfan had gathered the other men, including the complainant Mohammad Ishfaq, and they then concocted the allegation against Ishfaq Masih and got him arrested…. The FIR [First Information Report] is quite weak, as it does not contain any specific blasphemous words that my client may have allegedly said…. It also shows that the police did not even bother to investigate the charge before registering a case against the poor man. This is the routine practice of the police in blasphemy cases, and it’s a shame that nothing is being done to stop it.”

Separately, after a Christian couple was slaughtered for preaching Christ among Muslims (see Slaughter section), a South Korean Christian was arrested for allegedly also engaging in “illegal preaching activities.” Authorities revoked his visa and ordered him to leave the Muslim nation.

Philippines: A Muslim teacher in the Muslim majority island of Mindanao forced Jen-Jen, a young Christian schoolgirl apparently of Islamic origins, to say Islamic prayers in class or else fail the class. According to the report:

“Despite being uncomfortable, Jen-Jen learned the words of the prayer to recite to the teacher. But rather than asking Jen-Jen to say the words in an oral test, the teacher later announced students would be required to go to a mosque and pray the prayer aloud.”

When the girl and another Christian classmate told the teacher that praying in a mosque contradicts their faith in Christ, the Muslim teacher “ignored the request and told them to turn away from Christ,” adding: “You must comply or else you will fail in this subject. You should revert to your Islamic faith.” The girl was then “forced to complete the long walk to the mosque while wearing a traditional Muslim dress and veil covering, despite burning up with a fever.”

“The schoolgirl got so sick, however, that she lost consciousness and blacked out. Even as she came back to, the teacher refused to excuse her from listening to the entirety of the Muslim imam’s message. Since the day at the Mosque, Jen-Jen has been pressured to conform to many other Muslim practices, such as fasting during the month of Ramadan…. [O]ther students have also teased and bullied Jen-Jen because of her faith, sometimes bombarding her as she walked to and from school and pushing her or insulting her.”

Malaysia: The Centre for Human Rights Research and Advocacy — the statement of purpose of which is to define and promote “Human rights from the Muslim perspective” — asserted that all forms of Christian evangelicalism should be banned. According to the CEO of the Centre, Azril Mohd Amin, “It is a fact that the groups that are spreading Christian propaganda to Malaysians, especially Muslims, will keep up their efforts as they believe that there is no effective law that can stop them.” Jo-Anna Henley Rampas, a leading member of a more progressive and inclusive party, responded by saying this move is “reflective of the erosion of religious freedom in the country” thanks to the “federal government’s failure to instil proper understanding, tolerance and harmony among citizens.”

Muslim Contempt for and Abuse of Christians

Pakistan: A Christian sanitary worker died after pious Muslim doctors who were fasting for Ramadan refused to touch the “unclean” infidel’s body. Thirty-year-old Irfan Masih had fallen unconscious along with three other sanitary staff while cleaning a manhole on June 1. He was rushed to a governmental hospital where the doctors refused to treat him; he died hours later. “The doctors refused to treat him because they were fasting and said my son was napaak[unclean],” said the mother of the deceased. A few weeks later, a court, responding to complaints from hospital officials accusing the family and friends of Irfan of terrorizing the hospital, ordered police to register a complaint against them. “The hospital has levied a false charge against us in order to save themselves,” explained a cousin of the deceased, who also works in sanitation.

“The doctors were responsible for Irfan’s death, because he would have been alive today had they not refused to treat him immediately. Our outburst against the doctors was natural, but we did not damage or steal anything from the hospital. It is a lie, and even the police know it.”

A senior police official admitted that “we believe that the hospital is making frivolous accusation against these people….. The hospital is ostensibly trying to pressure the family to withdraw their case.”

Egypt: Suzan Ashraf Rawy, a 22-year-old Christian woman, was reportedly kidnapped on the morning of June 5 while walking to the Coptic Orthodox church where she worked. “When she did not return home that evening, her mother called the church,” an area Christian leader said. “That is when she discovered Suzan did not arrive at the church in the morning. It is expected that she has been abducted.” She is the third Christian woman in the area of Al Khosous, a predominantly Christian town on the outskirts of Cairo, to disappear since May 30, when a Copt accidentally shot and killed a Muslim bystander during a quarrel with someone else. “Since then, the Muslims started to wage revenge attacks on the Christian community living there, especially the women,” the Christian leader said. According to the report:

“Two other young Coptic Christian women disappeared without a trace after the May 30 incident. The families of the women suspected to have been kidnapped have received no communication from alleged kidnappers, the sources said. Area Muslims have long disfigured Christian women for not wearing veils by throwing acid on them, but there has been a surge in such attacks in the past few weeks, sources said…. Fear has seized Coptic Christians in the area, with women afraid to leave their homes. One of the church women’s meetings, which Rawy attended, has been suspended until further notice out of fear for the safety of the participants.”

Bangladesh: Three Muslim men sexually assaulted a 20-year-old Catholic girl in the village of Madarpur on June 18. Her loud cries drew the attention of village locals who came to her rescue, prompting the rapists to flee. After her parents filed a complaint, they began to receive threatening messages to withdraw it or else. “Last year her family was involved in a land dispute,” adds the report. “The violence – a premeditated attack – was also witnessed by the police, deployed by the Muslims who wanted to expropriate the land. The young woman, along with her parents, was forced to leave the house and live in a slum.”

Pakistan: The home of a journalist who extensively covers the plight of religious minorities in the Muslim nation was vandalized. When Rana Tanveer, chief reporter of The Express Tribune, went to the police, they failed to register a formal complaint. Days later, an unidentified vehicle intentionally ran over Tanveer, while he was riding his motorcycle in Lahore on Friday, June 9. According to the report:

“Tanveer underwent surgery for a fracture in his pelvic bone on Saturday. His recovery may take months and he has expressed fears for his safety as well as that of his family…. Tanveer says that his work on exposing the poor treatment meted out to the country’s religious minorities like the Ahmadis and the Christians has made him a target of extremists.”

Sudan: A court in El Gedaref fined a number of Christians for selling food and tea during Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting: “This is a clear discrimination against Christians and contrary to the slogans of religious coexistence launched by the Sudan Government for the international community,” contended one defense layer. About a dozen people were each fined $2,000 Sudanese dollars ($298 USD).

Iraq: “[T]roubling issues related to discrimination and even violence targeting ethnic and religious minorities” are widespread in Kurdish-ruled territories, one report found, adding:

“Christian citizens of the KRI [Kurdish Region of Iraq] have issued complaints and held protests against Kurdish residents for attacking and seizing their land and villages in the provinces of Dohuk and Erbil…. Some Assyrian Christians accuse Kurdish government and party officials of taking lands for personal use or financial gain. These Christians believe they are specifically targeted as part of a policy to Kurdify historically Christian areas…. Minorities continue to fear growing extremism in the majority population, which they believe could threaten them in the long term.”

Most Kurds are Sunni Muslims.

Nigeria: A presidential order replaced Christian education with Islamic Studies in secondary schools. While the subject, “Christian Religious Knowledge” no longer exists, Islamic, Arab, and French studies have been introduced in the new curriculum. The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), which protested the new changes in front of the presidential palace, currently filled by a Muslim, described the change as “a time-bomb, obnoxious, divisive and ungodly…. To us in CAN, its introduction is an ill-wind that blows nobody any good for so many reasons.” According to the report, “The end result [of these changes] is that a Christian student will be left with no option than to settle for Islamic Arabic Studies since French teachers are more or less non-existent in secondary schools,” all of which “will deprive pupils of moral trainings which CRK [Christian Religious Knowledge] offers.” The Christian Association of Nigeria further denounced this move “to force Islamic studies down the throats of non-adherents of the religion,” as being an “agenda deliberately crafted towards Islamization.”

Separately, a Christian priest and his companions who were abducted by Islamic militants in April told of their experiences in June, when they were released. Fr. Sam Okwuidegbe identified his “kidnappers as Fulani herdsmen, an Islamic radical group that has killed thousands of people in Nigeria, including many Christians, in the past couple of decades” notes the report. That he was unable to recall any phone numbers for the Islamic terrorists to call to negotiate a ransom for his release “triggered a series of beatings,” says Fr. Sam.

“they huddled me up, hands and feet tied to the back with a rope like a goat before a kill. They removed my cassock, then my shirt, threw me into the dirt on the ground, and began to beat me with the back of their guns, they’d kick me hard on my sides, slap across my face, push and pull me hard across the ground … one of them said ‘We are going to burn you alive!'”

Another man in captivity did manage to recall a phone number, a ransom was set, and the men were eventually released.

Due to the ongoing bleeding of Nigeria’s Christian population — increasingly at the hands of Muslim Fulani herdsmen and not just the Islamic terror group, Boko Haram — a number of leading Nigerian churches issued a statement calling on the government “not to abdicate its responsibility of protecting all Nigerian citizens.” According to the communique:

“We are worried that the murderous activities of Fulani herdsmen have continued unabated and unchecked. The recurring and orchestrated killings of Christians in Southern Kaduna, mass killings in parts of Benue State and others across the country have increased suspicion that the so-called herdsmen are an extension of terrorist groups carrying out an evil agenda of ethnic and religious cleansing. Characteristically, these mindless attacks are often unprovoked.”

Earlier in January, Bishop Diamond Emuobor, chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria, said that, because Christians are facing increasing dangers at the hands of extremists, so “Christians should defend themselves and he who has no sword, should sell his coat and buy one to defend himself. We are all human beings, nobody should catch you like a snail and slaughter because you believe in Jesus Christ.”

About this Series

While not all, or even most, Muslims are involved, persecution of Christians by Muslims is growing. The report posits that such Muslim persecution is not random but rather systematic, and takes place irrespective of language, ethnicity, or location.

Raymond Ibrahim is the author of Crucified Again: Exposing Islam’s New War on Christians (published by Regnery with Gatestone Institute, April 2013).

MBS, Saudi’s reformist crown prince with firm vision

November 5, 2017

MBS, Saudi’s reformist crown prince with firm vision, BreitbartAFP, November 5, 2017

(Please see also, Sweeping Saudi purge exposes broad opposition to Crown Prince’s policies. — DM)

AFP

Riyadh (AFP) – Since his emergence in June as crown prince of the world’s oil superpower, Mohammed bin Salman, 32, has set his sights firmly on economic, social and religious reforms in the ultraconservative kingdom.

The young and dynamic prince, known by his initials MBS, has already overseen the most fundamental cultural and economic transformation in the modern history of the Gulf state, half of whose 31-million population is aged under 25.

At an investor summit in late October, MBS pledged a “moderate” Saudi Arabia, long seen as an exporter of a brand of puritanical Islam espoused by jihadists worldwide.

“We will not spend the next 30 years of our lives dealing with destructive ideas. We will destroy them today and at once,” said the prince, who has sidelined powerful clergy who have long dominated public discourse in Saudi Arabia.

In September, a royal decree said women would be allowed to drive.

Some conservative clerics — who for years staunchly opposed more social liberties for women — have backpedalled and come out in favour of the decree allowing them to drive.

Under the crown prince, the kingdom is also expected to lift a public ban on cinemas and has encouraged mixed-gender celebrations — something unseen before.

The government has also set up an Islamic centre tasked with certifying the sayings of the Prophet Mohammed in a stated bid to curb extremist texts.

The government appears to have clipped the wings of the once-feared religious police — long accused of harassing the public with rigid Islamic mores — who have all but disappeared from big cities.

In tandem with reforms, Prince Mohammed has been shoring up power and over the summer carried out a wave of arrests in a crackdown on dissenters, including influential clerics and some liberals who could block his path.

– Sweeping crackdown –

On the business front, the prince was named head of a new anti-corruption commission, established by royal decree, late Saturday.

Immediately after, 11 princes, including prominent billionaire Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal, and dozens of current and former ministers were arrested, in a sweeping crackdown seen as consolidating the crown prince’s hold on power.

MBS is the architect of a wide-ranging plan dubbed Vision 2030 to bring social and economic change to Saudi Arabia’s oil-dependent economy.

Among his most prominent positions is chairman of the Council of Economic and Development Affairs, which coordinates economic policy. Mohammed also chairs a body overseeing state oil giant Saudi Aramco.

He also holds the post of defence minister more than two years into a Saudi-led military intervention in neighbouring Yemen.

In a dramatic announcement on June 5, Mohammed bin Salman was named to replace his cousin, Mohammed bin Nayef, as heir to the Saudi throne. He had been second-in-line since early 2015.

Born on August 31, 1985, MBS graduated in law from Riyadh’s King Saud University, and the dark-bearded prince with a receding hairline is the father of two boys and two girls

Mueller Investigating Top DC Lobbyists: Five Things to Know About the New Turn

November 5, 2017

Mueller Investigating Top DC Lobbyists: Five Things to Know About the New Turn, BreitbartKristina Wong, November 5, 2017

(Please see also, Why Robert Mueller is making K Street Republicans and Democrats sweat. — DM)

Alex Wong/Getty

It’s not certain if this means that Trump’s campaign is in the clear yet with Russian collusion, but so far, none of the indictments are related to the campaign itself.

***************************

Special Counsel Robert Mueller is now investigating another lobbyist in addition to Democratic lobbyist Tony Podesta — former Republican congressman Vin Weber, according to a new report by the Associated Press. Mueller is also looking into law firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, LLP. Here’s the five things to know about the investigation’s latest turn:

Who is Vin Weber?

Vin Weber, 65, is a former Republican congressman who represented southwest Minnesota from 1981 to 1993. He then served as secretary of the House Republican Conference and as an adviser to incoming House Speaker Newt Gingrich. He then worked as an influential lobbyist and political strategist for several Republican presidential campaigns. He is the leader of high-powered lobbying firm Mercury LLC.

Weber did not support President Trump’s candidacy, calling it a “mistake of historic proportions,” according to an August 3, 2016 CNBC article. “I won’t vote for Trump … . I can’t imagine I’d remain a Republican if he becomes president.”

According to the CNBC article, Weber is a friend and ally of House Speaker Paul Ryan, former White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort. He speculated that Trump would withdraw from the race before the election.

Why is Weber now under investigation?

Weber is now under investigation due to Mercury LLC’s lobbying work in 2012 with Manafort and his business partner Rick Gates on behalf of pro-Russian Ukrainian interests, according to the AP article. On Monday, Mueller’s team unveiled indictments against Manafort and Gates, who are charged with 12 counts of money laundering, tax fraud, violating lobbying regulations, and making false statements.

The indictments mentioned “Company A” and “Company B,” which are Mercury and the Podesta Group respectively, according to NBC News.

According to the indictment, Mercury and the Podesta Group were paid $2 million from offshore accounts controlled by Manafort, and their work included lobbying “multiple members of Congress and their staffs about Ukraine sanctions, the validity of Ukraine elections,” and the reasons for imprisoning Yulia Tymoshenko, the political rival of Russian-backed Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych.

The indictment shows that both Mercury and Podesta Group understood their lobbying efforts were being directed by the Ukrainian government, but neither company had registered their work in accordance with the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), only filing retroactive disclosures after their lobbying was revealed in media reports.

NBC News reported last week that Mueller was investigating the Podesta Group. After the indictments were unsealed on Monday, Tony Podesta announced he was stepping down as chairman of the Podesta Group. He is the brother of John Podesta, Hillary Clinton’s former campaign chairman.

What is Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP?

Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP is an international law and lobbying firm, with more than 1,800 attorneys in offices across the world. Lobbyists working for the firm represent some of the largest political players in the country, according to OpenSecrets.org.

According to OpenSecrets.org: “The firm regularly brings in more than $1.5 million per year in lobbying income. The firm’s PAC expenditures show strong support for Democrats running for office, although these sums have decreased in recent years.”

Why are FBI agents expressing interest in the law firm?

The firm produced a report in 2012 that used to justify the Ukrainian government’s jailing of an opposition politician in Ukraine, Yulia Tymoshenko, the AP report said. “How the report came to be is now in question,” the report said.

The report was written by former Obama White House counsel Gregory Craig. The report found that her trial was “procedurally flawed but not marked by political persecution,” the report said.

“The Ukrainian justice ministry officials who supposedly commissioned the report trumpeted it as proof that Tymoshenko was not a political prisoner,” it said.

The indictment of Manafort and Gates said they used an offshore account to funnel $4 million to secretly pay for the report.

It’s not clear whether the law firm is under investigation yet, or if agents are simply asking questions about it.

What do these new investigations mean?

It appears that Mueller is moving beyond investigating ties between the Trump campaign and Russia, now going after lobbyists who violated lobbying laws, or worked as foreign agents without properly registering it with the Justice Department.

Investigators are asking witnesses about meetings between Gates, Podesta, and Weber, and any communication with representatives of a pro-Russian Ukrainian political party, sources told the AP.

Specifically, they are asking what the lobbyists knew about the source of the funding they were receiving, and who was directing the work in 2012, which took place four years before Manafort became Trump’s campaign chairman.

It’s not certain if this means that Trump’s campaign is in the clear yet with Russian collusion, but so far, none of the indictments are related to the campaign itself.

George Papadopoulos, a foreign policy campaign adviser, had talked to Russian nationals and tried to set up a meeting between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin, but there is no evidence that any such meeting happened.

Breaking Big Scones Into Little Scones: Saudi Arabia Arrests Dozens of Princes and Officials For Corruption . . . Confines Them To The Ritz-Carlton

November 5, 2017

Breaking Big Scones Into Little Scones: Saudi Arabia Arrests Dozens of Princes and Officials For Corruption . . . Confines Them To The Ritz-Carlton, Jonathan Turley’s Blog, Jonathan Turley, November 5, 2017

(Please see also, Sweeping Saudi purge exposes broad opposition to Crown Prince’s policies. — DM)

 

A stretch in confinement is never fun. Whether it is a chain gang or breaking “big stones into little stones,” a time in jail can be endless. . . . unless you are a Saudi prince or official.  After a surprising crackdown on corruption and the arrest of princes and senior officials, the accused were ordered to be held in home confinement at the ultra-luxury Ritz Carlton in Riyadh.  The accused will be guaranteed “three squares a day” on a prison menu at various top restaurants that includes “Squid ink, mixed pan-seared seafood” and “Ossobuco alla Milanese, saffron risotto, pecorino foam” at hundreds of dollars a pop.  While there is no prison yard with a weight set, there is the spa with the “Royal Groom of Arabia treatment.”

Among the wretched accused in the Ritz stir, is royal billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal who has extensive holdings in Western companies and his Kingdom Holding Co.. He and others are accused of money laundering, bribery, and corruption.  Recently Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman delighted civil libertarians with a speech that he would seek to remove extremist religious elements from the kingdom.  He now appears to be keeping his word on ending corruption.  These are remarkably promising signs for the Kingdom for those of us who have been long critics.

Of course, the Ritz is not exactly Folsom Prison but the princes will have stories to tell when they get “back to the world.”

Fortunately, they can work on prison productions and other

 

Saudi minister says he has ‘confirmed information’ on plot to kill Hariri

November 5, 2017

Saudi minister says he has ‘confirmed information’ on plot to kill Hariri, Al Arabiya, November 5, 2017

Saudi Arabia’s Gulf Affairs Minister Thamer al-Sabhan (L) was speaking about Lebanon’s Hariri. (Supplied/Reuters)

Saudi Arabia’s Gulf Affairs Minister Thamer al-Sabhan said the personal security detail of Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri, who resigned on Saturday, had “confirmed information” of a plot to kill him.

Speaking in an interview on Future, an Arabic television channel owned by Hariri, he said Hariri was in Riyadh, adding there were “security threats to the prime minister and the kingdom is keen on his safety.”

He added that Hariri resigned from Riyadh for security reasons.

“Saudi Arabia is different than the terrorist state Iran. We respect Lebanese parties despite their different opinions,” Sabhan added.

Speaking to the Lebanese television channel LBC, Sabhan said Hariri is completely free to return to Lebanon, adding, however: “We do not want explosions and destruction to happen again in the Hariri family.”

Sabhan also said that Saudi Arabia supported all of Hariri’s stances in the past, including the agreement related to choosing a Lebanese president, adding that the Saudi kingdom did not incite Hariri to resign.

“We cannot but be sad over Lebanon’s situation due to Hezbollah. We call for peace but those who try to (harm) the kingdom will find what they do not wish for,” he added.

“Hezbollah is a militia that tried to transfer Syrian battles to Lebanon and to harm Lebanon and Arab countries,” Sabhan also said, asking: “What’s the difference between Hezbollah and ISIS?”

Sweeping Saudi purge exposes broad opposition to Crown Prince’s policies

November 5, 2017

Sweeping Saudi purge exposes broad opposition to Crown Prince’s policies, DEBKAfile, November 5, 2017

(Please see also, 11 Saudi princes, 4 ministers arrested as crown prince unleashes crackdown on corruption. — DM)

Riding over them all is the dynamic, fast-moving, youthful at 32 figure of Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad, whose father King Salman has given him free rein to haul the hidebound oil kingdom into modern times.

On Oct. 25, the Crown Prince said: “We are in the G20 and one of the biggest economies in the world. Making Saudi Arabia a good place will contribute to change in the region and the world – and that is what we are doing now.” Speaking at the Future Investment Initiative conference in Riyadh, he also vowed to immediately destroy “extremist ideologies” and return to “a more moderate Islam. We want to lead normal lives, lives where our religion and our traditions translate into tolerance, so that we coexist with the world and become part of the development of the world,” he said.

Prince Muhammad is confident that 70 percent of young Saudis under 30 are behind him. He promised them not to waste another 30 years fighting extremist ideologies.

******************************

By purging the most powerful princes in the realm, Crown Prince Muhammad lays bets on his survival and that of his ambitious reform program and policies.

All in one day, Saturday, Nov. 4, the Middle East underwent a rapid series of game-changing events. Sunni politician Saad Hariri resigned as Lebanese Prime Minister and fled to Riyadh, in the wake of an Iranian-Hizballah assassination plot.  And before the vibes from that event died down across the region,  Saudi strongman, Crown Prince Muhammad bin Sultan, conducted a wholesale purge, sweeping hundreds of princes, former ministers and generals out of jobs and into jail, up to the highest-ranking military, financial and political opponents of his policies.  The former king’s son Prince Mitab bin Abdullah, was removed from the National Guard, which is responsible for safeguarding the throne and the oil fields, and the multibillion Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal, investor in such global giants as Citigroup, 21st Century Fox, Apple and Twitter, was thrown into jail.

That night, the sky over Riyadh suddenly lit up when US Patriot missiles intercepted an Iranian-supplied Burkan- 2H ballistic missile, with a range of 1000km, that was fired by Yemeni Houthi rebels at the King Khaled International Airport of Riyadh from northern Yemen.

It was a timely reminder of the war in which Prince Muhammad has embroiled Saudi Arabia against Iran-backed Yemeni insurgents, of the wider, albeit covert, conflict waged against Iran and the quarrel with Qatar.

Riding over them all is the dynamic, fast-moving, youthful at 32 figure of Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad, whose father King Salman has given him free rein to haul the hidebound oil kingdom into modern times.

On Oct. 25, the Crown Prince said: “We are in the G20 and one of the biggest economies in the world. Making Saudi Arabia a good place will contribute to change in the region and the world – and that is what we are doing now.” Speaking at the Future Investment Initiative conference in Riyadh, he also vowed to immediately destroy “extremist ideologies” and return to “a more moderate Islam. We want to lead normal lives, lives where our religion and our traditions translate into tolerance, so that we coexist with the world and become part of the development of the world,” he said.

Prince Muhammad is confident that 70 percent of young Saudis under 30 are behind him. He promised them not to waste another 30 years fighting extremist ideologies.

At the same time, DEBKAfile’s Saudi experts warn that the scale of his lightening purge points to spreading resistance within the royal house and ruling cirlces to his methods and ideas. Interestingly, the forward looking prince has chosen one of the oldest and most effective ways of suppressing dissent: sack and throw the dissenters into jail, that is, until they come around to his vision or rebuilding the economy on contemporary technological and financial lines, creating the NEOM Red Sea megacity and free trade zone and social reforms.

The purge of many hundreds of officials was official designated an anti-corruption drive. Prince Miteb was replaced as National Guard minister by Prince Khaled bin Ayyaf;  Economy and Planning Minister Adel Fakeih was ousted and replaced by Mohammed Al-Tuwaijri; and the Commander of the Navy, Adm. Abdullah Al-Sultan, was relieved of his position and replaced by Fahad Al-Ghofaili, who was promoted to the rank of Admiral.

King Salman also ordered the formation of a new anti-corruption committee headed by… Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

It may sound strange to Western ears, but the argument over the succession is possibly the foremost subject of dissent within the royal house.

When King Salman abdicates – which could be in a matter of months – he will pass the scepter to Crown Prince Mohammed. However, before ascending the throne, Muhammad insists on appointing his successor to safeguard the Saudi kingdom’s stable continuity. This is a major bone of contention between him and the hundreds of royal princes who hold positions of power. They judge it to be a measure for assuring young Prince Muhammad of unlimited power.

One of the leading dissenters is Prince Miteb and another Prince Al Waleed, both of whom are currently behind bars. It is most likely, therefore, that the opposition to the Crown Prince and his policies will intensify rather than abate. His reform and economic policies are still mostly on paper and the Yemen war has reached a standoff against Iran and Qatar, with no solution in sight. In this fragile and volatile situation, Prince Muhammad’s life and plans have never been in greater danger.

Riveting Harpoon Tells the Story of the Financial War Against Terrorism

November 5, 2017

Riveting Harpoon Tells the Story of the Financial War Against Terrorism, PJ MediaRoger L Simon, November 4, 2017

“When they say it’s not about the money, it’s about the money,” H. L Mencken famously said –  and if ever there were a subject that proved his dictum, it is, ironically, terrorism.

What do the Iranian ayatollahs, Yassir Arafat and the Hamas leadership have in common? Fortunes, in many cases in the billions. Suha Arafat was not living in a cold water flat in Ramallah but in the suites of Paris’ swank Bristol Hotel.  Hezbollah’s Nasrallah has to be counted as a poor relation because his net worth is estimated at a paltry $250 million.

By exploiting the violent precepts of their religion regarding non-Muslims, these disgusting sociopaths convince, virtually hypnotize, their peasantry to do their dirty work, blowing themselves up with suicide bombs and the like while the masters luxuriate in Abu Dhabi penthouses.

ISIS was one rich jayvee team making $1.5 million a day off crude oil back in its 2015 heyday.

Was Mencken right or was he right? Terror is big business.

Among those who first caught onto the importance of this nexus (or shall we say racket) was Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, an Iranian-Israeli attorney.  With her husband Avi, an American-Israeli, she formed Shurat HaDin, the Israel Law Center, to sue terrorists (and their banks and financial backers) on behalf of their victims. (Their watchword is “Bankrupting terrorism – one lawsuit at a time.”) They did this not only in Israel, but across the globe. Case after case after case. More than once they succeeded in their suits. To put it mildly, these people are the real life heroes of our time.

Now Darshan-Leitner has written a book (with counterterrorism expert Samuel M. Katz) – HARPOON: Inside the Covert War Against Terrorism’s Money Masters – an account of her activities and that of others in the undercover financial battle against the terrorists.

It turns out there was (and undoubtedly is) more to it than stodgy old lawsuits. This Operation Harpoon dates back to the days  of Mossad chief Meir Dagan (1990s), who also saw the opportunities here, and “fights fire with fire.”  The good guys hack computers too.  And they even call in missile strikes against bankers.  (Kind of makes you smile, as long as they choose the right ones.)

The book Harpoon, not surprisingly, reads like a thriller.  We get glimpses of the following – how Harpoon managed to make several hundred million mysteriously vanish from Arafat’s account, how Harpoon broke in and seized illegal accounts from Arab banks in the West Bank (this caused a White House uproar), how Harpoon unmasked Iran’s proxy Hezbollah’s involvement in drug trafficking from Venezuela to Lebanon’s Beka’a Valley, how Harpoon and Israeli agents used malware and double agents too deplete Hezbollah accounts and so forth.

The book is an excellent guide to understanding the machinations, pro and con, that go on behind the scenes in the never-ending Middle East conflict by a woman who has lived it.  Just now we have learned that Hariri has resigned as Lebanese PM, citing a potential assassination (like his father) and attacking Hezbollah and by extension, of course, Iran. Hariri made his statements from Saudi Arabia.  It doesn’t take a reading of Harpoon to know that a games afoot, but it helps.

To really get up to speed on the ME – and to support the work of some great people – buy this book.  It’s published November 7.