Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Losing my religion for equality

    Wednesday, April 22, 2015   No comments
I have been a practising Christian all my life and a deacon and Bible teacher for many years. My faith is a source of strength and comfort to me, as religious beliefs are to hundreds of millions of people around the world. So my decision to sever my ties with the Southern Baptist Convention, after six decades, was painful and difficult. It was, however, an unavoidable decision when the convention's leaders, quoting a few carefully selected Bible verses and claiming that Eve was created second to Adam and was responsible for original sin, ordained that women must be "subservient" to their husbands and prohibited from serving as deacons, pastors or chaplains in the military service.

This view that women are somehow inferior to men is not restricted to one religion or belief. Women are prevented from playing a full and equal role in many faiths. Nor, tragically, does its influence stop at the walls of the church, mosque, synagogue or temple. This discrimination, unjustifiably attributed to a Higher Authority, has provided a reason or excuse for the deprivation of women's equal rights across the world for centuries.

Monday, April 20, 2015

One of the more important reasons for the Saudi War on Yemen: divert attention elsewhere and stifle internal dissent

    Monday, April 20, 2015   No comments
Wartime climate in Saudi puts calls for reform on hold
An electronic billboard at an upscale Saudi mall flashes an advertisement for a designer fragrance before switching to images of soaring F-16s and King Salman saluting the troops. "The response has come to you who threaten the nation," the caption says. "To those who test me, take this war as a reply."

The message is directed at the Iranian-allied Shiite rebels in Yemen who have been the target of a three-week Saudi-led air campaign. The nationalist fervor whipped up by the war has put calls for reform in the kingdom on hold as people rally behind their king, the troops and the status quo.

State-run newspapers, radio talk shows and TV programs are almost entirely focused on the war against the Yemeni rebels, known as Houthis, with local media portraying it as part of a regional struggle against Tehran and its allies in Syria, Iraq and Lebanon.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

The role of Iraqi Baathist officers in ISIL's takeover of northern Syria and northern Iraq

    Sunday, April 19, 2015   No comments
 The Terror Strategist: Secret Files Reveal the Structure of Islamic State

Aloof. Polite. Cajoling. Extremely attentive. Restrained. Dishonest. Inscrutable. Malicious. The rebels from northern Syria, remembering encounters with him months later, recall completely different facets of the man. But they agree on one thing: "We never knew exactly who we were sitting across from."

In fact, not even those who shot and killed him after a brief firefight in the town of Tal Rifaat on a January morning in 2014 knew the true identity of the tall man in his late fifties. They were unaware that they had killed the strategic head of the group calling itself "Islamic State" (IS). The fact that this could have happened at all was the result of a rare but fatal miscalculation by the brilliant planner. The local rebels placed the body into a refrigerator, in which they intended to bury him. Only later, when they realized how important the man was, did they lift his body out again.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

President Obama: Some Gulf States "fan the flames of military conflict" in Libya

    Saturday, April 18, 2015   No comments
President Obama said those nations had been seen to "fan the flames of military conflict" in the North African country.

Libya has been in turmoil since the removal of former leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

There are two rival governments and numerous militia controlling their own patches of territory.

Divisions have emerged among Gulf nations on Libya, with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) reportedly bombing Islamist targets in Libya and Qatar expressing reservations about such operations.

But Mr Obama said the crisis in Libya, where Islamic State has built a presence, could not be ended with "a few drone strikes or a few military operations".

Friday, April 17, 2015

The Mysterious Saudi Prince Leading The War on Yemen

    Friday, April 17, 2015   No comments
He is the architect and very public face behind Saudi Arabia’s boldest military campaign in nearly 100 years. But Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the country’s young, newly-minted defense minister, remains a virtually unknown figure at home and abroad.

With a swift and sudden rise to power two months ago, the machinations of Mohammed, King Salman bin Abdul-Aziz’s favored son, remain elusive and his skill untested, even as he leads an aggressive—and escalating—Arab coalition intervention against the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen. In just a week of fighting, he’s become a poster boy for the Saudi-led military campaign, known as “Operation Decisive Storm,” as well as an embodiment of his country’s recent shift toward a more hawkish foreign policy in the region.

Yet he is a man whose youth and inexperience has left him almost invisible until now. Even the prince’s age is a matter of speculation and debate. Some peg him as young as 27. Others say he could be as old as 35.

Gulf states unhappy about U.N. chief's ceasefire appeal

    Friday, April 17, 2015   No comments

Several Gulf Arab states are unhappy about U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon's call for an immediate ceasefire by all sides in Yemen and are expected to raise the issue in a meeting with him early next week, U.N. diplomatic sources said on Friday.

Ban on Thursday called for an immediate halt to the fighting, the first time he has made such an appeal since Saudi-led air strikes against Iranian-backed Houthi rebels began three weeks ago.

The main topic of the meeting will be the replacement for the outgoing U.N. envoy to Yemen Jamal Benomar, who announced his resignation on Wednesday. But, the sources said, they are also expected to raise their concerns about the appeal Ban made in a speech at the National Press Club.

The U.N. chief said the Saudis "have assured me that they understand that there must be a political process. I call on all Yemenis to participate in good faith." He gave no indication that they supported his appeal to end military attacks.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Hadi: A hollow president whose masters in Riyadh are killing us

    Sunday, April 12, 2015   No comments
by Hossain al-Bokheiti

My country, Yemen, is under attack by an autocratic monarchy whose campaign of airstrikes is fuelled by a desire for regional domination. The nine Arab states currently bombing Yemen with the aim of restoring Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi as president are headed by Saudi Arabia, an oil-rich kingdom that lashes activists for tweeting and imprisons women for driving.

The airstrikes they launched last month are crippling Yemen. Airports, bridges, wheat silos, power plants, gas stations, food trucks, schools, a football field, and a camp for the displaced have all been hit. Hundreds of people have been killed, including women and children. And an air and naval blockade has brought the economy to its knees.

Pakistani minister rejects Gulf States' criticism of his country's neutral Yemen stance

    Sunday, April 12, 2015   No comments

Pakistan's interior minister, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, on Sunday rejected as "against diplomatic norms" remarks by a UAE minister that Pakistan "will have a heavy price to pay" for its neutral stand in the conflict in Yemen.

Pakistani parliament has unanimously urged the government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to remain neutral in the Yemen conflict.

Saudi Arabia, which is a long-standing ally of Pakistan and has led a coalition to launch airstrikes on Shiite Houthis in Yemen, has not yet commented on the parliament resolution; however, UAE's Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Dr. Anwar Mohammed Gargash condemned the Pakistani decision.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Pakistan and Turkey stay out of the war on Yemen but U.S.. expands its cooperation with Saudi Arabia

    Saturday, April 11, 2015   No comments
U.S. expands intelligence sharing with Saudis in Yemen operation

 The United States is expanding its intelligence-sharing with Saudi Arabia to provide more information about potential targets in the kingdom's air campaign against Houthi militias in Yemen, U.S. officials told Reuters.

The stepped-up assistance comes as two weeks of relentless air strikes by the Saudis and other Gulf Arab allies have largely failed to halt advances by the Iran-linked Houthi forces.

Friday, April 10, 2015

US State Department: Houthis were arming themselves almost entirely through the black market, and purchase of arms from the Yemeni military

    Friday, April 10, 2015   No comments
War on Yemen
Contrary to claims by Saudi Arabia that Iran is arming the Houthis, US State Department confirmed that this was not the case, and indeed that the Houthis were arming themselves almost entirely through the black market, and purchase of arms from the Yemeni military itself.
B. SANAA 2185

Classified By: Ambassador Stephen Seche for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Reports: Saudi grand Mufit ruled that it is legal, in his brand of Islamic law, for husband to eat his wife

    Thursday, April 09, 2015   No comments
Saudi grand mufti 'issues fatwa permitting man to chop off and eat wife in event of extreme hunger'

A leading Saudi Arabian cleric has reportedly issued a controversial fatwa allowing a husband to chop off his wife and eat her body in the event of extreme hunger.

The fatwa, an Islamic edict, was widely attributed to the mufti of Saudi Arabia, Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah.

The grand mufti, who is the highest religious figure in Saudi Arabia, went on to substantiate the fatwa by saying this will allow the couple to "become one as their bodies will fuse together after the husband eats his wife".

According to multiple local reports, the fatwa "allows a man to eat his wife or parts of her body, if the husband was afflicted with a severe hunger".

Monday, April 6, 2015

Obama: Gulf states biggest threat is from inside their own countries, not Iran

    Monday, April 06, 2015   No comments
Excerpts from the NYT interview: 
As for protecting our Sunni Arab allies, like Saudi Arabia, the president said, they have some very real external threats, but they also have some internal threats — “populations that, in some cases, are alienated, youth that are underemployed, an ideology that is destructive and nihilistic, and in some cases, just a belief that there are no legitimate political outlets for grievances. And so part of our job is to work with these states and say, ‘How can we build your defense capabilities against external threats, but also, how can we strengthen the body politic in these countries, so that Sunni youth feel that they’ve got something other than [the Islamic State, or ISIS] to choose from. ... I think the biggest threats that they face may not be coming from Iran invading. It’s going to be from dissatisfaction inside their own countries. ... That’s a tough conversation to have, but it’s one that we have to have.”

That said, the Iran deal is far from finished. As the president cautioned: “We’re not done yet. There are a lot of details to be worked out, and you could see backtracking and slippage and real political difficulties, both in Iran and obviously here in the United States Congress.”

On Congress’s role, Obama said he insists on preserving the presidential prerogative to enter into binding agreements with foreign powers without congressional approval. However, he added, “I do think that [Tennessee Republican] Senator Corker, the head of the Foreign Relations Committee, is somebody who is sincerely concerned about this issue and is a good and decent man, and my hope is that we can find something that allows Congress to express itself but does not encroach on traditional presidential prerogatives — and ensures that, if in fact we get a good deal, that we can go ahead and implement it.”


Friday, April 3, 2015

Islamic State Promotional Magazine Baits 'Infidels' by Highlighting Child Executioners

    Friday, April 03, 2015   No comments
By Samuel Oakford
The radical Sunni insurgent group that has branded itself the Islamic State (IS) takes its propaganda efforts very seriously, so much so that it publishes a sleek, full-color, English-language digital magazine called Dabiq — the latest issue of which highlights killings committed by two of its so-called "lion cub" child soldiers.

The eighth issue of the publication emerged on social media earlier this week, and is notable for including a two-page spread about boys that IS had previously depicted killing prisoners on video, along with an interpretation of Islamic scripture that it claims justifies its use of children as executioners.

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