Posts Tagged ‘Muslim Brotherhood’

Qatar announces aid for Gaza amid Israel truce talks

November 7, 2018

Qatar has announced it will provide temporary support to 50,000 impoverished Gaza families as mediators attempt to broker a truce between the Palestinian territory’s Islamist rulers Hamas and Israel.

The Gulf state will provide $100 each to 50,000 poor families in the “next few days”, a statement from Qatar’s Gaza Reconstruction Committee said late Tuesday.

The beneficiaries are being selected in coordination with the Hamas-led authorities.

© AFP/File | Qatar has announced it will provide temporary financial relief to 50,000 impoverished Gaza families as mediators attempt to broker a truce between the Palestinian territory’s Islamist rulers Hamas and Israel

Separately on Tuesday, cash-strapped Hamas announced that civil servants would receive the majority of their salaries for the first time in months.

Hamas has controlled Gaza since ousting forces loyal to the internationally recognised Palestinian Authority in a near civil war in 2007.

Since then, the Islamists have fought three wars with Israel, which maintains a crippling blockade of Gaza.

Egypt and the United Nations have been brokering indirect negotiations that would see Hamas end months of often violent protests along the border in exchange for Israel easing its blockade.

In an Israeli-approved deal, Qatar has started buying additional fuel for Gaza’s sole power station, allowing planned outages to be reduced to their lowest level in recent years.

Qatar is a longtime ally of Hamas, an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood.



Khashoggi crisis may tip Middle East power balance towards Turkey

November 3, 2018

The murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi could alter the power dynamic in the Middle East by strengthening Turkey’s influence at Saudi Arabia’s expense as they compete for leadership of the Islamic world, analysts say.

This certainly appears to be the goal of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the main regional supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood, which Saudi Arabia and its allies Egypt and the United Arab Emirates consider a terrorist group.

The killing inside the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul by a team sent from Riyadh on October 2 has already severely tarnished Saudi Arabia’s global reputation.

But it is the potential involvement of Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, the oil-rich Gulf nation’s de facto leader known by his initials MBS, that could permanently damage Riyadh’s influence in the region.

After initially insisting Khashoggi left the consulate unharmed, then saying he died in a brawl, the Saudi regime finally stated he was killed by a “rogue operation” and arrested 18 suspects, some with links to the crown prince.

© AFP/File | The killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi inside the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul by a team sent from Riyadh on October 2 has already severely tarnished Riyadh’s global reputation

Analysts say Erdogan could use the ensuing crisis to weaken the 33-year-old prince, even potentially leading to the royal family removing him from power — though that seems unlikely.

“The killing of Khashoggi has proven to be a golden opportunity for President Erdogan to pressure Saudi Arabia and work towards presenting Turkey as the new leader of the Muslim world,” said Lina Khatib, director of Middle East and North Africa Programme at Chatham House.

“The Khashoggi crisis is a big geo-political gamble for Turkey and so far it looks like it is playing the game masterfully. But Turkey alone will not be able to push for the removal of MBS. The ball lies in the American court,” she added.

– ‘Opportunity’ for Erdogan –

For Erdogan, promoting the Muslim Brotherhood — which Saudi Arabia has sought to marginalise in the Arab world and which was ousted from power and brutally repressed in Egypt in 2013 by current President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi — is at the heart of this power struggle.

The Turkish leader could also try to extract concessions from Riyadh for its ally Qatar, facing a Saudi blockade backed by the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Egypt since 2017.

“I think that Erdogan sees this as an opportunity to push back against a triple entente in the Middle East that opposes his policies. That triple entente is composed of MBS, MBZ’s (Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan) UAE and Sisi’s Egypt,” said Soner Cagaptay, director of the Turkey Research Program at the Washington Institute.

“These three countries, all Arabs, oppose Erdogan’s policies of supporting the Muslim Brotherhood. Now Erdogan sees a golden opportunity because MBS is vulnerable.”

But Sinan Ulgen, president of the Centre for Economics and Foreign Policy, said “it remains to be seen whether Ankara can continue to leverage this conjuncture and turn it into a permanent advantage raising Turkey’s regional influence to the detriment of Saudi Arabia”.

Nicholas Heras, an analyst at the Center for a New American Security, said the Khashoggi case was the “latest chapter in Turkey and Saudi Arabia’s ongoing contest over which country is better” to lead the Muslim world.

– ‘Cut MBS down to size’ –

“Erdogan clearly seems to believe that he can use the Khashoggi crisis as a way to cut Prince Mohammad bin Salman, and by extension, Saudi Arabia, down to size,” Heras added.

By not directly pointing the blame at the crown prince over Khashoggi, Erdogan is seeking to keep him under pressure, according to Karim Bitar of the Paris-based French Institute for International and Strategic Affairs think-tank.

“Erdogan knows that he still has ammunition that could weaken MBS in the international arena so basically he is rolling the dice these days trying to figure out how to maximise his profit after this huge Saudi blunder,” he told AFP.

While the Muslim Brotherhood is important to Turkey, the West — especially the United States — is wary of the group and wants to focus any pressure on the crown prince towards ending the Yemen war and lifting the blockade on Qatar, the experts said.

“I expect the blockade on Doha will likely come to an end in the near future and the Saudis find a way to support the UN’s efforts in Yemen,” said Steven Cook of the Council on Foreign Relations.

Bitar noted that the US administration relies on Prince Mohammed’s support for any possible peace plan for the Israel-Palestinian conflict as well as containing Iran, long a Saudi foe.

Washington could also push the crown prince towards “a rapprochement with Israel and to maintain a hawkish line towards Iran”, Bitar added.


Jamal Khashoggi death: Erdoğan to address Turkish parliament – live

October 23, 2018

Image result for erdogan, photos

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan

Live Feed at:


See also:

Khashoggi case has put Saudi Prince right where Erdoğan wants him

In Khashoggi’s death, a battle over regional power looms — “There’s a big strategic game here, and MBS is in a fragile position.”

October 23, 2018

The slow-speed admission by Saudi Arabia that journalist Jamal Khashoggi was killed inside its consulate in Istanbul has been more than a begrudging journey toward justice.

Image result for erdogan, photos

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan

It has also become the latest front in a battle for regional power between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, two figures who have sought to stamp their vision on their respective countries as well as the wider region, even as they redefine their relationship with the U.S. and Europe.

Los Angeles Times

In Khashoggi, Erdogan has found a golden opportunity to strike at the crown prince.

“There’s a big strategic game here, and MBS is in a fragile position,” said Soner Cagaptay, author of “The New Sultan: Erdogan and the Crisis of Modern Turkey” in a phone interview Monday.

The longstanding competition between the two Sunni Muslim Middle East powers flared in 2013 when Saudi Arabia backed a military-led coup in Egypt that toppled elected President Mohamed Morsi, a leader of the Sunni transnational Muslim Brotherhood movement.

More than five years later, Erdogan, a supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood, still refuses to recognize the government of Egyptian president Abdel Fattah Sisi.

“This alliance targets Erdogan because not only has he not recognized the Egyptian government, but has given safe haven to a large number of Muslim Brotherhood opposition types, which the governments of Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates see as serious internal threats,” Cagaptay said.

The rift has intensified since Bin Salman’s ascent to power in 2015.

Reacting to a Riyadh-led blockade of Qatar, Erdogan dispatched Turkish troops to protect the tiny Gulf nation from an invasion by its neighbors. Ankara is now setting up a military base in the country, and earlier this month signed a military cooperation pact with Kuwait, another neighbor of Saudi Arabia that has tussled with Bin Salman over oil rights.

Meanwhile, President Trump’s anti-Iran focus — an obsession shared by Saudi leaders about their rival Shiite Muslim neighbor — and his push for Israeli-Palestinian peace have placed Bin Salman at the heart of the administration’s Middle East policy.

The U.S. has given Bin Salman logistic and weapons support to pursue a war in Yemen against Iran-backed Houthi rebels. And presidential advisor and son-in-law Jared Kushner, Trump’s point man in the region, has tasked Bin Salman with lobbying his Arab allies to accept an Israeli-Palestinian deal that many believe would be unacceptable to the Palestinians.

That has served to impair Erdogan’s position as the region’s top figure and leading champion for Sunni Muslims.

Erdogan himself cut ties with Israel for six years after an Israeli raid on a flotilla to the blockaded Gaza Strip killed 10 Turkish activists in 2010. A year later he threw his full support behind Syrian opposition groups, allowing them to use Turkish border towns as staging areas for attack on Syrian government troops. Under Erdogan’s rule, many in the region have viewed Turkey as a model for political Islam, even dubbing him “The Lion of the Sunnis” in Lebanon and elsewhere.

Since the crown prince is now seen as the weakest link among Sunni countries against the Muslim Brotherhood, Cagaptay said, Erdogan’s “goal is to get a consensus from MBS’ father that would see him at least sidelined or neutralized.”

In pursuit of that aim, Erdogan’s operatives seized control of the narrative almost from the first day of Khashoggi’s mysterious disappearance and have refused to let go.

Although there were few official statements, an advisor to Erdogan made clear early on that Khashoggi had never left the Saudi consulate after entering Oct. 2.

Later, advisor Yasin Aktay revealed that Khashoggi, who had gone there to handle routine paperwork, had been killed inside — long before the Saudis admitted to it.

Erdogan himself was uncharacteristically tight-lipped, saying little more than that he was personally following the issue and “hoping for a positive outcome.” Bin Salman, meanwhile, in an interview with Bloomberg, said Khashoggi had left the consulate.

At that point, the media focus might have faded were it not for a further series of leaks by unnamed Turkish officials that rebutted Saudi and American efforts to downplay the issue.

It helped that the details had all the makings of an old-fashioned spy thriller: A 15-man Saudi hit squad; a gory death followed by dismemberment with a bone saw; an audio recording of the murder obtained by unknown means by Turkish intelligence, reported to exist but yet to be released.

Eventually, the Saudis acknowledged the journalist’s death, but they have offered contradictory explanations, insisting it was a “rogue operation” and then an interrogation that went too far. They have yet to disclose what happened to the body of the 59-year-old Khashoggi, a contributor to the Washington Post.

Monday brought a new round of leaks, with CNN obtaining surveillance footage depicting one of the 15 Saudis wearing Khashoggi’s clothes, along with a fake beard and glasses, and walking out of the consulate, presumably to have set up an early cover story.

“Our assessment has not changed since Oct. 6,” a Turkish official told CNN. “This was a premeditated murder and the body was moved out of the consulate.”

The saga could reach a denouement on Tuesday, the day Erdogan promised in a speech over the weekend that all would be revealed “in its naked truth.”

The Khashoggi crisis has also come at an opportune time for a leader beset with problems at home and abroad.

Last month, the lira plunged to half its value to the dollar, and though it has slightly recovered the Turkish economy remains vulnerable. Erdogan’s appointment of his son-in-law Berat Albayrak as finance minister, a 40-year old businessman with no experience in the job, has done little to reassure foreign investors.

Erdogan also remains at loggerheads with the West over his ongoing purge of thousands of political opponents.

Turkey has taken in more than 3 million Syrian refugees, according to the U.N. It is eager to send them home, even as it works to sabotage plans for a U.S.-backed Kurdish enclave in eastern Syria for which Saudi Arabia recently pledged $100 million. (Ankara views Syrian Kurds as a proxy for Kurdish separatists at home.)

But there are limits to what Erdogan can do on his own, said Aaron Stein, a Turkey expert at the Washington-based Atlantic Council.

“Erdogan wants to force broader bigger political changes to Saudi foreign policy, which largely emanate from MBS’ office,” said Stein in a phone interview Monday. “He’s rightly seen that the only one that can bring pressure on Bin Salman is the U.S. The question is if team Trump will sacrifice relations, oil and its work on Iran for a murdered journalist.”

Washington Post: Conservatives mount a whisper campaign smearing Khashoggi in defense of Trump

October 19, 2018

Hard-line Republicans and conservative commentators are mounting a whispering campaign against Jamal Khashoggi that is designed to protect President Trump from criticism of his handling of the dissident journalist’s alleged murder by operatives of Saudi Arabia — and support Trump’s continued aversion to a forceful response to the oil-rich desert kingdom.

In recent days, a cadre of conservative House Republicans allied with Trump has been privately exchanging articles from right-wing outlets that fuel suspicion of Khashoggi, highlighting his association with the Muslim Brotherhood in his youth and raising conspiratorial questions about his work decades ago as an embedded reporter covering Osama bin Laden, according to four GOP officials involved in the discussions who were not authorized to speak publicly.

Those aspersions — which many lawmakers have been wary of stating publicly because of the political risks of doing so — have begun to flare into public view as conservative media outlets have amplified the claims, which are aimed in part at protecting Trump as he works to preserve the U.S.-Saudi relationship and avoid confronting the Saudis on human rights.

By Robert Costa Karoun Demirjian

Washington Post

President Trump tells reporters at Joint Base Andrews on Thursday that it appears journalist Jamal Khashoggi is dead. (Carolyn Kaster/AP)

Trump’s remarks about reporters amid the Khashoggi fallout have inflamed existing tensions between his allies and the media. At a Thursday rally in Montana, Trump openly praised Rep. Greg Gianforte (R-Mont.) for assaulting a reporter in his bid for Congress last year.

“Any guy that can do a body slam, he’s my kind of — he’s my guy,” Trump said.

Hours earlier, prominent conservative television personalities were making insinuations about Khashoggi’s background.

Michael Beer holds a poster during a rally about the disappearance of Washington Post contributing columnist Jamal Khashoggi outside the Embassy of Saudi Arabia on Wednesday. (Matt McClain/The Washington Post)

“Khashoggi was tied to the Muslim Brotherhood,” Fox News anchor Harris Faulkner asserted on Thursday’s highly rated “Outnumbered” show. “I just put it out there because it is in the constellation of things that are being talked about.” Faulkner then dismissed another guest who called her claim “iffy.”

The message was echoed on the campaign trail. Virginia Republican Corey A. Stewart, who is challenging Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), told a local radio program Thursday that “Khashoggi was not a good guy himself.”

While Khashoggi was once sympathetic to Islamist movements, he moved toward a more liberal, secular point of view, according to experts on the Middle East who have tracked his career. Khashoggi knew bin Laden in the 1980s and 1990s during the civil war in Afghanistan, but his interactions with bin Laden were as a journalist with a point of view who was working with a prized source.

Khashoggi, a Saudi citizen, left his home country last year and was granted residency in the United States by federal authorities. He lived in Virginia and wrote for The Washington Post.

Nevertheless, the smears have escalated. Donald Trump Jr., the president’s eldest son and key political booster, shared another person’s tweet last week with his millions of followers that included a line that Khashoggi was “tooling around Afghanistan with Osama bin Laden” in the 1980s, even though the context was a feature story on bin Laden’s activities.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo meets with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Riyadh on Tuesday. (Leah Mills/AP)

A Tuesday broadcast of CR-TV, a conservative online outlet founded by populartalk-radio host Mark Levin, labeled Khashoggi a “longtime friend” of terrorists and claimed without evidence that Trump was the victim of an “insane” media conspiracy to tarnish him. The broadcast has been viewed more than 12,000 times.

story in far-right FrontPage magazine casts Khashoggi as a “cynical and manipulative apologist for Islamic terrorism, not the mythical martyred dissident whose disappearance the media has spent the worst part of a week raving about,” and features a garish cartoon of bin Laden and Khashoggi with their arms around each other.

The conservative push comes as Saudi government supporters on Twitter have sought in a propaganda campaign to denigrate Khashoggi as a supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist movement once tolerated but now outlawed in Saudi Arabia as a terrorist organization.

“Trump wants to take a soft line, so Trump supporters are finding excuses for him to take it,” said William Kristol, a conservative Trump critic. “One of those excuses is attacking the person who was murdered.”

Several Trump administration aides are aware of the Khashoggi attacks circulating on Capitol Hill and in conservative media, the GOP officials said, adding that aides are being careful to not encourage the disparagement but are also doing little to contest it.

The GOP officials declined to share the names of the lawmakers and others who are circulating information critical of Khashoggi because they said doing so would risk exposing them as sources.

Fred Hiatt, The Post’s editorial page editor who published Khashoggi’s work, sharply criticized the false and distorted claims about Khashoggi, who is feared to have been killed and dismembered by Saudi operatives.

“As anyone knows who knew Jamal — or read his columns — he was dedicated to the values of free speech and open debate. He went into exile to promote those values, and now he may even have lost his life for his dogged determination in their defense,” Hiatt said in a statement. “It may not be surprising that some Saudi-inspired trolls are now trying to distract us from the crime by smearing Jamal. It may not even be surprising to see a few Americans joining in. But in both cases it is reprehensible.”

Trump said Thursday it appears Khashoggi is dead and warned that his administration could consider “very severe” measures against Saudi Arabia, which is conducting its own self-investigation. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin also announced that he would not attend the Future Investment Initiative summit in Saudi Arabia next week, delivering the Trump administration’s first formal rebuke of Saudi Arabia’s royal family.

“The president is concerned. He believes the relationship is important, so do I, but he also understands he’s a leader on the world stage and everybody is watching and he is very concerned,” said Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), who met with Trump on Thursday.

Trump, whose grip on his party remains strong less than three weeks before the midterm elections, has seen his cautious approach to Saudi Arabia bolstered not only by the maligning of Khashoggi, but also by a conservative media infrastructure that is generally wary of traditional news organizations and establishment Republicans. As criticism of Trump grows, powerful players in that orbit have stood by the president.

“Donald Trump is keeping his eye on the ball, keeping his eye on the geopolitical ball, the national security ball. He’s not going to get sidetracked by what happened to a journalist, maybe, in the consulate there. He’s not giving cover to anybody,” syndicated talk-radio host Rush Limbaugh said Tuesday.

“For those who are screaming blood for the Saudis — look, these people are key allies,” evangelical leader Pat Robertson said this week. “We’ve got an arms deal that everybody wanted a piece of. . . . It’ll be a lot of jobs, a lot of money come to our coffers. It’s not something you want to blow up willy-nilly.”

Some Republicans on Capitol Hill, on the other hand, are discussing the possibility of legislative action against Saudi Arabia or other ways to lessen U.S. support.

Intelligence community officials this week have been providing continuous briefings on the investigation into Khashoggi’s disappearance to the intelligence committees, whose members enjoy special clearance to view and hear sensitive information.

But in both the House and Senate, lawmakers without such clearance, including the leading Republicans on foreign policy matters, have grown frustrated with what many see as a deliberate attempt by the Trump administration to slow-walk responses to congressional requests for information about Khashoggi’s disappearance, or in some cases ignore lawmakers’ questions outright.

Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) have taken the step of invoking the Global Magnitsky Act to force Trump to report to Congress on whether people should face sanctions over Khashoggi’s alleged death, including Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Yet there has been little confidence among senators that Trump will suddenly feel pressure to penalize high-ranking Saudi officials or take other sweeping punitive measures.

In the House, a perceived lack of cooperation from the White House on Khashoggi has compelled some Republicans to take new interest in a bill to invoke the War Powers Resolution to curtail U.S. military support for the Saudi-led coalition operating in Yemen’s civil war. But the legislation has not secured the support of leading Republicans.

Last year, the House voted 366 to 30 to approve a nonbinding resolution stating that the United States’ support for the Saudi-led coalition had not been congressionally authorized — an effort that did not rattle the administration, which continued to build its relationships with Saudi royalty.

Earlier this year, the Senate failed to enact legislation that would have curtailed U.S. support for the Saudi war effort, after appeals from Saudi officials and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis not to pass the measure.

For Khashoggi, a Tangled Mix of Royal Service and Islamist Sympathies

October 15, 2018

Jamal Khashoggi landed in Washington last fall, leaving behind a long list of bad news back home.

After a successful career as an adviser to and unofficial spokesman for the royal family of Saudi Arabia, he had been barred from writing in the kingdom, even on Twitter, by the new crown prince. His column in a Saudi-owned Arab newspaper was canceled. His marriage was collapsing. His relatives had been forbidden to travel to pressure him to stop criticizing the kingdom’s rulers.

Image result for Jamal Khashoggi, photos

Then, after he arrived in the United States, a wave of arrests put a number of his Saudi friends behind bars, and he made his difficult decision: It was too dangerous to return home anytime soon — and maybe forever.

So in the United States, he reinvented himself as a critic, contributing columns to The Washington Post and believing he had found safety in the West.

By Ben Hubbard and David D. Kirkpatrick
The New York Times

Members of the Turkish Human Rights Association demonstrating in front of the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul last week.CreditErdem Sahin/EPA, via Shutterstock

But as turned out, the West’s protection extended only so far.

Mr. Khashoggi was last seen on Oct. 2 entering the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, where he needed to pick up a document for his wedding. There, Turkish officials say, a team of Saudi agents killed and dismembered him.

Saudi officials have denied harming Mr. Khashoggi, but nearly two weeks after his disappearance, they have failed to provide evidence that he left the consulate and have offered no credible account of what happened to him.

His disappearance has opened a rift between Washington and Saudi Arabia, the chief Arab ally of the Trump administration. And it has badly damaged the reputation of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the 33-year-old power behind the Saudi throne, who this time may have gone too far for even for his staunchest supporters in the West.

The possibility that the young prince ordered a hit on a dissident poses challenges for President Trump and may turn once warm relationships toxic. It could convince those governments and corporations that had overlooked the prince’s destructive military campaign in Yemen, his kidnapping of the Lebanese prime minister and his waves of arrests of clerics, businessmen and fellow princes that he is a ruthless autocrat who will stop at nothing to get his enemies.

While the disappearance has cast a harsh new light on the crown prince, it has also brought attention to the tangled sympathies throughout Mr. Khashoggi’s career, where he balanced what appears to have been a private affinity for democracy and political Islam with his long service to the royal family.

His attraction to political Islam helped him forge a personal bond with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, who is now demanding that Saudi Arabia explain his friend’s fate.

The idea of self-exile in the West was a blow for Mr. Khashoggi, 60, who had worked as a reporter, commentator and editor to become one of the kingdom’s best known personalities. He first drew international attention for interviewing a young Osama bin Laden and later became well-known as a confidant of kings and princes.

His career left him extraordinarily well-connected, and the tall, gregarious, easygoing man seemed to know everyone who had anything to do with Saudi Arabia over the last three decades.

But settling in Washington had advantages. A friend invited him for Thanksgiving last year and he shared a photo of himself at dinner with his 1.7 million Twitter followers, tucking into turkey and yams.

When his turn came to share what he was thankful for, he said: “Because I have become free, and I can write freely.”

According to interviews with dozens of people who knew Mr. Khashoggi and his relationship with the Saudi leadership, it was his penchant for writing freely, and his organizing to push for political reform from abroad, that put him on a collision course with the crown prince.

While Saudi Arabia has long been ruled according to the consensus of senior princes, Crown Prince Mohammed has dismantled that system, leaving his own power largely unchecked. If a decision was taken to silence a perceived traitor, it likely would have been his.

In Afghanistan in the 1980s, Mr. Khashoggi had his photo taken holding an assault rifle, much to his editors’ chagrin. But it does not appear that he fought there.

Mr. Khashoggi’s first claim to fame was his acquaintance with Osama bin Laden. Mr. Khashoggi had spent time in Jidda, Bin Laden’s hometown, and, like Bin Laden, he came from a prominent nonroyal family. Mr. Khashoggi’s grandfather was a doctor who had treated Saudi Arabia’s first king. His uncle was Adnan Khashoggi, a famous arms dealer, although Jamal Khashoggi did not benefit from his uncle’s wealth.

Mr. Khashoggi studied at Indiana State University and returned to Saudi Arabia to report for an English-language newspaper. Several of his friends say that early on Mr. Khashoggi also joined the Muslim Brotherhood.

Although he later stopped attending meetings of the Brotherhood, he remained conversant in its conservative, Islamist and often anti-Western rhetoric, which he could deploy or hide depending on whom he was seeking to befriend.

His newspaper colleagues recalled him as friendly, thoughtful and devout. He often led communal prayers in the newsroom, recalled Shahid Raza Burney, an Indian editor who worked with him.

Read the rest:


Apple watch worn by Saudi journalist may have transmitted evidence of his death, Turkish paper reports

October 13, 2018

Missing Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi may have recorded his own death, a Turkish newspaper reported Saturday morning.

Khashoggi turned on the recording function of his Apple Watch before walking into the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2 , according to Sabah newspaper.
The moments of his “interrogation, torture and killing were audio recorded and sent to both his phone and to iCloud,” the pro-government, privately owned newspaper paper reported. The Turkish newspaper said conversations of the men involved in the reported assassination were recorded.
Security forces leading the investigation found the audio file inside the phone Khasshoggi left with his fiancé, according to Sabah.
Related image
Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi
Upon noticing the watch, Sabah reports, Khashoggi’s assailants tried to unlock the Apple Watch with multiple password attempts, ultimately using Khashoggi’s fingerprint to unlock the smart watch. They were successful in deleting only some of the files, Sabah reported.
However, on its website, Apple does not list fingerprint verification as one of the Apple Watch’s capabilities. A representative from the company confirmed to CNN the watches do not have the feature.
It was not immediately clear whether it would have been technically feasible for Khashoggi’s Apple phone to transfer audio to his phone, which he had given to his fiancee before entering the consulate.
CNN cannot independently verify Sabah report and is seeking comment from both Saudi and Turkish officials.
Mohammed Bin Salman
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Photo: Pablo Blazquez Dominguez/Getty Images
Saudi Arabia firmly denies any involvement in his disappearance and says he left the consulate that afternoon. His fiancée, Hatice Cengiz, who was waiting outside the consulate, says she did not see him re-emerge.
Turkey has called on Saudi officials to provide evidence that he left the consulate, as they claim.
Saudi Arabia Interior Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Saud bin Naif bin Abdulaziz said reports that the Saudi government ordered the killing of Khashoggi are “lies and baseless allegations against the government of the Kingdom,” according to a statement in the state-run Saudi Press Agency (SPA) published early Saturday.
Prince Abdulaziz bin Saud bin Naif bin Abdulaziz, Saudi Arabia’s minister of interior. (SPA)
Abdulaziz also said “some media” have circulated “false accusations” regarding Khashoggi’s disappearance.
On Friday, a source familiar with the ongoing investigation told CNN that Turkish authorities have audio and visual evidence that showed Khashoggi was killed inside the Saudi consulate. But it was unclear how Turkish authorities obtained the evidence.
The evidence, which was described to the source by a Western intelligence agency, showed there had been an assault and a struggle inside the consulate. There is also evidence of the moment that Khashoggi was killed, the source said.
Turkish security units analyzed how Khashoggi’s reported killing unfolded with the use of a translator, according to Sabah.
Sabah also reported that investigation units are currently examining all cell phone and landline records from the consulate and the consul general’s residence on October 2.
Efforts to locate Khashoggi’s body are ongoing, Sabah reported.
Khashoggi, a columnist for the Washington Post, went into the consulate to obtain paperwork that would allow him to marry his Turkish fiancée. He hasn’t been seen in public since.
CCTV images show Jamal Khashoggi entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2.
The Washington Post reported late Thursday that the Turkish government had told US officials that it was in possession of audio and video recordings proving that Khashoggi was killed in the consulate, citing unnamed US and Turkish sources.
The audio recording in particular provided “persuasive and gruesome evidence” that a Saudi team dispatched to Istanbul was responsible for Khashoggi’s death, the Post reported.
“You can hear his voice and the voices of men speaking Arabic,” one person with knowledge of the recording told the Post. “You can hear how he was interrogated, tortured and then murdered.”
International pressure has mounted on Saudi Arabia to explain what happened to Khashoggi, a former Saudi royal insider who became a critic of the regime and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is known colloquially as MBS.
The business world has also signaled its disquiet, with British tycoon Richard Branson saying he’s pulling back from two tourism projects in Saudi Arabia and has suspended discussions with Riyadh about a $1 billion investment in Virgin’s space companies. Business leaders have also started pulling out of a key conference hosted by MBS in late October.
CNN confirmed Friday that it too would no longer participate in the Saudi Future Investment Initiative conference, known as “Davos in the desert.” CNN was a media partner for the event.
US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin reaffirmed his commitment to attend the Riyadh summitwhile expressing concerns about Khashoggi’s status.
“The conference is on for now, I am going,” he told reporters Saturday at the International Monetary Fund’s annual meeting in Indonesia.
He also suggested that his plans could change as details from the investigation are released.

Focus on 15 Saudi men

Turkish authorities believe 15 Saudi men who arrived in Istanbul on October 2 were connected to Khashoggi’s disappearance and possible killing. At least some of them appear to have high-level connections in the Saudi government.
On Thursday, a US official familiar with the intelligence told CNN that the US had intercepts of Saudi officials discussing a plan to lure Khashoggi back to Saudi Arabia and detain him.
Washington’s “working assumption” is that Khashoggi was killed inside the consulate in Istanbul, according to a US official familiar with the latest intelligence. “We are pretty clear eyed it is likely to have happened and it didn’t end well,” the official said. The source did caution that this was the latest assessment and no conclusions had been made.
An aerial image of the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
A source who knows Khashoggi told CNN that Saudi authorities made several attempts to reach out to Khashoggi in 2017, including proposing he lead a think tank funded by the state. The source says that Khashoggi rejected the ideas and over the following months his much sharper criticism of the government, in its domestic policy and relating to the crisis with Qatar, ended any dialogue.
The source, who maintains high-level contact inside the kingdom, says that senior figures in the Royal Court in Riyadh were especially infuriated by Khashoggi’s criticism of the decision by the Saudi authorities to classify in September 2017 the Muslim Brotherhood and the Islamic scholar Yusuf al-Qaradawi as terrorists. At the same time, the source says, Khashoggi became more wary of returning to the kingdom.
Three days before his disappearance, Khashoggi — speaking to a BBC journalist in an off-air conversation after a radio interview — said he did not think he would ever be able to return to Saudi Arabia.
Asked when he might be able to go home again, Khashoggi says: “I don’t think I’ll be able to.”
The BBC several days ago said it decided to publish the off-air conversation “in light of the current circumstances.”
“When I hear of an arrest of a friend who did nothing… makes me feel I shouldn’t go,” Khashoggi is heard saying. “That friend of mine… maybe he was talking critically over something at a dinner party. That’s what we are becoming in Saudi Arabia, we are not used to that, we never experienced [this],” he added.
A delegation from Saudi Arabia has arrived in Turkey for the investigation into Khashoggi’s disappearance, Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency reported Friday.

Trump rules out immediate action on arms sales


US President Donald Trump has said his administration was being “very tough” with Saudi Arabia as it investigates Khashoggi’s case.
But Trump said Thursday that he was reluctant to take action, particularly on the issue of arms sales. “There are other things we can do,” he told reporters at the White House.
“I don’t like the concept of stopping an investment of $110 billion into the United States because you know what they’re going to do, they’re going to take that money and spend it in Russia or China,” Trump said, referring to a US arms deal with Saudi Arabia. “If it turns out to be as bad as it might be, there are certainly other ways of handling the situation.”
The US signed a nearly $110 billion defense deal with Saudi Arabia in May 2017, when Trump made Saudi Arabia a stop on his first foreign trip as president. The stop was seen, in part, as an endorsement of the strong relationship between Trump, Jared Kushner — his son-in-law and senior adviser — and bin Salman.
France’s Foreign Ministry said it had demanded that Saudi Arabia provide a “complete and detailed response” with regard to the reported killing of Khashoggi, whose disappearance “raises serious questions about his fate.”
“France demands that the facts are clearly established,” the ministry said.
Gulf Arab states came out in support of Saudi Arabia, however, in the first wave of official reactions from its neighbors.
In a tweet Thursday, the United Arab Emirates’ Foreign Minister, Anwar Gargash, called media reports on the matter “a fierce campaign” run in coordination with “inciting parties.”
Image result for Anwar Gargash, Photos
United Arab Emirates’ Foreign Minister, Anwar Gargash
“The repercussions of political targeting of Saudi Arabia will be dire on those who inflame it,” he said.
Bahrain’s Foreign Minister, Khalid bin Ahmad, said that “Saudi Arabia is the target, not the search for truth.”

Turkish investigation


Saudi officials had agreed to allow Ankara to inspect the consulate as part of Turkey’s investigation into the missing journalist. But it was not clear Friday whether this inspection had taken place. A senior Turkish official speaking on the condition of anonymity had previously told CNN that “the Saudis are not cooperating fully with the investigation. They are not open to cooperating.”
On Friday, a Saudi official said that he “welcomed” an announcement by the Turkish President to form a joint team of experts from both countries to investigate Khashoggi’s disappearance and that he was “fully confident of the team’s ability to accomplish the mission,” according to a statement from the Center for International Communication at the Saudi Information Ministry.
He said the “Kingdom attached utmost priority to its citizens’ safety and security, irrespective of their location.”
Sabah, a pro-government private newspaper in Turkey, on Tuesday listed 15 names alongside photographs of men who authorities believe were flown into Istanbul from Riyadh. The state-run Anadolu news agency later published similar details on eight of the individuals.
One of the Saudi men was identified by Turkey’s official Anadolu Agency and Sabah as Salah Muhammed al-Tubaiqi. He is listed on an official Saudi health website as the head of the forensic medicine department at the interior ministry.
Salah Muhammad al-Tubaiqi, head of the forensic medicine department at the Saudi interior ministry.
Another member of the group identified by Turkish official media, Muhammad Saad al-Zahrani, has appeared on Saudi state TV alongside MBS.
See also:

Trump Says He Will Speak With Saudi Arabia’s King Salman About Missing Journalist Jamal Khashoggi


Companies back away from Saudi business over missing journalist

Egypt Cracks Down On “Fake News,” Social Media, Journalists

September 17, 2018

Echoing some of President Donald Trump’s rhetoric, authorities in Egypt are taking aim at an alleged barrage of “fake news” they say is meant to sow division and undermine the rule of general-turned-president Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi.

Under a new law, the state’s top media regulatory agency can now use the “fake news” label to shut down social media accounts with more than 5,000 followers, without having to obtain a court order. Another new law allows blocking websites with content deemed a threat to national security.


Last month, the government set up a unit tracking alleged rumors, after El-Sisi claimed without elaborating that the government had identified some 21,000 rumors having been circulated over a three-month period this year. The Cabinet often issues statements refuting purported rumors.

Government critics denounce the measures as the latest attempt to suppress dissent and silence what is left of independent journalism. Over the past few months, some 500 online sites have been blocked, as part of the state’s growing control over the media, according to an Egyptian watchdog, the Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression.

“They (authorities) have blocked all sources of information,” said Khaled el-Balshy, a prominent pro-democracy activist and former board member of the Journalists’ Union. “They confiscate the media and any area of free speech, even on social media.”

Two of his websites were recently blocked, including one just nine hours after its June 19 launch. He said the government did not publicize the decision or provide an explanation.

Trump has repeatedly accused critical media outlets of being producers of “fake news,” labelling them “the enemy of the people,” and only lauding those that cover him favorably.

Egypt’s government never said publicly that it was embracing Trump’s media policies, but El-Sisi, a staunch Trump ally, has made clear that he wants to see the media united behind him.

El-Sisi has alleged that Egypt and other Arab nations are being threatened by rumors.

“The real danger is blowing up countries from within,” El-Sisi said in July. “Rumors, terrorist acts, losing hope and frustration, all these (things) function in an incredible network aiming at one objective: to stir up people to destroy their country.”

In recent years, more restrictive media policies have been adopted elsewhere in the Arab world as governments crack down on social media content.

The Palestinian self-rule government, for example, last year clamped down on social media and news websites — main outlets for debate and dissent in the West Bank — with a vaguely worded law that allows for charges of harming “national unity” or the “social fabric.”

In Egypt, officials have pointed to several recent reports on social media networks that they said were blatantly false and seemed designed to spread panic.

One report claimed poisoned tomatoes were being sold in the markets. Another said authorities planned to tax bank deposits. A third rumor warned depositors that the government planned to seize their foreign currency accounts and give them their equivalent in Egyptian pounds.

Not surprisingly, authorities are blaming the misinformation on the Muslim Brotherhood group, which was designated a terrorist organization after the 2013 military overthrow of President Muhammad Mursi, who hails from the group, amid mass street protest against his one-year rule.

The government has treated the Brotherhood as its main domestic enemy since then.

Thousands of people — mostly Islamists but also secular, pro-democracy advocates — have been jailed since 2013 as restrictions were placed on civil society groups and freedom of expression. The crackdown continues amid rising discontent over price hikes for food, transport and utilities.

The government has also clamped down on independent journalists, activists and bloggers, detaining dozens who now face an array of charges, chief among which is disseminating false news, according to Mokhtar Mounir, a rights lawyer who represents several detainees.

Among those detained were many social media heavyweights critical of the government, including famous blogger Wael Abbas, and political activists Hazem Abdel-Azim and Shady Harb.

Earlier this year, authorities shut down an independent news site after it published an Arabic translation of a New York Times article alleging that voters in this year’s presidential election were offered cash, food and promises of better services if they cast their ballots. The site’s editor was arrested.

Authorities said the site was operating without license and charged it with spreading false news and belonging to an outlawed group, political parlance for the Muslim Brotherhood .

At about the same time, the editor of one of Egypt’s popular dailies — el-Masri el-Youm — was fired over an article that catalogued state-sponsored efforts to boost the turnout in the March vote. Election authorities said the article was an “insult” to the state, several staff members along with its editor, Mohammed el-Sayed Saleh, were questioned by prosecutors and the paper was fined 150,000 Egyptian pounds ($8,400).

The head of the government’s new “rumor tracking unit,” Naayim Saad Zaghloul, said her staff is focusing on social media. “It is fertile ground for rumors to spread, and we have personnel in the field to monitor rumors and address them immediately,” she said.

The state media and private, pro-government TV networks broadcast daily announcements warning against purported lies on social media.

State-run Nile News TV ran an ad claiming to have identified eight fake reports within 10 days.

The pro-government CBC Extra channel urged viewers not to “believe everything seen on social media.”

UN urges Egypt to reverse ‘unfair trial’ death sentences

September 9, 2018


An Egyptian court’s confirmation of 75 death sentences was not based on a fair trial and should be reversed to avoid an “irreversible miscarriage of justice”, the UN said Sunday.

New United Nations rights chief Michelle Bachelet said she was “extremely concerned” at the decision handed down by the Cairo Criminal Court Saturday in one of the largest mass trials since the 2011 uprising.

“The evident disregard of basic rights of the accused places the guilt of all those convicted in serious doubt,” she warned in a statement.

© AFP | Mahmoud Abu Zeid mimics taking a photograph during his trial at the Cairo Criminal Court on September 8

Bachelet, who took the reins of the UN rights office less than a week ago, urged Egypt’s appeals court to “review this verdict and ensure that international standards of justice are respected by setting it aside.”

The 75 people who initially received their death sentences in July were among 739 defendants on trial in the same case — most of them facing charges of killing police and vandalising property during clashes in 2013 between security forces and supporters of ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi.

“The 739 people were tried en masse, and were not permitted individual legal representation before the court,” Bachelet noted out in a statement.

“In addition, the accused were not given the right to present evidence in their defence, and the prosecution did not provide sufficient evidence to prove individual guilt,” she said.

In light of the obvious unfairness of the trial, she warned that “the 75 death sentences affirmed yesterday, if implemented, would represent a gross and irreversible miscarriage of justice.”

In addition to the death sentences, 47 people were sentenced to life behind bars, while the remainder were handed prison terms of varying length.

They included award-winning photojournalist Mahmoud Abu Zeid, who was sentenced to five years behind bars.

On August 14, 2013, one of the bloodiest days in Egypt’s modern history, a month after the army ousted Morsi, police moved to disperse a sprawling Islamist protest camp at Rabaa al-Adawiya square in Cairo.

Image may contain: 1 person, standing and outdoor

FILE – Supporters of ousted president Mohamed Morsi and the Muslim brotherhood run away from tear gas during clashes with Egyptian riot police close to Rabaa al-Adawiya square, Nov. 22, 2013.

The military crackdown “is alleged to have led to the killing of up to 900 mostly unarmed protesters by members of the Egyptian security forces,” the United Nations said.

Despite the large death toll, the United Nations noted that no state security personnel have ever been charged in relation to the so-called Rabaa massacre.

Bachelet pointed to the stark contrast between the many mass trials since then and a law passed in July effectively bestowing complete impunity on security personnel for offenses committed in the period after the overthrow of Morsi’s government on July 3, 2013.

“Justice must apply to all, no one should be immune,” she insisted.

“Attempts to bestow immunity from prosecution for crimes allegedly committed by members of the security forces merely promotes impunity,” she warned.


Bahrain halts new visas for Qataris in Gulf crisis salvo

August 22, 2018

Qatari students studying in Bahrain would be exempt from the new measures and visas already issued would remain valid.

Bahrain severed ties with Qatar in June last year at the same time as Saudi Arabia, Egypt and UAE [Al Jazeera]
Bahrain severed ties with Qatar in June last year at the same time as Saudi Arabia, Egypt and UAE [Al Jazeera]

Bahrain has stopped issuing new visas to Qataris, the interior ministry said late on Tuesday, in the latest salvo in a months-long feud between the Gulf states.

The small island kingdom severed relations with Qatar in June last year at the same time as regional power Saudi Arabia and its allies Egypt and the United Arab Emirates.

But it had continued issuing some visas to citizens of the emirate, which lies just 40km away on the mainland of the Arabian Peninsula.

The ministry said only Qatari students studying in Bahrain would be exempt from the new measures, and visas already issued would remain valid.

The measures were a response to the “irresponsible actions of the Qatari authorities, who do not consider the rights of neighbouring countries or the principles of international law,” the ministry said in a statement carried by the official BNA news agency.

The two sides have exchanged repeated allegations of violations of airspace or territorial waters and have launched multiple lawsuits through international tribunals.


Qatar-Gulf crisis: All the latest updates

Bahrain and its allies have demanded that Qatar cut its alleged ties to the Muslim Brotherhood and take a tougher line with Shia Iran, which they accuse of meddling in the region’s affairs.

Qatar, which is to host the finals of the next football World Cup in 2022, has insisted it has the right to conduct an independent foreign policy.

The result has been a highly fractious diplomatic and economic dispute between the Western allies that has no end in sight.