Sentenced to death for taking part in protests against Saudi Arabia’s monarchy, a 21-year-old Shiite man faces execution on Thursday. His sentence has provoked particular outcry as the Saudi kingdom takes the helm of the UN’s Human Rights Council.
In Saudi Arabia – which, paradoxically, was recently elected chair of the UN Human Rights Council – protesting against the government is an act punishable by death.
Ali al-Nimr was only 17 years old when he was arrested in 2012 for taking part in Arab Spring demonstrations in Qatif, a district in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province.
Authorities accused the young man – a nephew of prominent Shiite cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, who was himself sentenced to death in October 2014 – of belonging to a criminal organisation and attacking police. Nimr was sentenced to death in May and, after losing his final appeal last week, can now be executed at any time.
Nimr al-Nimr was a leading force in organising demonstrations in Eastern Province in 2011.
Death by 'beheading and crucifixion'
A group of independent UN human rights experts issued a statement on Tuesday urging Saudi Arabia to halt Nimr’s execution, saying that the young man was coerced into giving a confession after he was “reportedly tortured and subjected to ill-treatment”.
The UN experts added that Nimr “did not receive a fair trial and his lawyer was not allowed to assist him properly and was prevented from accessing his case file”. They also said that they had reliable information indicating that the appeals process had been carried out with “a complete disregard for international standards”.
“Any judgment imposing the death penalty upon persons who were children at the time of the offence, and their execution, is incompatible with Saudi Arabia’s international obligations,” the experts said.
Nimr’s lawyers, who believe that his sentencing is linked to his uncle’s activism, fear that he will be executed on Thursday, which marks the start of the Muslim holiday Eid al-Adha. According to media reports, the young man will be beheaded and his body crucified in public view. The barbaric practice is reminiscent of the Islamic State (IS) group’s methods in the northern Syrian village of Raqqa.
Saudi Arabia and human rights
Nimr’s case came as Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the United Nations, Faisal bin Hassan Trad, was named head of the UN’s Human Rights Council. The decision has already shocked rights groups, which have pointed to the kingdom’s poor track record on human rights issues.
According to Amnesty International’s most recent report, Saudi Arabia executed “on average one person every two days” between August 2014 and June 2015. The rights group has also accused the Sunni-ruled country, which enforces sharia law, of restricting freedoms of expression, association and assembly, as well as discriminating against the country’s Shiite minority and carrying out arbitrary arrests.
Despite mounting calls to halt Nimr’s execution, it is unlikely that Saudi Arabia will listen. The kingdom has already said in the past that it “has the independence and will not accept any interference with [its judicial system] or internal affairs of any other sort”.
Following the announcement that the Islamic State terror organization (ISIS) had orchestrated the terror attacks in Brussels on Tuesday, in which at least 31 people were murdered and hundreds injured, Palestinian Authority (PA) Security Forces Spokesman Adnan Al-Damiri suggested that Israel was behind the attacks, as documented by Palestinian Media Watch (PMW).
In a post on Facebook, Al-Damiri questioned whether the attacks by ISIS could be just “a coincidence” now that European support for “Palestine” and the boycott of Israeli settlement products is at a high.
On Thursday, reacting to the news that ISIS was responsible, Al-Damiri posted: “Question: How come Europe has turned into the scene of terror attacks and murder of innocent civilians after the majority of European parliaments have recognized the State of Palestine, and after the expansion of the European boycott of products made in Israeli settlements?
Is it possible that the timing of the targeting [of Europe] by ISIS and its offshoots is innocent and a coincidence? And why specifically Europe now that the European popular and official support for Palestine is growing??? Help me understand and answer. Thank you!”
That same day, Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, the official PA daily, joined the finger-pointing at Israel. Member of the Fatah Revolutionary Council Muwaffaq Matar, a regular columnist, also questioned why the attacks in Paris in November and in Brussels last week happened precisely at a time when Europe’s support for the Palestinians was great, indicating that Israel must have been behind the attacks.
“We do not want to throw accusations, but why did the crimes and terrorist massacres of ISIS in France and Brussels coincide with the European Union’s first attempt to free itself of the Israeli extortion and of the Jewish persecution in Europe complex, and [coincide with] European members of parliament’s support of the Palestinian right [to statehood]?” Matar wrote.
He specifically mentioned France’s leading role in pressuring Israel and the fact that Brussels and the EU have been heading the boycott and labeling of Israeli products made in Judea and Samaria. “How can we not allow ourselves to consider this background as the motive of those affected (i.e., Israel) by the new Europe to strike at its heart (i.e., Brussels),” the columnist asked.
“We are talking about the motives of the heads of the project (i.e., the “Zionist project”), who carried out a historic crime against a whole people in order to achieve authority to act as a proxy of the colonial states and powers – those people will not hesitate to use the latest tools of terror under their own labels (i.e., ISIS), and thus hit three birds with one terrorist bombing – the Palestinians, the Arabs, and Europe…
ISIS does not have all these abilities to attack whenever or however it wants, and there are those who have penetrated ISIS to the core because ISIS is their modern means to take revenge on Europe and rip out its heart,” Matar stated.
Similarly, Fatah – the PA’s ruling party, headed by PA President Mahmoud Abbas – accused Israel of being behind the terror attacks in Paris in November, in which 129 people were killed and 350 wounded.
Source: Palestinian Media Watch
AFP | The Iranian honour guard carries the coffin of Iran's former ambassador to Lebanon Ghazanfar Roknabadi, who was killed in Saudi Arabia, during a repatriation ceremony at Tehran's Mehrabad Airport on November 27, 2015
© AFP / Handout / US Air Force / Staff Sgt. Ciara Wymbs| In this September 27, 2014 US Air Force handout photo, a B-1B Lancer disengages from a KC-135 Stratotanker after refueling after airstrikes on Islamic State jihadists in Syria
US troops are intensifying pressure on the Islamic State (IS) group in Syria and Iraq by supporting local forces with an expanded air campaign and occasional direct ground support, US Defense Secretary Ash Carter said Tuesday.
Carter said the campaign against IS militants was evolving as the US military sought to reinforce ground efforts. He said US forces aimed to intensify pressure on IS group strongholds in Raqqa in Syria and Ramadi in Iraq.
"We won't hold back from supporting capable partners in opportunistic attacks against ISIL, or conducting such missions directly whether by strikes from the air or direct action on the ground," Carter told the Senate Armed Services Committee, using an acronym for the militant group that holds large parts of Iraq and Syria.
Testifying alongside Carter before the Committee in Washington DC, Marine Corp Gen. Joseph Dunford, the new chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said he would consider recommending putting US forces with Iraqi troops to fight the IS group if it improved the chances of defeating the militants.
He said such a move could ensure logistics effectiveness and boost intelligence awareness.
“If it had an operational or strategic impact and we could reinforce success, that would be the basic framework within which I’d make a recommendation for additional forces to be co-located with Iraqi units,” Dunford said.
Keeping up the pressure on Raqqa
Carter stated that he expects the coalition air campaign, of which France is a member, to intensify. Carter said this will involve more operations and aircraft.
His testimony came as Russia is conducting its own airstrikes in Syria, saying it aims to help the Syrian government defeat the Islamic State militants and other terrorists.
While both the US and Russia oppose the Islamic State group, Russia is supporting Syrian President Bashar Assad, whom the US wants deposed. Some Republican lawmakers complained that the Obama administration is not doing enough against Assad.
Carter said to keep up the pressure on Raqqa, the US will support moderate Syrian forces, who have made territorial gains against the IS group near that city. "Some of them are within 30 miles (50 kilometers) of Raqqa today," he said.
He said the US also hopes to better equip Arab forces battling the Islamic State group and increase support to Jordan, a neighbour of Iraq and Syria which is flying missions as part of the anti-IS group coalition.
Carter said he was disappointed that the US effort to form new moderate Syrian rebel forces to fight IS group militants had failed. He said the new approach is to work with vetted leaders of groups that are already fighting the militants and also give them equipment and training and help support them with US air power.
"If done in concert as we intend, all these actions on the ground and from the air should help shrink IS territory into a smaller and smaller area and create new opportunities for targeting IS - ultimately denying this evil movement any safe haven in its supposed heartland," Carter stated.
© Ali al-Saadi, AFP file photo | US soldiers stand guard at the Taji base complex which hosts Iraqi and US troops, 30 kilometres north of Baghdad.
One member of a US special operations force was killed during an overnight mission to rescue hostages held by the Islamic State group in northern Iraq, the first American to die in ground combat with the militants, US officials said on Thursday.
Sixty-nine hostages were rescued in the action, which targeted an Islamic State prison around 7 kilometers north of the town of Hawija, according to the security council of the Kurdistan region, whose counterterrorism forces took part.
Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook said at a news briefing the operation did not mark a change in U.S. tactics in the war on Islamic State militants, who pose the biggest security threat to Iraq since the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003.
“I would not suggest that this is something that is now going to happen on a regular basis, but I do think it is symbolic of the kinds of efforts that we are taking on behalf of our partners,” he told reporters.
It was the most significant raid against Islamic State since May, when American special operations forces killed one of its senior leaders, Abu Sayyaf from Tunisia, in a raid in Syria.
The U.S. rescue mission unfolded amid mounting concerns in Washington over increasing Russian intervention in the Middle East.
The hostages rescued in the raid were all Arabs, including local residents and Islamic State fighters held as suspected spies, a U.S. official said on Thursday.
The official told Reuters that around 20 of the hostages were members of Iraqi security forces.
“Some of the remainder were Daesh (Islamic State) ... fighters that Daesh thought were spies,” the official said. “The rest of them were citizens of the local town”.
More than 20 Islamic State militants were killed and six detained, the security council said.
Islamic State called the operation “unsuccessful” but acknowledged casualties among its fighters.
In a statement distributed online on Thursday by supporters, it said U.S. gunships had shelled areas around the prison to prevent the arrival of reinforcements, then clashed with militants for two hours.
The statement confirmed U.S. claims that some guards had been killed and others detained in the operation.
“Dozens” of U.S. troops were involved in the mission, a U.S. defense official said, declining to be more specific about the number.
“It was a deliberately planned operation, but it was also done with the knowledge that imminent action was needed to save the lives of these people,” the U.S. defense official said.
The U.S. serviceman was shot during the mission and taken to the Kurdistan regional capital Erbil, where he died, the U.S. defense official said. He was the first American serviceman killed in ground combat in Iraq since the United States withdrew its forces in 2011.
U.S. Army Colonel Steve Warren, spokesman for U.S.-led coalition in Iraq, said the possibility that Americans were among the hostages was not a consideration in carrying out the operation.
Some of the rescued people said Islamic State militants had told them they would be executed after morning prayers, Warren said.
The U.S. forces were acting as advisors then were sucked into the battle when Kurdish fighters came under heavy fire, he explained.
“They were pinned down and they were beginning to take casualties, so the Americans in the heat of battle made a decision,” he said.
Cook said he was not aware at this point that there were any Americans among those who were rescued. “My understanding is there was no indication there were specifically Americans present here.
“The understanding was that there were a number of hostages, although we were not sure exactly who was among that group, but that they had been held there for some time and again the information we had received ... was that those hostages did fear for their lives, that there was the threat of a mass execution perhaps within hours.”
He said the mission had been requested by the Kurdistan Regional Government.
Sources in the Hawija area said they heard blasts and gunfire overnight and that Islamic State militants had withdrawn from view after the raid, apparently relocating their bases.
Five U.S. helicopters launched from Erbil were involved in the mission, and the United States was providing helicopter lift, intelligence support, air strike support, and advisory support to the peshmerga, the U.S. defense official said.
Air strikes were launched before and after the mission to block approaches to the prison and destroy it afterward, the U.S. defense official said.
Hawija is a stronghold of Islamic State militants who have captured several dozen Kurdish peshmerga fighters in battle.
Islamic State, also known as ISIS, has been for more than a year the target of daily air strikes in Iraq and Syria by a U.S.-led coalition.
The United States’ former Cold War foe Russia has been conducting airstrikes in Syria against opponents of its closest regional ally Bashar al-Assad, as Iraq questions American resolve to fight militants on its soil.
Russia has also joined a Baghdad-based intelligence cell along with Iran, Iraq and Syria that has provided information on Islamic State targets.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi faces intense pressure from the ruling coalition and powerful Shi’ite militias to request Russian air strikes on Islamic State, which controls a third of the major OPEC oil producer.
© AFP / Mohammed Huwais (file photo) | A Yemeni man stands amid the rubble of a food storage warehouse after it was targeted by air strikes carried out by the Saudi-led coalition in the capital Sanaa on October 26, 2015
A hospital in north Yemen run by the medical aid group Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) was destroyed late on Monday by a missile strike, MSF said, but the Saudi-led coalition denied that its planes had hit the hospital.
A Saudi-led Arab coalition intervened in Yemen’s civil war in March to try to restore the government after it was toppled by Iran-allied Houthi forces, but a mounting civilian death toll has alarmed human rights groups.
“Our hospital in the Heedan district of Saada governorate was hit several times. Fortunately, the first hit damaged the operations theatre while it was empty and the staff were busy with people in the emergency room. They just had time to run off as another missile hit the maternity ward,” MSF country director Hassan Boucenine told Reuters by telephone from Yemen.
“It could be a mistake, but the fact of the matter is it’s a war crime. There’s no reason to target a hospital. We provided (the coalition) with all of our GPS coordinates about two weeks ago.” He said at least two staff members had been hurt by flying debris.
Fighting terrorism on all fronts, thousands of Israelis have joined a class-action lawsuit against Facebook for serving as a platform for Palestinian incitement to terrorism and hatred.
Some 20,000 Israelis have joined a class-action lawsuit against Facebook, charging that the social media platform is ignoring posts that include Palestinian incitement and calls to murder Jews.
“While everyone understands the need to keep the web free, Facebook’s decision to allow this flood of terrorist incitement and calls to murder Jews to continue has crossed all red lines,” the Shurat Hadin Law Center, a Israel-based human rights group, which is spearheading this venture, announced.
“Facebook is fanning the flames of the current Palestinian intifada and its refusals to actively monitor and block the incitement to violence is an outrageous abandonment of its obligations to the public,” the human rights group added.
The civil complaint that was filed by Shurat Hadin on Sunday in New York and contains a 76-page list of plaintiffs, seeks an injunction to require Facebook to block all racist incitement and calls for violence against Jews in Israel, but no damages.
The site of a terror attack in the Armon Hanatziv neighborhood of Jerusalem. (Yonatan Sindel/FLASH90)
The lead plaintiff was Israeli-American Richard Lakin, 76, who was shot in the head and stabbed multiple times while riding a bus in the Armon Hanatziv neighborhood in Jerusalem on October 13 when Palestinian terrorists from Jerusalem, armed with guns and knives, carried out an attack. Lakin died Tuesday morning from his injuries. Two other passengers died during the attack.
The plaintiffs “have been living in the crosshairs of a murderous terrorist rampage carried out by killers who attack people with knives, axes, screwdrivers, cars and Molotov cocktails for no reason other than that the attacker perceives the victims to be Jewish,” the complaint stated.
“Many of these murderers were motivated to commit their heinous crimes by incitement to murder they read on Facebook – demagogues and leaders exhorting their followers to ‘slaughter the Jews,’ and offering instruction as to the best manner to do so, including even anatomical charts showing the best places to stab a human being.”
The law suit adds that Facebook is “far from a neutral or passive social media platform” and has sophisticated tools to contend with hateful content published on its site.
The phenomenon of Palestinians using social media for the spread of hatred is not new, but has significantly increased in the past weeks in tandem with the wave of Palestinian terror attacks against Israelis.
In another instance, Israelis complained to Facebook about a page calling for the stabbing of Israelis and demanded it be removed. Facebook declined to do so until it came under heavy public pressure, after which it obliged.
By: United with Israel Staff
The Islamic Republic couldn’t have a greater ally in the White House, and therefore would probably exploit a Congressional defeat of the Iran deal in order to race towards a nuclear weapon with impunity.
American Jews would also be harmed by the defeat of Obama’s Iran deal: Obama and his supporters would fuel anti-Semitism by alleging excessive Jewish power even more than they already have, and Jews and Israel would be blamed if Iran abandoned the agreement and dashed towards nukes – particularly if any military conflagration ensued.
As dangerous and risky as it is for Israel to undertake a unilateral military strike on Iran’s hardened and dispersed nuclear sites, such an operation is effectively impossible as long as Obama is in office. During Operation Protective Edge last summer, Obama reminded Israel that he could endanger the tiny state in the middle of war by refusing to resupply its military, and his FAA isolated Israel by imposing a ban on flights to Israel after just thirteen days of conflict (it took about three years of war in Syria for the FAA to take the same action there).
On the diplomatic front, Obama has already threatened to withhold diplomatic support for Israel at the UN on the Palestinian issue, so on the Iranian nuclear issue – his legacy foreign policy “achievement” – he would be far more dangerous to Israel at the UN.
The Obama administration has also leaked highly sensitive information to Israel’s detriment, from Israel’s attacks on Syrian weapons transfers to Hezbollah, to details about Israel’s nuclear program.
In addition to the already abundant evidence of Obama’s anti-Israel animus, Michael Oren, Israel’s former Ambassador to the U.S., detailed Obama’s hostility towards Israel in his recently published memoir, Ally.
Given the Obama administration’s willingness to harm Israel, the Jewish state simply cannot risk a major military operation as long as Obama is in office. Thus, the pro-Iranian nuclear deal is now, thanks to Obama, the only way to stop Iranian nukes until Obama leaves office.
56% of Americans think Congress should reject the deal with Iran, and 60% disapprove of Obama’s handling of the U.S. relationship with Iran, according to the latest CNN/ORC poll. Congressional rejection of the deal will officially reflect these sentiments and undermine the deal’s legitimacy (despite Obama’s subsequent veto) – particularly because Obama purposely rammed the accord through the U.N. Security Council in order to make it a fait accompli that deprives Congress of any meaningful constitutional role in the process.
But if Congress officially rejects Obama’s disastrous deal and it survives only by Obama’s veto, the next president can more legitimately rescind it and – with the help of traditional Mideast allies – stop Iranian nuclear ambitions and hegemony.
Unfortunately, Obama’s policies have made the job of his successor much harder. The next president will face a far stronger and less isolated Iran, economically empowered by a world rushing to do business with the Ayatollahs. Iran’s $150 billion post-sanctions windfall will increase Iranian financial support for terrorist groups (as Obama officials now concede) and boost Iran’s military capabilities (Russia just agreed to sell Iran its advanced, S-300 long-range, surface-to-air missile systems, complicating future missions to destroy Iranian nukes).
Until the 45th president assumes office on January 20, 2017, those concerned about Obama’s reckless and feckless foreign policy and his increasingly imperial presidency need to keep him on the defensive by focusing public attention on Obama administration controversies, many of which involve abuses of power that should interest the mainstream media. The busier Obama is defending his prior excesses, the less he can commit new ones during the rest of his tenure.
Article sent in by Noah Beck the author of The Last Israelis, an apocalyptic novel about Iranian nukes and other geopolitical issues in the Middle East.
Obama owes Netanyahu an apology for denouncing the Israeli leader’s speech to Congress while taking the liberty himself to intervene outright in British politics.
By: Alan M. Dershowitz, The Gatestone Institute
As President Obama winds up his farewell tour of Europe, it is appropriate to consider the broader implications of the brouhaha he created in Great Britain. At a joint press conference with British Prime Minister, David Cameron, Obama defended his intrusion into British politics in taking sides on the controversial and divisive Brexit (UK withdrawal from the European Union) debate. In an op-ed, Obama came down squarely on the side of Britain remaining in the European Union – a decision I tend to agree with on its merits. But he was much criticized by the British media and British politicians for intruding into a debate about the future of Europe and Britain’s role in it.
Obama defended his actions by suggesting that in a democracy, friends should be able to speak their minds, even when they are visiting another country:
“If one of our best friends is in an organization that enhances their influence and enhances their power and enhances their economy, then I want them to stay in. Or at least I want to be able to tell them ‘I think this makes you guys bigger players.'”
Nor did he stop at merely giving the British voters unsolicited advice, he also issued a not-so-veiled threat. He said that “the UK is going to be in the back of the queue” on trade agreements if they exit the EU.
Obama must either have a short memory or adhere to Emerson’s dictum that “foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.” Recall how outraged the same President Obama was when the prime minister of a friendly country, Benjamin Netanyahu, spoke his mind about the Iran Deal.
Netanyahu addresses US Congress in March 2015 against nuclear deal with Iran. (AP/Susan Walsh)
There are, of course, differences: first, Israel has a far greater stake in the Iran Deal than the United States has in whatever decision the British voters make about Brexit: and second, Benjamin Netanyahu was representing the nearly unanimous view of his countrymen, whereas there is little evidence of whether Americans favor or oppose Brexit in large numbers.
Another difference, of course, is that Obama was invited to speak by Cameron, whereas, Netanyahu was essentially disinvited by Obama. But under our tripartite system of government — which is different than Britain’s Unitary Parliamentary system — that fact is monumentally irrelevant. Netanyahu was invited by a co-equal branch of the government, namely Congress, which has equal authority over foreign policy with the president and equal authority to invite a friendly leader. Moreover, not only are the British voters divided over Brexit, but Britain’s Conservative Party itself is deeply divided. Indeed, the leading political figure in opposition to Britain remaining in the European Union is a potential successor to Cameron as leader of the Conservative Party. So these differences certainly don’t explain the inconsistency between Obama’s interference in British affairs and his criticism of Netanyahu for accepting an invitation from Congress to express his country’s views on an issue directly affecting its national security.
So which is it, Mr. President? Should friends speak their minds about controversial issues when visiting another country, or should they keep their views to themselves? Or is your answer that friends should speak their minds only when they agree with other friends, but not when they disagree? Such a view would skew the market place of ideas beyond recognition. If friends should speak about such issues, it is even more important to do so when they disagree.
Obama’s ‘Apparent Hypocrisy and Inconsistency’
A wit once observed that “hypocrisy is the homage vice pays to virtue.” It is also the currency of diplomacy and politics. That doesn’t make it right.
The president owes the American people, and Benjamin Netanyahu, an explanation for his apparent hypocrisy and inconsistency. Let there be one rule that covers all friends – not one for those with whom you agree and another for those with whom you disagree. For me the better rule is open dialogue among friends on all issues of mutual importance. Under this rule, which President Obama now seems to accept, he should have welcomed Prime Minister Netanyahu’s advocacy before Congress, instead of condemning it. He owes Prime Minister Netanyahu an apology, and so do those Democratic members of Congress who rudely stayed away from Netanyahu’s informative address to Congress.
The author is a renowned defense attorney, best-selling author and professor at Harvard Law School.