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How to Defeat the Islamic State

How to Defeat the Islamic State. "Over the last thirteen years, America’s foreign policy has consisted mostly of defining what we don’t want: Saddam, Al-Qaida, Qaddafi, Boko Haram, the Islamic State. But we have failed to define what we do want. Rather than pausing to define the ultimate aim of our involvement – the very point of war for military action is just a means to a political end – we have rushed ahead anyway: Ready, Shoot, Aim. Unfortunately, we now have quite the track record of removing one monster only to find a more brutal monster in his place. This global war will never end without a coherent American strategy and we don’t have one for Iraq and Syria at the time of this writing. [...] To defeat the Islamic State and to further American interests, the United States must create a legitimate secular, political alternative for Iraq’s Sunnis."
posted by Golden Eternity on Nov 26, 2014 - 111 comments

Geopolitical duct tape and costly disasters.

...the reality of ISIS and what this group seeks is opaque to the public, and to policymakers not clued into the private salons where the details of secrets can be discussed. Even among those policymakers, the compartmentalized national security establishment means that no one really grasps the whole picture. The attempt to get the US into a war in Syria a year ago was similarly opaque. The public cannot make well-informed decisions about national security choices because information critical to such choices is withheld from them. It is withheld from them at the source, through the classification-censorship process, then by obfuscations in the salons and think tanks of DC and New York, and then finally through the bottleneck of the mass media itself.
The Solution to ISIS Is the First Amendment by Matt Stoler [more inside]
posted by ennui.bz on Sep 17, 2014 - 39 comments

The wistful specter of what might've been if only he'd been listened to

From his time in Cairo, Lawrence was aware of the extravagant promises the British government had made to Hussein in order to raise the Arab Revolt: full independence for virtually the entire Arab world..............His first act of sedition — and by most any standards, a treasonous one — was to inform Faisal of the existence of Sykes-Picot.....The True Story of Lawrence of Arabia . Previously and Previously
posted by lalochezia on Jul 1, 2014 - 11 comments

I’m racing through the implications of opening my door and leaping free

Dave Eggers takes a Long Ride To Riyadh.
In any case, it’s a result of a gradual evolution. When I first travelled, I was naive, sloppy, wide-eyed, and nothing happened to me. That’s probably where the dumb luck came in. Then I began to read the guidebooks, the State Department warnings, the endless elucidation of national norms, cultural cues and insults and regional dangers, and I became wary, careful, savvy. I kept my money taped inside my shoe, or strapped to my stomach. I took any kind of precaution, believing that the people of this area did this, and the people of that province did that. But then, finally, I realised no one of any region did anything I have ever expected them to do, much less anything the guidebooks said they would. Instead, they behaved as everyone behaves, which is to say they behave as individuals of damnably infinite possibility. Anyone could do anything, in theory, but most of the time everyone everywhere acts with plain bedrock decency, helping where help is needed, guiding where guidance is necessary. It’s almost weird.

posted by the man of twists and turns on May 14, 2014 - 26 comments

40 Maps of the Middle East

Forty maps that explain the Middle East. Includes sections on Middle East history, the region today, Israel-Palestine, Syria, Iran, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia and oil, Iraq and Libya, and "points of light." [more inside]
posted by Halloween Jack on May 6, 2014 - 8 comments

Saudi Arabia declares atheists and political activists “terrorists”

The Sunni Islamic monarchy/theocracy's restrictive laws on political expression have become even stricter this year. This is in response to potentially dangerous dissidents returning to Saudi Arabia from the Syrian civil war. But the categories of offenses are so broad as to define virtually any non-Muslim as a terrorist, and to ban all independent political expression. [more inside]
posted by Sleeper on Apr 2, 2014 - 48 comments

Bulldozers poised to target Mecca birthplace of Muhammad

Saudi Arabia's royal family are planning to demolish a library sitting on the remains of Prophet Muhammad's birth home to make way for the imam's residence and a presidential palace. The Saudi royal family are adherents of Wahhabism, a radical branch of Islam; by their beliefs, they have destroyed many Islamic heritage sites as they consider the preservation of relics of Muhammad's life to be akin to idolatry.
posted by divabat on Feb 22, 2014 - 62 comments

Driving While Female: Saudi women risk imprisonment to protest the ban

Women in Saudi Arabia may not drive. Today, many take to the road in protest, despite grave risks. Even cyber support may be grounds for arrest and the movement's primary website has been blocked. It's been an issue for decades; here's a writer remembering women donning disguises to drive and the sad case of a mother unable to take her injured child to the hospital. Driving may be the point of a sword aimed at securing other freedoms and attaining more autonomy.
posted by carmicha on Oct 26, 2013 - 34 comments

Censorship Doesn’t Just Stifle Speech—It Can Spread Disease

The Saudi Arabian government has been tight-lipped about the spread of Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS), a disease first discovered in 2012 that has "killed more than half of those who contracted it", "responding slowly to requests for information and preventing outside researchers from publishing their findings about the syndrome. [more inside]
posted by jeffburdges on Aug 24, 2013 - 13 comments

WSJ's Middle East Real Time blog

Since the end of March, the Wall Street Journal's new Middle East Real Time blog has written about Turkey's "unstoppable" export boom in soap operas, Saudi Arabia's "life after jihad" rehab program, the persistence of obviously fraudulent bomb detectors across Iraq, YouTube branding discussions among Syrian rebel factions, a rising media star Sunni cleric in Lebanon, a post-revolutionary Cairo arts festival, and attempts to overcome conservative objections and change the Saudi Thursday-Friday weekend to match the rest of the business world. Previous non-paywalled WSJ Real Time blogs include Korea, China, Canada, India, Brussels, Emerging Europe, Japan.
posted by mediareport on May 9, 2013 - 16 comments

Is this the secret US Drone Base in Saudi Arabia?

Noah Shachtman of Wired has published Bing/Nokia satellite maps that shows what appears to be a previously unknown US drone airbase deep in the desert in Saudi Arabia. [more inside]
posted by Nelson on Feb 8, 2013 - 75 comments

For the first time in Olympic history all the participating teams will have female athletes

The London Olympics has been billed as a notable step forward in gender equality. It is the first Olympics with female representation from all countries despite the many and several barriers to female sport participation that still exist in some countries (including developed ones). These Olympics have female boxers, female athletes from Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Brunei and male medal bearers But despite Jacques Rogge's declaration in his opening ceremony speech, some are more equal than others. Australia and Japan are reviewing their athletes' travel arrangements after women were given second class tickets and there is a small, but growing campaign to see male synchronised swimming form part of the program (one of two sports, the other being rhythmic gymnastics, with no male competition). [more inside]
posted by MuffinMan on Aug 8, 2012 - 101 comments

Women are even unveiling with impunity

"The fertile Wadi Hanifah valley running through part of Riyadh was for years a rubbish dump and a public health hazard, but now it's been transformed into a vast park, with lakes that attract cool breezes. It's an oasis so large it's hard to police - making it a place for Saudi citizens to relax, in more senses than one." [more inside]
posted by vidur on May 28, 2012 - 12 comments

Ex-Senators allege Saudi government role in 9/11

For more than a decade, questions have lingered about the possible role of the Saudi government in the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, even as the royal kingdom has made itself a crucial counterterrorism partner in the eyes of American diplomats. Now, in sworn statements that seem likely to reignite the debate, two former senators who were privy to top secret information on the Saudis’ activities say they believe that the Saudi government might have played a direct role in the terrorist attacks.
posted by Trurl on Mar 2, 2012 - 86 comments

Interpol supports death penalty for tweets

Saudi journalist Hamza Kashgari was arrested in Kuala Lumpur and deported to Saudi Arabia for at the behest of Interpol. Mr. Kashgari faces the death penalty in Saudi Arabia for a series of tweets insulting the prophet Muhammad, including 'I have loved things about you and I have hated things about you and there is a lot I don't understand about you I will not pray for you.' (BBC, Al Jazeera) [more inside]
posted by jeffburdges on Feb 12, 2012 - 59 comments

Mohammed el Gorani

Mohammed el Gorani, the youngest prisoner held at Guantánamo, has written a memoir of his time there, the lead up to his imprisonment, and subsequent release years later.
posted by gman on Dec 14, 2011 - 65 comments

"I felt like I'd been catapulted from one end of the universe to the other"

This weekend marks the time of the Hajj, a core pillar of Islam in which great tides of humanity venture to the ancient city of Mecca to honor God. Predating Mohammed's birth by centuries, the pilgrimage comprises several days of rites, from congregation like snow on Mount Arafat and the ritual stoning of Shaitan to the circling of the sacred Kaaba (the shrouded cubical monolith Muslims pray toward daily) and kissing the Black Stone (colored by the absorption of myriad sins, and believed by some to be a fallen meteorite). While the city has modernized to handle this largest of annual gatherings -- building highway-scale ramps, gaudy skyscrapers for the ultra-rich, and tent cities the size of Seattle -- it remains mysterious, as unbelievers are forbidden from entering its borders. Richard Francis Burton became famous for touring the city in disguise to write a rare travelogue, but contemporary viewers have a more immediate guide: Vice Magazine journalist Suroosh Alvi, who smuggled a minicam into the city to record The Mecca Diaries [alt], a 14-minute documentary of his own Hajj journey. Browse the manual to see what goes into a Hajj trip, or watch the YouTube livestream to see the Grand Mosque crowds in real time.
posted by Rhaomi on Nov 4, 2011 - 31 comments

6 ounces hidden inside more than 22 metric tons

On July 13, 2010, a cargo container arrived in Genoa, Italy from Saudi Arabia. It was emitting torrents of radiation. No one knew what was inside. And no one knew what to do next.... [more inside]
posted by zarq on Oct 29, 2011 - 79 comments

Zimmerman Telegram 2.0?

Following a months-long investigation, the Department of Justice has announced the existence of a well-funded plot "conceived, sponsored and directed" by "high-ranking members of the Iranian government" to assassinate Saudi Arabian ambassador Adel Al-Jubeir on U.S. soil in conjunction with informants in Mexican drug cartel Los Zetas. The "Hollywood" plot, revealed in an afternoon press conference and described in a detailed 21-page complaint [PDF], is alleged to have involved an attack on the Saudi and Israeli embassies in Washington, D.C. One suspect, naturalized American citizen Arbab Arbabsiar, has been arrested, while co-conspirator and Quds Force member Gholam Shakuri remains at large. Iranian officials were quick to label the charges a "fabrication" intended to distract from America's economic troubles.
posted by Rhaomi on Oct 11, 2011 - 251 comments

I'm shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!

A series of emails released through a Freedom of Information Act request shine light on collusion between the United States government and TransCanada, a corporation building a controversial pipeline from the Canadian Athabasca oil sands into its southern neighbor. The controversy extends beyond the currently poor safety record for delivering oil between the two countries, and beyond the environmental and health consequences of the oil extraction process for locals and the cost of climate changes it will contribute to, all the way to legal wrangling between Canadian media and Saudi Arabia over the "death panels"-like term "ethical oil", based upon a conservative group's advertising that argues that the purchase of Canadian-sourced oil is a morally superior act, because of oppression of women and human rights violations by the Saudi kingdom.
posted by Blazecock Pileon on Oct 3, 2011 - 73 comments

Bahrain explodes (part two)

Government of Bahrain declares state of emergency. Mixture of Saudi, UAE, and other GCC troops enter Bahrain upon invitation. [more inside]
posted by asymptotic on Mar 15, 2011 - 41 comments

Saudi Royal Wealth: Where do they get all that money?

Reuters Special Report: U.S. cables detail Saudi royal welfare program "The cables, obtained by WikiLeaks and reviewed by Reuters, provide remarkable insight into how much the vast royal welfare program has cost the country -- not just financially but in terms of undermining social cohesion. Besides the huge monthly stipends that every Saudi royal receives, the cables detail various money-making schemes some royals have used to finance their lavish lifestyles over the years."
posted by Dragonness on Mar 1, 2011 - 110 comments

Th Kingdom in the Closet

Even though it's punishable by death, homosexuality thrives in Saudi Arabia.
posted by reenum on Jan 9, 2011 - 39 comments

Insight into the Mentality of Saudi Wahhabism

Saudi Clerics Advocate Adult Breast Feeding to circumvent the hanbali law in Saudi Arabia enforcing strict segregation of the sexes. There is some confusion between the clerics regarding whether women should pump or allow adult men to suckle directly from the breast. Such fatwas emanating from Saudi Arabia provide insight into the mentality of the powerful clergy that has been instrumental in spreading Wahhabi thought, throughout the Muslim world.
posted by Azaadistani on Jun 9, 2010 - 111 comments

"It is 146 minutes long...This is an entirely inappropriate length for what is essentially a home video of gay men playing with giant Barbie dolls."

I Watched 146 Minutes of Sex and the City 2 and All I Got Was This Religious Fundamentalism - The legacy of the TV show destroyed forever.
posted by Artw on May 26, 2010 - 222 comments

He has a wife, you know

Life imitates Python: The Life of Brian's unfortunately-named Roman has a real-life counterpart, and he's been denied ambassadorship to Saudi Arabia due to the fact that his name means "biggest dick" in Arabic.
posted by Jon_Evil on Feb 4, 2010 - 91 comments

Sex, bribes and videotape

FBI whistleblower, Sibel Edmonds, has gone on record with her allegations of government corruption and treason. (previously)
posted by ryoshu on Sep 22, 2009 - 98 comments

non-flight of the unPhoenix

Abandoned PBY-5A Catalina Flying Boat in Saudi Arabia. More images. (via)
posted by Artw on Sep 7, 2009 - 24 comments

Today a sewing machine - tomorrow a dirty bomb

Dig out your old Singer sewing machines from the attic and sell them to somebody in Saudi Arabia for a fortune on account of the red mercury they contain. Red mercury allows nuclear bombs to be constructed without the need for plutonium [previously]. Red mercury came originally from Russia. Or from the Nazis. Red mercury was invented to lure terrorists in sting operations. It is a medicine for treating impotency. Red mercury will bring long life. It is cinnabar. It is mercury iodide. It is Lithium 6. It is a Bose Einstein Condensate. It is a ballotechnic mercury compound. It is a codeword. It's a game. It costs $300,000 per kilo.
posted by rongorongo on Apr 15, 2009 - 46 comments

...perhaps in Dubai

They cannot perform in public. They cannot pose for album cover photographs. Even their jam sessions are secret, for fear of offending the religious authorities in this ultraconservative kingdom. The AccoLade is Saudi Arabia's "first all-girl rock band."
posted by Navelgazer on Nov 23, 2008 - 36 comments

"Camels are just like humans."

"It's just like judging a beautiful girl," said Fowzan al-Madr. "You look for big eyes, long lashes and a long neck." The art and science of Saudi Arabian camel beauty pageants. More Riyadh market photos here. Lots of information about Dromedary (Arabian) camels here and here. Listen to Dromedary camel sounds and read about Saudi camel history at this site.
posted by amyms on Mar 17, 2008 - 33 comments

The Construction Site Called Saudi Arabia

Six new cities are planed in The Construction Site Called Saudi Arabia. "The vision is to turn the kingdom into a major industrial power by 2020. Drawings of these new towns depict a cross of the futuristic “Blade Runner” and traditional Arabic design." The cities will focus on petrochemicals, aluminum, steel and fertilizers, and will together have four times the geographical area of Hong Kong, three times the population of Dubai, and an economic output equal to Singapore’s. [more inside]
posted by stbalbach on Jan 22, 2008 - 53 comments

Forty years on.

Forty years on. After a quick buildup, the Six Day War started 40 years ago today and reshaped the Middle East. At the time, Israel's quick win looked like a triumph, but after 40 years the war is still being fought and it looks like it may have been a pyrrhic victory.
posted by kirkaracha on Jun 5, 2007 - 157 comments

Ghawar, Going, Gone...

Heard enough about Pain at the Pump? The 24-hour news love to cover the "unreasonable" record gasoline prices, but the real issue is crude oil supply--and this latest installment of Stuart Staniford's highly detailed analysis of the world's largest oil field, Ghawar in Saudi Arabia, provides new evidence of sharply declining production. Can Saudi Arabia really increase supply to meet world demand that is surging on growth in India and China? Signs point to no--in the past week they have again voted to maintain OPEC's "voluntary" production cuts, and their petroleum minister commented that there may not be a "need" to increase Saudi production much further.
posted by DAJ on May 15, 2007 - 64 comments

Mariah Carey album covers in Saudi Arabia

Mariah Carey album covers in Saudi Arabia. These appear to be genuine, not a hoax (although the album covers on the Megastar website don't appear to have been changed). From the comments on the post: Actually, I think she looks better in the covered up pictures. Via Mini ZuD.
posted by russilwvong on Apr 21, 2007 - 64 comments

mmmmm

Food from the Kingdom
posted by hadjiboy on Apr 4, 2007 - 8 comments

Doing our homework on the Middle East

22 basic suggested readings on the Middle East from history professor and informed commenter on Middle Eastern affairs Juan Cole.
posted by LobsterMitten on Mar 7, 2007 - 37 comments

cartoons of the prophet.. not ok. turning his house into a parking lot.. ok.

paved prophets house, put up a parking lot.. “What makes this demolition worse is the fact that the home of the Prophet is to make way for a parking lot, two 50-storey hotel towers and seven 35-storey apartment blocks; a project known as the Jabal Omar Scheme, all within a stone’s throw of the Grand Mosque. Yet despite this outrage, not a single Muslim country, no ayatollah, no mufti, no king, not even a Muslim Canadian imam has dared utter a word in protest. Such is the power of Saudi influence on the Muslim narrative.”
posted by zog on Feb 11, 2006 - 36 comments

Armchair travel

Images of daily life Photoessays of daily life in Morocco, Yemen and Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, and Hong Kong. [An update on a plep thread from 2003, and some nice armchair travel for a Sunday morning]
posted by carter on Dec 4, 2005 - 8 comments

Abu Ali guilty of terror plot

Abu Ali guilty of terror plot. A Virginia jury has found Ahmed Omar Abu Ali guilty of terrorism related crimes. The prosecution charged he provided material support to Al Qaeda (pdf). His defenders claim his confession while in Saudi custody was obtained through torture. Does the goal of preventing terrorism justify relying on the Saudi's questionable interrogation methods?
posted by justkevin on Nov 22, 2005 - 11 comments

Wahhabi U.

Wahhabi U. A top U.S. diplomat recently revealed Saudi Arabia still teaches students to hate non-Muslims and the West. So why are we making it easier for Saudi students schooled in that hatred to visit the U.S.?
posted by Postroad on Nov 11, 2005 - 24 comments

Saudi Swimwear

The Mutaween - Saudi Arabia's Authority for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, is rigid in it's enforcement of Wahabist Shari`a. It's website offers a list of banned consumer goods, along with a form for turning in one's neighbor [English translation here]. The kingdom uses internet filtering technology to stop residents from even viewing provocative clothing. Non-compliance means death.
So what's the style-conscious Saudi woman to do? Hasima Islamic Swimwear was the answer.
posted by kanewai on Aug 22, 2005 - 38 comments

The Rift

The Rift: The state of Islamic Alienation in Europe and for that matter any Western nation. Do Muslims get to retain their complete identity, values, and customs unfettered by their residency in the West? I think not. Inversely, if 1-5% of the population in Saudi Arabia was western what could they expect of their adopted (i.e. a choice) Wahhabi nation... Where does this end?
posted by philmas on Aug 14, 2005 - 34 comments

A post-Iran nuclear Middle East?

Who else has Khan worked with? As far back as 2003, there have been strong indications of Pakistan and Saudi Arabia building a strategic alliance based upon an exchange of nuclear technology, funding and natural resources, after a worsening post-9/11 relationship between the United States and the Saud family. Concerns deepened after Saudi Arabia requested a change in its relationship with the IAEA in May.
posted by Rothko on Jul 19, 2005 - 12 comments

Forced Marriage

A week after Saudi Arabia banned the practise of forced marriage, Hamid Karzai followed suit, announcing he would seek the same freedoms for young women in Afghanistan. In the UK, a special unit within the Foreign Office has handled almost 1000 cases of forced marriage since it was set up in 2000, and this year a special joint Forced Marriage Unit was launched by the Foreign & Commonwealth Office for outreach & awareness purposes. While a law barring forced marriage is expected to publish in the UK later this year, some take umbrage at the often-misleading "forced marriage" terminology and are worried that its criminal-offence status could actually deter women from speaking out against it.
posted by jenleigh on Apr 28, 2005 - 25 comments

R.F. Burton

Burton had his time. Now "R.F. Burton", a long time pseudonymous expat in Saudi Arabia, is writing occasional pieces on the place he calls the Magic Kingdom. They are by turns appalling, alarming, fascinating, outrageous, odd, dispiriting, interesting, depressing, enlightening, and provoking. Eleven so far. The index (along with the latest entry, if you have the stomach for it) is here. Request to those who know Saudi first hand- is the brush too broad or are the pieces nicely observed? Or something in between?
posted by IndigoJones on Apr 22, 2005 - 27 comments

The Schumer-Collins bipartisan letter

Senators Charles Schumer and Susan Collins urge stronger action on Saudi Arabia | "Sen. Schumer said, It is a massive contradiction that a country we call an ally could be both so regressive in their own country and so brazen in its propagation of anti-American, anti-women, anti-Semitic books, publications, and practices. American security is undermined as the Saudi government exports these hateful commodities to millions beyond its borders, planting the seeds for new generations of terrorists and totalitarian Wahhabi leaders." In the recent past, Schumer has demanded answers on the Islamic Saudi Academy in Arlington, VA—where Omar Abu Ali graduated as 1999 valedictorian—and on the growing Wahhabi influence in the U.S.
posted by jenleigh on Mar 15, 2005 - 41 comments

The Final Solution

Would You, as a Human Being, be Willing to Shake Hands with a Jew?
posted by Mick on Sep 28, 2004 - 113 comments

Bush cares for the Saudis--not us.

Factfilter: Sen. Bob Graham's new book shows coverup.on Saudi's behalf Bush had concluded that ''a nation-state that had aided the terrorists should not be held publicly to account,'' Graham wrote. "It was as if the president's loyalty lay more with Saudi Arabia than with America's safety.'' And there's stuff about Iraq, too. After wearing 9/11 like a tiara during the convention, will the facts finally be aired?
posted by amberglow on Sep 6, 2004 - 29 comments

House of Bush, House of Saud, House of Cards?

House of Bush, House of Saud, House of Cards? A superb, reasoned discussion of "How Does the Saudi Relationship With the Bush Family Affect U.S. Foreign Policy?" - regardless of which side you might agree with, it's one of the very few calm, rational media conversations on this topic.
posted by twsf on Jul 7, 2004 - 23 comments

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