Tag Archives: Saudi Arabia

Saudi FM: Qatar Must Send Troops to Syria or Face Regime Change

According to the country’s foreign minister, Saudi Arabia is pushing its former ally Qatar to send its military into Syria or face dire consequences. Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Jubeir issued the threat in response to U.S. government efforts to create an “Islamic coalition” of troops from neighboring countries that will act as a permanent military “stabilizing force” as a precondition to the U.S. removing its own forces from Syria’s occupied Northeast.

Jubeir stated on Wednesday that, were Qatar to decline to be part of the new coalition, the U.S. would cancel American protection of the country, which is home to the largest U.S. military base in the Middle East. Qatar, he said, must “send its military forces (to Syria), before the US president cancels US protection of Qatar, which consists of the presence of a US military base on its territory.”

Jubeir stated that the U.S. withdrawal of protection and military aid would lead the Qatari government “to fall there in less than a week,” insinuating that the country’s failure to send its military to Syria at the behest of the U.S. and Saudis in Syria could result in regime change.

According to a statement released by the Saudi Press Agency:

Based on the US President Donald Trump statement, during a joint press conference held with his visiting French counterpart Emmanuel Macron, Minister of Foreign Affairs Adel bin Ahmed Al-Jubeir announced that Qatar should pay the voucher of the price of US military forces’ presence in Syria, and to send its military forces there, before the US President lifts American protection of the State of Qatar, embodied in the presence of US military base, on its soils.

The Foreign Minister reasserted US President utterance that if the US is to withdraw its protection, represented in the military base located in Qatar, then that regime will fall, within less than a week.

It is unclear if the U.S. government supports the Saudi’s push for Qatari involvement and if they would shut down their military base in Qatar were the country not to send troops to Syria. Qatar is eager to preserve ties with the U.S. and has been reportedly pushing the U.S. to expand its base in the country by renovating its naval ports as well as pushing the Pentagon to make the base permanent.

Whether Qatar will send troops to Syria at behest of the Saudis is anyone’s guess. Indeed, the country was once a major player in the Syrian conflict and some have argued that it was Syria’s rejection of a Qatari gas pipeline in favor of an Iranian gas pipeline that helped to initiate the conflict. Qatar also covertly funded several rebel groups active in Syria, including terrorist groups, that have been fighting to topple Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

The reported ultimatum is the just the latest example of deteriorating relations between Qatar and their former ally Saudi Arabia. The diplomatic row began in June of last year, when the Saudis, along with the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Yemen, cut ties with the country after claiming that it supports terrorism. Trump followed suit, calling Qatar a “high-level sponsor of terrorism,” and later took credit for the crisis. However, the issue was not Qatar’s support for terrorism as much as Qatar’s consideration of working with Iran to develop massive natural gas reserves that both countries share.

Ultimately, Qatar failed to acquiesce to past Saudi demands and ultimatums, an embarrassing failure for Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman who was largely behind the dramatic falling out.

Given that the past threats leveled at Qatar by the Saudi and its allies failed to change their foreign policy, it seems unlikely that it will now bow to Saudi pressure. If Qatar does choose to join the Saudis in occupying northeastern Syria, it would likely be due to the country’s past of fomenting the conflict in Syria and its funding of rebel groups active in the conflict, rather than concern over Saudi-backed regime change.

Reality Check: Could 9/11 Victim Families Actually Sue Saudi Arabia?

Last week a U.S. District court judge rejected a request by Saudi Arabia to dismiss lawsuits accusing the nation of being involved in the 9/11 attacks.

So what does this mean for the families of 9/11 victims?

Does this mean that Saudi Arabia’s immunity in the case has run out? And will the public finally get to read the 28 pages of the 9/11 report without redactions?

Let’s give it a Reality Check you won’t get anywhere else.

Families of 9/11 victims will get the chance to try to prove that Saudi Arabia is liable for helping to fund 9/11 hijackers. That, according to a ruling by a district court judge last week.

According to U.S. District Judge George Daniels, the plaintiffs’ allegations of Saudi Arabia’s involvement in 9/11 “narrowly articulate a reasonable basis” for him to assert jurisdiction under JASTA.

JASTA, or the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act, provides a legal exemption to the principle of sovereign immunity, thus allowing foreign governments to be held liable in U.S. courts.

This is a big deal because, until now, Saudi Arabia had broad-based immunity from 9/11-related lawsuits in the United States.

In 2016, then-President Obama attempted to veto JASTA, claiming that it “could expose U.S. companies, troops and officials to lawsuits in other countries,” according to Reuters. But the Senate overrode the veto by an overwhelming margin to adopt the legislation.

From Reuters: “Daniels’ decision covers claims by the families of those killed, roughly 25,000 people who suffered injuries, and many businesses and insurers.”

While the current lawsuit is moving forward, it is not the only fear the Saudis have over 9/11. The Saudi government also is reportedly worried about the possibility of the release of the un-redacted “28 pages” which have long kept secrets about the alleged connection between the Saudis and 9/11.

So what are the 28 pages?

They are 28 pages of the Congressional Joint Inquiry into 9/11 report that had been classified, until a redacted version was declassified 2016.

Yet, members of Congress on both sides of the aisle, and the heads of the Congressional Joint Inquiry, have indicated that if the redactions of those 28 pages were made available to the public, it would completely change everything you think you know about the 9/11 attacks.

The implications revealed so far in the redacted 28 pages are deeply concerning. According to page 424 of the Congressional Joint Inquiry into 9/11, the FBI received “numerous” reports from individuals who believed Omar al-Bayoumi, the man who co-signed an apartment lease in San Diego for two of the 9/11 hijackers, was a Saudi intelligence officer.

It also reads that Al-Bayoumi also introduced the two hijackers to a translator in San Diego, who helped them get driver licenses and locate flight schools.

We also know that, according to the Miami Herald, FBI records released in 2013 show a Saudi family living in Florida directly tied to the Saudi Royal Family, had “many connections” to two other 9/11 hijackers and then fled the country in a “sudden departure” only days before the attacks, leaving valuables and personal effects behind as if they left at a moment’s notice.

Additionally, according to the New York Post, leaked information from the redacted 28 pages, details a transfer of “some 130 thousand dollars from then Saudi Ambassador Prince Bandar’s family checking account to yet another one of the [9/11] hijacker’s Saudi handlers in San Diego.”

What you need to know is that the lawsuit against the Saudis may still be blocked… that’s because, a last-minute amendment was inserted into the JASTA legislation called the “Stay of Actions Pending State Negotiations,” which allows the U.S. attorney general or secretary of state to simply “certify” that the U.S. is “engaged in good-faith discussions with the foreign-state defendant concerning the resolution of claims against the foreign state.”

And even though Candidate Trump had said that he would consider releasing the un-redacted 28 pages of the Congressional Joint Inquiry into 9/11, based on how close he is with the Saudis, that is not likely to actually happen, as much as the families of 9/11 victims deserve to know the truth.

That’s Reality Check, let’s talk about it right now on Facebook and Twitter.

Leaked Itinerary of Saudi Prince MBS Reveal Meetings with U.S. Elite

Washington, D.C.— The leader of Saudi Arabia, 32-year-old Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, widely known as MBS, is currently on a public relations blitz of the United States — and a leaked copy of his itinerary has revealed he will be meeting with the most influential power brokers in American society.

The leaked 36-page document, revealed by The Independent in an exclusive report, detailed the list of powerful individuals MBS has met or is expected to meet with:

On Tuesday alone in New York City, the prince is believed to have met with former secretary of state Henry Kissinger, ex-president Bill and presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, New York state senator Chuck Schumer, UN secretary general Antonio Guterres and businessman and former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg. 

Other notable media meetings include dinner with The New York Times’ Thomas Friedman, Rupert Murdoch, the head of The Atlantic’s editorial board Jeffrey Goldberg, meetings with the editorial boards of The New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times and San Francisco Chronicle, as well as interviews with Time and Vanity Fair.  

Current government officials on MBS’s schedule include CIA director (and nominee for new US secretary of state) Mike Pompeo, vice president Mike Pence, senior advisor and unofficial Middle East envoy Jared Kushner, national security adviser HR McMaster and defence secretary James Mattis…

He is also meeting past luminaries such as Barack Obama, John Kerry, Gen David Petraeus and Condoleezza Rice, as well as paying a visit to George W Bush’s Texas ranch. 

Other notable meets outside of politics include Bill Gates, Elon Musk, Peter Thiel, Tim Cook of Apple and the CEOs of Microsoft, Boeing, Amazon, Uber, the Walt Disney Company and Lockheed Martin. 

A major impetus for the “charm offensive” by MBS is to prime the US market for the initial public offering (IPO) of Saudi state oil company Aramco, which experts predict will have a valuation in the range of $1 trillion to $2 trillion dollars. The sale of a 5 percent stake in the company could take place at the end of 2018 or early 2019, depending on market conditions, Prince Mohammed told Reuters in an interview.

Last week MBS took part in the first televised interview with the leader of Saudi Arabia in more than a decade with CBS’s Norah O’Donnell on 60 Minutes. During the interview the Saudi monarch worked to portray himself as a reformer, while noting a distinct difference between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia in understanding human rights “standards.”

“Saudi Arabia believes in many of the principles of human rights. In fact, we believe in the notion of human rights, but ultimately Saudi standards are not the same as American standards,” MBS said. “I don’t want to say that we don’t have shortcomings. We certainly do. But naturally, we are working to mend these shortcomings.”

In highlighting these “shortcomings,” The Independent reports:

The Saudi government ordered the mass arrest and detention at Riyadh’s Ritz-Carlton of more than 300 princes and business leaders in November last year. The move was touted as as a way to recover billions in lost revenue – but the heavy-handed tactics and reports in TheNew York Times of detainee abuse spooked markets. The Saudi government said the accusations of abuse were “absolutely untrue”, but shares in several Saudi-owned enterprises plummeted and have only just begun to recover.

“Saudi Arabia has always had a public image problem in the West because of the obvious things like women’s rights and beheadings,” Nader Hashemi, director of the Centre for Middle East Studies at the University of Denver’s Josef Korbel School of International Studies, told The Independent.

“Ultimately, this trip is to demonstrate he has international legitimacy and support. What this itinerary shows is the immense depth and intimacy of the US-Saudi relationship, going back decades,” Hashemi said.

US Court Allows 9/11 Lawsuits Against Saudi Arabia to Proceed

Manhattan, NY –On Wednesday, U.S. District Judge George Daniels rejected a request by Saudi Arabia to dismiss lawsuits accusing the nation of assisting in the World Trade Center attacks on September 11, 2001, and asserted jurisdiction based on the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA), a federal law passed in 2016. Previously, Saudi Arabia had broad based immunity from 9/11 lawsuits in the United States.

JASTA provides a legal exemption to the principle of sovereign immunity, thus allowing foreign governments to be held liable in U.S. courts. Daniels said the plaintiffs’ allegations “narrowly articulate a reasonable basis” for him to assert jurisdiction under JASTA. However, Daniels dismissed claims against a Saudi construction company and two Saudi banks for allegedly providing material support to Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda to carry out the attacks, claiming he lacked jurisdiction.

According to a report by Reuters:

Daniels said the plaintiffs could try to prove that Saudi Arabia was liable for the alleged activities of Fahad al Thumairy, an imam at the King Fahad Mosque in Culver City, California, and Omar al Bayoumi, said to be an intelligence officer.

They were accused of helping two hijackers acclimate themselves to the United States, and begin preparing for the attacks.

Victims’ families, in court documents, highlighted that nearly all of the hijackers were Saudi citizens, and claimed that Saudi officials and institutions “aided and abetted” the attackers in the years leading up to the 9/11 attacks. Reuters reported that “Daniels’ decision covers claims by the families of those killed, roughly 25,000 people who suffered injuries, and many businesses and insurers.”

The government of Saudi Arabia has steadfastly denied involvement in the 9/11 attacks against the World Trade Center and Pentagon, in which nearly 3,000 people were killed. Jim Kreindler, an attorney for roughly 850 victims’ families in the case against the Saudi government, told Reuters on Wednesday he is “delighted” that the judge dismissed Saudi Arabia’s motion.

“We have been pressing to proceed with the case and conduct discovery from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, so that the full story can come to light, and expose the Saudi role in the 9/11 attacks,” he added.

[RELATED: Massie on the 28 Pages: Documents Will Challenge Americans to Rethink 9/11]

JASTA was vetoed by then-President Barack Obama, who claimed that the bill “could expose U.S. companies, troops and officials to lawsuits in other countries,” but the Senate overrode the veto by an overwhelming margin to adopt the legislation.

Despite the judge’s ruling, there is still a possibility that the federal government could intervene on behalf of the Saudi government. As previously reported by the author for The Free Thought Project in September 2016, a last-minute amendment was inserted into the JASTA legislation called the “Stay of Actions Pending State Negotiations,” which allows the U.S. attorney general or secretary of state to simply “certify” that the U.S. is “engaged in good-faith discussions with the foreign-state defendant concerning the resolution of claims against the foreign state.”


After the amendment was added to the JASTA bill, victims’ families said they felt betrayed by Congress.

How do I feel about the Justice Department being given this power? Not good,” 9/11 widow Kristen Breitweiser told the NY Post. “Their failure to bring their own Saudi indictment reveals how little they care about holding the Saudis accountable for either their funding or operational support of the 9/11 hijackers.‎

The Middle East Eye reported that “Wednesday’s ruling comes during Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s visit to the US. President Donald Trump heaped praise on the Saudi royal during a meeting at the White House last week.”

Report: Yemenis Agree to Ceasefire, Peace Talks

by Jason Ditz

Reports from pro-Saudi Yemeni officials suggest that both they and the Shi’ite Houthis they’ve been fighting since last year’s Saudi attack have agreed to a ceasefire for “a week or two” in anticipation of peace talks to be held in April.

Details are still scant, but the UN has reportedly been informed of the planned talks, and they are to be hosted in Kuwait. It is unclear so far if the Saudi coalition is included in the truce, or simply their Yemeni allies.

Previous proposals for talks had stalled on demands from the pro-Saudi faction that the Houthis agree to unilaterally disarm and surrender all of their territory. Though it seems unlikely to be the case, the pro-Saudi officials claimed that the Houthis have agreed to do so this time around, and that they agreed to the ceasefire to show “good intentions.”

The Saudis attacked Yemen in late March 2015, vowing to reinstall President Hadi in power. Hadi was installed for a two-year term in office in 2012, and resigned in January 2015, long after that term was supposed to be over. Despite this, Saudi officials insist he is the rightful ruler of Yemen.

Saudis Say They Will Soon Scale Back Yemen War

by Jason Ditz

Saudi Arabia’s military spokesman today announced their intention to scale back military operations against Yemen at some point in the future. They suggested this would happen soon, but that airstrikes against Yemen would continue.

The announcement comes as UN officials took the Saudi military to task for a series of Tuesday airstrikes against a Yemeni marketplace, killing at least 119 civilians. This was the latest in a number of embarrassing incidents of major civilian deaths in Saudi attacks.

[RELATED: Saudi Airstrikes Hit Yemen Market, Killing at Least 41 Civilians]

The US praised the announcement, saying they’d been concerned about the loss of innocent life in Yemen, and welcome the Saudi statement for vowing to bring stability to the country they attacked last year. The US, of course, has participated in the Saudi war, both refueling Saudi warplanes during airstrikes and participating in the naval blockade.

The Saudi war’s stated goal was to reinstall Yemen’s President Hadi, who was appointed to a two-year term in office in early 2012, and resigned in January of 2015 after spurning Shi’ite calls for elections. The Saudis insist Hadi remains the legitimate ruler of Yemen, and expected to put him back in power quickly. A year into the war, however, they only control the city of Aden and some of the surrounding area.

Saudi Airstrikes Hit Yemen Market, Killing at Least 41 Civilians

by Jason Ditz

Saudi warplanes attacked a crowded marketplace in the northwestern Yemeni province of Hajjah today, killing at least 41 people, all of them civilians, and wounding scores of others. Local officials say many of the wounded are severely so, and are not expected to survive.

The attacks centered on an outdoor marketplace and a nearby restaurant, and overwhelmed two nearby hospitals with the number of casualties. Saudi officials expressed “regret” for any “injuries or loss of life,” but insisted they weren’t sure it was true.

Doctors Without Borders (MSF) confirmed the incident, however, saying 40 of the wounded civilians were admitted to Abs Hospital, one of the two hospitals which took in casualties. Amnesty International reiterated their call for the US to stop sending arms to the Saudis, saying both unexploded US bombs and fragments of exploded US bombs are showing up around civilian targets in Yemen.

This is the latest in a large number of Saudi airstrikes against targets that ended up being civilian in nature. Over the course of the first year of the Saudi war in Yemen, over 6,000 people have been killed, roughly half civilians, and those overwhelmingly the result of airstrikes.

What the Media Missed When Trump Brought Up ‘Very Secret’ Papers

At a campaign event in South Carolina on Wednesday, GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump criticized former president George W. Bush for the Iraq war and referenced “very secret” papers about the Saudi government and 9/11.

“It wasn’t the Iraqis that knocked down the World Trade Center, we went after Iraq, we decimated the country. Iran’s taking over, okay. But it wasn’t the Iraqis, you will find out who really knocked down the World Trade Center, ‘cause they have papers in there that are very secret, you may find it’s the Saudis, okay? But you will find out,” said Trump.


One can assume that the “very secret” papers Trump is referencing are the 28 redacted pages of the official 9/11 report.

Most of the mainstream media that reported on Trump’s comments avoided going any further than briefly mentioning the 28 pages. Much of the focus appeared to be on Trump himself rather than the redacted pages Trump was talking about.

Currently there is pressure on the House and Senate to declassify the 28 pages, and there are resolutions urging President Obama to release these documents to the public.

In a phone conversation with Truth In Media’s Joshua Cook on Friday, former Democratic Senator Bob Graham, who headed the Congressional Joint Inquiry into the deadly 9/11 attack back in 2002, said he was “very pleased that Trump made the 28 pages a national issue.” Graham reiterated that the information in the 28 pages shows who financed the 9/11 hijackers, and it points to the Saudi government.

Truth In Media’s Joshua Cook also asked 28Pages.org‘s Brian McGlinchey on Friday to share his thoughts about Trump’s comments.

“Trump’s comments have definitely prompted a spike in interest in the topic. Unfortunately, though, the impact has been muted by the fact that he cryptically refers to “very secret papers” rather than specifically identifying the 28 pages. Clearly, most journalists had no idea what he was talking about and, judging from the social media reaction, many individuals rolled their eyes and assumed Trump was making the whole thing up,” said McGlinchey.

During a press conference in 2014, Congressman Thomas Massie (R-KY) said regarding the 28 pages, “As I read it, and we all had our own experience, I had to stop every couple of pages and just sort of try to absorb and try to rearrange my understanding of history.”

Massie added that “it challenges you to re-think everything. I think the whole country needs to go through that.”

Massie also described the 28 pages as “shocking.”

So why doesn’t the U.S. want to release the 28 pages, and why does the media refuse to discuss the issue? Last year, Graham told Cook that “the U.S. government doesn’t want the public to know that the Saudis financed the 9/11 attacks because we provide the Saudis with billions in military aid.”

Money maybe one motivating factor, but Congressmen Walter Jones suggested to Cook in a 2015 interview that those pages may embarrass the Bush family.

Jones told Cook, “If I was in the shoes of President Obama, he has no reason to not declassify this information,” he said. “If any family that could be embarrassed, it’s the Bush’s, but why should he care about that?

On Friday, Cook asked Graham if anything in the 28 pages would embarrass the Bush family. Graham responded that he couldn’t comment on that issue, but could only discuss what has been said already regarding Saudi Arabia, the hijackers, and the ongoing attempt to hide the truth from the American people.

Cook asked Graham if he thought it was bold for Trump to make these comments about Bush and the 28 pages in a conservative state like South Carolina.

Graham said it shouldn’t matter; liberal or conservative, the American people should have access to information regarding who financed the 9/11 hijackers.

To read more of Truth In Media’s coverage of the 28 pages, click here.

Follow Joshua Cook on Facebook and Twitter.

UN Report Finds ‘Systematic’ Saudi Targeting of Yemeni Civilians

by Jason Ditz

A leaked report by a UN panel of experts is calling for a formal inquiry into Saudi human rights abuses, saying the nation is “deliberately starving” Yemeni civilians in its war, and targeting civilians in airstrikes in a “widespread and systematic manner.”

The report went on to document 119 attacks on civilians that were likely violations of international law, saying some of the attacks could amount to “crimes against humanity.” They also faulted the Saudis for failing to respect any of the brokered ceasefires.

The incident is just adding to calls among human rights groups for Western nations to stop selling arms to the Saudis, and to stop blocking efforts to get a formal international investigation into the abuses. During the UN General Assembly, an attempt to start a probe into Yemeni war crimes ended when the Saudis complained, and it was agreed the Saudis could investigate themselves.

So far, the Saudis have not commented on the matter, and the US State Department has refused to discuss the report because it wasn’t supposed to be public, saying only that they’re concerned about “allegations of abuse.” The US has repeatedly endorsed the Saudi war, and is continuing to provide both arms and logistics support.

Saudi Airstrike Kills Anti-Hadi Judge in Yemen, Six Relatives

by Jason Ditz

Adding to the soaring civilian death toll in Yemen, Saudi warplanes attacked and destroyed the two-story home of Yemeni judge Yahya Rubaid, killing him and six members of his family. Seven others, including five civilians and two bodyguards, were also wounded.

Rubaid was the judge who oversaw the treason trial against Yemen’s President Abd-Rabu Mansour Hadi, who the Saudis are attempting to reinstall. The Saudis, however, deny that the killings were a targeted assassination, saying they were “looking for Scud missiles” in blowing up the house.

While the Scud missile excuse isn’t particularly credible, Saudi airstrikes hit seemingly random civilian homes across Yemen so often that it is virtually impossible at this point to tell the difference between a targeted assassination and their day-to-day recklessness.

Houthi officials reported the strike as one of scores of airstrikes hitting obviously civilian targets just in the past week, saying the Saudis had destroyed 190 homes and killed 220 civilians in the last week alone.

Four Killed as Saudi Strike Kills Yemen Doctors Without Borders Hospital

by Jason Ditz

A new statement from Doctors Without Borders (MSF) reported a Saudi rocket strike, likely an airstrike, hit one of their hospitals in the Yemeni capital city of Sanaa, killing four people and wounding 10 others, including three MSF staff members.

MSF said they couldn’t yet confirm if the incident was an airstrike or a ground-based rocket firing, but did say Saudi warplanes were flying overhead at the time, and that in addition to the strike that hit the hospital, a second one landed nearby.

MSF Director Raquel Ayora described it as part of a “worrying pattern” of Saudi attacks against medical services, warning that the destruction of the hospital will leave residents in the area without access to healthcare for weeks.

Saudi officials have not commented yet on this latest strike, though historically they’ve offered blanket denials whenever a strike gets them too much negative publicity. This has been particularly true of attacks on hospitals and other obvious civilian targets.

Saudis Escalate Airstrikes Against Yemen Amid Growing Tensions

by Jason Ditz

Though it’s unclear if the timing is more a function of regional sectarian tension or of the Saudis canceling the mostly ineffective ceasefire in Yemen, Saudi warplanes have dramatically escalated the number of airstrikes against targets inside Yemen today, hitting a number of civilian buildings in Shi’ite-held territory.

While airstrikes continued in the contested area around Taiz, much of the increase was deep in Houthi territory, around the capital city of Sanaa and the port of Hodeida. One of the Sanaa strikes destroyed the Noor Center for Care and Rehabilitation of the Blind, wounding three people. The chamber of commerce was also hit.

The Saudis have been facing growing international criticism of the huge civilian toll in their war against Yemen, and the tendency of strikes to hit obviously civilian targets like the blind center are only going to add to the criticism of their targeting methods.

Meanwhile, the “curfew” imposed by pro-Saudi forces in Aden doesn’t appear to be going well, as ISIS bombers attacked the city governor’s convoy in the city today, killing at least one, and according to some accounts two, of his bodyguards.

Saudi Airstrikes Pound Yemen as Ceasefire Falters

by Jason Ditz

Saudi warplanes tend to kill a few dozen people in Yemen on any given day, and despite the newly minted ceasefire today was no different, with Saudi warplanes pounding Houthi targets in several provinces across Yemen. The Saudis did not deny this.

Rather, Saudi officials say they were “responding” to Houthi hostility and that if anything their airstrikes proved that the Houthis are not to be trusted in the ongoing peace talks in Geneva. The UN has a total blackout on media coverage at the talks, so there is needless to say no news there.

Still, fighting on the ground has slowed, if not totally stopped, so there is some relative calm in some parts of Yemen. Saudi officials, however, say this too could “collapse at any moment” with a full resumption of hostilities.

A prisoner swap between the two sides, meant to be a confidence-building measure, was also halted by armed tribesmen in the Bayda Province, who blocked access to the site of exchange, demanding that their own tribesmen also be released in the deal.

Foreign Fighters in Iraq, Syria More Than Doubled in 16 Months

by Jason Ditz

Roughly spanning the period since the US launched its war against ISIS, the number of foreign Islamist fighters who’ve flocked to Iraq and Syria has far more than doubled from June 2014, providing a huge influx of new fighters for ISIS and other groups.

In June 2014, the estimate was about 12,000 foreign fighters, a huge figure in its own right. The new report now believes the figure is from 27,000 to 31,000, meaning the “more than doubled” assessment of the report is putting it mildly.

The report estimates 6,000 fighters from Tunisia, 2,500 Saudis, 2,400 Russians, 2,100 from Turkey, and 2,000 from Jordan. The European Union member nations in general come to about 5,000, with France the largest at 1,800.

While across the Eastern Hemisphere the recruitment for foreign fighters is soaring, particularly in Europe and Northern Africa, the report says the North American figures are mostly flat, with 150 from the US and 130 from Canada.

The big concern is that an estimated 20% or 30% of these fighters are returning to their western countries of origin, meaning these countries will all be coping with significant influxes of now-seasoned fighters with international contacts.

Ex-NATO Commander Wesley Clark Says ISIS Serves Interests of Turkey, Saudi Arabia

Former NATO Supreme Allied Commander Gen. Wesley Clark said last week that ISIS’ Sunni insurgency against regional Shiite-dominated governments in Lebanon, Iran, Iraq, and Syria serves the regional political interests of Turkey and Saudi Arabia.

Gen. Clark said on CNN’s The Lead, “When a NATO nation shoots down a Russian aircraft, it’s still an act by Turkey, not by NATO. These aircraft are not under NATO control. They’re under Turkish operational control. They’re flying as a result of Turkish air missions, and NATO is not running an air defense umbrella that’s integrated, to the best of my knowledge.

[RELATED: Reality Check: Is The Obama Administration Foreign Policy Giving Syria To ISIS?]

Let’s be very clear. ISIS is not just a terrorist organization, it is a Sunni terrorist organization. That means it blocks and targets Shia and that means it’s serving the interests of Turkey and Saudi Arabia even as it poses a threat to them, because neither Turkey nor Saudi Arabia want an Iran-Iraq-Syria-Lebanon bridge that isolates Turkey and cuts Saudi Arabia off,” said Clark.

He added, “All along there’s always been the idea that Turkey was supporting ISIS in some way. We know they’ve funneled people going through Turkey to ISIS. Someone’s buying that oil that ISIS is selling. It’s going through somewhere. It looks to me like it’s probably going through Turkey, but the Turks haven’t acknowledged that.

[RELATED: Turkish Journalists Detained for Reporting on Weapons Allegedly Supplied to ISIS]

Clark then gave his opinion that there is “no good guy in this [conflict].” He added, “The tactics used by the Assad regime [against ISIS] have been terror tactics. They’re dropping barrel bombs on innocent civilians… This is a power struggle for the Middle East using terror tactics and terrorists.

Earlier this year, Ben Swann released a Truth in Media video exposing how U.S. foreign policy contributed to the rise of ISIS. Watch it in the below-embedded video player.


Saudi Warplanes Destroy MSF Hospital in Yemen

by Jason Ditz

Adding to concerns about Saudi attacks on civilians in Yemen, an overnight air raid against the capital city of Sanaa pounded a residential district, hitting several homes, a girl’s school, and destroying a Doctors Without Borders (MSF) hospital.

MSF reported the facility was struck multiple times and left in “wreckage.” The first strike hit the operations theater of the hospital, which fortunately was empty at night, and the staff had enough time to evacuate for the most part before a second missile went careening into the maternity ward.

Two MSF staffers were wounded, but there appear to have been no deaths in the hospital strike, though casualties out of the surrounding area are so far not certain. This is the second MSF facility destroyed in an airstrike this month, after the US destroyed one in Afghanistan.

MSF reported they had provided the coordinates of all facilities in Yemen to the Saudi-led coalition two weeks ago, specifically for fear that the reckless air campaign would mistakenly hit them. There has been no Saudi response from the strike so far, but MSF says that whatever the circumstances, the strike amounts to a war crime.

US Seeks to Cut Europeans Out of Syria Peace Talks

by Jason Ditz

With the UN General Assembly setting up a growing call for international negotiations on ending the Syrian Civil War, the Obama Administration is taking a risky position, reportedly trying to keep all Western European nations from taking part in the negotiations.

The international nature of the talks had most assuming that the P5+1 would be formally involved, as they were with the Iran nuclear negotiations, but while the US is okay with Russia being at the talks, they want to cut out the other four,meaning China and all three EU members would be sidelined.

The US is envisioning a five-nation effort, led by them, and including Russia, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Iran. The assumption from this is likely that Turkey and Saudi Arabia will back the US position, giving them a 3-2 majority at the negotiating table.

Russia is likely to make a lot of diplomatic points with their position, which urges the inclusion of all P5+1 members as well as several other Middle Eastern states, including Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, and Qatar.

US officials are defending their position as believing that the talks will be easier if they restrict it to those “directly involved” in Syria, but this must inevitably raise the question of whether the US is really “involved” in any way that France, for instance, is not.

The real risk of including France, Germany, and Britain is the appeal to reasonableness they are liable to bring to the table, as the US can count on the Saudis and Turkish government to both unconditionally spurn any unity deal that keeps Assad in power in any form, while the European nations are more likely to push for some sort of compromise deal that starts a transition.

Saudi Warplanes Kill 70 in Attack on Wedding Party

by Jason Ditz

Adding to the enormous death toll of the Saudi war against Yemen, Saudi warplanes today attacked a wedding party near the port city of Mocha, killing the groom and a huge number of civilians, with at least 70 confirmed dead in the latest reports from medical officials.

The attack does not appear to have been “accidental,” like so many other Saudi airstrikes, but rather targeted a Shi’ite wedding because the groom was seen as being “affiliated” with the Houthis. Actually what this affiliation was is unclear.

The timing couldn’t have been worse for the Saudi government, as UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was to address the UN General Assembly just hours later, and slammed the Saudi war against Yemen, demanding an immediate end to the airstrikes.

“All sides are showing disregard for human life, but most of the casualties are being caused by airstrikes,” Ban noted. Some 5,000 people, mostly civilians, have been killed in the Saudi war, with virtually all of the major incidents the result of airstrikes.

Al-Qaeda Takes Over Parts of Yemeni Port of Aden

City Was Declared ‘Temporary Capital’ by Pro-Saudi Forces

by Jason Ditz, August 23, 2015

Last Monday, officials from Yemen’s pro-Saudi “government-in-exile” declared the southern port city of Aden to be their temporary capital, with the plan for it to be the nation’s capital for the next five years while Saudi-led forces retake the rest of the country.

Pro-Saudi officials had been hyping the capture of Aden from the Shi’ite Houthis for weeks as a major shift in the war, but as they try to press their offensive, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) seems to be coming in through the back door, and now controls parts of Aden.

Interestingly, there was no sign the pro-Saudi forces were resisting in any serious way, and no signs of major battles inside Aden. Rather, locals said self-described al-Qaeda forces were patrolling the streets of western Aden with impunity, and had raised the AQAP flag over several government buildings, including the port complex itself.

AQAP had already benefitted materially from the Saudi war in Yemen, seizing the port of Mukalla further down the shore. Taking Aden would be a real game-changer, however, as it would be by far the biggest city in al-Qaeda’s possession anywhere in the world, giving them a PR victory akin to that ISIS enjoyed when it captured the huge Iraqi of Mosul.

Throughout the current war, launched in March, the Saudi forces and their allies on the ground have not fought AQAP in any significant way, and have focused pretty much exclusively on the Shi’ites. This has helped them recruit allies by couching it as a sectarian conflict, but this too may be allowing AQAP to gain a measure of credibility in the region.

Upcoming Trial May Reveal Saudi Financing of 9/11 Terrorists

A former investigator with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and former attorney with the Justice Department will likely testify soon about their role in the 9/11 Commission and information related to Saudi financing of the terrorists.

Former FBI investigator Michael Jacobson and former Justice Department attorney Dana Lesemann both investigated leads connecting Saudi royalty to the attacks. While working with the 9/11 Commission they also uncovered evidence linking terrorist activity and the Saudi Embassy in Washington and the Saudi Consulate in Los Angeles.

The New York Post reported:

“During a July 30 court hearing, lawyers for 9/11 victims’ families and insurers revealed that the staffers’ most serious allegations against the Saudis were stricken from the final draft of the 9/11 Commission report as well.

“They were removed at the 11th hour by the senior staff,” plaintiffs’ attorney Sean Carter of Cozen O’Connor said, explaining that the decision was a “political matter.”

Carter said that the staff investigators “felt they had documented a direct link between the Saudi government and the Sept. 11 plot based on the explosive material they had uncovered concerning the activities of Fahad al-Thumairy and Omar al-Bayoumi.”‘

The lawsuit claims that two of the Saudi hijackers were funded through the Saudi embassy and consulate via Thumairy, who was working as a Saudi religious cleric and diplomat in Los Angeles, and Bayoumi, who was working for the Saudi Arabian civil aviation authority in San Diego.

The Post reports that the judge will decide whether or not to dismiss the case based on Saudi immunity or let the lawsuit from the 9/11 victims’ families continue. The decision should come within 60 to 90 days.

The Saudi Connection

In early April TruthInMedia reported that Saudi Arabia asked a New York City judge to reject another lawsuit from the families of the 9/11 victims. Lawyers representing Saudi Arabia filed papers in a Manhattan federal court claiming that no evidence exists linking the nation to the attacks. The family members of the 9/11 victims point to testimony from so-called “20th hijacker Zacarias Moussaoui.

Lawyers representing the Saudi Kingdom called Moussaoui’s comments “colorful but immaterial hearsay statements.” Moussaoui was previously found to be a paranoid schizophrenic by a psychologist testifying in his trial.

In late March the Federal Bureau of Investigation released a report that attempts to discredit a previous report that hinted at connections between a Saudi family in Prestencia, Florida and the 9/11 hijackers. The FBI 9/11 Review Commission told Congress that a 2002 report from the FBI “was poorly written and wholly unsubstantiated.”

An agent with the bureau originally found that the Saudi family left in a hurry two weeks before 9/11, leaving behind cars, furniture, clothes, and other items. The information was revealed in a 2010 Freedom of Information Act request which found that an unidentified family member was a student at the same flight school that two of accused 9/11 hijackers attended.

The FBI 9/11 Review Commission largely ignored any evidence of Saudi involvement. The New York Post notes, “The review panel highlighted one local FBI report generated from the investigation that said Abdulaziz and Anoud al-Hijji, the prominent Saudi couple who “fled” their home, had “many connections” to “individuals associated with the terrorist attacks on 9/11/2001.”

The is only the latest attempt to hold the Saudi royalty accountable. A previous lawsuit from the families was rejected when a judge found that Saudi Arabia was protected because of sovereign immunity. The decision was reversed by a federal appeals court and the families continue their fight.

Despite the denials from Saudi officials, former Senator Bob Graham said he is convinced the Saudi government funded “at least some of the terrorists who carried out the Sept. 11 attacks.” Graham is the former co-chairman of the Joint Congressional Inquiry into the attacks. He recently told the New York Times that he was not giving up his pursuit of finding out who was funding the 9/11 attacks.