25-28 JANUARY Arabic language media wrap-up By Barry Webb

ISRAEL/SAUDI ARABIA

The Qatari-owned and pro Muslim Brotherhood al-Jazeera TV channel and its sister website www.aljazeera.net both reported on Israel’s recent decision to allow both its Jewish and Arab citizens to travel to Saudi Arabia for business and/or religious activities.

This is considered to be a public admission of the continued warming of relations between the two countries. Previously, Israeli citizens were forbidden to travel to Saudi Arabia because it was considered to be an “enemy” entity. The Saudis also had similar restrictions against Israelis. Even Muslim Israelis were forbidden to travel to Saudi Arabia, but during the hajj season Muslim Israelis could obtain a “temporary” or special “hajj” visa from the Jordanians which the Saudis would recognize thus allowing them to visit Mecca and Medina.

Everyone in the Middle East knew that these Muslims were actually Israeli citizens but the three countries worked out this ruse so that Israel and Saudi Arabia could avoid recognizing each other. That ruse is now out the window, according to the Israelis, as both Jewish and Arab citizens of Israel can travel to Saudi Arabia with an Israeli passport and Saudi-approved visa.

COMMENT: I found it interesting that the Saudi-owned www.alarabiya.net and its sister TV channel have so far failed to report on this development–as if they are ashamed to let the world know that they have taken yet one more step towards “normalization” with Israel. “Normalization” is something that has been considered taboo in the Arab world since the day that Israel was founded, and it still resonates among many in the Arab world at the same level as say, boiling children alive in a cauldron of oil. So, by reporting on this “public normalization” as the al-jazeera headlines screamed, al-Jazeera thought that they were denigrating Saudi Arabia’s image and standing within the Arab world. The fact that the Saudis have so far not reported on this development indicates that they actually agree to some extent with al-Jazeera.

This indicates that the Arab world still has a long way to go before any sort of permanent peace between Israel and the Arab world can be possible. Even those countries that have officially recognized Israel and exchanged ambassadors (Jordan and Egypt) have medias that continue to demonize Israel and consider them to be “the enemy” even though in reality they have much worse enemies in Iran, Turkey, and their own radicals.

BTW, today, 28 January, the Saudis have issued a statement that they are not a party to any agreement allowing Israelis to visit the kingdom. Israelis are still forbidden.

IS THE SAUDI CROWN PRINCE HACKING PHONES?

The news sources in the Mideast East, United States, and the entire world this past week have been ablaze with stories about the Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman (MBS) , and de-facto ruler of the oil giant, planting a bug in the phone of Jeff Bezos during a conversation. This affair began during a dinner party attended by Bezos and MBS when the two men exchanged phone numbers. MBS then allegedly used the “what’s app” app to send Bezos compromising video material pertaining to Bezos’s illicit affair with a female Fox news reporter.

This in turn led to the Bezos divorce–and to the speculation that MBS was trying to blackmail Bezos into firing Jamal Khashoqji from the Washington Post. Bezos failed to do that, and so the Saudis took out Khashoqji in their own way.

This in turn has touched off a host of other speculations concerning a possible planned assassination of another Saudi citizen in the United States who has been critical of MBS on social media.

On 25 January, aljazeera.net reported on concerns in some U.S. quarters that the U.S. administration might also might be compromised thanks to Jared Kushner’s close relationship with MBS. A Saudi access to Kushner’s phone would obviously lead to Saudi acquisition of the personal and private phone numbers of virtually every person in the Trump administration, including that of Trump himself.

COMMENT: When I was working at NSA, our number one fear was not the Russians, Chinese, or Islamic terrorists, it was U.S. Congress persons visiting our facilities.

This fear of Congress was based on their long history of spilling leaks and their obliviousness to the importance of maintaining a tight-lipped security on things that need to remain under wraps.

At NSA, and hopefully at our other intelligence agencies as well, there is a nearly iron clad general culture of “security awareness.” The importance of keeping classified materials classified is drilled into you at hiring during orientation before you are ever assigned to a classified position. Then, even once you are allowed to work on classified material, the concept of “security awareness” is drilled into you day after day with the materials you handle on a daily basis and on the prevailing “culture” of the agency.

When you step out of the building there is a necessary compartmentalization in your brain. Certain things you can do and say, and certain things you can not do and say. These two parts of your life are sectioned of with a “partition” in your mind.

However, elected politicians and political appointees do not have that “culture.” The only security briefing they get is a piece of paper they are supposed to read over and sign at the bottom at the time of their swearing in. This lack of a “culture” of security awareness by elected officials and political appointees explains not only the above alleged “Kushner problem,” but also Hillary’s e-mails which may have led to the executions of up to 30 U.S. assets within China, and probably others in places like Iran.

Even presidents often fall into that trap. Both Obama and Trump have made slips that just make me cringe.

COMMENT: As technology becomes ever more ubiquitous and more powerful, the need for instilling a “culture” of security awareness among our elected officials and political appointees has become increasingly critical.

YEMEN

According to Saudi sources, the Iranian-supported rebel Houthis in Yemen are in a state of “hysteria” over the elimination of their chief patron Qasim Solaimani. However, it remains to be seen whether or not this will have any effect on the progress and outcome of the war there.

SYRIA/LEBANON

Lebanon, like Iraq and Iran itself, has been suffering through the four-month long anti-Iranian Mullah demonstrations which have turned increasingly violent in recent weeks. To make matters worse, the new government brought to power in Lebanon after the protestors succeeded in bringing down the previous government, is even more dominated by Iran’s proxy the hizbollah than was the previous government. So, don’t look for any quick end to the protests in Lebanon.

The Lebanese economy has also plunged as a response to Iranian hegemony and the increasingly violent protests.

Syria, which also has an Iran problem, is under going similar economic problems. According to a www.aljazeera.net report the value of the Syrian Lira was recently cut more that 50% in a two-days time.

IRAQ

The Saudi-owned al-arabiyya TV reported that the influential Shi’a Imam Muqtada Sadr whose party holds the largest share of seats in the Iraqi parliament and who originally supported the protestors against the government (as a good politician trying to get out ahead of popular feelings) has just reversed his position. He has now come out against the protestors (possibly due to pressure or threats from Iran). Nonetheless the protestors came out in large numbers this past weekend to continue their anti-government, anti-Iran protests in the Shi’a regions of Iraq.

In the city of an-Nasiriyyah in southern Iraq “unknown” individuals used live rounds against the protestors. These “unknowns” were most likely from the Iranian-supported heshd ash-sha’bi (popular mobilization units). In addition to killing a few people they also burned the tents of protestors who had come from outside of town to protest, and they also burned down some stores belonging to the city’s merchants.

The western media reported only one killed in the Iraqi protests over the weekend, but they were only counting what occurred in Baghdad where it was the “authorities” who used lived rounds and also burned down the tents of the protestors.

Also in Iraq, Iran is continuing to use the heshd ash-sha’bi to launch their primitive Katusha rockets against U.S. sites. This weekend they got lucky and actually hit something: The U.S. embassy grounds where they damaged a cafeteria.
Al-Arabiyya TV reported that American helicopters were seen hovering over the embassy grounds and a couple of them landed. This has led to speculation that there may have been some casualties.

COMMENT: Iran is continuing its policy of attempting to push the U.S. out of the Middle East entirely by using its proxies in other countries to stage attacks against the U.S. interests, while refraining from making any direct Iran to U.S. persons direct attack. This has been Iran’s policy since the elimination of Qasim Solaimani.

Middle East observers believe that Iran has no choice but to continue its escalation with the United States after the Solaimani affair, otherwise it will not only lose face in the Middle East, but will lose all credibility. This in turn could also lead to their proxies losing membership and enthusiasm, and even, possibly, the IRGC itself.

I believe that it is for this reason (to bolster the morale of Iran’s proxies in the Arab countries) that Khamanei has been giving speeches and sermons in Arabic, rather than his native Farsi.

LIBYA

SAUDI ARABIA PAYING RUSSIAN MERCENARIES?

The Qatari-owned and pro-Muslim Brotherhood (MB) al-Jazeera TV channel and its sister site www.aljazeera.net quoting an article from the French Le Monde, said that Saudi Arabia is financing the Russian “mercenaries” from the Wagner company who are aiding Gen. Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA).

However, an article in Bloomberg today (28 January) claims that it is the UAE that is financing the Wagner effort in Libya. Maybe both of them are chipping in. At any rate, according to al-Jazeera, the Le Monde article claimed that Putin’s only interest in “allowing” the Wagner personnel to operate in Libya is so that “Russia can have a seat at the table in the negotiations pertaining to Libya.”

ANALYSIS:

The Le Monde view that Putin is not serious about Libya and only wants a seat at the negotiating table is pure hogwash. For one thing there is Libya’s oil, a prize for any country’s oil companies that can gain a stake there. Then there is the possibility of gaining naval and air bases, a necessity for a country like Russia that is trying to pretend it is still a super power capable of projecting power outside of its own borders. For such a country that doesn’t have a single functioning aircraft carrier capable of performing that mission, overseas military bases are a necessity.

But, above and beyond that, I believe that Putin also wants to shadow Erdogan. While on the one hand Putin is playing the “bromance” game with Erdogan so he can sell him weapons systems and other items to bring badly needed cash into Russia’s failing economy, I believe that Putin on the other hand is also playing a little bit of “checkmate” with Erdogan.

While Russia and Turkey have reached a nebulous agreement vis-à-vis Syria to not attack each other’s forces, and Russia appears to be tolerating Turkey’s presence in the norther strip that Erdogan has carved out with the U.S. withdrawal, Russia’s continued presence in Syria prevents Erdogan’s continued expansion southward as he tries to reconstruct his fantasy Ottoman Empire–and thus also protects Israel, Jordan, and the rest of the Middle East.

Thus, we can probably expect a similar agreement between Putin and Erdogan regarding Libya if any sort of lasting truce is obtained.

In other words, if necessary, Putin will allow Erdogan to hang on to Tripoli and a strip along Libya’s western edge, as long as he stays out of the rest of Libya. Then Russia, through its alliance with the LNA which controls most of the country, could gain assess to Libya’s oil and obtain those badly needed overseas military bases, as well as block Erdogan’s expansion towards Egypt and the heart of the Arab world.

Erdogan, for his part, might well agree to such a deal, as long as that strip of land along Libya’s western border allows him to have continued assess to the Tunisian and Algerian borders through which he can continue to funnel weapons and jihadis from other parts of the world into Tunisia, Algeria, and the Sahel countries.

The western media, in claiming that Erdogan’s only interest in the MB supported Sirraaj government in Tripoli is the oil and gas rights, are missing the whole point. This is all part of Erdogan’s dream to resurrect the old Ottoman Empire Caliphate as a platform for destroying the West. And, the radicalization, and arming, of the Sahel is a major part of that program–as I will demonstrate in an upcoming special report on www.intelreform.org soon. Watch for it.

THE FIGHTING IN LIBYA CONTINUES

It doesn’t matter whether Sirraaj/Hafter and Erdogan/Putin agreements are signed in Moscow or Berlin, fighting always resumes before the ink is dry on the agreement. The Saudi-owned www.alarabiya.net reported that both sides in Libya have been continuously receiving planeloads of weapons, advisors, and fighters.

In another report covered by www.alarabiya.net, LNA spokesman Gen. Ahmad Mismari has admitted that the previously liberated city of Sirte still has some problems and the army needs to fully secure it before they can make a serious push against Masratta (the last major city still in alliance with the MB government in Tripoli. However, according to alarabiya.net “officials” and residents in Sirte claim that the army in fact has moved from Sirte towards Masratta.

In an interview with the Saudi-owned al-hadeth TV, Gen. Mismari also complained about Turkey’s continuing to break the international sanctions against providing weapons to either side in the Libyan fight. In this context he said that the ball is now in the court of the UN delegate for Libya Ghassan Salaama, and the international community to take action on Turkey’s continuous violations of UN agreements.

(Meanwhile, according to other reporting, Gen. Mismari’s LNA is also receiving weapons from Egypt and the U.A.E., Russian advisors courtesy of Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E., and is allowing Egyptian and U.A.E. pilots to fly missions for the LNA).

In his al-hadeth interview, Gen. Mismari stressed that the only solution for Libya is a military solution because if you leave weapons in the hands of the militias . . . just take a look at what’s been going on in Lebanon and Iraq.

COMMENT: Regarding the foreign intervention issue, apparently the LNA does not consider military aid from fellow Arab nations to be “foreign intervention” to the same degree as military aid coming from outside the region intended for the Tripoli side.

Also, regarding the comments Gen. Mismari made about Libya becoming another Lebanon or Iraq if the militias in Tripoli were not disarmed, the significance of these references probably went over the heads of virtually all of our political, military, and intelligence leaders in the West. So, to explain:

When the Lebanese civil war was ended in 1990 based on a negotiated truce, the militia Hizbollah was allowed to retain its arms, while all the other militias disarmed. As a result, Hizbollah has been able to bully the rest of the country and now has total control over the government, and the Lebanese economy has tumbled to Weimar Republic levels.

Likewise, when the U.S. forces pulled out of Iraq in 2011 with the assumed “defeat” of terrorism, the Iranian-backed heshd ash-sha’bi (popular Militias) were allowed to keep their arms. The result is that Iran has been able to totally control Iraqi politics, and now as the people in Iraq have been demonstrating against the Iranian hegemony over their country, these Iranian-controlled popular militias have been using live rounds against the protestors.

The same fate awaits Libya if the pro-Turkish, ISIS, al-Qaeda, ansar ash-shari’a, and MB militias are allowed to keep their arms in any internationally negotiated peace deal for Libya.

ERDOGAN/ALGERIA/LIBYA

In a previous submission to this site we reported that Erdogan had sent his Foreign Minister to Algeria in an attempt to get them to support his ambitions in Libya. He was rebuffed at that time. Never one to give up easily Erdogan himself paid a scheduled visit to Algeria this past weekend to plead his case. The pro-MB Al-Jazeera reported that he was received with thunderous appreciation. The anti-MB al-Arabiyya TV reported that he was received cordially but that the Algerians rejected Erdogan’s plans. The Algerian government repeated their official stance of “no foreign intervention” in Libya, and that negotiation is the only way to settle the Libya issue.

Meanwhile, even while Erdogan was still in Algeria, the U.A.E. Foreign Minister quickly flew to Algeria to hold talks with both the Algerian F.M., and Algeria’s president about Libya. This move was made apparently to counter Erdogan and strengthen Algeria’s spine vis-à-vis Erdogan’s persuasions/pressures, and also to reinforce the concept that fellow Arab nations sending aid to Libya is not “foreign intervention,” whereas Turkish meddling in Libyan affairs is.

ERDOGAN/TUNISIA

Also this past weekend the “speaker of the Tunisian Parliament” Rasheed Ghanoushi took it upon himself to fly to Turkey for a secret meeting with Erdogan to offer Tunisia’s support for Erdogan’s efforts in Libya. This touched off a furor in Tunisia. Mr. Ghanoushi is the founder and the long-time leader of the an-Nahdhah (renaissance) party which is a spin off of the Muslim Brotherhood. They have always claimed to be a more moderate version than the MB, but that is just a ploy.

In the most recent elections, in September, the an-Nahdhah party won a narrow plurality of the votes for parliamentary seats. However, they were unable to form a government because none of the other parties were willing to join up with them to form a majority. Therefore, most Tunisians feel that Mr. Ghanoushi has no right to pretend to speak for Tunisia–especially with regards to an issue like placing Turkish troops on their doorstep in neighboring Libya.

ERDOGAN/SOMALIA

According to a recent report on www.alarabiya.net Somalia has signed over the use of its major seaport to Erdogan’s in-laws. According to this agreement, the Turks get to keep 49% of the port’s profits after expenses, and the remaining 51% was to go to the Somali government.

However, the Turks have been withdrawing their company’s money daily from the Somalia bank used for the port’s transactions, thus preventing the Somalis from being able to calculate exactly what are the monthly proceeds of the port and therefore, they are unable to guess how much money the Turks owe them. According to their best calculations the Turks are giving them only about a third to half of what they should be getting based on the agreement.

The Turks responded that they are plowing all of these funds back into the port to expand it and modernize it which will increase Somali’s profits in the future and make their port the number one port in East Africa.

COMMENT: The country of Somalia is in no condition to be able even run their seaport on their own, much less enlarge it and modernize it. So, to be sure, they need someone like the Turks to come in and do it for them while running the daily affairs of the port. However, the sneaky way that the Turks are playing a shell game with the harbor’s proceeds, and the past history of Erdogan’s relatives vis-à-vis deals of this sort, does raise suspicions. Perhaps this is something that the UN could look into and demand a complete monthly accounting from the Turkish company in order to protect Somalia’s interests.

So, stay tuned on this development.

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Barry Webb has logged a 25-year career as an Arabist for the NSA, has two MA degrees in related subject matter, and is currently a Senior Fellow with Americans for Intelligence Reform www.intelreform.org. He is the author of Confessions of an (ex) NSA spy: Why America and its Allies are Losing the War on Terror. His website is www.barrywebbauthor.com

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