15 thoughts on “Qatar dictatorship helps Egyptian military junta

  1. Saudi flexes Gulf grip with Bahrain ‘union’ plans

    In a photo taken on Feb. 11, 2012, government supporters wave red-and-white Bahraini flags and green Saudi flags at Bahrain’s Grand Mosque in Manama, Bahrain. Behind them is a Syrian rebel flag that alters a religious verse to show support for Syrians under siege in the city of Homs. It reads: “Homs, for what sin is she slain?” During a sermon last week at Bahrain’s Grand Mosque, the pro-government prayer leader offered sweeping praise to one of the Arab Spring’s counter revolutions: Gulf rulers bonding together against dissent with powerful Saudi Arabia as their main guardian. (AP Photo/Hasan Jamali)

    By Brian Murphy

    Associated Press / March 5, 2012

    DUBAI, United Arab Emirates—During a sermon last week at Bahrain’s Grand Mosque, the pro-government prayer leader offered sweeping praise for one of the Arab Spring’s counter-revolutions: Gulf rulers bonding together against dissent with powerful Saudi Arabia as their main guardian.

    The widening Saudi security stamp on the region is already taking shape in Bahrain, where more than a year of Shiite-led unrest shows no sign of easing and the Saudi influence over the embattled Sunni monarchy is on public display.

    Portraits of the Saudi King Abdullah — some showing him praying — dot the airport in Bahrain’s capital Manama. Bahrain’s red-and-white flag and the green Saudi colors are arranged with crossed staffs. State media continually lauds the Saudi-led military force that rolled into Bahrain last year as reinforcements against the uprising by the kingdom’s Shiite majority.

    “Gulf union is a long-awaited dream,” said Sheik Fareed al-Meftah at Friday prayers in Manama’s main Sunni mosque, referring to proposals to coordinate defense affairs and other policies among the six members of the Gulf Cooperation Council stretching from Kuwait to Oman.

    “The first step is here,” al-Meftah added.

    Abdullah and Bahrain’s king, Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, have met to discuss “union” plans, which are expected to be outlined in May. For the moment, few details have emerged. Gulf leaders have stressed the need for greater intelligence and military cooperation. It’s unclear, however, how deeply Bahrain and Saudi Arabia will attempt to merge in the first steps.

    The increasingly blurred national lines in Bahrain are a possible sneak preview of the wider Arab Spring backlash in the oil-rich Gulf, where Saudi power seeks to safeguard the region’s Sunni leadership and its strong opposition to possible attempts by Shiite giant Iran to expand influence. Meanwhile, Gulf rulers have selectively endorsed rebellions elsewhere, such as in Libya and Syria.

    So far, the Gulf agenda has dovetailed with Western partners, which unleashed NATO-led airstrikes against Moammar Gadhafi’s regime in Libya and are showing increasing support for possible aid to the rebels trying to topple Syrian President Bashar Assad — Iran’s key Arab ally.

    But Bahrain brings the potential for friction.

    Washington has stood behind Bahrain’s dynasty for strategic reasons as hosts of the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet, which is a pillar of the Pentagon’s frontline forces against Iran. Yet rights groups and others have increased pressure in the U.S. and Europe to scale back support for Bahrain’s rulers, who are struggling against a Shiite majority claiming it faces widespread discrimination and second-class status.

    There are no signs of any significant Western reduction in support for Bahrain’s dynasty, but the quandaries highlight how the tiny island kingdom has the potential to open rifts between the West and crucial ally Saudi Arabia.

    “Bahrain can be looked at as something of a Saudi colony now in the sense that policies are merged,” said Toby Jones, an expert on Bahraini affairs at Rutgers University. “But this is more than just a meeting of minds. It’s motivated by the fears of the Arab Spring.”

    While there have been some rumblings of opposition — including protests in Shiite pockets in Saudi Arabia — nothing in the Gulf region has come close to Bahrain’s upheaval. More than 45 people have died in the unrest, which includes near daily street clashes that include tear gas from security forces and firebombs from demonstrators. Some rights groups place the death toll above 60.

    There have been no confirmed reports of Saudi soldiers directly involved in the crackdowns. But the troops in Bahrain have protected key sites, such as power plants, to free up local police. The military intervention also send a broad message that Saudi considers Bahrain a line that can’t be crossed.

    Gulf Arab leaders repeatedly claim that Iran is pulling the strings behind Bahrain’s Shiite protests, although no clear evidence has been produced to support the allegations. The Gulf bloc fears the fall of Bahrain’s 200-year-old Sunni dynasty would give Iran a beachhead in their midst.

    Last month, Saudi’s King Abdullah claimed “unnamed hands” were behind the upheavals in Bahrain and other unrest against Sunni leaders in the Arab world. Abdullah did not specifically cite Iran, but similar terms have been used by Saudi officials and others in the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council, which includes Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman and the United Arab Emirates.

    The Saudi defense minister, in an interview published Sunday in the Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Seyassah, called the regional security force, known as the Peninsula Shield, the ” nucleus” of protection against any threats to the Gulf states.

    “Iran is our neighbor, but we draw a line when it comes to intervention in our internal affairs,” Prince Salman bin Abdul Aziz was quoted as saying. “Whenever we feel that anybody is interfering in our internal affairs, through internal mercenaries or people from outside, we will resist it appropriately.”

    A Bahrain-based economic researcher, Jassim Hussain, said a Gulf union could involve more unified economic help from the super-rich Saudi Arabia to prop up Bahrain, whose role as a regional financial hub has taken a sharp blow from the unrest. In a rare boost for Bahrain’s economy in the past year, Saudi Arabia’s Prince Alwaleed bin Talal selected Manama in December as the base for a 24-hour news channel, Alarab.

    “Bahrain’s rulers have always been dependent on the generosity of Saudi Arabia,” said Simon Henderson, a Gulf analyst at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. “It’s all part of the larger story — the rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran for regional power.”

    Shiite groups in Bahrain, however, were wary that the planned union would leave Saudi Arabia the de facto ruler and further tighten crackdowns on the opposition.

    “We welcome the idea of closer Gulf union if the people of nations approve it,” said Sheik Ali Salman, head the largest Shiite political group, Al Wefaq. “But if the purpose is just to turn Bahrain into an emirate of Saudi Arabia, then it will not be accepted and it will be disastrous.”

    ——

    Associated Press writers Adam Schreck and Barbara Surk contributed to this report.
    © Copyright 2012 Associated Press

  2. Egyptian gold workers strike for better pay and conditions

    On March 3 workers at a gold mine in Sukari, in Egypt’s Eastern Desert region, began strike action to demand better pay and conditions, including increased hazard pay. The strike resulted in the cessation of operations at the plant, the Centamin-Egypt company informed the London Stock Exchange on March 6.

    The firm, a joint Egyptian-Australian consortium, condemned the strike as “illegal” with the support of the Egyptian Mineral Resources Authority and the Ministry of Petroleum.

    Cotton workers in Minya, Upper Egypt blockade rail network

    On Tuesday workers at the Nile Cotton Ginning Company in Minya, Upper Egypt blockaded the railway network to demand payment of more than six months’ wages.

    The action is the latest in series of blockades of the rail network since last year’s January revolution against the dictatorship of former President Hosni Mubarak. From January 28, 2011 to January 10, 2012, the Egyptian Railways Authority reported it has lost LE70 million ($11.6 million) in revenue as a result of sit-ins and strikes. During this period, 1,720 trains nationwide have been delayed.

    http://wsws.org/articles/2012/mar2012/wkrs-m09.shtml

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  4. Man kills imam in Brussels mosque

    BELGIUM: A man wielding a knife and axe burst into a Shi’ite mosque in Brussels and started a fire that killed the imam on Monday evening.

    The attacker had shouted it was a revenge attack for the conflict in Syria.

    The Syrian government is officially secular but contains many from the minority Shi’ite community and is cracking down on insurgents with links to hard-line Sunni, or Salafist, groups.

    A mosque spokesman said the attacker, who has since been arrested, was “a Salafist, all statements made by people who were there point to that.”

    http://www.morningstaronline.co.uk/news/content/view/full/116543

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  6. NATO MPs In Qatar “Discuss Regional Security”

    http://www.gulf-times.com/site/topics/article.asp?cu_no=2&item_no=494902&version=1&template_id=36&parent_id=16

    Gulf Times
    March 24, 201

    Nato parliamentarians discuss regional security

    -David Crausby, a Nato Parliamentarian from the United Kingdom, wanted to understand the effect of a potential US or Israeli strike on Iran.
    Salman Shaikh of Brookings Doha posited that the threshold for US intervention has always been the acquisition of a nuclear weapon by Iran.
    This threshold, he continued, has shifted to the capability side, increasingly resembling the Israeli stance.

    Nato Parliamentarians from 13 member-states convened in Doha for a three-day briefing on Security and Stability in the Gulf Region organised by Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service in Qatar (SFS-Q).

    Representing countries including Portugal, Germany and Norway, among others, the Nato Parliamentarians were privy to a nearly two-hour question and answer session featuring SFS-Q subject matter experts (SMEs) Amira A. Sonbol, Gary B. Wasserman, Mark Farha, Birol Baskan and colleagues from Brookings Doha, Director Salman Shaikh, and the Royal United Services Institute in Qatar (RUSIQ), Deputy Director David Roberts.

    Tackling the topic of security and stability in the Gulf region, Salman Shaikh began by stating that Gulf monarchies have deflected the Arab Spring through massive social spending. He questioned the sustainability of this approach, arguing that the viability of the current social contract in the Gulf is in need of urgent modernisation.

    The ramifications of increased energy exports to India and China for the security of the Gulf region was considered by many members of the Q&A session, with a consensus that there is a shift in strategic focus, from the point of view of the United States, away from the Middle East and towards the Far East.

    David Crausby, a Nato Parliamentarian from the United Kingdom, wanted to understand the effect of a potential US or Israeli strike on Iran.

    Salman Shaikh of Brookings Doha posited that the threshold for US intervention has always been the acquisition of a nuclear weapon by Iran.

    This threshold, he continued, has shifted to the capability side, increasingly resembling the Israeli stance.

    Such a move, according to Shaikh, could spark a wide regional conflict and inflict severe economic consequences.

    ..

    José Lello, a Nato Parliamentarian from Portugal inquired into Qatar’s provisional plans for the closing of the Strait of Hormuz and the rationale behind the escalatory rhetoric emerging from the region. In response, Farha warned that loose talk of war could open the door for provocations and secret covert operations.

  7. NATO Commander Praises Qatari Emir For Libyan “Liberation”

    http://www.gulf-times.com/site/topics/article.asp?cu_no=2&item_no=495134&version=1&template_id=36&parent_id=16

    Gulf Times
    March 26, 2012

    Nato commander hails Qatari forces’ role in Libya’s liberation
    By Ayman Adly

    ====

    Bouchard also highlighted the role of the media in the success of the mission, especially the Al Jazeera news channel, BBC and CNN.

    “We have to tailor our media to target different segments of people, officials, troops and mercenaries,” said Bouchard hoping that means of popular social media such as YouTube, Facebook and email should be utilised in future operations.

    ====

    Lieutenant General Joseph Jacques Charles Bouchard, Nato Commander of Operation Unified Protector, praised the guidance given by HH the Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Kalifa al-Thani during the operations describing his decisions as wise and courageous.

    He pointed out that the Qatari forces provided the much needed culture information and understanding in a timely manner.

    “They provided us with a strategic understanding of the Arab point of view of this, which was very important for leadership,” clarified the commander, adding: “We are proud of Qatari forces’ performance and this is justifiable from all perspectives.”

    “Let’s continue to tell Nato how the Arab world works and continue to further interact,” he urged hoping that communication should be continued in this respect.

    In a lecture about the role of the Qatari forces in the operations in Libya, Bouchard explained the factors that contributed towards the swift [?] and sweeping success of the operation. He summed these up as effective co-ordination, instant and continuous communication and timely response based on reliable surveillance and reconnaisance.

    “It was critical and we needed speedy action. We had only three weeks ahead to move our troops and build our headquarters,” he remembered…

    Nato forces comprise 28 different nations belonging to different cultures and subcultures. The situation in Libya then demanded that all take part and swiftly contribute all that they could offer in a timely and well-coordinated manner. This was both highly challenging and rewarding, according the Nato commander.

    Operation Unified Protector was conducted in the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which made the culture situation rather sensitive. Participating Qatari forces were highly instrumental in this respect. They bridged the culture gap between the Nato forces and local Libyan fighters achieving better understanding.

    Bouchard also highlighted the role of the media in the success of the mission, especially the Al Jazeera news channel, BBC and CNN.

    “We have to tailor our media to target different segments of people, officials, troops and mercenaries,” said Bouchard hoping that means of popular social media such as YouTube, Facebook and email should be utilised in future operations…

    “It was a tremendous success story. We have developed great relationships with our friends, especially the Qataris and it is important to continue this to maintain better co-operation,” he said…

    Speaking at the programme, Lieutenant General Ralph Jodice II, who acted as combined air component commander for Nato during the operation, said that Qatar and the UAE were the first to drop ammunition for the operations in Libya…

    The lecture delivered yesterday in Doha was attended by the HE the Chief of Staff of Qatari Armed Forces Staff Brigadier General Hamad bin Ali al-Attiyah, HE the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Dr Khalid bin Mohamed al-Attiyah, HE the Attorney General of Qatar Dr Ali bin Fetais al-Marri, a number of senior officers and commanders of the Qatari Armed Forces and Nato and some Qatari military students.

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  10. Warrant out for Qatari fire mall chief

    Wednesday 30 May 2012

    by Our Foreign Desk

    Qatar ordered the arrests of the owner of a fire-ravaged shopping centre and four others on Wednesday as investigations continued into Monday’s blaze that killed 19 people including 13 children.

    The owner of the childcare facility where the children and four workers died, the security chief and two other mall officials were also being sought by Attorney General Ali bin Feitais al-Marri.

    Sprinkler systems malfunctioned at the Villaggio complex – the Gulf kingdom’s biggest shopping centre – and two firefighters died struggling to battle flames without blueprints of the centre.

    It was not clear if charges would be filed.

    Investigators were still carrying out extensive probes of the complex on Wednesday and no-one had yet announced the cause of the fire.

    Findings are expected within a week.

    The tragedy brought calls for sweeping safety and licencing reviews and is expected to push authorities across the Gulf to bolster safety regulations where until now the “build fast, build big” mantra has led to concerns over the quality of emergency planning.

    The complex largely catered to Western expatriot communities.

    Rescue crews in Doha had to hack through the roof to reach the childcare facility, where the victims included two-year-old New Zealand triplets and three Spanish siblings.

    http://www.morningstaronline.co.uk/news/content/view/full/119618

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