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Nigeria: Where Jihad and Christian Persecution Run Rampant

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Many around the world were recently made aware—got a small glimpse—of the Islamic jihad that plagues northern Nigeria, at the hands of Boko Haram, an organization dedicated to eradicating Christianity and enforcing the totality of Sharia law.

Last Sunday, September 29, around 1 a.m. Islamic terrorists dressed in Nigerian military uniforms invaded an agricultural college, shooting students as they slept in their dorms, killing a total of some 50 students.

As with the Islamic assaults in Kenya and Pakistan from the previous weekend—the former on a mall, the latter on a Christian church, leaving a combined total of nearly 200 people dead and hundreds injured—this latest jihadi attack in Nigeria is, far from an aberration, simply the latest in a tremendously long list of jihadi atrocities, most often targeting Christians.

Indeed, when it comes to Nigeria, it is difficult just keeping up with the atrocities—so frequent, sometimes daily, are they.

Thus the day before the agricultural college attack, in Kaduna state, Nigeria, Muslim herdsmen slaughtered 15 Christians. And the day before that, Islamic militants killed a Christian pastor and his son, torched their church in Dorawa, and killed another 28 people.

Jihadi attacks on schools and colleges are actually common. In July, 40 Christians were killed in an attack on a boarding school in Yobe state, Nigeria. The dormitory was set on fire in the attack and those fleeing gunned down. A month earlier, 16 other students were shot dead in attacks on a secondary school in Yobe and another school in Borno.

One year ago, in October 2012, Boko Haram jihadis stormed the Federal Polytechnic College, “separated the Christian students from the Muslim students, addressed each victim by name, questioned them, and then proceeded to shoot them or slit their throat,” killing up to 30 Christians.

This business of separating Muslims from “infidels” and releasing the former occurs with regular occurrence during jihadi attacks (inasmuch as it is good to kill an infidel, it is bad to kill a fellow Muslim, according to Islamic law). Thus, the weekend before this most recent terror attack in Nigeria, after jihadis in Kenya had raided a packed mall, they, too, made it a point to differentiate between Muslims and non-Muslims before initiating the carnage.

While the religious identity of those slaughtered in the recent college attack is still not clear—most often, Boko Haram targets Christians and elements of the Nigerian government but Muslims are also sometimes killed as collateral—in the context of separating people according to religion, it is interesting to note that one surviving student told Reuters, “They started gathering students into groups outside, then they opened fire and killed one group and then moved onto the next group and killed them. It was so terrible.”

Furthermore, the Associated Press reported that some of those killed were found with their “hands clasped under the chin, as if in prayer”—Christian prayer, that is, as Muslims do not pray with hands clasped under their chins.

That said, to a purist group like Boko Haram, Muslims who intermingle with Christians or who accept Western education, are apostate infidels, also worthy of death. Indeed, quite true to its name, “Boko Haram”—or “Western Education is a Sin”—recently declared, “Teachers who teach western education? We will kill them! We will kill them in front of their students, and tell the students to henceforth study the Quran.”

Most recently a new report confirms that Boko Haram has “bombed, burned, or attacked” 50 churches in Nigeria since January 2012; 366 people—the overwhelming majority of whom were Christian—were killed in just these church attacks alone. Boko Haram has also engaged in “31 separate attacks on Christians or [southern Nigerians] perceived to be Christian, killing at least 166 persons; 23 targeted attacks on clerics or senior Islamic figures critical of Boko Haram, killing at least 60 persons; and 21 attacks on ‘un-Islamic’ institutions or persons engaged in ‘un-Islamic’ behavior, killing at least 74.”

Boko Haram’s attacks on half of Nigeria’s population—the Christians—is so widespread and frequent that not one month ever passes without several atrocities appearing in my monthly Muslim Persecution of Christians series. Here, for instance, are some of the attacks Boko Haram launched on Christians from the last report I compiled, for the month of July, 2013, alone:

  • Islamic terrorists set off four bombs planted near three Protestant churches in Kano city, killing at least 45 people.
  • Growing numbers of Christian girls in Muslim-majority areas, where the Islamic group, Boko Haram holds sway, are being abducted, kept in the homes of Muslim leaders and forced to renounce their faith. Last year, Boko Haram had declared that it would begin doing precisely this—kidnap Christian women—as a way “to strike fear into the Christians of the power of Islam.”
  • At least 28 were killed in a series of explosions throughout a Christian neighborhood in the Muslim-majority northern city of Kano. The attacks happened in the evening while people were out “to enjoy the area’s nightlife.”
  • At least 30 Christian men, women and children were slain in three villages in southern Plateau state by Islamic extremists, some of whom are suspected to be from outside of Nigeria; they raided the villages massacring all in sight and burning down approximately 100 Christian homes.
  • Islamic gunmen raided Dinu, a Christian village on an early Sunday morning, before church services, as happens frequently, and slaughtered six Christians, a month after Muslim Fulani herdsmen shot another Christian to death in a nearby village and destroyed the churches of four villages.

Again, the above anecdotes are from the month of July alone (for more, see the Nigerian sections in Crucified Again: Exposing Islam’s New War on Christians, especially pgs. 70-75).

The lesson of last Sunday’s jihadi attack on an agricultural college in Nigeria is one and the same with the lesson of the jihadi attacks from the previous weekend on a Pakistani church and a Kenyan mall: all these attacks are but the tip of the iceberg of widespread Islamic hostility for and violence against non-Muslim “infidels,” Christians chief among them.

That the Obama administration still refuses to list Boko Haram as a foreign terrorist organization (even though Boko Haram is now directing threats at the United States); and that the Obama administration threatens the Nigerian government when it responds to the jihadis with force (warning it not to violate the “human rights” of Boko Haram) is a reminder why the viral, international jihad—in Nigeria, Kenya, Pakistan, ad infinitum—is so little known in the United States, and likely will stay unknown until it strikes U.S. borders again.

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Middle East

Gulf countries pivot towards Israel: Can Arab recognition be foresighted?

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The visit of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Oman surprised the entire world and delivered a message of smoothening of relations between Oman and Israel. This event has marked the first ever visit by any Israeli leader to Oman in 22 years. The Israeli Prime Minister and the Sultan discussed ‘Ways to enhance the peace process in the Middle East’ as well as other issues of ‘joint interest’. For Netanyahu, a milestone was achieved in the form of Oman recognition of Israel as normalizing relations with fellow regional states is one of the important clause of Netanyahu’s policy. Moreover, an Israeli Minister Yisrael Katz attended an International Transport Conference in Oman and proposed a railway link to connect Persian Gulf with the Mediterranean Sea. However, the railway link isn’t confirmed yet, it was just proposed in the conference. In parallel, Israeli Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev attended Abu Dhabi Grand Slam 2018 in United Arab Emirates, where for the first time in history the national anthem of Israel was played. Similar approach was adopted by Israel towards Qatar. These changing dynamics can foresight the future of Gulf politics, that is, gulf countries can align with Israel to counter the influence of Iran in the region and for this purpose gulf countries may recognize Israel.

An important thing to notice is that the countries smoothening their relations with Israel are members of GCC, where Saudi Arabia is at the top of hierarchy- the major decision maker in Middle East- which means without Saudi Arabia’s willingness and its interests, GCC countries cannot take such a big decision. Now here a question arises, why would Saudi Arabia allow this approach?

The main reasons are; firstly, the crown prince Mohammad Bin Salman have cordial relations with Israel’s top leadership and he(MBS) is seen as a potential ally by Israel in Middle East, the major reason why Israel demanded US to side by Saudi Arabia in Khashoggi murder case. Second, it would be very difficult for Saudi Arabia- the self-proclaimed leader of the Sunni Muslim world- to recognize Israel while other states in the region still oppose the existence of a Jewish state in Middle East. Recognition of Israel by other GCC countries would make it far easier for Saudi Arabia to recognize Israel or at least to melt ice. Lastly, the Khashoggi murder case have already deteriorated the international image of Saudi Arabia, at this point of time the country cannot afford to bear another blame as Muslim countries think it would be injustice to Palestinians if Israel is recognized.

So will Saudi Arabia follow the suit and recognize Israel? The question still remains ambiguous, but since Saudi Arabia haven’t opposed these action of GCC countries and a continuous diplomatic support from Israel to Saudi Arabia have been visible although both countries do not have diplomatic relations, it can be predicted that something is going on, between both of these states which they have chosen  not to disclose now. Coming to Qatar, since Qatar is also involved in this process of developing diplomatic relations with Israel, it can prove to be a catalyst in the troubled Saudi/Qatar relations as helping Saudi Arabia to develop relations with Israel while other Arab states are doing the same can lift up the entire blame from Saudi Arabia. Maybe the sanctions over Qatar will be lifted or just become less intensified. Qatar sees it as an opportunity to regain the similar status in the region as well as to reconstruct relations with the other Arab countries.

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Turkish Newspaper Implicates UAE’s Crown Prince in Covering Up Murder of Khashoggi

Eric Zuesse

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Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman al-Saud, and UAE Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, are close friends and allies, who jointly lead the war against Houthi-led Yemen. On Sunday afternoon, November 18th, a leading Turkish newspaper, Yeni Şafak, reported the two leaders to have also collaborated in hiding the murder on October 2nd in Istanbul of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.

Yeni Şafak headlined “Dahlan ‘cover-up team’ from Lebanon helps hide traces of Khashoggi murder” and reported that on October 2nd, “A second team that arrived in Istanbul to help cover-up the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi was dispatched by Muhammed Dahlan, UAE Crown Prince Muhammed bin Zayed’s chief hitman in the region, … according to an informed source who spoke to Yeni Şafak daily on the condition of anonymity.”

On November 16th, the Washington Post had headlined “CIA concludes Saudi crown prince ordered Jamal Khashoggi’s assassination”.

Bin Salman and bin Zayed are U.S. President Donald Trump’s closest foreign allies other than, possibly, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. All four men are determined that there be regime-change in Shiite Iran. This anti-Shia position bonds them also against the Houthis, who are Shiites, in Yemen, where bin Salman and bin Zayed lead the war, and the United States provides the training, logistics, and weapons. Both bin Salman and bin Zayed are fundamentalist Sunnis who are against Shia Muslims. Israel and the United States are allied with these two princes. Saudi Arabia’s royal family have been committed against Shia Muslims ever since 1744 when the Saud family made a pact with the fundamentalist Sunni preacher Mohammed ibn Wahhab, who hated Shia Muslims. Thus, Saudi Arabia is actually Saudi-Wahhabi Arabia, with Sauds running the aristocracy, and Wahhabists running the clergy.

In 2017, in Saudi Arabia’s capital of Riyadh, Trump sold, to the Saudi Crown Prince, initially, $350 billion of U.S.-made weapons over a ten-year period (the largest weapons-sale in world history), and $110 billion in just the first year. That deal was soon increased to $404 billion. For Trump publicly to acknowledge that Salman had “ordered Jamal Khashoggi’s assassination” would jeopardize this entire deal, and, perhaps, jeopardize the consequent boom in America’s economy. It also would jeopardize the U.S. alliance’s war against Shiites in Yemen.

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Revisiting the Qatari crisis

Ahmed Genidy

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In 2017 the dispute between Qatar and a number of its neighbours Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the UAE and Oman has considered as the most serious crisis since years and could escalate in the future to destabilise an already turbulent region. The Qatari support to the extremist parties and terrorist entities in the region is the apparent reason, however, conflicting of interest between Qatar and the other states about the Iranian relations, the political Islam and the competition over the regional leadership are the main reasons. Egypt, Oman and the UAE with the leadership of Saudi Arabia withdrawing diplomats, closing borders, announcing a number of Qatari citizens as terrorist supporters and place an embargo on Qatar and most of its interests and businesses in the region.

The primary reason for the Saudi’s camp blockade is the Qatari politically and financially support for violent extremist groups often affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood which considers as a real threat for the other GCC states in particular because of the ability of these group to create a secretive organisation with extreme religious behaviour. However, Qatar is relatively weaker in terms of politically and militarily than the Saudi’s camp, but it has continued to support its Islamist allies for many reasons: ideological sympathy; a believe that political Islam could reflect into Qatar’s influence in the region; a desire to challenge the traditional regional influence especially Saudi Arabia and its followers. In addition, Qatar has used its owned media tool the Aljazeera channel to magnify the Muslim Brotherhood influence and to criticise leaders in Cairo, Riyadh and Abu Dhabi which has been the major thorn in the relations.

The Qatari-Iranian close tie is the second source of tension which seen by other GCC states as a threat to the stability and even the existence of the Sunni majority states in the Gulf. The growing Qatari Iranian relation is evident in many occasions such as the Qatari voting against the UNSC resolution that calling on Iran to stop its nuclear enrichment project and the signing of Qatari Iranian agreement in counterterrorism cooperation which is a Qatar approach to benefit from the Iranian forces due to the modest Qatari military capability. Moreover, the Amir of Qatar called the Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and congratulated him on his re-election on April 2017. Finally, Qatar paid the amount of $700 for Kataab Hezbollah Iraq (Iranian baked militia) for the exchange of a member of the Qatari royal family who has been a hostage in Iraq, (probably falsely) was the act that irritated most of the GCC states and triggering the crisis.

The Trump’s administration policy in the region gives Riyad, Cairo and Abu Dhabi the green light to punish Qatar for its support to the Islamic movement. Trump expressed a passive acceptance to the Saudi and its allies in an attempt to contain the greedy Iranian strategy in the region and to confront the rising of the radical Islam. However, it seems that Saudi and its allies are unqualified for such a containment scheme to Iran the giant regional power. Trump also took credit on Twitter and describe the Qatari Amir as “high-level founder of terrorism.” Thus, the blockade can see as an attempt from the Saudi’s camp to push Qatar back to the line, an opportunity to satisfy their allies in Washington and to shift the public opinion to the Qatari issues instead of many internal issues and shortcoming.

The crisis involved a number of unpredictable stakeholders with huge interests in the region which could turn the situation into uncontrollable in many ways. The blockade camp clearly desires that Qatar recognise how serious they are, rapidly back to the line and admit unambiguously their list of demands which include shutting down Aljazeera, end the cooperating with Iran, stop supporting the Islamic parties and recognise the Saudi leadership in the GCC region. On the other hand, Qatar with its relatively small population 300,000 citizens and fund over $300 billion ensures the state will never face a serious financial issue in the future. Moreover, Qatar is the home of the U.S. air base Al-Udeid which is a critical component of the U.S. campaign in the Middle East. Therefore, Qatar knows that the U.S. has an immediate interest in emphasising the stability and the security in Qatar in particular while the U.S. does not have an alternative to Al-Udeid base to support its strategy in the Middle East. The Saudi’s camp is unlikely to abandon their demands. The crisis shows how much the GCC leaders are threatening and in a confusing situation toward support specific radical Islam movements and relation with Iran. In addition, the blockade camp can maintain the sanctions for a long time rather than take a military action due to its economic cost and the lack of suitable capabilities to conduct such a war. For instance, the Saudi campaign in Yemen now and after three years, shows a significant failure to achieve its strategic goals.

The current situations for both sides show that the crisis could easily continue for more years which is a critical concern to all the stakeholders in the region. Now Iran and Turkey are playing a significant role in supporting Qatar needs of foods and goods to minimise the inconvenient of the embargo. Also, Ankara is considering enhancing its military presence in Qatar which seen as a direct threat to Saudi Arabia the major regional compotator for the Turkish influence. That also shows a high possibility of an Iranian Turkish large-scale involvement in case of a military confrontation.

The U.S. mission should focus on balancing the support to the Gulf States and their core interests as well as supporting the stability by avoiding encouraging them from adopting a risky diplomatic offensives options that can backfire into the whole region. It seems that the U.S. should adopt nuanced diplomacy to end the crisis which is not that simple for the current U.S. administration. Since the conflicting parties of this crisis will not likely find a comprehensive solution on their own, the U.S. should make it a priority to help them do so before the costs of the dispute continue to escalate in unpredictable ways.

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