You can backtrack basically all active jihadist groups that attack west back to to the Saudi funded ideology. Even ISIS is offshoot of Wahabbi/Salafism. The "traditional" Islamist like Brotherhood put their efforts in Arab countries. Saudis are not in control of these groups, but they are responsible for the ideology.
Saudi Arabia's Curriculum of Intolerance
Saudis Must Stop Exporting Extremism ISIS Atrocities Started With Saudi Support for Salafi Hate
I want those pages.
And yes, those pages might be very interesting.
Has there ever been an explanation why the hijackers risked conspicuously attending flight schools under the noses of the US authorities, rather than, say, absolutely any other country in the world?
It's hard to find good help.
I can buy the idea that they either didn't think the possible risks through, or just believed they could get away with it long enough to pull off the attack. And also that they may have thought they could learn more about US aviation policy or protocol in the US than elsewhere.
I was sceptical about it being because there are more flight schools in the US, because AIUI they only acquired limited training anyway, which they could have received anywhere. But whatever competence and training they ended up with, they probably at least intended to get as much as possible, and train in bigger, more appropriate aircraft, so that is possibly a factor too.
Thanks everyone for the replies.
Because of that, they would probably stick out much less doing it here than trying to do it in one of the few EU airline training facilities.
In a sense, the comment upthread litigates the whole idea of a "sleeper cell."
You had organizations that had the signals but couldn't communicate, why is it anymore likely that the terrorists themselves were super geniuses?
Because there are more flight schools in the US than anywhere else, and if you want to do some flying in US airspace, those are in the best position to teach how it works, what controls there are, how to avoid them, etc.
Anything about the world trade center should have lit up intelligence reports like a christmas tree.
The hijackers even stayed in Laurel, Maryland, from which you can literally see Alpha and Bravo.
Yet the 9/11 commission only spent three visits and a paltry amount of time up at Fort Meade and NBP, anecdotally because the commute to the Fort is too long.
Edit in reply:
No, they never put the intelligence together. See here for a not-terrible summary: http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2014/01/13/the-al-qaeda-sw...
I find it very hard to imagine that the NSA and/or CIA would have let the attacks happen, even to protect key assets and methods. Maybe they had compromised some Mossad communication channel. Or maybe they had a double agent. But what would have been worth the risk to DC and NYC?
To an extent, as with all big data systems, massive collection of data has both opportunities and risks. The risk in overcollection (e.g., the NSA type programs) is that you collect so much damn information that you are either behind in analyzing it or flat out never get there [1-2]. Combine that with (as others have noted) the lack of translators and you get what you got . The old maxim* that not all data is information (DIKW) heavily applies here . This whole phenomenon becomes especially problematic when you are spending all that time energy and money largely trying to predict 'black swan' events using what has happened before as what to look for in the future (e.g., the TSA as a whole or the NSA still focusing on cold war languages pre-9/11 ).
Edit: *fixed typo of maximum to maxim
So the NSA might have known these people were learning to fly and maybe even preparing a hijack, but until 9/11 this was not dramatic -- if and when the hijack happened, they would have been expected to fly to Cuba or something and then dealt with. Pre-9/11, airplane hijacks had become rare since their '80s and '70s heydays, maybe there was some complacency (as in "yeah these guys will never manage it, and even if they do, we'll likely get most passengers back safely anyway, let them play"). Or at least that's what a sharp Occam's razor would suggest.
The fact that the 9/11 highjackers had planned to die as part of the hijack was a game changer.
I find http://911blogger.com/news/2013-05-16/hollywood-and-911-movi... but nothing there about anything broadcast on Fox.
First episode: https://youtu.be/EjbQ-BDh4PU
Edit: the author of your link addresses the episode in the comments section, "The Lone Gunmen Pilot Episode", and says that the article you linked was only focused on things "in production" when the attack occurred.
Vince Gilligan was an Executive Producer.
The actor playing the father, George Coe, was one of the original Not Ready for Prime Time Players on SNL, then later played Ben Cheviot on "Max Headroom".
WTC was an iconic target, for sure.
And maybe the NSA and CIA weren't talking, either.
We see this all the time in large companies now, the difference is that rarely do people die as a consequence. Maybe the NASA Challenger accident is a comparable organizational breakdown.
I have always been curious about this as an organizational phenomenon. What percentage of documents are classified for actual security reasons as opposed to things like embarrassing the country or allies, covering up misconduct or outright illegal conduct, or just as the default reaction. Study would be impossible/impractical even with access, but it sure would be interesting.
> Indeed, some of the C.I.A.’s best information about Al Qaeda came from the F.B.I. In 1998, F.B.I. investigators found an essential clue—a phone number in Yemen that functioned as a virtual switchboard for the terror network. The bombers in East Africa called that number before and after the attacks; so did Osama bin Laden. The number belonged to a jihadi named Ahmed al-Hada. By combing through the records of all the calls made to and from that number, F.B.I. investigators constructed a map of Al Qaeda’s global organization. The phone line was monitored as soon as it was discovered. But the C.I.A., as the primary organization for gathering foreign intelligence, had jurisdiction over conversations on the Hada phone, and did not provide the F.B.I. with the information it was getting about Al Qaeda’s plans.
So was the NSA also monitoring the Hada phone? Or maybe providing technical support for the CIA?
They definitely knew something: A month before the attacks they gave President Bush a briefing titled: "Bin Ladin Determined To Strike in US"
The agencies seem to be on the cycle of high compartmentalization -> criticism for lack of sharing -> low compartmentalization -> major spy scandal -> high compartmentalization.
Funnily, one of the attackers used to have a small internet cafe in my city before he learned to fly an airplane.
The London Review Of Books is not a conventional outlet for Hersh's investigative journalism (he's a regular at The New Yorker, which has one of the more notoriously elaborate fact checking apparatuses in the industry) and not Hersh's first choice for publishing that story.
This amounts to two serious, if heterodox, journalists coming to the same story about the Bin Laden raid independently. I'm convinced, personally, but I was already deeply jaded by the many retractions in the official story issued early on regarding the vital intelligence being arrived at by use of torture and mass surveillance, and what they cynically implied about State Department attitudes towards shaping public discourse.
(a) confirm no sources
(b) never have been fact-checked
(c) received no editorial scrutiny
Its author is offended that Hersh didn't give credit for the following claims, which the blogger claims to have broken herself:
* The US cover story of how they found bin Laden was fiction
* OBL was turned in by a walk-in informant, a mid-level ISI officer seeking to claim $25 million under the "Rewards for Justice" program.
* The Pakistani Intelligence Service -- ISI -- was sheltering bin Laden
* Saudi cash was financing the ISI operation keeping bin Laden captive
* The US presented an ultimatum to Pakistan that they would lose US funding if they did not cooperate with a US operation against bin Laden
* Pakistani generals Kiyani and Pasha were involved in the US operation that killed OBL
* Pakistan pulled out its troops from the area of Abottabad to facilitate the American raid
* The Obama administration betrayed the cooperating Pakistani officials
* The Obama administration scrambled to explain the crashed helicopter when their original drone strike cover story collapsed
But if you look carefully at these claims, you'll see that they're not particularly specific (the closest they get to "specific" is "knowing the names of two Pakistani generals who are so well-known they have Wikipedia pages"), have been corroborated nowhere, and, most importantly, are all predictable points in any narrative about Pakistan deliberately sheltering Bin Laden.
I think there's a reason nobody reported on Hillhouse originally.
Second: because the implication is that the New Yorker was unwilling to publish a piece that didn't fact-check out, and the London Review of Books was.
Hersh claims to have sold the story to LRB for the "politics" of it, the meaning of which is uncertain. But as he hopes to have a book published on the "war on terror", it is not out of the question that he selected them to establish rapport. And that he chose them, instead of resorting to them out of some kind of desperation owing to defects in the work itself, seems pretty clear.
- edit -
The Obama administration is widely claimed by non-partisan journalists and journalist groups as being openly hostile toward the press and has used espionage provisions to prosecute officials deemed to have "leaked" inside information via the types of conversations that would previously have been considered business-as-usual. (Despite opening his presidency with rhetoric about being the most "open" and "transparent" administration in history.) This has resulted in administration staffers & officials being paralyzed and fearful of speaking with the press at all, stymieing journalists' attempts at effectively covering the government and acting as the fourth estate. While it is unfortunate that we cannot quantify whether one administration has experienced more or less scrutiny than others, blithely asserting to the contrary is not a reasonable position in this context.
The most important takeaway is that the sample size on leak prosecutions is very, very low, so happenstance alone can make a President look unusually hostile. Here, it's a combination of happenstance, a shift in media norms, and cases begun under the previous President.
What would you do with them? Surely you can't believe that keeping them secret protects an ally to the expense of America? Surely it's much more likely that keeping them secret protects an ally to the benefit of America.
America depends on an informed populace in order to guide its representative government.
Feed the population lies and hide secrets, and break democracy.
I have never heard a Salafi scholar promote any acts terrorism. In fact, every single high-ranking scholar in Saudi Arabia (those who call themselves Salafi), are all opposed to groups like ISIS, Al Qaida, and Al Nusra. There are dozens of audio clips on Youtube from such scholars who clearly warn the Muslims from these types of groups.
Here is one such video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9xAZLE6JiqE
And another: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kNL9cwB-plY
And another (from arguably the most respected Saudi scholar): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9J5s2PPwZcY
Here are two from a Muslim student of knowledge from the UK:
There is also a great book that references many of the Islamic verdicts given by the contemporary Salafi Muslim scholars that dispels much of the "Wahhabi" myth:
I'm not here to preach; it just bothers me when people hijack words to push an agenda.
In Europe, foreign-funded Salafi Imams are generally the ones that recruit local Muslims to go fight for ISIS.
To give an actual example, in Bosnia the leader of the Salafi movement has been arrested for recruiting for ISIS.
The Vienna Salafi movement has been found to collect money that was then forwarded to ISIS.
Ask any mainstream Muslim who the Salafi scholars are in recent times and undoubtedly one of the first names mentioned would be the late Ibn Baz.
Ibn Baz was a harsh critic of Bin Laden and his ideology: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abd_al-Aziz_ibn_Baz#Osama_bin_...
Here is confirmation from Al Fawzan (the most-respected Saudi scholar now) regarding Ibn Baz's (and his own) position with respect to Bin Laden: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1-a65Og2uow
Here is a translated video that includes the speech of a late Yemeni scholar, Muqbil Al Wadi'ee, regarding Bin Laden. It's worth listening to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BO7BcXTc4zw
My point is that anyone can call themselves or ascribe themselves to anything. However, that doesn't necessarily make it a reality (yeah, yeah, no true Scotsman).
Counterargument: "No true Christian" could ever kill an enemy - Jesus was clear in this: turn the other cheek, die on the cross if need be, forgive 70 times 7 times, etc. In my sect, Christianity is totally pacifist. All true Christians are pacifists.
So there's no reason for any Muslim to harbor any enmity against any Christians, because no Christians have ever once harmed a Muslim (by my definition of Christians).
And so we're back to square one, arguing over who's really a Scotsman....
It's very funny how this usually ends with apologetic excuses
Actions speak louder than words, and there's an awful amount of Salafists preaching for ISIS
Details of religious cults are not interesting to me and I don't care what some guy in the desert (any of them) wrote in a book thousands of years ago.
This. From the outside, it looks like a conflict within Salafism.
It's hardly the only movement such things have happened to (eg revolutionary socialism vs reformist socialism).
- Sheikh Adel al-Kalbani, former imam of the Grand Mosque in Mecca
A refutation of Kalbani: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T2wD5KSN-zI
But although the meaning of Salafism as a historical word would take quite a bit to unpack, it's clearly referring to a particularly fast-growing form of fundamentalist Islam today.
Now, as for the sermons... It is my experience that the Saudi's pray with one hand and dole out cash to terrorist groups with the other.
That makes zero sense. Why would they fund the people calling for their destruction? What exactly is your "experience?" It's just more unfounded conjecture.
Second, my experience comes from studying International Relations at Princeton.
For sources, there are too many sources to count for the assertion that Saudi citizens continue to give money to Salafist (for lack of a better word) non-state actors that target civilians. I can look up the canonical sources for you later tonight.
However, it's so common that a quick Google search will turn up the overall gist.
Can someone please (perhaps you if you're willing, s_q_b) help me clear this up once and for all?
Is there sponsorship of terrorism and other anti-Western activities coming from the rulers of Saudi Arabia?
I don't mean distant members of the royal family who are given control of minor ministries to shut them up, I mean those with whom the power genuinely rests.
I can fully believe that private Saudi citizens fund any random thing that they want to, but it stretches my credulity to believe those that hold the reins of power directly fund terrorism. They know full well they rely completely on the US for their continued existence.
What evidence is there on this either way?
">Zacarias Moussaoui, a convicted 9/11 co-conspirator, says members of Saudi Arabia’s royal family helped finance al Qaeda in the years just prior to the 2001 terrorist attacks..."
When facing deposition, Moussaoui named specific names:
"He said in the prison deposition that he was directed in 1998 or 1999 by Qaeda leaders in Afghanistan to create a digital database of donors to the group.
Among those he said he recalled listing in the database were Prince Turki al-Faisal, then the Saudi intelligence chief; Prince Bandar Bin Sultan, the longtime Saudi ambassador to the United States; Prince al-Waleed bin Talal, a prominent billionaire investor; and many of the country’s leading clerics.
“Sheikh Osama wanted to keep a record who give money,” he said in imperfect English — “who is to be listened to or who contributed to the jihad." [Factcheck.org]
Then of course there are the charity fronts:
"Former Sen. Bob Graham, chairman at the time of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, called for the release of the 28 pages on the day the report was made public, Dec. 11, 2002, and still holds that position.
Graham told ABC News last month that the U.S. government’s refusal to release the 28 pages is an effort to protect Saudi Arabia, which he said is “the most responsible for that network of support.”
“The 28 pages primarily relate to who financed 9/11, and they point a very strong finger at Saudi Arabia as being the principal financier,” Graham told ABC News.
The head of the House of Saud, the King, and much of the military believe that military integration, weapons sales, and mutual defense scenarios from the Americans will benefit Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Arabia also has about ten trillion in oil reserves, and the United States needs oil.
Historically, Saudi Arabia was just the slice of the former Ottoman Empire the British and French let us rule. Hence Saudi Aramco's original name: "The Saudi-American Oil Company."
Lucky for us that Saudi Arabia turned out to have such large oil reserves. Of course, the area is also at a strategic naval point, both of which explain the number of United States' military bases in the region.
So some of the populace sees the Muslim world as being subjegated in their Holy Land, and some percentage of them are fans of violence and meyhem.
An analogous situation would be how rich Irish-Americans funded the IRA for decades, despite an official United States' government stance that they were a terrorist group.
If you want to hold forth as an expert, it's fair to ask: Did you take a couple online classes? Get a Ph.D. in international relations?
The computer science courses also put a drag on my GPA, because Princeton doesn't let you double major.
Nation-states are not consistent monoliths with predictable and precise objectives; they are aggregated magmas of competing and often conflicting interests. This is why it is important to have open debate among parties, so that such conflicts can be dealt with in the open, through constant compromises, not in the dark with daggers and suicide bombers.
Things like https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saudi_High_Commission_for_Reli...
Because if they're off destroying Syria or Iraq or Libya or the USSR, they're not causing mischief within Saudi Arabia.
That's especially true if you are yourself somehow affiliated with the religion, in which case: I'm sorry you find yourself litigating this here.
Whether or not you are, and whether or not these are good faith comments, I think this is a pretty weird place for HN to go.
A lot of this gets into questions of what defines a religion, if a religion even has a definition, or if it's just a contentless cultural virus that people use to interpret their own preconceived notions and practices in a predefined rubric.
Salafism is an easy target because many of its famous adherents are the unsavory sort, and it's "obscure" enough that people can bash it without seeming Islamophobic and even manage to present themselves as a bit cosmopolitan and knowledgeable. But there are definitely many peaceful adherents of it, and many who oppose terrorism within its ranks. You can deduce calls to terrorism from its muddled mess of scriptures and thinkers, but you can also deduce calls to peacemaking. Same as any other religion.
In the end, though, in a world with limited resources, focusing counter-propaganda efforts on Salafist communities seems like a pretty good idea. On the flip side, that almost certainly involves not stigmatizing all Salafists as terrorists.
I don't think that's relevant: 1) We can't read the texts except for translations; 2) Within every religion, among experts with great familiarity with the texts, there are a very wide variety of interpretations - so wide they sometimes fight wars over it (e.g., Protestants vs Catholics, Sunnis vs Shia, Jews vs. Christians vs. Muslims (all share the Old Testament; Muslims and Christians share the New Testament)), etc. 3) Adherents to religions are usually ignorant of and completely disregard the texts (lay Catholics didn't even read or hear them until the 20th century IIUC), except when convenient. For example, the Ten Commandments, the highest law, requires people to observe the Sabbath. I wonder if that includes posting on Hacker News?
* Saudi Arabia has one of the lowest debt-to-GDP ratios in the world, last year at only 1.6%. Their credit rating is A+ to AA; they can easily issue more debt.
* Has $640B of assets overseas
* Has $10 trillion of proven oil reserves, even at today's oil prices
They easily have enough money to handle this. An oil downturn like this won't wreck the country. Heck, there are a half-dozen countries in much worse positions that are way more likely to collapse than Saudi Arabia (i.e. North Korea, Greece, Argentina, Ukraine, Venezuela, Brazil). You could write an article like this for each of them. It's not hard to find problems in any country.
I'm guessing the authors are not happy with Saudi Arabia's treatment of political dissidents, and wrote an article to match.
On the other hand people have been predicting the end of the House of Saud for decade now, and people have continued to support them and sell them unlimited weapons.
Another is that OPEC is no longer operating as a cartel and Saudi couldn't persuade other governments to cut production to boost prices so they didn't want to lose their own market share.
Saudi may be in trouble, but we're more likely to see instability in other petro-states first, especially Venezuela.
And that's pretending all $600 billion is available to be burned freely. Which is never the case in reality. They're so desperate at this point they're going to IPO Aramco and begin selling off state assets.
Their reserves will be completely gone in three years if oil stays at or below the $45-$50 range. That's assuming nothing else they're doing gets more expensive (bribing the populace, local war), and that they can actually use all of their reserves freely; both of which are dramatic assumptions.
The real problem is that they desperately need hundreds of billions of dollars on hand to bribe their domestic audience as necessary. Without that, risk of civil war or collapse goes up dramatically.
Its like, Saudi Arabia has all the oil money it would need, but it doesn't have an ethical/non-criminal infrastructure strong enough to deal with the weight of the corruption at the very top, and also (the article points out): the very bottom. The society has a systemic corruption problem, and no society ever in the history of humanity has ever lasted beyond the tipping point of this corruption. The article warns that this may happen sooner rather than later.
My issue with the article is that it assumes that the Pentagon doesn't run this model, pretty much monthly, in its simulacra exercises. It seems we've forgotten that the Pentagon has an entire army divisions worth of resources alloted to just this task. This is too naive a point of view; more likely, then, is that this article is actually propaganda to mask the fact that the USA and its military partners, do in fact model for Saudi collapse, and are in fact actually prepared for it. That is an even more terrifying conclusion, given the state of the region today, and the degree to which American foreign policy has impacted the stability of the enemy states; where enemy=anyone the Sauds don't exercise corrupting control over, yet, in the region.
My understanding is that Saudi Arabia has been directing a large part of Western foreign policy since at least the oil shocks of the 1970s.
SA is a particularly nasty regime. Not only has it been politically and diplomatically untouchable even when clearly linked to anti-Western terrorism, but many US-led foreign interventions have been of obvious benefit to the Saudis and the US MIC, while making little sense at home.
So even if the Pentagon can game the Fall of the House of Saud militarily, that doesn't mean putting boots on the ground is a viable political solution.
At this point I don't think anyone knows what a viable political solution looks like in that part of the world.
Not.even.close. This level of hyperbole is just annoying.
Saudi Arabia, and the corresponding billions (trillions?) dollars of oil wealth is comoletely controlled by one unelected, corrupt, family. There is nothing anaologous to this in the modern world.
Yeah, I know: its a dream.
1) many shitty economies have low debt-to-GDP ratios. Russia, for instance.
2) 640B in reserves is not as much as you think. Around a year ago Russia spent $1B per day trying to stabilize their crashing currency. They eventually gave up.
3) oil reserves don't mean shit, because with the current price we got pretty close to self cost. If you have 10 trillion of oil, but it costs you 9.5 to get it, it doesn't look so cool anymore. You actually listed some examples yourself.
Seems to be implying that less money for political loyalty may reveal tensions, and those tensions can undermine a political order we depend on.
Money isn't the only concern when it comes to oil. Reduction of CO2 emissions is a goal that is becoming more important. Supply with oil is a huge concern for militaries. So the oil demand might drop down even further. Meanwhile you have countries like Venezuela or Nigeria that won't reduce their output.
- Not all Saudis are rich. Quite the opposite, there are destitute beggars on the streets of Riyadh. The women were the saddest side, kneeling by the roadside begging for alms in their all-enveloping pitch-black abayas in the scorching 45-degree heat (110+ F).
- The extent of the sex segregation. If you're female, you're literally a prisoner of your own family, as you can't go anywhere in Saudi without a car, women aren't allowed to drive, and women also aren't allowed to enter the vast majority of shops, restaurants etc on their own.
- Riyadh's population is projected to hit 10 million by 2020. It was originally a dinky oasis in the middle of the desert, with enough resources to support maybe 500 people. If anything ever disrupts the constant stream of imports paid for by oil money, the results will be apocalyptic.
- The state is deeply corrupt. Want a business visa? You can wait forever for the Chamber of Commerce to rubber-stamp your invitation letter... or you can pay a "facilitator" several hundred bucks and have it the next day. This repeats at every level, only with the sums going up an order of magnitude every time.
- "Hypocritical" doesn't begin to describe the opulence of the Sauds (the ruling family; yup, Saudi Arabia is the world's only country named after its rulers). For example, the massively lucrative alcohol smuggling racket is generally acknowledged to be run by one of the princes (of whom there are hundreds; Ibn al-Saud was such a horny old goat that he had 45 sons who survived to adulthood and had children of their own).
- Unless you belong to the 0.01% with enough wastah (connections) to flaunt the rules, there is fuck all to do in Riyadh. No cinemas, no clubs, no bars, not even shisha shops (they're banished beyond city limits). Can't drink a coffee with an unrelated woman at Starbucks without risking arrest, can't even go to the shopping mall on the weekends if you're a "bachelor" (unamrried male). So people either play a lot of Playstation and drive dangerously, go to the mosque, or go nuts.
- The education system is completely useless. All companies in Saudi are operated almost entirely by imported labor. I was working to set up a new mobile phone operator, with a motley crew of American, Europeans, Lebanese, Syrians, Jordanians, Sudanese etc, all hard-working and competent. And then there were the token Saudi dudes, who generally both had no idea about technology and couldn't speak more than few words of English... but each company had to hire a few to fulfill their "Saudification" quota.
Random stories if you'd like to read more: http://driftingclouds.net/tag/saudi-arabia/
IIRC, there was a "Locked Up Abroad" about this. The guy was quite candid about knowing that smuggling alcohol was illegal, but it was Princes and the like buying it from him. I think he ended up just getting deported.
Is this still true? I ask because when I was in grad school at the University of Arizona I taught technical writing to a fair number of Saudi (and Kuwaiti) engineering students. I don't know what happened to them after graduation, but I presume most went back to work in the oil companies. Maybe they ended up fulfilling the "Saudification" quota.
(That's a great post overall, by the way.)
I am not sure what ramifications this has for patients.
The author worked as a paramedic in Riyadh for several years, dealing with auto accidents, revenge killings, and the cultural implications of "Inshallah" as it applied to telling a family that their loved one didn't have long to live.
How about the "Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan"
This is a tenuous nitpick of an otherwise very interesting comment, thanks.
This is a bit long but worth a listen. I have not found as good as an explanation in the written form:
They pay 0% taxes. Hardly a small favor. But it will be an interesting economic experiment when Saudi Arabia is forced to raise some revenue from its citizens.
At least we haven't sold them nukes, at least not the public knows about.
Furthermore, Saudi Arabia has intermediate range nuclear-capable ballistic missiles that were purchased from China.
It's dangerous, sure, but I would not bet on it being effective in defending their interests
The insanity is those jet fighter pilots are NOT ALLOW TO DRIVE.
The whole country is a nightmare waiting to happen once there is an economic crunch. The elite will be fine but their equivalent of the "middle-class" is completely screwed. They already have baked-in religious fundamentalism and they will most certainly turn to that in numbers.
We don't think of "poor people" in Saudi Arabia but there are plenty of people who have to work hard for a living there every day, I saw TV segment on taxi drivers who could have been just like any taxi driver in NYC.
I think you may be getting confused with the UAE, which did a good PR job on its first female fighter pilot a couple of years ago.
Bear might be better known as the author of "Hear No Evil", a memoir of his time in the CIA, which the movie Syriana was loosely based on.
Insinuations of astroturfing and shillage without evidence are not allowed on HN. An opposing opinion doesn't count as evidence.
We're strict about this because there's nothing more destructive of civility online than people yelling "shill" at each other. You didn't do that, but that's where the vector points.
We detached this subthread from https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=11144024 and marked it off-topic.
And no, I am not a paid commenter, I am a Saudi citizen who lives in Riyadh and is deeply insulted by all these reductions that are clearly made without any deep thoughts on the middle east.
To quote Amnesty:
The government severely restricted freedoms of expression, association and assembly, and cracked down on dissent, arresting and imprisoning critics, including human rights defenders. Many received unfair trials before courts that failed to respect due process, including a special anti-terrorism court that handed down death sentences. New legislation effectively equated criticism of the government and other peaceful activities with terrorism. The authorities clamped down on online activism and intimidated activists and family members who reported human rights violations. Discrimination against the Shi’a minority remained entrenched; some Shi’a activists were sentenced to death and scores received lengthy prison terms. Torture of detainees was reportedly common; courts convicted defendants on the basis of torture-tainted “confessions” and sentenced others to flogging. Women faced discrimination in law and practice, and were inadequately protected against sexual and other violence despite a new law criminalizing domestic violence. The authorities detained and summarily expelled thousands of foreign migrants, returning some to countries where they were at risk of serious human rights abuses. The authorities made extensive use of the death penalty and carried out dozens of public executions.
So what is the alternative regional hegemon? Egypt? Turkey?
Usually cross cultural analogies are risky at best, but this one is surprisingly accurate. There exist religious groups who's relatives, followers, and sympathizers hold at least some of the positions in the government, although the religious groups in question are not technically officially a part of the government. There is an influence.
I disagree with the poster but I'll grant that he may completely believe what he says and doesn't need to be paid in any way.
The same phenomenon works for pro-Russia trolls, for instance. I don't think they are "paid", particularly paid with money.
I do not believe people have to be paid to disagree with me, that would be self centred delusion.
Likewise, most of those who spread various 9/11 conspiracy theories are not paid by anyone, they are quite sincere.
In the harsh world of realpolitik no one cares if Venezuela falls apart, except for the Venezuelans.
If Russia falls apart it's a serious problem for everyone, because it won't fall apart quietly or peacefully.
It might still be an improvement over its current approach - which is not falling apart, but is neither quiet nor peaceful. There's a fair bit of political analysis that suggests that Russia is for example about to test NATO by starting a war with Turkey, and that it is deliberately killing civilians in Syria to increase the flow of refugees to Europe (which destabilises the EU, naturally).
I'll take a Russia falling apart noisily over a Russia attempting to hegemonise half of Europe again...
So I think the reality is the other way round.
At least in current Russia there is someone in control. If the oligarchs tire of Putin and have him taken care of, Russia could fall into a civil war. Normally, this would not be a huge problem, but Russia has ~5k nukes laying around.
Think Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, but with nukes scattered about.
You mean propaganda?
There's the numerous videos and reports from organisations like Amnesty International, accusing Russia of basically doing the Assad thing of bombing the shit out of civilian populations in Syria (which is bound to cause more refugees to flee). And then the whole Turkey airspace thing. And then reports of Russian troops conducting large "training exercises" in the exact region they'd need to be to start a war with Turkey... There's the Crimea/Ukraine thing, which fit into that pattern as well.
Overall, no matter which source you read, Russia is currently spelling trouble. I was worried about Trump being elected and starting World War 3 - I'm now worried that even without Trump we might get there thanks to Putin.
As for creating a Syrian humanitarian crisis, the regime, the rebels, and Isis are doing a perfectly fine job on their own.
The lower value of their currency has actually caused them to engage in import substitution (something Saudi can't do because they basically don't have any local industries) and started to make Russian industry more competitive in export markets.
This is basically what China did to itself deliberately in order to turn itself into an exporting and manufacturing powerhouse.
Russia is still hurting but there's a big silver lining for them that doesn't exist for, say, Venezuela.
Outside of oil, gas, timber and weaponry what products are they known for exporting?
We got lucky that it was him in charge rather than somebody else.
U.S. military and intelligence officials should at the
very least, and immediately, run some rigorous planning
exercises to test different scenarios and potential
actions aimed at reducing codependence and mitigating
Why? Why cannot we just leave them alone? Why do we have to invade every country whenever there is an opportunity to do so?
The SA government doesn't support Al Qaeda of course, but the government does heavily fund extensive networks of religious schools and charities that push a very intolerant and view of non-Muslims and non-Wahhabi sects of Iskam, to the point of preaching violence and repressive treatment. In countries like Pakistan these schools are recruiting and training grounds for violent groups. Whether this is a deliberate policy by the SA government or just the result of poor governance and oversight of these organisations and their funding is an open question, but the result has been a dramatic radicalisation of Islam in many of these countries, far more so than in Saudi Arabia itself. I think many Saudis would be shocked to discover how much Saudi money is being diverted to fund terrorism and preach violent Jihad and intolerance of others.
To your point on Iran, yes hey are in some ways an even bigger concern. Where Saudi Arabia is funding extremism largely by accident, Iran is doing so deliberately. Still, that is a question for dealing with Iran which is a separate issue. Unless you are arguing that it's OK for Saudi Arabia to fund radicals and terrorists because Iran does it? But I don't think that's what you mean.
It's pretty hard to believe that the Kingdom hasn't figured out this is happening and are completely helpless to stop it. They either can't or won't, but they certainly know who is doing it and the extent it is occurring.
However where the ideology being supported and promulgated does go beyond what they would consider acceptable, they just don't have and are basically incapable of the level of oversight and monitoring required to identify and address it. That occurs to far down the funding and management chain for them to be equipped to deal with it. So in reality their choices are switch off the whole thing - billions of dollars in funding for education, health and charitable causes across the Muslim world on which extensive programmes and hundreds of thousands livelihoods depend - or live with the downside while making ineffectual efforts to control it. From their point of view these programmes are doing vastly more good than harm. It's just a matter of relative priorities.
But is it not a known fact that the 9-11 operators were a) Saudi, and b) backed by the Saudi government?
I'm certainly happy to be proven wrong, but if I'm correct here, that seems a lot to me to fit in with the concept of "exporting terrorism".
a) yes, b) no. Saudi government's relations with Osama bin Laden and his network went sour in about 1990.
What is your definition of moderate? Moderate compared to what country?
Nonetheless, the House of Saud funds 'schools' throughout Pakistan. These schools are known for spreading an extremist and violent philosophy , which clashes with the democratic and enlightened spirit of the educated-elite, at least in Pakistan .
Please don't be uncivil.