American Elephants

Did Obama Just Turn the Page on The Complications of the Middle East? by The Elephant's Child

The Saudi royal family are building a 600 mile barrier to fortify the northern frontier of the kingdom. The fence will have radar surveillance towers, command centers and guard posts aiming to protect the Saudi’s oil-rich kingdom from ISIS. There was a suicide bombing and gun attack a week ago which killed two Saudi border guards and their commanding officer. No group claimed responsibility but the attack in a remote desert area came from Iraq’s Anbar province. Relations between Iraq and Saudi Arabia are reportedly deeply strained.

The fence will be built in five layers with razor wire fencing, then a razor wire pyramid, underground movement sensors, then another razor wire fence in top of sand bank, There will be 40 watchtowers equipped with radars and day and night cameras, 7 command and control towers, 18 communication towers and 32 military response stations, 240 rapid response vehicles and 10 surveillance vehicles, not to count patrolling aircraft. I think they mean business.

The capture of the Holy Mosques at Medina and Mecca is reported to be a key ISIS objective. Saudi Arabia is a Wahhabi kingdom. The Royal government is Sunni and there is a significant Shiia minority.

The Wall Street Journal’s weekend interview with Prince Alwaleed bin Talal last November suggested that the Saudi royal family was not happy with the Obama administration’s approach to the Middle East. One of some three dozen living grandsons of the first Saudi King Abdulaziz, this prince is the Arab world’s richest businessman.

The Saudis are deeply concerned about Iran’s efforts to build their nuclear program. They have pre-emptively  condemned any agreement that does not dismantle Iran’s ability to enrich uranium and build a bomb. If Iran does go nuclear, Saudi Arabia would not be far behind. When the U.S. distanced itself from Egypt after the military coup, Russia offered Cairo arms and support.

Here at home, President Obama is “turning the page.” He is still bragging about departing from Iraq and Afghanistan without any sense of his own responsibility for the rise if ISIS. His response:

Will we approach the world fearful and reactive, dragged into costly conflicts that strain our military and set back our standing? Or will we lead wisely, using all elements of our power to defeat new threats and protect our planet?

Congress wants to get a little better information and has invited Bibi Netanyahu to speak to them. The White House is offended.

King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia Has Died at Age 90 by The Elephant's Child


King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al Saud of Saudi Arabia has died at the age of 90, according to a statement from the Royal Court.

Abdullah’s half-brother, Crown Prince Salman, who is 79 years old, was declared king and Prince Mugrin, 69, became crown prince. He became  governor of Riyadh Province in 1962 and ruled the province until 2011 when he became defense minister. He has played an increasingly prominent role in Saudi politics. He is known to favor close political and economic ties with the West.

Most of us know little about the very conservative desert kingdom. The modern kingdom of Saudi Arabia was founded only in 1932. Abdullah had to steer the alliance with America through the 9/11 terror attacks. The kingdom was home to 15 of the 19 hijackers and many pointed out that the ideology of al-Qaeda stemmed from Saudi Arabia’s Wahhabi interpretation of Islam.

When al-Qaeda militants began a wave of violence in the kingdom in 2003 aimed at toppling the monarchy, Abdullah cracked down hard. Security forces battled militants for 3 years, finally forcing them to retreat to Yemen. Abdullah had worked steadily to slowly modernize the kingdom. He was a strong supporter of education, building universities at home and increasing scholarships for students of both sexes.

He also moved to open greater opportunities for women to participate. He gave women seats on the Shura Council, an  unelected body that advises the king and government. Small steps, but big within the kingdom, where the Wahhabi clerics who hold near total sway over society and give the Saud family’s rule religious legitimacy. State-run TV has begun playing music, forbidden for decades. Small careful steps.

Abdullah had 30 children from around 12 wives.

Saudi Arabia Gets “Trusted Traveler” Status From Janet Napolitano. by The Elephant's Child

Perhaps you remember, in the wake of 9/11, the uproar when we began airport screening and our government twisted itself into politically correct pretzels to avoid paying extra attention to young men from the Middle East of the same general age as the 9/11 terrorists, who perhaps were buying one-way tickets, had little or no luggage, that kind of thing. We could not single out people like that, that would be racist!

Nevermind that 15 of the 19 hijackers came from Saudi Arabia. Nevermind that one part of the Saudi government is sponsoring radical Wahhabi schools throughout the Muslim world. Nevermind lingering questions and concerns about possible Saudi Arabian support for some of the hijackers or the Ministry of Interior’s inconsistent record on sharing intelligence on suspected terrorists and terror financiers. Nevermind that Saudi terrorists released from Guantanamo are the most likely to be recidivists.

So Homeland Security has embarked on a new program intended to give “trusted traveler” status to low-risk airline passengers which will be extended to Saudi travelers. The Saudi government will vet their own people and they can give them fast-track entry into the United States. We don’t give “trusted traveler” status to France or Germany.  How about Poland? No. Just Canada, Mexico, South Korea and the Netherlands. Israel has reached a deal, but the partnership has not yet been implemented. It makes no sense.

I understand that Saudi Arabia walks a careful tightrope in the Middle East between the radical elements that surround them, the Western world, Wahhabism, Aramco Oil, Hezbollah, the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, and the Arab Spring. The Royal family is huge, and while some members are friendly with the West, others support the Wahhabi movement, whose madrassas are a spawning ground for terrorism, and the regime is constantly threatened.

The decision is a turnaround, the Investigative Project on Terrorism (IPT) notes, from when Saudi Arabia was briefly placed on a list of countries whose U.S. bound travelers would receive extra scrutiny in the wake of the failed Christmas Day bombing attempt in 2009.

Secretary Janet Napolitano spoke highly of “the bond between the United States and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia” when she announced the change in January.

By enhancing collaboration with the government of Saudi Arabia, we reaffirm our commitment to more effectively secure our two countries against evolving threats while facilitating legitimate trade and travel.

The program which began in 2008 to expedite pre-approved passengers through airport customs and security when they arrive in the U.S., is designed to weed out low-risk passengers and enable authorities to zero in on those who may pose a threat. Passengers can skip the line at customs and complete their entry process at an automatic kiosk. Once accepted, travelers can enjoy the greater freedom for five years.

Saudi Arabia sends thousands of travelers into the U.S. each month, and more than 92 percent of Saudis who seek entry visas receive them. In 2012, 20,677 student visas were granted to Saudi citizens. The United States and Saudi Arabia do about $60 billion in business each year, most of it in Saudi oil exports.

Florida Senator Bob Graham, who served on the 9/11 Commission, said the Commission lacked the time and resources “to pursue all potentially relevant evidence” involving Saudi Arabia.  “Significant questions remain unanswered.” Graham has spent years arguing that a 28-page chapter from that inquiry would cast things in a different light if it ever is declassified.

Including Saudi travelers in Global Entry may be “a continuation” of an American policy of deference toward Saudi Arabia. “The question is what was the first step in approving a country to be involved in this? What are the requirements?” Graham asked. “This is not a theoretical. This really happened that 15 Saudis came into the country. I think all by aviation…It would seem there would be some red flags.”

Political correctness should have no place in the government’s business, and especially no place in our national security. This administration does not understand that, and has gotten a lot of our people killed because of that misconception.

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