Rabbi Rosen’s “Who’s Afraid of Putin” (Iconoclast. March 7) and Professor Stephen Cohen “Distorting Russia” (Iconoclast March 9) are both valuable contributions to forging a more restrained, nuanced and intelligent view of the Crimean crisis. The American press, radio and television have almost been unanimous in their ignorance of history and geography of the Russian-Ukrainian borderlands.
Apart from one brief mention on the Sunday Fox News Report, I have not come across any reference to the simple fact that since Russian ejection of the Ottoman Turks from the Crimean Peninsula by Catherine the Great at the end of the 18th century, the region has always been part of the Great Russian concept of the motherland and Russian language through Czarist times and including the first thirty-five years of incorporation in the USSR when it was NOT an administrative unit of the Ukrainian SSR but of the RSFSR (Russian Socialist Federated Soviet Republic).
Its transfer by administrative fiat in 1954 by Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev was an act of cosmetic political farce designed purely to throw Ukrainians a bone and pretend this “generosity” would help erase long memories of the terrible famines of the 1930s (largely caused by Stalin’s policies) and the large degree of collaboration with the German invaders in World War II, thereby solidifying the “brotherhood” of the two peoples.
It was even more of a total repudiation of the concept of respecting territorial integrity” and ”self-determination” than attempted by any Czar and loudly proclaimed today as inviolate principles of international law. In 1954, ethnic Russians were the overwhelming majority of the population and had expressed no wish whatsoever to become part of the Ukrainian SSR.
On February 27, 1954 Pravda published a short announcement on its front page that the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR had decreed on February 19 (no need to tell the people immediately) the transfer of the Crimean oblast' (region) from the RSFSR to the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic. The decree ran a mere eight lines stated that this measure “Was being taken because of the economic commonalities, territorial closeness, and communication and cultural links between Crimea and Ukraine.” A summary of the discussion in the Supreme Soviet's Presidium and transcripts of speeches by six of its members including the chairman, Klement Voroshilov then followed on page 2. He referred to the three-hundredth anniversary of the "unification of Ukraine with Russia” referring to the Treaty of Pereiaslavl of 1654 concluded between Ukrainian Cossacks and representatives of the Muscovite Tsar.
Khrushchev was of mixed Russian and Ukrainian ancestry and was detested in the Ukraine as serving his Russian masters. His generous move did much to pacify Ukrainian pride and promote his own image.
In 1991 with the imminent collapse of the Soviet Union, it was widely expected that President Boris Yeltsin, the new president of the Russian Federation, would restore Crimea to Russia but the mercurial and often inebriated Yeltsin didn’t bring it up during negotiations with Ukraine. Had he insisted on retaining the Crimea then or making it subject to a referendum, it would have been very unlikely to be the source on international tension.
According to the 1959 census, there were only 268,000 Ukrainians and 858,000 ethnic Russians living in Crimea. As for economic "commonalities," apart from the naval bases, the main industry of Crimea was recreation and tourism, drawing its clientele from all over the USSR. In the Crimea, today Russians are in excess of a 60% majority.
All Russian schoolchildren venerate the heroic stand of Czarist Russia to protect the rights of fellow Orthodox Christians in the Holy land thereby provoking the Crimean War in 1853. The Russian navy based in the Crimea gained the upper hand after destroying the Ottoman fleet at the Black Sea port of Sinope. France and Britain were suspicious of Czarist motives and entered the war on the Turkish side in March 1854. Most of the fighting took place for control of the Black Sea, with land battles on the Crimean peninsula in southern Russia.
The Crimea was also home to over 300,000 Muslim Tatars, descendants of the Mongol and Turkic tribes that swept across Anatolia and settled in the Crimea in the thirteenth century. Stalin suspected many of them as having collaborated with the Germans and ordered them deported to Uzbekistan and further East in May 1944. Many of their children and grandchildren managed to return to their homeland in the decades following the end of Khrushchev’s tenure in office. About 300,000 reside there today with another 150,000 still in Uzbekistan.
Most have only feelings of hostility towards the Russians and prefer to continue their attachment to the Ukraine. This only reinforces the sense of abandonment by the ethnic Russian majority that the destiny of their homeland is partially subject to the wishes of a disloyal element, some of whom are suspected of radical Islamic ties.
The hold Crimea has on the Russian imagination should not be denigrated or mocked. It was also the scene of important heroic battles in World War II, notably at Sevastopol in 1941 and 1944 (just as in the Crimean War) and the historic Yalta Conference in 1945.
This is NOT as dozens of commentators on American T.V. have claimed an example of Russian “intervention” or “invasion” of “foreign countries” as in the cases of Hungary or Czechoslovakia. It is NOT a necessary prelude to Putin reneging on other agreements and border changes with the Baltic States. Nevertheless, it is a cause of international tension and can only be settled by negotiations between the Ukraine and Russia.
Some observers believe that many Ukrainians, especially in the West will feel relieved once the Crimea is returned to Russia, that would leave a solid pro-Western majority on a national basis and convince the population in the eastern part of the country that there is no need to further divide the country.
What does conjure up eerie images of deja-vu is the scene of a hurried “referendum” with armed soldiers from one side policing the voting. This is the point where international and U.N. pressure would be most effective to ensure that a vote is not subject to intimidation. No military maneuvers or economic pressures will deter Putin or detract from the support he enjoys at home over this issue.
French Historian Ferdinand Lot Compares The Christian And Muslim States
From "The End of the Ancient World and the Beginning of the Middle Ages" by Ferdinand Lot, a celebrated French historian (d. 1952) which I have been looking for since January and came came across just now:
"The medieval and modern State, which is partly the heir of the Roman State, has therefore not been able to be absorbed by the Church. All imbued as it is with Christianity it has yet preserved the consciousness of being a thing apart from the Church. If the State had not been deeply rooted in the Roman past, the medieval State would have dissolved in the Church, and the Church in the State, and it is impossible to see how the modern conception of the separation between the relgious consciousness and the State could have developed or even have been born.
Therein lies the secret of the profound difference, far more profound than is recognised, between Christian and Moslem States. Islam brings with it not only a religion but also a system of laws and a political theory the equivalent of which it would be vain to llook for in the Gospel. But even this way of speaking is not quite accurate: laws, customs, usages even are all indistinguishable in religion. And as its law, polity, and usages are elementary, made for an undeveloped society, it is a superhuman task to adapt a Moslem society to modern life. Here religion will not be content with its proper share. It is useless to try and put it in its place, for its place is everywhere or nowhere."
Why do Palestinians and Muslims Refuse to Recognize Israel as a Jewish state?
Israeli PM Netanyahu, AIPAC Washington 3-4-2014 PA President Mahmoud Abbas
According to Israeli Prime Minister at the AIPAC Annual Policy Conference in Washington this past week, the one condition of achieving a possible agreement with the Palestinians is recognition of Israel as a Jewish Nation. He said:
President Abbas, recognize the Jewish state and in doing so you will be telling your people the Palestinians … the right of the Jewish people to a state of their own is beyond dispute. You would be telling Palestinians to abandon the dream of flooding Israel with refugees or amputating Negev or Galilee, … make clear that you are ready to end the conflict. No excuses, no delays; it’s time.
Arutz Sheva reported Abbas saying to youth activists of Fatah
:… that there is "no way" he will recognize Israel as a Jewish state and accept a Palestinian capital in just a portion of eastern Jerusalem.
"They are pressing and saying, 'No peace without the Jewish state,"' he said, though not spelling out who is applying the pressure. "There is no way. We will not accept."
Dr. Saeb Erkat, chief PA negotiator and Mehdi Hasan
Source: Al Jazeera Head to Head program
Last weekend I watched an Al JazeeraHead to Headprogram that aired on February 28th with host Mehdi Hasan . The setting was the venerable Oxford Union. The program topic was “ Have Palestinian leaders failed their people?” The debate pitted long term Palestinian negotiator Dr. Saeb Erekat, who has gone through eight negotiations sessions over the past 20 years. He quipped that whether Arafat or Abbas he has resigned many times. But, still he persists. The program also had a panel composed of Professor Rosemary Hollis, who teaches international politics at City University London; Sharif Nashashibi, an award-winning Palestinian journalist; and Professor Manuel Hassasian, the Palestinian ambassador to the United Kingdom.
Early in the debate, Hasan asked Erekat why Palestinians refuse to recognize Israel as a Jewish state? Erekat introduced the theme that as a resident of Jericho he knew that his ‘people’, were descended from ancient Canaanites who had lived in the city for over 9,000 years.
An Elder of Ziyon blog post noted Erekat’s comment saying to Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni:
Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, over the weekend again ruled out the notion of Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish state. Speaking at a Munich conference, on a panel with his Israeli counterpart Tzipi Livni, Erekat said the demand was unacceptable: “When you say ‘accept Israel as a Jewish state’ you are asking me to change my narrative,” he claimed, asserting that his ancestors lived in the region “5,500 years before Joshua Bin-Nun came and burned my hometown Jericho.”
Obviously there was a brief hiatus when, if you believe the Biblical version, Joshua and the ancient Hebrew entered, blew their trumpets seven times and the wall came tumbling down. Having been to Jericho in the 1980’s, there was another real hiatus when an earthquake devastated the area following its conquest by Caliph Omar and Hisham’s Palace came tumbling down. Jericho was also the location of an ancient Byzantine era synagogue whose mosaic tiled floor I have seen.
There is reason to believe that many Palestinian residents were late arrivals from other locations in the Middle East. Recently there were even questions about the origins of Erekat’s family and clan. Walid Shoebat once told me, that as a former Palestinian Muslim, he knew that the names of the families indicated their origins from Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Lebanon and elsewhere in the Middle East.
The Elder of Ziyon blog post reported on its investigations into the Erekat family origins:
Erekat was born in Abu Dis, near Jerusalem. I found an interview with another Erekat who was born in Abu Dis, named Hussein Mohamed Erekat. He says that his family actually comes from the Huwaitat region of the northwestern Arabian Peninsula. Indeed, this article about the dialects and clans of Saudi Arabia confirms the existence of the Erekat (sometimes spelled Areikat or Ariqat) families in Huwaitat, and they are one of seven clans that ended up in Palestine. Is Saeb a member of this clan? Yes, he is. This Facebook page of the Erekat family traces the Erekat family history, and this article confirms that the family came from the Huwaitat region, and it also mentions prominent Erekats - including Saeb.
So what’s a little taqiyya – religiously condoned lying to further confuse the infidels in the cause of following in the way of Allah and, of course, the Palestinians?
But then Erekat quickly ticked off on his fingers his reasons for rejecting Israel as a Jewish state:
What the Israelis want me to do when I recognize Israel as a Jewish state, they want me to change my narrative, my history, my religion.
Maybe the last reason is the real one.
Rabbi Jonathan Hausman
Yesterday, Rabbi Jon Hausman , Spiritual Leader of Ahavath Torah Congregation of Stoughton, Massachusetts and I were part of a radio panel on a program, Abraham’s Tent, broadcast weekly from Omaha, Nebraska sponsored by the Global Faith Ministries. Our hosts were Dr. Mark Christian, a former Egyptian Muslim whom we have interviewed, and Cory Miller executive director. Also on the program was a Rabbi Daniel Sherbill from Miami, Florida. We were discussing the plague of Anti-Zionists that had infested Omaha in recent weeks railing against Israel before local audiences and entreating them to consider supporting the BDS campaign. We have written in the past of the ultimate Abrahamic ‘tent’ in Omaha; a tri-faith complex housing Muslim, Episcopal and Reform Jewish House of Worship. The interfaith complex was built on land that once belonged to a Jewish country club where Warren Buffet, an Episcopalian, was once a member.
At one point in our discussion, we brought up the Palestinian and Muslim objection to Israel as a Jewish State. I mentioned the Saeb Erekat comments from the al Jazeera Head to Head program and then turned to Rabbi Hausman, who knows Islamic doctrine thoroughly, to provide us the answer that Erekat never gave. Hausman told the radio audience that it had to do with the concept of Waqf- an inalienable religious endowment or trust. That Allah had decreed the whole world as an endowed trust for Muslims. Sam Solomon, a former Muslim scholar, in our interview with him in our collection, The West Speaks, suggested that the whole world was a Mosque and therefore you could pray anywhere.
Hausman further said that any lands once conquered during the several waves of original Islamic Jihad were considered Muslim lands forever. Whether Jerusalem or, as he pointed out, Andalusia in southern Spain, or in Arabic Al Andaluz, they were considered part of the Waqf. Thus, the answer that Erekat never fully explained was answered by Rabbi Hausman.
As Islam is a supercessionist doctrine and considers the Jewish torah, Christian parables and bibles as distortions, they took father Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses and all of the prophets , even Jesus, as Muslims. Thus, according to this defamed logic anything that Netanyahu said at AIPAC about the ancient Jewish claims to the land of Israel was false. Problem is that Biblical archeology has demonstrated the ancient Jewish heritage and legacy that preceded Islam by over 3,000 years. So did the Byzantine era synagogue mosaic floor that I gazed upon in wonder in Jericho, Erekat’s alleged “hometown”.
Ansar Al-Islam, For Those Kurds Who Choose Their Muslim Over Their Kurdish Identity
Of the alternative identitites available to Kurds, most have chosen their Kurdish one, and that means the hold of Islam is lessened, for Islam has been tacitly understood by those Kurds (as by many Berbers) as a vehicle for Arab supremacism. But some do not; some choose to fit in with the Arabs by being hyper-Muslims, and such are the Kurdish members of Ansar Al-Islam, based in northern Iraq.
Since Islam is uninterested in national borders, it is not surprising that Ansar al-Islam chose to honor Abdul Rasheed Gazi, a Pakistani cleric with fanatical followers who died in the siege of the Lal Masjid -- too fanatical, apparently, even for the Pakistani army and police.
Does the Saudi-led Squabble in the Gulf Spell trouble for Obama?
Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud bin Faisal bin Abdulaziz Al Saud King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia
Riyadh, 3--5-14 Source: AFP
The Obama White House and the world media are pre-occupied with Russian President Putin’s grab of the Ukrainian autonomous province of Crimea. There are undertones of “Back to the Future”- meaning a possible return to Cold War era geopolitics with Russia.
Despite that overriding ruckus there was a less well publicized series of events in the Persian Gulf region among members of the Gulf Cooperating Council (GCC). Does this spell trouble ahead for President Obama’s Middle East policies?
At the GCC meeting on March 5th in Riyadh, Qatar was effectively isolated by “sisterly” Sunni Arab states. The Emir of Qatar, a member of the GCC, has been prominent in supporting financial aid and assistance to Muslim Brotherhood (MB) affiliates in Egypt under Morsi, Hamas in Gaza and the Syrian Opposition Council, one of whose leaders is a dual American Syrian citizen Louay Safi.
Virtually on the heels of the squabble at the GCC gathering, Saudi King Abdullah announced decrees on Friday, March 7th. They listed the MB as a terrorist organization along with several AQ affiliates in Syria and Iraq, as well as Shia terrorist groups in North Yemen and in the oil rich Eastern Province. The latter are backed by both Iran’s Qod Force and Hezbollah. This should present problems and potential conflicts of interest for President Obama’s senior National Security advisor Robert Malley and White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough. Both of these men espouse outreach to the MB, Iran and proxies, Hezbollah and Hamas.
This train wreck about to happen has been in development since the July 3, 2013 ouster by Egyptian Gen. al-Sisi of President Morsi in Egypt. Morsi was a former leader of the Muslim Brotherhood endeavoring to create a Sharia compliant constitution with him as Emir. Egypt’s interim government in December 2013 outlawed the MB. This week an Egyptian court went after Hamas, the Gaza affiliate of the MB banning activities in Egypt. Following, the ouster of Morsi, Saudi Arabia and several of members of the GCC provided upwards of $12 billion in financial assistance to the interim Egyptian interim government. The stage now appears set for Gen. Abdel Fateh al-Sisi to run as the country’s President, a harkening back to the days of Gamal Abdel Nasser and the possible return of military autocracy in Egypt.
The flashpoint for the GCC isolation of Qatar was the notorious aged Egyptian MB preacher Yousuf al Qaradawi who had been in exile in Qatar before temporarily returning to Egypt in February 2011. He issued Fatwas for the reconquest of Al Quds (Jerusalem) and preached anti-Semitic hatred to crowds in Tahrir Square. In a January 2009 broadcast from Qatar, al Qaradawi said about Jews: "kill them, down to the very last one." While in Doha, Qatar he steadfastly refused to participate in annual International Interfaith Conferences.
A news report by Radaw noted the isolation of Qatar by “sisterly” Sunni Arab states because of the mischief of al Qaradawi and sanctuary provided by the Emir:
The Arab states of the lower Gulf are engaged in the latest and potentially most serious of their periodic family squabbles, which this week provoked three of them to withdraw their ambassadors from tiny Qatar.
The Qatar government expressed regret and surprise at Wednesday’s decision by the “sisterly countries” of Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, but said it did not plan to retaliate by pulling out its own envoys.
All four states, together with Kuwait and Oman, are members of the GCC.
The official reason for the diplomatic spat is Qatar’s alleged failure to live up to a recent commitment not to interfere in the internal affairs of fellow GCC states.
The three conservative states are particularly distressed that Qatar continued to provide a platform for Yousuf Al Qaradawi, a Qatar-based Egyptian cleric, to use his fiery sermons to attack Saudi Arabia and the UAE despite Riyadh’s threat to freeze relations unless he was silenced.
The scope of King Abdullah’s terrorist designations was reported by Al-Jazeera:
Saudi Arabia has listed the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization along with two al-Qaeda-linked groups fighting in Syria.
The decree against the Brotherhood, whose Egyptian branch supported the deposed Egyptian president, Mohamed Morsi, was reported on Saudi state television on Friday.
Egypt in December listed the Brotherhood as a terrorist organization, prompting the arrest of members and associates and forcing the Islamist group further underground.
Saudi Arabia also listed Jabhat al-Nusra, which is al-Qaeda's official Syrian affiliate, and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Sham) (ISIS), which has been disowned al-Qaeda, as "terrorist organizations".
It also listed Shia Huthi rebels fighting in northern Yemen and the little-known internal Shia group, Hezbollah in the Hijaz.
Early in February, 2014, Ayman al Zawahiri at Al Qaeda Central announced that the global Islamic terrorist group had no association with ISIS, instead providing support for the Al Nusrah front fighting against the Assad regime in Syria. ISIS however has rampaged across the Anbar province in neighboring Iraq overtaking the Sunni town of Fallujah.
About the same time as the AQ ISIS declaration, King Abdullah had announced new counterterrorism policies that were directed against so-called reform movements in the Saudi Kingdom. The Washington Post reported the new law “states that any act that ‘undermines’ the state or society, including calls for regime change in Saudi Arabia, can be tried as an act of terrorism.” This Saudi law appears to be in violation of human rights taken for granted in the West, but clearly viewed as seditious in the autocratic and Sharia compliant Wahhabist Kingdom.
These latest Saudi initiatives could have significant implications for the Obama Administration and Secretary Kerry. Kerry is endeavoring to fashion an Israel- Palestinian final status agreement and resolution of the 37 month civil war in Syria. We noted earlier the presence of Louay Safi as spokesperson for the Syrian Opposition Council at the recent Geneva II plenum talks. Safi was Research Director at the northern Virginia- based MB supported International Islamic Institute of Thought. Moreover, he was also Leadership Development Director at the MB front, the Islamic Society of North America, an unindicted co-conspirator in the 2008 Federal Dallas trial and convictions of leaders of the Holy Land Foundation. The Muslim charity group had been accused of funneling upwards of $35 million to MB affiliate Hamas. Safi was also invited by the US Army Chief of Staff to lecture troops on Islam at Fort Hood in early December 2009 following the massacre perpetrated by Maj. Nidal Hassan a month earlier. Clearly, Safi’s rise to prominence in the Syrian Opposition Council is indicative of the MB controlling presence.
White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough and senior National Security Aides were present at the May 2012 meetings of the Brookings Doha Center in Qatar. They were engaged in outreach to MB officials from Egypt, Tunisia and other Arab states and facilitated assistance to ousted President Morsi. Obama Appointments of MB members, especially Department of Homeland Security Assistant Secretary for Policy, Arif Alikhan and Senior Advisory board member Mohamed Elibiary have been problematic. National Security Advisor Malley was a former Middle East foreign policy aide to President Clinton during the failed 2000 Camp David Israel-Palestinian negotiations between former Israeli PM Ehud Barak and the late Yassir Arafat. Malley had accused Israel of nixing the agreement, when it was evident that Arafat had purposely sabotaged it. Malley went on to become head of the Middle East and North African program of the International Crisis group and later advised then Senator Obama and was part of the President’s transition team. He holds views that may further complicate Administration Middle East policies. Malley propounded speaking with terrorist proxies Hamas and Hezbollah as well as the MB. Malley, was recently appointed to the National Security Council. He has the portfolio for Israel -Palestinian peace talks and the Iran nuclear P5+1 diplomatic initiative. Now that Egypt and Saudi Arabia have designated the MB as a terrorist group, would the Obama Administration dare follow their lead? How Messrs. McDonough, Malley and Secretary of State Kerry will contend with a plethora of problems arising from efforts by the Egyptian government and now the Saudi led GCC targeting the MB is a ‘puzzlement’.
"Ce n'est pas magnifique, et ce n'est même pas la guerre" is how one might reasonably describe the behavior of the Light-headed Brigade in Washington in the latest Crimean War.
G. Murphy Donovan in a post at NER earlier today included a link to a communication, from an American in Moscow, to Jack Matlock, former American ambassador to Russia. I decided to copy the whole thing, with a few bits put in bold:
Obama’s Confrontation over Ukraine Has Increased Putin’s Support at Home
I received the following comments on yesterday’s essay from a Russian-speaking American now resident in Moscow. They include some important points about Russian opinion and on the impact of the Ukrainian events on politics in Russia itself. Each of the points deserves a separate essay, but I wish to share them without delay. (I have added some emphasis by italics or boldface here and there.)
1) In Moscow even anti-Putin liberals seem to think that the US/EU has pushed too far in Ukraine. For example, last week I had lunch with two Russian professionals. The conversation turned to Ukraine and one of them remarked that US policy seemed driven solely by a desire to “stick it to Russia” (nasolit'). The leaked conversation between Nuland and Ambassador Pyatt shocked people. It appears to people that the US is encouraging anti-Russian nationalists or sending signals that they could easily misinterpret. At the end, they decided that it was probably more ineptitude than a deliberate effort to cause harm, but I imagine 90% of Russians assume American diplomats understand exactly what they’re doing and the potential consequences. It takes a great deal of sophistication to consider stupidity and incompetence as an explanation.
2) People understand perfectly well why Poles, Balts and some Ukrainians would be anti-Russian. But they don’t understand why this desire to settle historical scores gets so much support from the US.
3) If you read the US press, it’s axiomatic that Crimea and Eastern Ukraine would choose Russia, if given the choice. But I’m hearing it’s not a sure thing, especially in regards to Eastern Ukraine. There people want to keep their jobs and they don’t want their factories shut down in a trade war with Russia, but that doesn’t mean they want to be annexed.
4) People make a sharp distinction between Crimea and other parts of Ukraine. If a referendum does vote in favor of union, most Russians would be happy to take them, irrespective of political leaning.
5) It seems to me that any Russian President, of any political persuasion, would have had his or her hand forced by this meddling.
6) I sometimes think that Americans have benefited from democratic institutions so long (even if they are under assault by the political elite with gerrymandering and anonymous donations), that they don’t grasp the institutional framework that has to be in place for a democratic revolution actually to work. Also, people underestimate how much of this infrastructure is being built in Russia, even though the process is slow and boring. It’s one thing to scream that you want a democracy and the end to corruption; it’s another to organize people in a way that it happens over decades. In that respect, Russia, even under Putin, is far more advanced than Ukraine.
7) The immediate vote to remove the legal status of Russian (as well as other languages) confirmed suspicions that the new Ukrainian parliament is blindly anti-Russian, even though the idea was quickly stopped. It also raises the question of political competence.
8. I was in Donetsk and in Crimea for a Coal Miners’ Conference last spring. At the time I was shocked by the near apocalyptic pessimism of nearly everyone. I thought people were being hyperbolic when they said the political situation was hopeless and the country could split in two.
9)I suspect Putin will come out of this situation stronger, unless it all descends into chaos. It has certainly set back the Russian opposition. People won’t demonstrate, and not just because of fear of the police. It will simply seem unpatriotic and remind everyone of violence in Kiev, which no one wants. Even people who dislike Yanukovich do not like how he was kicked out of office. I think it’s a fair question to ask why elections couldn’t take place as agreed, and why he had to be forced out of office immediately.
10) Putin may well circumscribe civil liberties further. For which we can thank, in part, Poland, Western Ukraine, the EU and Obama.
11) I sometimes suspect that many East Europeans feel they will lose their identity as bulwarks against barbarianism if Russia ever becomes a normal country, so unconsciously they try to stop it. It’s going to be tough for the Poles when they have to go head to head with Russians on culture alone.
[End Quote of the comment from Moscow].
I will be commenting in greater detail on some of these points, but for now will simply say that though I have been a strong admirer and supporter of President Obama, I cannot understand how he could fail to recognize that confronting President Putin publicly on an issue that is so central to Russian national pride and honor, not only tends to have the opposite effect on the issue at hand, but actually strengthens tendencies in Russia that we should wish to discourage. It is as if he, along with his advisers, is living in some alternate ideological and psychological universe.
The United States, the European Union, and NATO are playing kingmaker again, this time in the Ukraine where the stakes could be nuclear. Somehow, regime change has become the default setting for America foreign policy. Let’s review the bidding: Tunisia, Iraq, Egypt, Libya, Somalia, Yemen, Afghanistan, central Africa, Syria, and now Eastern Europe. The oft stated goals of American policy abroad are “transition” or “stability.” How is that stability thing working out? Just a few examples reveal a litany of blowback, unintended consequences, and national incompetence.
Iraq is now a sectarian basket case, Libya has become fratricidal Arab ghetto, Afghanistan is about to embrace the Taliban (again), Egypt is back to square one as a Janissary, and Syria has become a humanitarian nightmare. The Obama administration is the last nation on earth that should be complaining about misguided intervention. When American diplomats and intelligence operatives are butchered in Benghazi, the best we get from the Oval Office and Foggy Bottom, quoting Mrs. Clinton, is “What does it matter?”
Hillary is out of town for a few years, but a bimbo legacy is with us still. Just before Vladimir Putin drew a line in the sands of the Crimea, Assistant Secretary of State, Victoria Nuland, in a conversation with the US ambassador to the Ukraine, offered to bugger the European Union. Specifically she said, “F*UCK” the EU.” Apparently, the EU was not being pushy enough with Russia, so Vicky took the wheel in Kiev.
Nuland at Kiev demonstrations
How she and US Ambassador to the Ukraine, Geoffrey Pyatt, might “F*UCK” the EU was not part of that intercepted conversation. Presumably weapons of choice would have to be dildos or a strap-on. If we take Vicky literally, you might have to look long and hard to find a real erection at Foggy Bottom these days. The best that might be said of Ms. Nuland to date is that she, like other Obama appointees, is a vulgar amateur.
How does a ranking State Department official with the highest security clearances not know that the Russians, NSA, and half of Europe would be monitoring an unencrypted telephone? Is Nuland trying to channel David Patraeus? She was clearly dispatched to Kiev to stir the pot in an internal dispute - or maybe she was just in Eastern Europe to poke Putin in the eye.
And why would a female diplomat use a rape metaphor to express her contempt for our “allies?” Surely, Vickie knows that F*CK is an acronym for “forced unlawful carnal knowledge.” As long as the Assistant Secretary raised the subject, maybe Ms. Nuland’s genitals have more to do with her high office at State Department than talent or achievement.
Nuland’s arrogance has a history. She was the cutout between Susan Rice, Hillary and the Benghazi talking points, the much revised “intelligence” about diplomatic homicides in Libya. Nuland was fingered as the State Department official who played Jim Clapper and insisted on revising the integrity of the “Intelligence” on the Libyan terror threat. She was promoted by Obama for the Benghazi cover up.
And the “FUCK you!” fusillade is not Ms Nuland’s first burlesque in the Ukraine. After getting a pass from Congress on Benghazi, Nuland appeared in Kiev doling out rations and coaching western operatives dressed as anti-regime dissidents, Ukrainian activists who may turn out to be pro-EU, anti-Semitic fascists. To make matters even more bizarre, the American media, MSNBC and Rachael Maddow in particular, are now trying to blame the Ukraine fiasco on George Bush (sic).
Neo-fascists in Kiev
Well, now Vlad and the Spetsnaz have risen to the bait. Unfortunately for the Obama White House, Putin is no flaccid diplomat, third world autocrat, or imam. A line has been drawn in Crimea, just as lines were drawn in Chechnya and Georgia. Unlike Barack Obama and John Kerry, when Putin draws a red line, he means it. Vicky Nuland has picked an unnecessary fight with the Russians: your move, Mister President!
(For a more polite analysis, Right and Left, of the rumble in the Ukraine see former Ambassador Jack Matlock’s blog or Professor Stephen Cohen’s coverage.)
G Murphy Donovan is the former Director of Research and Russian (nee Soviet) Studies at USAF Intelligence. He writes about the politics of national security.
Unfortunately in the 21st century there seems to be a growing disconnect between the world of journalists and that of serious academics who spend their lives studying a particular culture, in this case Russia. Let us remember that cultures are different. Americans are not the same as Canadians, North Americans are by no means the same as Europeans and, we should never forget that Russia and Russians are very different from the rest of us. Professor Stephen Cohen, an expert on Russia, is trying to remind us of this fact.
The degradation of mainstream American press coverage of Russia, a country still vital to US national security, has been under way for many years. If the recent tsunami of shamefully unprofessional and politically inflammatory articles in leading newspapers and magazines—particularly about the Sochi Olympics, Ukraine and, unfailingly, President Vladimir Putin—is an indication, this media malpractice is now pervasive and the new norm.
There are notable exceptions, but a general pattern has developed. Even in the venerable New York Times and Washington Post, news reports, editorials and commentaries no longer adhere rigorously to traditional journalistic standards, often failing to provide essential facts and context; to make a clear distinction between reporting and analysis; to require at least two different political or “expert” views on major developments; or to publish opposing opinions on their op-ed pages. As a result, American media on Russia today are less objective, less balanced, more conformist and scarcely less ideological than when they covered Soviet Russia during the Cold War.
The history of this degradation is also clear. It began in the early 1990s, following the end of the Soviet Union, when the US media adopted Washington’s narrative that almost everything President Boris Yeltsin did was a “transition from communism to democracy” and thus in America’s best interests. This included his economic “shock therapy” and oligarchic looting of essential state assets, which destroyed tens of millions of Russian lives; armed destruction of a popularly elected Parliament and imposition of a “presidential” Constitution, which dealt a crippling blow to democratization and now empowers Putin; brutal war in tiny Chechnya, which gave rise to terrorists in Russia’s North Caucasus; rigging of his own re-election in 1996; and leaving behind, in 1999, his approval ratings in single digits, a disintegrating country laden with weapons of mass destruction. Indeed, most American journalists still give the impression that Yeltsin was an ideal Russian leader.
Since the early 2000s, the media have followed a different leader-centric narrative, also consistent with US policy, that devalues multifaceted analysis for a relentless demonization of Putin, with little regard for facts. (Was any Soviet Communist leader after Stalin ever so personally villainized?) If Russia under Yeltsin was presented as having legitimate politics and national interests, we are now made to believe that Putin’s Russia has none at all, at home or abroad—even on its own borders, as in Ukraine.
Russia today has serious problems and many repugnant Kremlin policies. But anyone relying on mainstream American media will not find there any of their origins or influences in Yeltsin’s Russia or in provocative US policies since the 1990s—only in the “autocrat” Putin who, however authoritarian, in reality lacks such power. Nor is he credited with stabilizing a disintegrating nuclear-armed country, assisting US security pursuits from Afghanistan and Syria to Iran or even with granting amnesty, in December, to more than 1,000 jailed prisoners, including mothers of young children.
Not surprisingly, in January The Wall Street Journal featured the widely discredited former president of Georgia, Mikheil Saakashvili, branding Putin’s government as one of “deceit, violence and cynicism,” with the Kremlin a “nerve center of the troubles that bedevil the West.” But wanton Putin-bashing is also the dominant narrative in centrist, liberal and progressive media, from the Post, Times and The New Republic to CNN, MSNBC and HBO’s Real Time With Bill Maher, where Howard Dean, not previously known for his Russia expertise, recently declared, to the panel’s approval, “Vladimir Putin is a thug.”
The media therefore eagerly await Putin’s downfall—due to his “failing economy” (some of its indicators are better than US ones), the valor of street protesters and other right-minded oppositionists (whose policies are rarely examined), the defection of his electorate (his approval ratings remain around 65 percent) or some welcomed “cataclysm.” Evidently believing, as does the Times, for example, that democrats and a “much better future” will succeed Putin (not zealous ultranationalists growing in the streets and corridors of power), US commentators remain indifferent to what the hoped-for “destabilization of his regime” might mean in the world’s largest nuclear country.
Certainly, The New Republic’s lead writer on Russia, Julia Ioffe, does not explore the question, or much else of real consequence, in her nearly 10,000-word February 17 cover story. Ioffe’s bannered theme is devoutly Putin-phobic: “He Crushed His Opposition and Has Nothing to Show for It But a Country That Is Falling Apart.” Neither sweeping assertion is spelled out or documented. A compilation of chats with Russian-born Ioffe’s disaffected (but seemingly not “crushed”) Moscow acquaintances and titillating personal gossip long circulating on the Internet, the article seems better suited (apart from some factual errors) for the Russian tabloids, as does Ioffe’s disdain for objectivity. Protest shouts of “Russia without Putin!” and “Putin is a thief!” were “one of the most exhilarating moments I’d ever experienced.” So was tweeting “Putin’s fucked, y’all.” Nor does she forget the hopeful mantra “cataclysm seems closer than ever now.”
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For weeks, this toxic coverage has focused on the Sochi Olympics and the deepening crisis in Ukraine. Even before the Games began, the Times declared the newly built complex a “Soviet-style dystopia” and warned in a headline, Terrorism and Tension, Not Sports and Joy. On opening day, the paper found space for three anti-Putin articles and a lead editorial, a feat rivaled by thePost. Facts hardly mattered. Virtually every US report insisted that a record $51 billion “squandered” by Putin on the Sochi Games proved they were “corrupt.” But as Ben Aris ofBusiness New Europe pointed out, as much as $44 billion may have been spent “to develop the infrastructure of the entire region,” investment “the entire country needs.”
Overall pre-Sochi coverage was even worse, exploiting the threat of terrorism so licentiously it seemed pornographic. The Post, long known among critical-minded Russia-watchers asPravda on the Potomac, exemplified the media ethos. A sports columnist and an editorial page editor turned the Olympics into “a contest of wills” between the despised Putin’s “thugocracy” and terrorist “insurgents.” The “two warring parties” were so equated that readers might have wondered which to cheer for. If nothing else, American journalists gave terrorists an early victory, tainting “Putin’s Games” and frightening away many foreign spectators, including some relatives of the athletes.
The Sochi Games will soon pass, triumphantly or tragically, but the potentially fateful Ukrainian crisis will not. A new Cold War divide between West and East may now be unfolding, not in Berlin but in the heart of Russia’s historical civilization. The result could be a permanent confrontation fraught with instability and the threat of a hot war far worse than the one in Georgia in 2008. These dangers have been all but ignored in highly selective, partisan and inflammatory US media accounts, which portray the European Union’s “Partnership” proposal benignly as Ukraine’s chance for democracy, prosperity and escape from Russia, thwarted only by a “bullying” Putin and his “cronies” in Kiev.
Not long ago, committed readers could count on The New York Review of Books for factually trustworthy alternative perspectives on important historical and contemporary subjects. But when it comes to Russia and Ukraine, the NYRB has succumbed to the general media mania. In a January 21 blog post, Amy Knight, a regular contributor and inveterate Putin-basher, warned the US government against cooperating with the Kremlin on Sochi security, even suggesting that Putin’s secret services “might have had an interest in allowing or even facilitating such attacks” as killed or wounded dozens of Russians in Volgograd in December.
Knight’s innuendo prefigured a purported report on Ukraine by Yale professor Timothy Snyder in the February 20 issue. Omissions of facts, by journalists or scholars, are no less an untruth than misstatements of fact. Snyder’s article was full of both, which are widespread in the popular media, but these are in the esteemed NYRB and by an acclaimed academic. Consider a few of Snyder’s assertions:
§?”On paper, Ukraine is now a dictatorship.” In fact, the “paper” legislation he’s referring to hardly constituted dictatorship, and in any event was soon repealed. Ukraine is in a state nearly the opposite of dictatorship—political chaos uncontrolled by President Viktor Yanukovych, the Parliament, the police or any other government institution.
§?”The [parliamentary] deputies…have all but voted themselves out of existence.” Again, Snyder is alluding to the nullified “paper.” Moreover, serious discussions have been under way in Kiev about reverting to provisions in the 2004 Constitution that would return substantial presidential powers to the legislature, hardly “the end of parliamentary checks on presidential power,” as Snyder claims. (Does he dislike the prospect of a compromise outcome?)
§?”Through remarkably large and peaceful public protests…Ukrainians have set a positive example for Europeans.” This astonishing statement may have been true in November, but it now raises questions about the “example” Snyder is advocating. The occupation of government buildings in Kiev and in Western Ukraine, the hurling of firebombs at police and other violent assaults on law enforcement officers and the proliferation of anti-Semitic slogans by a significant number of anti-Yanukovych protesters, all documented and even televised, are not an “example” most readers would recommend to Europeans or Americans. Nor are they tolerated, even if accompanied by episodes of police brutality, in any Western democracy.
§?”Representatives of a minor group of the Ukrainian extreme right have taken credit for the violence.” This obfuscation implies that apart perhaps from a “minor group,” the “Ukrainian extreme right” is part of the positive “example” being set. (Many of its representatives have expressed hatred for Europe’s “anti-traditional” values, such as gay rights.) Still more, Snyder continues, “something is fishy,” strongly implying that the mob violence is actually being “done by russo-phone provocateurs” on behalf of “Yanukovych (or Putin).” As evidence, Snyder alludes to “reports” that the instigators “spoke Russian.” But millions of Ukrainians on both sides of their incipient civil war speak Russian.
§?Snyder reproduces yet another widespread media malpractice regarding Russia, the decline of editorial fact-checking. In a recent article in the International New York Times, he both inflates his assertions and tries to delete neofascist elements from his innocuous “Ukrainian extreme right.” Again without any verified evidence, he warns of a Putin-backed “armed intervention” in Ukraine after the Olympics and characterizes reliable reports of “Nazis and anti-Semites” among street protesters as “Russian propaganda.”
§?Perhaps the largest untruth promoted by Snyder and most US media is the claim that “Ukraine’s future integration into Europe” is “yearned for throughout the country.” But every informed observer knows—from Ukraine’s history, geography, languages, religions, culture, recent politics and opinion surveys—that the country is deeply divided as to whether it should join Europe or remain close politically and economically to Russia. There is not one Ukraine or one “Ukrainian people” but at least two, generally situated in its Western and Eastern regions.
Such factual distortions point to two flagrant omissions by Snyder and other US media accounts. The now exceedingly dangerous confrontation between the two Ukraines was not “ignited,” as the Times claims, by Yanukovych’s duplicitous negotiating—or by Putin—but by the EU’s reckless ultimatum, in November, that the democratically elected president of a profoundly divided country choose between Europe and Russia. Putin’s proposal for a tripartite arrangement, rarely if ever reported, was flatly rejected by US and EU officials.
But the most crucial media omission is Moscow’s reasonable conviction that the struggle for Ukraine is yet another chapter in the West’s ongoing, US-led march toward post-Soviet Russia, which began in the 1990s with NATO’s eastward expansion and continued with US-funded NGO political activities inside Russia, a US-NATO military outpost in Georgia and missile-defense installations near Russia. Whether this longstanding Washington-Brussels policy is wise or reckless, it—not Putin’s December financial offer to save Ukraine’s collapsing economy—is deceitful. The EU’s “civilizational” proposal, for example, includes “security policy” provisions, almost never reported, that would apparently subordinate Ukraine to NATO.
Any doubts about the Obama administration’s real intentions in Ukraine should have been dispelled by the recently revealed taped conversation between a top State Department official, Victoria Nuland, and the US ambassador in Kiev. The media predictably focused on the source of the “leak” and on Nuland’s verbal “gaffe”—“Fuck the EU.” But the essential revelation was that high-level US officials were plotting to “midwife” a new, anti-Russian Ukrainian government by ousting or neutralizing its democratically elected president—that is, a coup.
Americans are left with a new edition of an old question. Has Washington’s twenty-year winner-take-all approach to post-Soviet Russia shaped this degraded news coverage, or is official policy shaped by the coverage? Did Senator John McCain stand in Kiev alongside the well-known leader of an extreme nationalist party because he was ill informed by the media, or have the media deleted this part of the story because of McCain’s folly?
And what of Barack Obama’s decision to send only a low-level delegation, including retired gay athletes, to Sochi? In August, Putin virtually saved Obama’s presidency by persuading Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to eliminate his chemical weapons. Putin then helped to facilitate Obama’s heralded opening to Iran. Should not Obama himself have gone to Sochi—either out of gratitude to Putin, or to stand with Russia’s leader against international terrorists who have struck both of our countries? Did he not go because he was ensnared by his unwise Russia policies, or because the US media misrepresented the varying reasons cited: the granting of asylum to Edward Snowden, differences on the Middle East, infringements on gay rights in Russia, and now Ukraine? Whatever the explanation, as Russian intellectuals say when faced with two bad alternatives, “Both are worst.”
The Quebec election on April 7 could be a decisive turn, though the campaign for it is not starting out in that direction. In the 2012 election, Pauline Marois’ Parti Quebecois won just 32% of the vote, to 31% for Jean Charest’s Liberals, and 27% for the pantomime horse of the Coalition for the Future of Quebec (CAQ). The CAQ is neither a federalist nor separatist party, and is led by François Legault (former pequiste minister of education and a political charlatan), and by the high-tech centi-millionaire, Charles Sirois, the affable bearer of a picaresque, even dilettantish, career. The CAQ is the sort of movement that pops up in Quebec from time to time when there is dissatisfaction with the government but a lack of real confidence in the official opposition. This was the status of the Bloc Populaire at the end of the Second World War and of Action démocratique du Québec at the end of the last separatist government led by Lucien Bouchard. They are always straddlers trying to make the centre between opposed and established parties a position of strength, but it is never enough to win, or even long survive.
The polls this week show the traditional pattern: the PQ is up from 32% in 2012 to 37, the Liberals are up from 31% to 35, and the CAQ is down from 27% to 15. That vote should continue to evaporate as Quebec faces the clear choice that it now has between a premier it now knows but not necessarily for long enough to have become altogether tired of her, as it did with Charest, and a Liberal leader it knew well as Charest’s health minister, but who is, in leadership terms, a new face.
Traditionally, the Quebec electorate has been divided into five approximately equal voting blocs: the Rouges, the dyed in the wool French Quebec Liberals; the Bleus, the old-time Quebec conservatives; the nationalists; the non-French; and the floating vote. The Liberals generally take all the Rouge base, and all the non-French. The genius of Maurice Duplessis in taking an unequalled five terms as premier, was to get the Bleus and the nationalists and more than half the floating vote and about a quarter of the non-French to vote together, for him. His most assiduous disciple, Daniel Johnson, largely resurrected this voting alliance in 1966, but died in office in 1968. The Parti Quebecois, as assembled by Rene Levesque, took all the nationalists, almost all the floating vote and a chunk of the conservatives. Some of the Liberals also came with him from that party when he decamped from it in 1967 after service as a prominent minister in Jean Lesage’s Quiet Revolution Liberal government.
The nature of the non-French vote is that it is heavily concentrated in West Montreal and parts of the South Shore and Eastern Townships near Montreal, delivers huge Liberal majorities, but is not proportionately represented in the legislature, (which has grandiloquently called itself the National Assembly since 1969). And the nature of the floating vote is that it follows not only trends but especially the generally perceived need in Quebec for the only thoroughly French government in North America above the municipal level (Quebec City) to be led by a chef, a strong personality who can always be relied upon to defend the French Quebec interest with vigour, panache and distinction.
Duplessis, Lesage, Johnson, Levesque and Bouchard were all beneficiaries of this status; Robert Bourassa was a sort of French Mackenzie King — colourless and cautious, but clever and agile, and Jean Charest was perceived as somewhat more amiable but not as intelligent. Joseph-Adélard Godbout (premier from 1939 to 1944) and Jean-Jacques Bertrand (1968-1970), were admired as good and dedicated men, but insufficient in both force of personality and cunning to be a chef national. With the exception of Paul Sauve, Duplessis’ chosen successor who died in office less than four months after Duplessis did, none of the other premiers in living memory really commanded profound public support.
Quebec sociological and voting patterns are certainly not immutable, but there is no reason to doubt that the third party vote, including the 8% that now is attributed to the arch-separatist Solidaire party, (up from 6% in the 2012 election), will shrink as the clear choice emerges between a new premier and a new leader of the opposition. For those looking for a chef, neither of the chief protagonists seems predestined to ride into the folkloric and political history of the province as Duplessis and Levesque have.
But Philippe Couillard, though he has been a tactically awkward party leader for his first few months in the position, is a medical doctor who worked in the Middle East for a time, and was a well-respected health minister who managed the astonishing achievement, in the chronically over-unionized province, of reducing local union accreditations in his sprawling department. He is a cultured, worldly and civilized man, and he and his wife could pass as a traditional Quebec family in the best sense.
Pauline Marois may conceivably reap some feminist votes, but she is very workmanlike and almost sadistically unglamorous. She speaks like the educated but ordinary person she is, but in inspirational terms, she could not lead Quebec across the Jacques Cartier Bridge — with or without the buttressing it will require to avoid collapsing. (The more galvanizing recent Quebec leaders mentioned above spoke with either evident culture, or vivacity of wit, or passion, or like Pierre Trudeau on occasion, all three.)
The reason this election could be a watershed is that the logjam of Canada must break. Quebec now is like a separate country, where in the great majority of the province that is French, all official efforts are dedicated to unilingual isolation and to a pretense of sovereignty which cannot really be enacted because, contrary to the implications of the referendum questions in 1980 and 1995, Canada would then discontinue its $2,000 per capita transfer payments to Quebec, (which is, in practice, about $4,000 to any man, woman or child in a family or equivalent unit that might be tempted by Quebec’s independence option). So Quebec operates an overwhelmingly white collar economy where few people add real value to anything, but everyone is secure, comfortable and in the traditional manner of the bourgeois clerisy, respectable. But the province cannot secede and can only sustain its accumulated debt because it is joined by its fiscal cheekbone to the hip of Canada. Quebec has no influence in Ottawa, where it long prevailed, and Ottawa is only an impersonal paymaster in Quebec.
If Quebec would tear down the barricades its nationalist political and media elites have erected opposite Canada, reassume the headship of all Quebeckers and all French-Canadians, and thus set it itself back at the head of about 30% of Canadians and resume its position as a co-governing founding people of Canada, which has, despite the sniggering and sabotage of the Quebec nationalists, become one of the world’s most successful countries, the revolution in Canadian morale and elan and the ambiance of Quebec would be electrifyingly positive. Ultimately, Quebec should rejoin the country or be partitioned so that Canada retains the federalist areas (including the First Nations), while the sullen, overpaid separatists, if they really are irreconcilable, can give unsubsidized independence a try.
As the premier’s remarks in announcing the election on Wednesday made explicit, the election is fought largely on the “Charter of Values,” which does not assure equality of sex (that is already guaranteed) or “religious neutrality” (likewise), but rather imposes the state atheism of almost all the conscient separatists, embarrassed as they are that they owe their cultural survival to the Roman Catholic Church. The idea that the National Assembly can decree whether people may wear religious symbols is as abominable as the regulation of wearing political or commercial symbols on T-shirts, and it is sacrilege, an offence that yet survives. About a quarter of Quebecers, most of them French, are still religious practitioners. All is in place for Dr. Couillard to be a seminal and benign figure in Canadian and Quebec history, and his campaign-opening comments on Wednesday incited hope.
Justin Trudeau and Thomas Mulcair should do all they can to assist the Quebec Liberals, though not too much should be expected of Mulcair, given the Faustian bargain he has made with the separatists, to try to retain the support of the Bloc Quebecois, which the NDP displaced by offering the same separatist wine in a relabelled NDP bottle. Harper and his government and party don’t have enough support in Quebec to influence the outcome, other than by some blunderbuss utterance that would assist Marois. This could, at least, be that rarest of recent Canadian phenomena, an interesting election.
Saudi Arabia Declares Muslim Brotherhood a Terrorist Organization
Now, if the US could just do the same and begin curtailing their efforts in America.
(Reuters) - Saudi Arabia has formally designated the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization, in a move that could increase pressure on Qatar whose backing for the group has sparked a row with fellow Gulf monarchies.
The U.S.-allied kingdom has also designated as terrorist the Nusra Front and the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, whose fighters are battling Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, the Interior Ministry said in a statement published by state media.
Friday's move appeared to enforce a royal decree last month in which Riyadh, which backs some rebel groups in Syria with money and arms, said it would jail for between three and 20 years any citizen found guilty of fighting in conflicts abroad.
It underscored concern about young Saudis hardened by battle against Assad coming home to target the ruling Al Saud royal family - as has happened after the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Saudi Arabia's Islamic religious authorities have spoken out against Saudi fighters going to Syria, but the Interior Ministry estimates that around 1,200 Saudis have gone nonetheless.
Last month's decree said a committee would be set up to determine the groups to be outlawed. The ministry's statement on Friday said the groups mentioned were those the committee had agreed on and that had been approved by the authorities.
Riyadh fears the Brotherhood, whose Sunni Islamist doctrines challenge the Saudi principle of dynastic rule, has tried to build support inside the kingdom since the Arab Spring revolutions.
In an unprecedented move, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain recalled their ambassadors from Qatar on Wednesday, saying Doha had failed to abide by an accord not to interfere in each others' internal affairs.
Saudi Arabia and the UAE are fuming over Qatar's support for the Muslim Brotherhood, and resent the way Doha has sheltered influential cleric Yusuf Qaradawi, a critic of the Saudi authorities, and given him regular airtime on its pan-Arab satellite channel Al Jazeera.
The Interior Ministry said on Friday the royal decree would apply to both Saudis and foreign residents who joined, endorsed or gave moral or material aid to groups it classifies as terrorist or extremist, whether inside or outside the country.
The statement also said "those who insult other countries and their leaders" or "attended conferences or gatherings inside and outside (the country) that aim to target the security and stability and spread sedition in the society", would be punished by law.