Tag Archive | "saudi arabia"

Is the First Family bringing Shame to America?

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When Michelle Obama put her arm round the Queen at Buckingham Palace, some of the more excitable elements of the media – particularly us Americans – suggested she may have been guilty of a breach of protocol.  It’s true, you just don’t go around hugging the Queen of England.obama-breaks-protocol

Although there is no official book of ‘do’s and dont’s’ and the Queen has made clear in recent years that she does not expect people to curtsy or bow any more, the “no-touch” rule has always been sacrosanct.   (Here is the protocol from the Queen of England’s website — which applies even to her own subjects)

Members of the public introduced to the Queen are told they should wait until she extends her hand for them to take it and kissing is totally frowned upon.the-queen-and-michelle-obama

When the former Australian Prime Minister Paul Keating put his arm around the Queen in 1992, he was branded the “Lizard of Oz”.  His successor, John Howard, didn’t fare much better and was forced to insist: ‘We firmly deny that there was any contact whatsoever’ when he was accused of touching the royal person.

Barack Obama on HM Queen Elizabeth II — “She reminds me of my grandmother, only with a bigger house“.

Obama Bows to Saudi King at G20 Summit (watch the video).   Americans do not bow to foreign monarchs because that act signifies the monarch’s power over his subjects.

Obama Bows to King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia

Obama Bows to King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia

And then, it was an ipod gift to the 80 yr old Queen of England loaded with Obama Speeches.. actually I take that back…. one of the first embarrasments was when PM Brown from England came to visit President Obama.

It is well understood that visiting diplomatic delegations come bearing gifts and gift giving is returned in like fashion by the host country. It is an ages old human practice in diplomacy after all. Usually the gifts are valuable, representative of the products of the nations involved, or at least symbolic of the history of those nations.

For his part, PM Brown gave two symbolic gifts and one that expressed national pride. Brown came bearing a pen holder carved from the timbers of the sister ship of that which gave the wood to create the famous “Resolute Desk,” the desk that has been in America’s charge since 1880. He also gave Obama the framed commission for that famous ship, the HMS Resolute. His third gift was a seven-volume biography of one of England’s greatest leaders, Winston Churchill.

So, what did President Obama give the British PM? 25 movies on DVD. Yeah, that’s it. Brown gives a symbolic gift like the pen holder fashioned from a famous British warship and Obama responds by sending a staffer to WalMart to pick up a few quick movies.

And I’m not the only one to scoff at this thoughtless gift. The entire British press is up in arms. Many in Britain are seeing this as entirely gauche and indicative of the low esteem in which the Obama’s hold England.

Worse, no one is 100% sure that Obama was smart enough to know that DVDs made in America don’t play on European DVD players. American DVDs are created in the “Region One” format while those in Europe play in “Region Two” format. A U.S. DVD just won’t play on a machine made for the English market.

Not to be out done in tastelessness by her husband, Michelle got into the act, too. Mrs. Brown came bearing two outfits for the Obama girls from Topshop, one of Britain’s trendiest and expensive women’s wear retail outlets.

In return, Michelle apparently had a staffer run down to the White House gift shop and grab two toy Marine One helicopter models for the Brown’s boys.

Class all the way.

All of this is on top of the snub of the Brits that Obama tossed off immediately upon entering office. One of his first official acts was to summarily return to the Brits the generous gift of the most famous bust of Winston Churchill that has sat in the Oval Office since the attacks on 9/11.

This threw British diplomats into a tizzy really blindsiding them. Even when they reiterated that Obama could keep the generous gift to the American people, he rejected it without comment leaving the Brits at a loss for words.

Freed by the USA, a Saudi Becomes al Qaeda Chief

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The emergence of a former Guantánamo Bay detainee as the deputy leader of Al Qaeda’s Yemeni branch has underscored the potential complications in carrying out the executive order that President Barack Obama signed that the detention center be shut down within a year.

The militant, Said Ali al-Shihri, is suspected of involvement in a deadly bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Yemen’s capital, Sana, in September. He was released to Saudi Arabia in 2007 and passed through a Saudi rehabilitation program for former jihadists before resurfacing with Al Qaeda in Yemen.

His status was announced in an Internet statement by the militant group and was confirmed by a U.S. counterterrorism official. “They’re one and the same guy,” said the official, who insisted on anonymity because he was discussing an intelligence analysis. “He returned to Saudi Arabia in 2007, but his movements to Yemen remain unclear.”

The development came as Republican legislators criticized the plan to close the Guantánamo Bay detention camp in the absence of any measures for dealing with current detainees. But it also helps explain why the new administration wants to move cautiously, taking time to work out a plan to cope with the complications.

Almost half the camp’s remaining detainees are Yemenis, and efforts to repatriate them depend in part on the creation of a Yemeni rehabilitation program – financed in part by the United States – similar to the Saudi one. The Saudi government has claimed that no graduate of its program has returned to terrorism.

“The lesson here is: Whoever receives former Guantánamo detainees needs to keep a close eye on them,” the U.S. official said.

Although the Pentagon has said that dozens of released Guantánamo detainees have “returned to the fight,” its claim is difficult to document and has been met with skepticism. In any case, few of the former detainees, if any, are thought to have joined the leadership of a major terrorist organization like Al Qaeda in Yemen, a mostly homegrown group that experts say has been reinforced lately by an infusion of foreign fighters.

Long considered a haven for jihadists, Yemen, a desperately poor country in the southern corner of the Arabian Peninsula, has witnessed a rising number of deadly attacks over the past year. U.S. officials say they suspect that Shihri may have been involved in the double car bombings outside the U.S. Embassy in Sana on Sept. 16 that killed 16 people, including six of the attackers.

In the Internet statement, Al Qaeda in Yemen identified its new deputy leader as Abu Sayyaf al-Shihri, saying he returned from Guantánamo to his native Saudi Arabia and then traveled to neighboring Yemen “more than 10 months ago.” That corresponds roughly to the return of Shihri, a Saudi who was released from Guantánamo in November 2007.

“Abu Sayyaf” is a nom de guerre, commonly used among jihadists in place of their real name or first name.

A Saudi security official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said that Shihri had disappeared from his home in Saudi Arabia last year after finishing the rehabilitation program.

A Yemeni journalist who interviewed Al Qaeda’s leaders in Yemen last year, Abdulela Shaya, confirmed Thursday that the deputy leader was indeed Shihri, the former Guantánamo detainee. Shaya, in a telephone interview, said Shihri had described to him his journey from Cuba to Yemen and supplied his Guantánamo detention number, 372. That is the correct number, Pentagon documents show.

“It seems certain from all the sources we have that this is the same individual who was released from Guantánamo in 2007,” said Gregory Johnsen, a terrorism analyst and the editor of a forthcoming book, “Islam and Insurgency in Yemen.”

Shihri, 35, trained in urban warfare tactics at a camp north of Kabul, Afghanistan, according to documents released by the Pentagon as part of his Guantánamo dossier. Two weeks after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, he traveled to Afghanistan via Bahrain and Pakistan, and later he told American investigators that his intention was to do relief work, the documents say. He was wounded in an airstrike and spent a month and a half recovering in a hospital in Pakistan.

The documents state that Shihri met with a group of “extremists” in Iran and helped them get into Afghanistan. They also say he was accused of trying to arrange the assassination of a writer, in accordance with a fatwa, or religious order, issued by an extremist cleric.

However, under a heading describing reasons for Shihri’s possible release from Guantánamo, the documents say he claimed that he traveled to Iran “to purchase carpets for his store in Riyadh.” They also say that he denied any knowledge of terrorists or association with any, and that he “related that if released, he would like to return to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, wherein he would reunite with his family.”

“The detainee stated he would attempt to work at his family’s furniture store if it is still in business,” the documents said.

Eric Schmitt contributed reporting from Washington, Khalid al-Hammadi from Sana and Muhammad al-Milfy from Beirut.  From the IHT .