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Eurasia Security Watch - No.271

Edited by Jeff Smith and Joshua Truman
November 12, 2012


SAUDI ARABIAN JUDGES FIGHT AGAINST KING ABDULLAH’S REFORMS
Saudi judges continue to resist King Abdullah’s efforts to reform the Sunni kingdom’s judicial system. In a letter sent to the country’s Minister of Justice, Mohammad al-Issa, conservative judges objected to foreign influence sweeping through Saudi’s sharia courts. The letter criticized foreign consultants with shaven faces, plans to let woman practice law, and the minister’s meetings with “infidels.” Saudi Arabia holds no formal legal code or system of precedent and judges determine cases by their own interpretation of sharia law. A U.S. embassy cable released by Wikileaks in 2010 suggested the Saudi legal system’s inability to hand down consistent decisions deters significant amounts of investment in the country. King Abdullah’s efforts to modernize the oil-rich nation have been met with firm resistance from religious hardliner’s within the kingdom. (Reuters, November 6, 2012)

U.S., LIBYA FORMING COMMANDO FORCE TO ROOT OUT JIHADISTS
In an effort to push against the growing militant presence in Benghazi, the United States is forming a commando force compromised of Libyan recruits. U.S. officials toured a parliamentary base in Benghazi searching for potential members this month. Leading the Americans was Laurence Pope, U.S charge d’affairs in Libya after the death of Ambassador Stevens. The group was accompanied by Fathi al-Obeidi, commander of Libya’s Shield, the umbrella group containing militias which were not absorbed into the country’s military after Gaddafi’s demise. The commander has become a trusted source within Benghazi, having helped orchestrate a mission in which U.S. marines saved Americans hiding in a safe house after days after the assault on the U.S. consulate. The U.S. officials questioned many men, asking their ages, tribal loyalties, and if they had received prior training. Pentagon spokesman Lieutenant Colonel James Gregory made it clear the mission and size of the special force has yet to be determined. "Obviously, this is still a fluid environment and everything can change." (Reuters, November 6, 2012)

BAHRAIN CRACKS DOWN, REVOKES CITIZENSHIP OF 31 PEOPLE
After a year of clashes with protesters and countless arrests, Bahrain has started revoking the citizenship of opposition members. A week after banning all protests and gatherings within the country, the government arrested and stripped the citizenship of 31 people, including several former parliament members. Brought before a special military court, the group, almost entirely made up of the suppressed Shia majority, was tried quickly and convicted of “undermining state security.” Among those tried was the son of prominent Shia activist Hassan Mashaima and former leader of the opposition movement Haq, who is serving a life sentence for plotting against King Hamad. (New York Times, November 7, 2012)

QATAR, UAE REQUEST U.S. MISSLE DEFENSE SYSTEMS
Qatar and the United Arab Emirates are requesting the sale of $7.6 billion worth of Lockheed Martin missile-defense systems from the Pentagon. The two Gulf States are interested in the defense contractor’s Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) weapon systems as well as Lockheed’s Aegis weapons system. Qatar requested two THAAD fire units, 12 launchers, and 150 interceptors while the UAE requested 48 THAAD missiles and nine launchers. The current THAAD systems, designed to intercept short-, medium-, and intermediate-range ballistic missiles, are specifically optimized to deter missile attacks from Iran and North Korea. The proposed sale, which is almost certainly to be approved by Congress, would add to the ultimate goal of creating a regional missile shield coordinated by U.S. systems. This comes at a time when Arab countries along the Gulf worry about retaliatory strikes against their countries if Israel or the United States were to attack Iran’s nuclear program. (Al-Jazeera, November 7, 2012)


Related Categories: Middle East; Eurasia Program

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