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Saudi Commentator Rejects Anti-Shiite Rhetoric After Arrest of Iranian Spy Ring
Al-Sharq al-Awsat Online
April 14, 2013

In this Oct. 20, 2012, photograph, Saudi Deputy Interior Minister Prince Mohammed bin Nayef bin Abdul Aziz, center, is pictured speaking with Saudi officials as he attends a martial parade of Saudi armed forces in Arafat, 15 kilometers outside of Mecca, Saudi Arabia. (AP Photo)

Article by Mishari al-Dhayidi: “The Shiite Saudi Citizen”

It is so easy to refer to sectarian or ethnic enmity to explain tension and political and social problem, as simple as that. The closed, deaf religious and historical explanation, which does not change with time and place and the complexity of relations, is easy to say, handle, and disseminate among the public. This explanation does not cost anything. Quite simply, we are good while others are bad, and because they are bad, they want to hurt us.

Amid the religious and ethnic tension in the region, this way of thinking feeds the energy of the warring sides, which are closed, and becomes moral fuel for mobilization in the atmosphere of war.

In the wake of the recent Saudi announcement on the arrest of some Saudis accused of spying for Iran, along with two persons, an Iranian and a Lebanese, and after officially and directly accusing Iran of standing behind this ring, anger has mounted. This anger on the part of the Saudis is legitimate in view of this flagrant Iranian violation of Saudi security and the involvement of citizens in this crime, at least until the time of the announcement, pending the final word of the judiciary. From this description of “citizens,” I want to start my discussion of the confused meanings concerning the relationship between citizenship and other identities.

Let me give you an example of some “harmful” approaches to this issue on the part of some opinion makers in Saudi Arabia. Last Sunday (31 March), I read an article by a writer in the Saudi newspaper Al-Jazirah, who is Dr Abdallah al-Mu`ayli, titled “Loyalty to the Homeland Linked to Loyalty to Religion.” The writer explained the involvement of spy elements affiliated with Iran by saying that deviation in religiosity on the part of some people is what led to their involvement in this political-security action. He concluded his article by saying: “The members of the espionage ring have proven that loyalty to religion is a key demand for loyalty to the homeland. This is why teaching al-wala wa al-bara (broadly, Islamic notion of loyalty and love for God and the believers and disavowal and hatred of what God hates and of the nonbelievers) in the school stages is something that must not be subject to the opinion of anyone since knowing its meaning and significance is a religious and national demand required by necessity all the time.”

There is no disagreement with Dr Al-Mu`ayli over the incrimination and condemnation of anyone who betrays the homeland and its security. In fact, anyone who facilitates and justifies this action must be fought. Also, there is no disagreement with him over criticizing the statement signed by “some” Shiite activists who denied the existence of this ring in the first place and hastened to accuse the Saudi authorities of fabricating this matter, as they claimed in their statement. I have previously commented on this point.

This is agreed on. However, the disagreement with Dr Al-Mu`ayli, who was an important leader in the sector of education, concerns the purely religious approach to this subject, based on a certain understanding of religion. This is, in fact, inaccurate and impractical.

We do not want to ask about which sense of al-wala wa al-bara he means and according to what understanding and which school of religious jurisprudence should we follow. This is especially since we have seen several changes in the position toward the Shiites, depending on political changes. The position toward the Shiites, represented by the Lebanese Hizballah, in its war with Israel, was one of glorification by some symbols of preaching and da`wah in Saudi Arabia, but it has changed in the current Syria war. Thus, we continue to proceed on a slippery and unstable path, all of which is marketed under a religious banner.

Besides, depending on such concepts without examination and scrutiny and without the historical background was one explanation for the emergence of the extremist understanding of the relationship with the other, who is different on the religious and sectarian levels, especially with the groups of Al-Qa`ida and its closed-minded youths. We need not elaborate on this matter. Al-Qa`ida is an organization that belongs to the Sunni world and has nothing to do with the Shitte world, as everybody knows.

As for the talk about “developing” or reforming the educational system, including the school curricula and the extracurricular classroom activities, the Saudis have engaged in a lot of criticism and self-judgment since the outbreak of terrorism in 2003. Over the past 10 years, the Saudi press has contained a lot of instances of this self-criticism.

It is also no secret that such “exclusionist” rhetoric only means pouring fuel on the fire. Is this argument meant to make us persist with the declaration of the Shiites as infidels and to teach this to our sons? Is this prudent and fair? Does this argument contain any practical solution?

This is a direct recipe for tension, exclusion, and cornering those who are different, having branded them as infidels and having shunned them. What should we wait from them afterward? Love and friendliness? This is so strange.

There is no other option except to accept the one who is different from you the way he is. Do not force him to change his culture and understanding. You either accept him the way he is or not. That is the question. A prudent person is the one who looks for things in common with the other, and not differences. This becomes clearer is times of tension, and not in times of comfort.

Therefore, the project of King Abdallah Bin-Abd-al-Aziz, custodian of the two holy mosques, has been a great project for the protection of the internal national fabric and for strengthening the all-inclusive identity when he inaugurated national dialogue and gathered different people and deepened common bonds. The Shiite turban was next to the Sunni headdress in the audience of the king, and they were all under the banner of the Saudi homeland. This is the difficult achievement, and not deepening division and consolidating disagreement.

Besides, this is what recent and ancient history tells us. The founder king, Abd-al-Aziz, was keen on uniting the positions of the various components of the state. We know about his correspondence with the notables of Al-Qatif and his pledge to safeguard security and protect their rights as they are one of the bricks of the great state, which Abd-al-Aziz and the men of Abd-al-Aziz closely nurtured.

Even before Abd-al-Aziz, Imam Faysal Bin-Turki, the man of the second Saudi state who was famous for his religiosity, used to hasten to send troops to protect the residents of Al-Qatif and Al-Ihsa against the raids and attacks of outlaws. The raiders were Sunnis. Faysal did not inquire about the sect of those or the others; he did his duty as a leader whose job was to provide security for the entire population of his country.

The exclusionist argument generates an exclusionist counterargument, and we will continue to revolve in a vicious circle. The strict and revolutionary argument on the part of the one who is different is consolidated with the increase in the exclusionist argument on the other side; it is a strange organic relationship. We see people like Nimr al-Nimr and Yasir al-Habib whenever we have someone who declares the Shiites as a whole as infidels and demonizes them based on utter ignorance and repetitive argumentation that does not care about the changes of history, time, place, and complicated relations.

It is a duty, practically speaking and not only ideally, to reduce the circle of foes and haters, and not to expand it, let alone “no bearer of burdens can bear the burden of another” (Koranic verse, Al-An`am, 6: 164)

The Shiites in Saudi Arabia have an eventful history in the national economy. It is enough to remember the pioneering generation of them in the major Saudi economic corporations, such as ARAMCO, which produced the successful engi neer Nazmi al-Nasr, the driving force behind the King Abdullah University for Science and Technology, KAUST, and many other illustrious Saudi examples.

The right thing is to strengthen the national identity through transforming the sectarian or cultural diversity in it into an element of richness and strength for this great and lofty country, and not going inside one`s shell and narrow understanding. This is not approved by the current reality and ancient history.

Saudi Arabia, led by King Abdallah Bin-Abd-al-Aziz, the prudent king who loves all the sons of his people, is for all, to all, and from all. It should always be like this. This is the destiny of great people.

(Description of Source: London Al-Sharq al-Awsat Online in Arabic -- Website of influential London-based pan-Arab Saudi daily; editorial line reflects Saudi official stance. URL:

© Compiled and distributed by NTIS, US Dept. of Commerce. All rights reserved.

Report Says Saudi Authorities Uncovered Another Spy Cell in Eastern Areas
March 26, 2013

Report by Abdallah Al Haydah in Riyadh: Sources to Ilaf: Saudi Arabia Arrests an Espionage Ring Anew

Sources told Ilaf that the Saudi Intelligence services have arrested a number of spies who work in operation and maintenance companies in one of the security sectors in eastern Saudi Arabia, and technical ranking officials in telecommunications companies which aimed to pass on information about Saudi figures (to an unspecified side) abroad .

Special sources have told Ilaf that the Saudi intelligence effort has led to the arrest of a new ring of spies, some of them belong to the cell that Saudi Arabia announced five days ago. The sources said that most of the ring members, who are falling at present, work in a number of the telecommunications companies in the Kingdom, and their main task had been to supply foreign and internal parties with information about security commanders and influential figures in the Saudi society.

The sources added that the men of the General Intelligence have arrested a number of “spies” who work in a number of the operation and maintenance companies in one of the security sectors in an area of eastern Saudi Arabia. The sources have not provided the number of those arrested, but hinted to the possibility of an official declaration when the measures of the security work in coordination with the Interior Ministry are completed.

The sources said that the Saudi Intelligence service has restored its strength after the internal changes in its organizational and field structure in addition to the great effort to consolidate its influence amid extraordinary regional circumstances, adding that the Intelligence is strongly operating through the Saudi embassies in most of the countries in direct coordination with the Foreign Ministry to preserve the national security in the Kingdom. Iran Puts Itself in the Dock Iran has put itself in the dock after Saudi Arabia announced the arrest of an 18-member spy ring when the Ramin Mehmanprast, official spokesman of the Iranian Foreign Ministry, said that there is no truth in “the Saudi allegations” about the existence of a link between the Islamic Republic and the spy ring.” The Iranian spokesman said that the presence of an Iranian within the members of the ring is “a repeated scenario and is baseless,” adding that such reports are good for “local consumption” and criticized the Saudi officials. The Interior Ministry: A Cell for Smuggling Narcotics, and the Spy Ring an Important Issue The news conference of the spokesman of the Interior Ministry on the Saudi announcement of the arrest of a cell that used to smuggle and traffic in narcotics and money laundering and the confiscation of more than (one billion riyals) $260 has not negated the question about the spy ring, and Lieutenant General Mansur al-Turki said that Saudi Arabia has opted for ambiguity in declaring the state (behind the spy ring) until accurate information becomes available and is verified.

On the Iranian denial of its relationship with the spy ring although no name of a specific country has been mentioned in the official statement, Lieutenant General Al-Turki diplomatically replied: “Ask Tehran about its denial,” stressing that Riyadh has not accused any state so that the denial is made.

Saudi Arabia has announced, through Lieutenant General Mansur al-Turki, the official spokesman of the Interior Ministry, the arrest of 18 persons, including an Iranian and Lebanese following information obtained by the command of the General Intelligence on the involvement of a number of Saudis and residents in the Kingdom in acts of espionage in favor of one of the countries by gathering information about vital sites and installations and communicating the information to Intelligence parties in that country.

(Description of Source: London in Arabic -- Saudi-owned, independent Internet daily with pan-Arab, liberal line. URL:

© Compiled and distributed by NTIS, US Dept. of Commerce. All rights reserved.

Saudi Paper Provides Details on Arrest of Spy Ring, Iranian Connection
Al-Sharq al-Awsat Online
March 21, 2013

Report by Zayd Bin-Kami and Huda al-Salih from Riyadh: “Saudi Arabia Arrests 18 Spies in Qualitative Operation That Did Not Exceed One Hour”

Saudi Arabia announced a qualitative operation yesterday by arresting 18 spies, including 16 Saudis and an Iranian and a Lebanese who were all involved in acts of espionage against Saudi Arabia for a country that it did not name. Major General Mansur al-Turki, security spokesman for the Interior Ministry, said that “based on the information made available to the General Intelligence about the involvement of a number of Saudis and residents in the Kingdom in acts of espionage for another country by collecting information about vital installations and sites and communicating with intelligence agencies in that country concerning this information, the persons involved were arrested in coordinated and simultaneous security operations in four regions of the Kingdom (Mecca, Medina, Riyadh, and the Eastern Region).” He said that standard procedures against them will be followed to interrogate them and refer them to the judicial authorities.

Asked by Al-Sharq al-Awsat about the background of the arrest of the spies, the official spokesman of the Interior Ministry said that the information was provided by the Saudi intelligence and that the detained persons are still being investigated. Al-Turki denied any relationship between the 16 detained persons and the so-called “deviant group,” a term used by the Saudi security authorities to describe terrorists who carried out bombings and targeted officials, foreigners and citizens over the past 10 years, confirming that the approach of the spy ring members is far from the so-called “deviant group.”

In a telephone call with Saudi TV last night, Al-Turki confirmed that the suspects were arrested in the act as they were collecting information about vital and important sites and installations, which they were sending to the hostile intelligence entity, without naming this entity in his previous official statement.

According to information obtained by Al-Sharq al-Awsat, the arrest of the ring occurred within one hour last Sunday (17 March) between 8 and 9 am. Although the Saudi security source did not name the country that the information was gathered for, information that transpired indicates that 18 detainees linked to Iranian intelligence agencies were monitoring vital military, civil, and economic installations and targets. This is the first time that Saudi Arabia announces the arrest of a spy ring of this size working for another country although Saudi Arabia has been a target, according to security experts, for a while.

In the same context, Abd-al-Aziz Bin-Saqr, head of the Gulf Research Center, told Al-Sharq al-Awsat that the facts suggest that the Iranian and Lebanese persons are two liaison officers for receiving and sending information, while the rest of the Saudis, including doctors and university professors, played the role of providing information, which included health information about important figures in the country or information about vital or educational installations for measuring opinions and ideas.

Bin-Saqr added that geographic distribution is significant in the case of the announcement about the spy cell. They were in four vital regions in Saudi Arabia. Riyadh is the capital and the source of important information, especially on political or economic affairs. The Eastern Region has economic weight, besides the fact that some sects take advantage of it. As for the choice of Mecca and Medina, they are an assembly point, taking advantage of the hajj and umrah (minor pilgrimage) seasons when the Iranian and Lebanese liaison officers play the greatest role.

Bin-Saqr added that this cell is a spy cell rather than a sabotage cell and its aim is to collect information. It is attached to a foreign country in form and application. He indicated that the capture of cells in Kuwait, Yemen, and Bahrain has already been announced. Thus, it is a large network in the Arabian Gulf countries.

Bin-Saqr says that the capture of this spy cell has an external international dimension and shows flagrant intervention by Iran. It is not unlikely that the two liaison officers had taken advantage of the ideological and sectarian dimension to obtain this information.

A senior security source in Saudi Arabia said that in this qualitative operation by the Saudi intelligence, the discovery of cells in Yemen, Bahrain, and Kuwait cannot be ignored. This is in addition to the announcement of the capture of a ship laden with Iranian weapons last January. It seems that the detained persons had a role in this. The security source said that having different nationalities, especially related to Iran, one way or another, in the spy ring, gives a strong indication concerning the targeting of Saudi Arabia and influencing its security and stability by Iranian hands.

Dr Abdallah al-Marzuq, a Kuwaiti researcher in Iranian affairs, told Al-Sharq al-Awsat that all indications confirm that Iran has a role in this group, which Saudi Arabia captured. He pointed out that the Iranian Government is seeking to revive the old anti-Arab Persian trend, which he considers as an approach of Iranian foreign policy toward the countries of the region in general, and GCC states in particular. This has been summed up in the approach of exporting revolutionary ideology and interfering in internal affairs through fueling sectarian discord with a view to undermining the domestic stability of the Gulf states and strengthening the influence of its allies from the extremist sectarian organizations and the groups that have an extremist ideological approach within the social, economic, and political fabric in the countries of the region. This is meant to impose racist Iranian hegemony through controlling the security equation and is based on the velayat-e faqih, led by Ali Khamene`i, leader of the Iranian revolution. Al-Marzuq said that in light of this, the revolutionary ideological role of Iranian foreign policy, be it through the hard-line religious and political rhetoric of Iranian elite groups, the repeated attempts to destabilize the countries of the region, or challenging the will of the international community, had a great effect on pushing the security dilemma of the Gulf states into a dark tunnel. The key problem is not the existence of the security dilemma in itself, but is the existence of one of its key parties, represented by the approach of Iranian foreign policy and its allies in the region through imposing the revolutionary ideological hegemony by force on the countries of the region. This is against international norms.

(Description of Source: London Al-Sharq al-Awsat Online in Arabic -- Website of influential London-based pan-Arab Saudi daily; editorial line reflects Saudi official stance. URL:

© Compiled and distributed by NTIS, US Dept. of Commerce. All rights reserved.


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