Breaking News -- Middle East
|Dozens of Christians 'including women and children' are arrested
in Saudi Arabia
by Matthew Blake
--28 people were arrested at home of Indian man in the eastern city of Khafji
--Reports claim women and children were among the congregation
--Human rights activists have appealed to the U.S. to help secure release
--In Saudi Arabia it is against the law for Muslims to abandon their faith
Islamist police in Saudi Arabia have stormed a Christian prayer meeting and arrested its entire congregation, including women and children, and confiscated their bibles, it has been reported.
The raid was the latest incident of a swingeing crackdown on religious minorities in Saudi Arabia by the country's hard-line Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice.
The 28 Christians were said to be worshipping at the home of an Indian national in the eastern city of Khafji, when the police entered the building and took them into custody. They have not been seen or heard from since, raising concerns among human rights groups as to their whereabouts.
Nina Shea, director of the Washington-based Hudson Institute's Center for Religious Freedom, told FoxNews.com: 'Saudi Arabia is continuing the religious cleansing that has always been its official policy.
'It is the only nation state in the world with the official policy of banning all churches.
'This is enforced even though there are over two million Christian foreign workers in that country. Those victimized are typically poor, from Asian and African countries with weak governments.'
Activists are now calling on the U.S. to use its considerable influence in the region to help secure the release of the incarcerated Christians.
A spokesperson for the Saudi government claimed to have no knowledge of the arrests, according to Fox News.
But the English-language newspaper, The Saudi Gazette, as well as several Saudi Arabic-language news outlets, have reported on the arrests.
Khamenei: Iran rejected US offer to cooperate against IS
In his first statements since leaving the hospital after prostate surgery, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said that US Secretary of State John Kerry had requested via Iran’s foreign minister that Iran cooperate with the United States and its coalition against the Islamic State group (IS) in Iraq, and that Iran rejected the offer.
In his post-operation interview to thank the hospital staff and express his appreciation for all Iran's officials and other figures, Ayatollah Khamenei said while he was bedridden he had heard “about the statements by American officials about the fight against [IS], which was really amusing.” He called the statements by US officials “futile, hollow and agenda driven.”
Khamenei said, “What was really amusing to me is that I saw the American secretary of state and his spokesman explicitly say, ‘We will not invite Iran in a coalition against [IS].’ First of all, what an honor for us that America is discouraged from working with us in a group effort. That in a job that they are doing, which is wrong, they don’t want us to be there. It is a source of pride, not a source of disappointment.”
“Secondly, I saw that they all lie. Because in the first days that [IS] was taking over [parts] of Iraq, the Americans, through their ambassador, requested of our ambassador in Iraq to sit down and cooperate in regard to [IS]. Our ambassador told us this.”
He said that some officials “didn’t say anything,” suggesting that they favored such a meeting. “But I opposed it,” Khamenei said. “I told them that in this particular situation, we will not cooperate with the Americans, because their hands are polluted. And in this situation, how can we work with someone whose hands and intentions are polluted?”
“After that, the secretary of state said in front of the whole world, ‘We will not request help from Iran.’ He personally requested of [Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad] Zarif to work together against [IS]. Dr. Zarif rejected it.”
He continued, “His deputy, who is a female, she asked [deputy Foreign Minister Abbas] Aragchi, during the [nuclear] negotiations, to work together. They rejected it.” By this "deputy," he presumably meant Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman.
“After we rejected it and explicitly said, 'We will not work with you,' now they say they don’t want to bring Iran in. Before this, they created a coalition against Syria. They brought together 30, 40, 50 countries and couldn’t do a damn thing against Syria. It’s the same with Iraq. They don’t want to do anything serious. The actions taken against [IS] and what broke the back of [IS] was not the work of Americans. They know this well. [IS] knows this well. The people of Iraq know this well as well. They know that it was the work of the people of Iraq. It was the work of Iraq’s military. They learned how to fight [IS] and it will be them who attacks [IS].
He continued, “America wants to find an excuse, so that what happened in Pakistan, that with an established government and a strong army — Pakistan’s army is a strong army — without permission enters Pakistan, bombs wherever it wants, wants to do this in Iraq and Syria. They should know [if they do] such a thing, the same problems that came about for them in the last 10 years in Iraq will come about again.”
Iran Sees ISIS as ‘Made-in-America’ Problem
by Jason Ditz
The New York Times sought to mock the conspiracy-minded Iranian public for believing ISIS is “created” by the United States in a top article claiming it was the result of Iranian state media propaganda.
Yet considering it from the viewpoint of the average Iranian, it’s not hard to see where that belief came from, with the US loudly backing Syria’s rebels, of which ISIS is by far the largest and most successful faction, while Iran backs ally Bashar Assad’s government.
Even at this point, when the US is directly insinuating itself into a massive war with ISIS, the view from the ground is pretty stark. ISIS is awash in US weapons, provided to “moderate Syrian rebels,” and driving US-made vehicles looted in Mosul, giving them all the outward appearance of an American proxy.
For decades, Iranians have been presented with the United States as a powerful enemy, one which is constantly threatening to attack them. They now find an ISIS army equipped with decidedly made-in-America gear, it’s hard to blame them for jumping to conclusions.
The reality is that the United States foreign policy has played a massive role in the creation of ISIS as the huge problem it has become. It’s blowback from the massive incompetence of that policy, which is an important distinction, but one which probably doesn’t make a huge difference to the people fighting them.
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