Controversy stirs anew over Saudi textbooks with Obama set to visit
March 25th, 2014
08:55 PM ET

Controversy stirs anew over Saudi textbooks with Obama set to visit

President Barack Obama's trip to Saudi Arabia this week comes amid accusations the State Department has hidden the results of a study that concludes textbooks in the Kingdom remain rife with Islamic extremism.

Since the September 11, 2001, attacks, successive U.S. administrations have attempted to curb Saudi indoctrination of students through hateful extremist material in its textbooks.

In addition to teaching the material to its own students, Saudi Arabia runs academies in about 20 countries, which use some of the same texts.

The Kingdom has repeatedly claimed that it has revised its textbooks.

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John Kerry visits Saudi Arabia to ease fears of rift with ally
November 4th, 2013
06:26 PM ET

John Kerry visits Saudi Arabia to ease fears of rift with ally

By Elise Labott

Call it the Mending Fences tour.

Monday's stop: Saudi Arabia, where Secretary of State John Kerry said he was determined to "make certain the Saudi-U.S. relationship is on track" amid deepening tensions between the United States and its longstanding ally.

Typically private regarding its diplomatic dealings with the United States, the Kingdom has been unusually vocal lately about its unhappiness with American policy.

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Kerry: Relations with Saudi Arabia are 'close'
Secretary of State John Kerry at a press conference in London on Tuesday.
October 22nd, 2013
03:05 PM ET

Kerry: Relations with Saudi Arabia are 'close'

By Jamie Crawford

Secretary of State John Kerry says relations between the United States and Saudi Arabia are strong despite reports the Saudis are looking to de-emphasize its alliance with Washington.

"I have great confidence that the United States and Saudi Arabia will continue to be the close and important friends and allies that we have been," Kerry told reporters on Tuesday in London on the sidelines of a conference about the international response to the civil war in Syria.

Kerry was responding to questions based on a report from Reuters that quoted Saudi Arabia's intelligence chief, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, telling European diplomats the kingdom would be making a "major shift" in relations with Washington over perceived inaction towards the carnage in Syria, and a possible rapprochement with Iran over its nuclear program.

The comments were noteworthy coming from Bandar, who served as the kingdom's ambassador to Washington for many years and enjoyed warm relations with both Democratic and Republican administrations.
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Kerry: Saudi Arabia OK with international military strike on Syria
September 8th, 2013
10:17 AM ET

Kerry: Saudi Arabia OK with international military strike on Syria

By CNN's Elise Labott and Steve Almasy

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, speaking Sunday from Paris, where he met with Arab League ministers, said Saudi Arabia has approved international military intervention in Syria.

"They support the strike," Kerry said after meeting with Saudi foreign minister Saud al-Faisal.

Saudi Arabia is a diplomatic heavyweight in the Arab world, but hasn't publicly called for an international military reprisal after a reported chemical weapons attack last month by the Syrian military against rebels.

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Analysis: Stability, U.S. interests trump democracy in Phase Two of Arab Spring
July 16th, 2013
01:04 PM ET

Analysis: Stability, U.S. interests trump democracy in Phase Two of Arab Spring

EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the latest in a series of stories and opinion pieces previewing the upcoming Aspen Security Forum. Security Clearance is a media sponsor of the event, which is taking place from July 17-20 in Aspen, Colorado.  The forum will feature a session called "Unrest in the Arab World and its Implications for our Security"; Shibley Telhami, Anwar Sadat Chair for Peace and Development at the University of Maryland and a fellow at the Brookings Institution, who is featured in this piece, will participate. Follow the event on Twitter under @aspeninstitute and @natlsecuritycnn #AspenSecurity.

By Elise Labott

A popular argument following the removal from power of Egyptian President Mohammed Morsy posits that the non-U.S. response ends a long-held American position that it defends democracy.

The pretense, however, has already been on shaky ground during Phase Two of the Arab Spring.

Countries where the United States has supported regime change have morphed from relatively stable autocracies into hotbeds of instability, posing challenges for U.S. policy.

In Egypt, the United States has played the cards it was dealt, taking a pragmatic approach to the recent events..

No lover of Morsy or his Muslim Brotherhood ideology, the United States engaged his government because it was in power, having won the 2012 elections.

But after 22 million people signed a petition to remove him from power and took to the streets, Morsy was suddenly damaged goods.

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Survey shows little improvement in religious freedom
Secretary of State John Kerry
May 20th, 2013
06:18 PM ET

Survey shows little improvement in religious freedom

By Paul Courson

There has been little improvement in religious freedom worldwide but some positive changes were seen in Turkey and Vietnam, according to an annual State Department survey of nearly 200 countries.

Secretary of State John Kerry, a former U.S. senator who helped push the law mandating the original report 15 years ago, helped announce the findings on Monday in the Annual Report on International Religious Freedom.

"This report is a clear-eyed, objective look at the state of religious freedom around the world. And when necessary, yes, it does directly call out some of our close friends, as well as some countries with whom we seek stronger ties."

Government repression in China, North Korea and Saudi Arabia has kept all three countries on a list the report calls "Countries of Particular Concern."

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Filed under: China • Congress • Foreign Policy • North Korea • Saudi Arabia • Sec. State John Kerry
Report: Top al Qaeda leader killed
A screen shot of a video shows Al-Qaeda's Said al-Shihri on October 6, 2010.
January 23rd, 2013
06:21 AM ET

Report: Top al Qaeda leader killed

By Hakim Almasmari

The deputy leader of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and one of the most wanted men in Saudi Arabia has been killed, a prominent jihadist announced Tuesday, though officials in the group's home base of Yemen said they had no evidence of his death.

Abu Sufyan al-Azdi, also known as Saeed al-Shahri, died "after a long journey in fighting the Zio-Crusader campaign," jihadist Abdulla bin Muhammad said on his Twitter account. The tweet was reported by SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors global terrorism.

It was not clear how al-Azdi died. SITE said media reports indicated he died of injuries incurred in a December drone strike.

The Arabic news network Al-Arabiya reported al-Azdi's death, citing his relatives.

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Filed under: Al Qaeda • Saudi Arabia • Terrorism
Suspect in Saudi ambassador assassination plot pleads guilty
Adel al-Jubeir, Saudi Ambassador to the United States. Photo; AFP/Getty Images
October 17th, 2012
04:10 PM ET

Suspect in Saudi ambassador assassination plot pleads guilty

By CNN's Mark Norman

An Iranian-American man from Texas on Wednesday pleaded guilty in Manhattan federal court to participating in a plot meant to kill the Saudi ambassador to the United States.

Prosecutors said Manssor Arbabsiar, 57, tried to recruit a Mexican drug cartel to bomb a Washington restaurant where Saudi Ambassador Adel Al-Jubeir dined. But the scheme unraveled when Arbabsiar's cartel contact turned out to be an undercover agent.

Arbabsiar acknowledged in court to conspiring with members of the Iranian military in the formulation of the plot and is expected to be sentenced in January.

Federal officials say Arbabsiar met "on a number of occasions in Mexico with a Drug Enforcement Administration confidential source."
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Filed under: Iran • Saudi Arabia
October 15th, 2012
04:11 PM ET

U.S. officials believe Iran is behind recent cyberattacks

By Mike Mount, with reporting from Suzanne Kelly and Pam Benson

The United States believes that Iran is behind cyberattacks on American banks and the oil industry in the Middle East, officials said.

Although officials have not made such an assertion publicly, they have characterized the attacks that occurred in recent months as initiated by a "state actor." The U.S. intelligence apparatus observed and tracked the attacks as coming out of Iran, a third official said Monday. The official would not describe further what was observed but said the belief is the perpetrators were surrogates working with the Iranian government.

“We strongly believe there is a relationship between the people typing the code and people running the government,” according to the official.

"It certainly is the case that Iran is improving its capabilities in the cyber field. We're paying attention. We are concerned about their increasing ability to operate in this realm," a U.S. intelligence official said.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta noted the attacks in a speech last week and warned that United States must beef up its cyber defenses or risk a potentially devastating strike. FULL POST

U.S. triples foreign arms sales in 2011
August 27th, 2012
02:22 PM ET

U.S. triples foreign arms sales in 2011

By Mike Mount, CNN Senior National Security Producer

International weapons sales by the United States tripled last year to a record high of $66.3 billion, according to a congressional report that noted big fighter jet and helicopter purchases by Saudi Arabia.

The data by the non-partisan Congressional Research Service noted an "extraordinary increase" over 2010, saying the total U.S. figure accounted for almost 78 percent of sales globally.

 Russia followed the United States at $4.8 billion with France at $4.4 billion, according to the report, "Conventional Arms Transfers to Developing Nations, 2004-2011."

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