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Ongoing Saudi-Iranian Proxy Conflict likely to worsen amid Hajj Row after last year’s stampede

University of Paris political science professor Khattar Abou Diab told VOA Saudi Arabia thinks Iran is trying to harm it as well

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Muslims During Hajj. Image Source: Wikimedia Commons.

The ongoing proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia appears to be worsening after Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, scolded Saudi leaders over their alleged responsibility in last year’s hajj stampede. Pro-Iranian media have also been playing up recent pro-Iranian Iraqi Shi’ite militias sending “volunteers” to fight Saudi coalition forces in Yemen.

Iranian state TV broadcast video Tuesday of victims from last year’s hajj stampede. Tehran says hundreds of its citizens were killed and Saudi Arabia has lied about the real number of casualties.

Hajj Image Source: Wikimedia Commons.
Hajj
Image Source: Wikimedia Commons.

The television report played up blistering comments by Khamenei calling Saudi leaders “little Satans and apprentice political sorcerers who ignore God and maintain their unholy grip on power” by allying themselves with what he called the world’s arrogant nations, generally a reference to the U.S. and Israel.

Saudi Arabia’s head of security for the annual Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca, General Ahmed Ahmedi, refuted the Iranian claims of Saudi negligence and insisted the kingdom does its utmost to protect visitors to the Islamic holy sites.

He said Saudi security forces take the greatest pains to serve the visitors to the holy sites and offer them the best security from their arrival to their departure.

Former Iranian president Abolhassan Bani Sadr, who lives in exile in France, told VOA the hajj pilgrimage is just one facet of the ongoing conflict between Iran and Saudi Arabia since Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Propaganda, economic war

Bani Sadr said Khamenei is accusing Saudi Arabia of committing crimes against Muslims during the hajj, but added that Iran is guilty of crimes in the region. He said Iran and Saudi Arabia have tried to dominate the region, creating rival alliances from Iraq to Syria and Lebanon, and sowing death and destruction.

Bani Sadr stresses that there is a “propaganda war” taking place, alongside actual fighting in the battlefield, and an “economic war” that Saudi Arabia is waging against Iran by pumping excess quantities of crude to drive down prices and suffocate Iran.

University of Paris political science professor Khattar Abou Diab told VOA Saudi Arabia thinks Iran is trying to harm it as well.

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He said Saudi leaders have the impression Iran is trying to encircle it by way of its maneuvering in Yemen, Iraq, and the Gulf. He argues there is a danger of the ongoing proxy war developing into a direct conflict if world powers do not act to avert it.

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Pro-Iranian media emphasized Monday that Yemen’s Houthi rebels have developed new ballistic missile technology and are capable of striking deep into Saudi territory. Forces loyal to former Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh have fired modified SCUD rockets into Saudi territory, but it remains unclear how many they still possess. (VOA)

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Facebook Removes 265 Israel-based Fake Accounts

The organisation had 65 Facebook accounts, 161 Pages, 23 Groups, 12 events and four Instagram accounts

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FILE - A 3D printed Facebook logo is seen in front of a displayed Russian flag in this photo illustration, Aug. 3, 2018. VOA

Facebook has said it has removed 265 Facebook and Instagram accounts, Facebook Pages, Groups and events that originated in Israel and were involved in coordinated inauthentic behaviour.

This activity originated in Israel and focused on Nigeria, Senegal, Togo, Angola, Niger and Tunisia along with some activity in Latin America and Southeast Asia.

“The people behind this network used fake accounts to run Pages, disseminate their content and artificially increase engagement,” Nathaniel Gleicher, Head of Cybersecurity Policy at Facebook said in a statement late Thursday.

“Page administrators and account owners frequently posted about political news, including topics like elections in various countries, candidate views and criticism of political opponents,” he added.

Facebook found the activity was linked to an Israeli commercial entity, Archimedes Group.

facebook, personal data
FILE – A man poses for a photo in front of a computer showing Facebook ad preferences in San Francisco, California, March 26, 2018. VOA

“This organisation and all its subsidiaries are now banned from Facebook, and it has been issued a cease and desist letter,” said the company.

The organisation had 65 Facebook accounts, 161 Pages, 23 Groups, 12 events and four Instagram accounts.

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About 2.8 million accounts followed one or more of these Pages, about 5,500 accounts joined at least one of these Groups and around 920 people followed one or more of these Instagram accounts.

“Around $812,000 in spending for ads on Facebook paid for in Brazilian reals, Israeli shekel, and US dollars. The first ad ran in December 2012 and the most recent ad ran in April 2019,” said Facebook. (IANS)