Saudi Arabia Carries Out Largest Mass Execution In 25 Years After Beheadings Soar In 2015

Tyler Durden's picture

While we wouldn’t go so far as to say it’s possible to find a “silver lining” in the San Bernardino massacre, the fact that Tashfeen Malik’s connection to Saudi Arabia has focused the world’s attention on Riyadh’s role in promoting Sunni extremism means the tragedy will at least serve a kind of utilitarian purpose. 

As we and others have documented extensively, Saudi Arabia’s promotion of Wahhabism makes the kingdom the number one state sponsor of terror almost by default (Erdogan’s support for ISIS notwithstanding). Despite the best efforts of quite a few commentators and analysts who this year have drawn attention to the fact that the ideology espoused and promulgated by the Saudis is really no different than that promoted by ISIS, the Western public is still largely in the dark - we know this because if the US electorate were truly in tune to what’s going on, voters would stage a popular revolt before they’d allow King Salman to parade into Washington in a fleet of Mercedes on the way to commandeering the entire Four Seasons for a two day stay. 

As Kamel Daoud, a columnist for Quotidien d’Oran, and the author of “The Meursault Investigation” put it in a New York Times op-ed in November, Saudi Arabia is simply “an ISIS that made it.” Here’s an excerpt from that piece:

Black Daesh, white Daesh. The former slits throats, kills, stones, cuts off hands, destroys humanity’s common heritage and despises archaeology, women and non-Muslims. The latter is better dressed and neater but does the same things. The Islamic State; Saudi Arabia. In its struggle against terrorism, the West wages war on one, but shakes hands with the other. This is a mechanism of denial, and denial has a price: preserving the famous strategic alliance with Saudi Arabia at the risk of forgetting that the kingdom also relies on an alliance with a religious clergy that produces, legitimizes, spreads, preaches and defends Wahhabism, the ultra-puritanical form of Islam that Daesh feeds on.

Of course the kingdom’s support for radical Islam isn’t confined to the promotion of a poisonous ideology. The Saudis have a history of arming and funding Sunni extremist groups when those groups are thought to be advancing Riyadh’s geopolitical interests. Syria is the latest example but there are others including, for instance, the Saudis’ support for the mujahideen during the Soviet-Afghan war. At the risk of generalizing, those fighters went on to become al-Qaeda.

We bring that up because today, Saudi Arabia (that bastion of human rights) executed 47 people, many of whom were al-Qaeda members. “Most of the 47 executed in the kingdom's biggest mass execution for decades were Sunnis convicted of al Qaeda attacks in Saudi Arabia a decade ago,” Reuters reports, adding that “the executions took place in 12 cities in Saudi Arabia, four prisons using firing squads and the others beheading.” Here’s more: 

The simultaneous execution of 47 people - 45 saudis, one Egytian and a man from Chad - was the biggest mass execution for security offences in Saudi Arabia since the 1980 killing of 63 jihadist rebels who seized Mecca's Grand Mosque in 1979.


The 43 Sunni jihadists executed on Saturday included several prominent al Qaeda figures, including those convicted for attacks on Western compounds, government buildings and diplomatic missions that killed hundreds from 2003-06.

Obviously, there's something terribly absurd about this. The Saudis are executing Sunni extremists with one hand, and promoting Sunni extremism with the other. While they're busy beheading al-Qaeda members in Saudi Arabia, they're effectively creating a Hydra by funneling arms and funds to al-Nusra in Syria and promulgating the "dark" (to quote Bashar al-Assad) ideology that inspires the group.

But that's not all. Among those executed on Saturday was prominent Shiite cleric Nimr al-Nimr. As BBC notes, "Sheikh Nimr was a vocal supporter of the mass anti-government protests that erupted in Eastern Province in 2011, where a Shia majority have long complained of marginalisation."

Here are some fast facts about the Sheikh, again, courtesy of BBC:

  • In his 50s when he was executed, he has been a persistent critic of Saudi Arabia's Sunni royal family
  • Arrested several times over the past decade, alleging he was beaten by Saudi secret police during one detention
  • Met US officials in 2008, Wikileaks revealed, seeking to distance himself from anti-American and pro-Iranian statements
  • Emerged as a figurehead in the protests that began in 2011 inspired by the Arab Spring
  • Said to have a particularly strong following among Saudi Shia youth

Ultimately, the Saudis killed (literally) two birds with one stone here: they silenced a dissident political voice and they dealt a slap in the face to Iran by killing a prominent member of the Shiite community.

The Sheikh's death sparked protests in the Eastern Province, the site of the 2011 uprising in which Nimr played a key role. "Scores of Shi'ite Muslims marched through the Qatif district of Saudi Arabia's Eastern Province in protest at the execution of cleric Nimr al-Nimra," Reuters says, citing an eyewitness. "They chanted 'down with the Al Saud', the name of the ruling Saudi royal family." Here's more, from al-Jazeera:

Scores of Shias in Saudi Arabia's Eastern Province marched through Nimr's home district of Qatif to protest against the execution. Dozens of protesters also took to the streets in neighbouring Bahrain, where police fired tear gas to disperse them.



Nimr had called for the oil-rich Eastern Province, where about two million Shia live, to be separated from the rest of Saudi Arabia.

He also criticised the government for what he said was the marginalisation of the Shia minority in the country.


Lebanon's Shia Hezbollah movement condemned the execution, calling it an "assassination".


The "real reason" for the execution was "that Sheikh Nimr ... demanded the squandered rights of an oppressed people," the group said in a statement. 

They're also protesting at the Saudi embassy in Tehran:

Officially, Nimr's crime was sedition, disobedience and bearing arms. Oh, and "foreign meddling." Speaking of "foreigners," Iran isn't happy, and neither is Hezbollah. "Saudi Arabia is executing the opponents of terrorism," Tehran said. Even the Houthis jumped into the fray. Here's Reuters again:

Riyadh's main regional rival Iran and its Shi'ite allies immediately reacted with vigorous condemnation of the execution of Nimr, and Saudi police raised security in a district where the sect is a majority in case of protests, residents said.


But a top Iranian cleric said the kingdom's Al Saud ruling family would be "wiped from the pages of history", Yemen's Houthi group described Nimr as a "holy warrior" and Lebanese militia Hezbollah said Riyadh had made "a grave mistake".


"The (royal) Al Saud family executed today the holy warrior, the grand cleric Nimr Baqr al-Nimr after a mock trial ... a flagrant violation of human rights," an obituary on the Houthis' official Al Maseera website said.

This comes on the heels of a banner year for beheadings in the kingdom. As AP reports, "Saudi Arabia carried out at least 157 executions in 2015, with beheadings reaching their highest level in the kingdom in two decades, according to several advocacy groups that monitor the death penalty worldwide."

The Saudis would be wise to exercise caution in 2016. Now that Riyadh has been forced to rollback subsidies and overhaul the welfare state in order to buy itself some budget breathing room, the conditions are ripe for social unrest. Inflaming sectarian tensions by killing prominent Shiite opposition leaders isn't exactly conducive to the promotion of stability.

Additionally, it's not clear that this is an opportune time to poke Iran in the eye. Between Yemen and Iraq, Tehran's influence is expanding and thanks to Russia, it doesn't appear likely that Damascus will fall to Saudi-backed rebels. In short, Iran's Shiite cresent is waxing while the House of Saud is waning. Throw in the fact that Iran is set to shed the "pariah state" label with the lifting of international sanctions and the fact that Islamic State's meteoric rise has served to increase public awareness of just how dangerous the ideology espoused by the Saudis truly is, and you have a truly precarious situation for Washington's favorite oil-rich monarchy.

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Looney's picture

Do they ever punish promiscuous goats and camels? ;-)


DeadFred's picture

The House of Saud has gone full retard. It doesn't end well.

thepigman's picture

Well past time to cut these guys off.....we don't need their stinkin' oil any more.

Tarzan's picture

Ah, the "religion of Peace" according to newspeak, yet

The vast majority of cut off heads fall at the feet of a Muslim


For those awake it's understood, they're just following their leader.

A man who rose by the point of a Sword,

A true Crusader, who prospered by the blood he shed.

Their actions are identical, in every way but one, to the Bloody Catholics of the dark ages, who marched into protestant villages and declared, Convert, Leave or Die!

Except that, Muslims are following their leader Muhammad's teachings and actions, while the Catholics followed the pharisees and hypocrites Jesus derided, the opposite of Jesus' teachings and actions!

y3maxx's picture

...Anyone gonna be surprised if there is soon to occur a Saudi Arabian, Archduke Ferdinand moment?


and don't be surprised to discover the Dubai Hotel fire was a terrorist act.

0b1knob's picture

Woman executed in Saudi Arabia for driving a car. (Actual video)


Manthong's picture

The house of Saud-um and Gomorrah is why Iran should have nukes.

Theosebes Goodfellow's picture

The way I see it, any time you have Muslims murdering Muslims who vow to "retaliate", it's a win-win for the rest of us. Allahu akbar, baby! Have at it, knock yourselves out, (literately)!

KesselRunin12Parsecs's picture

Do circumcisions count as 'beheadings'?

johngaltfla's picture

They cleaned their Gitmo out without causing pain for their nation (yet).

Obama will simply give the former Gitmo inhabitants HHS jobs and call them "misunderstood."

JLee2027's picture

As Ronald Reagan figured out, Middle East politics make no sense at all and we shouldn't be over there with boots on the ground. Let them all kill each other.

SuperRay's picture

Americans are so fucking stupid. Bush holds hands with a murdering perv. Obama bows to a murdering perv. These people were desert nomads in the 20th century, with a religion and culture consistent with their primitive level of development, and now we're told it should be viewed as equal to 2000 years of European cultural development. This is the age of fantasy, where what neoliberal wants to be true is offered as truth. Puke...

JLee2027's picture

Ah Europe has all the answers?

robertsgt40's picture

The "San Bernardino massacre" was a a staged event like so many before it.  

Manthong's picture

Oh yeah, right, like the CIA would ever engage in a terrorist incident somewhere to create fear and shape popular opinion.

You must think the Dulles bro’s or their progeny are still running things.

Wake up, man.. this is Obama’s fundamentally transformed Amerika.

SgtShaftoe's picture

Are you fucking kidding dude?  The US created the muslim boogeyman.  I read the intel reports in my office from the 90s discussing Osama (now known to be a CIA agent).  I still have one that was only FOUO I keep as a reminder to the insanity.  So, if you want to act the way your government wants you to, fear the muslims.  Be afraid, very afraid! 

Governments are the real threat to your life and limb.  Don't get distracted.  They will certainly keep using the muslim boogeyman/pawn as long as it suits their operational plans. 

TheReplacement's picture

You do have a point about governments being the real threat.  However, there sure seems to be a whole lot of muslims willing to act as their bloodthirsty boogeymen.

Manthong's picture

If I was an evil .gov sleazeball agent, my smart phone would be filled with numbers of zealot dupes that I could prod into being patsies.

WillyGroper's picture



My friends tell me very clearly where the evil lies in the ME as they still have family there.  The largest open air concentration camp & the House of Saud for starters.

Concentration of power. IOW - Oligarchs.

Theosebes Goodfellow's picture

~"The US created the muslim boogeyman."~

Sorry Sarge, but you need to read up on who Mohammad was and what Islam is.

Muslim "boogeymen" have been around much longer than the USA.

Tarzan's picture

"The US created the muslim boogeyman"

Newspeak of an unread mind, baffled by bullshit!

Sorry, your wrong, the American "boogeyman" hadn't even been thought of before Muhammad had stormed through Arabia killing all who apposed him and then set his sights on Europe.


By Richard A. Gabriel

    ......The idea of Muhammad as a military man will be new to many. Yet he was a truly great general. In the space of a single decade he fought eight major battles, led eighteen raids, and planned another thirty-eight military operations where others were in command but operating under his orders and strategic direction. Wounded twice, he also twice experienced having his positions overrun by superior forces before he managed to turn the tables on his enemies and rally his men to victory. More than a great field general and tactician, he was also a military theorist, organizational reformer, strategic thinker, operational-level combat commander, political-military leader, heroic soldier, and revolutionary. The inventor of insurgency warfare and history’s first successful practitioner, Muhammad had no military training before he commanded an army in the field.


    Muhammad’s intelligence service eventually rivaled that of Byzantium and Persia, especially when it came to political information. He reportedly spent hours devising tactical and political stratagems, and once remarked that “all war is cunning,” reminding modern analysts of Sun Tzu’s dictum, “all war is deception.” In his thinking and application of force Muhammad was a combination of Karl von Clause­witz and Niccolo Machiavelli, for he always employed force in the service of political goals. An astute grand strategist, he used non­mili­tary methods (alliance building, politi­cal assassination, bribery, religious appeals, mercy, and calculated butchery) to strengthen his long-term position, sometimes even at the expense of short-term military considerations.


    Muhammad’s belief in Islam and his own role as the “Messenger of God” revolutionized Arabian warfare and resulted in the creation of the ancient world’s first army motivated by a coherent system of ideological belief. The ideology of holy war (jihad) and martyrdom (shahada) for the faith was transmitted to the West during the wars between Muslims and Christians in Spain and France, where it changed traditional Christian pacifistic thinking on war, brought into being a coterie of Christian warrior saints, and provided the Catho­lic Church with its ideological justification for the Crusades. Ideology—whether religious or secular—has remained a primary component of military ventures ever since.

Nobody For President's picture

tried to upvote you Tarzan, would not work

Worked for the next upvote.  WTF?

August's picture

If the first line is italicied, voting is disabled.

Tarzan's picture

funny, because your comment in italics was up voted 7 times so far....

No worries, If I were looking for up votes on ZH I wouldn't be posting the Truth about Muhammad and his bloody religion or the Bigotry that is so often on display.

Tarzan's picture

censorship on ZeroHedge?  Say it aint so....

Debt-Is-Not-Money's picture

It's not Muslim or government - it's BOTH!

Tarshatha's picture

"we don't need their stinkin' oil any more"

We never did, we need their geography to further Israel's interests.

trader1's picture

stop conflating "need" with "desire"


Manthong's picture

Your comment should be well considered but I might suggest that in the case of psychopaths, it is indeed a need.

trader1's picture

psychopaths don't need oil?

Manthong's picture

actually they do not.

all they need is a seemingly compelling enough narrative to suck ignorant sheep into..

kind of like cflimate change.

hey asshats.. explain the massive Antarctic ice accretion. 


JRobby's picture

"has gone full retard"

has gone?

robertsgt40's picture

I can see why the Saudis are on the UN human rights committee.  They have firsthand experience.

ratso's picture

Trump say "I LOVE the Saudi Royal family."  I can make deals with them,

Takeaction2's picture

Trump understands Obama is from Kenya
He understands 911 was an inside job...

He gets it .....

He will have to deal with all of these fuckers...the right way.

Are you voting Hillary? 

strannick's picture

Livin the ISIS dream!

Beards. Screaming. Anger abd self righteousness. 

Unless your part of the Saudi royal family. Then it's la solve vita in London.

DeadFred's picture

I won't vote for either strawman, er, strawperson

Manthong's picture

Aw c'mon.. your vote could be like one fifty millionths of a hand grenade.

Have some fun.. pull the pin.

Nobody For President's picture

Ahem. Hey Dead, there IS a candidate for you. ahem.

MarkAntony's picture

Trump is an idiot with lost of money (inherited) and high powered attorneys. So far into Trumps campaign, I haven't heard a single logical answer or any coherent plans to fix this country. A true "populist" spewing out popular garbage from his mouth at every opportune moment. All that being said, he's most likely the only right choice for presidency to change the status quo...  

chunga's picture
Trump in 2008: Hillary Clinton would make a "great" president

"Hillary is smart, tough and a very nice person, so is her husband. Bill Clinton was a great president. They are fine people.

OregonGrown's picture

...... that was well before the shitstains she left at the Secretary of State office!

chunga's picture

Retarded voters will just never learn. The Clintons have been involved in non-stop scandals for moar than 40 years. If Trump wasn't a fraud with his "make 'murika great" pitch he wouldn't have joined the red/blue farce.

Son of Loki's picture

" ... makes the kingdom [of Saudi Arabai] the number one state sponsor of terror ..."


Maybe, but the recent Saudi Gallup poll shows Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud as "the most admired person" in SA.


... mmmm


Odd, ain't it, the way people think.

strannick's picture

or odder still the way corrupt, fearful partial pollsters poll.