Iran in Iraq and Syria: an Unexpected Criticism………

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Happy gobblegobble, Charlie Brown……

Arab media are reporting an interesting development about Iranian relations with Iraq and Syria. They are reporting that a counselor in the Iranian foreign ministry has publicly (sort of publicly, allegedly to a minor media outlet) criticized former Iraqi PM Al Maliki and Syrian president Bashar Al Assad for the worsening mess in their countries. He reportedly blames Al Maliki for aiding the growth of ISIS (DAESH) and blames Al Assad for the worsening bloodshed. I am not sure if the media are quoting him correctly since I have not yet seen his original comments. Al Maliki is now a vice president of Iraq, and Al Assad is still the president of Syria (most of it, anyway).

This could hint at a significant Iranian policy shift or it could be just a personal comment that will then have to be refuted by other officials. But it is almost certainly credible. Time will tell, and soon.

He is also reported by Iranian sources as saying that ISIS (they call it by the Arabic acronym: DAESH) will weaken but will not vanish.

P.S.: (I have always believed and written that the original Syrian uprising went Jihadist as soon as the Islamists of the Gulf states started to send money, weapons, and Wahhabi volunteers. With the blessings of Turkish Caliph Erdogan the First. As for Iraq, deepening internal sectarianism, corrupt domestic politics, and foreign Arab meddling worsened a situation that had emerged after the first post-invasion elections.)
Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

Nuclear Delay in Vienna: Read My Lips, No New Sanctions……….

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Happy gobblegobble, Charlie Brown……

Read My Lips, No New Sanctions…………” Rouhani? Khamenei? Me?

So, it is to be more jaw-jaw and no new sanctions. Remember that war that was among the options of the mantra of “all options are on the table“? It never was, not seriously.

As it happened, the deadline was extended until next July. That is not necessarily good, especially since Benyamin Netnayahu welcomed it as he waits for the newly-elected U.S. Knesset Congress in January to screw things up. But it is better than posturing and making noises about an unlikely war that few outside Israel and a couple of absolute Arab monarchies and the Islamic Caliphate of ISIS want.

The downside of all that is that we will have to hear more weekly (even daily) whining from Mr. Netanyahu about the imminence of an Iranian nuclear bomb. The one he and some American war pedlars have been predicting for twenty years. An alleged bomb which apparently can destroy only the Jewish people in Tel Aviv and the settlements but miraculously spare all those Muslims/Christians and Holy places in Jerusalem or Nazareth or Hebron.

There is a world dichotomy about these serious but not-very-credible claims. American media usually eats up whatever he dishes out, been doing it for twenty years. After all, he is a celebrity (as in Bibi!). European media is mostly skeptical about him, to put it nicely and politely. Muslim and Arab public opinion is overwhelmingly hostile to whatever he claims, with the exception of some pockets in and around the Persian Gulf royal palaces and possibly the harem rooms of the Wahhabi Caliphate of ISIS.

The game of chess goes on. The coming year should be interesting times, as some Chinese are alleged to have said. And not only in Washington………
Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

Nuclear Iran: Israeli-Western Narrative and the Khamenei Narrative……..

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“Such a compromise would fall well short of the maximalist demands of Iranian hardliners, including the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who continue to believe that Iran should have a nuclear-weapons option, if not the bomb itself. It would also provoke outrage among sceptical members of America’s Congress and Israel’s prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, who insist that Iran’s record of cheating means it should have no enrichment programme at all. But that is the nature of compromises; neither side will get all it seeks……………”

The Economist narrative seems to have been taken straight from the mouth of Benyamin Netanyahu. Yet how do they presume to know the mind of Khamenei? To know what Khamenei thinks? They seem to quote him without actually quoting him: a neat journalistic trick (we bloggers also use it). Let us see what Khamenei has said publicly on Twitter (and let’s assume that he means it):
@khamenei_ir:
“Iran considers the use of WMDs as an unforgivable sin. Nuclear energy for all and nukes for none”
“We consider the use of WMDs as Haraam; we believe that it is everyone’s duty to secure humanity against this great evil.”  4/17/2010
“Islamic Republic of Iran considers the use of nuclear, chemical and similar weapons as a great and unforgivable sin.” 8/30/12
“Iranian nation is a victim of the use of CWs. That is why Iran is ready to counter WMDs by all its means. ” 

All sides in this argument dissemble (lie) about the nuclear issue. We know for certain that Mr. Netanyahu dissembles (okay, lies) regularly, almost everybody knows that. For twenty years he has been predicting an Iranian breakthrough to “the bomb” within ‘six months or a year’. He has slowed down now, for he used to do his predictions almost every two weeks. The West also dissembles in its claim that its focus is solely on the Iranian nuclear program. We know that is not true: there are regional strategic factors involved that have pushed the economic blockade, especially for the U.S. administrations. And not just the Israeli position or the pressures for war from some Arab princes and potentates (check Wikileaks cables).

As for Iranian officials, some of them would like to have “the bomb” and to have an excuse to clamp down even more on dissent and to block potential Western cultural influences. Toward that target they would be happy to scuttle the talks. As would many politicians in the United States and most if not all of the political and media elites in Israel.
Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

Jordan and UAE: Humorless Sisterly Blackmail and Crackdown on Free Speech……….

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“The Jordanian authorities have arrested a senior leader of the Muslim Brotherhood for criticizing the United Arab Emirates, the spokesman for the Brotherhood’s political wing said Friday………… Mr. Bani Rushaid accused the Emirates of sponsoring terrorism and questioned the legitimacy of its rulers…………”

Jordan is well known by now as not a very humorous country. The United Arab Emirates has been below the radar on this issue. Now the ruling brothers who own Abu Dhabi and rule the UAE have finally ‘come out’. They want their strange country not only to remain politically humorless, but they aspire to make it even less humorous, along the Jordanian model. Now that is understandable, since some 90% of the population are temporary imported foreign labor who probably don’t find much humor in their situation nor in dangerous local politics.

So the Jordanians have no doubt given in to some serious sisterly blackmail from the equally humorless potentates of the UAE. It would be costly not to give in, especially on the even of the next Gulf GCC summit.
Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

GCC and Distant Kingdoms: from Promised Membership to Strategic Partnership to LOL……..

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The GCC leaders have apparently kissed (literally) and made out up. Qatar and its Saudi and Emirati (UAE) unbrotherly sisters have decided to sweep some of their serious foreign policy differences under the rug, for the time being.

On a less serious note: there are reports that the next GCC summit in December (Doha, Qatar) will discuss something they now call “strategic partnership” with the kingdoms of Jordan and Morocco. Apparently the summit will finally be held in Qatar, as originally scheduled. That is the plan for now, until the Saudi princes and Abu Dhabi shaikhs decide otherwise in a new fit of tantrums against the brotherly Al Thani.

Remember when the Saudi king surprised everyone by inviting Jordan and Morocco to “join” the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) in 2011? That also surprised other GCC leaders who started wondering privately what the king had been smoking. But they went along with the idea anyway, perhaps knowing that, as I opined later, it was D.O.A. I opined succinctly at the time that “it ain’t gonna happen“, which almost certainly is what all the other potentates thought, although they would not express it so eloquently.

Later I wrote that they will find some limited alternative to membership for these two relatively faraway countries. And voila! But I will tell you there will be no real ‘strategic partnership’ as such either. There will be some mechanism to increase GCC aid to humorless Jordan and mellow Morocco, and perhaps some increased cooperation in “security” matters. Jordan already cooperates quite extensively in “security” and matters of repression, sending thousand of mercenaries and goons and “humorless interrogators” to Bahrain and the UAE.

As for Morocco, it is the last remaining Arab monarchy west of Jordan. It has become the favorite hangout (outside Europe) and hunting ground (you interpret that) for Saudi princes and other Gulf potentates. But it does not follow the Saudi and UAE absolute tribal family model: it has elections. Which may complicate any ‘partnership’ with these families.

So, what the summit will do is to authorize the GCC bureaucracy to ‘study’ this idea of a ‘strategic partnership’ that has been borrowed from the West. It does sound impressive and thoughtful, and that is probably about it in this case. Then they will form a committee of ‘experts’……………..
Then it might be just more LOL……….

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

Petroleum Safaris: from South Asia to Africa to Yellowstone………..

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“You only hear stories of Saudi hunters camped out in the wilderness, having brought the entire infrastructure and staff of the hunt with them, including cooks, food, beaters and handlers. They shoot desert species of gazelle, oryx and Nubian ibex, and take them home as trophies. There are reports that sometimes they don’t even bother to fly through Khartoum airport, choosing instead to construct makeshift landing strips in the middle of the wilderness that are dismantled after they depart, sometimes apparently in massive military C-130 planes. While some of the more outlandish stories of playground hunting might be apocryphal, the latest reports from Tanzania are not. In one of the most dramatic cases of large-scale hunting in Africa by Gulf tourists, the Tanzanian government has reneged on a promise not to dedicate 1,500 sq km of Masai land to a Dubai company that arranges hunting trips for members of the Dubai royal family………..”

These potentates care about the environment and African tribal rights about as much as a majority of the U.S. Senate and Congress. But these Petroleum Safaris go on in South Asia (Pakistan) and North Africa as well.
I doubt that the princes and potentates will ever be able to bribe their way into a place like, say, Yellowstone. Or can they? It is scarey what can be bought these days. Just imagine Old Faithful renamed Shaikh Zayed Fountain, or New Burj Khalifa.

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

White Noise: ISIS Caliphate Beginning to Lose It? A Pivot to Elsewhere………..

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“After a week in which Islamic state (Isis) has suffered a wave of setbacks, it is determined to show that it plays a long game. On all of its active fronts, things have not been going well for the terror group. Iraq has been a particular problem: Isis appears to have lost control of one of its prized possessions, the Baiji oil refinery, following a push by Shia militias and the Iraqi military…………….”

I opined from the beginning of this Caliphate affair months ago that this Western media panic about ISIS taking Baghdad was just ‘white noise‘ (no pun intended). That they will be pushed back, eventually. But wars like this one in Iraq and Syria seesaw until a clear trend develops. Is this a sign of a clear trend? It is a trend, for now.

Other Arab media, mainly Lebanese, and a few Western outlets, have claimed that Iraqi forces and militias, reportedly advised by Iranian Brigadier General Qassem Suleimani, have pushed ISIS out of several conquered towns (possibly with Western air support?). Western media prefer to say that the bombings from the air have helped turn the tide. I suspect it is a combination of both: Western bombs from the air and Iraqi (and Syrian) boots on the ground.

P.S: Is it too much to ask that this be the last Western military campaign over any Muslim (or Arab) country? That this habit of the past couple of decades of maintaining open-ended ‘open season’ on Muslim lands be broken? That maybe perhaps hopefully the liberators take a Muslim hiatus and seek other targets? Just for variety? Some other ‘new’ target outside the Middle East might ease the possible withdrawal symptoms. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a pivot to Burma or even Myanmar.

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

The Most Recent GCC Drama Swept Under: Sugar and Spice and Dancing Goatees………

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It seems that the most recent Gulf GCC dust-up has been settled, for now. The Persian Gulf media, official and unofficial versions, are gushing orgasmic with all the talk of sweetness and sisterly states and brotherly love. Something they usually do publicly even as the knives are being sharpened. Enough to make me look around for a barf bag.

This means the absolute tribal ruling oligarchs of Saudi Arabia and the UAE (Bahrain’s rulers act as a Saudi appendage and don’t count) have reached a deal with the errant wayward Wahhabis of Qatar. Sugar was oozing through the grease at the little summit in Riyadh yesterday. The goatees were practically dancing, mainly for the benefit of the media and the saps watching it on television at home.

No doubt a temporary deal which, like previous temporary deals, will last as long as it is not seriously tested. We have seen this drama film before. Enforced hegemony and conformity never last, which means these most boring potentates of the GCC will have some more drama to share with us in the future. Get the popcorn ready,

And don’t forget a new bag……….
Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

The ISIS Plot? What about the ISIS Plot? ………..

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Speaking of ISIS and the blame for its resurgence last summer. Other Middle East media have claimed that the whole ISIS surge was engineered by the Americans in order to get their forces back into Iraq through the window, after being forced to leave through the door in 2011. This recent piece here is one example. All this was supposedly done with Saudi help among some Al Anbar tribes that sided with the terrorists. The alleged goal of the plot is to reduce Iranian (and Shi’a) influence in Baghdad and increase Saudi (and Wahhabi) influence in Iraq and Syria, to start with. Thus alter the strategic balance in the Eastern Mediterranean, something Israel and the Al Saud have failed to do after years of trying. Many more Arabs believe this theory than we hear or read about in the media.

I am not normally a conspiracy theory advocate, but I did dabble in the topic. I did speculate along these lines somewhere last summer. Either in a post or on Twitter, I forget. I noted the timing during a period of government change in Iraq. It sounds plausible although farfetched, given the polluted poisoned Washington air. Possible if not necessarily probable, but it is too simplistic: it assumes the other side will not counteract.
Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

ISIS Economics: Islamist Money with Ancient Heathen Names, Shekel 3.0………

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“Islamic State says its leader has ordered that the organisation start minting gold, silver and copper coins for its own currency, the Islamic dinar. A website affiliated with the militant group said late on Thursday that its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, had instructed his followers to start minting the coins to “change the tyrannical monetary system” modelled on western economies that had “enslaved Muslims”. The posting says the order was approved by the group’s shura council, an advisory board………….”


A state is not a state without some monetary unit that acts as a medium of exchange and a store of value (this last one is not completely a joke now). Even a Caliphate needs currency. Even an ersatz Caliphate like the Wahhabi one that has sprouted up for now in Iraq and Syria. So they try to go back in history and pick currency names that are supposed to be “Islamic”. But they are not Islamic. The early Muslims just used the ancient names available from heathen countries.

The Jihadis of this Mosul Caliphate don’t realize, or maybe they choose to ignore, that their minted currency carries coin names from ancient heathen societies. Mainly ancient Rome and Greece and Spain:

  • Dinar: Denarius (plural: Denarii) was the currency of Roman Republic from long before Christ, long before Caesar.
  • Dirham: Drachma (Draxma) was the currency of Greece before the Euro. It was the Greek currency in ancient times as well.
  • Riyal or Rial is almost certainly derived from Spanish ‘Real” meaning Royal. the “Real” was also the old Spanish currency. Of course the Iranian base currency is also the Rial, but I’m not suggesting a currency union with the mullahs.
  • As for the “fils“, I have no idea WTF it derives from. Maybe from the Arabic word Muflis, meaning broke or bankrupt. Which would be appropriate for this word.
  • At one time not so long ago the Gulf countries used the Indian Rupee as their currency. After Indian independence, a special Gulf Rupee was issued in India just for the Persian Gulf states.

How about picking something from the Old Testament, which Islam agrees with on most things? How about the Shekel? I once suggested in one of my older posts to the GCC they might consider the Shekel (they can call it Shekel 3.0). That was when they were seriously talking about a currency union. It is unlikely to happen now (the union not just the Shekel adoption).
Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

Multidisciplinary: Middle East, North Africa, Gulf, GCC, World, Cosmos…..