Yemeni Elections and Swiss Cheese from North Korea……..

_9OJik4N_normal Sharqeya-Baneen-15    DennyCreek2

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Speaking of Houthis and Yemen (my last post): In 2012 General Hadi won the presidential election arranged and supervised by the freely-elected Saudi princes and UAE Emirati rulers. He won by 99.8% of the vote: my Sana’a source reports that the other 0.2% voted for Minnie Mouse (she seemed serious). She also claims Kim Jong-Un called Hadi immediately after the election results came out to ask how he did it, speaking technically not politically. He reportedly offered to send Hadi a huge box of his favorite snack: Swiss Emmental cheese in exchange.

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

A Western Addiction to Sanctions? SWIFT-ing the Houthis of Yemen………

_9OJik4N_normal Sharqeya-Baneen-15    DennyCreek2

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“Every object in a state of uniform motion tends to remain in that state of motion unless an external force is applied to it…….” Newton’s First Law of Motion (one version)

“Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Wednesday accused the United States of being “obsessed” with sanctions against his country, on the eve of new bilateral talks on a nuclear deal……….”

Apparently imposing these financial sanctions (actually blockades) can become addictive. Anyone who does not know any better, and that probably includes me, might think that the Obama administration has become addicted to inflicting sanctions on other nations and entities and corporations and whatever and whoever catches its fancy in the wrong way. The U.S. Congress is an even more avid imposer of these sanctions, it leads the way: its hawkish threats scare and force the administration to be “proactive” in these matters.

Governments and despots (only a few of them) and peoples and groups and parties and unions and gangs and possibly bad musicians, probably even alumni associations are targeted. From East Asia through Russia and Iran and Lebanon and Syria and Africa and into the threatening little superpower of Cuba, after passing through the mighty empire of Venezuela. Even as the Iran+P5+1 talks were resuming this summer, some evil genius somewhere in Washington was churning out new plans for tightening the screws on the Iranians. Just to keep the mullahs on their toes, or maybe just to let the hotheads in Congress and Knesset know that they have nothing to worry about.

Yesterday, reports came out that the US (and possibly other Western powers) are considering imposing sanctions against the Houthis of Yemen. The Houthis? They are one of the many tribal/political/ethnic/religious factions that dot the Yemeni landscape. But they have nothing to do with Al Qaeda or any other Wahhabi terrorist groups: in fact they are their enemies. They have no goals beyond their own region of Yemen, so what would they be sanctioned for? Sanctioned for daring to protest against their fundamentalist military government and marching on the capital Sana’a. I would have thought the Western powers had their hands full trying to drone the Saudi-Yemeni Al-Qaeda (AQAP) out of existence (often taking a passel of innocent Yemeni civilians along as collateral damage). Or maybe someone in Washington got a persuasive call from someone with a golden telephone in Riyadh or Abu Dhabi.

Anyway, it is not clear how financial sanctions can affect the Houthis of the rugged territory of northern Yemen. As I recall from my past days of extensive travel, the economies of some remote regions are not very monetized, unlike Washington DC (not so many lobbyists with a lot of money hanging around Sanaa or Ouagadougou). These fellows are not known to fly to Las Vegas or Nice or even Dubai, or to own foreign property. Unlike the petroleum princes and potentates, they do not even frequent the diversion-filled joints of Beirut or Cairo or Bangkok. Unlike the Saudi princes, they never fly into the sin-filled cities of Morocco. So, they don’t have as much need for access to foreign exchange, be it dollars or euros or riyals.

Personally, sometimes I think they impose some of the sanctions jut because they can. The mechanisms and the people are in place, so there is some bureaucratic inertia involved, unless acted upon by an external force, as Isaac Newton taught us so long ago. There are no other world currencies that compete with the dollar, and no institution that can compete with SWIFT. SWIFTing a country or an organization is easy. But the Houthis?

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

Where is Caliph Al Baghdadi? the Road to Manhattan………

_9OJik4N_normal Sharqeya-Baneen-15    DennyCreek2

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“Put yourself in the shoes (and sixth-century black robes) of ISIS’ Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the mysterious boss of the terror group that is striking fear into the hearts of leaders around the world………. Baghdadi, his Cabinet advisers and his two key deputies comprise the executive branch of the government, known as “Al Imara.” The two deputies — Abu Ali al-Anbari and Abu Muslim al-Turkmani, veteran Iraqi military officials who served under Saddam Hussein — to oversee Syria and Iraq………..”

This Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, reportedly Ibrahim al-Samarrai, is a curious character, as far as Wahhabi terrorist mass murderers go. We have had only one public sighting of him, with a Hollywood-style setting and Ben Hur attire. Allah be praised, as old Hollywood films claim we always say. That was when he gave us the good news and glad tidings that, yes, he has decided to declare himself the latest Caliph, the latest Khalifa successor of the Prophet Mohammed. Ruler of the Umma (that would not be all of us, only those willing to convert to the joys of Wahhabism).

What is interesting now is that he seems to have joined Waldo in an undisclosed location. There has been no news from or about him. There is no personality cult around him. No hint of it after that inaugural appearance, not yet. A personality cult is the first thing a new Arab regime usually starts with. But that is probably related to the religious nature of this movement and this temporary “state”. Even Osama Bin Laden had more of a personality cult in the Western media than he did among Sunni Muslims or even among many fellow Wahhabi Muslims (no need to explain what Shi’as and others thought of him).
Could be that power among the leadership of ISIS is more dispersed and less concentrated, more by consensus, than is common in our region. That could be a deliberate attempt to imitate the very first four Caliphs of Islam, from Abu Bakr through Ali. After that came the Umayyads and the Islamic State became a hereditary monarchy. Or could be that this Caliph is just trying hard to avoid the same fate as the humorless Jordanian terrorist Abu Mus’eb Al Zarqawi and Osama Bin Laden and a few others.

No news yet on whether Caliph Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi plans to attend the coming session of the United Nations General Assembly. It would be fun if the president of Columbia University invites him to be grilled or roasted on campus, as he did for Ahmadinejad a few years ago. Perhaps he will send Izzat Ibrahim al Douri (Abu Baath), Saddam’s surviving albino deputy.

Legend has it that al Samarrai has,  in the past, promised to get to New York,  to get New York. I strongly suspect and hope, however, that New York will get to him, will get him, first.

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

Myth of Arab Forces in Iraq and Syria: Organizing a Piss-Up in a Brewery………

_9OJik4N_normal Sharqeya-Baneen-15    DennyCreek2

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There has been a lot of talk lately about non-American boots on the ground in Iraq and Syria. Some of the senators during the Armed Forces Committee hearings earlier today, as well as on the media, have been mentioning “Arab forces” that would augment Iraqi forces and Syrian Wahhabi opposition forces.

I got some news for these senators and pundits. If the Iraqi people objected to extended American military presence in their country beyond 2011, do you really believe they would welcome suspected outside Arab forces? This is the age of sectarianism, initially packaged and promoted by several Arab regimes (and I don’t men Iraq and Syria here) as a divide-and-rule strategy. Wahhabi forces from sparsely-populated Saudi Arabia and UAE and Qatar and possibly politically Wahhabi-ized forces from Egypt? Given their history in Iraq and the grief they have caused the people over there with their export of terrorists and weapons and money? Not to mention these regimes’ historical disrespect for the Shi’a (Shi’ite) holy shrines. (Wahhabis have raided Karbala and Najaf in past centuries with the aim of destroying the shrines).

I got some more news for the same senators and pundits. The same objections apply to Syria. Can you imagine the Saudi army and the UAE and Qatari hired-mercenary armies facing the Syrian army and its Hezbollah allies (and possibly other violent allies)? Not to mention facing their own hardened fellow Wahhabi Jihadis who have moved to the dark side with ISIS and Al-Qaeda.

Besides, my rule of thumb of war is against it: you can’t expect them to face these battle-toughened forces if they can’t even organize, militarily, a proverbial “piss-up in a brewery“. And we know these princes and potentates can’t organize that proverbial “piss up in a brewery“. Speaking militarily for now.

This myth of Arab forces inside Iraq and Syria needs to be put to rest. The whole idea is not even DOA: it is dead from before its ill-advised inception.

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

Power of Economic Assumption: How to Defeat ISIS with Gulf Princes and Iranian Mullahs……..

_9OJik4N_normal Sharqeya-Baneen-15    DennyCreek2

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“Iran’s supreme leader said on Monday he had personally rejected an offer from the United States for talks to fight Islamic State, an apparent blow to Washington’s efforts to build a military coalition to fight militants in both Iraq and Syria. World powers meeting in Paris on Monday gave public backing to military action to fight Islamic State fighters in Iraq. France sent jets on a reconnaissance mission to Iraq, a step towards becoming the first ally to join the U.S.-led air campaign there. But Iran, the principal ally of Islamic State’s main foes in both Iraq and Syria, was not invited to the Paris meeting…………..”

Mr. Kerry said only last weekend that having Iran attend the Paris meeting on confronting the murderous Caliphate of ISIS was “inappropriate”. Iranian officials were reported in the media as wanting to attend, and the French seemed amenable. Mr. Kerry vetoed Iranian attendance in Paris last week mainly because two of the main sources and financers of ISIS and other Wahhabi terrorist groups, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, reportedly objected and exercised their monetary veto.

Now Mr. Kerry wants to have Iran participate in the deliberations, but “unofficially”. He wants them to be part of the anti-Caliphate dialog, but not in the open, just behind the scenes. That is mainly because he tested the Arab waters in Paris and realized that the current Middle East equivalent of Rhett Butler was also needed for this new version of GWTW. To use a crude and possibly immoral but nevertheless succinct example: he is sort of like seeking the Saudi princes and Emirati shaikhs as legal (but polygamous) wives and courting the Iranian mullahs only as potential mistresses. As usual it will be American resources and pilots (and others) bearing the brunt, not Europeans who are the nearest target of the terrorists. Maybe with some Arab monetary support. Maybe.

So, what to do? This is the easy part: as I learned in economics, we use the power of ‘assumptions’. We make assumptions that fit our conditions and our needs: in this case we make assumptions about the Syrian opposition groups. Many in the U.S. administrations are already making certain correct assumptions. The mythical moderate Syrian opposition, those that live on the Turkish border or in Rive Gauche apartments and Persian Gulf five-star hotels. They, with the cooperation of the absolute Wahhabi tribal princes, can do the job and bring democracy and cultural tolerance to a once-very-tolerant Syria. Or, we can start by assuming that for now.
Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

Mulling ISIS Supply Routes and Friedman’s Arab Taxis on a Pacific Northwest Trail………

_9OJik4N_normal Sharqeya-Baneen-15    DennyCreek2

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I though I’d write a Friedman-esque (as in Thomas not Milton) post today. I am not starting it upon arrival at some Arab airport and a ride into town in a taxi driven by Abdu (in Cairo) or Abed (in Beirut) or Abul-Abed (in Amman). Funny, when Friedman goes to Beijing, the inscrutable Chinese taxi drivers (Abu Wong, et al) never share their local wisdom with him. Only Arabs do: blab and share their apparent wisdom with Western journalists.

No, I was thinking about that yesterday, Saturday. As we biked the twenty mile round trip along the Sammamish River Trail, past a couple of vintners joints and at least one hbrewery, towards the Burke-Gilman Trail. On an unusually cloudless warm morning of the Pacific Northwest. Here goes: 

I saw a retired general (USMC) state that ISIS controls the upper rivers (Euphrates and Tigris) and roads from Syria to resupply their forces in Iraq. Which made me wonder, as I pedaled along that peaceful bike trail:

  • Where do ISIS get these supplies and volunteers from Syria (as the general said)?  Why is Syria their main supply route into Iraq? And from where and how do these weapons and the money and volunteers flow into Syria then into Iraq? And how would increasing the supply of weapons to the useless Syrian opposition groups affect the flow of weapons to the ISIS Caliphate? Should we ask Turkey or Saudi Arabia or Qatar or Jordan about this? They certainly don’t flow from Cyprus (no, Israel is also an unlikely source).
  • From which Syrian (FSA, Ansar-Al-WTF, etc, etc) “relatively moderate” opposition groups and gangs did ISIS purchase some of these Western hostages (journalists and aid workers) that were so horribly beheaded on camera? And they were no doubt purchased from some of the other would-be liberators of Syria.

Before I had finished, er, mulling this last question, it was time for us to hydrate and turn around. Sort of like what happens when Thomas Friedman’s Arab taxi, driven by Abdu (in Cairo) or Abed (in Beirut) or Abul-Abed (in Amman), or Abu-Wong (in Beijing) drives up to the hotel entrance. Before he finishes sharing his strategic and cultural gems with us.
Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

John Kerry’s Folly? Only Creators and Enablers of Al-Qaeda and ISIS can Attend Paris Meeting……….

_9OJik4N_normal Sharqeya-Baneen-15    DennyCreek2

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“US Secretary of State John Kerry said Friday his country was opposed to Iran’s participation at an international conference in Paris on Monday on Iraq, which is grappling with an offensive by Islamist militants. “No one has called me and asked me with respect to the presence of Iran, but I think under the circumstances at this moment in time… it would not be appropriate given the many other issues… with respect to their engagement in Syria and elsewhere,” Kerry told a press conference in Istanbul…………”

Mr. Kerry claimed that: “No one has called me and asked me with respect to the presence of Iran“. No one? Not a single European? If you can believe that, then I have a bridge that spans the Atlantic Ocean for sale at a discount (it crosses from Nigeria westward). Interested?
Of course he can rely on a technicality here: no one “called” him on the phone, but only because they were with him at the meetings.
Mr. Kerry also said it is not “appropriate” for Iran to attend the Paris meeting on ISIS. Yet it is quite appropriate for those who have created, financed, and sent volunteers to Al-Qaeda and ISIS to attend the meetings. And it is appropriate for Turkey, which for three years has had its borders open for any Jihadist who wanted to enter Syria (and hence Iraq). It is also appropriate for the Europeans who have probably sent thousands of killers to join ISIS.

The same was true of the Jeddah meeting this week: only countries that are suspected of enabling and financing and manning ISIS and Al Qaeda affiliates in Syria and Iraq were allowed to attend (Saudi Arabia, UAE, Turkey, a gaggle of other Arab states). Some reports mentioned that French officials had stated they were thinking of inviting Iran. Other reports also noted the Saudi princes and their sidekicks strongly opposed Iranian participation.

In any case, refusing participation, or input, from the two most important regional countries with respect to ISIS/ISIl is foolhardy. It is like tying one hand behind your back before a fight. It also might piss the hell out of the Iranians who just might, just might decide not to fully cooperate. After all, they did cooperate in the Afghanistan operation after 9/11 and were rewarded by the “Axis of Evil” nonsense. Ditto for the millions of Syrians who might not like Mr. Al Assad but are not looking forward to the joys of a Saudi-style Wahhabi government.

All this could doom the efforts of the new coalition even before it begins.
Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

What’s in a Name? the Jihadi Invasion of American Politics and Media……..

_9OJik4N_normal Sharqeya-Baneen-15    DennyCreek2

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Americans are learning a whole new type of names, or noms de guerre. While the earlier PLO and Fatah celebrities like Arafat (Abu Ammar) and his pals made the “Abu” a familiar term to some Westerner media types, they were few and far between. That is because the honorific Abu is socially mostly common in the Arabian Peninsula and the Gulf, as well as Iraq and parts of Jordan and Syria. In our region (that I mentioned), almost everybody who is adult male is Abu somebody or something, even if he is not really Abu anybody or anything biologically.
ISIS leaders and fighters apparently have adopted this naming system, an imitation of the very early Muslims from the Hijaz part of the Peninsula many of whom often went by such names. Here are some real and suggested such noms de guerre for the IS denizens, announced and unannounced:

Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi
Abu Khalid Al Canadi
Abu Bieber Al Canadi
Abu London Al Crazy
Abu Qutada Al Polygami
Abu Goatee Al Horni
Abu Al ‘Alaa Al Mo’arri
Abdul Salam Al Nabulsi
Abu Brood Al Saudi
Abu Al-Saud Al Abiari
Abu Jumbaz Al Aflangi
Abu Sisi Al Masri
Abu Assad Al Souri
Abu Zayed Al Dhabiani
Abu Muslim Al Khorasani Al Wahhabi
Abu Thani Al Qatari
Abu Turkey Al Saudi
Abu Prince Al Harami
Abu Izzat Al Douri

Americans celebrities who might consider adopting some Jihadi noms de guerre and the most likely acquisition:

Abu Bama Al Hawaii
Abu Bo Al Amriki
Abu Biden Al Delawari
Abu Nancy Al Pelosi
Abu Kerry Al Bostoni
Abu Hegel Al Nebraski
Abu Clinton Al Chapaqui
Abu Petraeus Al Spooki
Abu Mitch Al Kentucki
Abu Badhair Al Trumpi
Abu Sarah Al Alaski Al Wasilli
Abu Kim Al Kardashi

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

ISIS and the Arabs: a Standing Joke of a League…….

_9OJik4N_normal Sharqeya-Baneen-15    DennyCreek2

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Back to my last post about President Obama’s ISIS speech:
One or two of the experts, in their post-speech comments, lamely suggested the Arab League, a useless gathering of mostly dictators and absolute tribal kings with little moral standing. It is now dominated by the same princes and potentates who spawned and nurtured groups like Al-Qaeda and ISIS and their ilk.

Among many ordinary Arabs, the only standing the Arab League bureaucracy has is as a standing joke. A place to bury aging senior Arab (especially Egyptian) bureaucrats before they die. Only Western, specifically American politicians and pundits would suggest the Arab League as a mover and shaker, and with a straight face. But that is probably only because it can be useful to them as a fig leaf.

Don’t get me wrong, the idea of an Arab League can eventually be a good one, nay a necessary one. But that can be only after all member states hold free and unfettered elections. You figure out the timetable.

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

Obama’s Slow ISIS War: an Obligatory Coalition of the Usual Suspects……..

_9OJik4N_normal Sharqeya-Baneen-15    DennyCreek2

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I watched Mr. Obama’s speech on dealing with the Islamic State of ISIS (he calls it ISIL). I thought he was smart enough to leave the details vague, no “mission accomplished” and no details of any incursion into Syria. He even seemed to push forward into the future any possibility of arming the fractured disintegrating border groups that call themselves the Free Syrian Salafi Army. He promised some help for ‘some’ of them, probably to preempt the usual expected heckling noises from Senators McCain and Graham. And to keep the Arab princes and potentates content. He also mentioned the obligatory international ‘coalition’ of the usual suspects.

What was shocking to me was the number of American pundits and opinion-ators, including some generals and former officials who should know better, who suggested that foreign “Sunni Arab” forces be used in Iraq and Syria. But Iraq and Syria are already full of armed foreign “Wahhabi Arabs” and “Wahhabi Europeans” seeking to liberate them from all non-Wahhabis for the Caliphate. These liberators either came from or were armed or financed by the elites of the same “Arab forces” these experts now want to send into Iraq and Syria. Not one of them bothered to suggest seeking approval of the Iraqi and Syrian peoples or governments. We should not overlook that these two governments, with all their shortcomings, are at least as representative as the Saudi and Qatari governments. At least.

Arab forces? What Arab forces? A couple of experts mentioned specifically Saudi and United Arab Emirates (UAE) forces. WTF? The UAE apparently does not have enough citizens (barely 10% of the population) to police its own streets, let alone face the fierce Jihadi terrorists. The Saudis are reportedly periodically negotiating with Pakistan, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Egypt for military and security help if and when needed.
And why would Iraq and Syria allow these tribal ruling families to send more of their mercenary forces inside their countries? Even as their Wahhabi ideology and money and weapons and volunteers are wreaking havoc in both countries with kidnappings and bombings and massacres. And why would these same Arab rulers send their hapless troops to be sitting ducks, picked off by all sides of these conflicts?
Which confirmed to me that Mr. Obama is smarter than most leaders of his own party and the opposition party. Which makes sense, otherwise he would not be speaking to them from the other side of the television cameras and microphones.

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

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