A Tour of Middle East Media………..

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KuwaitCox2 ا

Here is a summary of what Middle East media seem to focus on in recent days (besides ISIS cutthroats and daily terrorism):

  • Saudi media and its reporters and columnists always write and say: (1) how bad and dangerous Iranian policy is; (2) how wise are the policies of the Saudi King and his son and crown prince; (3) how they seek to liberate Syria, Yemen, and Iraq for freedom, democracy, and the American Way of Life; (4) how the whole world is grateful for the polygamous wisdom of the princes.
  • Iranian media much of the time report: (1) how bad and dangerous are Saudi policies; (2) how wise are the policies of Iran; (3) how the West and Zionists (not the Wahhabis) have created the sectarianism that plagues the Middle East. How otherwise all Muslims would live in peace and harmony, how all the kings, princes, dictators, and mullahs can get along if left alone. (4) They also report a lot (like every week) about their most recent domestic weapons development that they claim can match anything the West sells their neighbors across the Persian Gulf.
  • Qatari media and their reporters try to be subtle, unsuccessfully. They mostly report on how wise Qatari policies are. They only hint at how dangerous Iranian policies are and how stupid Saudi policies and their surrogates are.
  • UAE media and their reporters mostly focus on: (1) how dangerous the Muslim Brotherhood are, (2) how wise the Abu Dhabi ruling brothers are, and (3) how they should control the Strait of Hormuz (no doubt through their mercenary forces hired from Colombia and Australia).
  • Egyptian media now focus on blasting anyone who questions president Al Sisi. Occasionally they warn of Muslim Brotherhood “terrorism”, and repeat Al Azhar warnings that Shi’as might be spreading their ideology in the heart of Cairo.
  • Israeli English media are obsessed with Palestinians (naturally), Hezbollah, and are now paying attention to ISIS. They seem to be disengaging a bit now from Iran. They are also somewhat typically Middle Eastern and Arab in their ethnic focus: they seems obsessed with which Hollywood Oscar celebrity or Nobel Prize winner is Jewish (there are so many that it shouldn’t be news anymore). They also seem to have forgotten what a pre-Likud era was like.
  • In Turkey, the pro-regime media are obsessed with real or imagined insults to “national pride”, WTF that be, and with persistent Armenian ghosts, and how the Russians (and maybe the Iranians and Lebanese) messed up their plans for the liberation and Islamization of Syria.
  • Lebanese media are concerned with who will become a figurehead president, and now increasingly with the threat of Jihadi terrorism. They also always seem concerned with which country can make the largest platter of hummus or Kenafa. And also with Amal Clooney’s latest attire.
    Alles klar?

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum
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Arabian Gulag: the Cruel but Overlooked Punishment of Internal Exile……

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KuwaitCox2 ا

“Prominent Egyptian activist and lawyer Gamal Eid has said that security officials prevented him from travelling from Cairo to Athens early Thursday morning amid what he describes as a campaign against rights campaigners critical of authorities. “A late decision was issued. I’ve been prevented from travelling and I’m returning from the airport! What a law-respecting country,” Eid, director of the Arabic Network for Human Rights, wrote on Facebook early Thursday. Eid was barred from leaving on a dawn flight bound to Athens after his name was found on a no-fly list, airport officials told Aswat Masriya news website. Eid said that he was not provided with a reason for the ban.…………”

This is not new. Across the Arab world and the rest of the Middle East tens, maybe hundreds, of thousands are banned from travel abroad for political reasons.  It is not called Internal Exile, but that is exactly what it is, a form of forced exile within a country. What Arab officialdom and media term as “man’a min al-safar“, Banned from Travel (Abroad). It is done to punish people who criticize a regime or displease it.

Every Arab country has tens of thousands of these Internal Exiles, and so do non-Arab Middle East countries as well. The computer age has made this cruel form of punishment easier to enforce and expand and monitor. From Bahrain to Riyadh to Cairo and beyond, those whom the regime deems loudly unfriendly to it are “Banned from Travel Abroad”.
No, it has nothing to do with terrorism, this form of punishment preceded the age of Wahhabi terrorism, but it has expanded now and “terrorism” is occasionally attached to placate some Western governments and NGOs.

Mostly it is below the international radar, this huge Arabian Gulag of internal exile. An internal prison. If they are not in an actual brick and mortar prison, then they probably do not exist to the outside world. Most are not charged with any crime. But there are probably as many or maybe more of these forced internal exiles as there are political prisoners kept in cells.
Other advantages to the regimes: these forced internal exiles, the “banned from travel abroad” are cheaper to maintain than formal prisoners and not as ‘obvious’, and they are below the international radar. A cruel Arabian Gulag that is ignored by most of the world.
Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum
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Tale of Two Civilized Cities: Stockholm vs. Riyadh…….

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KuwaitCox2 ا

“Is there a sharper knife that tears at the fabric of society than the threat of physical violence on the basis of ethnicity, nationality, gender or political affiliation? The recent images of young men, wearing hoods and dressed in black, roaming the streets of central Stockholm looking for “north African street children” to “punish” for their mere existence reminded Sweden and the world of the worst elements of European history. People immediately took to social media to express their shock that this could happen in a country like Sweden. Or, to be more accurate, Sweden as they imagine it to be………..”

Media reports increased incidents of physical attacks on “dark” people or people who look “foreign” in some European cities. Even in Stockholm. Especially in Stockholm, capital of Sweden. The latest was a report of a hundred or so masked people beating up people who looked foreign at train stations. Which means it was probably organized, premeditated.
Now let’s go to Riyadh, capital of Saudi Arabia, a country I often criticize strongly for its human rights abuses and intolerance. A country most Europeans consider so different that it is “barbaric” to them, even as they happily take its money as they forget their own much more barbaric recent past.
Nobody gets attacked by mobs of masked men at a bus station for looking “different”, not even in intolerant Riyadh. Unlike cities in Europe, where foreigners are being assaulted from Paris across to Budapest and Athens. Nobody wears funny bed sheets and burns crosses in front of “others” homes in Riyadh either, even if crosses are banned.
Could it be that instinctively bigoted Europe is going back to its old habit of a few hundred years ago, especially when times are hard? When “others” were persecuted, tortured, and killed for being “different”? It could, it could.
Civilized” is truly a relative term, it is in the eye of the beholder………
Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum
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Rouhani in Europe: Economic Irony, Mullahs as Princes………..

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KuwaitCox2 ا

As I read (and watch) the news, I notice that Iran’s Hassan Rouhani is signing tens of billions of dollars worth of contracts in Europe. It is as if he is some Saudi or Qatari or UAE prince or potentate. I realize that there is an irony here, somewhere (if I can explain it).

The Gulf GCC states are allegedly reportedly presumably perhaps maybe cutting back their purchases in Europe. Mainly non-military and non-security purchases. A result of lower revenues. The Iranians are busy signing new trade deals and purchasing tens of billions of new goods (and services). A result of increased revenues.

Oil revenues of most oil producers, including Gulf GCC, have gone down significantly. Iranian oil revenues are increasing sharply now, because of the lifting of sanctions. So will other non-oil revenues increase now given that their economy is diverse. It is too soon and too absurd to say that the mullahs are the “new” oil princes. Of course t is only like a windfall being used, but is it?
Who would have thunk it only months ago. How long would this trend last? How long could it last? Ich weiss nicht………..

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum
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Spelling Mediocrity: Hillary Clinton at the State Department………

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KuwaitCox2 ا

In this election season, it is natural and necessary to look at the record of Hillary Clinton as Secretary of States. Here is what I see:

Her record at State is mediocre at best. She did not manage to deal with the Arab uprisings effectively, and I suspect that she set the stage for worsening American-Russian relations and the re-emergence of the Cold War.

Her prediction of 2011 that Bashar al Assad has no place in Syria and will be out within weeks. Her support in 2011 for bombing Libya to aid the “rebels” and the premise that it will lead to democracy.
Soon enough, ISIS emerged within weeks in Syria, thanks to the Wahhabi ideology, money, weapons, and volunteers from “moderate” Wahhabi allies she courted and heeded. ISIS is now entrenched in Libya & other places, also thanks to the Wahhabi ideology, money, weapons, and volunteers from “moderate” Wahhabi allies she courted and heeded. She, and her aides, were not creative in both these important cases.
The Nuclear Deal with Iran would never have been reached if the hawkish Clinton was still Secretary of State. Possibly military action of some sort would have been initiated in the Persian Gulf.
I am not going to talk about Iraq and her repeating the Saudi mantra about Al Maliki and how if only he would leave. That was stupid as we can see that things got even worse now after al Maliki left…..

Her trade policies were a continuation of the mindset that created NAFTA a generation ago and pushed for the TPP deal last year.  If she wins, don’t expect any changes in that regard.

As for Benghazi, Benghazi, well, that is/was a silly Republican opportunistic mantra that seems to have lost steam……

The point is: she was at best a mediocre secretary of state, and I am being generous here. John Kerry proved a superior secretary, and I wonder what could have been achieved if he had started in 2009…….

Dommage……….
Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum
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King Quagmire of Arabia and his Prince Harming: One Year Later……..

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KuwaitCox2 ا

“King Salman bin Abdulaziz marks one year in power since becoming the ruler of Saudi Arabia after the death of his half-brother, the late King Abdullah. Salman was crowned as the new King following the death of King Abdullah who passed away on Jan. 23 last year. After his crowning, in a televised speech, King Salman said: “We will continue to hold on to the strong path on which Saudi Arabia has walked on since King Abdulaziz.”……….”

Strong path indeed: I beg to differ, strenuously. Controlled Saudi media have been making a lot of the first anniversary of King Salman’s reign. They always do, for every king.
This one certainly started quite different from the reigns of the three kings that preceded him. While all Saudi kings picked, mostly, their own successors from among their brothers and half brothers, Salman quickly cut to the chase. He appointed his favorite young son Prince Mohammed Bin Salman (MBS) as a crown prince to the crown prince. The crown prince himself is his nephew Prince Mohammed Bin Nayef (MBN) who, tellingly, is reported to have no male heirs.
MBS is already acting as almost a king, not even a king in waiting. He is now Minister of Defense, a very lucrative post in Saudi Arabia (and the Gulf). He has also been given a lot of powers over the economy as well. Yet the rival MBN is also powerful: he is minister of interior and controls the police, the religious police, and the domestic security apparatus.

Saudi opposition of its various stripes (Wahhabi and otherwise) claim that MBS is plotting to get rid of cousin MBN while his father the king is alive. That would leave his uncles Prince Muqrin Bin Abdulaziz and Prince Ahmed Bin Abdulaziz as possible blocks in his way.

Yet King Salman’s reign has not gone well, an understatement. The Saudis had earlier started a campaign to reduce crude oil prices with the goal of harming their Iranian and Russian rivals. That was when prices were well above $100 a barrel. They probably thought a price around $100 would be okay for their economy but still harm their regional rivals, and harm the U.S. shale industry. I opined here that this was a stupid policy and could backfire on them. It did backfire, big time, and it may end up harming the Saudis more than their rivals and neighbors. Oil reached down to $100 and kept going down. Now it is around $30, well below what can be considered the Saudi break-even point, reportedly closer to $80-$100. No firming of prices is in sight, give that more Iranian and Iraqi crude will be flowing in the near future.

Then there is the costly quagmire in Yemen, in which some of the most advanced and most lethal Western weapons are being used against lightly-armed opponents. And against unarmed civilian populations. The most advanced Western weapons also happen to be the most expensive weapons in the world to service and replenish. And they need Western logistics and guidance support for targeting. So the Saudi war in Yemen is also a Western war on a party that has never threatened the West, unlike its Wahhabi rivals like AQAP and IS.
It is a war not only against the Houthis and the Yemeni army; it is a war on the painfully-built infrastructure of the poorest Arab country outside Africa. They are stuck in Yemen with no victory in sight, but they have plenty of foreign mercenaries for hire to fight the war, mainly from Sudan, Somalia and from far away places like Colombia and Australia and South Africa. The costly self-inflicted war has come at a bad time for the Saudi budget and people, but the princes always manage to thrive financially.

Then there are the military and diplomatic losses in Syria and Lebanon. I forgot the potential coup de grâce: finalization of the Iran nuclear deal and the lifting of Western sanctions on the mullahs.

Not bad for one year’s work! Long live the king, I think………
Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum
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Tahrir Anniversary: Counterrevolutionary Revolutionaries or Revolutionary Counterrevolutionaries?……..

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KuwaitCox2

The fifth anniversary of the start of the Egyptian uprising of 2011 is on January 25. Many Egyptians want to commemorate it, the military regime of Al Sisi is set against it. I read a few tweets from Cairo that clarify the maze of political group-think among certain Egyptian elites.  One of them tweeted, others also expressed similar opinions:

I am a proud supporter of the ‘revolution of January 25 and of the ‘revolution’ of June 30,  2012…….

January 25 mass protests at Tahrir Square led to the overthrow of dictator Hosni Mubarak. June 30 protests were largely financed and engineered by Saudi-UAE and called for the July 3 military coup that returned the military regime of Mubarak to power. Under General Al Sisi (he was promoted to field marshal, promoted by himself).

It is becoming hard to distinguish between revolutionaries and  counterrevolutionaries in the Arab world, especially in the maze of Egyptian non-politics. Shows you the state of the so-calledِ Arab Spring……….

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum
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View from the UAE: Obama the Shi’a and the Jewish Nuclear Deal………

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KuwaitCox2 ا

Our Middle East region has truly gone crazy, sectarian crazy. That is especially true of the Persian Gulf region, which has gone apeshit (forgive mon français) sectarian. I mean people of all sects have gone sectarian, be they Sunni, Shi’a, Wahhabi, Sufi, or Haredim.

A comment on Twitter by Lieutenant General Dhahi Khalfan, the chief of the Dubai Police and a high United Arab Emirates -UAE- official with many followers attracted my attention. He is often clownish, in his deeply sectarian and primitive tribal way. As sectarian and divisive as any full-blooded Wahhabi across the Buraimi Oasis. As sectarian as someone from, say, ISIS or DAESH, can be. He is a serious man: all the nonsense he tweets he does quite seriously and he believes it all. That could be dangerous, but he has potentates above who make the real decisions. He claimed in his tweet, quite seriously, that:
“Obama, whose origins are Shi’a, was elected to move America and Iran closer, especially on the nuclear issue, and he has succeeded”.

He also tweeted that
Jan 18 Dubai, United Arab Emirates

في علم طبائع البشر يدرس الإنسان كيفية درء الخطر وهذا ما فعله بني صهيون في دراسة طبع الإيرانيين. أتوا لهم بشخص جذره شيعي كيني برافو .
“Bani Sahion (Children of Zion), meaning Jews, elevated a Kenyan Shi’a (Obama) to serve their purposes…”

Khalfan did not mention if Obama was born in Kenya or Hawaii to Shi’a parents, so he is not a birther. Just a quasi-Wahhabi nut job that only our Gulf region can produce. Nor did he mention if Mr. Amano, chief of IAEA is also an East Asian Shi’a.

The odd thing, or maybe not so odd, is that many people, including some quite educated people in the Gulf region (and Arabian Peninsula) believe such nonsense. They are beginning to see Shi’as under every bed, so to speak.

On the other hand, who knows: maybe he has a point, maybe it is all true………

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum
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Anniversary of an Illusion: Arab Revolutions Going All the Way……..

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KuwaitCox2

Revolution: a single complete turn (as of a wheel) <The earth makes one revolution on its axis in 24 hours.> 4 : a sudden, extreme, or complete change (as in manner of living or working) 5 : the overthrow of a ruler or government by violent action.” Merriam-Webster

We are living the anniversary of what used to be called the Arab Spring, or Arab Uprisings, or Arab Revolutions. All misnomers.
Now we (most of us) know that there was no Arab Spring. But this is an old story: we all know what happened and why, but I’ll go ahead anyway.
From the beginning, the cards were stacked against their success. Local military and bureaucratic forces as well as Persian Gulf Arab oil money conspired from the outset to make them fail. Some of the early revolutionaries in places like Egypt and Syria sold out to Saudi, Qatari, and Emirati money.
The rest failed to heed the simple lessons of history:

  • When the American colonists rose against the British monarchy in 1776, they overturned all the institutions of the old state and created their own.
  • When the people of France rose and overthrew the ancien regime in 1789, they had one way to make sure it does not come back. The French revolutionaries managed to talk themselves into overthrowing all the institutions of state, destroyed them and replaced them with new ones.
  • When the Bolsheviks (Communists) rose against the Tsarist feudal regime in Russia, they made sure of the success of the revolution by replacing all institutions of state.
  • The same occurred in China in 1949, in Cuba in 1959, and in Iran in 1979.

Fast forward to the so-called Arab Spring. The Arab uprisings of 2011 failed, all of them, because they did not learn the lessons of the earlier revolutions. A revolution cannot succeed by allying itself with the old institutions of the old regime. Or by relying on repressive foreign regimes for support. The Egyptian “revolutionaries” started their uprising by praising the army of Hosni Mubarak and then by allying with it. They ended up supporting a military coup staged by the same army and financed by repressive Persian Gulf tribal ruling families. The Syrian uprising was quickly bought off by the Saudi princes and Qatari potentates, withe the Turks opening their doors for Jihadists from around the globe to get into Syria (and Iraq). Yemen fell apart, as did Syria and Libya and Tunisia. Bahrain was occupied by Saudi army and security forces, with a British military being established now.

The lesson? If you go revolutionary, go revolutionary all the way. Overthrow the old system, and rebuild a new state with new institutions an new people. Never fear to go all the way. Half-baked revolutions always fail, by definition (my definition).

Of course, the results of a revolution may not turn out as its supporters wish, but…………

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum
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Islamic Hypocrisy, Islamic Phobia: Guess Who Hates (Other) Muslims the Most…….

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KuwaitCox2

اذا لم تستحى فافعل ما شئت
“If You Have No Shame, then You can do what you like……….” Arab saying

Al Jazeera (the news network owned by Qatari sheikhs) was complaining about the treatment of Muslims in Europe. Other media have been complaining about the unwelcome and hostility the Arab refugees face in the West. These dominant Arab media are mostly owned by Saudi princes, and Qatari and Emirati (UAE) potentates. All these three Arab countries, so much responsible for the carnage in Syria and Iraq and Libya and Egypt, have refused to accept Arab refugees. Yet they complain about the European reception of them.

Wahhabi terrorists (who claim to be Muslims) are busy killing and massacring thousands of other Muslims in the Middle East and across the world. Wahhabis are also known to turn away other Muslims from mosques in Europe and America and to fight tooth and nail against the establishment of “other” mosques in Europe. Even as many Muslims demand understanding and equality in the West.

The fact is that nobody hates Muslims more than other Muslims of a different sect or nationality or tribe. Nobody kills more Muslims than other Muslims of a different sect or nationality or tribe. Nobody shows more Islamophobia than some Muslims toward “other” Muslims. Shouldn’t the Muslim house be put in order first, before whining about the Western bigotry?

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

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