Cold War Relics: from Ukraine to Cuba………

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Pundits and columnists in the West have been recently mentioning that Vladimir Putin seems to be going back to a Cold War stance (speaking especially of the Ukraine crisis). That Putin is following aggressive Soviet-like policies toward his neighbors that are similar to those of the Cold War days that ended around 1991. Mr. Putin has been in power for about 13 years. His new image of the aggressive cold warrior is more recent, a function of his recent strong objections to European Union attempts at expansion into what Russians consider their traditional sphere of influence.

Which made me think quickly of that other, more enduring even more ridiculous relic of the old Cold War.  The foreign policy relic that never went away, that will likely remain in place as long as the “Cuban vote” is important for winning Florida. The unilateral and senseless U.S. economic blockade of Cuba that has been around for more than half a century, longer than the original Cold War. It will almost certainly survive Fidel Castro, it might even survive the last of the Castro brothers.
Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

Bahrain Uprising: the War on the Al Khawaja Family……….

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“Police detained Bahraini human rights campaigner Maryam al-Khawaja after her arrival in the Gulf country on Saturday, her mother said. Al-Khawaja has dual Bahraini and Danish citizenship. Her mother, Khadija al-Musawi, told The Associated Press that her daughter was refused entry after presenting her Danish passport and a Bahraini identification card, and at one point was surrounded by police. The activist has said she wanted to visit her jailed father, Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, who is on hunger strike to protest his detention. Lawyer Mohammed al-Jishi told the AP that prosecutors plan to press charges against al-Khawaja that include insulting the king and police……………”

How can anybody ever ‘insult’ that particular king and police? Is that even possible in this days and age and in that venue?

The father, Abdulhadi Al Khawaja, has been under arrest almost since the beginning of the Bahrain uprising in 2011. He is reported to have undergone torture.  Another daughter was released just recently from prison but faces other charges from the ruling family. She will probably spend more time in prison. This one, Maryam, has been outside Bahrain, traveling for the cause of her country. Most Arab countries like Egypt have banned her from entering their territory, in deference to the Saudi princes and/or local Salafis. Oddly, such is the poisonous sectarian atmosphere encouraged by the Al Saud and other Wahhabi propaganda that some Arabs who have revolted against their own regimes are also against the Bahrain uprising.

She remained outside prison by remaining outside the occupied country. Now she is back home and in prison, arrested upon arrival at the airport, allegedly pending an investigation. She will probably start spending more time in prison as well. At some point the whole family will probably be in a regime prison at the same time.

The Bahrain ruling family is moving fast toward Saudi-ization of its court and legal systems. The room for dissent and criticism is narrowing by the week. As the late Egyptian poet Ahmad Fuad Negm reportedly opined once: “The poor Bahraini. He gets arrested by Pakistani or Jordanian policemen, he is tormented by Syrian or Jordanian interrogators, and he is tried and sentenced by an Egyptian judge. He, the accused native is the only Bahraini in the courtroom“. Or something to that effect.

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

The Internal Wars of the GCC: from Al Bassous to Qatar and Egypt……..

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The foreign ministers of the Gulf GCC members met in Jeddah Saturday, reportedly to follow up on an ‘ultimatum’ given to Qatar. The ultimatum was from the governments of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (also Bahrain, but now only as an appendix of the Saudis).

The ultimatum itself is an interesting, and should be shocking, piece of undiplomatic diplomacy and meddling in the sovereign affairs of an allegedly independent sovereign country. The GCC right-wing group (Saudi, UAE, Bahrain) had reportedly warned, nay threatened, Qatar to basically adopt their Saudi-imposed foreign policy in regional and inter-Arab affairs, or else. At stake is continued Qatari support for the Muslim Brotherhood and its continued criticism of Generalisimo Field Marshal Al Sisi regime in Egypt, mainly through the Aljazeera network. As well as Qatari refusal to push Hamas in Gaza under the bus.

The Qatari-Saudi rift goes back to long before the Arab uprisings and the Egyptian military coup of 2013 and the Syrian civil war and Hamas control of Gaza. During the 1990s, Saudi intelligence orchestrated an attempted coup in Qatar, with the goal of overthrowing the last Emir Hamad. The coup attempt, in which certain tribal elements from the border region were also implicated, failed. As a result, a large group of senior Saudi intelligence and security officers were arrested in Doha and imprisoned for years. They were released during the last decade and send back home to Riyadh.

Anyway, some GCC ministers claimed after the Jeddah meeting that ‘the issues’ are on their way to being resolved. In fact all ‘issues’ are usually on their way to being resolved, and not only because GCC functionaries and top bureaucrats habitually claim that they are. Famously, the pre-Islamic tribal Al Bassous War was also resolved after some forty years, and that one was over a camel and a cantankerous woman who owned it. Even the Israeli-Palestinian ‘issue’ may be resolved some day: it has only been, what, about 75 years or so?

If’n you ask me, if’n you do, and I am aware that you haven’t yet, I would say it is highly unlikely that the Qataris will succumb to the demands of the Saudi princes and their Abu Dhabi and Bahraini sidekicks. There have been several bilateral meetings between Saudi and Qatari leaders in recent months. A bilateral summit meeting between King and Emir was held in Saudi Arabia last July, and apparently it failed to resolve the issues. It is unlikely then that a bunch of GCC bureaucrats can solve what King and Emir could not solve.

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

Economics of Jihadist Sex: Caliph of Mosul as a Family Man……..

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The Caliph of ISIS and Mosul, Mr. Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi, prefers that to his name of birth (reportedly the very ordinary Ibrahim Al Samarrai). Actually his Caliphness has now added two new names to his known nom de guerre: al Husseini and al Quraishi, thus claiming that he is a descendant of the Prophet and a member of his extinct tribe of Quraish. (How about some DNA tests?)

His predecessor the mirthless Jordanian Abu Mos’ab Al Zarqawi bin Humorless (also a fake name) was offed by the American forces in Iraq before he could ascend the Caliphate. Maybe he just did not think of it: too stupid or not so ambitious, or maybe he did not get the humor of it all.

There is a report that the leader of the “Islamic State”, the Caliph Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi is now encouraging his followers to marry if they are not married and to remarry if they are already married. That is, if they are not satisfied with the ‘freebees’ they have reportedly been getting from non-Wahhabi female war captives and female groupies who have flocked from North Africa and Europe to, er, satisfy the Jihadists trying to find a shortcut to Paradise.

I have been told by my special reporter on Wahhabi affairs that he Jihadists, especially those from the Arabian Peninsula and North Africa normally prefer ‘female company’ from Europe or even America. That might explain the increase in online Internet and social media advertisement for Jihadista ‘sisters’ to come to Syria and Iraq and serve their faith in the only way women are allowed by the Caliph to serve.

Anyway, this Caliph is now offering to pay the wedding costs of his fighters: a house (probably taken from a Shi’a or a Kurd or a Yazidi or a Christian), furniture, in addition to US$1200 in cash (yep: real heathen kaffir American greenbacks). He is also offering an increase in their wages of $100 per wife plus $50 per child. It would be interesting to see the study that led to these specific figures. After all: captured war booty, the concubines, might be cheaper in more than one way.

All that might explain the sudden spike in online trafficking and enticements to Arab and Western women to “go to the Caliphate, young woman, while it lasts“. Older women need not apply.
Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

So, Who Won the Gaza War? Bil Mishmish to Jerusalem………

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“After a 50-day conflict in Gaza that ended with inconclusive results, leaders of Israel and Hamas are struggling to convince their war-weary constituents that the costly campaign has brought them real achievements. But analysts say that the ultimate outcome of the fighting is yet to be determined, with talks on substantial points of contention deferred for up to a month as an indefinite cease-fire takes hold. At a news conference on Wednesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that Israel had emerged from the campaign with “a great military achievement and a great diplomatic achievement.”………..”

“Poll: Israel didn’t win Gaza war, Netanyahu still best choice for PM” Haaretz Headline (8/27/14)

Palestinians did not hesitate to call the Battle of Gaza a victory. One militia leader was even talking about reconquering Jerusalem yesterday. Israelis, if they could respond in Arabic, would have been excused for saying in Arabic Bil Mishmish (بالمشمش = in the apricot (lol) = ForgetAboutIt). Many Arab potentates from the Nile to the Persian Gulf would love to agree with that Israeli assessment. Not because they are patriotic Zionists or Likudniks, but because they want Hamas of the Muslim Brotherhood dislodged from Gaza at any price. Just as they dreamed wildly a few years ago of Israeli help in dislodging Hezbollah from Lebanon, an even more unrealistic goal.
Arab leaders seem like an overly optimistic lot. They have rarely hesitated to call a battle a victory, no matter what the actual outcome. Saddam Hussein famously claimed victories after his wars with Iran (1980-88) and with the international community (1990-91). At the beginning of the 1967 War, Arab governments were famously proclaiming that their forces were approaching Tel Aviv even as the IDF were smashing their armies on all fronts. And let’s not revisit the 1973 War.

But then again, this was not a conventional battle in Gaza. In such a murky semi-urban warfare, if a regular better-armed force does not achieve its goals, then it can be seen as the loser. If the Israelis are seen as having “not won” and Hamas is seen as having “not lost”, then the balance tips to Hamas. It is probably too early to make that judgment, assuming we know what the initial goals were. But it is telling that some Israeli politicians are already criticizing Netanyahu for conceding too much in Cairo.

The next few weeks will tell.

Cheers

Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

A View of Iraq and Syria from an Arabian Gulag: Earthly Rewards to Paradise…….

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“In Syria, where the Saudis are a leading backer of rebel groups including the secular Free Syrian Army and the Islamic Front, which includes less militant Sunni fighters, Riyadh still has some options to influence the outcome of the war. But in Iraq, its most populous neighbor, with which it shares an 850 kilometer (530 mile) frontier, Saudi Arabia has few tested friends or established links with Sunni groups, and knows that the majority Shi’ites will continue to dominate power……….”

So these authors wrote their report for Reuters, mainly with local interviews from Riyadh and Abu Dhabi. They quote some Iraqi ‘analyst‘ who works from Abu Dhabi and is, as they claim, “close to the Saudi Interior Ministry“. They don’t clarify how “close” this analyst is to the Saudi Ministry of Interior, and in what “capacity“. But we know that the Ministry of Interior does not do foreign policy. We also know what it does do: arrests, interrogations, prisons, public floggings, executions by public beheading with occasional crucifixions, religious police, immigration, travel bans, internal exile, external exile, among other things. In effect they run a vast Arabian Gulag.

Odd this assertion: Iraq and Syria are represented as serious problems for Saudi Arabia. But how did Iraq and Syria get to this stage? How did they get to represent serious problems to the region? Yes, you got that one right: because the Wahhabis started sending their intolerant ideology, their killers, their weapons, and their oil money, first to Iraq and then to Syria.

They started on Iraq early on, somewhere around the year 2005. In Syria they waited until the misnamed so-called Arab Spring reached Homs (or was it Der’a) and then the Wahhabi and Salafi and Ikhwan machine went into full gear to try and take it over. With a little help from the Turkish leaders who thought they could open their country to Jihadi traffic into Syria and remain untouched.

They created the monster that now threatens them and that the Iraqis and Syrians have to deal with. If Iraq and Syria ‘pose’ problems for the princes, they are problems of their own creation. They and some other potentates in Qatar and other emirates and their Salafi money-gathering machine. And their misguided underemployed frustrated young volunteers looking towards the joys of captive women as they await the promised unlimited virginal rewards of Paradise.

Cheers

Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

Arab Nursery Rhyme Transition to Democracy: Mary Mary Quite Contrary…….

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KuwaitCox2 
Mary, Mary, quite contrary
How does your garden grow?
With silver bells and cockleshells
And pretty maids all in a row.

“Deputy spokesperson of the United States State Department Marie Harf said in a press briefing on Monday that Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi is leading the country’s democratic transition, despite recent criticism by the US of Egypt’s human rights record and the US holding some of its aid to Egypt pending democratic reform……….”

Also sprach U.S. State Department spokesperson Marie Harf. But in fairness what else can the lady say?
Transitioning to democracy is a gentrified term to use now for Arab dictatorships and absolute tribal family rule. Generalisimo Field Marshal Al Sisi is transitioning Egypt to democracy, hence he is still part of an axis of goodness, almost certified by Good Housekeeping. In the process he has overthrown a freely-elected president, the man who promoted him to defense minister, and thrown him in prison with a dozen or so trumped up charges. In the process his security forces and his soldiers have massacred a few thousand civilian protesters, the largest such massacre in modern Egyptian history. In the process his security have arrested and thrown in prison tens of thousands of people who disagree with him. In the process he has got himself “elected” against a hapless tool, with more than 97% of the vote (in a very low turnout election). In the process his courts have sentenced almost two thousand protesters to death, and the toll keeps rising.

By the same standards we can also argue that the Al Saud absolute tribal princes are transitioning the Arabian Peninsula toward democracy. We can also say that the vile absolute tribal rulers of Bahrain are transitioning the captive island of imported mercenaries and teargas toward democracy. We could have said the same about Mu’ammar Gaddafi and we can say it abut Bashar Al Assad. Etc , etc, etc………
Ten, twenty, thirty years from now, they will still be transitioning their peoples toward democracy. With a lot of help from their soldiers and their security agents, and in some cases with their imported mercenaries.
Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

Faith of MENA: Return of the Ikhwan under a Chubby Caliph……..

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KuwaitCox2 “Wahhab was forced to flee from Medina, and in a more rural inland area – in the Nejd- he was adopted by the Saud family. With a combination of camel riding warrior power and Wahhabi religious zeal, the Saud regime spread across Arabia. In 1802 an army of 12,000 Wahhabi warriors attacked the Shia in the city of Karbala, slaying 4,000 of the city’s inhabitants and smashing Shia holy sites. In 1803 they attacked Mecca and, aware of the slaughter in Kabala, the Meccans opened their town to Saud rule. Against images, the Wahhabi warriors smashed opulent graves, and they forbade smoking. After taking power in Medina they smashed grave-sites again, including the tomb of the Prophet Mohammed. In 1813, the Ottoman sultan sent expeditions against Wahhabism. The defeated head of the Saud family was taken in a cage to Istanbul and beheaded……….”

Ikhwan is an Arabic word that means “brothers”. Ikhwan is now used in Arabic to refer to the Muslim Brotherhood. For many decades, the term Ikhwan when used in Egypt referred exclusively to the Muslim Brotherhood. Outside Egypt also the term was used in recent decades, at least since the 1950s, to refer to the Muslim Brotherhood. The other older original “Ikhwan” are dead. Or are they?

The original ‘Ikhwan’ were quite different. They did not grow in the cosmopolitan atmosphere of old Cairo. They sprouted in the Arabian desert of what is now called Saudi Arabia. They were the zealous Wahhabi militias allied to King Abdulaziz Ibn Saud. They helped him conquer his homeland of Nejd, then conquer Al-Ahsaa (Eastern Arabia), Hijaz (Mecca and Madinah), and large chunks of northern Yemen. They also made a stab at conquering Kuwait which was under British protection, hence a no-no.

Eventually things fell apart for them. Ibn Saud was getting used to mingling with “civilized” Westerners, like the British who provided him with financial aid for some time. He realized, or was told, that the Wahabi zealots, his Ikhwan, his brothers, were outdated. They had served their purpose in helping him expand his Nejdi emirate to include most of the Arabian Peninsula. It was time to make deals with the British and eventually with the Americans. The Ikhwan’s usefulness had ended, and it was time for them to disappear.

Fast forward to the Caliphate in Syria and Iraq. The ideology of ISIS is similar to the Saudi Ikhwan, in spite of such modern trappings as the Omega watch on the fat wrist of the funny chubby Caliph and the Hello-Kitty pink box shown in the media. Like other Salafis and zealous Wahhabis of our time, they are not averse to using modern technology, especially means of transportation and tools of communication. They are still into blowing up and destroying monuments of Islam and other faiths, but they have learned to appreciate the joys of You-Tube and network news.

Cheers

Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

UAE Pivoting: Brothers Karamazov to the Shores of Tripoli……..

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“From the Halls of Montezuma
To the shores of Tripoli
We fight our country’s battles
In the air, on land, and sea………”
USMC Hymn

“Egypt and the United Arab Emirates were responsible for carrying out two series of air strikes in the past week on armed Islamist factions in Tripoli, Libya, US officials said on Monday. The officials said the two Arab countries used aircraft based in Egypt. Earlier the New York Times reported that the two US allies acted without consulting Washington………..”

If you have a choice between believing Egyptian (and UAE) officials and American officials, whom would you believe? I’d take my chances with U.S. officials, since they are subject to public and media scrutiny (er, ahem, not that they would lie even if they could get away with it). Besides, Egyptian officials are notorious serial liars, possibly the lying-est in the history of the Middle East.

But the United Arab Emirates flexing military muscle in the MENA region (with help from their little man in Egypt)? The private fiefdom of the Bin Zayed Al Nahayan brothers? As someone who is rude and crude (which I am not) would exclaim: the UnitedFuckingEmirates? The funny country that is 87% composed of imported temporary foreigner laborers and reportedly relies on a Blackwater-advised foreign mercenary force of Colombians and White South Africans and Australians and others to keep order? That is a shocker.

The Al Nahayan brothers are pivoting from the Persian Gulf toward North Africa now. They helped mess up Bahrain by joining the Al Saud invasion to crush the popular uprising and prevent the liberation of Bahrain in 2011. They joined up with French pop-philosopher Bernard-Henri Levy and John McCain and NATO bombers to help liberate Libya in the same year. They helped muddy the waters in Syria in 2011 and convert a popular uprising into a Wahhabi-financed and armed Jihadi terrorist campaign. There are some reports of a sisterly role for the brothers in the rise of ISIS and its Caliphate in Iraq and Syria and back to Iraq.
What Mr. Vladimir Putin should worry about now is if the brothers decide to pivot to the Ukraine and maybe seek to liberate the Crimea. Mr. Obama may have to worry about the brothers Al Nahayan pivoting toward the far east, thus complicating his own efforts at pivoting toward the arms of his Chinese business partners and Kim-Jong Un.

Cheers

Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

The Hollywood Caliphate of ISIS: Illusions of Sectarian Harmony in Iraq……..

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Masked terrorists attacked and killed worshipers in a (Sunni) mosque in Iraq last week. This reminded people of the brief but ugly sectarian civil war in 2006-08. The sectarian war that has resumed now with the mass killings of many non-Wahhabis by the terrorists of ISIS in Al-Anbar and other provinces. Even the Mubarak-appointed shaikh of Al-Azhar in Cairo, who did not bat an eyelash when ISIS were killing so many others, protested this “sectarian” attack.

My own guess is that the attack probably was not “sectarian” but that it was intended to provoke more sectarian hatred. That the perpetrators were almost certainly not “Shi’a” militias, but Wahhabi Salafis seeking to further muddy the waters. The rule of thumb in these terror incidents is to look for whoever benefits from them politically, and that should be obvious in this case.

The same arguments that were so publicized to explain the political and security troubles in Iraq in recent years will be used again after Haider Al-Abadi forms his government. If he is allowed to form his government. In fact the “sectarian” argument will be used again by former Baathists and their foreign Arab backers before he forms his government; I’d say starting next week. Ultra sectarians using the “sectarian” argument against others. Western governments frustrated with the whole Arab sectarian war will grasp this argument as the cause and root of all their troubles in Iraq. They will press Al Abadi to compromise by handing over ‘meaningful’ portfolios to the former Baathists. He, like Al Maliki, like any other Iraqi leader with the same sense and the same insecurities, will refuse to hand over the Defense or Security portfolios to former Baathists. Back to square one.

The root cause of Iraq’s current troubles is two-folded. It is a combination of domestic sectarian mistrust and foreign Arab meddling. The domestic Iraqi issue may take care of itself if outsiders would stop meddling and feeding the sectarian insecurities. Some of the Arab neighbors of Iraq, the Saudi princes and and Qatari and Emirati potentates who financed Wahhabi terrorism in Iraq long before they opened the Syrian front, have not accepted the regime change that was brought by the Western invasion of 2003. Their intolerant ideology, money, and volunteers are what gave birth to ISIS and its absurd Hollywood-style Caliphate.

Cheer

Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

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