Republican Establishment is Transforming a Victorious Trump into their Tool……

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Only a few weeks ago everybody was amazed, gushing at how Donald Trump had so quickly and so easily taken over the Republican Party. Most Party leaders and politicians avoided his rallies and his visits to their states, including Speaker of the House Paul Ryan. They did not want to be tainted with the stigma of Trumpism.
Fast forward to the post-election. Now the Republican Party establishment, in a shorter time period, has performed a feat much greater than what Trump did in winning the nomination and the election.They have absorbed the winner.

How has the Republican establishment so quickly taken over Trump and his movement, and made it their own? To be used to implement their long-held economic and other policy goals? All within two weeks.
In the end Trump “the outsider” is not the winner: he may have become a tool of the “insiders”. The real outsiders, the voters, remain outside.
Cheers

Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

 

Trump State Department: from Romney to Petraeus and Huntsman?……

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President-elect Donald Trump apparently is mulling several choices for Secretary of State:

  1.  A disloyal weasel (that would be Mitt Romney, the man who savaged Trump and attacked his integrity the most last spring and summer).
  2. A loyal weasel, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich. He has also taken funds from foreign organizations.
  3. A detestable man who has campaigned noisily, loudly for the job, after losing out the struggle for Attorney General: former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani. He has also taken funds from foreign organizations.
  4. A likable well-educated knowledgeable man who also carries some personal baggage: General David Petraeus.
  5.  Then there is the most dangerous, least diplomatic of the lot, a man who practically has hand-grenades strapped to his mustache: John Bolton.

Not easy choices. Of course Trump is capable of surprising everybody and pick some surprise choice. But that would further infuriate the media who have been focusing on these names.

A Dark Horse could be Jon Huntsman Jr, former governor and former ambassador who also speaks other languages.
Cheers

Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

 

The Enemy Within? the Extremist Salafi Islamist Opposition Returns to Kuwait Politics……..

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Kuwait has the most free and open elections in all the Gulf GCC states. The others don’t really have any. She will have new parliamentary (National Assembly) elections in the last week of November. Much of the ultra-reactionary Islamic-Tribal alliance that boycotted the last election has given up and decided to run for office. That should be good news, but in this case it is truly bad news for the country, its social cohesion, and sectarian tranquility.

The Kuwaiti political opposition are a mix that is dominated by Salafis, Muslim Brothers, and reactionary tribal seekers of office. These have cleverly dominated the smaller Wahhabi-Liberal and pseudo-academic types who are nominally secular.

Last time the so-called Kuwaiti political opposition mustered a majority in parliament, their first act was to vote to convert the country into a Wahhabi-Salafi theocracy by instituting the Shari’a literally. Apparently their ideal of a democratic civil society. The proposal got a majority of votes: every member of that opposition group voted for it. Only the few urban members and the Shi’a members refused to support it. Luckily, the Emir thought correctly that it was a bad idea and refused to sign it. He vetoed it and saved the country from the ritual of beheading, crucifixion, public flogging, chopping hands, and other such Wahhabi-Salafi pleasures and pastimes that exist in a neighboring country.

Most of the opposition members had claimed they would not run again until the election laws were changed away from the new one-man-one-vote system, and until one of their leaders is released from prison. They made a lot of noise about ‘principles’ and about a ‘democracy’ that most of them never believed. Apparently four years on the outside have cured them. Basically they have surrendered and, in true Salafist fashion, betrayed their imprisoned ally Musallam Al Barrak.

The years of absence of any political influence and tribal pressures have caused most of them to announce they are running for the November 27 elections. That means that they will again apply pressures to move in the Wahhabi-Salafi direction. To interfere in the private social lives of people, and to start another book-burning episode. Some of them are already announcing their intention to try again to make the Shari’a the law of the land.

And to fan the flames of sectarian tensions that they introduced to the country. They will also start hounding the Shi’as and maybe the few Christians. Last time they were in parliament this Salafi-MB-Tribal alliance asked the government to start “monitoring” the Shi’a religious services. Meaning to spy and intimidate the minorities. Some, possibly many, of these members no doubt will get elected, and they will start making the country and society even duller that it is now.

We shall see soon enough how the post-Thanksgiving turkeys turn out. Certainly no better than the same turkeys looked last time around…..
Cheers

Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

 

A Saudi Defeat in Lebanon? Hariri and Nasrallah’s Beard and the Shifting Alliances……….

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Former prime minister Saad Hariri returned recently to Lebanon carrying a visible mark of a major political shift. That visible mark is also on his face, in a physical sense.

Hariri, a Lebanese who also grew up in Saudi Arabia and also carries its citizenship, was telling a story. Until recently known as leader of the pro-Saudi faction in Lebanon, he had always sported the goatee (saksooka) that senior Saudi princes (and all kings) sport. It is a tell-tale Saudi symbol, almost as much as the red/white shmagh checkered ghutra (kafiyya) is.
Hariri now sports a full beard, somewhat neater than the one Hassan Nasrallah (Hezbollah chief) sports, but similar.

He has also taken a political step that clearly signifies a break with Saudi Arabia. He now supports the same candidate as Iranian ally Hezbollah for president of Lebanon, former General Michel Aoun.
Some neutral Arab media speculate that the Saudi break has been in the making for months. Since Hariri-controlled Saudi Oger LTD faced financial trouble and the Saudi princes refused to help. Instead there have been reports of some prince seeking to take over the company.

So, now Harriri has surprised some allies of his right-wing traditionally pro-Saudi Al-Mustaqbal (Future) Movement by announcing his support for Hezbollah’s ally General Aoun (Maronite Catholic). This may open the door for Hariri ro return as prime minister of Lebanon. The Saudi support and money may now shift to other former Hariri sycophants, like former prime minister Saniora and some others. Not very strong allies.

Lebanese claim (credibly) that the Saudis traditionally send a large personal check ($10-20 million) to every new Lebanese prime minister and president, as personal pocket money. Just to break the ice and insure loyalty. Mr. Hariri, reportedly having lost a few billions recently from his Saudi ties, is not likely to even get that much now.

Saad Hariri may be returning to his Lebanese roots, and the heavy-handed Saudis may try to make up for this big Lebanese defeat by nurturing other (mainly Sunni) politicians. But it is a big gap to fill.

(Some Lebanese media have reportedly quoted the latest/newest American ambassador in Beirut as saying that one of her tasks is ‘to weaken the hold of Hezbollah on Lebanon‘. A tough task. This recent development is not a mark of her success. Not yet.)

Cheers

Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

 

Middle East Sands Shift Again in the Mayhem of Post-Post-Arab-Uprisings……

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In the beginning there were the Arab uprisings……
The era of the Arab Uprisings is over. The era of Post Arab Uprisings is over. Now the Middle East is going through the era of Post-Post Arab Uprisings.

The Arab convulsions that started at the end of 2010 were initially expected to usher in a new era of revolution against the stagnant order. That hope quickly shifted as the newly-anointed Arab Center of Power, represented by Persian Gulf oil wealth and Gulf Wahhabi-Salafi ideology basically took over the Arab League and its institutions. Or so it seemed.


But a few unseemly things happened on the way to the royal takeover of the Arab World.

The initial Syrian uprising of 2011, which had been taken over by Gulf-backed Salafi and Muslim Brotherhood Jihadists, stalled. Having been hijacked by essentially agents of even more repressive Arab regimes, it veered into the darkest realm of sectarian and confessional divisiveness, a normal Wahhabi inclination. Foreign intervention has made a solution even more difficult. But the military situation has now decidedly shifted in favor of the Damascus regime and its allies.

In Bahrain, the regime cracked down hard on the uprising of 2011, ‘invited’ Saudi and UAE forces to help its repression, and turned to the old divide and rule policy by going sectarian. That country is still very unstable, heavily dependent on foreign Arab forces and foreign mercenaries to keep order.

In Yemen, the GCC and the UN arranged for dictator Colonel Ali Abdallah Saleh to leave office. But they chose his deputy, another general named Abd Rabuh Mansour Hadi to be “elected” with 99.8% of the vote. Even Kim Jong Un does not get that kind of victory. Hadi was quickly co-opted by corrupt military and tribal forces, along with a very corrupt local version of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Eventually Hadi was overthrown by a rebellion of the tough northern Houthis and elements of the old Yemeni army. He was basically allowed to escape (reportedly dressed as a woman in Burqa).
As the Houthi alliance expanded south into Aden, Hadi (who had resigned AND his term had expired) and his henchmen escaped to Saudi Arabia. The Saudis made the same mistake they had made before, they tried to invade Yemen with a force of hired African and Arab mercenaries. It is now a quagmire, helped by the Obama Administration which arms and refuels the Saudi bombers that commit what is essentially a murderous genocide.

In Libya, the dreams of American and European liberals and conservatives alike were shattered by the aftermath of the overthrow, torture, and murder of Gaddafi and his son. The Western powers had engineered a UN resolution past Russia and China that had wordings that created a loophole for NATO to bomb Gaddafi’s Libya. All based on false claims by opposition rebels. Russia and China have not forgotten that Western deception at the UN, and they are unlikely to vote along the same lines again. Libya itself is now a smaller version of Syria.


The biggest prize as usual was Egypt. After one year of elected Muslim Brotherhood rule, a couple of Gulf states ‘financed’ a series of huge opposition protests and eventually a military coup. Shades of the CIA Operation Ajax in Iran, circa 1953. Egypt was to become basically a satrapy of the Saudi and Emirati potentates, rich but uncultured tribal despots. An absurd notion to anybody who knows anything about ancient Middle East history.

Now Egypt is reported to have swung another way. A media war is raging between Egypt and her presumed Gulf sisterly (or brotherly) bosses, and regional policies are shifting. From Yemen to Syria to Iran, possibly even to the Gulf, Egypt is seeking new alliances and restoration of old ties in the face of a Wahhabi blackmail.
The Egyptian-Saudi dispute has gotten so serious that former Yemeni officials, all Saudi agents who urge the bombing of their country from their comfortable Saudi exile, now are accusing Egypt of supplying the Houthi rulers of Sanaa with missiles.

Other Gulf media mouthpieces have accused neutral Oman of expediting the transfer of Iranian weapons to the Houthis. These are certainly attempts to justify the miserable failure of the expensively-armed and Western-guided but incompetent Saudi and UAE forces to win the war in Yemen.
Another major twist, but it is not over. Stay tuned…..

Cheers

Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

 

Egypt and Her Sisters: Al Sisi and Syria and the Indian Givers of Riyadh………

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Only a few months ago Saudi King Salman visited Cairo to inspect “his newest acquisition”. Or so jubilant Salafis and opinion-ators in Saudi and Gulf media screamed. Many fell for it. Even an astute person like myself, born and raised amidst the sandstorms and the annual locust invasions and under the loving truly burning sun of the (Persian) Gulf. But I did express some doubt.

At that time Saudi media claimed the King had a ‘pleasant’ surprise for the Egyptian people. It turned out that surprise was anything but pleasant. It was the draft of an agreement that cedes two Red Sea islands, Tiran and Sanafir in the Gulf of Aqaba, to the Saudis. The people of Egypt, with the exception of Saudi-financed Salafis, were furious at the Sisi regime. Other Arabs were also skeptic, except for the Salafi-Tribal types of the Gulf region. The whole thing backfired on the Cairo regime. Now the islands issue looks unresolved.

Then there is Syria. The Saudi-Qatari-Turkish axis, although frayed by now, has been consistent in its resolve to help replace the secular Assad regime with an Islamist-Jihadist one. More recently the Turks have given in to American pressure and tightened border controls a bit. They have also developed some focused worries about Syrian Kurds and their drive for autonomy. The Egyptian regime has been skeptic of the Saudi-Turkish position on Syria. Now they are openly so, as reflected in their latest UN Security Council vote on Syria.

The Saudi ruling elites are not very subtle or classy about showing their displeasure. They can be called “Indian Givers”, a politically incorrect term now here, I know, but succinctly describes them. Now they have retaliated by cutting off the billions of promised aid, starting with oil shipments. Reports claim Kuwait has stepped in to replace the promised Saudi oil shipments to Cairo. Their is a media war brewing between the two countries.
But it is not realistic to expect an ancient country like Egypt to remain long subservient to a bunch of tribal oligarchs in Riyadh

Saudi foreign minister Adel Al Jubeir used to go around the world asserting that the Syrian Assad regime will go, peacefully or by military means. Tough words for a Saudi minister whose well-armed country has been losing a war to the lightly-armed tribal Houthis of Yemen and their allies. For a few weeks Mr. Al Jubeir was silenced, by order. Now he is back, again threatening that his country is considering arming “moderate” Syrian rebels. Moderate by Wahhabi standards, no doubt.
That requires agreement by Washington which supplies most of the Saudi weapons in question.

And that is where the sisterly, or is it brotherly, relations stand now.
Cheers

Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

Muslim Wars: Mufti Condemns Iranians and Catholics as Descendants of the Magi…….

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The name-calling between the regimes in Riyadh and Tehran has escalated. It has also spread to large segments of the populations of the two countries.

The Saudi Mufti has recently declared or fatwad (again) that Iranians (and almost certainly Arab and other Shi’as) are not Muslims, that they are enemies of Islam. The Mufti, like most good Wahhabis and Salafis, has called Iranian Muslims “Majus“, meaning the Magi. (It will be a shock to many in the West that the term “Magi” can be considered derogatory by anybody. He is referring to the ancient Zoroastrian faith of ancient Persia, before the spread of Islam).
To many Wahhabis, and some other modern Arab, er, thinkers(?), these are considered “fire warshipers” because some of their rites involve using fire. This is equivalent to calling Catholics “candle worshipers” because they light and use candles in their churches. It reflects a shallow and often deliberate attempt to insult and distort the history of “others”.

Some Iranians and other Shi’as have pointed out that the Peninsula tribal Arabs who are now ruled by the Al Saud and their palace muftis were in pre-Islamic times worshipers of idols, many little statues that occupied the Kaaba at Mecca. That the ancient Egyptians used to worship their kings, the pharaohs who married their own sisters, until the Persian conquest about twenty-five centuries ago. That in the Levant they worshiped Baal and Astarte and others

No doubt the Mufti and most Wahhabi Salafis believe that all Shi’as are not Muslims, including a majority of Iranians, Iraqis, Lebanese, Bahrainis, Azerbaijanis, as well as tens of millions in other countries like Turkey and Pakistan.

The Wahhabis have always used the Iranians’ ancient empire and culture as an indication of the aspirations of the current theocratic regime in Tehran. That is also part of the Salafi war on everything that is ancient and predates Islam. In fact, even early Islamic monuments and historic sites have been destroyed in Saudi Arabia as idolatry (as they are under ISIS) .

The Iranian mullahs have retaliated by Ayatollah Khamenei calling for the Holy Places to be placed in other non-Saudi hands. An unrealistic proposal that is politically and emotionally motivated.  Some mullahs were reported to have now created a newer category of their favorite epithet “Satan”. Perhaps calling the Saudis a “smaller Satan”. We all know whom they name the two bigger Satans.

So, the war of words goes on. As do the wars of proxies in Syria, Yemen, Iraq, and Lebanon. And in other Muslim and non-Muslim lands.

Some Arab media now report that the Mufti Shaikh Al Shaikh is being eased out of his job as a result of his latest sectarian tirade. This would be an unusual development since he is a direct descendant of Mohammad Bin AbdulWahhab, after whom the Wahhabi sect was named. They have been co-rulers with the Al Saud family for along time.
Some radical Wahhabi elements among the exiled Saudi opposition have been claiming for some time now that the new regime of King Salman & Son are trying to ease Wahhabism out of mainstream Saudi life, pushing the Saudi state away from its traditional theocracy.
That would be an improvement, but only a small step.

Cheers

M.H.Ghuloum

 

The Real Enemy in Syria: Can Russia Preempt a Policy Shift by Clinton and the Democrat-Neocon Alliance?………..

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American involvement in Syria has been in a ‘trial-and-error’ mode since late spring of 2011.

Early on, the Obama administration took its cue from the Arab tribal kings and princes of the Persian Gulf, who also happen to be very close to the then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (all heavy Clinton Foundation donors and all that).
The Wahhabi regimes of Qatar and Saudi Arabia saw an opportunity to spread their own intolerant version of Islamic rule and to deal a blow to a secular but repressive Syrian regime that is an ally of the Iranian mullahs. As they poured money and weapons into Syria, the early uprising shifted into a confessional and sectarian war rather than a fight for democracy as envisioned by some naive Western interventionists. This situation was made worse by the strong promotional campaign waged by the rich and powerful Salafi (and Muslim Brotherhood) movements on the Gulf.

Thus the Syrian uprising of 2011 was doomed from the start as money, weapons, and Salafi volunteers poured in through Turkey and Lebanon and Jordan. All of it from the Gulf region, although soon the Jihadis started flowing in from other Arab countries and then from Europe.


So, the early mantra quickly became: Bashar Al Assad Must Go!
Soon this shifted to a new hopeful mantra: Bashar Al Assad’s Days Are Numbered!
Or, later on: Bashar Al Assad’s Remaining in Damascus is Untenable!

Even the hapless Saudi foreign minister boldly declared (and mimicked by his Qatari counterpart) that: Assad Will Go Either by Diplomatic or Military Means! (Presumably they mean American military means since these two countries don’t have enough forces to occupy one city in Syria)


All this was bought by the U.S foreign policy establishment, especially Secretary Clinton, as inalienable gospel, part of the policy Sharia as preached and taught to the Americans by the meddling kings, princes, and potentates of the Persian Gulf region. Even as the same kings, princes, and potentates were eagerly oppressing and repressing and persecuting their own peoples. Even as they were pouring money into a military coup in Egypt which re-instated the Mubarak regime.


Pressure by some U.S. lawmakers like John McCain and Joe Lieberman (where the hell is he now, by the way) helped nudge the Clinton State Department toward the Gulf position, especially after every visit by these senators to Riyadh, Doha, and Abu Dhabi, none of them known as a bastion of democracy and freedom of expression.

Now Turkey has shifted its position. Initially it was an enabler and conduit of weapons and money and Jihadis into Syria (what I called the Erdogan Trail). But the complex Syrian war spread into Turkey itself. Even as post-coup Erdogan announced a shift in Syrian policy, Turkey has become more involved in Northern Syria. Mainly a result of gains by the Kurdish minority with American help.

Now we know that the Turks have their own Islamist/Jihadist proxies fighting in Northern Syria. All composed of Arab Jihadi fighters.

So:
Iran, Russia, Lebanon and others (including some Iraqis, some Afghanis, etc) are siding with Assad.

Part of the Obama administration is fighting against ISIS and the regime, or thinks it is. This fight is based on Arab Salafist Jihadis.

Part of the Obama administration is siding with the Kurds against ISIS and against other Jihadis. And presumably against the Assad regime.

So, at least two groups that are American supported are fighting each other in Syria.

Saudis and/or Qataris have apparently recently supplied their own favorite Salafi Jihadis with advanced American and other Western weapons. Some of these weapons, like anti-tank or ground-to-air missiles require prior approval by the exporters.

Even as the Assad regime gains ground on some fronts, like the Damascus area and Aleppo, the war becomes more complex and more intractable. Hence it is now almost impossible to structure a political solution that can stop it.

When and if Clinton becomes president, her instinct will be to expand the American military role in Syria (why else do you think all these hawks and Neocons are supporting her?). The media, what is called mainstream American media, are in their 2002 pre-Iraq War mode now. They are heavily “reporting” on regime atrocities, reviving the old WMD stories, talking about the old but now defunct “Red Lines”. The CNN network is now, as it did in 2002-2003, leading the military charge into the morass of Syria. It, and other media, are working to make a new more Americanized war in Syria as publicly acceptable as they did the war in Iraq in 2003. (FYI: the American people have not seen any uncovered Iraqi WMDs, yet).

The Russians probably know all this about the prospects for 2017. They are now solidifying and expanding their presence in Syria, possibly as a means of preempting this expected Clinton policy next year. The Russians and their allies seem to be making it impossible to establish the no-fly zones that are so dear to Democrat hawks, except maybe in the Kurdish regions which border Turkey.

A repetition of Iraq? Possibly a different version of another mistake. But who is the “real enemy” in Syria that seriously threatens the West in its own homeland: in Paris, London, and New York? That is the question that should decide expanded intervention.

Cheers

M.H.Ghuloum

 

Islamic Mercenaries of the Persian Gulf: Have Quran, Will Travel………

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This is not a new phenomenon on the Persian Gulf: religious sheikhs (clerics) for hire.

Often they come from Egypt, Jordan, North Africa and other Arab countries/regions. They usually attach themselves to one or another among the ruling absolute oligarchies, of the Gulf, especially in the UAE or Qatar. Attracted by money and opportunity, they start issuing statements or Fatwas in favor of their benefactors and against others who displease these benefactors. They are absolutely mercenaries: clerics for hire. No different from the armed foreign mercenaries that some Gulf regimes hire to do their repression or wage their regional wars.

Here is a man with the impressive-sounding title of Deputy President of the International Union of Muslim Clerics, basically a clerical bureaucracy for hire. He is here accusing another cleric-for-hire, the Religious Adviser, whatever that be, of the top man in the UAE, Mohammed Bin Zayed (MBZ), of being among “devil worshipers”. He also called him a religious traveling salesman. MBZ and the UAE are among the strongest anti-Muslim Brotherhood in the whole Middle East. This is a sore point of contention with their Saudi “allies” in the stalling war on Yemen.
Of course all this name-calling is a case of one soot-covered pot calling another pot ‘black’.


The Persian Gulf GCC states are full of these hired expatriate clerics, like Al Qaradawi (in Qatar) and others, basically mercenaries, religious guns for hire. Often they are either Muslim Brothers who have found the joys of oil money (in Qatar) or others hired by the UAE potentates to blast the Muslim Brotherhood. Islamic gunslingers and mud-slingers.

All these people do their own interpretation of the Quran or Hadith to serve their masters. They are almost as bad as the Salafis, almost.
Cheers

Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

Olympic History: Jim Thorpe Thanks King of Sweden…..

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Speaking of the Olympic Games in Rio.
I mentioned here once about the 1912 Olympics, and the interaction between the King of Sweden and American Gold Medal winner Jim Thorpe.

Jim Thorpe (a Native American) was born in Prague (Oklahoma not Czech, nor Bohemia), and became a versatile athlete. He famously told the King of Sweden who hung the gold medals around his neck and praised him as the greatest athlete in the world, allegedly “Sir, you are the greatest athlete in the world”.

Thorpe was reported to have answered: “Thanks, King“. Very likely what he said was: “Gee, thanks King“.

Cheers

Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

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