Middle East Choice of Oligarchy vs. Theocracy: Is There a Third Way? Bibi Netanyahu as Freddy Kruger: He’s Back! Gulf Feels the Deep Recession. How Much Have Sovereign Funds Lost? More on Regional Donkeys of the East.
Egyptian thief and flasher
“Iraqis have a choice: the Iranian model or the Gulf model.” Saudi daily Asharq Alawsat
This advice comes from an editor of a newspaper, owned by potentates, whose government does not even have an embassy in Baghdad. How can you influence a country in which you have no embassy or consulate?
Besides, that Iraq no longer has a tribal king or a supreme leader. This is a cleverly put piece limiting Iraq’s choices between only two options: the frying pan or the fire. It proposes a static model for the Arabs: take whatever is offered to you. It essentially says that Arabs have only a choice between two unsavory alternatives: an unelected oligarchy that is quasi-fundamentalist or an official theocracy with limited elections. When you frame the choice that way, there is more likelihood that many would choose the status quo. But that is painting a grim picture for the future of the region. There is a third way, a fourth way, and many other ways.
Besides, Iraq will most likely continue on its own way, which will displease many regional rulers on both sides of the Gulf.
It looks like the Likud will return to power, with Benjamin Netanyahu as leader. Like a film monster, say Freddy Kruger or Jason, Bibi keep popping up, just when we think it is the end. The Arab oligarchs are of two minds about Bibi. On some visceral level they hate him: he is the man who has shown nothing but contempt for them. On the other hand, he has made the right noises about Iran. He may be the Israeli leader to actually unleash a bombing attack on Iran, even if it predictably fails to destroy that country’s nuclear program.
But history does not repeat itself: only we try to repeat it. Somebody somewhere realizes this: hence the proliferation of ground infiltration and the uncovered sabotage cells in Iran in the past two years.
The Israeli people are also changing their views of “peace”, just as Arabs have. When former Likud diehards Tzipi Livni and Ehud Olmert are now considered moderates, this is a sure sign of the shift to the right. The Labor Party is not even on the radar anymore: which clearly means that Israel is now a full-fledged Middle Eastern country in many ways.
Fox News is probably thrilled that they will have one of their regular guests in power. Still, it is a small consolation for the whopping at the U.S polls last November.
Speaking of Freddy Kruger: An American Muslim from the Subcontinent beheaded his wife last week somewhere near Buffalo (notice how often negative things involving US Muslims happen around Buffalo NY?). An Associated Press headline story carried by the national media read “Slaying distresses U.S Muslim community.” I would have thought everybody would be distraught about the crime, be they Muslim, Christian, Jewish, or Republican. I was distantly upset about it, perhaps mildly distraught: the same as I would be had the couple been named Peterson of Modesto (CA), or Brown/Simpson in Hollywood (CA, as in O.J), or a fundamentalist Christian Church couple named Winkler from a small town in Tennessee. Of course, this man in Buffalo used a highly unconventional, gruesome, and personal method for his crime.
From Iraq to Venezuela:
Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez has won a referendum that removes term limits and allows him to run for office again. The media of some Arab oligarchs are distraught over this. Some of them complain that Chavez is setting himself up to hold office for a long time- perhaps even for life. Which he probably is. That may require him to try and find some Arab roots in his background. Otherwise, by the logic of the media of absolute monarchs and life-time presidents, how could he keep running and running and winning and winning? Of course they, the critical Arab oligarchs, never have to run. They just win: they are either born to it or are guaranteed it by the sacred powers vested in their security services, jailers, torturers and executioners.
Oh, and I forgot the appointed judges and kangaroo courts.
Recession Reaches The Gulf:
The worldwide recession has hit the Gulf states as hard as everywhere else. A trifecta of forces has made the economic, and possibly political, picture in the region grimmer than it has been for years. The world markets crash has directly hit the Gulf states in several ways.
First: the crash of petroleum prices has reduced overall economic output. Government revenue and spending is the main mover of these economies. They are in constant New Deal mode on the Gulf.
Second: Sovereign Fund portfolios have been shattered, as have many private portfolios, especially of financial companies and banks (although they all will deny it or downplay it publicly as they usually do in these situations). My humble but well-educated guesstimate is that the Arab sovereign funds have lost about US$600 billion of market value of all investments since early 2008- with the prospect of the reduced dividends and lower interest earnings continuing into the near future. The shrinking foreign (and domestic) asset funds tie the hands of governments in ramping up demand and also in artificially bolstering local shares prices.
Third: no surprise, then, that local shares have also crashed.
(Correction: initially the number I showed above was US$700 billion: this was a mistake based on using the old Middle East 6, which looks like 7- interesting no? Of course if the world markets keep declining, the 700 is imminently do-able).
Th economic, and political, fate of the region is tied to the health of the world economy. Only a world revival and increased demand for oil will get these countries out of 'their' recession. The good news is that sooner or later the world economy will revive, almost certainly sparked by the growth of the US economy, and oil revenues will move up sharply. However, I will not bet anything on Citigroup and other financials shares shares: no sense shoveling good Sovereign Funds after bad money. The other good news for the Gulf rulers is that the recession is an equal opportunity suitor: it is also probably hitting the ruling mullah in Iran as hard as anybody else.
It is interesting that the head of the Saudi Arabian Monetray Agency (SAMA) was also replaced in the middle of recent changes by the king. The governor, Hamad al-Sayari, a very nice person actually, had been in power for about 27 years, but his replacement may reflect some reaction to the huge losses in state foreign investments..
"The government of the Emirate of Dubai will issue bonds for US$20 billion to help meet the emirate’s obligations and finance ongoing projects. The Central Bank of the UAE has already subscribed to half the amount. The bonds pay an interest of 4%. The bond maturity is five years." Asharq Alawsat,and other sources.
A usually highly unreliable Kuwaiti daily tabloid, alseyassah, claims that according to its own sources, four oil services companies have laid off 2,000 of their workers, both native and expatriate. This time I tend to believe the report. Many oil services and construction companies have suffered severely from the worldwide recession.
“Saudis are distraught and bitter that their country, with its rich resources, is less influential and less popular than organizations like Hamas and Hizbullah….Any Saudi hopes of having a leading role in a fractured Arab World, or even competing with the roles of non-Arab powers like Iran, Turkey, or Israel, are mere hopes… The boldest Saudi initiative of recent times, the peace initiative of 2002 and 2007, was blocked by Israel and ignored by the United States…..” Middle East Online
Back to Middle East Asses:
“Egypt Donkey jailed for theft: an Egyptian donkey has been jailed for stealing corn on the cob from a field belonging to an agricultural research institute in the Nile Delta, local media reported on Thursday.The ass and its owner were apprehended at a police checkpoint that had been set up after the institute's director complained that someone was stealing his crops, the state-owned Al-Ahram daily said….”
That’s what he gets for not being ambitious enough and go for the gold in the New Middle East. Other Arab asses have fared much better than that schmuck.
“Donkeys ordered to wear diapers in Egypt, the official MENA reports: Donkeys have been banned from walking around in the streets of Egypt's south-western al-Wadi al-Gadeed governorates without wearing diapers, according to an official in the area. Mohammed Haround said the measure was to 'preserve the aesthetic and cultural scene of the governorate which currently witnesses an unprecedented boom in tourism'. 'Diapers are available in the markets at low prices,' Haroun was quoted by the official MENA news agency as saying on Tuesday. He added that owners of the donkeys who violate this decision will be fined….”
Did not say if the diaper rule applies to both male and female asses.
I also stumbled on this item about an international conference on donkeys and mules. Unfortunately I found out about it only recently, three years too late. “An International Weekend Conference: The Role of the Donkey and Mule in the Culture of the Mediterranean. Island of Hydra: 7–10 October 2005…..”
I could kick myself for not knowing about this on time. It has been a while since I saw the beautiful Greek isles.