STL Censorship: a Political Court Charges Media with Contempt………


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“The Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) tasked with trying those charged with assassinating Lebanon’s former Prime Minister Rafiq al-Hariri in 2005 said Thursday it had summoned two editors and two media organizations for contempt. “Karma Mohamed Tahsin al Khayat from al-Jadeed TV, as well as the station’s parent company New TV S.A.L., have been summoned to appear before the STL on two counts of Contempt and Obstruction of Justice,” the Tribunal said in a statement posted on its official website………….”

This Hariri (STL) court is now trying to muzzle Lebanese media that oppose it and report its credibility issues. It is a court that has been around for many years, and has been clearly suspect as a political instrument of foreign policy, and occasionally as a political instrument in internal Lebanese feuds. It is seen by most Arabs as a convenient sword to be waved over Lebanon whenever it is convenient. Just the leaks about its suspects have changed over the years according to Middle East political winds: Syria, Hezbollah, Iran, back to Syria, then several combinations of these ‘usual suspects’. Now it is getting in the business of muzzling the press (whatever you think of the press in question).
Does the STL have the power and jurisdiction to silence its opponents and detractors in Lebanon and other places? Can they call citizens of any country to punish them? Apparently its judicial bureaucrats seem to think so.

A Losing Cyber Battle: Did Putin Declare War on the Internet?……


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“Russian President Vladimir Putin has called the Internet a project controlled by the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), saying Russia needs to fight “for its interests” online. The Russian president made the remarks on Thursday, stressing that the Internet was a special project by the CIA and “is still developing as such.” Putin also warned the Russian people against making Google searches, emphasizing that every entry made into Google goes through servers in the United States. Putin’s remarks come on the backdrop of revelations made public by US surveillance whistleblower, Edward Snowden…………….”

to this report from Iranian Press TV, Mr. Putin is beginning to sound like the Saudi Mufti or a conservative Iranian ayatollah. The Internet was largely developed by the U.S. Defense Department for official communications. When its access was expanded to civilian institutions and some universities we got the “Internet” as we know it now. The CIA no doubt uses it and keeps tab on some people, as notoriously does the NSA. As does General Motors and Toyota and Amazon and Walmart and Samsung and many others: how do you think they know exactly what kind of advertisements to send uninvited to your computer screen?

As no doubt does the Russian equivalent of the CIA or the NSA. As do almost all governments around the world and their intelligence agencies. True, their interest might not be as extensive (nor as prurient) as the NSA or the British GCHQ, but it probably has to do with how much man/hour, money, and technical know-how a government is able and willing to devote to spying…………… 

One Rich Oil Prince as an Environmental Disaster……


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“A Saudi Arabian prince did some serious damage on a recent hunting expedition, managing during a 21-day killing spree to put a vulnerable species a few thousand deaths closer to extinction. The Saudi royal’s trip to Chagai, Balochistan this past January landed him 1,977 rare houbara bustards, reports Dawn, Pakistan’s English-language newspaper. Other members of his party managed to bag 123 more. According to a report prepared by the Balochistan Forest and Wildlife Department – ”Visit of Prince Fahd bin Sultan bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud regarding hunting of houbara bustard” — “the prince hunted the birds for 15 days in the reserved and protected areas, poached birds in other areas for six days and took rest for two days.” Pakistan’s come under fire for issuing special permits to Arab rulers allowing them to hunt the birds, which are off-limits to Pakistani citizens……………..”

Just a few decades ago, they did not need to travel that far for hunting hubara and other birds and animals. The Gulf and Peninsula region had an abundance, given the sparse population.

The princes and potentates have long since depleted the Arabian Peninsula and the Gulf from many of its once-native birds and animals. These native creatures (I don’t mean the potentates) became rare, and some of them have vanished from the region. Then the potentates started seeking easier hunting grounds.

Years ago they started on the fauna of the Indian Subcontinent (mainly Pakistan and to a lesser extent Bangladesh) and North Africa (mainly Morocco). This has gone on since the days of the military dictator Zia Ulhaq (before he was incinerated in a helicopter “accident”). This has continued under other regimes, especially the Sharif brothers (Nawaz and Whatishisname) who seem to alternate power with the Bhuttos and have been very close to the Al Saud princes. 
The princes have not yet acquired the East Asian craze for Rhino horns or elephant butts as alleged aphrodisiacs. Apparently not yet.

Oman-Iran Gas Deal: of Revolutionary Guards and Neighborly Tanks………


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“Oman’s plan to build a $1 billion natural-gas pipeline from Iran is the latest sign that Saudi Arabia is failing to bind its smaller Gulf neighbors into a tighter bloc united in hostility to the Islamic Republic. The accord was signed during Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s visit to Oman last month, and marks the first such deal between Iran and a Gulf Cooperation Council state in more than a decade. Oman is in good standing with the U.S. too: a $2.1 billion purchase of air-defense systems from Raytheon Inc. was announced during a visit by Secretary of State John Kerry last year. Oman, led by 73-year-old Sultan Qaboos Bin Said Al-Said, hosted secret talks between the U.S. and Iran in the run-up to November’s Geneva agreement..………..”

have never been able to satisfactorily answer one important question: why are the Omanis not seeing Iranian (and Hezbollah) plots under every bed as the Saudis and their Bahraini stooges claim they do (as do some Washington Post columnists)? Does the Sultan Qaboos Bin Said not worry about the scowling mullahs sweeping across the Gulf, skirting the mighty U.S. Navy and other Western armadas and Jordanian mercenaries in order to take over his country? Come to think of it: why don’t the Qataris seem worried about this? 
I have tried in the past to think it through, in my older posts here. 

This is no doubt partly related to the fact that Omanis know how the Wahhabis look at their (the Omani) version of the Islamic faith. They fear neighborly hegemony, as do many others in the Gulf GCC states. They all know that Iranian Revolutionary Guards would have to cross the sea and pass by the U.S Navy in the unlikely event that they go irrationally as mad as mad dogs and try to attack Oman (or Ras Al Khaimah or Um El Qewain). They all also know that Saudi tanks can just drive in as they did in Bahrain. 
It is also related to history, where the Omanis have always looked away from the Peninsula and across the seas. That is how they have forged their relations in the past: across the Gulf and across the Indian Ocean.

Iranian Pakistani Omani Hezbollah Naval Exercises, General Salami is no Baloney

GCC Rifts amid Arab Unrest: Wild Attempts at Gulf Hegemony, Swallowing a Bone

Disinformation about Secret American-Iranian Negotiations

GCC Summit: a Salafi Tribal Dream Team, Taqiyya and a Real Existential Threat

Qatar and Oman: Is Iran Cracking the GCC Front?

A New Saudi Foreign Minister? Forty More Years, Forty More Years………


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“Opposition sources in Saudi Arabia say that the country’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Saud Al-Faisal will be removed from his post, following the removal of the Saudi spy chief Prince Bandar bin Sultan. The sources said that the ouster of Faisal would constitute the second step of changes at the ruling family’s key positions. A possible scenario could be that Faisal submits his resignation in the coming days, the sources also said. Having held the position since 1975, Faisal is regarded as the world’s longest serving foreign minister. The decision to remove Faisal has reportedly been delayed due to a lack of suitable candidate for the post. One of Saudi King Abdullah’s sons is said to be among the major candidates for the position……………..”

This report is from Iran’s Press TV, so it pays to take it with a grain of salt. Yet there is at least a grain of truth in it. Other media have also reported the prince ailing in recent years, and he looks it. It is not clear how much of his recent sour disposition is a result of failures in Syria, Iraq, and Lebanon.

In the United States when an incumbent president runs for reelection, his supporters often chant: “Four more years, four more years”. This does not wash with Saudi princes who last in office for decades. The job is their turf; part of their inheritance. Prince Saudi Al Faisal has been at the job for about forty years, and he is reported to be ailing. Anyone who wants him to continue might have to chant: “forty more years, forty more years”. Which sounds absurd for a man in his seventies. The king has already appointed one of his sons as a deputy foreign minister. 

Honor, Dishonor, Seppuku, and Roadkill: from South Korea to Arabia and Beyond……….


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“The vice-principal of a South Korean high school who accompanied hundreds of pupils on a ferry that capsized has committed suicide, police said on Friday, as hopes faded of finding any of the 274 missing alive. The Sewol, carrying 476 passengers and crew, capsized on Wednesday on a journey from the port of Incheon to the southern holiday island of Jeju. Kang Min-gyu, 52, had been missing since Thursday. He appeared to have hanged himself with his belt from a tree outside a gym in the port city of Jindo where relatives of the people missing on the ship, mostly children from the school………………”

This South Korean school principal thought he was responsible for the deaths of some 300 students and others in the capsized ferry, and decided to pay the price in his own way. He took his own life. Of course not all Koreans are like that: most are not like that. Someone like Kim Jong Un of the DPRK only gets fatter, he and his family, on the death and suffering he visits on his people.

look to our region, and responsibility. We might find a humane way for ‘regime change’, well, a relatively humane way, at least from the point of view of the masses: 

  • Arab leaders lose wars (they always lose wars against everybody else except their own peoples and maybe against the local swine as happened in Egypt under Hosni Mubarak). 
  • They cause death and suffering to their citizens: look at the huge numbers of political prisoners in most Arab countries from the Persian Gulf through Egypt and Libya and Sudan. Look at how many innocent people have died or been maimed in the past three years only.
  • They brazenly embezzle public property: the princes and potentates believe they were born owning it all; the dictators and generals believe they have earned it all by taking the serious risk of plotting to usurp power. Sort of like loot or war booty.
  • They often disappoint everyone, including each other; otherwise there would be no Borgia-style inter-family plots and coups in the royal palaces and the military barracks.
  • So, their performance is dismal, I am sure you agree with me (not that I care if you don’t). 
  • Yet they never think of hanging or shooting or burning or overdosing themselves into oblivion. True, there are not many mountains or tall bridges from which they could happily jump (a few do have access to very tall buildings and towers). 
  • They are not Japanese so a disappointing Arab despot or potentate could not get some trusted minister to swing the sword as he commits Seppuku by disemboweling himself (some foreigners might call it Hara-Kiri). Well, one can at least dream……
  • Nobody gets thrown out of helicopters anymore, and none seem to crash accidentally on purpose of late. Not since Saddam Hussein of Iraq vanished.

Speaking of leadership, their best chance of an honorable death might be something as pedestrian as a traffic accident (no pun was intended here, even I was pleasantly surprised). There are many opportunities for an honorable death on a fast local road, many innocent young citizens take advantage of them, unfortunately. It is disappointing that not any of the Arab potentates take advantage of them. Nobody in the region as as  deserving.
Maybe they don’t do it because it would be considered a sin, and there is always one sin these worthies avoid assiduously.

Ukraine Fallout on an Arizona Gas Station: Union of Sanctioned Pariah States……


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“Even as the crisis in Ukraine continues to defy easy resolution, President Obama and his national security team are looking beyond the immediate conflict to forge a new long-term approach to Russia that applies an updated version of the Cold War strategy of containment. Just as the United States resolved in the aftermath of World War II to counter the Soviet Union and its global ambitions, Mr. Obama is focused on isolating President Vladimir V. Putin’s Russia by cutting off its economic and political ties to the outside world, limiting its expansionist ambitions in its own neighborhood and effectively making it a pariah state………………”

A pariah state: it sounds ominous. The list is already long and can get longer. Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Sudan, Syria, etc. Now the mother of all sanctions: a possible creeping economic blockade of the huge Eurasian mass of Russia, with spillover into other countries. Mr. Putin may be excused if someday he makes a famous Reagan-esque speech outside the IMF building, with a great sound bite: “Mr. Obama (or Mrs Clinton or Mr. Bush III) tear down this blockade………” 

Provided he can get a visa to get to the IMF building. And it would be more effective if he could keep his shirt on during that speech.

 blockade against Russia invites blockades against many others, if the Iranian example is to be imitated. Russia is huge; it is still that ‘other’ world (bigger than an Arizona gas station). Many countries, from Asia through Latin America and Africa, and even Europe, will not go along with sanctions against (Mother) Russia. But even if they do, we will have two new definitions of nations. Now we have: First World and Third World, Developed World and Underdeveloped World, Industrial and non-Industrial World (the last one is not as sharp anymore). SCO (Shanghai) countries are highly unlikely to comply. Countries like India and China and Brazil may straddle the two as they are partially blockaded by the “international community”, meaning by the Western powers of North America and Europe. Of course, India and China represent many more people than all of the “international community” of North America and Europe.  

we may have new blocs of nations: Sanctioned or Blockaded Nations and Non-blockaded Nations; Blockading nations and Blockaded Nations, etc. Sounds almost like a new Cold war of “beggar they neighbors across the vast oceans”.


From the Gulf through Asia: More on FIFA World Cup Corruption and GCC Rifts……


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“The account of a 10-year-old daughter of a FIFA executive was pumped with $3.4 million, according to a report by The Telegraph on Friday, raising more questions over the finances of the officials who awarded Russia and Qatar the 2018 and 2022 tournaments. Antonia Wigand Teixeira, the daughter of the Brazilian representative of the FIFA executive committee, had reportedly received the money in 2011. Her father Ricardo, part of the committee which helped select the World Cup host nation………… A statement issued by lawyers acting for the Qatar bid said the payment from Mr. Rosell to Mr. Teixeira had nothing to do with the country’s bid for the 2022 World Cup…………”

Saudi semi-official Alarabiya network is headlining this one, which tells me Saudi-Qatari relations have not improved as much as recent reports claimed. GCC media yesterday headlined reports about healing the rift between the ruling potentates of the two countrie: these were apparently just wishful thinking by Saudi allies. Which tells me something else: even if they manage to patch the holes temporarily with chewing gum, the dam will leak and burst again.

Apparently corruption and international sports go closely together. From the Salt Lake City (Utah) Winter Olympics to the Formula One Grand Prix in Bahrain to the FIFA World Cup games in Qatar (and maybe Russia and beyond). Then there were the selection of the leaders of Asian Sports Federations. The president of the Asian Football (Soccer) Confederation used to be a Qatari and is now a Bahraini shaikh named Salman Al Khalifa, of course. Now I wonder how many millions was paid by each country to corrupt Asian Confederation officials in order to secure the position to their potentate. 

Silly me, I had thought these countries won such exalted positions on merit, even if they had never won championships. I suspect this has been going on for decades, but the scale has grown too heavy to be kept a secret. Before the era of petroleum oligarchs and petroleum potentates in the Middle East and other places maybe the amounts of money were small, too small to be decisive. Now, many millions can be spent on buying international sports decisions.


Tea and Crumpets Offshore: Liberators of Syria Liberate French Journalists in Liberated Turkey……


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“Four French journalists held hostage in Syria for 10 months have been released, officials said Saturday, the latest batch of reporters to be freed in what has become the world’s deadliest conflict for the media. President Francois Hollande’s office said in a statement that he felt “immense relief” over the release of Edouard Elias, Didier Francois, Nicolas Henin and Pierre Torres — all said to be in good health in neighboring Turkey………The four went missing in June 2013 in two incidents. Press freedom advocate Reporters Without Borders has called Syria “the most dangerous country in the world” for journalists. The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists said in April that 61 journalists were kidnapped in Syria in 2013, while more than 60 have been killed since the conflict began. The widespread abductions of journalists is unprecedented, and has been largely unreported by news organizations in the hope that keeping the kidnappings out of public view may help to negotiate the captives’ release. Jihadi groups are believed to be behind most kidnappings…………..”

the last sentence should read that: “opposition groups are behind almost all kidnappings of journalists in Syria”. The only group that may not be directly involved in kidnappings are the exiled 5-star leaders of the SNC (Syrian national Coalition), for their offshore role is confined to finding excuses for the Jihadists, ignoring those killed, and thumbing their chests whenever some are released. Besides sipping tea and nibbling crumpets with visiting Arab petroleum potentates.

how the French journalists were liberated “in Turkey”. The would-be liberators of Syria have liberated the French journalists inside liberated Turkey. Before that, the same liberators of Syria liberated a bunch of Lebanese (Shi’a) hostages also inside liberated Turkey. I forgot: were the captive priests and nuns liberated? I mean those that were not beheaded. If so, were they liberated inside liberated Turkey as well?


The Real Enemy Within: New Dastardly Plot of Al Qaeda………


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“Putting the nation on alert against what it has described as a “highly credible terrorist threat,” the FBI announced today that it has uncovered a plot by members of al-Qaeda to sit back and enjoy themselves while the United States collapses of its own accord. Multiple intelligence agencies confirmed that the militant Islamist organization and its numerous affiliates intend to carry out a massive, coordinated plan to stand aside and watch America’s increasingly rapid decline, with terrorist operatives across the globe reportedly mobilizing to take it easy, relax, and savor the spectacle as it unfolds………… A recently declassified CIA report confirmed that all known al-Qaeda-affiliated organizations—from Pakistan to Yemen, and from Somalia to Algeria—have been instructed to kick back and enjoy the show as the United States’ federal government, energy grid, and industrial sector are rendered impotent by internal dissent, decay, and mismanagement. According to statements made by top-level informants and corroborated by leading Western terrorism experts, if seen through to its conclusion, al-Qaeda’s current plot could wreak far more damage than the events of 9/11…………………..”

According to this piece, the 2008 financial meltdown must have been just a trial run, a rehearsal for the big one. The Onion does not say openly, but it probably knows that it may all depend on the two next U.S. elections: the 2014 congressional elections and the general elections of 2016.
So, maybe the New York NYPD was smart to decide to dismantle its network of espionage around the area mosques and shawarma joints. Maybe it plans to move all the spare agents to monitor the banking sector (for weaknesses in capital and solvency and honesty and, by necessity, supervision).