On an unusual surreal day early last summer a man I had never heard of before climbed a podium in Mosul, Iraq. He was dressed in presumably 7th century Arab attire, accurate enough to make Hollywood proud. In hindsight, he may have been playing a role selected for him. He declared the recreation of the Islamic Caliphate (meaning the state run by the heirs and followers of the Prophet Mohammed). He declared himself the new Caliph; to wit, public ruler and religious leader of Muslims- non-Wahhabis need not apply.
Then this character Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi (reportedly né Ibrahim Awwad Al Samarrai) disappeared from view. No more public pronouncements, no appearances. Gradually we have been getting reports, photos, and videos of others, of less swarthy men with red and blond beards dominating the Wahhabis in Syria and Iraq. Chechens (Shishan, or Shishani in Arabic), from Russian Chechnya, have been reported to be in Syria and Iraq for a couple of years. Now they seem to have been flooding the place, if some media reports are accurate. The most famous media face is that of Omar Al-Shishani: his real name is reported to be Batirashvili, which means he originally hails from Georgia (I think any name ending in –Shvili is Georgian, just like one Dzhugashvili who became known as Stalin). They are alleged to be the mainstay of the street fighting, the sharpshooters of city and town warfare. They also presumably have women there, as sharpshooters and as, er, companions and entertainers of the Jihadis when they are not blowing up Iraqi civilians or taking Syrians as hostages and slaves.
That probably explains the extreme bloodiness of their treatment of the captives. That is a typically European practice as we know from the history of the past two centuries. From Germany to Russia (including Chechnya) to the Balkans. The Chechnya rebellion was typically praised in the West, until the inevitable happened, just as it has happened in Syria. The inevitable is that the Wahhabi outsiders with a lot of money and a hateful message, both imported, took over the Chechen rebellion, just as they did the initial Syrian uprising. The Chechens took up chopping heads and hands and stoning quickly in their Caucasus homeland, with the zeal of the converted. Now they are in our region, likely the new European masters of the Caliphate.
One should not exaggerate: there are no doubt Arab commanders as well. We know some of the names, noms de guerre, many others are not known. This reliance on foreign military prowess has normally happened in Islamic history in the declining years of previous Caliphates and Sultanates. It was a practice from Baghdad to Cairo to Istanbul. Often the imported ‘help’, usually imported former slaves, ended up in effective command.
But there are also other ‘Europeans’ involved. This new brief Caliphate, like other Islamic Caliphates before it has fallen to reliance on the imported help. Reliance on the particular Europeans with the bloodiest recent memories and lessons of massacres and mass killings and genocide.
Is this just a repeat blast from past Islamic history? Is this Al Baghdadi (al Samarrai) a hapless figurehead for the real strongmen of the Islamic State?………….
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum
Oct 28, 2014:“”The first cyberattack, codenamed Olympic Games, was carried out on Natanz and was declared by the US President, but it met our heavy (defensive) response,” Jalali told reporters in a press conference in Tehran on Tuesday. The senior commander said the US changed its cyber commander following the failure in the cyberattack on Natanz, adding that the US general was forced to retire several months ago “due to the wrong information and data that he had presented to President Obama”………… The disclosures about Obama’s role in the cyberwar against Iran appear to show beyond doubt that the US, with the help of Israel, was behind the Stuxnet virus attack on Iran’s centrifuge machines – used to enrich uranium. The revelation then indicated that Washington and Tel Aviv were also behind the Flamer and Duqu virus attacks………..”
This just came out of Iran, out of the blue. Nothing new here about the American-Israeli cyber war on Iran. Nor about the Iranian counter cyber war. Live by cyber war, die by cyber war. American and Saudi and possibly other ‘systems’ have also been hacked by foreign malware. Could be by Iranians, or Chinese or Russians. Could be Martians or Cryptonians doing it, for all the evidence that we have. Nobody can prove anything. Could be proverbial young hackers in a proverbial garage in California doing it all. The beauty of it is that there never is any proof, no casus belli. Tit for tat, tat for tit.
Cyber wars are the great equalizer of our time, I have opined in the past. This is one war no side can claim to have supremacy in, not for long anyway. If they can send malware into your system, chances they are also capable of creating defenses against your malware. A source in Shiraz or Belize can do as much harm as a source in Tel Aviv or Boston or Novosibirsk. And the beat goes on, will go on, pending some future international convention by all sides equally to mutually cease and desist.
JOHN BOLTON’S GIFT TO IRAN: THE CHICKENHAWK AND THE CYBER MULLAHS………
A LOSING CYBER BATTLE: DID PUTIN DECLARE WAR ON THE INTERNET?……
FROM NUCLEAR ASSASSINATION TO CYBER ASSASSINATION?………
CYBER JINGOISM: CYBERSECURITY, CYBER WARS, AND THE NEW CYBER POWERS………
CYBER WARS: MALWARE, MAHDI, AND HAIL MARY IN IRAN AND ISRAEL………
ISRAEL AND THE WEST: ONLY ARAB AND MUSLIM HACKING IS TERRORISM, OURS IS KOSHER………
DUQU HITS IRAN: VIRUS DU JOUR BEATS A SHOOTING WAR………
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum
Chickenshit? What took you so long, lame duck?…………..
Ever since Barack Obama became U.S. president Mr. Netanyahu (his groupies in America prefer Bibi!) has been going out of its way to disrespect him, in his own house. Which means disrespecting the office of the president and disrespecting the United States.
There is a pattern: whenever there is a high level American-Israeli meeting or visit, there is an announcement of new settlements in the West Bank or Jerusalem, or the expansion of existing settlements. It is like flicking a middle finger in Mr. Obama’s face even as he provides support to Israel. It is probably not racist, probably not, although he never did it to Bush. Nicolas Sarkozy, who can hardly be called anti-Israel or antisemitic, once dismissed him as a ‘liar’ into an open microphone.
Adding insult to injury, Netanyahu reportedly has had the habit of doing much of his American diplomacy with Congressional and Senate members, mainly Republicans. They would deal, nay connive, directly with a leader of a foreign country to undermine official American foreign policy.
Mr. Netanyahu is a petty hack and political hustler, for all this strange mix of American groupies who seem to consider him some kind of Guru Noir. He has managed to patch together a cabinet of the extreme right, with strong support from Jewish Wahhabis and settlers. In other words, he has no other choice if he wants to remain in power.
Chickenshit? Probably yes, almost certainly yes. But it is worth it to him. As someone in the U.S. Congress might say these days: those who are not chickenshit finish last come November. In Israeli power struggles, and every other November in the USA.
Chickenshit? Hell yeah, why not………
A great succinct American term. I have been trying accurate Arabic and Persian and French and German translations for it. Spanish sounds the most plausible and most exotic for now: caca del pollo.
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum
People around here have been calling each other “dude” for years. Apparently its origins go back to men who dressed up fashionably, WTF that meant: perhaps “men in tights“. Now it can mean any schmuck, no matter how he dresses.
Hey, dud. No, dude. Common on, dude. Are you nuts, dude? Who is that dude?
What they don’t know is that calling someone a “dude” in Arabic can be a serious insult. As it should be. In Arabic, “dude” means “worm“, which is a good term to use on “dudes” but only selectively. You know, the things that crawl around, occasionally they can rule whole countries? Yep, that kind of ruling “dude”, dude. The Arab uprisings notwithstanding.
So, a dude in that sense can be either insignificant or significant.
FYI: one worm is “duda or dudah“. But two worms are NOT “dudah, dudah“, not even if you sing them. Seriously, lol.
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum
I saw the following two headlines on Twitter this morning. I believe they were about the same clashes in the multifaceted multipronged civil wars of Yemen:
- Alarabiya (Saudi news and propaganda network) headline: “BREAKING- Dozens killed in clashes between Houthis and tribesmen in Yemen’s Ibb, Al Arabiya correspondent reports”.
- Press TV (Iranian news and propaganda network): “At least 250 people are killed in fighting between Houthis and al-Qaeda-linked militants in Yemen”.
So, one side’s Al-Qaeda is the other side’s tribesmen.
The truth? The Saudis and their allies were never comfortable with the Islah-tribal regime. Even though they helped set up the sham elections of 2012 that set up the not-so-new regime. Generalisimo Abd Rabu Hadi Al Zombie won an astounding 99.8% of the votes, embarrassing even by Arab standards (Al Sisi won less than 98% in Egypt). The Saudis like the tribal part: they have spent decades bribing tribes and their elders across the Arab world, from Yemen to Iraq and Syria. They don’t like the Islah part and not only because the word means “reform” in Arabic, which means that it is in reality meaningless in Arab politics.
The Islah is also dominated by the Yemeni Muslim Brotherhood, MB. The MB have bad relations with almost all Gulf GCC rulers now, except for some ambiguity with the Bahrain ruling family. Now the Saudis also worry about their “own” who have set up shop in Yemen, the Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).
But I suspect that the Saudis worry the most now about the Houthi “rebels”, as the media calls them. They worry about them mainly because they are an offshoot but divergent branch of the Shi’a sect. Saudis have never cottoned up to Shi’as getting involved in politics (not that they like anybody other than princes in politics). They have had past clashes with the Houthis in which the superbly-armed but battle-incompetent Saudi armed forces were trounced. And they worry about an Iranian connection, about being pressured by the mullahs from the south. The Iranians, for their part, have been crowing about the Houthi ‘victories’. Which raises Saudi suspicions about Tehran’s ties with the new masters of Sana’a. But things are fluid in Yemen, too many variables working there, too many local and foreign forces. Nothing is certain.
There has been some propaganda ‘stuff’ in the media about risks to the Bab El-Mandab and Red Sea maritime traffic. But that is probably just propaganda to get Western ‘special’ attention focused more on the Houthis and less on AQAP (or the tribals as Alarabiya calls them these days).
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum
The Iranian courts execute many people every year, too many. Many of them are probably drug dealers and drug runners from across the border, but there are many others strung up every year. Too many: when it comes to official state murder that is called capital punishment, even one is too many. Iran probably comes after China and before Saudi Arabia, but that is an issue of population size. Nobody knows about North Korea but I suspect they execute more people than Texas would like to. Hopefully they kill them faster than Oklahoma did last time they tried it with that botched injection that tortured the man for a long time.
Knee-jerk reaction in the West about judicial executions in Iran is expected, it is normal. It is reciprocated by similar knee-jerk reaction from the Iranian mullahs who never tire of gleefully noting the extremely high U.S. rate and share of world incarceration. These executions are routinely condemned by the U.S. government, and maybe by one or two other European countries and maybe by the petroleum government of Mr. Harper in Canada. They are well-publicized in Western media, more than any other executions elsewhere in the world. More than the large number of men and women who are beheaded and crucified in Saudi Arabia. The latter are probably never officially condemned in Washington or Paris.
This weekend the Qatari, Saudi, and Emirati media joined the ISIS cutthroats and other Wahhabis in condemning the execution of the Iranian woman. Imagine, funny regimes that behead and crucify and stone are criticizing a hanging in Iran (FYI: as I noted they have too many hangings in Iran each year). Wahhabi polygamous ‘activists’, who justify sex slavery and taking and selling captive female concubines in Syria and Iraq condemn the execution of a woman in Iran. Some of the most sectarian bunch on the face of the planet are now claiming it was a sectarian execution.
Wherever it survives, capital punishment should be eradicated. Something should also be done about those many millions who are in prison in China and the United States, many of them convicted for committing non-violent crimes and for simply not affording good lawyers.
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum
“We buy shit we don’t need, with money we don’t have, to impress people we don’t like….” George Carlin
In these divisive and divided times there is hardly anything, any event, or any phenomenon that is not politicized in America. It is almost like the country is reliving the 1860 campaign of Lincoln: it is deeply divided along political, economic,and cultural lines. That makes the politics venomous in election years, almost sectarian, to use a Middle Eastern reality that many Americans have discovered in the past decade or so. It continues in other years which are not election years but have become pre-election and post-election years. There is so much fuel, so much money to spend on politics: buying candidates, buying expensive airtime on the Boob Tube, and effectively buying voters by financing their favorite television shows.
People here are so busy defeating the terrorists by overworking in order to keep up and to buy more goods and gadgets (some call it more stuff, others call it more shit). That was how George W. Bush succinctly expressed one part of his strategy to defeat terrorism after September 2001: go shopping. So between work and other distractions the people have no time to think politically. They emulate corporations that have outsourced their jobs, factories and customer services, mostly to Asia. Many American voters have now outsourced their political thinking to the television sound-bite industry. I suspect that in many cases the last catchy sound bite on the last weekend before the election wins it all.
As per a decision of the Supreme Court of the USA, money has
more than equal freedom of speech and political expression (Citizens United). “Corporations are people, my friend” intoned the Least Interesting Man in the World during the 2012 presidential campaign. So, the politics go viral, more than ever before: the country is divided and money is not a constraint anymore.
Some state governors, ambitious and/or terrified of looming elections, decide that Ebola suspects should be completely quarantined in their states. Other politicians, many from the party that is out of the White House, talk of banning flights from West Africa. Then they wait for their rivals to supply the wrong sound bite and provide a political edge.
In this era, nothing is sacred: from God to National Security to Death. Everything is being politicized: first God, then War, then health care, and now Ebola. Even the HIV/AIDS scare was never so politicized in its heyday. Only sports seem to have stayed above the fray, so far………
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum
The Song of Istanbul, or——–> Turkish Delight
“Just a few kilometers away from the Turkish border, the war is raging. In the Kurdish city of Kobani, US jets bomb Islamic State positions while the town’s last defenders, equipped with more grit than guns, fight the jihadists on the ground. As the Turkish army impassively watches the deadly battle from its side of the boundary with Syria, it has opened its own mini-front on the outskirts of Suruç, a Turkish border city…………. The scene is prosaic and absurd…… Now that the city is being threatened with destruction by Islamic State Ankara is doing nothing to prevent it, and thus putting the future of Turkish-Kurdish reconciliation in danger — and domestic peace along with it……………”
In our native region we are obsessed with history, especially older history that spans the old Islamic Empire and goes beyond that to the Persian and Egyptian and other civilizations. Maybe it is so because the present is so dismal when compared to the distant past. Thus many Arabs have joked in recent years about a return of another not-too-distant era, a new Ottoman-less Empire with Caliph Erdogan as its leader.
Turkey probably did as much as anybody else to enable the ISIS and the Al-Nusra Front and other terrorist groups, to help them rise and thrive. Turkish help was essential for them to take hold of the Syrian uprising of 2011. It is true that the basic elements, the money, the weapons, and much of the volunteers came from among foreign Wahhabis, from the Persian Gulf to North Africa to Europe. But all these elements could not be of any use unless they reached Syria (and Iraq). Even Senator John McCain could not have snuck into Syria illegally without Turkish cooperation. Thus the role of Turkey in the past three years.
The Erdogan government believed some of the Gulf Arab and Western propaganda about an imminent early fall of the Al Assad regime in 2011. It gambled on that outcome and lost, and it has dug in deeper since. Now it seems that when the dust settles it may lose more than its expansionist Islamist face.
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum
Following the currents of Saudi opinion on the media and especially the more spontaneous social media is becoming more interesting than ever. The traditional media is not as important anymore, since it is owned, controlled, or otherwise preempted by the rulers and their oligarchy allies. This applies to other Gulf countries as well.
The various shades of the Wahhabi opposition in Saudi Arabia are now very active on social media. They are now the most active, more active than the ‘traditional’ liberal (or the Wahhabi-liberal?) opposition. For one, the Wahhabi opposition are more driven and more ambitious, as more extreme groups often are, than the traditional opposition. They are more absolutist and more active, which sometimes makes them the ‘main opposition’ by sheer noise and default. Remember Lenin and Trotsky and the Bolsheviks and the Mensheviks? Or Khomenie and the Tudeh Communists and the Mujahideen-e-Khalq? Or Hitler and von Hindenburg?
And the educational system and the theocratic bureaucracy still reinforce their ideology of excommunicating and killing the ‘others’.
The Saudi Wahhabi opposition has lately been trying to make a case for the existence of a secret alliance between the Al Saud and the resurgent Houthis in Yemen. They also try to make a case for a secret alliance between the Al Saud and Bashar Al Assad, between the Al Saud and the ruling Shi’a-Kurdish blocs in Iraq: plotting against the ISIS Caliphate and, in their words, “against the Sunnis”. During moments of wild clarity they even tie the Al Saud to Hezbollah of Lebanon, their main nemesis in the eastern Mediterranean. Need I elaborate on where this is leading? No, it it clear that this all leads to Tehran and Qom, via Karbala and Najaf.
To wit: the Al Saud, alleged guardians of the Wahhabi right, are in fact secret allies of the Shi’a left. But the Wahhabi and no-so-Wahhabi argument is commonly heard along the Paranoid Persian Gulf that the mullahs of Iran and their allies from Baghdad to Damascus to Beirut are secret allies of the United States. Hence, they are secret allies of Israel (to the delusional faithful it is a.k.a. TZE: The Zionist Entity).
This paranoia is more frenzied than ever these days, as the nuclear talks move on and the U.S.
Knesset Congress has calmed down about its idiotic lobbyist-driven drive to bomb and maybe invade Iran. (BTW: how come the U.S. Congress never threaten to bomb North Korea, for example? Is it because it is not Muslim? Is it because of the aforementioned TZE? Is it both?)
One conclusion drawn by some of the leaders of this Wahhabi opposition is that “the Al saud will never execute Shaikh Nimr Al Nimr” (the Shi’a cleric who was sentenced to be beheaded and crucified). They opine this conclusion:”the Al Saud will never dare execute him“, they write regretfully. This is supposed to be proof that they are in cahoots with the ‘unbelievers’. Or maybe they are just trying to dare the rulers into chopping the head of Al Nimr and crucifying him.
There is new speculation about the ‘oil weapon’ in Arab media, in independent Arab media that is not owned by the Saudi or UAE or Qatari princes and potentates. This speculation has now also spilled into some Western media outlets. It claims that the Saudis, the usual crude oil ‘swing producers‘ of OPEC, are not playing their usual role these days. And they attribute this to regional strategic reasons.
The speculation is that the Saudis want to apply some economic pressure on their Iranian rivals (and perhaps on the Russians as well). Not the kind of direct crude type of economic pressure in the form of the blockades used by the Obama administration, but a more genteel ‘market’ type of pressure. If oil prices are low enough, this theory seems to go, then the Iranians will feel the economic pinch and reduce their support for Al Assad in Syria, Hezbollah in Lebanon, and perhaps reduce their involvement in Iraq and other places.
The idea is not new: it was expressed by the Saudis after they lost out in Iraq a few years ago. At the time, some minion at the Saudi Embassy in Washington opined in American media (the Washington Post?) that his country can drown the market in oil and hurt the Iranians. I wrote then (presciently?) that this may be a delusion, that the Saudis themselves cannot afford very low oil prices, given population growth and emerging political pressures at home.
The reduction in oil prices also coincided with the initial Ebola panic which impacted the travel outlook and hence the demand for fuel.
As if responding to this policy, or speculation about it, the Iranians have just announced a huge offer of weapons for the Lebanese military (which is secular but represents the sectarian and confessional divisions within that country). They seem to be in a race with the Saudis (who earlier announced a conditional $3-4 billion of French weapons) and the Americans to arm the (so far multi-sectarian) Lebanese military.