All posts by Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

Dr. Mohammed Haider Ghuloum: trained as an economist, been called a few other names..... الشرقية للبنين- المتنبي- ثانوية الشويخ

Bibi and Donald and Adele and Forcible Dates: Is the Thrill Gone Already?…………..

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KuwaitCox2 Hiking

Israeli PM Benyamin Netanyahu is coming to Washington this week. Meetings of world leaders with Netanyahu remind me of younger days and dating days. Sometimes the thrill is gone from the get go, from the first time. Sometimes afterwards she (usually) or he realizes they would not want a repeat.
In world politics it is that way too, except that these diplomatic dates are almost like “forcible dates”. If one lasts eight years as a leader he/she would have to keep on dating him or her often.

George W Bush kept his meetings with Netanyahu to a minimum: he already knew exactly what his date would say. Which always takes the thrill out of any date. Clearly Obama did not want a repeat after his first date with Netanyahu, but he had no choice: eight years in office is a long time. I doubt any world leader ever looks forward to meeting him. (American Congressmen and Senators are not world leaders, they are more like star-struck Bibi-groupies. Or maybe they can’t get another date with so many resources).

In fairness, almost all other Middle East leaders are also like Bibi in that respect: they all think others are thrilled to hear them whine out their wisdom.

I suspect, as some comments in the media have noted this week, that Donald and Bibi will start taking many bathroom breaks during their very first date this week. A real date is not like a long-distance post-election telephone date, you don’t see and hear the warts (a rude person would add that you don’t use your olfactory faculties).

Mr. Netanyahu is at a bigger disadvantage here when he meets Trump this week. He really has no new case to make anymore. The US Congress, both houses and almost both parties, have been making the case for him for several years. The Senators and Congressmen have made his visit to Washington redundant, just a cosmetic thing. A photo-op. Sort of like watching Beyonce and Adele walk and pause on the Red Carpet: it has nothing to do with the prize…..

But eye candy is much more pleasing to look at than older men plotting to step into the next military quagmire……

Cheers

M H Ghuloum

Will Eastern Syria Trigger America’s Next Endless Muslim War?……..

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“A professional ground force coalition-of-the-willing led by the United States is something this writer has been long urging. This would involve American combat skin-in-the-game along with ground forces from countries such as Turkey, Jordan, France, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain. The final three on the list have already volunteered forces to fight the Islamic State; recruiting the others would require hard-nosed diplomacy. But if the Islamic State is the threat the Trump administration says it is — and the people of Paris, Brussels, Istanbul, and Ankara, who have all suffered terror attacks at its hands, would agree — why would its neutralization be left to militiamen? In addition to putting the military defeat of the Islamic State in the hands of military professionals, the Pentagon’s plan for northern Syria must take several other factors into account………”

Forget the nonsense about the Coalition of the Willing (and Bribed if unwilling). It will be an American war, if it happens. After ISIS is defeated, kicked out of the major Syrian cities like Raqqa, it will be a different war. The Turks will want to crush Kurdish aspirations for autonomy, that will be their priority. It would be like pushing the toothpaste back into the tube. Expect more spectacular fireworks inside Turkey. The Saudis will want some kind of Wahhabi-ized regime in the liberated area. The Qataris (and the Turks) will want some say for the Muslim Brotherhood as well. The Syrian Jihadis, masqueraded as ‘moderate opposition’, will want some ethnic cleansing of Alawis and Shi’as. Some of the Arab allies from the Persian Gulf will try to get America to join their regional sectarian Jihad (as Obama warned last year), to enter a new conflict with Iran and Lebanon, who have either forces or advisers in Syria.
A recipe for another sectarian region-wide war. A war the pro-Jihadi Salafis and their potentates could not wage without the help of their enemies, the Americans.

America will be pushed to get involved in an even wider field of multi-wars in the Middle East. A regional war urged by regional potentates and princes as their only hope to push the menacing Iranian mullahs back. More Americans killed, more Arabs and Muslims killed. That is not a good recipe for fighting Arab Muslim radicalism. It could be a formula for expanding it.

Cheers

M. H. Ghuloum

Arab Leaders Blowing in the Wind: Torn Between Many Lovers…….

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KuwaitCox2 Hiking

The Arab regimes that care, mainly in the Gulf region, have failed to devise and implement a strategy against the expansion of Iranian influence in the Middle East. Military attempts in Iraq and Syria (via insurgent Jihadi proxies) have failed. An extended and ferocious destructive bombing campaign with Western help seems to have failed against the fierce Yemenis. Attempts at forging various reliable foreign alliances, from Turkey to Africa, have failed. Now they think they have a chance at a reset with the Trump administration, but that is probably just another illusion.

A leading Saudi newspaper editor, Mr. Turki Al Dakhil who is close to some potentates, has asked Saudis to launch a campaign on Twitter and other social media praising Donald Trump’s criticism of Iran. In the process also exaggerating it. Many, including the huge official Saudi Electronic Army have been tweeting hashtags (most common hashtag has been #TrumpWarnsIranianTerrorism or something like it) supposedly egging Mr. Trump on, pushing him toward a confrontation with the Iranian regime.

Wahhabi extremists, Salafis, ISIS fans, Al Qaeda fans and other assorted fans of Jihadi cutthroats are all suddenly tweeting in praise of the new President of the United States.

Remember when President Obama complained to the Atlantic Magazine last year that some Arab oligarchs in the Persian Gulf were trying to get the USA to join their regional sectarian conflicts? They are now trying to egg Trump on to fight their sectarian war in the Gulf region and possibly beyond. Only a few weeks ago they were blasting Trump as an Islamophobic racist, now they are clinging to him as a potential war ally. The last great (very) white hope.

Of course this is not new. After the fall of Baghdad in 2003 some Arab autocrats tried with George W Bush to provoke yet a new Gulf war. But he turned out smarter than that, less cooperative. Obama was even more skeptical of the Arab oligarchs, especially after the uprisings of 2010/2011 started. So, the oligarchs soured on Obama and hitched their wagons to Benyamin Netanyahu of Israel. As they waited for their old Clintonista friends to retake the White House.

Netanyahu talked tough against the mullahs, but he would not go to a risky war for the sake of Wahhabi kings and princes who don’t even recognize his country. You see, I suspect that much of Netanyahu’s bluster about the Iranian regime was to divert attention from the settlements in the West Bank (he has been warning since 1995 that Iran will have a nuclear weapon within six months). Some Iranian leaders helped him along with their absurd and bigoted comments about the Holocaust and their silly “Death To” slogans. The Iranian hardliners are good at milking these hostile slogans to their advantage in the Middle East, even if they harm their country’s interests in the halls of power in the West.

Enter Donald Trump and his frustrated hawkish former generals and cultural religious racial warriors.

So that is where it stands now. The Arab oligarchs are suddenly admirers of the American leader they called a clown only a few weeks ago. They think they have a chance against Iranian expansion with Trump, given that the president is surrounded by hawks and by cabinet members and advisers who have been close to the Iranian Mujahideen-Khalq opposition group.

Trump promised to avoid foreign wars and focus on America, but he is now making ominous noises. Will he go to war for his new autocratic admirers? Hopefully not: the Middle East has had enough of foreign meddling and Western wars.
Just help defeat ISIS and Al Qaeda, Mr. Trump, then get the hell out. You don’t belong in the Middle East permanently. The Iranians and the Arabs (and Kurds and Jews and others) belong there, and they have for thousands of years.

Cheers

M. H. Ghuloum

A New Persian Gulf War? A Message from Marcus Licinius Crassus to Donald Trump……..

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KuwaitCox2 Hiking

“The Saudis have been bombing the Houthi rebels and ravaging their country, Yemen, for two years. Are the Saudis entitled to immunity from retaliation in wars that they start? Where is the evidence Iran had a role in the Red Sea attack on the Saudi ship? And why would President Trump make this war his war? As for the Iranian missile test, a 2015 U.N. resolution “called upon” Iran not to test nuclear-capable missiles. It did not forbid Iran from testing conventional missiles, which Tehran insists this was. Is the United States making new demands on Iran not written into the nuclear treaty or international law—to provoke a confrontation? Did Flynn coordinate with our allies about this warning of possible military action against Iran? Is NATO obligated to join any action we might take?………..”
Also sprach Pat Buchanan, now older and even wiser.

Mr. Trump is a Manhattan businessman and a showman. Which means he has mastered the arts of showmanship and bluffing (and bullying).
His nonsensical campaign promise to ‘Make America Great Again‘ was absurd, as if America is Egypt or Peru. But it was bought by enough of the desperate industrial working classes, and much of the campaign-money-donating upper classes, to get him into the White House. Even as he lost the popular vote by almost 3 million votes.

His promise of America First looks set to be set on fire by his new adventurism in the Persian Gulf region. Possibly egged on by some of the same Arab and Jewish regional allies he detests so much. He has surrounded himself by a few former military men and civilian hawks who have a chip on their collective shoulders regarding the Middle East, especially Iran. They think they can win the wars of choice that Bush and Obama squandered.

Now they have made Donald Trump into a George W Bush on steroids. But a new military conflict in the Persian Gulf will last much longer than the hawks and chickenhawks think. Remember the Iran-Iraq war? It was started by Iraq as a blitzkrieg victory, but it lasted eight years and ended up destroying Iraq. This latest war in Afghanistan has lasted 16 years, so far. The latest Iraq war started in 2003, Syria is in its seventh year.

A lesson for Mr. Trump from ancient Roman history, if he and his new generals care to read. Read the story of the Roman consul and general Marcus Licinius Crassus, a friend of Julius Caesar. He collected a huge army of many invincible Roman legions to invade ancient Persia more than two thousand years ago. Another unprovoked war. Crassus and his Roman legions vanished somewhere in the Iranian Plateau, never to be seen or heard from again.
Lesson? Wars of choice half-way across the world are not a good investment (as you, Mr. Trump and your class would say).
Mr. Trump, there are no direct American national interests threatened by the Iranians. They have not broken the Nuclear Deal with the world powers. They have not attacked Americans or America’s regional allies, yet. So, tone down the bluffing.

Mr. Trump, you are used to playing the cheap game of Casino poker, but the mullahs play the more enduring game of Chess. A game their country invented when your ancestors were still lurking in the caves and forests of Central Europe.
So, call back the dogs of war, get them out of your White House. Don’t throw good money after bad in the Middle East. Save a few more trillions of dollars and many lives on both sides.

Cheers
M. Haider Ghuloum

Trump Middle East Policy Confusion: America First? New Muslim Wars First?…….

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KuwaitCox2 Hiking

The slogan America First implies focusing on internal US affairs: the economy, trade, infrastructure, even immigration.
Yet the Trump administration is already being pulled into a new morass in the Middle East (the Muslim World in case you didn’t know). It is falling for the trap of an Iranian missile test that is apparently unrelated to the Nuclear Deal (JCPOA). Perhaps it is a test by the mullahs of a new administration that is already shooting itself in the foot in domestic matters (healthcare, immigration). The new alleged ballistic missile test, which at least Russia and China certainly consider unrelated to the Nuclear Deal, came quickly after reports of a phone call between Trump and the Saudi King that mentioned containing Iran.
The Iranians most likely look on their ballistic missiles as defensive weapons, since hey don’t have the threatening Western-made sophisticated warplanes that their potential regional enemies have. Part of their deterrence that would prevent a repeat of an attack similar to the Iraqi Baathist invasion of their country.

Or maybe the mullahs in Tehran were giving Mr. Trump and Netanyahu something to discuss when they meet next month. The latter would be eager to sell Trump the snake-oil of another Muslim war/quagmire that neither Bush (W) nor Barack Obama would buy from him. The Trump administration probably won’t get far in the UN Security Council: even the European allies may oppose them. New President Trump has no reservoir of goodwill in Western Europe, or in most of the world, to draw on. He never had any beyond his own base and his own party.

In fairness, the Trump administration apparently have discarded the silly notion of “tearing up” the Nuclear Deal. It is not really a “piece of paper” as experienced right-wing hawks like John Bolton still think. They now seem to realize that it can’t be undone beyond campaign rhetoric.

In response to reports of the recent Iranian missile test, the White House NSC issued a tough statement mainly attacking Barack Obama for it (Obama, not the UN). A very retro reaction. Expect a Trump tweet to follow soon. Also expect more muscle-flexing in the Persian-American Gulf region by both sides, something even allied regional governments worry about.

Cheers
M. Haider Ghuloum

Trump State Department: Apes Taking Over the Zoo……..

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“A handful of senior U.S. diplomats are resigning their posts during President Donald Trump’s first week on the job, creating more high-level openings that the new president must fill. State Department Undersecretary for Management Patrick F. Kennedy, a career foreign service officer, planned to retire effective Friday, the State Department said. He was joined by two assistant secretaries, Joyce Barr and Michele Bond, who both resigned Wednesday. Gentry Smith, who directs the Office of Foreign Missions, was also departing.………..”

These are the men and women who keep the State Department bureaucracy functioning every day. Sort of like the wardens or curators do at a zoo. What was that common saying about the wardens quitting after the apes take over the zoo?……..
Cheers
M. Haider Ghuloum

Advice Netanyahu Can Give President Trump: on Healthcare, Funding Free Abortion, and War……

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KuwaitCox2 Hiking

Forget about waging new wars against more Muslim nations or sanctioning more Muslim countries. That will surely be on Mr. Benyamin Netanyahu’s agenda as well when he arrives in Washington  next month, part of the snake-oil he has been trying to sell for years. The Bushes and Obama thwarted him. They looked into his eyes and saw the weasel that members of Congress could not see. What else could they see?

But that was then.
The Republican Party, post-Bush, is now effectively a sub-branch of the Likud alliance in Israel. Netanyahu is the new prophet of the American right. But at home, in domestic Israeli policy, he is further to the left of many American Democrats. Especially in matters of public healthcare and funding abortion (almost certainly with some funds voted by the rabidly pro-life American Congress).

Mr. Netanyahu can do the American people and President Trump a great service in other ways, all based on the Israeli experience. Like explain the benefits of the “right” of every Israeli to public Healthcare. Like the public funding of abortion (free abortion partly funded by American money). Republicans and the likes of Joe Lieberman consider that public health policy socialistic even though all industrial countries in Europe have that as well. The much-cited European right would never dream of taking away the public healthcare option: in that it is to the left of many U.S Democrats.

Among other useful examples of how Netanyahu can be useful to a US president, for once in his life.

In addition to the expected inevitable attempt of pushing a new stupid war against a new Muslim country.

Cheers
M. Haider Ghuloum

John F. Kerry of Arabia: an Honorable Man, a Futile Quest……

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KuwaitCox2 Hiking

John F Kerry is an honorable man. We knew that from the 1960s. He served honorably in Vietnam, did not evade or avoid the war like most his current critics. He also honorably spoke out afterward.
Later today, soon, he will speak about the “Middle East” problem: Palestine-Israel. But he will get nowhere. The Israeli Likud has a lock on both houses of the U.S Congress, on both parties. It will probably be a good speech, but too optimistic. It will get nowhere.
Mr. Trump has already contributed his own drivel to complicating the issue.
Cheers
M. Haider Ghuloum

Kushner Of Arabia: Just Who Outside Europe Believes in a Two-State Solution Anymore?…..

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“Can Obama save the two-state solution? ShibleyTelhami says the verdict is still out..…”

No, not really, although his abstention on UNSC 2334 was an attempt to keep the two-state idea alive.

Give it up? It is almost not a serious option now, given the deliberate facts being created fast on the ground. Obama is/was probably the last US president to actually believe in the feasibility of two states. The whole Israeli cabinet doesn’t believe in it. Most US senators/congressmen don’t believe in it (apparently it ain’t seemly for a real man to espouse a two-state/bi-state thing). AIPAC only pays lip service to it when it suits them and consistently supports policies that undermine it.

The fact is that many Palestinians don’t believe in it either: the same goes for many other Arabs and Muslims. Some pay lip service to it, some still think and often openly talk about one-state extending “from the River Jordan to the Sea“. So some Arabs and Muslims are as one-staters as the Israeli Likud and its allies are. And we all know what is also meant by this alternative “one state”.

Arab media have in past years extensively quoted former PLO leader Yassir Arafat that there is a plaque outside the Israeli Knesset that says: “Your land, O Israel, extends from the Nile to the Euphrates“. Many, nay most Arabs believed him. Some referred to a vague map on a coin as proof. I have always had my doubts. Could be just some irresponsible quote from the Old Testament (many such quotes exist in all Holy Books). It is more likely that some far-out Christian Zionists in America believe in such borders than Israelis or American Jews. Something to do with a Levantine version of Manifest Destiny and From Sea to Shining Sea.

AS for the Two-State solution, apparently only the Europeans consistently believe in it anymore. Plus some Arabs and a few marginalized Israelis. But there is a suspicion in Washington that the Europeans are a bunch of latent anti-Semitic wusses, right? (Well, probably some of them still are).

So: what to do? Mass expulsion (a k a ethnic cleansing)? It was done in Palestine post-1948, and it was also done to many Jews in the Arab countries around that time. Apartheid or Separate but (allegedly) Equal? History in South Africa and French Algeria and the American South does not give that a high mark. Separate never means equal.

A catharsis? Maybe Netanyahu and Lieberman (Avigdor not Joe) will show up on the steps of Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem and start a Kumbaya session with Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas, for the benefit of the television cameras. Newly Likudnik Alan Dershowitz can be there too.

Maybe Trump will send his son-in-law as he has reportedly threatened, to do something. But being Jewish, even (or especially) Jewish-American is no guarantee of success over there. Besides, this is not some money-focused real-estate business deal in Manhattan: too many historical emotions are involved on both sides.

The prognosis doesn’t look good for the next four years, but the past eight years were not so great either for Israel-Palestine. Especially when the US Congress (both houses) talks and acts as an extension of the Israeli Likud and its more extreme components.

A Nobel Prize or two are waiting, but I know neither Trump nor Netanyahu nor any current Arab leader will do anything to deserve it. The Nobel Committee was bitten by that same bug a couple of decades ago.
Cheers

M Haider Ghuloum

The GCC Game of Musical Alliances: from the Gulf through Africa and Beyond………

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Something strange has been going on recently among member countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council.
They had their summit in Manama a couple of weeks ago, which ended with nothing spectacular to announce. The Salafis of the Persian-American Gulf and the usual Bahrain potentates (both fiercely Saudi proxies) have tried, again, to create some excitement about a possible “union” based on the European model. But it would be a union of ruling families, not based on the popular will, since Kuwait is the only GCC country that has free popular elections. But Kuwait has the misfortune of being stuck between three large and menacing neighboring countries: Iraq, Iran, and Saudi Arabia (the country was invaded by both Iraq and Saudi Arabia in the last century).

The idea of a Gulf union was a no-go, and DOA at the summit: it was not even discussed publicly. Some others within the GCC saw it as a way to formalize a fearsome Saudi attempt at hegemony. They/we all know how the Saudi Kingdom was formed during the last century by swallowing smaller neighboring emirates in the Arabian Peninsula.

After the summit, Saudi King Salman visited every member country except for Oman. Certainly because Oman is the least likely member to follow Saudi policies and wishes. It is odd for the ruler of a member of GCC to start visiting other member states immediately after the summit ends. Why not meet them individually during the summit? They apparently want to send a message to other members and to some Arab counties.

Soon after all that, a Saudi delegation last week visited Ethiopia, a country with which Egypt has serious disputes over the Nile waters. The delegation also pointedly visited a new Ethiopian dam that Egypt claims seriously reduces its share of the Nile waters. That visit created an uproar within Arab media and social media.
But wait, that is not all, there is more (as the TV ads say)…..

Now there is an announcement that the foreign minister of Qatar is visiting, you guessed it, landlocked Ethiopia. Almost certainly just to bother the hell out of the Egyptians.

Both Saudi Arabia and Qatar (and Turkey as well) have just suffered an immense strategic defeat in Syria, when their Jihadist surrogates were forced out of the eastern part of Aleppo. Egypt has been moving towards siding with the Assad regime (and hence by association with Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, and Russia) in the Syrian war. This has clearly angered some of the Gulf allies who either support the Jihadis in Syria or need to show that they do so for domestic political reasons.

That leaves out the UAE, the third major partner in the Saudi regional alliance. The UAE shares one very important thing with the current government of Egypt: they both hate and fear the Muslim Brotherhood. Meanwhile Qatar is practically a Muslim Brotherhood monarchy (and so close to the Turkish Islamist regime that they have agreed to have a Turkish military base in their country). The Saudis have warmed up to the Brotherhood recently because they are their allies in the Yemen War (through the corrupt Islah Party).
These are fascinating developments that are now unfolding in the Middle East.

As I said: wait, there will be more, and soon. The GCC states, especially Saudi Arabia, have been playing a game of “musical alliances’ in recent years. Since 2011 they have allied on and off with Jordan, Morocco, Egypt, Turkey, Eritrea, Djibouti, Mauritania, Sudan, and now Ethiopia, among others. A list of mainly countries with deep economic problems. And the game of Musical Alliances goes on.

As I said: but wait, there will be more, and soon………..
Cheers

M Haider Ghuloum