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

Trump’s Coming Battle of Karbala? What He Should Read about Middle East Sectarian Tensions……..

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“For Iraq, guaranteeing the safety of millions of Shiite faithful on their annual ​pilgrimage to the shrine of a revered saint in Karbala has always been a monumental challenge. The march, the largest annual religious pilgrimage on earth, ​is in defiance of Iraq’s chronic insecurity and the frequent attempts by Sunni militants – including, recently, Islamic State (ISIS) fighters – to derail this event with violence. ​This year, the pilgrimage ​to the shrine of Imam Hussein ​held special resonance, as ISIS in Iraq has been all but defeated in recent months by Iraqi security forces – supported by Iran-backed Shiite militias and a US-led bombing campaign…… The risks of attack were high, but so, too, were the rewards for the millions of Shiite pilgrims whose faith overcomes fear…….“We don’t care about security – we just come,” says Fadl Abbas, a truck driver nursing blistered feet, swollen legs, and a new limp after his 50-mile march……..” Christian Science Monitor

This is one article Donald Trump should read this week, if he were a reading man. Or he can have his son-in-law, his Middle East Gauleiter Jared Kushner, read it. They should both know what they and their regional sidekicks will be facing in the coming months if Arab media reports are true. Reports about what dangerous concoction they are brewing for our native region from Lebanon to the Persian-American Gulf.

They are brewing something from Lebanon to the Gulf, and through Yemen. Even the Gulf Muslim Brotherhood, always opportunistic, are being cagey these days, which means they anticipate a new American-Israeli folly, and that they approve. They have suddenly softened on Israeli and Trump actions in the region. Even the Salafis, the more opportunistic soul mates of ISIS/DAESH and Al Qaeda. Especially the Salafist fifth columnists, are eerily silent, waiting for those they have always called the “crusaders” and the “descendants of monkeys and pigs” to start a bloody sectarian war on their behalf. Obama knew what they sought and he denied them. He would not bluster himself into a new war, as he elaborated in an interview that was dubbed the Obama Doctrine on the Gulf.

The vast controlled media of the absolute kings are also hinting at something coming soon. Salivating at the prospect of foreign bombs blasting yet more Arab and Muslim targets on their behalf. 

A new Battle of Karbaba waged by Trump and Netanyahu as the new Umayyads, on behalf of a couple of kings and their Salafist proxies. Its battlefield to be the whole Middle East region and part of North Africa.

Remember: for years the Salafist Wahhabis kept bombing in Iraq, killing civilians, almost every day since 2003. Fourteen years of insecurity and massacres against the Shi’a (Shiite) pilgrims and their annual march to Karbala. And against many Sunnis and all Christians. Yet the pilgrims keep coming by the millions: more than the numbers that do the annual Haj in Hijaz. They keep coming by the millions, risking death. No lethal stampedes there. The march/pilgrimage was banned by the Baathist regime of Saddam Hussein, but resumed after his defeat. Terrorism has only made it a bigger event than ever, it increased the defiance. A new foreign war of aggression will almost certainly make them even more defiant.

Just keep it in mind. Remember, it is not all about the money and the contracts and the bluster. You don’t want to be seen as the foreign interloper who replaces Saddam or the Umayyad Dynasty……

If he is not very careful here, he may end up famously complaining, again: “nobody knew that meddling in 15-century-old Muslim sectarian tensions could be so complicated…. even more complicated than trying to dismantle the health care system……
Stay tuned…..

Cheers anyway   

Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

Political Prisons: What the Bastille, Tzarist Siberia, Stalin’s Gulag, Tehran’s Evin, and Saudi Ritz-Carlton Have in Common…..

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The French monarchy had the (now) notorious Bastille.
The Russian tzars had the vast Siberian land mass.
The Soviets had the infamous Lybyanka prison. (Stalin was familiar with cold exile from his days plotting against the tzars, thus he preferred to exile opponents and suspects to faraway cold places).
The Iranians (under both the Shah and the now-ruling mullahs) had/have the Evin prison in Tehran for their troublesome political dissidents.
Even Alexandre Dumas and Edmond Dantès had Château d’If, like Elba conveniently located close to France, from which one could only escape inside a coffin.

Now the Saudis have gone more 7-star in their prisons for the rich and famous corrupt rivals of crown prince MBS. Don’t get me wrong, they still have dungeons (no dragons) and cellars for ordinary dissidents and opponents. But this new purge of the young and reckless Crown Prince includes too many of the elite, who are used to luxury living. Some of these princes, potentates, and oligarchs now under detention would not survive in an ordinary prison. They would not even survive in a 3-star or maybe even 4-star hotel. Hence, as widely reported, the Ritz-Carlton of Riyadh. That super-luxury hotel is now a sort of prison.

That very same hotel that Donald Trump and his family and entourage occupied during the wild hootennany in the desert last May, when he was almost anointed the Sixth Pillar of Islam. That was when Mr. Trump, the foreign interloper from far away, handed the keys of the Persian Gulf and the Arab World to the Saudi princes, or so he naively and foolishly thought.
The Ritz-Carlton was (and still is) also in some ways, a prison for Donald Trump. The luxury, the accolades, the over-the-top praises, and mainly the huge sums of money offered, locked him into the dangerous and futile agenda of the princes.


Which brings me to the mysterious fate of Lebanon‘s prime minister Saad Hariri. Can he also be incarcerated at the Ritz-Carlton now? Mr. Hariri, normally Saudi Arabia’s proxy man in Lebanon, has his own residence in Riyadh. But even his supporters in Lebanon now concede that he is not free to travel from Saudi Arabia, that he is not allowed to com home to Beirut. Not yet. In effect: a prisoner of his former allies and bosses. That he can’t speak for himself after his Saudi hosts forced him to resign and deliver a speech they wrote for him. Even the U.S. State Department has hinted that maybe he is being held involuntarily in the Kingdom Without Magic.

I know: Saddam Hussein is dead. But, just in case, long live the new Saddam Hussein, whoever he is or will be…….

More later……

Cheers

Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

Confusing Rex Tillerson: Iraqi Militias Must Leave Iraq, Assad Must Leave Syria, No Pasaran in Arabic…….

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Almost everybody has been after Bashar Al Assad to leave Syria since well before 2011. But the open calls for his departure came soon after the early uprising of the spring of 2011. That Syrian uprising was quickly bought and hijacked by the Salafists and Muslim Brotherhood of the Arab World, mainly the Wahhabi money bags of a couple of the Persian Gulf states. Jihadis poured into Syria from Arab states and Europe, seeking plunder, free women, and Shi’as/Christians/Others to abuse and kill. Eventually the Jihadist international brigades of ISIS and Al Qaeda inherited most of what was left of the active Syrian opposition. Here are some of the calls:


Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (2009-2011): “Assad Must Go. His days are numbered“.
Secretary of State John Kerry (2012…): “Assad Must Go“.
Various Arab absolute Kings & their Ministers and their media: “Assad Must Go. Assad will go soon, Inshallah“.

Saudi Foreign Minister Al Jubeir, who made a career out of it, even regularly specified in an odd weekly rant: “Assad will go soon, if not peacefully then by force” (For a while I was almost convinced he knew something I did’t).
Barack Obama: “Look, fact is that: Assad Must Go“.
Francois Hollande: “Assad Doit Partir. He Must Go (2011-2016). 
David Cameron: “Assad Must Go
Turkey’s strongman Erdogan (once a major enabler of Jihadists in Syria until about 2016): “Assad Yok! Assad Must Go (2011-2015)

Many others, opinion-ators, pundits, journalists, American hawks, and European cafe men-about-town: “Assad has a few weeks left in Damascus. His top officers are defecting to the joys of Salafism and Wahhabism“.


Donald Trump: “Maybe Assad can Stay. Or maybe not. We must defeat ISIS“.
UN Ambassador Nikki Haley: “Assad Must Go“.

Finally, this covering-all-bases doozy from U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson: “Assad Must Go. Also as a bonus: Iraqi Militias that saved Baghdad from DAESH in 2014 and fought ISIS must leave Iraq. (But he didn’t specify go where? Definitely he doesn’t want them in Yemen)”

Assad must go” became the battle cry of the West and many Arab despots and leaders. Sort of like “No Pasaran” during the Spanish civil war. Except that it now looks like it was the Assad side that made sure the refrain of “No Pasaran” applied to the other side.

And the rest of the Middle East is all run by popular elected democratic men and clans and families and oligarchs and kleptocrats of the people.
And that is where it stands, but Assad is still with us, for now. Eventually he will go, but then so does everyone else, even Arab leaders, eventually……..

Inshallah….. God Willing…….

Cheers

Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

Saudi Arabian Perestroika but No Glasnost: Ditching Wahhabism, the Aramco Dilemma…….

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“Saudi Arabia unveiled a $500bn plan on Tuesday to create a vast economic zone in the kingdom’s north-west, the most ambitious and expensive project in Riyadh’s efforts to diversify the oil-dependent economy. Details of the new city, called Neom, were released as Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman hosted some of the world’s most powerful investors and bankers at a conference designed to showcase his vision to modernise the conservative kingdom and lure investment to the country…….”

Interesting and unprecedented things may be about to happen in Saudi Arabia, if the ruling crown prince keeps all his promises. Possibly positive things. It will have reverberations across the Arab world.

Saudi Crown Prince MBS seems to be impressed by the example of the United Arab Emirates, especially Dubai. It will be a tough sell in the Wahhabi heartland of Najd in Central Arabia. To diversify the economy also means to diversify the society, and open it not only economically, but also culturally. That is the most closed of Middle East societies.

So far there are signs that the top Wahhabi establishment is falling in line, but that may change: the prince had to incarcerate several mid-level but prominent Wahhabi clerics before he started talking of his version of Perestroika (perhaps not so much Glasnost for now).

A few independent Arab media outlets have been hinting for months that the new Saudi order is impressed with the economic experience of the UAE. At the same time, the substantial Islamist (mainly Wahhabi) opposition in exile has been warning and complaining that the ruling Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi in the UAE (an economically and culturally open Gulf state, definitely non-Wahhabi) has too much influence over the Saudi Crown Prince. There might be some truth in that, and it will create a dilemma for the Salafist movement from the Gulf to Egypt. Persian Gulf Salafis, who are practically Saudi proxies, have always been very critical of the openness of the UAE and its social and religious openness.


The domestic impact depends on success in keeping the population content, economically speaking. But times are hard, with oil revenues declining, and the weapons-selling pressures of Donald Trump are strong. Add to that the expensive and stalemated war in Yemen, and the new financial commitments to select remaining “friends” in Syria and Iraq.
So it may require disengagement in Yemen and reducing commitments in the Levant, as well as reducing the huge weapons deals with the Western powers. But then there is a catch in all that too: it might mean ceding the Northern Tier of the Arab world, the Levant/Fertile Crescent, to long-term Iranian influence. The Saudis already seem to have given up on Lebanon, where a Hezbollah-Christian coalition seems to have strengthened its hold on power.

Stopping the bleeding from Yemen will be a tough one: that country is the soft underbelly of the Arabian Peninsula, and a reasonable cause for worry. But war will not solve the Yemen problem, only some kind of political deal that is agreed upon by the Sanaa coalition and the Saudis. That still leaves the problem of Aden in secessionist-oriented Southern Arabia, now largely dominated by the UAE. And I haven’t even mentioned the expansion of AQAP and ISIS in Southern Yemen.

It would be quite interesting to see how the Wahhabi kingdom is transformed into a truly modern state (without the political opportunities of Glasnost).

(P.S: As for selling off the huge state oil company, ARAMCO, we can forget about that for now. My educated fatwa about ARAMCO? It will take much longer than two or three years or even five years to get it ready for privatization. IF it ever happens: I have seen similar films before in our Gulf region.)

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

After JCPOA and UNESCO: Will the USA and Israel Join the Arab League?…….

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President Donald Trump has taken the USA out of a whole bunch of international institutions, agreements, and deals. From the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) to the Paris Climate Accord, to the United Nation’s UNESCO organization (Mr. Trump and Israel both withdrew this week).

He is on the verge of breaking and violating the JCPOA (the international community’s nuclear deal with Iran). He is also threatening the NAFTA deal with Canada and Mexico. Early in his term he threatened US ties with NATO, the bedrock of the Western Alliance since after the last world war.

For most of the rest of the world Mr. Trump is not the usual credible American president. He has very little credibility. He is not liked (to put it politely) anywhere in the world, with the exception of Israel and some Arab royal palaces (and maybe in Manila). Predictably Netanyahu made a short speech welcoming Trump’s non-withdrawal from JCPOA, while the controlled Saudi media cheered on.

So here is a suggestion: why not declare the United States, and Israel, as members of the Arab League. They can start as observer-members. It is all an incredible fantastic circus anyway……….

Cheers
M Haider Ghuloum

Donald Trump’s Obama Complex: Creating Fake News, Domestic and Global Chaos, New Muslim Wars……

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Media reports and official statements (General John Kelly) indicate that Kim Jong Un (Trump’s Rocket Man of North Korea) is close to developing a re-entry system for his long-range nuclear delivery missiles.

Donald Trump is studiously avoiding action on this serious potential threat to the West Coast of the United States. He will continue to fight Kim sporadically with words and tweets while he focuses on what he thinks is an easier target, the country that is not seeking nuclear weapons, more significantly the country that has signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, renounced nuclear weapons and does not have them. Iran.

Trump is making daily noises about destroying the international JCPOA deal that keeps Iran from going nuclear. If later today, as widely expected, he declares Iran non-compliant, nobody anywhere in the world will believe him. Not even his own cabinet members and top Pentagon generals. Not even his reprehensible foreign cheerleaders: mainly his co-serial-liar Netanyahu and the usual couple of absolute Arab kings who are urging him to go to war (in exchange for billions of dollars). No doubt he himself does not believe what he says about it. It could be even worse if he actually believed his own ‘facts’. The Iranians are already milking Trump’s noise and threats for all their worth, and it is working in Europe and Asia and in Turkey and several Arab countries.

For Trump this is not so much about Iran or nuclear weapons, not even about Fox News warmongering. It is part of a pattern now: it is all about Barack Obama, about undoing everything that ‘uppity’ black president did while in the White Office.
It is about the birther Trump’s obsession with his Obama Complex.
It might eventually lead to the second time since 2003 that the USA goes to a messy war of choice in the Middle East, based on a self-created lie.

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

Policy as a Game of Egos: Trump Promises to Unleash a Storm Somewhere……..

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“While taking photos alongside military leaders and their spouses before a Thursday night dinner at the White House, President Donald Trump cryptically stated reporters were seeing “the calm before the storm.”

Who could president Trump mean by this threat? Who is he warning? And what calm is he talking about in this tumultuous year of 2017?
Could he mean the dictator he calls Little Rocket Man, the belligerent pudgy Cute Leader Kim Jong Un of North Korea?
Could he (egged on by the Israeli right-wing and well-paying Saudi princes) mean his main anti-ISIS allies the mullahs of Iran?

Could he be preparing America and the world for yet another endless Muslim war of choice, based on fake analysis and manufactured evidence?


Could he mean Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, for allegedly calling him a F—ing Moron and then refusing to publicly deny saying it when given the chance?
Could he mean Secretary of Defense General Mad Dog Mattis for dismissing his threats to “pull out” of the international Iran Nuclear Deal?
Could he mean Carmen Yulin Cruz the mayor of San Juan (Puerto Rico)?

Could he mean the kneeling NFL players whom he called “sons of bitches” last week?
Could he mean the newest Caribbean storm Nate now moving toward the Gulf coast?


Or could this be just another transparent Art of the Deal bluff? Is he just bluffing in general, hoping one or two targets will bite? But this is not a game of egos. His credibility and that of the country are on the line: this big boy has cried wolf too many times this year……

Cheers

M. Haider Ghuloum

 

From the Age of Aquarius to the Stormy Age of Morons: Tillerson’s Parting Shot………

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The 1960’s were occasionally dubbed the Age of Aquarius, and not just by The 5th Dimension in 1969. It reflected the atmosphere, culture, and flavor of a particular era. The brief Age of Aquarius immediately followed the brief Age of Camelot in Washington.

Then immediately at the tail end of that started the Age of Nixon, a brooding era of expanding unwinnable wars in Southeast Asia. An era of political malfeasance, when first the Vice President, then the President were forced to resign from office, for unrelated reasons.

But the American center held throughout the following eras, through Reagan, Bush, Clinton, and Obama. As the USA and the World moved away from the Age of Aquarius.

The 2016 US elections ushered in an unusual new era. I have been thinking of an appropriate name for it. The “Trump Era” seems too tame and banal for this wild ride of the past nine months.
Enter Secretary of State Rex Tillerson who took a parting shot at Donald Trump as he is preparing to depart this dysfunctional administration.

Moron, actually a “F—ig Moron” is what he reportedly called the president to a reporter. Trump has publicly denied that Tillerson called him a “F—ing Moron”.  Tillerson, when given a chance to deny, has publicly refused to deny that he called Trump a “F—ing Moron”.

So, that parting Parthian shot by Rex Tillerson will likely define this era. Rex succinctly but perhaps unintentionally, defined this Trump age as a “F—ing Moron” age. It may go down in history as such……

Cheers

M. Haider Ghuloum

 

 

Turkish Islamists and American Outlier Republicans vs. Darwin……

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“When children in Turkey head back to school this fall, something will be missing from their textbooks: any mention of evolution. The Turkish government is phasing in what it calls a values-based curriculum. Critics accuse Turkey’s president of pushing a more conservative, religious ideology — at the expense of young people’s education……… At a news conference last month, Turkey’s education minister announced that new textbooks will be introduced in all primary and secondary schools, starting with grades 1, 5 and 9 this fall, and the rest next year. They will stop teaching evolution………..”

Years ago, when I was a school kid, we were taught about Charles Darwin and the evolution (and creationism of course). That was on the Gulf, the Persian-American Gulf. That was in our small corner on the northern coast, almost certainly not in the whole Gulf region. We considered ourselves more ‘advanced’ than the others, at least in education (and we were in those days).
Now Turkey, formerly thought of as the realm of Kemal Ataturk-ism but now a Muslim Brotherhood bastion, is going backward, even beyond what we had in my simple corner of the Gulf years ago.

Things are going backward in some ways, and not only in parts of the United States. More than 90 years after the Scopes Trial of Tennessee (that God-fearing state apparently still teaches mostly creationism in public schools). It is a losing battle, but some states and regions still fight (or try to) the teaching of evolution. Fortunately, many of these regions they can’t afford to publish their own science textbooks.

That is in Mr. Erdogan’s realm. It is tempting to wonder what Mr. Trump believes about this. But I’ll leave that for another time: need to hike before the predicted showers start, and out here they threaten to start any time now.

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

 

Donald Trump the Peacemaker: New Apostle of Wahhabi Islam and Virgin Drivers……

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“The imam of the grand mosque of Mecca has claimed Donald Trump, the US and Saudi Arabia are “steering the world to peace”, in comments during a visit to New York that sparked an outcry on social media. They are “steering the world and humanity to the ports of security, peace and prosperity,” he added, claiming that the two countries should unite to “combat terrorism” and to “realise security and international peace”. The conference, on ‘Civilisational communication between the United States of America and the Islamic World‘…….”

No doubt the royal princes are now throwing all their eggs into the basket of Donald Trump. George W Bush refused to do their bidding in the Persian Gulf and wage another war after Iraq. Barack Obama mocked their sectarian war demands in his Atlantic Magazine interview. They have tried to get Netanyahu to go to war on their behalf, but he is no fool: he has been all talk and no action as far as my Gulf is concerned.

During the Riyadh Summit/Circus last May, I posted here about Donald Trump as the Sixth Pillar of Wahhabi Islam. I was referring to the extremely deferential way the Saudi leaders treated Donald Trump, knowing his proclivity for praise (and money). His near-anointment as a sort of guardian of Islam (to the cheers of General Al Sisi, Steve Bannon and Sebastian Gorka). Even the top Saudi clerics in Mecca praised Trump in their speeches during the summit (as they were allegedly ordered to do so).

Now comes the “mother of all praises”. The Imam of the Holy Shrine in Mecca, no less, has opined that the world depends on the Saudi king and Donald Trump for peace. Now, you can’t kiss it lower or better than this. It is very likely that Mr. Trump will believe all this. The Saudi king, like all Arab kings, knows better. They also know his weaknesses: they are buying Trump, and not only with money….


In 2011, a Saudi scholar/cleric wrote a study for the appointed Shura Council about women and driving. In it he warned that if Saudi women were allowed to drive, that would be the end of virginity in the magic kingdom. The men were given a choice: women drivers or virginity. Possibly something in the local water made a woman go wild as soon as she got hold of a car’s steering wheel (rather suggestive, don’t you think?).
Apparently all this has changed, now the Wahhabi clerics believe that Saudi women can drive and keep their virginity….


I suspect President Donald Trump can now publicly take credit for this new driving policy that also allows women to keep their virginity even as they drive cars.
Interesting times we live in, no?

Cheers
M. Haider Ghuloum