Category Archives: Arab Politics

A Tale of Two Miserable Arab Summers: June 1967, June 2017….

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On June 4 1967, most Arab peoples were expecting a victory over Israel. Or so they were told by their regimes, all of their regimes. Given the size of Israel at the time, an Arab victory and an Israeli defeat would have meant a reversal of 1948, when Israel replaced Palestine. Not completely: Arabs still controlled Gaza, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem, all of them parts of Mandate Palestine. But the Jordanians who held onto the West Bank and East Jerusalem were not eager to develop a Palestinian entity, and Gaza remained neglected under Egyptian control.
So, on the morning of June 5, 1967, the Israeli Air Force struck, and quickly destroyed Arab air forces. Arab regimes continued to claim their forces were on the outskirts of Tel Aviv even as Israelis were sweeping though Sinai. By afternoon the war was effectively over. Mop up operations secured the Sinai for the second time in eleven years. The Jordanians basically put up a half hearted fight for the West Bank and East Jerusalem (King Hussin must have thought the Egyptian army will hand him the rest of Jerusalem).
The biggest loss of Arab land in modern history took barely more than one day. So much for the vaunted Arab Army of Jordan.

But what is shocking now, looking back, is that even after that huge defeat the Arab world was better of than it is now, June 2017. Fifty years later.

Before June 1967 the Arabs had already lost one war, the war for Palestine. Now we know that the loss of Palestine was the beginning: the Arab states have continued to lose every single war against outsiders. With the exception of Lebanon in 2000 and 2006.
Before 1967 there was hope, pride, exuberance. The Arab world was young, most of it recently independent, some of it getting there. There was hope that it can progress, perhaps unite and improve its lot. Young people were sure, they were certain that they were facing a bright future. Most of the students who came to the West, especially to the United States, looked forward towards to returning home and helping build or rebuild. Most did not think of immigration.

After 1967, with pan-Arab secularism defeated, Wahhabism ran unchecked. Fueled with oil money, it busted out of its Saudi desert homeland and spread its poison through mosques and schools that spread in poorer Muslim lands. This was the ideological and financial basis of Al Qaeda and ISIS/DAESH. It still is.

Fast forward to June 2017. Half a century of defeats, dictatorship, absolute tribal rule, and internal Arab wars. Crowned with the tragedy that Westerners, and some Arabs, thought was an Arab Spring. It turned out to be anything but a spring. All rebellions against exiting order failed, from Bahrain to Yemen to Syria, to Egypt, and North Africa.Those states that succeeded in overthrowing their rulers ended with civil wars.

Now the fate of the Arabs is almost totally in foreign hands. The interactions among the West, Iran, Turkey, Israel, and Russia determine the future. A couple of absolute repressive tribal ruling families dominate domestic Arab politics. Not what the Arabs need just now. They have managed to buy many of the other Arab regimes, and they have possibly bought off the current President of the United States. Ignorant of history, Trump and his British counterpart have given the oligarchs a carte blanche to do what they want, what they can do, in the Gulf and in the rest of the region. They are also giving them all the weapons they need to start new wars and suffer more defeats.

So, here the region stands. Sophisticated expensive American and British weapons in the hands of repressive regimes will not create stability, not for long. Some foolish young prince is bound to start a fire that would engulf the region, just like Saddam Hussein brought on thirty years of warfare.

The hope has faded, and there is hardly any light at the end of the tunnel, regardless of what some well-meaning Western analysts and academics opine.

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

Arabian Wars, American Folly: Summer 1990, Summer 2017……

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This Saudi, UAE, and now Trump frenzy and ratcheting up attacks on Qatar reminds me of Saddam Hussein and Kuwait in the summer of 1990. How he escalated his threats against his little neighbor, miscalculated the American reaction, and started an invasion and another foolish war.

Donald Trump is now openly giving the Saudi/UAE potentates the green light in the Persian Gulf. But suppose Trump’s new Arab allies (the ones he hated and despised before last January) screw up as I expect? As they have done in Yemen? I mean they could not even subdue a few tribes in Yemen. Suppose they get stuck in another classic quagmire?

Trump has been tweeting today in support of the Saudi-Emirati position. All based on what two princes in Saudi Aabia and the UAE had told him last month (according to him)!
No doubt Qatar has supported some Syrian Jihadis with money, but so have the Saudis and others in the Persian Gulf states. So has Turkey. So why focus on Qatar now? Is it pressure from Saudi-UAE funded lobbyists and Think Tanks in Washington? It can well be.
Will Donald Trump then send American fighting boys and girls to pull their royal nuts out of the fire?

In the end the United States is thousands of miles away, it is an interloper. The countries on the Gulf belong there, it is their native region. The USA can defend its allies and whatever interests it has in the region, but it cannot establish its own hegemony on the Persian Gulf. That would be a pipe dream. The era of old gunboat imperialism is (probably) over.

(Interestingly Kuwait, the old victim of Saddam Hussein’s media attack and brutal invasion, is trying to mediate this new crisis between Qatar and her larger neighbors).

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

Quest for Gulf Hegemony: GCC Cyber Attacks and Media Warfare Escalate After the Trump Summit, What Next?…….

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Interesting things have been happening in the Persian-American Gulf region, especially in the aftermath of President Trump’s visit and his speech in the Arabian Peninsula.

The website of the “official” Qatar News Agency was hacked last week. The hackers inserted headlines that quoted the Emir of Qatar criticizing the Saudi and Emirati leaders and praising closer ties with the Iranians.
This led to some fury in the royal and princely palaces along the Persian Gulf. Followed by a flurry of visits among Gulf potentates and leaders.

Qataris claimed their official news agency website had been hacked and fake statements inserted, but the Saudis and UAE media continued a relentless barrage of attacks and threats against the Qatari regime. It is possible that the UAE and/or Saudis may have hired some hackers to create a cause for attacking Qatar, a casus belli from their point of view.

In the United States, the issue of Al Udeid Air Base in Doha, where the US Central Command has its Persian Gulf headquarters, could be under consideration again. Saudi and Emirati (UAE) surrogates among paid lobbyists, paid American journalists, and paid American Think Tank analysts are again suggesting that the regional CENTCOM HQ be moved to the UAE. My unreliable sources report that the UAE potentates have been lobbying for it furiously.
Kuwait tried to mediate by sending it foreign minister to calm things down. The Emir of Qatar visited Kuwait, which is usually neutral in inter-GCC and Gulf disputes. The goal seems to have been to get some intermediation going.
The leader of the UAE, Crown Price Mohamed Bin Zayed visited Saudi Arabia to coordinate. Bin Zayed is reputed to be close to Prince Mohammad Bin Salman, the Dauphin in Waiting of Riyadh. But the Saudi and Emirati potentates are having serious differences over the Yemen war. Egyptian media, very close to the UAE potentates since General Sisi staged his military coup, have also escalated even more against Qatar.

Then the website of the corpulent foreign minister of Bahrain Khalid Al Khalifa (effectively a satellite of Saudi Arabia) was hacked, his tweets replaced with anti-regime items and photos of unrest and repression in Bahrain.

Then GlobalLeaks started releasing emails and messages implicating UAE (Emirati) officials with gifts, bribes, to US journalists and think tanks. It published info of close ties between UAE ambassador to Washington and the pro-Israeli organization Front for the Defense of Democracies (itself an Israel right-wing front financed by Las Vegas Casino mogul Sheldon Adelson). Apparently the ambassador, known in Washington as a man-about-town and generous party-giver, is pushing for some kind of American confrontation with Iran in the Persian Gulf, the same goal of the Israeli right-wing Likud. Except that the United States and Israel are both outside interlopers, located far from the Persian Gulf.

All this turmoil and the Iranian mullahs did not have to lift a finger: all of the turmoil locally made by the Gulf GCC internal struggle for and against Saudi hegemony.
Perhaps an understandable aftermath of the ill-fated visit of Trump and his clan to the Wahhabi summit in Riyadh, in the aftermath of his famously nonsensical speech.

Then on Sunday (today) came proof that the intermediation attempts have failed. UAE and Egypt and Saudi Arabia and Bahrain severed diplomatic relations with Qatar.  The controlled media of those countries escalated their campaign against the government of Qatar. There is no doubt that there will be attempts by UAE and Saudi Arabia to instigate a military coup for regime change in Doha. Oman and Kuwait usually refuse to join such inter-Gulf conflicts and have so far maintained relations with Qatar (as they did with Iran after the others broke relations).

Oddly, news agencies reported yesterday that six Qatari soldiers were wounded while “defending” the southern Saudi border against Yemeni retaliation for the Saudi-American-British bombing of their cities.

Stay tuned….

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

Fallout of Donald Trump’s Poisonous Middle East Visit to Saudi Arabia……..

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Donald Trump‘s Middle East visit was not only the most expensive ever for his Saudi hosts, reportedly to the tune of about $460 billion that they cannot afford. The princes may even be forced later to scale down and stagger payment of some of what many natives consider a “ransom” paid to Trump. If and when the dust from his unfortunate and disastrous visit to the Arabian Peninsula ever settles down. (Already some independent Arab media claim the Saudis are canceling big weapons deals with Turkey, presumably a result of the Trump holdup)

The visit is proving a most poisonous event, one that has raised passionate sectarian tensions to levels that even Al Qaeda and ISIS could not do. Having a world superpower take direct sides in a sectarian conflict largely created by Trump’s new regional allies and urging one side side to “go for it”. That will also prove disastrous for US foreign policy. If the princes are foolish enough to take Trump at his words, they would see his speech as an invitation for them to escalate, with a promise of American collusion and participation in the event of a new war.
(Of course, some of the princes may know, like we do, that Trump is prone to exaggeration, that his word can’t be taken seriously. Hopefully that is the case, but still, so much lethal hardware in the hands of a spoiled young prince….).


First came the accession of King Salman and his rash son. Almost a future reckless Saddam Hussein of the Arabian Peninsula, if the past two years are any indication.

Then enter Donald Trump, whose knowledge of the region is focused on how much money he can extort from the native princes and potentates. An incompetent and greedy Western leader who is after loot: that is how most Arabs and Muslims see him. Regardless of the propaganda headlines of the controlled and royally-owned media of some Gulf GCC states.


Trump‘s Saudi visit was the most poisonous event for the Middle East since the accession of Saudi King Salman and his son, in itself retroactively an event that started the slide towards deeper more open sectarian conflict in the Persian Gulf and the wider Arab World.

The American visitor and his clan were not even out of Riyadh before the fallout from his visit started to poison the air over the Persian Gulf to a degree unprecedented in modern times.

More on this later…..

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

Trump Visits His Wahhabi Empire: Saudis Summon Sunni Arab and Muslim Satraps and Viceroys to Riyadh……

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President Donald Trump makes his first official foreign trip later this week, and it will be to Saudi Arabia. The Saudi officials are so excited, their media are making Trump almost into the newest Muslim Caliph. They stress that he is visiting Riyadh before anywhere else, that he is some sort of a phenomenon (I agree with the last one about him being a phenomenon). For their part, jealous media of the  potentates of the rival UAE (United Arab Emirates, occasional Saudi ally) have headlined how their own strongman and crown prince will visit with Trump in Washington to ‘discuss’ issues before he flies to Saudi Arabia.

The Saudis are making a Wahhabi-style hootenanny out of the Trump visit. A Veritable Spring Break invasion of the desert for their Arab and Muslim allies, would be allies, and clients. They have invited tens of Arab and Muslim leaders to attend a special meeting with Trump, where they will kiss his ring, and he will bless them all. Maybe he will cure a few among them who are blind or lame and some who are afflicted with Erectile Dysfunction among them. There will be no turning water into wine in Riyadh, he is no real Jesus. Besides Wine is frowned upon, just like fun and free speech and any other religion that is not Wahhabism.

So, the Arab and Muslim leaders have been summoned, and they will flock to Riyadh, attracted by Saudi promises of money and the delusional hope of American aid and the approval and blessings of the former American casino mogul and Fake University hustler. They don’t realize that their new prophet, a rapacious capitalist and hustler, is not in the business of helping anybody but himself, and maybe the shady dealings of his in-laws.

FYI: the Saudis have left Iran out of the invite list, and Syria as well. I am not sure about Iraq and Lebanon. They want to make it a Sunni-dominated summit, which means they will try to line up some of them against their mullah rivals across the Persian Gulf. Netanyahu would have loved to attend, but maybe another time.

Independent Arab media, those few not owned or controlled by the potentates, and the Saudi opposition abroad report that the Saudis have spent several hundred billion Riyals to get Trump to make Riyadh his first foreign stop. Reports of over $200-300 billion in U.S investments and in purchases of weapons are abound. Effectively bribing him, something they are very good at. Something they can’t really afford, and their people know it.

Some Arab media hint at a NATO-style Arab and/or Islamic alliance, although it is not clear what threat it will face. Israel? Iran? Popular demand for reform and free speech and elections and end of corruption? Variations of all those are seen as the enemy or rival by some Arab and Muslim leaders.

Trump will pocket the money, hint for his flock not to worry about human rights, say the right vague words about Israel and Palestine. Then he will launch into the main event: threats against Iran, right across the Persian Gulf. Right in front of his Arab and Muslim satraps and viceroys. The Casino Man, the Fake University hustler from 8,000 miles away threatening the Persians right on their Persian-American Gulf. Now that is chutzpah.

These earlier posts below might be relevant to this topic:
Ignorant Abroad: is Trump Encouraging a Foolish Prince to Start a Sectarian War in the Persian Gulf?……

Kissing It in Arabia: Saudis Discern a Trump ‘Axis of Adults’, or is it an ‘Axis of Kissers of Trump’s Rump’?………

 Donald Trump’s AI War: Alexa, What Should I do about Iran?…..

A Farce is Not a Joke: Saudi Arabia ‘Elected’ to UN Commission on Women……

Stay tuned for more on this…..

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

Image Problem of Arab Regimes: from Incredibly Mediocre to Incredibly Criminal……..

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“DUBAI: An Arab News panel discussion held on Tuesday proposed solutions to the Middle East’s image problem in the West, as new research emerged illustrating the severity of the US “knowledge gap” about the region. The panel, held at the Arab Media Forum in Dubai, detailed the importance of cultural diplomacy, effective government communication and the importance of student exchange programs in boosting awareness…….” Arab News (Saudi)

Sometimes I suspect that the ruling Arab oligarchs can never learn. In fact I am convinced that they can never learn about some issues. So many of these media events are staged, all blaming outsiders (the West) for the lousy image Arabs have.
I’ve got news for them, but I suspect they already know: the blame lies squarely with the Arab ruling classes. They are almost uniformly oppressive. At best these ruling classes are incredibly mediocre, at worst they are incredibly criminal (including many regimes perceived as being allies of the West).

So this panel, and many other events before it and after it, all seek ways to to improve the “image” of Arabs in the world. Meaning to improve the image of Arab regimes: the potentates, princes, and dictators. Arab regimes, mostly corrupt and repressive, confuse the image of their countries with their own image.
Such staged media events are part of a “real” and not just perceived Arab problem. The “image” is bad because the “reality” as imposed by the ruling oligarchs is bad. Staged media events or highly-paid lobbyists in Washington and London cannot hide the reality.
Arab regimes and their controlled media want to change the image without changing the reality. Getting rid of the symptom will not cure the illness. Morphine makes the pain go away but only for a while. The disease outlasts the patient if a serious “cure” is not applied.


How about ending the wold-class repression and corruption: that should go a long way towards improving the “image” of Arab oligarchs.

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

Kissing It in Arabia: Saudis Discern a Trump ‘Axis of Adults’, or is it an ‘Axis of Kissers of Trump’s Rump’?………

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“Trump’s ‘Axis of Adults’ sends powerful messages to Iran. In Washington, they call them the “Axis of Adults” — Defense Secretary James Mattis, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly, National Security Adviser Herbert McMaster, CIA Director Mike Pompeo and Nikki Haley, the ambassador to the UN. These are the pillars of the Trump-Pence administration, if not the pillars of the state. Other influential stakeholders exist. There is the wing led by Jared Kushner, son-in-law of the president, which includes his Wall Street friends Gary Cohen and Dina Habib Powell, who is deputy national security adviser. There is also a rival wing led by Donald Trump’s top adviser, the hawkish Steve Bannon. The so-called Axis of Adults has taken advantage of the tension between the two in the White House to make inroads into Trump’s heart and mind………” Arab News (Saudi)

First time I read, or hear, about “Trump’s Heart and Mind”. Didn’t know he had either. Now that is ‘kissing it’ creatively, Saudi style…..
“How do I dish thee out, oh journalistic rubbish?…..
Let me count the ways……..”

When it comes to hypocrisy towards potentates or towards a new US president, nobody can do it like Saudi semi-official media. Networks (Alarabiya), Newspapers (Asharq Alawsat, Al-Hayat), English Dailies like Arab News. All owned by princes and potentates. They hire the best, most sycophant media writers, mainly Lebanese but also other Arabs.
A few months ago Donald Trump was a pariah in Arab media. They thought their old pal Hillary Clinton will win and Trump was royally trashed in their controlled media. It is quite a different story now. Trump has been transformed into a genius. He hasn’t been elevated to the ranks of the Early Muslim Pioneers, the Sahaba, yet. But watch out!

How does an Axis of Kissers of Trump’s Rump sounds? That is what it is, but British prime minister Theresa May actually beat them to it last January. In front of a hundred cameras at the White House.


Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

Imagine If You Can: a Bloody Middle East Science Day…….

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Today is Science March Day. All over the world people are meeting in solidarity with science. You’d think there is no need for a “day of solidarity” with science now. But we’ve come a long way backward, back to Ante Ante-Bellum, Ante-Galileo, Ante-Newton’s Laws, Ante Kennedy’s pledge to go to the Moon.

Science is being celebrated everywhere in the world, almost. Except for the Middle East. In some Arab capitals, and possibly in Turkey, imagine if you can that a bunch of enthusiastic young men and women gathered in city squares. They gathered for Science Day, not to push for the Sharia implementation, and not to denounce Wahhabism, and not to call for elections and free speech and an end to corruption. That would have been too much. They gathered just to celebrate Science Day, just imagine that if you can.

That is what could have happened from Riyadh to Cairo to Istanbul. That is what may have happened, had the young people decided to follow the example of their colleagues in Europe, Asia, and America. Imagine that if you can.

The dictators and the absolute tribal kings and the robber princes did not understand. To them a crowd is a crowd: a threat to their golden goose. The soldiers and the security goons and the foreign mercenaries, the men who usually crash down doors at dawn, acted on orders. In broad daylight. On this Science Day, Science watered the city squares with blood. Imagine that if you can, because you should.

Why is it that only Arabs, and some Muslims, risk shedding their blood if they publicly gather to celebrate Science?

Allies, indeed……

Cheers

Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

Exchange of Qatari Royals in Iraq for Syrian Captives of Jihadis Ends in Bloody Massacre…….

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“The fates of 26 members of a Qatari royal hunting party held hostage for more than a year in Iraq were used to help negotiate a population swap in Syria, where residents on Friday started leaving two Shia villages and two Sunni towns in a synchronised easing of a four-year siege brokered by regional powers. Residents of the Shia areas of Fua and Kefraya, in northern Syria, were transported to nearby east Aleppo as the first buses began leaving Zabadani and Madaya, Sunni strongholds between Damascus and the Lebanese border, for a final destination somewhere in the rebel-held areas of Idlib province. The deal was finalised in recent days after nearly two years of negotiations between one of Syria’s main opposition groups, Ahrar al-Sham, and Iran. The Lebanese militant group Hezbollah and Qatar have also been central ……..”

Reports from all sides in the Middle East indicate that there may be several thousand Saudis held captive in Iraq. Most of them apparently went north to join the Jihadi campaign of terrorism against Iraqi civilians, a sectarian campaign mainly targeting Shi’as. Many joined Al Qaeda in Iraq in the days of Jordanian terrorist Al Zarqawi, and later joined ISIS (DAESH). They represent a huge headache for the Saudi government, and it probably has influenced the recent Saudi warming up to the new political order in Iraq. Families and especially tribes as well as clerics form an important lobby in Saudi Arabia, as the authorities try to get these prisoners released. Some have reportedly been sentenced to death for terrorist acts and some already executed.

An unfortunate development. Today, Saturday, reports came that Jihadi rebels bombed some of the same Syrian refugee buses, killing at least twenty, wounding many others. Not clear yet how this will affect the release of Qatari potentates held in Iraq.

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

IDEX and MAGA in MENA: How Arab Regimes Buy More Weapons to Kill Other Arabs……

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Arab kids in IDEX candy store…

“The world’s largest military fair is wrapping up in the United Arab Emirates. The IDEX exhibition attracts mainly African, Arab and Asian officials who are shopping for weapons. For defence companies at the fair, it’s a highly lucrative market. Never since the end of the Cold War have countries spent so much on defence, with deals worth a total of 100 billion dollars signed worldwide last year. Our correspondents report from Abu Dhabi…….”

They call it IDEX (the International Defense Exhibition), but much of it is not defensive. It is a new form of Newspeak. Most of those Arabs who buy the weapons have not been attacked by anyone in recent history, at least not in a quarter century. Those few who have been directly attacked were attacked by other Arab regimes (let’s leave Israel out of the equation here: these weapons are aimed at other Muslim/Arab states). Many of the rich Arab buyers are actively involved in wars in other poorer Arab countries. Some of these oligarchies are also stockpiling weapons to help repress their own people’s aspirations. Western weapons bought by Arabs from foreign “friends” to kill other Arabs.

Sometimes the local potentates get “commissions” from weapons deals (an important consideration). In some cases the weapons purchases are used to exert political influence on the exporting Western governments (British governments have been easy targets for such blackmail, and occasionally the French as well).

As Donald Trump would say or tweet (but he won’t in this case): Sad! So Sad! …….While he runs to the bank.

According to SIPRI data:
Saudi Arabia ‘s share was second largest world weapons importer: 7% of total international arms imports in 2011-2015 (compared to 2.1% in 2006-2010). The United Arab Emirates (UAE) share was fourth largest weapons importer: 4.6% in 2011-2015 (compared to 3.9% in 2006-2010). Each imported more than much bigger countries. But then one of these two Arab states (Saudi Arabia) has been engaged in indirect wars in Syria and Iraq and both are engaged directly in Yemen (active air and land war against local Yemeni forces). Saudis were the largest importers of total American arms exports (9.7% in 2011-2015), while the UAE were the second largest (9.1%).

Some of these Arab-bought weapons find their way into the killing fields of Syria, Iraq, and Yemen. Possibly other places as well. In an era when revenues are declining and poverty expands even in petroleum-producing countries. Helping Make Arabia Great Again.

Cheers
M. Haider Ghuloum