Category Archives: Arab Politics

Al Qaeda in Lebanon: Who Killed Hariri? Who Really Knows? Who Really Cares?…………

   Rattlesnake Ridge   Follow ArabiaDeserta on Twitter   

 
      BFF

In focusing entirely on the alleged links between four Hezbollah activists and the 2005 bombing that killed Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, the indictment issued by the Special Tribunal for Lebanon earlier this month has continued the practice of the U.N investigation before it of refusing to acknowledge the much stronger evidence that an Al-Qaeda cell was responsible for the assassination. Several members of an Al-Qaeda cell confessed in 2006 to having carried out the crime, but later recanted their confessions, claiming they were tortured. However, the transcript of one of the interrogations, which was published by a Beirut newspaper in 2007, shows that the testimony was being provided without coercion and that it suggested that Al-Qaeda had indeed ordered the assassination. But the United Nations International Independent Investigation Commission (UNIIIC) was determined to pin the crime either on Syria or its Lebanese ally Hezbollah and refused to pursue the Al-Qaeda angle…………”

An interesting angle introduced about the Hariri assassination. This adds yet more “parties of interest” to the whole tedious boring saga. Let’s see what we have now:


  • Originally Syria was accused and convicted in (some) media of the assassination in 2005. That created pressure on the Syrian regime to evacuate its forces from Lebanon (they had overstayed their welcome anyway). For some time the Syrian angle was the one pushed by the March 14 right-wing Lebanese bloc and by the Saudi and Israeli and Western media. Hariri allies went all over Western media swearing that the Syrians were behind the assassinations.
  •  
  • In 2006 the war between Israel and Lebanon (actually Hezbollah) erupted. The Israelis, who usually trounce regular Arab armies easily, were humiliated for the second time in six years by an Arab guerrilla army.

  • The West started to cozy up to the Assad regime in Syria in recent years (before the Arab Spring and Summer). The Saudi King visited Damascus and he and Assad flew together into Beirut.  They looked almost sweet together.

  • Lo and behold, suddenly news leaked that in fact it was not Syria that was being suspected, not anymore. It was Hezbollah or more accurately some Hezbollah officials who were suspected of the assassination of Hariri. Some reports in Middle East right-wing media even threw in the names of Iranian leaders like Khamenei and others as possible suspects.

  • Hezbollah’s Hassan Nasrallah hinted, nay strongly suggested, that the Israelis may have been behind the assassination. He noted that Israel stood to gain the most from it (getting the Syrians out of Lebanon, dividing the Lebanese, dividing the Arabs to the extent that some regimes supported Israel in the war of 2006).

  • Now al-Qaeda is being introduced as yet another suspect.

  • Most Lebanese seem to have lost faith in the Hariri tribunal and think, probably quite rightly, that it is being used as a political tool. Now where would they get this idea?

  • Most Arabs, those who care at all, look at the tribunal through the prism of their own political (and sectarian) inclinations. These are the Arabs of the East, of the Asian side: Lebanon, Syria, and the Gulf GCC states. These are the Arab regions were sectarian passions are strong.

  • The other Arabs (Iraq, Yemen, Egypt, North Africa, Sudan, Somalia, Djibouti) don’t give a rat’s ass about the whole Hariri STL thing.

  • Who killed Hariri and so many others who were nearby in 2005? I haven’t the foggiest idea. But I do suspect one thing: the STL tribunal may not know anymore than I do. Possibly only the killers know.
  • (No, Hugo Chavez had nothing to do with it).

Cheers
mhg



m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

Africa, the Arab World, the (New) New Colonialism………….

   Rattlesnake Ridge   Follow ArabiaDeserta on Twitter   

 
      BFF

“The African strongmen are going the way of Nkrumah, and in extreme cases Gaddafi, not Nyerere. The societies they lead are marked by growing internal divisions. In this, too, they are reminiscent of Libya under Gaddafi more than Egypt under Mubarak or Tunisia under Ben Ali. Whereas the fall of Mubarak and Ben Ali directed our attention to internal social forces, the fall of Gaddafi has brought a new equation to the forefront: the connection between internal opposition and external governments. Even if those who cheer focus on the former and those who mourn are preoccupied with the latter, none can deny that the change in Tripoli would have been unlikely without a confluence of external intervention and internal revolt. The conditions making for external intervention in Africa are growing, not diminishing. The continent is today the site of a growing contention between dominant global powers and new challengers……. The contrast with Western powers, particularly the US and France, could not be sharper. The cutting edge of Western intervention is military. France’s search for opportunities for military intervention, at first in Tunisia, then Cote d’Ivoire, and then Libya, has been above board and the subject of much discussion. Of greater significance is the growth of Africom, the institutional arm of US military intervention on the African continent………………
China and India intervene in Africa in an economic and commercial capacity. They are militarily to weak (compared to Western powers) and too ‘distant’. And they are too ‘new’ to the region, as world powers and not ethnically. The West, especially the French have always intervened militarily in Africa, except for a hiatus of a couple of decades. That hiatus was only Anglo-American: the French never stopped, as French presidents continued to send expeditions to prop up their favorite dictators. The West is back in force now, from Somalia, to Libya, to Cote D’Ivoire, to other spots overtly or covertly. Is it a new age of colonialism for the “Dark Continent”?
And speaking of Western intervention: the Arab World is not exactly free of it. From Iraq to Libya to Yemen to Lebanon to Sudan to Somalia and other places, the West is engaged against a host of foes, real or perceived. Like Africa which it overlaps, the feeble and corruptly managed Arab world can’t seem to get its (shit) act together, persistently inviting outside intervention: intervention from the West, Israel, Turkey, and Iran. The whole region is like a vacuum wittingly or unwittingly begging for intervention (prostrate and legs wide open, I’d say if I were rude and crude, which I ain’t). Some of the potentates even hire foreign mercenaries from South Asia and form foreign legions of Colombians and Australians and Blackwater denizens, among others. The Arab world is supposed to have been educating at least three generations since the wave of independence in the 1940s. Yet in the past several decades the Arabs have never been less independent than they are now and arguably never less ably led.

Cheers
mhg



m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

Abrams Pissed at Qatar, When in Rome and Carthage………

   Rattlesnake Ridge   Follow ArabiaDeserta on Twitter   

 
      BFF

Qatar has acquired a reputation for sharp, quick responses to crises in the Arab world and for modern and unorthodox thinking. It is undeserved. Qatari diplomatic activity is designed to advance the interests of the tiny country and of its ruling family. Its adoption of the Libyan opposition, for example, is not based on any principle (such as liberty, democracy, or free elections), for the Qatari government and its TV station, Al Jazeera, have been notably silent about the crisis in Bahrain. There, they have backed the royal family and the Saudi-led GCC armed presence………Backing the royal family in Bahrain, supporting Hamas but then giving some money to the PA, and financing the rebels in Libya shows Qatari flexibility, but not courageous leadership. What does Qatar seek, beyond influence? Influence for what? ……………..”

Abrams sounds truly pissed at the Qatari oligarchy, but he is right overall about the hypocrisy. I have to agree with him on this one, although it is the Palestinian statehood thing that riles him up the most.
Abrams asks: Influence for what?” He forgets all about Rome. Long ago, in this galaxy, a small farming community around the upstart town of Rome gained influence and power gradually as it beat regional rivals. Within a couple of centuries, the Roman upstarts defeated Carthage in three (Punic) wars and became undisputed masters of the Mediterranean and half the known world (from Spain to the Euphrates River). Is it possible the Qatari dynasty is seeking to take over the (Persian-American) Gulf? Or maybe they just want to merge with Bahrain (minus al-Khalifa and the Saudi occupation forces, of course). Is it possible they want to conquer the known world? Ich weiss nicht.

Cheers
mhg



m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

Joke of the Day: Tony Blair Preaches on Morality………….

   Rattlesnake Ridge   Follow ArabiaDeserta on Twitter   

 
      BFF
Iran must not be allowed to develop its nuclear program, Quartet envoy Tony Blair said Tuesday during a panel discussion as part of the three-day Israeli Presidential Conference in Jerusalem. “If we allow Iran to develop nuclear capabilities, there will be consequence, therefore we must not let that happen,” Blair said.…… During the panel discussion entitled, “Nation, Interests and Ethics in the Journey Toward Tomorrow,” Blair said he sees Israel as a model for the region. “Through it’s (sic) belief in the creativity and endeavor of the human spirit, Israel can be seen for what it is as a country of hope and human values,” he said. Commenting on moral decisions that leaders must take, Blair said “If we fail to intervene where people are being killed, that is a decision that has consequences,” and gave Sierra Leone as an example. …….

Regardless of the Iran issue, Blair hardly has any claim to morality. During the Egyptian uprising in January-February, Tony (the Poodle) Blair famously said something like “we should try and manage the Egyptian uprising”. Now his petroleum princes are trying to take his advice and manage the Egyptian and other revolutions (Libya, Syria, Yemen). They are also trying to kill other Arab uprisings (Bahrain, Jordan). Speaking of “morality: it has not been Tony Blair’s strong suit for many years now.
Cheers
mhg




m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

Middle East Peace Index, War Index……………

   Rattlesnake Ridge   Follow ArabiaDeserta on Twitter   

 
      BFF
Peace indicators:
Level of organized conflict -Armed services personnel -Weapons imports -Military expenditure -Number of conflicts fought -Jailed population -Deaths from conflict (internal) -Potential for terriorist acts -Level of violent crime -Political instability -Military capability/sophistication -Disrespect for human rights -Number of homicides -UN Peacekeeping funding -Number of heavy weapons -Number of displaced people -Neighbouring country relations -Weapons exports -Deaths from conflict (external) -Violent demonstrations -Access to weapons -Perceived criminality in society -Security officers & police.

Middle East compared to others:

Iceland 1
Qatar 12 –  Kuwait 29 –   UAE 33 –   Oman 41 –   Morocco 58 –   Jordan 64-  Egypt 73 –   China 80 –    USA 82 –     Bangladesh 83 –    Congo 98   
Saudi Arabia 101-    Syria 116 –    Iran 119 –    Bahrain 123 –    Turkey 127 –   Algeria 129-  Mauritania 130 – 
Myanmar 133 –     India 135 –  
Lebanon 137 –      Yemen 138 –    Libya 143-     Israel 145 –
Pakistan 146 –    Afghanistan 150 –  
Sudan 151 –     Iraq 152 –      Somalia 153

Cheers
mhg


m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

Is the Saudi Women Drive-in Protest DOA?……….

   Rattlesnake Ridge   Follow ArabiaDeserta on Twitter   

 
      BFF
On Facebook and Twitter, activists had launched a campaign calling on women in Saudi Arabia who hold international drivers’ licenses to get behind the wheel on Friday, June 17, and drive their cars to protest the country’s ban on women driving. Their call is a daring initiative. Women who have defied the ban in the past have lost their jobs, been banned from travel and denounced by members of the country’s powerful extremist religious establishment. The women say their planned move is not a protest nor an attempt to break the law, but rather a bid to claim basic rights as human beings……….

That is where these women are wrong, when they say they are not trying to protest (or even break an arbitrary rule). Protest is a God-given right. Every one of us, man or woman, was born protesting, along with the proverbial slap on the behind. They are protesting, they are asserting their right to protest, as they should. Rather than pull back and try to water down their demands, they should expand them. Arab despots, like all despots, only understand the language of firmness. They can smell fear and hesitation. Think of Egypt, think of Tunisia.
(Nevertheless, I now suspect that this Saudi drive-in may fizzle, as much as the men’s protest in Riyadh last March did. Opponents are gaining voices on twitter. That expected drive-in may be DOA: dead on arrival).
Cheers
mhg




m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

Arabs Doubling Down after the Obama Speech………….

   Rattlesnake Ridge   Follow ArabiaDeserta on Twitter   

 
      BFF
“Bahrain has allegedly arrested and abused local journalists working for foreign news agencies in an escalation of the crackdown just days after Barack Obama, US president, called for dialogue. Local journalists have been arrested and beaten since the authorities violently cleared pro-democracy protests in mid-March, but this is the first time that journalists working for overseas outlets have been targeted in a broadening assault on the media. Mazen Mahdi, a photojournalist with the German press agency and Defense News, and Nazeeha Saeed, a reporter for France24 and Radio Monte Carlo, were detained for hours and questioned about their reporting. Both said they were abused during their detention and released late Sunday and early Monday.……… Reeling from negative media coverage, the authorities have been targeting local and foreign media amid the broader crackdown of arrests, torture, sackings and destruction of religious sites…….. Local journalists at Al-Wasat, the country’s only independent voice before changes made under government pressure last month, have also been arrested. A founder of the newspaper, businessman Kareem Fakhrawi, is one of four people who have died in detention since the clampdown began. Mansoor Aljamri, a former exile who edited the paper, is on trial for publishing false news.………”

This is one example of the reaction of Arab despots to the Obama speech last week. From Libya to Yemen to Syria to Saudi Arabia, even in Morocco, they have tightened the screws on the people.
Bahrain is only the most flagrant case, which also reflects the wish, nay the orders, of the al-Saud. Just after the Obama Middle East speech the al-Khalifa ruling clan has doubled down on their oppression of the people of Bahrain. Mr. Obama mentioned the repression, but unfortunately he also noted that the Bahrain regime “needs” to maintain order. They are betting that their al-Saud masters will take care of the West. They are betting that petroleum and weapons contracts and money are more important to Western governments than human rights, and they are most likely right about that. They have been right so far: Obama basically equated the two sides in Bahrain, Britain’s Cameron received the crown prince and the foreign minister last week (both are al-Khalifa, as are most of the cabinet), and Sarkozy would likely send forces to help put down the uprising if asked. So the Obama speech somehow emboldened the Bahraini regime: somehow they have interpreted it as a tacit green light.
Maybe Mr. Jeffrey Feltman and Mr. James Steinberg, who were in Bahrain just before the Obama speech, had reassured them that it was just a speech for media consumption.
(BHCR, Bahrain’s Human Right group reports that Mr. Fakhrawi was tortured and electrocuted to get him to ‘confess’ to ties with Hezbollah ad Iran. He died under torture.)

Cheers
mhg



m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

Sir Thomas More Al Shaikh, Saint Thomas Becket of Al-Azhar………..

    Rattlesnake Ridge   Follow ArabiaDeserta on Twitter   

 
      BFF
Thomas Becket was appointed Archbishop of Canterbury by his close friend King Henry II. Becket took his job in the church seriously and would not side with the king on many issues, when he thought the king was wrong. He was murdered in 1170, possibly with the encouragement of the king.
Sir Thomas More was appointed Lord Chancellor by King Henry VIII with the apparent assumption that he would do the king’s bidding against the Catholic Church. More took his job seriously: he could not in good conscious side with the king who had raised him so high and appointed him chancellor. Sir Thomas was tried for treason and beheaded in 1535, as he no doubt expected.

Shaikh A Al Al Shaikh, Mufti of Saudi Arabia, head of its Commission of High Religious Ulema (clergy). He would never disagree with the king or any of the princes. He would, and has, issued fatwas banning any criticism and opposition to the king, any king. His most famous fatwa was issued last March, banning any protests against the government, calling them ‘acts against Islam’. The excited Saudi government published two million copies of his fatwa and distributed them across the country. It never made the list of N Y Time or Amazon bestsellers. Perhaps if Shaikh Al Al Shaikh could start traveling around the world, signing copies of his fatwa at Border’s and Barnes & Noble.
Shaikh Ahmed al-Tayeb. Appointed two years ago by Hosni Mubarak as head of al-Azhar and its chief Mufti. He was a member of Mubarak’s ruling party at the time. On his first few months as Mufti he legalized Saudi-style temporary part-time marriages in Egypt (the mesyar or mesayar), allowing funny summer vacation marriages between elderly Saudis and poor Egyptian girls. Immediately after that he announced to Saudi media that he will be watching carefully for Shi’a expansion in al-Azhar and work to stop it, wtf that means. He opined against the Egyptian Revolution that started on January 25, 2011, but after Mubarak fell he changed him mind.
Cheers
mhg




m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

From Tehran to Doha to Riyadh to Abu Dhabi: Watching the World Go By, a Talent for Boring………….

     

     Summer

 

   Follow ArabiaDeserta on Twitter  
How the Arab and Middle East uprisings have caught regional leaders off guard:


  • Iranian mullahs go bi-polar and worry about the British. They did not say why the British, they never say, but I suspect it is because it is easier to sell “hate the British” than “hate America” to their people. Many Iranians have American relatives now. Maybe some mullahs don’t realize that Churchill is not only out of power, but has been quite dead for almost half a century. 

  • The ruler of Qatar continues to play his cards close to his chest (no problem there, a lot of space), realizing after watching hours of Qaddafi tapes that silence is more than golden. The Emir does get a petition for ‘reform’: I hope he didn’t write it himself, just to make things interesting for his surely bored people (they must feel that the world is passing them by).

  • Saudi princes had thought they owned the status quo: they had thought their people were winners of the Gold Medal for Conformity. Mufti Shaikh Al Al-Shaikh is so upset he may decide to take another wife (as will his cousin and head of the appointed Shura Council, one of the other Shaikhs Al Al-Shaikh). Friday’s Day of Rage may have fizzled in Saudi, only worked in the Eastern Province (al-A’hsaa, al-‘Hasa: you name it). The sectarian angle plus the loyalist Salafi shaikhs on the payroll plus flooding the streets with security men, carried the day again for the regime. For now.

  • I am beginning to suspect something about the Saudi people: the princes may be right, and many of them may prefer to see the world pass them by. That is a boring thing these days. I am not sure if it is the case for most of them, yet. Which means that perhaps the Saudi princes deliberately keep their people bored either by doing nothing or by making periodic public statements or by just doing things, anything. Some people are like that: they have a talent for boring their people no matter what they do or don’t do (Iran’s Ahmadinejad has that same talent for boring, but he is not quite as good at it as the Saudi princes, nobody is except for the Abu Dhabi and Bahrain potentates). I recall once watching a news tape of Prince Bandar Bin Sultan, and I had a hard time staying awake, and afterwards I did not remember any important points that he had made, if any. This talent for boring has so far served the al-Saud well, and it may safely get them through this year of revolutions, that and their guns.

  • The ruling family of Abu Dhabi decide to upgrade: from the world’s second biggest importer of weapons to the world’s first biggest importer of weapons in the world (as their foreign minister Shaikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Bin Sultan al-Nehyan may have said, or maybe not). They may also decide to import a couple of million more Asians, just in case. They are still up there on the boring scale, at least the top few of them.

  • The King of Morocco, and whoever/whatever of Mauretania, figure that the wind is blowing to the east and they have ample time to get ready. These last two have forgotten about the ripe rotten Algerian fruit that could fall at any time and sweep away Bou-whatishisface and screw up their plans big time.

Cheers
mhg




m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com