Category Archives: Arab Politics

Gulf Arms Race: the Best Armed Foreign Mercenaries, it is the Commission, Stupid!………

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      BFF

At the Defence Security and Equipment International arms fair in London’s Excel Centre, there is no shortage of options for dishing out bad days, weeks, months and whole lifetimes. The Defence Secretary, Liam Fox, addressed the delegates yesterday morning, extending a warm welcome to the various invitees, among them military procurement officers from Angola, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. The 65 national delegations asked to buy weapons in London include 14 regimes defined as “authoritarian” by human rights groups, who have highlighted the use of British arms in suppressing opposition movements in the Middle East……….. Saudi Arabia is by far the biggest buyer of British weapons and also the largest importer of arms globally. Saudi contracts earned the UK about £300m last year, according to arms trade analysts the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute……………

So, all this means that the citizen of the UAE and Saudi Arabia is the best armed citizen anywhere in the whole wide world. Funny, they don’t look it: I suppose I should correct and say that the UAE foreign mercenary is the best armed foreign mercenary anywhere in the world.
According to SIPRI, it now looks like Saudi Arabia is the biggest arms importer in the world. The United Arab Emirates was the biggest Arab arms importer and the second largest arms importer in the world for several years, but no more. The UAE has less than one million citizens (plus a few million temporary foreign laborers) while Saudi Arabia probably has some 15 million citizens (plus millions of temporary foreign laborers). Now the potentates in Abu Dhabi will try harder to surpass the potentates in Riyadh. They certainly can afford it more than Riyadh can. That also means that some Saudi prince(s) will collect billions in commissions (called bribes in impolite and crude company, but I won’t stoop to that), much more than their Emirati (Abu Dhabi) potentates who will collect less in arms commissions (also called bribes in impolite and crude company, but I won’t stoop to that either).
Now we will have a race: the UAE potentates will seek to regain their position in weapons imports and, not incidentally, in the size of commissions their potentates receive. These fat bribes commissions are paid by the oh-so-generous Western arms exporters, who will then add the cost to the export price. Almost like money laundering: well, it is a way to launder the public money of these Gulf states back to the potentates with the help of the exporting companies. Remember the British BAE Systems and the scandal of the US $2 billion weapons deal bribe to Prince Bandar Bin Sultan (allegedly)? That was the investigation by the Serious Frauds office (SFO) that Tony Blair killed. It was called the al-Yamama deal. A lot of laundering there, more than the proverbial but real Chinese laundry in my neighborhood.

Maybe there are good honest reasons for amassing and storing all these weapons in desert warehouses. Maybe it is the fear of the scowling Iranian mullahs across the Gulf, maybe it is some mistrust of the resolve of the Western allies whose fleets fill my Gulf. In at least two cases it is the fear of the people, which explains the foreign mercenaries. Yet somehow I can’t shake off this nagging feeling that “It is the commissions, stupid!
Cheers
mhg



m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

The Right Wing Arab Spring: will Libya Join the New Humorous GCC?………

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      BFF

The head of Libya’s National Transitional Council on Monday night delivered his first public speech in central Tripoli. Speaking to thousands of supporters in Martyrs’ Square, Mustafa Abdul-Jalil said Libya would adopt sharia law. But, as the New York Times reports, Jalil insisted that Libya would never again fall into the hands of extremists. We will not accept any extremist ideology, on the right or the left. We are a Muslim people, for a moderate Islam, and will stay on this road. We strive for a state of the law, for a state of prosperity, for a state that will have Islamic sharia law the basis of legislation. Meanwhile Amnesty International has accused fighters of Libya’s National Transitional Council of committing war crimes in their battle to overthrow leader Muammar Gaddafi……….

This man, Mustafa Abdul-Jalil, has decided that Libya will adopt the Shari’a. He has not asked the Libyan people, he has not ‘offered’ to allow them to vote on the issue. My, and others’, suspicions about these Libyan rebels are coming true. Many of the leaders were minions of Qaddafi until recently. The rest were Salafi and Muslim Brother fundamentalists who were either in exile or in Qaddafi’s prisons. A few among the exiles were pro-democracy. Qaddafi himself espoused some cocktail of Islamism-Arab nationalism-Qaddafiism-Africanism; but like all Arab despots, he was foremost for himself, his family, and his tribe. As they say, the fruit doesn’t fall far from the tree.
The next Libyan regime will be fundamentalist, but not anti-western (nor fiercely independent) as the regimes in Iran and Gaza. It will be more like the Saudi regime, a theocracy that is acceptable to the West. I can almost see the Qatari, Emirati and others dancing a jig of celebration. That is what it will be for a while, until the ruling group breaks up into its warring factions, unless they find a formula to share the pie.
Speaking of all this: the new Libya may become another Saudi candidate for membership of the Gulf GCC. (I know, I know: Libyans probably have about as much humor as Jordanians, which is next to nil, but try telling that to the Gulf potentates).
Then there is Papa Sarkozy and Mama Cameron, or is it the other way around…
……
Cheers
mhg



m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

OFMQ: Old Friends of Mu’ammar al-Qaddafi…………

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      BFF

Khalid Saad worked for years as a loyal cog in Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s propaganda machine, arranging transportation to ferry foreign journalists to staged rallies, ensuring that they never left their hotels without official escorts and raising his own voice to cheer the Libyan leader. The day that rebels took Tripoli, Mr. Saad immediately switched sides. Now he works for the rebels’ provisional government, coordinating transportation for its officials and insisting that his previous support for Colonel Qaddafi was just business. “My uncle and my son were soldiers for the revolution,” he said in an interview. “Everyone will be happy now. Everything is changed now. Everyone is free.” As the curtain falls on Colonel Qaddafi’s Tripoli, many of its supporting actors are rushing to pick up new roles with the rebels……….

Old friends of Ma’ammar Qaddafi (OFMQ) are braying for his blood, as are old foes. His former best pal Silvio Berlusconi, former admirer Nicolas Sarkozy, law-bending-for-money British politicians, assorted Europeans, Hillary Clinton, etc, etc. Only some of the Latins and some Africans seem to have not jumped off his Libyan ship. Interesting how the most murderous dictators and despots are tolerated and accepted by the “international community”, meaning Western governments, while in power, but are quickly set upon by their friends when they topple. As long as they play by the rules of the “international community”, they can continue their murderous rule, provided they can keep it quiet. From Batista to Papa Doc to Noriega to Saddam Hussein to Qaddafi and the absolute monarchies: play by the rules as set by the “international community” and you can do wtf you please inside your domain, as long as you keep a lid on things.
Cheers
mhg



m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

A Vampire Saga of FH and ZN: From Transylvania to the UAE, Via Pakistan……….

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      BFF

DUBAI // A 31-year-old man is accused of threatening to drink a woman’s blood if she did not allow him into her apartment. The Pakistani worker, FH, has been charged in the Criminal Court of First Instance with issuing threats and inappropriate insults to an a woman from Azerbaijan. Prosecutors said he told the 43-year-old visitor ZN that he would drink her blood if she did not open her door. He is also accused of sending her an inappropriate text message. “He called me from different numbers and threatened to have sex with me,” she testified in records. Records show that he also threatened to have sex with her family members if she did not comply with his wishes. The records do not elaborate on how they knew each other…………..”

I think I’ll go back and reread Bram Stoker’s great classic, the book that started it all, the book that contributed to improving the quality of Halloween and made Ann Rice and Bela Lugosi rich and famous. Unfortunately Dracula also inspired Twilight on television and Count Chocula breakfast cereal.
(This corroborates my argument yesterday that lack of politics and political life in a society makes people do all sorts of weird things. The chief vampires need to relent and the people participate in politics. Political frustration, as much as sexual frustration, can lead to anti-social behavior unless one is a nun or, worse, a priest in charge of a bunch of kids).
Cheers
mhg



m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

Syria and Iraq and the Arabs: the New Iranian-Turkish Regional Rivalry………….

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      BFF

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad calls for dialogue between the Syrian government and the opposition and urges the government to respect people’s rights. “We are of the opinion that that nations and governments should resolve their problems with each other (through dialogue),” Ahmadinejad tells Portugal’s Radiotelevisao Portuguesa when asked about Iran’s position toward uprisings in Syria. Ahmadinejad adds, “Governments and nations should respect rights and freedom.”……….Mehr News Agency (Iran)

Iran criticizes Turkey for agreeing to host NATO’s missile defense system, saying Iran does not expect Turkey as a neighbor and friendly country to adopt policies that would create tension in the region. “We expect our friendly countries and neighbors to show more vigilance and by considering the region’s security interests do not pave the way for policies that create tension that will definitely lead to ‘complicated consequences’,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast says. Turkey has recently agreed to host an early warning radar as part of NATO’s missile defense system which is allegedly aimed to counter missile threats by Iran. Mehmanparast says Iran believes the deployment radar system in Turkey will not serve “regional stability and security” even for the host country………. Mehr News Agency

These two news items from Iran reflect newly reshuffled cards in the game of musical chairs in our region. There is no doubt now that the Iranians are bracing for change in Syria. Even if the protests in Syrian cities are crushed, regimes like the Ba’ath one in Syria are considered an anomaly now (as are other regimes, but that is for another post). Change is coming and not just in Syria, but whether it is ‘change you can believe in’ depends on your view and your politics.
The Iranians have looked at the players in Syria and probably decided to get ready for any eventuality. It is likely that they have decided to adopt their own Syrian faction: everyone else seems to have their own “Islamist” factions in Syria these days. Sect is not an issue when it comes to politics: the Iranian mullahs are not as ‘pure’ as the Wahhabi potentates in Saudi Arabia, or maybe they can’t afford to be that pure given the demographics of most countries in the region by sect. They may be getting ready to throw the secular Ba’ath regime under the bus, hoping for another “Hamas”. What favors this tack is that the mullahs also know that they have one important card in Syria no matter who comes to power in Damascus: the Golan Heights. The Likud or Kadima will never give up the Golan, which means any new Damascus regime will probably keep its Iranian (and hence its Lebanese) options open. The Iranians invented the game of chess and that is how they play the regional politics, yet they are not immune to the unrest.
Then there is Turkey, which had been sympathetic to the Iranian position on the nuclear issue. Until now. The Arab Spring has reshuffled the regional cards and created new opportunities, and it is not done yet. Silent and latent rivalries, dating back to the Persian-Ottoman struggle over Arab territories like Iraq, are warming up. This is exacerbated by the total paralysis of the Arab system and the inability of the Arab oligarchs to shape events in the region. Despite the billions spent on weapons and on international networking, the region’s fate is still determined by three non-Arab parties and the West. Egypt may regain its pre-Mubarak role as a major regional player, as “the” Arab player, but that depends on how things develop in Cairo. The Iranian-Turkish rivalry in Iraq is more commercial than political since the Iranians seem to have an overwhelming political and cultural and geographic advantage. The Iranian hand in Iraq has been strengthened by the loud disapproval of some Arab regimes of the new order in Iraq.
Syria is another matter: it is a smaller and poorer country. But Syria also has its own issue with Turkey: the small region of Alexandretta that the Syrians claim should be theirs.
When the dust settles on this new Arab Spring, and that may be a few years from now, what we shall see will most likely be quite different from what we now expect.
This also includes developments inside Iran.
Cheers
mhg



m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

UAE: Politics, Devilish Violent Crimes, Generals and Potentates with Missiles……..

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      BFF

The following were recent headlines of the “Courts” page of a daily newspaper in the United Arab Emirates:


  • Man says devil made him molest girl

  • Boys accused of raping man

  • Fake officer kidnapped, raped woman, court told

  • Army clerk forged signature of Chief of Armed Forces, court told”

  • Student claims cousin raped her

  • “Former footballer appeals against conviction in Dh5.5m citizenship scam”  

  • Man threatened to drink woman’s blood, court told. She says he was trying to force his way into her apartment”

  • Woman charged with illicit sex says partner was husband

These are all ‘exotic’ crimes by any standard I can think of. This is what happens when there are no real politics to keep them busy, as in the UAE. The next most exciting thing apparently is violent sex and murder and robbery. Which reminds me: there is even less politics in Saudi Arabia, and I wonder what their police reports are like.

As for that army clerk who forged a general’s signature: I hope he has no access to all those fancy missiles the Abu Dhabi has been buying from around the world. The UAE is the second largest importer of weapons in the whole wide world and aims to be the first largest importer of weapons in the whole wide world. The import-deprived Iranian IRGC generals probably drool every time they read about all these advanced Western goodies landing in the warehouses of Abu Dhabi (I assume the mullahs also drool, just like all clergy including the Catholics). Now we don’t want some dipshit army clerk to start a missile war across the Gulf, do we? Only dipshit generals and potentates should be able to start a missile war.
Cheers
mhg



m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

Iraqi Politics: Strange Leadership, Passing the Buck Iraqiya Style………

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      BFF

Iraqiya Slate said that it has submitted to the Presidency names of its nominees for the post of Defence Minister. Iraqiya’s spokeswoman, Maysoun al-Damaluji told NINA on Thursday, Sep. 1, “Iraqiya Slated submitted to the Presidency the names of 9-10 nominees for the post of Defence Minister to put an end to the argument and put an end to the issue. But she did not announce the names and whether they are new or include previous nominees. She pointed out that all the names mentioned by the media are not true, they reflect their opinion…….

The Iraqiya bloc (of Allawi and former Ba’athists) submitted TEN names as candidates for Defense Minister. Imagine being asked for “a” and candidate and submitting TEN! What a fucked-up system of leadership decision-making is that? This only means the al-Iraqiya bloc could not decide who to nominate: they handed the problem up to the prime minister. If they can’t decide whom to nominate, how did they expect to rule Iraq?
(Iraqi politics are odd, odder than even the Republican Tea Party politics in America).

Cheers
mhg



m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

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

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      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………….

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      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………

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      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