Category Archives: Arabian Peninsula

Animal Farm: King Welcomes Some Foreign Intervention in All Arab States……….

   Rattlesnake Ridge   Follow ArabiaDeserta on Twitter   

 
      BFF

Arab media report the King of Saudi Arabia said in a speech that he was happy about the return to “normality and peace” in Bahrain. The low level sectarian civil war now going on in Bahrain is considered a “return to normality and peace”, although I am certain the king has never read 1984 (Orwell), never even heard of it. He forgot to add that he was also happy about the return to peace in Afghanistan and Waziristan and Libya and Gaza. The report did not specify what the King and his speechwriters had been smoking before his speech.
(Actually some ‘tribal liberals’ on my Gulf had declared the situation in Bahrain to be “back to normal” from the day Saudi troops invaded in March: apparently the situation is still quite normal and getting even more normal by the day).

The report also said that that Saudi Arabia announced its complete rejection of any “foreign interference” in the internal affairs of Bahrain. They said it is okay for foreigners to interfere in Libya and Yemen and Syria and Egypt and Tunisia and Iraq and even in Saudi Arabia. But not in Bahrain, unless the foreign intervention is in the form of Saudi forces shoring up the regime and its imported mercenaries against the people. Which brings up that other Orwell book, Animal Farm.
Cheers
mhg



m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

Saudi Counterrevolution: the Hadith Loophole, the Salafi Alibi………

   Rattlesnake Ridge   Follow ArabiaDeserta on Twitter   

 
      BFF

The Saudis are afraid of the Arab spring, because they don’t want anti-Saudi forces, including such enemies as Iran and Al Qaeda, to increase their influence in the Middle East, and they believe the revolutions in the region might have just this effect. Some of the older Saudi leaders have seen this movie before. The nationalist revolutions of the 1950’s and 1960’s, inspired and galvanized by Gamel Nasser’s Egypt, nearly toppled the House of Saud. Nonetheless, today’s Saudi princes appear to recognize that something has genuinely changed in the Middle East: The younger generation of Arabs is no longer prepared to accept unaccountable, corrupt, and brutal governments. Saudi Arabia, a self-proclaimed bulwark of Islamic conservatism, where popular democracy has never been considered a legitimate form of rule, has been more aggressive in some arenas than in others. Domestically, the royal family struck quickly, adopting a ban on public demonstrations and acts of civil disobedience. The Kingdom’s traditional interpretation of Islam construes political legitimacy in terms of a ruler’s proper application of Islamic law. In return, his subjects owe him obedience within the constraints of Sharia religious law…………..

There is a Hadith that purports to indicate that Prophet Mohammed urged Muslims to obey their “Muslim” rulers as long as they allowed and facilitated the practice of Islam, no matter how lousy the rulers are. This Hadith has been at the center of Salafi alliances with despotic Arab rulers. It has supplied the rulers with a “loophole” to get away with all kinds of corruption and injustice. It is used by absolute Arab monarchs as an alibi, with the Salafis as allies.  Of course there are other Hadiths against corruption and thievery by rulers, and against despotism, but these are ignored.
I have never believed in the veracity of that Hadith, not even as a kid. Needless to say, I still have strong doubts about its veracity. For 1400 years this particular Hadith has been just too convenient, too useful for ruling tyrants of our region.

Cheers
mhg



m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

Arab Absolute Monarchs Funding Democracy in Egypt? Democratic People’s Republic of (Saudi) Arabia………

   Rattlesnake Ridge   Follow ArabiaDeserta on Twitter   

 
      BFF

A mini-crisis of sorts erupted between Egypt and the United States over foreign funding. The spark was probably the congressional testimony of the new US ambassador to Cairo, Anne Patterson, in June, in which she said that the US was earmarking $40m for USAID democracy and governance spending…………..Fast forward to this month, and the question of foreign funding is changing tack. A few days ago, the Egyptian press revealed (from government sources) that several of the largest transactions to civil society organizations have come from the Gulf, not the West. The numbers are quite telling. According to these reports, over LE181m ($30m) was given to the Ansar al-Sunna association, a very conservative religious group, by Qatar’s al-Thani Foundation. Kuwaiti and Emirati religious associations also donated significant sums, ones that dward(sic) what secular human rights groups might be receiving at the moment…….…

Last time I looked, neither the al-Thani nor the al-Nahayan were on the verge of changing their own quasi-feudal fiefdoms (Qatar and the UAE) into model democracies. Anymore than than al-Saud are about to declare a Democratic People’s Republic of (Saudi) Arabia. I mean these are the same people who tried to keep Mubarak in power, they even got pissed off at Obama for not ‘somehow’ keeping him in power (Qatar excepted in this case). Last time I looked, they were all clinging to power and inherited privilege at all costs, and I mean ALL costs. Now their Salafi allies are trying to influence the elections in Egypt, nay trying to buy the elections in Egypt.

(Come to think of it, how about a Great Jamihiriya Socialist “Emirates” Republic of Al-Nahayan?)
Cheers
mhg



m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

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

   Rattlesnake Ridge   Follow ArabiaDeserta on Twitter   

 
      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

Saudi Arabia: Where God is Great but Greed is at least Good………………

   Rattlesnake Ridge   Follow ArabiaDeserta on Twitter   

 
      BFF

Greed is all right, by the way. I want you to know that. I think greed is healthy. You can be greedy and still feel good about yourself.…. Ivan Boesky at UC Berkeley Commencement Ceremony in 1986, months before he went to prison.

Oil revenue is said primarily to enrich the Al Saud. The embassy explains that Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Finance distributes a portion of the country’s oil proceeds to each Saudi royal family member in the form of monthly stipends. At the time the secret cable was issued, every royal reportedly received a monthly allowance from birth, on a sliding pay scale of US$ 800 (for distant royals) to US$ 270,000 (for sons and daughters of King Abd Al-Aziz). The embassy calculated these stipends to total more than US$ 2 billion of the Saudi government’s US$ 40 billion annual budget. For this and other reasons, the embassy concludes that “getting a grip on royal family excesses is at the top” of priorities for Saudi Arabia. In addition to the state-budgeted stipend, the cable reports, a royal may obtain a bonus of as much as US$ 3 million, as reward for getting married or building a palace. The existing stipend-and-bonus system provides Saudi royals with a significant incentive to procreate, particularly since stipend distributions begin at birth. It was stated that the central life aspiration of one Saudi prince was to have more children, so as to increase his monthly allowance. According to the cable, some members of the Al Saud resort to “royal rakeoffs” in order to supplement their already-substantial income. Such schemes may include confiscating land from commoners and reselling it to the government for a substantial profit; borrowing from the banks and defaulting on these loans; and acting as “sponsors” to “sometimes hundreds” of expatriate workers who are permitted to work locally as long as they pay monthly fees to the royals (this latter arrangement reportedly earns a single royal sponsor an average of US$ 10,000 per month from 100 ex-pats). Al Saud land and asset grabs are said to have caused resentment among the populace. In one instance, Defense Minister Prince Sultan bin Abd Al-Aziz allegedly ordered Mecca officials to transfer to him a plot of land that had belonged to one family for centuries……… Wi…Wiki…..Wikileaks

I don’t know what all this fuss is about. We, on my Gulf, do not need Wikileaks cables to tell us all about these royal robberies, and more. People know everything that is happening: who stole which land and when and how. Legends, true legends, are handed down now, about shady deals, “midnight” deals, and expropriation of lands by potentates and their retainers. It is the same story all over my Gulf region, but perhaps to different degrees. God is Great, but to some another great deity looms, an all-consuming deity that is at least considered good if not openly greater.
Cheers
mhg



m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

Middle East Executions: Twenty Three Maids Waiting in a Row……….

   Rattlesnake Ridge   Follow ArabiaDeserta on Twitter   

 
      BFF

“And the storybook comes to a close.
Gone are the ribbons and bows.
Things to remember, places to go,
Pretty maids all in a row………..”
The Eagles

Media report that twenty three Asian (Indonesian) women are awaiting the executioner’s sword on death row in Saudi Arabia. Several others, imported housemaids, already had their head chopped off. Remember Sakineh Ashtiani of Iran and all the fuss made by the Saudi-owned Arab “intellectuals” and Western media, especially the extremely righteous French media (and rightly so)? Everybody was indignant, so was I, and rightly so, until her gruesome death sentence was changed by the regime in Tehran.
Where are they now? Everybody is so silent about the plight of these numerous women, imported housemaids trapped into horrible situations in a grim society, waiting to have their heads chopped off in the Kingdom without Magic. Yet the kingdom cannot live without these millions of housemaids, and fierce bargaining goes on with the Asian government officials about their wages, work conditions, etc. They are even advertised in the newspapers for sale or “transfer” from one “owner” to another, just as they used to do in Old Virginia when a new shipment of slaves arrived from West Africa. Even Bernard Henri Levy, who was at the forefront of the Ashtiani campaign (and the Libyan campaign), is silent. Amnesty International comments but says they have “no presence” in Saudi Arabia. Of course not, Amnesty and human rights have no presence.
Cheers
mhg



m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

On Gulf Intellectuals, Tribal Liberals and Arab Uprisings, the Edifying Hashtag, Oxymoronic Humor………..

   Rattlesnake Ridge   Follow ArabiaDeserta on Twitter   

 
      BFF

What is interesting is that many (Gulf) clerics and shaikhs played the sectarian game, and did not try to distinguish the political issue from the sectarian issue. I was surprised at this huge amount of hatred among some of these people, and these hatreds were reflected in their positions and their statements and their relations with ‘others’. It is sad to say that the Arab Spring has deteriorated to civil war and strife in places like Bahrain, Yemen, Libya, and Syria……… Unfortunately the ‘intellectual’ in the Gulf region could not break away from what has been ordained for him, just as he can’t break away from his sector or tribe or personal interest. In Saudi Arabia, I have not seen any brave position from the Islamist or ‘liberal’ intellectuals regarding the events in Bahrain, these Islamist and ‘liberal’ intellectuals were open and shameful reflections of the mouthpieces of the regimes…………..”

Professor al-Rasheed is well-acquainted with the history and ‘cultural’ life, such as it is, of Saudi Arabia (especially) and the Gulf region. She is right about most of the GCC so-called ”intellectuals”:


  • Most Gulf Islamists, especially the Salafis, essentially nurse from the Saudi teats. Most of the time I suspect they are basically a ‘fifth column’ for the Wahhabi state, wittingly or unwittingly. (I do have moments when I feel more gracious toward them).

  • Many Gulf ‘intellectuals’, but not all, be they Islamist or otherwise, are palace ‘intellectuals’, sycophants of one faction or another of the palace. Often, they are sycophants of the Saudi palace, either directly or through the tribe or through other affiliations. I once called them “tribal liberals” last spring.

  • I suspect some Gulf intellectuals think they are “liberals” if they carry a laptop around, sprinkle their speech with a few English terms (they/we especially love the term “hashtag”, it is so edifying) and believe women should ‘eventually’ have the right to drive but in due time. All in due time. Let the princes decide: they know best.

  • All Gulf ‘intellectuals’, shy away from criticizing public beheadings in the streets of Riyadh, maybe because those who are beheaded are mostly poor foreign migrant workers (men and women), but most likely because they shy from upsetting the potentates.

  • Most, but not all, Gulf ‘intellectuals’ also believe that people in places like Syria and Libya should revolt against their oppressors but not people in Bahrain or Saudi Arabia or Yemen. They take their cue from their regimes, or from the Saudi regime.

  • Most Gulf ‘intellectuals’ were cool and tepid toward the uprisings in Tunisia and especially in Egypt, until the palace accepted the change. Then they were suddenly all for the people’s uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, after the fact.

  • Most Gulf ‘intellectuals’ were quiet about Syria, until the “palace” and princes started opining, and they all fell in line.

  • Most Gulf ‘intellectuals’ were always for the regime and against the people in Bahrain, because the “palace” was clearly on the side of the despots: it put troops on the ground to prove it. In this case, they are unfortunately divided by sector.
  • Most ‘intellectuals’ on my Gulf fiercely support the right of people to self determination and free elections in places like Iran, Syria, Libya, Gaza (but not the West Bank), but they don’t think any other peoples in the Middle East need to vote in free elections or talk freely against their rulers.

  • There are real free-thinking ‘intellectuals’ on my Gulf: I have known some of them and I read for some of them. And no, it is not an oxymoron to say ‘Gulf intellectual’, anymore than it is to say ‘Egyptian intellectual’ or ‘Jordanian intellectual’ or ‘Iranian intellectual’ or ‘French intellectual’. It is not even nearly as oxymoronic as saying “Jordanian humor”. More on this last point in another post.

Cheers
mhg



m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

Saudi Fear and Loathing…….

   Rattlesnake Ridge   Follow ArabiaDeserta on Twitter   

 
      BFF
THE SAUDI royal family is afraid. Very, very afraid. A crisis of leadership is brewing. The king is ailing and his successor, Crown Prince Sultan, is in even worse health. Their hard-line brother, Prince Nayef bin Abdel Aziz, is set to take the throne. One of the last absolute monarchies, the Saudi family seems to represent all that the Arab Spring is fighting against: closed societies with unequal wealth distribution; repressed minorities living within manufactured boundaries; strong Islamist sympathies across its lands; a latent Sunni-Shia power struggle embedded in the country’s fabric—not to mention a string of surrounding states struggling to stave off revolutions that could easily have a contagion effect.
We should be careful not to count the al-Sauds out. They are among the world’s most proven survivors………………

Cheers
mhg



m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

Saudi Anti-Terror Law subject to Revision? About U.S. Bible Belt Worries………..

   Rattlesnake Ridge   Follow ArabiaDeserta on Twitter   

 
      BFF
Saudi Arabia has revised an anti-terrorism law and made it less severe than a leaked version that was heavily criticized by human rights groups, a Shura Council spokesman said on Saturday. “The draft that was published is not the final one,” said Mohammed Almohanna, spokesman for the advisory parliament. “It was discussed in a Shura Council session. It was a draft and some changes were made to it to ensure that the law is compatible with Sharia (Islamic law) and does not violate citizens’ rights or the country’s existing laws,” he said. He said the Shura would amend the draft further when its summer recess ends in mid-September before sending it to the king for approval. Amnesty International, which published a draft of the Penal Law for Terrorism Crimes and Financing Terrorism on its website, said on July 22 that the authorities could use the law to stifle dissent…………

This spokesman for the Shura Council talks as if it has any power. The Shura is an appointed advisory council, just like the cabinet, and takes its orders from the ruling family. They basically rubber-stamp whatever is sent over by the princes, which usually is not much. It doesn’t matter what they have on the law books, provided there are any: they do what it takes not just to stifle dissent, but to crush it.
On the bright side, they don’t chop the heads of dissidents anymore. They arrest them and throw them in prison for long periods of time, some without charges or trial.
(Also these guys should not mention the Shari’a Law to the Western press. The folks in places like Oklahoma and Tennessee and Texas get panicky and start voting to ban “Sharia Law”, wtf that be in their own Bible Belt context).
Cheers
mhg




m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

Saudi Torquemada: Media Obsession with Jewish Roots……………

   Rattlesnake Ridge   Follow ArabiaDeserta on Twitter   

 
      BFF
You’d think Torquemada leads the royal Saudi media. Come to think of it the equivalents of Torquemada do run the media over there, and they run more than that. Thos obsession of the media, especially the semi-official Alarabiya TV which is almost official because it is managed by a royal prince although it is located offshore. Alarabiya is obsessed with the “Jewish” roots of Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. They report something on it every few months, sometimes every couple of weeks (I posted the last time they did it). They just did one today on their Arabic website (too clever to do it on the English version). I doubt that most people in Iran care either way what his “roots” are. I know the Al-Saud and their Anti-Semetic Wahhabi clergy care, as do their Anti-Semetic Salafi followers around the Gulf. Here they are allegedly quoting a website of the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) repeating allegations about these roots and that for the first time the IRGC is paying attention and giving some credence to them. You’d think Alarabiya would be busy, along with its sister semi-official Asharq Alawsat (also royal-owned), disseminating counter-revolutionary messages against the Arab uprisings (which also threaten the theocracy in Iran as much as they threaten the theocratic oligarchy in the Arabian Peninsula). Maybe they are trying to rouse the Salafi faithful during this holy month of Ramadan, but there is no need: the Salafi of the Gulf region are a fully-owned and paid up subsidiary of Riyadh.
It would be interesting if all Arab leaders including the Saudi royals, as well as Iranian leaders, submit samples of their DNA to one of these laboratories that tell what ethnic/racial background they are from (and let’s throw in Mr. Netanyahu and Shaikh Al Al-Shaikh). Now that should be fun, even though it would be as meaningless as the stuff the crazy American “birthers” spread these days. In fact Alarabiya sometimes sounds like an offshoot of the birthers.
Cheers
mhg




m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com