Category Archives: Arabian Peninsula

Post Bin Laden: Will al-Qaeda Come in From the Cold?………….

     
Follow ArabiaDeserta on Twitter

 

 
      My BFF
Bin Laden’s radical politics continued to hold sway with some Saudi youth as Al Qaeda carried out attacks in the desert kingdom mainly in 2003. With an internal crackdown against Al Qaeda, Saudi fighters headed to Iraq to battle the US military and Iraq’s Shiite-led government through 2007. Only after concerted pressure from the Americans, did the Saudi royal family make a serious effort to try to stop the migration of young Saudi radicals to Iraq..…….

Will al-Qaeda mutate again now that Bin Laden is dead? Will it come in from the cold?
I have never believed that al-Qaeda terrorists, good Salafi sons of the Wahhabi nest, had ever completely cut the cord with the mother. There were a couple of publicized operations inside the Arabian Peninsula, many arrests, trials, re-education camps. Yet the emphasis has always been on ‘misguided’ sons who will return to the bosom. Re-education programs were set up exclusively for these Salafi ‘misguided ones’: by contrast, a ‘misguided’ Shi’a would probably have his head chopped off. Then there was the important money angle: that may explain the reluctance of the terrorists to perform significant operations in the Saudi kingdom. Why blow up decent Wahhabi folks in the ‘mother country’ when there is ample supply of Shi’a heretics next door in Iraq? Why kill the cash cow (or cash she-camel naqah)?

There is no doubt that al-Qaeda will undergo some more changes now that its leader, its main link to the moneyed part of the Arab world, is dead. We may be about to find out how far these changes will go before this year is over. Despite the public ‘animosity’ between al-Qaeda and the al-Saud dynasty, the Saudi regime has kept close and warm relations with the regional supporters of Bin Laden, the Salafis and their various organizations (e.g. Islamic Heritage Societies). Some of them act as outright Saudi agents in the Gulf states, pushing for yet closer ties with Riyadh, pushing for Saudi hegemony. This is partly tribal, but largely political and ideological and, dare I say it, financial.
The Salafi Wahhabis were spawned in Saudi Arabia and have never really strayed too far from their roots. The Saudis know they have a reliably fierce potential ally in their intensifying struggle not only against the ‘rival’ theocracy in Iran but also against the inevitable winds of Arab change and revolution. Al-Qaeda recruits have shown their ferocity in the terrorist campaigns inside Iraq, almost certainly financed by Saudis and other patrons in the Persian-American Gulf. For some years the Saudis tried to tie Iran to al-Qaeda, especially in Iraq, the same way as Dick Cheney tried to tie Iraq (under Saddam Hussein) to al-Qaeda. This was largely based on the proximity of Iran to Afghanistan and that some Bin Laden family members fled after 2001 to Iran. Saudis tried, improbably, to tie the Iranian mullahs to the terrorist acts committed in Iraq against the Shi’as by Saudis and other foreign Salafi Arabs. But that was then, a spin tailored to the Iraqi and American markets of that time.

Now there may be a new twist: a new, yet old, al-Qaeda that is truly allied with the Saudi regime, this time openly. The prodigal Wahhabis returning to the bosom of the mother: the absolute tribal monarchy from which they never strayed too far. They can be used in the coming battle: to intensify terrorist acts in Iraq (and possibly Iran), and they can be used against Hezbollah and Amal in Lebanon (something already started by the Saudi-financed Hariri group). It is an alliance that fits this new sectarian Sunni-Shi’a cold/hot war provoked by the al-Saud in order to divide our unstable region and help keep their shaky throne. This closer alliance is an idea that has no doubt crossed the minds of the al-Saud princes in the past, and they may be putting it to work now. They already have strong ties and alliances to al-Qaeda affiliates and sympathizers like the Salafis of the Islamic Heritage Societies and other groups in the Gulf. They have kept somewhat warm relations with the Taliban (Saudis and the UAE were the only Arab regimes that recognized their rule in Afghanistan before 9/11). Is it a coincidence that his year alone the Saudis have reportedly released hundreds, maybe thousands, of former al-Qaeda terrorists? Are they setting things up for a new alliance, post-Bin Laden? That would be a smart move for them to make, especially now that the more reactionary Prince Nayef is gaining ascendancy.
Cheers
mhg




m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

May Day: Housemaids and Workers of the Arab World, Unite……

     
Follow ArabiaDeserta on Twitter

 

 
      My BFF
“Several foreign manpower recruitment offices in the Kingdom have urged the authorities to protect their interests and impose tighter regulations on the recruitment of Indonesian workers. They were responding to the Jakarta government’s decision to introduce rules to protect Indonesian workers in the Kingdom. The recruitment companies demanded the Saudi Embassy in Jakarta to draft a new bilateral agreement with new conditions for hiring domestic staff. The new agreement would consist of certain conditions aimed at safeguarding the rights of Saudi recruitment offices against exploitation, Al-Riyadh newspaper reported. It would include a provision compelling Indonesian manpower recruitment agents to bear the responsibility for offenses committed by maids they have recruited………. There is a growing demand from Saudi families to allow them to recruit housemaids from Nepal and Ethiopia. The recruitment charges from these countries range from SR5,500 to SR6,000, with a monthly salary of SR700. The recruitment procedures from these countries would take less than two months,” he pointed out…….”

This is a humanitarian issue all across the Arab world. In a couple of GCC states, I strongly suspect the number of Asian housemaids exceeds the number of native citizens. I ‘strongly’ suspect that is the case in the UAE and Qatar. Some governments do more: the Saudi government sends officials to ‘target’ source countries in Asia to negotiate down the ‘prices’ of housemaids to make them “affordable” for local citizens. Countries that do not agree on lower “prices” for housemaids are punished by banning human imports from them. Not very Islamic, is it?
But the situation may be worse in places like Jordan and Lebanon, although the numbers are fewer. Every week there are reports of one or two Asian maids either falling off the balcony, dying accidentally, or committing suicide in Lebanon. It is almost like being a political prisoner in occupied Bahrain under Apartheid these days: one can die of strange causes.
Speaking of Bahrain: I wish the working people of that captive country better luck and freedom in the near future. So many workers have been fired from their jobs in both the public and private sectors for expressing their opinions.So many Bahrainis have been imprisoned simply for doing their jobs: doctors, nurses, lawyers, teachers, journalists, etc. Many are being tortured, some sentenced to death by military kangaroo courts.
I also salute the workers of Tunisia and Egypt who joined their brothers and sisters in overthrowing the dictatorships, and for keeping their vigilance during the current treacherous period. I salute the workers of all Arab states whose revolutions are still ongoing: Libya, Yemen, Bahrain, Syria, Algeria, Mauretania, Jordan, and Morocco. Keep your vigilance: don’t let your revolution be hijacked by clones of the old regime, by former members of the old regimes, or by the old colonial masters. Nor by the despotic tribal absolute monarchies allied with the Salafi mercenaries.
I also salute the peoples of the Arabian Peninsula and the United Arab Emirates who are striving, slowly and cautiously but in some cases very bravely, toward civil societies. It is a difficult task in these two police states. Many are in prison under these two regime for using their God-give right to freely express their opinions. Some have been tortured; the price of freedom.
Happy May Day.
Cheers
mhg

m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

Wilayat el-Faqih Comes to Saudi Arabia, Music and Isotopes……..

     
Follow ArabiaDeserta on Twitter

 

 
      My BFF
Saudi King Abdullah issued a royal decree yesterday making it illegal to criticize the chief cleric, the Mufti of Saudi Arabia, and other clergy. The king, with a simple decree, made Shaikh Abdelaziz Al Al Shaikh infallible. Now Shaikh Al is more infallible than the Prophet Mohammed was (people were free to criticize him fourteen centuries ago). He is more infallible than a Catholic (or Orthodox) saint. His pronouncements are now as holy as he himself is perceived (if you get my drift, and depending on one’s point of view). The royal family is simply returning the favors done by the clergy, the most recent of which was condemning protests against governments as un-Islamic, haram, taboo (except in Libya and possibly in Syria), but especially in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain.
Now the Saudis are inching closer to the Iranian system of government: a supreme clergy (wilayat al-faqih in Arabic, or vilayat e-faqih in Persian). But alas, Shaikh Al is still subservient to the al-Saud: like all Arab muftis he tailors his fatwas to fit their needs. Besides, in theocratic Iran there is only one permanent life-time job: that of supreme leader, Khamenei (Ahmadinejad leaves in 2013, and not a minute too soon). Under the Saudi system there are two top ones: the king and the mufti. Come to think of it, there are many more lifetime jobs, as many as there are princes (+the mufti).

(Repetition: Shaikh Abdelaziz Al Al Shaikh is a direct descendant of “Imam” Mohammad Bin Abdelwahab the (now long dead) zealot from Nejd after whom Wahhabism is named. There are several of the Al Al Shaikh holding high ministerial positions in Saudi Arabia, always have been. They are given different numbers to distinguish them from each other, sort of like isotopes in chemistry (or ought to be). Imam Mohammad Bin Abdelwahab should not be confused the late great Egyptian singer, composer, (and occasional plagiarizer) Mohammed Abdelwahab who was not a Salafi or a fundamentalist but did have some great songs).

Cheers
mhg

m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

The Economics of Saudi Housewives and Princes………

     
Follow ArabiaDeserta on Twitter

 

 
      My BFF
Household Economics 101: referring to my last post. The reason Saudi families need so many housemaids is not necessarily that they are lazy. The wife often works, mostly teaching in girls schools, in order to make ends meet. They also need someone to drive the wife to work and back because women are not allowed drive in Saudi Arabia, even women who threaten to breastfeed their Asian drivers (actually those in the news were upper middle class ones). They can’t take public taxis driven by strange men, besides it probably is not safe in the kingdom of many frustrations. They don’t all live in the style of the al-Saud and their retainers. Most middle class families have to borrow even in order to travel for a vacation, most don’t own homes. There are people who are dirt poor under that ocean of petroleum and not far from those princely palaces: that is how the thousands of princes can afford to amass billions.
A report in Arab News today confirms what I and others have written: that overall unemployment is in double digits and that it is about 40% for young adults (20-24). That is a (pre)revolutionary rate of unemployment for young people. Fortyfucking percent unemployment! And only Khaled al-Johani showed up to protest in Riyadh last month and nobody knows what happened to him! Enough to drive anyone from the Arabia Peninsula, whose last name is not al-Saud, to despair.
I shall have more on this point in a coming posting soon: you have been forewarned.
Cheers
mhg




m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

Gulf Cat that Got Clinton’s Tongue………….

     
Follow ArabiaDeserta on Twitter

 

 
      My BFF
Allies of Saudi Arabia have not publicly protested these serious and systematic violations. The European Union foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, said on April 18 that she had been “very pleased” with her two-day visit to Riyadh and made no public comments about the political prisoners. Neither Tom Donilon nor Robert Gates publicly commented on the kingdom’s human rights violations. “The EU’s silence on the brazen arrest of a peaceful dissident on the first day of its chief foreign policy representative’s visit looks like a pat on the back for an authoritarian state,” said Christoph Wilcke, senior Middle East researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Silence when more than 160 peaceful dissidents are locked up should not be an option for Brussels or Washington.”………. In 2009, Saudi Arabia acceded to the Arab Charter for Human Rights, which guarantees in article 32 the right to freedom of opinion and expression. The kingdom is one of few countries that have not yet signed the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights. “As the list of Saudi political prisoners grows longer, the silence of the US and the EU becomes more deafening,”…..”

Susan Rice today brazenly, and rightly, condemned human rights abuses in Syria and Libya and a few other Middle East countries. She waxed indignant. What was most noticeable were the countries she did not mention. Two of these countries are the worst abusers of human rights now: Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. Even as Rice was speaking, these two regimes were rounding up people in both countries and torturing them in Bahrain. Not only do they suppress freedoms and dissent, they also practice a form of apartheid discrimination, in the Saudi case against anybody of a different sect or faith, in the Bahrain case against the majority of the people (a la South Africa). Rice did not say boo about them. Nor did Secretary Clinton recently when she lambasted other governments this week. The Saudi pussycat has got all their tongue. No profiles of courage when elected American and European officials are terrified of offending offensive tribal absolute serial-polygamous monarchs.
I knew that deep bow Mr. Obama made in from of King Abdullah in 2009 was the beginning of something.
Cheers
mhg

m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

Saudi Pussycat that Got Clinton’s Tongue………….

     
Follow ArabiaDeserta on Twitter

 

 
      My BFF
Allies of Saudi Arabia have not publicly protested these serious and systematic violations. The European Union foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, said on April 18 that she had been “very pleased” with her two-day visit to Riyadh and made no public comments about the political prisoners. Neither Tom Donilon nor Robert Gates publicly commented on the kingdom’s human rights violations. “The EU’s silence on the brazen arrest of a peaceful dissident on the first day of its chief foreign policy representative’s visit looks like a pat on the back for an authoritarian state,” said Christoph Wilcke, senior Middle East researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Silence when more than 160 peaceful dissidents are locked up should not be an option for Brussels or Washington.”………. In 2009, Saudi Arabia acceded to the Arab Charter for Human Rights, which guarantees in article 32 the right to freedom of opinion and expression. The kingdom is one of few countries that have not yet signed the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights. “As the list of Saudi political prisoners grows longer, the silence of the US and the EU becomes more deafening,”…..”

Susan Rice today brazenly, and rightly, condemned human rights abuses in Syria and Libya and a few other Middle East countries. She waxed indignant. What was most noticeable were the countries she did not mention. Two of these countries are the worst abusers of human rights now: Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. Even as Rice was speaking, these two regimes were rounding up people in both countries and torturing them in Bahrain. Not only do they suppress freedoms and dissent, they also practice a form of apartheid discrimination, in the Saudi case against anybody of a different sect or faith, in the Bahrain case against the majority of the people (a la South Africa). Rice did not say boo about them. Nor did Secretary Clinton recently when she lambasted other governments this week. The Saudi pussycat has got all their tongue. No profiles of courage when elected American and European officials are terrified of offending offensive tribal absolute serial-polygamous monarchs.
I knew that deep bow Mr. Obama made in from of King Abdullah in 2009 was the beginning of something.
Cheers
mhg

m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

The Brave New Saudi-Israeli World of the West, Royal Red Eyes……..

     
Follow ArabiaDeserta on Twitter

 

 
      My BFF
Saudi authorities have arrested over 160 peaceful dissidents in violation of international human rights law since February 2011, Human Rights Watch said today. Human Rights Watch urged the interior minister, Prince Nayef bin Abd al-‘Aziz Al Sa’ud, to order the immediate release of peaceful dissidents, including Nadhir al-Majid, a writer and teacher arrested on April 17. Allies of Saudi Arabia have not publicly protested these serious and systematic violations. The European Union foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, said on April 18 that she had been “very pleased” with her two-day visit to Riyadh and made no public comments about the political prisoners. Neither Tom Donilon, the US national security adviser who visited Riyadh on April 13, nor Robert Gates, US defense secretary who visited on April 6, publicly commented on the kingdom’s human rights violations………

Of course Western dignitaries will not bring up the issue of human rights violations and abuses in Riyadh. Already the aging al-Saud brothers have given Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton what is called the ‘red eye’ in the Gulf, in what the Saudis call the Persian-American Gulf. The red eye is our Gulf term for a serious scowl, where the eyebrows drop to somewhere between the nose and the shoe-polished dyed mustache of a potentate. Neither of these two leaders, nor their functionaries, would dare criticize the al-Saud brothers in public anymore. Now the new “third rail” of U.S politics consists of two: Israel and the al-Saud. Criticize the first at your own risk: every other politician will come after your hide. Criticize the second publicly and the aging despotic petroleum brothers will have a collective hissy fit, sending their septuagenarian offspring menacingly to China and Russia, threatening to replace American Kool-Aid with Tsigntao or Stoly.
Somehow, silently, by stealth, criticism of the al-Saud have become taboo in Western capitals. With all the Saudi abuses of human rights, much more flagrant than in Iran or Syria or Egypt under Mubarak, when was the last time anyone heard a US president or cabinet member, or a French president or a British prime minister publicly mention the issue? Silently and by stealth, even some members of Congress have added the al-Saud dynasty to the ‘third rail of politics. Soon the old king or one of his brothers will be invited to address a joint session of Congress. I suppose he can talk about the joys of absolute tribal monarchy. Or maybe he can spend his ten minutes on the joys of polygamy and how it can keep some senators out of those famous black books that can get them in trouble.
Cheers
mhg

m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

Arabian Peninsula: She Said Kings, When they Enter a Land…….

     
Follow ArabiaDeserta on Twitter

 

 
     My BFF
“She said: Kings, when they enter a land, they ruin it, and make its noble people its meanest, thus do they behave…….”  Holy Quran (Saurat al-Naml)

The Arabian Peninsula is now the home of tribalism and sectarianism. One goes back to long before Islam, the other sprung from Islamic history and goes back to the early decades of Islam. Some things have not changed in 14 centuries. This has been a signature characteristic of the region from the Persian-American Gulf to the Red Sea, especially along the Gulf. While tribalism has always been part of life, Gulf sectarianism has in recent years, nay in recent weeks, acquired a venomous quality that is almost breath-taking:


Yemen. Abdullah Ali Saleh blamed his earlier troubles in 2009 on Iran and al-Qaeda (that was during the last Huthi War, maybe the fifth one). He has multiple foes. The Huthis are only in the far north. The people of the south, Aden and Hadramout and others, want to regain their independence that they gave up in 1990. Al-Qaeda wants to keep on using Yemen as a training ground as well as a safe haven and launching pad on the Arabia Peninsula. They are not welcome in Saudi Arabia anymore, although they apparently get all the money they want from “someone” in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere. Saleh has not resorted to the “drugs” charge because almost everybody in Yemen chews “qat” and effectively gets stoned at least once a day.

Bahrain. The oligarchy in Bahrain, always sectarian and tribal, has blamed its troubles with the people on Iran mostly. If there is Iranian interference, they certainly provided the climate for it. Only recently have its propagandists started to blame drugs as well. Bahrain officialdom has been rife with corruption and sectarianism since the early 1970s when the al-Khalifa suspended the constitution and ended politics. The period since then has been one of theft and robbery of public property and of enshrining the sectarian Apartheid system. The regime even resorted to importing mercenary thugs from Pakistan and Jordan and other places to fill the security ranks because it does not want to hire Shi’as. They have now resorted to inviting foreign forces (Saudis) to crush the people for demanding their rights. In recent days the regime has started, as Time Magazine reports, a reign of terror against the people. Bahrain is becoming a carbon copy of the absolute tribal family monarchy that is Saudi Arabia: they both follow a policy of Apartheid, except in Bahrain it applies against a majority of the people.
 
Saudi Arabia. The long alliance between the al-Saud princes and the fundamentalist Wahhabi clerics endures. Note how many ministers and clerics are named Al Al-Shaikh, descendants of Mohammed Bin Abdulwahhab (the Najdi shaikh and not Mohammed Abdelwahab the late great Egyptian musician and singer). Saudis pretend there are no such earthly problems in their Kingdom without Magic. Unemployment is in double digits (up to 40% among the young reported ), and the king recently announced opening tens of thousands of new jobs, all of them in the security services! They hint at some Iranian interference in the Eastern Province (largely Shi’a), but they have not blamed it on drugs yet. They certainly can’t blame it on Islamic fundamentalists, because the whole kingdom is one fundamentalist hotbed of a kingdom. Maybe the al-Saud will use the ‘drug’ card if (nay, when) the people rise in Najd or Hijaz to demand their God-given rights.
Cheers
mhg

m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com