Category Archives: China

Iran at a Brezhnev Crossroad: an Aging Revolution, a Younger Unhappy Population, a Sistani Alternative…….

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On the anniversary of the Iranian Revolution of 1979, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei tweeted this:
” @khamenei_ir
Dear prideful nation of #Iran! The greatness of your gatherings today, which, according to precise calculations, was more populated and morepassionate than previous years, was a resolute response to the enemies and oath-breakers….”
“Relying on their distorted false perceptions of Iran and Iranians, the enemies had spent all their propaganda efforts on trying to turn this year’s revolution celebration frigid or probably anti-revolution. You’ve exhibited the livelihood & dynamism of the revolution in practice…..”
Feb 11, 2018

This year’s anniversary of the last of the great popular revolutions of the twentieth century has been surrounded with interesting domestic developments. We know what happened with the other two revolutions, in Russia and China. In Russia they openly gave up on the ideology; in China they still pretend that the Communist system of Chairman Mao exists, but only as a means to legitimize one-party rule of a new oligarchy. In Iran, Ali Khamenei is trying to keep the flames of the old aging revolution alive. Did I leave out Cuba?

In a nation that is younger and wants more freedoms, more accountability, in an age of spreading social media and access to opinion. What to do?
Violent repression, for example Egyptian Sisi style, will not work anymore in Iran. During the recent protests a few weeks ago, many of the security forces were noticeably sympathetic to the protests. More subtle forms of protest continue. There will be more periodic protests; for years now people have been testing the limits of the freedoms allowed. And these limits have also expanded.

There has been gradual and incremental but unannounced openness by the regime, forced by the people. Giving in more publicly and at once will eventually open the floodgates to more encroachment of the feared global culture, and more demands for more openness and more freedoms.

What to do? Perhaps a Chinese solution? But the Chinese regime is now agnostic: politically Communist in the name of the one ruling party; economically and socially capitalistic and oligarchic to boot.

The Iranian ayatollahs pride themselves on some kind of “purity”, along the model of the old stubborn Soviet regime in the Brezhnev era, when all the revolutionary thrill was gone from the younger generation. But Iran is not a Soviet-style closed system: freedom of travel and emigration has never been curtailed. Social media thrive, as do international satellite television. Expatriate non-political Iranian exiles are freely allowed back into the country. All that has allowed a sort of safety valve but also created demands for more.

Rouhani is trying some short-term solutions. But that would only underline the need for a longer-term deal between the people and their government. The weak point is the position of the Supreme Leader. Chairman Mao is dead in China, but Ayatollah Khamenei is an unelected veto-holder. He is in a way selected by an elected assembly created to gate-keep access to power. But even so, he shares power with various other centers of power: the elected president of the republic (Rouhani), the elected and contentious parliament that takes its powers very seriously, other various senior clerics (more senior than Khamenei).

Then there is the ultimate theological marja’iya (last recourse in Shi’a theological matters) located in Najaf (Iraq). Najaf, where Ayatollah Ali Al Sistani is located, is like the Rome for Shi’a Muslims.

Ali Sistani does not support the idea of rule by the clergy, nor do many others, possibly most Shi’as. It is unlikely that this political ideology chasm between Najaf and Tehran/Qom will ever be closed on Tahran’s terms. If there is a closing, it will be Tehran and Qom moving closer to the Najaf school of thought in governing. A largely Islamic but diverse state with elected civilian non-clerical rule. That was the case in Iran under Mossadegh until August 1953, when his overthrow was engineered by Western intelligence agencies (CIA and British intelligence).

Iran has had at least one case of a Gorbachev in the past four decades. Khatami was paralysed by a conservative parliament, and the Supreme Leader. Rouhani may manage things better, but he has only a couple of years left of his presidency.

Meanwhile, the people, especially in the cities, will continue to chip away at the restrictions imposed by the clerics. The trend towards more openness will continue and accelerate; unless Donald Trump is talked by the hawks in the US Senate/Congress and by the Israeli likud and a couple of despotic Arab kings to start a new war. That will immediately lead to consolidation in Tehran. It happened before when Saddam Hussein’s Iraq started the eight-year war. He lost, but so did the people of Iran.

Oh, and forget about the regime change nonsense being peddled by frustrated hawks and chickenhawks in the USA. Remember: the 1953 Western intervention led to the current situation…….

Cheers

Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

Warm and Fuzzy from Korea or Iran? Allen Dulles and the Panda Go Go Dancer…….

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“In the late 1950s, US relations with Communist China were virtually nonexistent. Trade had been tightly controlled since China’s intervention in North Korea in 1950, and, to deny Beijing any advantage from commercial or financial transactions, the Secretary of the Treasury issued strict regulations prohibiting the import of goods that originated in or had passed through Communist China. There were rarely any exceptions, even for pandas. In 1958, one frustrated animal importer tried a different tactic. He took his case to the Director of Central Intelligence (DCI), Allen Dulles……….”

Chi Chi was apparently a somewhat naughty Panda, just like that other Chi Chi. Yes, once there was a “Chi Chi the Go Go Dancer“, actually there were probably several of them. Including one in the wilder days of San Francisco, when Herb Caen and the Go Go people reigned.
But she/they didn’t come from China and no doubt wasn’t Allen (or John Foster) Dulles’ type. But given the alleged history of the current CinC of the country, anything is possible again, even in the era of Pompeo the Dour…..

(We can always think of something cute and warm and fuzzy that comes from North Korea or Iran. But what can that be?)

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

Will America Join the Jihad in Syria? How Do They Line Up in Eastern Mediterranean……..

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Secretary of State Rex Tillerson demands that Russia drop its support of Assad in Syria. Sure: Putin, current heir to the rough and tough Soviet and Romanov empires, is almost certain to listen to the Texas oilman and his TV celebrity boss.

Nikki Haley seconds the Tillerson motion and threatens to take the names of anyone opposing it and add it to her famous list of names. And to cut their weekly allowances.

China‘s Xi, a guest of Trump at Mar-A-Lago, grins and remains “inscrutable”, as he is supposed to remain as leader of PRC (Chi-Com to the American Right). But he knows the futile game Trump is playing with him. Too transparent. No doubt, Trump was trying to unnerve Xi by attacking Syria during his visit. The problem with that is that Chi-Com leaders don’t get unnerved easily by television or real estate celebrities. Haven’t done it since the days of Chairman Mao and his Little Red Book. They can smell the bull from far away, they have done their fair share of spreading it.

Russia‘s Lavrov will ask that Trump drop his unwitting (or is that witless) support of Al Qaeda and other Jihadi cutthroats in Syria, including those in Idlib. The latter probably owned the same cache of chemical weapons that were bombed by the Syrian regime last week.

American mainstream media, often copying the media of Arab royal regimes that are as repressive as Assad, are gung-ho on avenging the Alamo, or the Maine. They have been since 2011.

Turkey wants Trump to help install a nice clean-cut Muslim Brotherhood regime in Damascus like the one in Turkey, and as humorless. It would be more repressive, given that it will include former Baathist renegades as well as current fundamentalists with Wahhabi ties.
Saudis want Trump to install a Wahhabi-esque regime in Damascus. Or, barring that, any regime that is hostile to the Iranians and Iraqis and not secular like the Baathists. They promise to shower the “right” regime in Damascus with many billions that they will not have.
UAE rulers don’t seem to care that much, as long as they get to have a naval base somewhere in Syria to protect their “national interests”, whatever the hell that be. In the Mediterranean of course.

The Bahrainis have no money to give to anyone outside the ruling family and their minions. So they will offer to receive the new Trump-anointed Caliph of Syria in their well-policed capital. On the assumption that this would legitimize both their regimes. Yes, they are clueless.
Iranians and Lebanese make the “right” noises, essentially they make the same noises in unison. But they keep on doing the voodoo that they do in Syria. So far.

Bashar Al Assad (America’s bête noire de la semaine) is a man who has had a target on his back for six years. He has been pronounced a dead-man-walking many times, mostly by Arab despots and Jihadis inside Syria and gullible believing Westerners. Yet he doesn’t seem worried about it. In fact I haven’t seen him worried since before the brief 2011 uprising that became a Jihadi insurrection that became a combination civil war and proxy war. Does he know something we don’t? Is he taking something we don’t? 

More on this later….

Cheers

Mohammed Haider Ghuloum.
Cheers

Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

An Illegal Martian in America: the Party of Russia vs the Party of China…….

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A Martian who has just arrived in the United States (either a legal or an illegal alien) would think American politics are divided into two major parties:

  • The Party of Russia. We are told across much of the media to believe that the Republican Party (GOP) is the Party of Putin and Russia (with all the unpleasant accoutrements: Gulag, KGB, other extremely un-American behavior like guzzling Vodka and eating Pirozhky). Suddenly the Democrats, big losers of this election year, have developed a strange zeal for fending off a Russian quasi-Bolshevik takeover of the USA.
  • The Party of China (Chi-Com, PLA, Robber Oligarchs, Generals snapping up US real estate, industrial espionage, job-stealers, unfair Trade Surplus, Cyber Espionage, North Korea, etc). That would be the Democrat Party, and not only by default.

To complicate matters, many people in the Middle East, and in the wider Islamic world have a different view on this. They also have their own notion about US politics. Many, nay actually most people in the region, believe that both major American political parties are the Party of Israel. Or, more precisely, the Party of Likud right-wingers.
Cheers

M Haider Ghuloum

 

The GOP Senators and Free China vs. Communist Cuba……..

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Have Yourself a Merry Little——-> Kenny G. Holiday 

Sunday morning saw Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) on one TV network interview blasting the new Obama policy towards Cuba. One of his main objections, one of them, was that Cuba is not ‘free’ and not democratic but communist.
The senator almost certainly was watching himself on a television set made in China at the time. After that he probably made some phone calls in an American iPhone or Android phone assembled in China. He probably went home and had cold drink, kept cool in a fridge made in China. All courtesy of dividends he received from American corporations that are in partnership with the rulers and the oligarchy of China. That is democratic non-communist China………

I forgot other democratic countries the senator and others do not object to the USA having close relations with. Like Vietnam, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt, Burma, Zimbabwe, and many others. All free and democratic……
Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum                          Follow ArabiaDeserta on Twitter

m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

Bahrain Prime Minister Meets another Dong in Manama……


      



 
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“Following HRH Prime Minister Prince Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa’s achievement as the winner of The International Federation of Business and Professional Women (BPW International) President’s Gold Award, a group of prominent BPW International Goodwill Ambassadors and representatives have journeyed to Bahrain to personally present HRH the Prime Minister with his award. This group includes three of the four jurors of the Nomination Committee: Annette Lu Hsiu-lien, former Vice-President of Taiwan, Dr. Dong-Sung Cho……………”

But the prime minister is a guy not a woman, as far as we know, so how can he win a Professional Women Gold Award? Can’t they just give him a Professional Men Gold Award?

As far as I am concerned, that makes two Dongs meeting in Manama………… 


Cheers
mhg

m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com



From the People’s Republic that Mao Built to an Oligarchy………

      


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“More than a dozen family members of China’s top political and military leaders are making use of offshore companies based in the British Virgin Islands, leaked financial documents reveal. The brother-in-law of China’s current president, Xi Jinping, as well as the son and son-in-law of former premier Wen Jiabao are among the political relations making use of the offshore havens, financial records show………. The Hong Kong office of Credit Suisse, for example, established the BVI company Trend Gold Consultants for Wen Yunsong, the son of Wen Jiabao, during his father’s premiership — while PwC and UBS performed similar services for hundreds of other wealthy Chinese individuals. The disclosure of China’s use of secretive financial structures is the latest revelation from “Offshore Secrets”…………China’s rapid economic growth is leading to a degree of internal tension within the nation, as the proceeds of the country’s newfound prosperity are not evenly divided: the country’s 100 richest men are collectively worth over $300bn, while an estimated 300m people in the country still live on less than $2 a day……………”

Cheers
mhg

m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com