Category Archives: GCC

With Friends Like These: America Loses Respect as the Princes Threaten Trump, New Khashoggi Spin……..

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“They present catastrophic scenarios that would hit the US economy much harder than Saudi Arabia’s economic climate…… It would lead to Saudi Arabia’s failure to commit to producing 7.5 million barrels. If the price of oil reaching $80 angered President Trump, no one should rule out the price jumping to $100, or $200, or even double that figure. An oil barrel may be priced in a different currency, Chinese yuan…….. And perhaps trusted exchange of information between Riyadh and America and Western countries will be a thing of the past after it had contributed to the protection of millions of Westerners, as testified by senior Western officials themselves. Imposing any type of sanctions on Saudi Arabia by the West will cause the kingdom to resort to other options, US President Donald Trump had said a few days ago, and that Russia and China are ready to fulfill Riyadh’s military needs among others. No one can deny that repercussions of these sanctions will include a Russian military base in Tabuk, northwest of Saudi Arabia………”

An official Saudi mouthpiece threatening the United States of America. A first, only under Donald Trump, whose focus is the money only.  The absolute princes and potentates have read him, and Jared Kushner, correctly: dangle the money in his face, and you have the upper hand.

Selective rumors and facts about Khashoggi, post-Afghanistan:
During the 1980s, Khashoggi was on Ronald Reagan’s side, and both were allied to Bin Laden and the Islamist Mujahideen (later Taliban) against the Soviets and the leftist secular Afghan government. This explains a lot of noise this week by right-wing American media about Khashoggi and his ties with Islamist Jihadis. Most of it distorted selective information, although he had at some point a soft spot for some Islamist political movements. Yet he remained a faithful follower of the aggressive Saudi royal policy until the past year. In the 1980s the whole Western world was allied to the Islamist Jihadis in Afghanistan.

Sunday Breaking:
Trump: I talked to King Salman, knows nothing about Khashoggi.
– could’ve been a rogue group, not Saudi gov’t.
– sending Pompeo to Saudi, he can always find an Iran connection.
– Bibi can help with his UN charts.
– I’m not a baby, I’m not a baby.

Monday Morning Khashoggi Spin:
Trump has sent Secretary Mike Pompeo to Saudi Arabia “to investigate” the Khashoggi murder. While Pompeo was in flight, Trump told the media that maybe a rogue group of killers did it. 

Top Saudi opposition exile @mujtahidd (whose reports are often reliable) writes what many already suspect including me: Trump sent Pompeo to Riyadh not to investigate. He sent him to finesse the new emerging story about a rogue group that led to the Khashoggi death. That new spin is very likely Fake News agreed by the Trump Administration (Pompeo & Bolton) and the Saudis. One downside of lying publicly too often is that it makes it almost impossible for others to believe you).

Under Trump & MAGA, America is now so respected that even the Saudi minions are threatening it publicly. They expect Trump to publicly support them on the Khashoggi affair: just like their bribed aid recipients in humorless Jordan, Bahrain, Egypt, the town of Ramallah, etc.
He is inclined to do it!

About America being respected: under Obama or Bush or any previous president, the princes would never dare publicly threaten the USA (directly or through their media). Now, thanks to the greed of Trump, they know they can get away with it…. and they will…
They are threatening Trump, assuming he will blink. And he will, given the money dangling in front of him…..

Did they tell me that Saddam Hussein was dead?

Did I tell you “long live the new Saddam”?

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghu
loum

L’Affaire Khashoggi: a Saudi Pulp Fiction and Murder on Fifth Avenue…….

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Donald Trump screamed during the 2016 presidential campaign that he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and get away with it.

Enter the current Saudi strongman Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, the failed conqueror of Yemen. A new chapter of the history of the Middle East, Arabian Peninsula, and Persian Gulf is being written now.
The Khashoggi Mystery, L’Affaire Khashoggi, on Twitter this past week:

“He claims here that kidnapped exiled journalist #Khashoggi is already in #Saudi captivity (not at Ritz-Carlton). That they managed to get him out of #Istanbul, that Turkey is applying pressure to get him back.
#RogueState “

“Some #Turkish sources have told media that 15 Saudis flew as one or two groups into #Istanbul the day before #Khashoggi to show up at the consulate… Not very subtle, these friends of Trump and #Pompeo…..
If he left the consulate, it was probably in pieces..
#RogueRegime “

“Going to the #Saudi consulate was not smart of #Khashoggi. Not at all. Even little me, when I go to the Middle East I carefully avoid all flights that would stop even briefly at airports in Saudi (or Bahrain). The others seem to be safe, for now… “

“Shocking? #Turkey concludes Saudi journalist #Khashoggi killed by ‘murder’ team sent from Riyadh, sources say……”

“So what will #Erdogan do? Foreign killers commit murder in his country, almost openly a d defiantly.
#Turkey “

“I expect Benyamin Netanyahu to go public (with charts), accuse Iranian Ayatollah operatives of sneaking into the Saudi consulate in #Istanbul & killing #Khashoggi.
Trump will consult #FDD lobbyists, Pompeo will consult Kushner first, #Bolton will consult MEK cultists….. “

“We were told #Saddam Hussein was dead….
I have been saying for 3 years that now there is a new one… there is, and he will not end up any better than the old one…
#Gulf”

“No, it will not affect US-#Saudi relations. This is not the old America. As long as the dark prince keeps the oil money coming, Trump and #Pompeo could not care less who gets murdered where… even if it is on Fifth Ave..”

“I am (was) no fan of Mr. #Khashoggi and his royalist ideology. But nobody deserves to be kidnapped, likely killed, possibly his body cut to pieces…. for expressing his/her opinion, or for any other reason….
#Istanbul “

“No doubt the regime is banking on Trump and (who care for oil cash more than anything else) to limit any fallout from the Affair”

“”It is Like Pulp Fiction”… Turkish Officials Say Khashoggi Was Killed on Order of Saudi Leadership….”—–> New York Times (10/10/2018)

L’affaire Khashoggi, Where it stands now?

  • Saudis utilizing bots, called paid electronic flies in the Middle East, and their hired Arab media journalists to refute.
  • But video shows him entering the Consulate in Istanbul but never coming out. Suspicious vehicles, including a dark van, emerged soon after and vanished, carrying fifteen Saudi men and possibly Mr. Khashoggi or his corpse, or pieces of it.
  • Turkey knows Khashoggi is either dead or kidnapped, and says so. Which is a no-brainer.
  • Saudis are stonewalling Turkish official demands.
  • Trump & Pompeo are clueless. Trump is worried about the dollar cost of any action or comment.
  • Iranian Ayatollahs are fine letting the stupid Saudi Crown Prince shoot himself in the foot again and again. While his country is being bled in Yemen.

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

Viva Trump y Allahu Akbar: an Arab Islamic International Day of Democracy…….

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They say today is considered the International Day of Democracy. Top leaders of the US State Department celebrated the day, as did many other organizations.

They say the Arab League, the Gulf GCC, and the Organization of Islamic States are also celebrating this International Day of Democracy, each in their own unique, eccentric, unprecedented way. While awaiting the final demise of Mr. Trump’s ill-fated un-original money-focused idea of an Arab Nato. You can say what you want: cheeky, chutzpah, etc.

A spokesman for one of these groups opined that: Alhamdulellah (Allah be Praised), without our own unique Islamic Arab form of democracy we would not have such great leaders as we now have. They can lead us forward, backward, and sideways, as circumstances require.  

Another stressed that the region’s rulers, and hence its peoples, have no beef with “a government of the people, by the people and for the people”, as long as it is far away across the Atlantic Ocean.
He concluded with: Viva Donald Trump and Allahu Akbar (God is Greater), possibly in that order for the time being (pending certain upcoming elections and a certain ongoing investigation).

Another one was quoted:Viva Kushner y Greenblatt y Friedman. Turned out it was not Mahmoud Abbas of the PLO.


An Egyptian voice in the background squeaked: Viva Generalissimo Al Sisi, restorer and father of our democracy.

Happy democracy day everyone, and good luck…

Cheers

Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

An Arabian Waldo Mystery in Ramadan: Where is Saudi Crown Prince Bin Salman?……

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Ramadan is a particular time when the Muslim, and Arab, worlds turn nocturnal and very sociable. Fasting from sunrise to sunset means reduced work hours and more sleep (siesta) hours during the daytime.
One important aspect of Ramadan is that people visit each other a lot at night, late into the night. Another aspect in the Persian Gulf area and in the Arabian Peninsula is that the rulers exchange visits with various groups of people, and the media tend to extensively cover these visits.

Ramadan this year has been strange in Saudi Arabia. The normally sycophantic and attentive Saudi media have been devoid of much news about the country’s de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman (MBS), the son of King Salman. No news or photos or video clips of the ruling prince being out and about.
This has led to rumors in some Arab media and social media that the Crown Prince is either dead, or possibly wounded in last month’s alleged shooting down of a drone, or is being held by rivals. This has been encouraged by some Iranian propaganda. But all this is highly unlikely.

Some sources have even suggested that there may have been a counter-coup by more fundamentalist elements in the royal family or the religious establishment, and that may explain why several well-known women’s rights activists were arrested two week ago.

My own sources have not been able to locate the prince or to locate the real sources of any of these rumors swirling around him .
Still, it is an unusual situation for the most powerful strongman in Saudi Arabia of the past few decades to vanish, joining Waldo. He, a business and political partner of Donald Trump, Benyamin Netanyahu, and one of the Kushners, ….

Of course one likely explanation is that the prince is just sick and doesn’t want to publicize it and give his domestic rivals any ideas. Or maybe he fancies himself a new prophet and is meditating in a desert cave or more likely on his yacht, awaiting an angel to visit him. He may just pop out into a blast of media attention any day (or any night)……

Cheers

Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

Eyes on Aden and Oman: How the Saudis Were Outsmarted by their UAE Allies…….

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The war in Yemen has been going on for over three years. The best armed military forces in the Middle East are Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, and they have been fighting and constantly bombing North Yemen and the capital Sanaa which is held by an alliance of Houthi tribal fighters and elements of the former Yemeni Army. The Arab neighbors even have had heavy involvement of American and British personnel. But the war has been a failure, so far.

Now reports indicate that the Americans are getting more directly involved against the Houthi alliance. Perhaps Mr. Trump thinks he can somehow change the course of the war. He has not learned the recent lessons of Afghanistan or the history of Yemen. But then they say he does not read (or write). A futile war so far, although the Saudi-UAE coalition have hopes that Trump will try to pull their royal nuts from that fire. Something their bought and well-paid foreign mercenaries from Africa, Australia, and Colombia have failed to do. But Donald Trump does not come cheap: it will be for a fee of many billions of dollars.

The Yemen case is complex: it involves multi-faceted wars involving various sides. Saudi Arabia and the UAE are fighting the ruling Houthi powers in the capital of Sanaa, claiming they are trying to eject Iranian influence from their border region. That would be a passable excuse, except that they have failed to show us one single Iranian or Lebanese captive from the battles in Yemen. Then there are Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and now the Saudi invasion has also expanded the domain of ISIS in Yemen.

Then there are the Southern secessionists (Hirak) who want to regain the independence of Aden and the Southern provinces.

But a major new headache for the Saudis are their current allies in the United Arab Emirates. The UAE has a citizen population just barely over one million, and it also has some 7-8 million foreign expatriate laborers and others who rotate every few years. The secret of why it is doing better than their Saudi allies is their foreign mercenaries plus better training for their own native forces. They have formed elite units of fighters from among experienced foreign mercenaries, and have outmaneuvered the Saudis out of contention for Southern Yemen. They effectively control the urban parts of Southern Yemen, and they have made hints at supporting the secession (or return to independence) of the South. Even the Saudis may have come to accept that.

So, the Saudis are stuck with facing the tough Houthis just to their south. They take their frustrations on Yemen by destroying the infrastructure with daily bombings, with reported targeting and mid-air refueling done by alleged American and British experts.

Enter the case of the GCC member country of Oman, actually a reluctant member of the Gulf Cooperation Council. Oman is an interesting case, the only Gulf state that had built a small overseas empire up to the late 19th century. Now the UAE borders the neutral Gulf country of Oman from the north. Oman always keeps away from Gulf and Arab petty disputes, preferring to face towards the Indian Ocean and Iran. You never hear or read of Oman complaining about Iranian (or Lebanese) meddling, unlike the ruling family of the Saudi satrapy of Bahrain, for example.

If the UAE rulers can control South Yemen, they would be squeezing Oman from the Southwest as well. They will be able, along with their Saudi partners in war, to wreak havoc in Oman, possibly make her face some new problems, although like Qatar, Oman has better ties with Iran and other countries. The Marxists who ruled the independent South Yemen tried to encroach into Oman in the 1970s, but failed.

The Saudis and Emiratis have tried recently, through their media and proxies, to coerce and pressure Kuwait to the north. That attempt failed spectacularly, given the political history of Kuwait and that it is a special case and shares borders with Iraq, Iran, and Saudi Arabia. The Emiratis are also reportedly creating (actually renting) bases on the impoverished Horn of Africa, not bad for a tiny Gulf country. It is unlikely the Saudis will be comfortable with Emirati (actually Abu Dhabi) influence encircling them to the south either. There are already increasing signs of Saudi discomfort that the much smaller UAE is outsmarting them in Yemen (and in Libya). You can read it in some media and in the social media comments of some top officials. 

So, the Arab places to keep an eye on in the next few months and years are South Yemen and Oman.

More to come……

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

Dhahran Summit of the Incompetent and the Impotent and General Sisi’s Plastic Missiles……..

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Arab leaders started their annual summit yesterday. This year it is in Dhahran (Zahran), Saudi Arabia, right on the Persian Gulf, right over the oil fields. Right across the waterway from Iran and the scowling ayatollahs. One can imagine that you can see the mountains of Iran if you squint hard enough, if you can see through all the Western naval warships clogging my Gulf.
These Western warships that are there presumably to deter an alleged Iranian attack that will never materialize, that has not materialized in over two centuries.

So far in my lifetime (and in my father’s and my grandfather’s lifetime), the only aggression in my Gulf has been committed by one Arab country against another, in one case by one Arab country against Iran:

Kuwait was invaded from what is now called Saudi Arabia at least twice, last time in the 1920s.
Kuwait was often threatened and then actually invaded and occupied by Baathist Iraq in 1990. Only the USA and Western allies liberated it, with some token Arab forces.

Yemen was invaded at least twice from Saudi Arabia. Large chunks of its territory were annexed, Israeli-style, by the Saudis during the last century.

Yemen has been, still is, the target of daily bombing and genocide by Saudi Arabia with active British-American help for the past three years.

Bahrain has been the beneficiary of a joint Saudi-UAE expeditionary force that helps the ruling family crush a popular uprising and the popular calls for reform.

Qatar was the target of a Saudi-instigated coup in the 1990s. It failed and several high Saudi intelligence officials were jailed in Doha for years. Now Qatar is again the target of a Cuba-style economic and total blockade from Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

Bahrain and Qatar have had their territorial disputes and clashes for decades.

Iraq invaded Iran in 1980, starting a war that lasted eight year. That losing war bankrupted Iraq and was the beginning of the end of the Baath regime of Saddam Hussein.
And there is more….

This Dhahran summit was weakly-attended: several Arab leaders sent second or third or even fourth rate representatives. The Emir of Qatar was smart enough to stay home; he probably did not want to be taken hostage by the fellow Arab princes of Riyadh. He remembers what happened to Lebanon’s Saad Hariri last year. Algeria, Oman, Morocco, even the UAE downgraded their delegates.

Bashar Al Assad would not stoop to attend the summit even if he were invited. There was no mention of the GCC crisis, of the Arab blockade of Qatar, of the Western attack on Syria.

The Saudi king declared that the Dhahran Summit will be called the Jerusalem Summit (presumably to celebrate his new friend Trump’s move of the US embassy).

In recent decades, Arab summits have been impotent gatherings of incompetent leaders. In the shadow of the huge American and British armadas and military bases, the Saudi king talked against “foreign” interference in Arab affairs. As if the NATO military forces and bases dotting my Gulf region were purely Arab forces.

In my lifetime, I have never seen the Arab world in such disarray and weakness, largely controlled by outside powers: be they American, Iranian, Israeli, or Turkish. This was probably the worst summit of them all, and the most hypocritical.

Its incompetence was summarized by Egyptian dictator Generalissimo Al Sisi, who raged against what he called “plastic” missiles being fired from Yemen in retaliation for constant Saudi bombing. I believe Al Sisi meant “ballistic” missiles. But he was onto something, inadvertently. The huge Arab armies, very expensively armed by the West to face a non-existing enemy across the Persian Gulf, are almost like “plastic” missiles. They are useless without Western help, guidance, and management. And very likely they also need imported personnel to operate them…

Cheers (if you can)
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

 

From Brexit to the Gulf: Saudi Arabia Set to Annex Great Britain ?………

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“LONDON: Britain and Saudi Arabia set out an ambition to build 65 billion pounds ($90.29 billion) of trade and investment ties in coming years, the prime minister’s office said on Wednesday, calling the agreement a vote of confidence in the British economy ahead of Brexit. “This is a significant boost for UK prosperity and a clear demonstration of the strong international confidence in our economy as we prepare to leave the European Union.”……. Saudi FM Adel Aljubeir: We have launched a strategic partnership with #UK covering all areas…” Arab News (Saudi)

Decryption: Saudi Arabia is getting ready to annex post-Brexit post-European Great Britain, at least convert it into a new satrapy like Bahrain, but more elevated. I think that is premature…..

Reading major British newspaper and media sites, it looks that way. Thay have acquired a flavor, or a sycophantic odor, similar to the Saudi media.

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

A Genuine Arab Spring Led by the Revolutionary Prince of Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre …….

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In America, the Middle East wars and rivalries are being waged along the Eastern Seaboard, from Washington to New York and on to Boston. Arab and other Mideast lobbyists, hired public relations firms, media opinionators, and paid think tanks are in full gear. The Saudis (and the UAE) get the lion’s share of it. And we see the results not only in Washington and New York power centers, but also in the media and social media.

Finally a new real Arab Spring is blooming in Saudi Arabia (according to the shoot-from-the-lips Tom Friedman of the N Y Times); the USA must throw its full support behind an invisible “Revolutionary Saudi Prince“, according to old hand Dennis Ross. More American accolades of this kind are being piled on the newish Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman.

Bin Salman (affectionately and otherwise known as MBS) has certainly shaken the Saudi power structure. But he has achieved the following since his father acceded to power early in 2015:

  • Lost any hope of pushing back the expanding Iranian influence and of enabling his favorite Jihadis in Syria. He lost the Syrian war to Assad, Iran, Hezbollah, and their allies.
  • He screwed up the tense and balanced situation in Lebanon. The man whom Hezbollah (the Iranian mullah’s staunch ally) wanted became the Christian president of Lebanon. In exchange, a Saudi ally and business partner, Saad Hariri, was recalled from Paris to become prime minister. He reached an accommodation with the other Lebanese factions, including the largest party: Hezbollah. Prince MBS was upset and summoned him to Riyadh the day after he met a high Iranian official in Beirut. Riyadh, where Saad Hariri vanished into some sort of weird captivity (he is also a naturalized Saudi and French citizen).
  • Where is Hariri, asked Waldo (and most Lebanese)? Finally he surfaced in front of a Saudi television camera inside a Saudi TV station. He looked numb, confused, nervous as he read an odd declaration of (forced) resignation that could have only been written by the Saudis, with the usual atrocious Arabic grammar and terms. Even Donald Trump’s speechwriter can probably do better, in Arabic.
    It took an uproar in Lebanon, in France , and even in Washington and a visit by French president Macron for the Saudis to release the prime minister of Lebanon and let him fly to Paris and then to Lebanon. Quite a ride.
  • Well before that, prince MBS had started on his worst and longest foreign adventure (no, not the honeymoon nor the half-billion-dollar yacht nor the half-billion-dollar Da Vinci’a Salvator Mundi painting). As soon as he was appointed Defense Minister by his daddy in 2015, he started a fierce but predictably futile war on Yemen. That genocidal war has been waged for three years now, with active American and some British help, under both Obama and Trump. It is at a stalemate: the ragtag Houthi tribals ruling in Sanaa against the best Western weapons that money can buy, and it is a stalemate. Sort of like Afghanistan, but at a more disastrous cost to human life and infrastructure. A true genocidal war.
  • Next came Donald Trump’s poisonous saber-rattling Summit in Riyadh last may, followed by attempts to force a Saudi hegemony on other GCC countries. It started with an attempt to turn Qatar into a Bahrain-like Saudi satrapy. That attempt, a total boycott and blockade of Qatar, backfired spectacularly after Qatar managed to mobilize other countries to help, including Iran, Turkey, and some Western countries.

The Prince’s latest snafu was at home (but overtime it may turn out to be a smart power play). Overnight, many princes and other wealthy Saudi oligarchs were rounded up and locked up at the Riyadh Ritz-Carlton luxury hotel. The same hotel that hosted the Trump clan last May. Normal political activists and other unfortunates are usually thrown in more infamous prisons. But these captives, all high-ranked rival royals and other oligarchs, are used to a different lifestyle. Hence the Ritz-Carlton. No sign reading “Arbeit Macht Frei” over the door for them. Most of them were reportedly conditionally released into internal exile, after they acceded to the shake-up and parted with some of their ill-gotten wealth. They may also have signed some allegiance to the new ruler of the country.
If it lasts, MBS will be the first truly absolute ruler of the kingdom: all the others ruled by some degree of consensus within the inner circle of senior ruling family princes.

On the other hand he is being smart by moving towards some (non-political) freedoms for women. A smart and long-overdue move. Some early crumbs are being thrown to Western sensibilities: a promise to allow women to start driving cars sometime next summer. Maybe. Also opening sports stadiums to women: another good and needed move, no doubt. That should also make (seemingly) powerful women like Ivanka, Maureen, Mika, and maybe even Hillary happy and gushing in their praise. He seems to have gotten most of the major Wahhabi clerics to go along, at least those he had not preemptively jailed beforehand.

A revolution in the true royal fashion indeed…….

Cheers and Happy Saint Valentine’s Day, Al Capone……  

Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

The Second Frustration of Prince Bin Salman: a Fiasco in Qatar……

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Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, known affectionately and otherwise as MBS, has had a rocky period. But that is to be expected for a young man who finds himself suddenly at the helm of a country, purely by the coincidence of birth. In my last post I covered briefly his Yemen adventure. But the adventures were not done.

Last Spring came the Qatar fiasco. Qatar generally stood on the Saudi side in the losing Syrian war. But Qatar supported its own version of Islamic Jihadists, not the Salafist Wahhabis that the Saudis funded and armed (who later became AQIS and ISIS). Yet as long as they were both on the same side against the Assad regime things were mostly fine.

But there has been serious tension between the two Gulf states in the past. In the 1990s the Saudis engineered a coup attempt in Doha to overthrow the father of the current Emir and reappoint his predecessor (his father) who was more to their liking. The coup attempt failed, and Qatar continued to be a thorn on the Saudi side. The Qataris also supported and funded the Muslim Brotherhood, whom the Saudis (and Emiratis) disliked almost more than the Iranians. Then there was  the Aljazeera network, which was too outspoken on regional issues for the Saudi (and Emirat) taste.

So, finally, after several bouts of alternately making up and breaking up, the dark cloud of Donald Trump and his avaricious clan showed up in Arabia. I posted here at the time that Trump’s visit to the Arabian Peninsula in May of 2017 was a most poisonous visit. Apparently the potentates of Saudi Arabia and the UAE convinced Trump that Qatar was a major source of trouble and terrorism; they also bribed him with promises of hundreds of billions of dollars of arms purchases and investments. Somehow they got the impression that Trump was on their side, and that he would condone any action they might take against the smaller Wahhabi emirate.

So, early in Summer 1917, they announced a complete break with Qatar including land, air and sea blockades, with the support of the Egyptian regime which fears the MB as much as they do. The inexperienced new Saudi strongman Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman was told that it will be easy, that the Qataris will fold, but that unlike the case of Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990, the Americans will not object.


There were signs of trouble from the start with the campaign against Qatar. First: Oman and Kuwait, almost half the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) members refused to join the boycott and blockade and the threat of invasion against Qatar and its citizens. Second: Turkey stepped in to shore up its budding military alliance with Qatar. Third: Iran, which shares a huge gas field in the Persian Gulf with Qatar, opened her airspace and sea lanes and land routes to Qatar in order to go around the closure of the Arab routes. Soon plentiful Turkish and Iranian foods started replacing Arab sources of food and other imports. One pathetic Saudi commentator went so far as to absurdly tell the Qataris on Saudi semi-official Alarabiya TV that their stomachs were not used to Turkish and Iranian food products.

So far the Qatar adventure has failed. Qatar’s rulers  have not become Saudi satraps or an appendix like the rulers of rebellious Bahrain.

Another major miscalculation that has backfired and further weakened the Saudi hold and influence on the GCC alliance.

Stay tuned. More to follow….

GCC AND PLIABLE ARAB REVOLUTIONARIES: QATARI-SAUDI MICRO COLD WAR……

MEDIA WARS: CAN SAUDIS AND QATARIS BUY THE HEARTS AND MINDS OF THE ARAB WORLD?………

Cheers

Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

Saudi Arabian Perestroika but No Glasnost: Ditching Wahhabism, the Aramco Dilemma…….

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“Saudi Arabia unveiled a $500bn plan on Tuesday to create a vast economic zone in the kingdom’s north-west, the most ambitious and expensive project in Riyadh’s efforts to diversify the oil-dependent economy. Details of the new city, called Neom, were released as Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman hosted some of the world’s most powerful investors and bankers at a conference designed to showcase his vision to modernise the conservative kingdom and lure investment to the country…….”

Interesting and unprecedented things may be about to happen in Saudi Arabia, if the ruling crown prince keeps all his promises. Possibly positive things. It will have reverberations across the Arab world.

Saudi Crown Prince MBS seems to be impressed by the example of the United Arab Emirates, especially Dubai. It will be a tough sell in the Wahhabi heartland of Najd in Central Arabia. To diversify the economy also means to diversify the society, and open it not only economically, but also culturally. That is the most closed of Middle East societies.

So far there are signs that the top Wahhabi establishment is falling in line, but that may change: the prince had to incarcerate several mid-level but prominent Wahhabi clerics before he started talking of his version of Perestroika (perhaps not so much Glasnost for now).

A few independent Arab media outlets have been hinting for months that the new Saudi order is impressed with the economic experience of the UAE. At the same time, the substantial Islamist (mainly Wahhabi) opposition in exile has been warning and complaining that the ruling Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi in the UAE (an economically and culturally open Gulf state, definitely non-Wahhabi) has too much influence over the Saudi Crown Prince. There might be some truth in that, and it will create a dilemma for the Salafist movement from the Gulf to Egypt. Persian Gulf Salafis, who are practically Saudi proxies, have always been very critical of the openness of the UAE and its social and religious openness.


The domestic impact depends on success in keeping the population content, economically speaking. But times are hard, with oil revenues declining, and the weapons-selling pressures of Donald Trump are strong. Add to that the expensive and stalemated war in Yemen, and the new financial commitments to select remaining “friends” in Syria and Iraq.
So it may require disengagement in Yemen and reducing commitments in the Levant, as well as reducing the huge weapons deals with the Western powers. But then there is a catch in all that too: it might mean ceding the Northern Tier of the Arab world, the Levant/Fertile Crescent, to long-term Iranian influence. The Saudis already seem to have given up on Lebanon, where a Hezbollah-Christian coalition seems to have strengthened its hold on power.

Stopping the bleeding from Yemen will be a tough one: that country is the soft underbelly of the Arabian Peninsula, and a reasonable cause for worry. But war will not solve the Yemen problem, only some kind of political deal that is agreed upon by the Sanaa coalition and the Saudis. That still leaves the problem of Aden in secessionist-oriented Southern Arabia, now largely dominated by the UAE. And I haven’t even mentioned the expansion of AQAP and ISIS in Southern Yemen.

It would be quite interesting to see how the Wahhabi kingdom is transformed into a truly modern state (without the political opportunities of Glasnost).

(P.S: As for selling off the huge state oil company, ARAMCO, we can forget about that for now. My educated fatwa about ARAMCO? It will take much longer than two or three years or even five years to get it ready for privatization. IF it ever happens: I have seen similar films before in our Gulf region.)

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum