Category Archives: GCC

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

Shuwaikh-school1 Me1 (2)Sharqeya-Baneen-15

KuwaitCox2 Hiking

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……

Shuwaikh-school1 Me1 (2)Sharqeya-Baneen-15

KuwaitCox2 Hiking

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…….

Shuwaikh-school1 Me1 (2)Sharqeya-Baneen-15

KuwaitCox2 Hiking


“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

Gulf Godfathers Competing for Israeli Love, but Real Target is U.S. Congress…..

 Shuwaikh-school1 Me1 (2)Sharqeya-Baneen-15

KuwaitCox2 Hiking


Tell Mike it was only business. I always liked him…” (Sal Tessio to Consigliere Tom Hagen: Godfather 1)

“Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman made a discreet visit to Israel despite the fact that the Jewish state and Saudi Arabia do not have official diplomatic ties, Israeli and Arab media speculated earlier in the week. Rumors about the momentous visit, which was not confirmed by Israel, started swirling when Israel Radio’s diplomatic correspondent covering Arab affairs, Simon Aran, took to Twitter to announce the visit……. Israel Radio’s Arabic-language broadcast reported that the the senior figure was a “Saudi prince” who met with senior Israelis to discuss regional peace. According to the report, the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office and the Foreign Ministry refused to comment………”

Qatar is trying to arrange meetings between its senior leadership and the heads of major Jewish American organizations during next week’s UN General Assembly. The natural gas-rich country has reached out to the heads of a number of prominent Jewish groups and asked if they would meet with the emir and crown prince while they visit New York City……….”

You’ve come a long way baby (addressing the Arab World).
Gone were the days when Palestine was the main, nay allegedly the only, Arab (and Muslim) cause. The excuse for all military coups and for absolute dynastic rule. Now it is on the verge of being a non-cause.
Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas (non-elected Mayor of Ramallah) flies to Paris to join generously-paid American politicians (of both parties) in extolling the virtues of the Iranian terrorist cult Mujahideen Khalq (MEK). MEK/MKO was formerly an ally of Saddam Hussein and on the US terrorist list, but is now reportedly a joint project of the Mossad and Saudi royal princes.

Unofficial and semi-official “rumors” spread this week that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, the country’s effective king, has “secretly” visited Israel, and neither side denies it. But much of official (and unofficial) Arab media ignored the alleged visit: apparently one doesn’t mention such visits in mixed or polite company. And if you do, there is a stiff price to pay, especially in other Gulf states and in Egypt. Apparently to the Arab princes Israel is like a proverbial mistress: the relationship is there but nobody talks about it in public. Even the secretly ISIS-loving Gulf Salafis, perennial Saudi fifth columnists, have completely ignored the visit (and other visits before it).

Not to be outdone, the rival Qatar‘s princes now scramble to send signals to pro-Israeli Jewish groups in New York that the Emir and his deputy would love to meet with them. The Qatari rulers have been facing repeated coup attempts from their big Gulf “sister” for twenty years, and now they have to put up with Donald Trump, a businessman whose instinct is to go with the highest bidder.

Now it is cool, it is hip, among certain Arab classes, especially in the Persian Gulf, to blow kisses and whisper sweet nothings to Israel. Especially to its current right-wing government. This seems to be especially true in the case of the two feuding Wahhabi dynasties of the Gulf GCC. Gone are the days when official Wahhabi clerics (and some diehard official Muslim Brothers) habitually called the Jewish people “descendants of monkeys and pigs” in their sermons.

Still, this is not true love. It is all about business. As Sal Tessio famously told Tom Hagen: “Tell Mike it was only business. I always liked him…” (Godfather 1)


But the true target of all this Arab royal serenading and wooing is not Israel, nor the Jewish people in general. The real target is the United States Congress (both houses and both parties). The current U.S Congress may be hopeless and useless in passing domestic policy, but it can do a lot of damage in the Middle East. As much as Donald Trump seems determined to cause. And the princes and potentates know it, hence the appearance of lust.

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

Imagine a New Middle East Slogan: Export Beautiful Pork, Not Beautiful Guns……

Shuwaikh-school1 Me1 (2)Sharqeya-Baneen-15

KuwaitCox2 Hiking


Vice President Mike Pence tweeted today that:”@Potus just announced that American pork will be exported to Argentina & American farmers and ranchers will reap the rewards.”

Mr. Pence forgot to add the obligatory “Great” this time. In fact Mr. Pence has not used the “epithet” of greatness for a couple of days now to describe his boss. I wonder why….

Mr. Trump was in the Middle East last May, being anointed by Arab leaders as the new prophet of our age. He claimed he had made deals worth more than $450 billion. He claimed.
Too bad Potus forgot to negotiate, during his May Summit, to have American pork exported to the Middle East. Imagine exclusive export of pork to all those allied Arab and Muslim countries. (Scratch sanctioned Iran: they don’t deserve all that beautiful pork, not yet).

Imagine the rewards.
Imagine, if you can, the new slogan:

Export Beautiful Pork, not Beautiful Guns.

Or:

Raise Fat Pigs, not Skinny Terrorists….

(FYI: for some reason Congress always prefers “pork” to “pigs”).

It won’t be kosher or halal, but just imagine the added rewards….

Cheers

Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

Muslims and the White House: on Sunnis, Shi’as, Diet Pepsi, Diet Coke, and Fascist Goulash…….

Shuwaikh-school1 Me1 (2)Sharqeya-Baneen-15

KuwaitCox2 Hiking


A popular beloved Kuwaiti actor (comedian) died this week. He was popular across the region, especially in the Gulf states.
Many people of all faiths across the Arab world expressed condolences. But there was a snag: he also happened to be Shi’a, and his first name indicated that he could be nothing else. That is not a problem in his home country, sectarianism is a new phenomenon and limited to Islamist extremists. But it proved to be a bit of a problem in a couple of neighboring countries and on social media.
Some Arab Salafi and Wahhabi extremists on social media as well as some of their prominent clerics (sheikhs) expressed outrage that others (Sunnis) expressed sympathy for the death of a Shi’a whom they consider a heretic. Some basically issued their
own fatwas saying the act of condolence for someone of a different sect is sacrilegious.

Other prominent clerics took the hint from their bosses and took  new route: they actually opposed the messages of sectarian hate. Especially the Imam of the Holy Mosque in Mecca.
Odd: nobody, none of these dissenting clerics, had expressed outrage for condolences sent about the deaths of many others, mostly non-Muslim potentates. Including Cheeta the Chimp (my favorite childhood film star)…

Even an alleged heathen like Herr Professor Doctor Sebastian Gorka PhD knows that the differences between Sunni and Shi’a are minimal. Or so he claims. The Herr Doctor Gorka (PhD) has reportedly opined that Sunni or Shi’a Muslims are both evil: it is like Diet Coke or Diet Pepsi (See? Even in this present and least eloquent of White Houses). He probably even knows the differences between German Nazis, Austrian Nazis, and Hungarian Goulash Nazis of the good old days.

Yet many Muslims don’t know such distinctions but emphasize others, especially those of the Salafi (and some Muslim Brotherhood) sects.

Cheers

Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

Mystery of the Disappearing Arab Princes in Europe………

Shuwaikh-school1 Me1 (2)Sharqeya-Baneen-15

KuwaitCox2 Hiking


“Saudi Arabia’s missing princes. In the last two years, three Saudi princes living in Europe have disappeared. All were critical of the Saudi government – and there is evidence that all were abducted and flown back to Saudi Arabia… where nothing further has been heard from them………. Sultan refuses, at which point Abdulaziz excuses himself to make a phone call. The other man in the room, the Saudi Minister of Islamic Affairs, Sheikh Saleh al-Sheikh, leaves too and after a few moments masked men rush in. They beat Sultan and handcuff him, then a needle is plunged into his neck. Unconscious, Sultan is rushed to Geneva airport – and carried on to a Medevac plane that is conveniently waiting on the tarmac……….”
BBC News

The most famous case of a Saudi citizen disappearing abroad occurred in Beirut, many years ago. Nasser Al Saeed was a famous regime opponent and Pan-Arabist. But he was a commoner in exile, who was almost certainly kidnapped and murdered and buried in Lebanon.

Now, under the current father-son rule, even some princes are beginning to vanish across Europe. But then again, does anyone know what happened to the former Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Nayef who was deposed last month, was reported to be under house arrest? He has vanished in the Gulag that has absorbed many ordinary citizens, although he lives under better conditions of house arrest.

Revolutions are known to end up devouring their sons and daughters, from France (Danton, Robespierre) to Russia (Trotsky, Zinoviev, Bukharin) to Iran (uncounted revolutionaries both communist, secular, and theocratic). Now the Saudi case is different: it is a throwback to a much earlier era of plotting kings and princes. An absolute monarchy eating its own sons (sorry, no daughters: verboten).

Cheers

Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

AlJazeera Revived: Israel Becoming Politically More Arab, More Haplessly Repressive……..

Shuwaikh-school1 Me1 (2)Sharqeya-Baneen-15

KuwaitCox2 Hiking

“Israel plans to revoke press credentials of Al Jazeera TV journalists, close their Jerusalem bureau and pull the Qatar-based station’s broadcasts from local cable and satellite providers, Communications Minister Ayoub Kara said on Sunday. Kara accused the station of “supporting terrorism” and said cable broadcasters had agreed to his proposal to take the station’s Arabic and English channels off air. Closure of the station’s office would require further legislation, he added. “Lately, almost all countries in our region determined that Al-Jazeera supports terrorism, supports religious radicalization,”………”

Suddenly, Israel has a lot in common with several Arab oligarchy states, like Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Empire of Bahrain, among a few other states.
Forget about “values”, that is not what all this is about. No more than it is with Donald Trump.
The above Arab states have blocked AlJazeera network, and closed its offices.

They have also imposed an economic blockade of Qatar, at least with tacit approval from Donald Trump. Just as they have also, for several years now, urged America (and Israel) to wage a war on Iran, a sectarian war of choice on behalf of their royal families, as explained by former President Barack Obama. Obama, like Bush before him, rejected the demands of the Gulf princes for a new American war in the Gulf. The princes had to wait for the rabid Islamophobe Donald Trump to revisit the issue and plead their case, with a promised huge price tag of hundreds of billions of dollars.

Trump has thrown in with the Persian Gulf princes and potentates, in both cases: of Iran and Qatar. It remains to be seen if his few sane advisers can talk him out of playing full patsy to the Arab princes, and break with ally Qatar while provoking a new war of aggression in Iran’s own backyard.

Now Netanyahu has decided to move even closer to the Saudi regional position by joining the boycott of Qatari media by ejecting Aljazeera. But this will backfire on both the Saudis and Israel

Oddly, but predictably, the Israeli closure will almost certainly increase the popularity of AlJazeera among Arabs, both in country and in the Western diaspora. For a couple of years the network was losing popularity as it shifted closer to the style of the tightly-controlled Saudi media. That and the growth of competing Gulf-funded networks.

AlJazeera has in recent weeks doubled down on what made some Gulf ruling families angry with Qatar: it has moved back to the more ‘controversial’ model that had made it the top Arab network. That shift, and the little helpful shove from Netanyahu should help propel it back to the position of being by far the top Arab media outlet.

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

Egypt and GCC Bubble Gum Policy: Al Sisi Ups His Price to Gulf Potentates…….

Shuwaikh-school1 Me1 (2)Sharqeya-Baneen-15

KuwaitCox2 Hiking

Generalissimo Field Marshal Al Sisi of Egypt had  a bunch of top Persian Gulf potentates, money bags, in Cairo this past week. He was making a speech, during which he said

“You in tiny countries, Egypt is huge. In ne day, Egyptians eat worth as much as some of you eat in one year. If you can’t spend $100 billion a year on Egypt, if you can’t spend enough money on Egypt, then stay out. Then don’t interfere in Egypt if you can’t afford it …….”

This is the speech. The Gulf potentates who were present there in Cairo laughed. Especially the leader of the UAE.

Qatar was not there, which suggests the laughter was supposed to mean Sisi’s barb was aimed at Qatar, since those potentates present laughed. Yet Sisi could also be sending a message to the other (anti-Qatar) Gulf princes and potentates. The comment also applies to ALL GCC countries, and at least two of them interfere in Egypt, or try to. They financed street agitation in 2013, and the Al Sisi military coup against the elected president Morsi (Muslim Brotherhood), who was at the time receiving billions of aid from Qatar.

Of course one of those present, the tiny Empire of Bahrain, can’t even afford to supply Egypt with enough bubble gum for one day, but it has been interfering in Egypt since 2012, along with the rest of them….

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

Rex Tillerson Tackles the GCC War of Fake News on the Gulf….

Shuwaikh-school1 Me1 (2)Sharqeya-Baneen-15

KuwaitCox2 Hiking

“Secretary Tillerson Participates in a Joint Press Conference in Qatar. U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson participates in a joint press conference with Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani in Doha, Qatar on July……….” US State Department

” KUWAIT CITY — The United States and Qatar signed a memo of understanding Tuesday on steps the tiny Persian Gulf nation will take to stop the funding of terrorism, U.S. officials said Tuesday. The agreement aims to encourage Qatar’s neighbors to abandon their embargo on the country. The memo was announced in the Qatar capital of Doha, where Secretary of State Rex Tillerson spent the day working to resolve a regional feud that the United States fears could derail efforts to fight groups like the Islamic State and could embolden Iran…….” N Y Times

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson started this trip in Kuwait, the only Gulf GCC country that could mediate, given its long experience in trying, often hopelessly, to mediate Arab disputes. Oman is another possible sane GCC member, but the Omanis have kept their distance from clashes between the ruling families of the Gulf.
From Kuwait Tillerson went to Qatar, reportedly for a tri-partite American-Qatari-Kuwait meeting. From Qatar he will fly to Saudi Arabia. Tillerson’s statements seem to be quite critical of the Saudi-UAE claims and demands. Politely he seems to point out the absurdity of their demands.

But this whole project is almost like Fake News. The claims and 13 demands of Saudi Arabia and the UAE were based on a combination of elements of the real policies of Qatar and on the skillful use of Fake News by the Saudis and Emiratis. At some point all these states supported terrorist activities, especially in Iraq and Syria. The September 11 terrorist attacks of 2001 had no Qatari involvement. ISIS ranks have many Saudis and Bahrainis, but I have never seen a Qatari name.

The Saudi-UAE demands of Qatar were no doubt inspired by Donald Trump’s visit to Riyadh in May and his later tweets. The heavy use of the term “terrorism” was a clever attempt to shift the topic away from the Saudi roots of Jihadism and to use two terms that resonate with American politicians. Qatar was charged with supporting “terrorism” and with moving close to “Iran“: nothing makes Americans politicians salivate more than these two terms, except maybe the term “campaign money“.

The Qataris and Iranians share one of the largest natural gas fields in the world, in the waters of the Persian Gulf, so they need to keep some cordial ties. Besides, Oman and Kuwait keep cordial relations with the mullahs in Iran, and nobody among the Saudi-UAE potentates has criticized them, not yet.

The whole “GCC crisis” is odd and relies heavily on Fake News. The demands presented to Qatar by the Saudi-UAE side are vague, and they are absurd to present to a sovereign country. Especially the deman of closing the AlJazeera News Network. Even though Qatar has dabbled in supporting Jihadis in Syria, so did Saudi Arabia (in Syria and Iraq), probably even more so.
And as if to add some weight to their demands, the Saudi-UAE side recruited Egypt’s hapless dictator Field Marshall Al Sisi, possibly as a military muscleman. Almost laughable, given the underachieving military history of modern Egypt.

Now it seems that, in spite of Donald Trump, Tillerson may have managed to convey the real American position on this issue. Trump was no doubt moved by the accolades and the flattery he received at the Riyadh Summit in May, (did I leave the promised billions of dollars?). Now it looks like there is consensus that the Saudi-UAE attempt has failed to destabilize Qatar. This is not the first Saudi failure in Qatar, there was an attempted coup in the late 1990s.

There is another Arab state where the Saudis under King Salman and his son are facing even worse failure: perhaps Rex Tillerson can help extricate the princes from the quagmire of the Yemen war they foolishly started two and a half years ago.

Cheers

Mpohammed Haider Ghuloum