Category Archives: GCC

Iranian Mullahs and the Beauty of Satellite Dishes…………

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Iranian police have launched a new crackdown on satellite dishes which, although illegal, are still a common sight on rooftops across the Islamic republic. Tehran police confiscated more than 2,000 satellite dishes in a single day last week in a battle against receivers which let Iranians see a huge range of uncensored entertainment and international news not available on state-controlled channels. “The police’s priority is first to confiscate dishes which are visible … and confront the owners,” Tehran-e Emrouz daily quoted Tehran’s deputy police chief Ahmadreza Radan as saying……..

Iranian mullahs allow their women to continue driving cars and ride motorcycles. But they hate satellite dishes for the openness to the world that come with them. The Saudis are more open about international media than the Iranians: satellite dishes are not banned anymore (three fourths of the population would go crazy without them and may pour out into the streets of Riyadh and Jeddah and cause major trouble). There was a time when Wahhabi nuts, the religious police, went around trying to destroy satellite dishes, but that was in the past. There a was a time, up to the early 1990s, when satellite dishes were banned in other GCC Gulf states as well. But the Persian Gulf War (1990/91) and the CNN coverage of it put an end to that. In my hometown, I don’t recall any new law allowing satellite dishes after 1991, just as I don’t recall any law banning them before that. It was just government fiat. Satellite dishes, that were once exclusively used by potentates, suddenly became commonplace.
The official position seems to be: Iranian mullahs know they can’t ban dishes, they are just trying to make them less visible on rooftops. The logic is not a logical one, since everyone knows they are there, everyone has them, and the mullahs have them as well. Maybe it is the aesthetics they care about.
It is a losing battle that they should give up, just as their neighbors on the Gulf did many years ago. After all, anyone can watch television channels over the Internet, and Iran cannot ban the Internet: the mullahs would have a true revolution of the young (and the old) on their hands if they did. So, give it up Ali and Mahmoud: it is a losing battle.
Cheers
mhg




m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

UAE: a Tribal State of the Union………

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This year is an ideal time for the UAE, the only successful union in the Arab world, to also institutionalize an annual State of the Federation address. In fact, the Emirates isn’t far behind in this regard. Both the UAE’s president as well as the prime minister issue comprehensive public statements annually on the UAE’s National Day. For instance, the UAE’s first parliamentary elections were announced by the President in a statement marking the federation’s anniversary in 2005 . The text is published in Dira Alwatan or Nation’s Shield magazine and is also made available on the prime minister’s internet portal. There is something to be said for a public address though. It is a major media event, a collective celebration of achievements over the past year and the spelling of hopes and challenges for the upcoming one. Next December is an opportune occasion to institutionalize a state of the union address custom……..

Oh boy, I can’t wait to hear the proposed speech by Shaikh Whatishisface of Abu Dhabi address the other six tribal leaders. I bet he won’t stumble more than twice in every sentence. Also, shouldn’t they start freeing their political prisoners, those who called for freedom and were imprisoned? Shouldn’t they have real not fake elections before having a state of the tribes speech?
Besides, wtf in the world would want to hear it? Unless he talks about the effeorts to advance the country from the second biggest importer of weapons in the whole world to the first importer of weapons in the whole world. And given that his nation is composed mostly of foreign temporary workers and housemaids (some 85%), should he not have simultaneous translation of the speech into several languages?
Cheers
mhg




m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

On My Gulf: Mercenary Nations………

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Some governments on my Gulf seem to have a fascination with foreign mercenaries:


  • Saudi Arabia was reported several times in Western and Pakistani media as asking for a contingency plan to have Pakistani soldiers deployed on its soil in case of domestic political trouble.

  • The United Arab Emirates have relied on Jordanian security agents and interrogators for years now. Now there is the credible New York Times report that they are setting up a special mercenary army under Blackwater executives in Abu Dhabi. These foreign mercenaries reportedly come from places as far flung as North America, South America, Africa, and Asia. I once suggested here that the al-Nahayan should think of recruiting from among the Mexican drug cartels: they have some of the “most effective” interrogators around. Then there are the retirees of Mossad…..

  • When it comes to mercenaries, the al-Khalifa clan of Bahrain take the cake. They have been in that business of hiring foreign mercenaries to kill and maim their people for decades. They have hired British, Pakistani, Jordanian, Syrian, Yemeni, possibly Saudi, and God knows what else mercenaries to keep the people of Bahrain oppressed. Even now Pakistani military and other media have advertisements and news items of Bahrain recruitment delegations interviewing and hiring veterans. When their own tribal allies and their foreign mercenaries could not cope with the people, the al-Khalifa invited Saudi troops to enter the country and help crush the uprising. I can’t think of a regime that is more vile (or is it viler) than one that first hires foreign mercenaries then invites foreign invaders into its country to kill and torture its people. Governments have done one or the other, but it is rare that a regime does both.

  • Only two GCC countries seem not to have this need for, nay fascination with, mercenaries. Not yet and hopefully never.


Which makes you think: what kind of countries are these that they need to hire foreign mercenaries against their own people? They shouldn’t need to, if only they were less greedy with power and wealth. If they were more fascinated with empowering their people than with foreign mercenaries.
Cheers
mhg




m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

The Assault on the King of Bahrain……….

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BFF
The al-Khalifa regime and their Saudi occupation masters have now borrowed from the rape playbook of others in Bosnia and the Congo. They are using rape and the threat of it against the men and women in their custody. Here are afew tweets on the latest:

“NickKristof 
Our close ally, #Bahrain, has a consistent record of using sexual abuse of male and female detainees as a form of torture.”

“maryamalkhawaja
My father, Abdulhadi Alkhawaja, was told that they were going to find me and rape me. #bahrain #Feb14”

“kristenchick Kristen Chick
Another defendant, Mohamed Hassan Jawad, tried to show marks of torture on legs during hearing today, was silenced, say witnesses “

“kristenchick Kristen Chick
“Abdul Hadi Al Khawaja’s wife crying on the phone as she recounted her husband’s story of attempted rape in #Bahrain govt custody”

“kristenchick Kristen Chick
Khadija Mossawi, wife of Abdul Hadi Al Khawaja, just told me how 4 men attempted to rape her husband in govt custody friday

“maryamalkhawaja 
3. Court was adjourned until the 22nd of May and alkhawaja is supposed to get a head scan for possible injuries #bahrain”

“maryamalkhawaja Maryam Alkhawaja
2. They were 4 men and it was in a diff room than were they tried to force him to apologize #bahrain…”

“maryamalkhawaja 1. Corrections to former tweets: alkhawaja banged his head against the floor, he was taken out of the court when he tried to s #bahrain…..”

“maryamalkhawaja 
5. When he tried to tell the judge about this in court hearing today, he was silenced. #Bahrain…..”

“maryamalkhawaja 
4. They began to take off his pants; he was handcuffed & couldnt resist. He began banging his head against the wall until he was unconscious..”

“maryamalkhawaja 
3. He said show me what I have done wrong, and I will apologize. At that point the men took of their pants, he said, as if to rape him cont..”


One of the tweeters is the daughter of one of the threatened victims, which makes it quite agonizing for her to recount all this. Which makes me wonder if there is something ‘Freudian’ in this: if anyone ever raped or threatened to rape the shaikh (king) of Bahrain and his uncle Khalifa bin Salman (the prime minister).

Cheers
mhg




m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

GCC Women, Moroccan Beauties, Jordanian Humor….

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Gulf women fear Jordan, Morocco entry into GCC. Say their men might turn to women from those two countries after joining GCC. A bid by Jordan and Morocco to join a Gulf Arab alliance has already triggered fears among women in the oil-rich region that local men could turn to those two countries for wives. Many women from Saudi Arabia and other members of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) called a prominent Saudi social and religious adviser to express their fears about the entry of Jordan and Morocco into the 30-year-old GCC. At summit talks in Riyadh last week, GCC leaders welcomed a request by the two Arab nations to join the GCC and instructed their foreign ministers to follow up their issue…….

This is another fallout of the erratic decision by the Saudi King and his sweet brothers to invite Jordan and Morocco to join the Gulf GCC. Apparently some Gulf women would like their shaikhs, the clergy, to issue fatwas restricting marriage to Moroccan and Jordanian women. Some GCC states, especially UAE and Saudi Arabia, already have rules banning or restricting marriage to foreigners (at least requiring regime permission). This is illogical. Besides, what make them think women of Jordan and Morocco are interested in Gulf men?
I am from the Gulf and sometimes I wonder why Gulf women are interested in many of the Gulf men. Having said that, I must add that if Jordanian women are anything like Jordanian men, then they have about as much a sense of humor as most of my fellow Gulf men. Which is nada, zilch, rien. My best friend BFF (see photo up there) has a better canine sense of humor than that. So what is the attraction? As for the women of Morocco, I haven’t known many, well, not enough, but from what I discern………o boy. That may be a worry.
Cheers
mhg




m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

Freedoms the GCC will Bring to Morocco and Jordan………….

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A pro-democracy activist in Bahrain appeared to have been beaten and possibly tortured before he appeared in court this week, according to the New York-based nonprofit Human Rights Watch. Abdulhadi Khawaja was one of 14 defendants, mostly opposition leaders in the Persian Gulf state, who were charged with seeking to “topple the regime forcibly in collaboration with a terrorist organization working for a foreign country,“ Human Rights Watch said in a statement Tuesday. Seven others were charged in absentia. When Khawaja’s wife and daughter spoke with him briefly after he appeared in court Sunday, the first time they had seen him since his arrest April 9, he told them he had suffered four fractures to his face, including one to his jaw that required four hours of surgery. Khawaja’s daughter Maryam told Human Rights Watch that her mother and sister met with him for 10 minutes after the initial hearing………The state-run Bahrian News Agency called the reports “fabricated, politically motivated news.”……..

Amnesty believes that many of the defendants in #Bahrain are likely to be prisoners of conscience detained simply 4 exercising their right
#AmnestyInternational on #Bahrain -At least two have said they were tortured, raising fears about their chances for a fair trial.


“#AmnestyInternational on #Bahrain – Bahraini authorities have already denied the defendants their basic legal rights

Bahrain oil company fires 300 workers over protests goo.gl/ENkSn #feb14 #bhn #feb14
University of #Bahrain turns to look like Guantánamo bit.ly/jlbG7P #feb14 #bnn…..

I know Jordan and Morocco are not exactly Jeffersonian democracies, not even Turkish democracies. But they are more democratic than the GCC countries. They certainly are more “democratic” than the tribal quasi-feudal fiefdoms that are Saudi Arabia and the UAE, or the tribal sectarian fiefdom that is Bahrain under al-Khalifa. I assume they don’t torture people like this in Morocco anymore. But rejoice, people of Morocco, you’ll get this as soon as you join the Gulf Tribal Monarchy Council. I know your regime is not nearly as vile as some in our region, but that is okay: no regime in the world is probably as vile as the al-Khalifa of Bahrain. As an added bonus, you ‘ll also get the benefits of Salafi sectarianism and maybe even Apartheid.

I am waiting for Mr. Obama and Hillary Clinton to express their utter joy in this proposed expansion of the joys of tribal absolute monarchy freedom to Morocco and Jordan. While holding their noses, of course. Imagine, to the shores of the Atlantic, a stone’s throw away from Lexington (Mass.) and the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia. This march of royal liberty, will it cross the ocean westward?
Cheers
mhg




m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

On My Gulf: Brave Women and Cowardly Princes………..

     
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                                                                       My BFF
          Missing poet Ayat
In Bahrain, human-rights workers say at least 50 medical staff are still missing after a crackdown on hospital care for injured anti-government demonstrators. There are fears that some of the detained staff could face stiff sentences for treating protesters. Among them is Dr al-Dallal, a prominent physician arrested on March 17 during a military raid at Salmaniyah hospital in Manama. His wife, Fareeda al-Dallal, was also arrested and beaten under custody last Tuesday. Al Jazeera spoke to her about her arrest and the fears she has about the safety of her husband……

Dr. Fareeda was interrogated for some time then released. Marks on her face clearly show the results of beatings she endured by the imported mercenary interrogators of the al-Khalifa clan. Dr. Fareeda faces more trouble: she is being called for more interrogation after talking on Aljazeera of her torture. They will likely charge her with “slandering the state” and torture her some more, possibly sentence her.

In my Gulf region, which seems suddenly empty of men, except for some in Bahrain, she stands tall. There are many other women of Bahrain who have stood up for their rights and are enduring the wrath of the despots and invaders: they are doctors, nurses, students, teachers, reporters, and others. She, like the poet-student Ayat al-Qormezi, are a thousand times better than the fat corrupt strutting princes, mentally flatulent potentates and their retainers on my Gulf. Ayat was arrested several weeks ago for reciting one of her poems (video) at Lulu (Pearl) Square: she was arrested after the Saudi invasion. Her whereabouts are unknown. They are both, they all are, certainly braver than all the men in my Gulf, braver than Hillary Clinton and Mr. Obama and European leaders who have gone silent about the torment of Bahrain even as they make the right noises about Libya and Syria. (I do not mention Arab leaders here because it is given that they are “what” they are).
Cheers
mhg




m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

Qatar and Oman: Is Iran Cracking the GCC Front?………….

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Sultan Qaboos said that regional states should keep vigilant toward the plots of sowing discord in the region. Referring to the latest developments in the region, he called for an urgent settlement to the problems and heed the demands of the people. Iran-Oman excellent ties will ensure interests of the two countries and the entire regional nations, he said. Salehi arrived in the Omani capital city of Muscat on Wednesday morning. He was warmly welcomed by his Omani Counterpart Youssef bin Alawi. “Without doubt, Salehi’s first visit to Oman would be constructive,” bin Alawi said. Bin Alawi added the visit is the best opportunity to foster mutual ties. Omani government is keen to enhance Tehran-Muscat cooperation, he noted. Iran and Oman have expanded cooperation in a variety of areas such as economy and defense since Iran’s President Ahmadinejad took office in 2005. The two countries signed a security agreement in August 2009….Fars News (Iran)

Just before this Salehi visit to Oman, he had been in Qatar. Even during the peak of the Arab revolutions and the Bahraini regime crackdown on the people’s uprising last March, high Omani officials and the Qatari crown prince were in Tehran for the celebration of Nouruz, the Iranian New Year. As I have posted before here, Oman has always marched to its own music, paying lip service to the Saudi-driven GCC band. Oman has always looked across the seas, even long after its territorial interests in East Africa were gone.
Qatar has been an active thorn in the Saudi side, although the Qatari regime has moved closer to the Saudi position as the Arab revolution moved closer to the Persian-American Gulf. But there is serious bad blood between Doha and Riyadh, ever since the 1990s when Saudi Arabia was involved in a plot to overthrow the Emir of Qatar. Several high ranking Saudi security officers were sentenced to prison in Qatar for their role and were only released a year or so ago. They returned to a heroes’ welcome by the al-Saud princes in Riyadh.
Cheers
mhg




m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

Shaikhs and Bins: the Rapidly Evolving UAE Police State……..

     
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The United Arab Emirates has been cracking down on any whiff of dissent. This week, the regime took over the Teachers Union and appointed its own agents on the board because they had advocated for democracy. They have not yet been charged of being Iranian agents but stay tuned. A week or two earlier they dissolved the independent human rights organization for the same reason. Several advocates of free speech and democracy have been arrested and are still in prison. Some of the latter have been charged with insulting the ruler of Abu Dhabi (president of UAE) Shaikh Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahayan and his crown prince Shaikh Mohammed Bin Zayed al-Nahayan and the ruler of Dubai Shaikh Mohammed Bin Rashid al-Maktoum. I am not sure how they insulted these tribal absolute shaikhs, maybe they stuck their tongues out at their ubiquitous pictures.
The al-Nahayan, rulers of Abu Dhabi who run the whole UAE (the other shaikhs are just for show), are apparently worried about unrest. This is odd for two reasons:

Why are they worried I: The overwhelming majority of the UAE are temporary imported foreign workers and housemaids who are rotated every few years and have no interest in the internal politics of the country. They probably form around 85% of the population. Maybe the al-Nahayan can imiose masters of Apartheid the al-Khalifa in Bahrain and naturalize these millions of Asians to offset the politically demanding natives.

Why are they worried II: The UAE is the second biggest importer of weapons in the whole wide wonderful world. They are a bigger importer than Israel and Saudi Arabia. They are buying weapons faster than they can rust in their desert warehouses: they are clearly striving to become the first biggest importer of weapons in the whole wide world. Since they obviously have no intention of invading either Saudi Arabia or Iran, and they seem to think they can always buy Oman, the only reason for these weapons is to keep their people under control. I mean their native people since the Asian housemaids who form a majority of the people are not likely to start a revolution. So with all these weapons in the desert warehouses, what is there to worry about?

I still think
their best bet is to find an Iranian connection, create one if they must. If the hapless al-Khalifa could do it in Bahrain and sell it to Robert Gates and Hillary Clinton, the al-Nahayan should be able to do even better if only because they have more money. Or maybe they can blame it on the devil.
More on this later.
Cheers
mhg

m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

The Great Saudi Success, of Pakistanis and Salafi History………….

     
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Saudi Arabia has reportedly invoked a treaty with Sunni-dominated Pakistan to secure troops to stabilize both Bahrain and its own oil-rich eastern provinces. …….. However, pressure from Saudi Arabia and the Shiite population in southern Turkey are forcing Ankara to re-evaluate its ties with Tehran……. Pakistan, of course, has often presented itself as the “sword of the Islamic world” given its nuclear weapons capability. However, its military prowess has been propelled as much by Saudi petrodollars as by American and Chinese aid. In return, Saudi Arabia has over the years relied on Pakistanis to man its own military and has a treaty agreement with Pakistan that mandates the release of up to 30,000 Pakistani troops for the defense of Saudi interests should the need arise. This treaty has reportedly now been invoked, with up to two divisions of regular Pakistani army troops on standby, ready to head for Bahrain and eastern Saudi Arabia……..

This growing sectarian escalation is the greatest success of the al-Saud dynasty in many years, perhaps the greatest ever. Only by dividing first the peoples of the Gulf region, then of the Arab world, then of the wider Islamic world, could the al-Saud disrupt and forestall the Arab revolutions, this sputtering Arab Spring. They did not need much work on their own people inside the Arabian Peninsula, generations of Wahhabi-influenced education has taken care of that: to some people in, say, Nejd, most residents of the Eastern Province might as well be Martians. Most of the Gulf region had been peaceful, in a sectarian way, with little tension between Shi’a and Sunnis for decades, since my childhood: even during the Iran-Iraq war when Saddam and his Ba’ath had huge following in my own home town, up to August 1990. (I was not one of this huge following).
The real sectarian tensions started escalating with the rise of the Salafi movement. Born in the realm of the al-Saud dynasty, Salafis got a lot of support from the Gulf dynasties, and for some good but short-sighted reasons. Salafi doctrine, developed in Saudi Arabia, preaches absolute loyalty to the rulers, no matter how rotten and corrupt, as long as the ruler is a good Muslim. This is, in my view, an opportunistic distortion of the Prophets teachings (the Hadith). A good Muslim to a Salafi is someone who builds a lot of mosques and teaches students along the Salafi orthodoxy, period. The latter is not always mandatory: Salafi palms can be greased as easily as other palms. The Salafis, rabidly xenophobic and especially anti-Shi’a, were adopted by various Gulf oligarchies as counterweight to other components of society. They have been a corruptible, a very touchable, counterweight. In most states they were used as a counterweight to the secular pan-Arabs, to the socialists who usually complained of corruption and despotism. In others, especially Bahrain, they were invited in, encouraged, and used to counter not only the Shi’a majority but also the traditionally strong multi-sect secular opposition.
Expanding the sectarian tensions beyond the tribal and sectarian societies of the Persian-American Gulf is quite a coup for the al-Saud dynasty. They have managed to change the subject in the Gulf from revolution and reform to sectarian fear. They would like to expand that division across the whole region. They have the money and the most massive media in the third world with a bought army of journalists and academics disseminating their propaganda.
Perhaps the growing military and political shadow of the Iranian regime helped them along. The Iranian threat is in my view quite exaggerated, given that Western military bases and fleets are crowding the Gulf and ringing Iran from all sides. Iran is a worry, no doubt, but it has been convenient for Gulf despots to exaggerate it and frighten their peoples into the arms of al-Saud dynasty. I doubt that a prominent Iranian mullah can now go for a ride or talk in his cell phone without someone in the West knowing about it.
Expanding the Shi’a-Sunni tensions to the wider Muslim world plays well into the al-Saud and Salafi hands. Ironically, I don’t believe it has as much traction in most Arab states beyond the Gulf. It is strictly a tribal Gulf thing that can have some traction in divided and Salafi-rich Pakistan, but not in places like Tunisia or even Egypt.
A successful strategy by the al-Saud, but it is a short term one. Fear and divisiveness are no substitute for reform or revolution.
Cheers
mhg




m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com