Category Archives: Gulf states

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

     
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          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

My Gulf: Two Views of Dubai and Kabul……..

     
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A cynical foreign view: “This is a good question! Everyone knows that Dubai is the most useless city in the world, filled with entitled, arrogant, rude, mindlessly materialistic Emiratis and the shopping malls that sustain them. If Dubai receded into the sand that surrounds it or if its man-made palm shaped islands were drowned by rising sea levels, we would not feel bad for more than one minute. This is all true and not subject to debate. There is absolutely no reason to go to Dubai. Unless, of course, you are arriving from one of the neighboring shitholes (Kabul, Baghdad, Kandahar). In that case, Dubai is absolutely indispensable. It is the only place for you. Dubai must exist because Kabul does, just a short two-hour flight away. Kabul is filthy, violent, medieval and necklaced with razor wire. Thirty percent of the dust in the air is fecal matter. The blue sacks sitting in the mud (30% of which, it stands to reason, is also fecal matter) in intersections are not bags of potatoes; they are women in burqas begging. Donkey carts, armored SUVs and military convoys jam its unpaved streets. Dubai is none of these things (it’s pretty much what happens what medieval warlords do when they come into lot of money, but that’s a different post)………

A native brown-noser view:
But why did one succeed while the other failed? Why did ‘Death to America’ not resonate? I suppose, in the end, nobody wants to live in Tora Bora — not even Bin Laden apparently — but, rather Dubai. People rose because they wanted to live well. It must have been hard for Egyptians and Tunisians to understand how a city-state like Dubai, and the UAE in general, could develop with none of the resources of their countries, let alone their political and social institutions. It was no longer about being like London or Paris but rather like Dubai……..”

As for me: I have been to Dubai, both before and after, and I have been to some of those other places. I think the truth lies somewhere in between, between the cynical foreigner and the native writer who never seems to want to displease the ruling masters. My gut feeling, which does not always agree with my economist’s judgment (I have gone sour on economics these past three years), is that the cynical foreigner is closer to the truth. The native writer al-Gergawi always seems eager to please the powers that be, the rulers; but I have read only two or three of his postings. The foreign cynic Carpetblogger clearly doesn’t give a rat’s ass about pleasing anyone, and that is a good sign. Besides, I have never cottoned up to brown-nosers, even when I got so close to being one myself some years ago. Close, but never made it.
Cheers
mhg




m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

Politics on My Gulf: On Being Royally Anally Retentive ………

     
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Her Highness Shaikha Moza grandmother of His Majesty, for whom we sacrifice our lives may god keep and save him, mother of the late his Highness Shaikh Issa Bin Salman Al-Khalifa and His Highness ‘Prince’ Khalifa Bin Salman Al-Khalifa and the late prince Mohammed Bin Salman Al-Khalifa, has passed away.” Tweet by Nabeel al-Homar, Bahrain regime spokesman.

RIP for the lady: she is not guilty for the crimes of her son and her grandson.

But WTF? Now Bahrain shaikhs are all called ‘princes’. First the emir Shaikh Hamad promoted himself unilaterally to a ‘king’, although there is nothing kingly or royal or regal about him. Then all the shaikhs are calling themselves princes. No more frogs in Bahrain, but who kissed all the al-Khalifa to turn them into princes (and princesses)? Can it be the al-Saud? It has to be: the al-Khalifa are even starting to wear the shmagh ghetra, a telltale Saudi headgear, in summer now. Bahraini rulers and their retainers among the elite are going Saudi, and they can’t seem to do it fast enough. Saudi, or rather al-Saud, are chic in occupied Bahrain. Which makes me wonder if any Frenchmen started to wear small mustaches in Nazi-occupied Paris so long ago.
The Bahrainis of the “right inclination”, political or otherwise, may find other ways to ape their new Wahhabi masters. They can start frequenting the places where all the things that are banned in the Kingdom without Magic are available. Don’t let your imagination run wild, not too wild. You can get flogged in public in Riyadh for singing in public, even an innocent thing like a Salafi carol (a la Fa La La…….). That is if you are a male. As for a singing female, you can probably get flogged anywhere on both shores of my Gulf. Iranian mullahs can be almost as anally retentive about these things are the Wahhbai shaikhs: almost so, but not quite.
In occupied Bahrain, they can do as the uninvited Saudi visitors do. That may become even more necessary as the true Saudis take their business elsewhere: they will be more welcome now in economically depressed Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Hopefully not as part of an occupation army.
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

Salafis for a Gulf Confederacy of Dunces…….

     
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These days there are more examples of trashy Salafi analysis making a case for a GCC Gulf confederation under the control of the al-Saud brothers. There are other examples, most of them by the same writer whom I have linked here. He is almost obsessive-compulsive about it, the way Salafis are usually obsessive-compulsive about bodily functions.
There have been several others pieces, mainly from writers and a couple of academics who are more like fifth columnists in the smaller Gulf states. The analysis is shallow, the logic nonexistent, the writing at near high-school level, possibly even worse than my own writings in this blog. I never had much faith in most of our writers and so-called ‘opinion’ makers in the Gulf. These days whatever little faith I had has almost gone with the wind. Gulf media, especially in my hometown, has truly gone downhill in recent years. Saudi media, especially the offshore ones like Asharq Alawsat and Alhayat, I must admit, is better produced than some others and more slick, but it delivers merely the same trash in nicer packaging. A pig with lipstick still smells like a pig. And some of the writers tend to be better. They spend more money on it, but the smell seeps through the nice packaging. Don’t bother to read them, just take my word for it!
Not surprisingly the rump Bahrain “parliament”, after the resignation and/or arrest of representatives of most of the people of Bahrain, voted to approve a confederation with the al-Saud brothers. That so-called parliament, the ‘elected’ half, is composed of Salafis and fundamentalists and palace retainers who owe their seats not to the people but to the al-Khalifa clan. They won their seats to offset the vote of the majority of the people through gerrymandering and rigging the results. They are truly grateful to the al-Khalifa clan who ‘appointed’ them to this fake parliament, and to the al-Saud brothers who will keep them in office. In fact, I have no doubt they got their order for this vote from Riyadh, via the al-Khalifa viceroy.
Cheers
mhg

m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

Iranian Schizophrenia: Fars News Headlines in One Day………..

     
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Iran’s official Fars News Agency had a group of interesting headlines about the Gulf today. They seem to be moving in different directions. I suspect it is because there are different centers of power with different views inside Iran. Oddly, there was nothing from Ahmadinejad. The only way to get one consistent point of view expressed is for Ayatollah Khamenei to issue them directly, a task which would probably give him an infarct:


  • Envoy: Tehran Resolved to Expand Ties with Islamic, Arab States: Expanding ties with Islamic and Arab states is among the Islamic Republic of Iran’s principal policies, a senior Iranian diplomat underlined on Wednesday.

  • Senior MP Blasts PGCC for Attempts to Promote Iranophobia: A senior Iranian legislator lambasted the attempts made by the Persian Gulf Cooperation Council (PGCC) to spread Iranophobia in the region, and said the move is part of the plots hatched to derail the world public opinion from the current developments and uprisings in the region.

  • Iran Renews Concerns about Riyadh, Manama’s Crimes against People: Head of the Iranian parliament’s Human Rights Committee Zohreh Elahian in a letter to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights voiced Iran’s deep concern about the crimes committed by Manama and its foreign military allies against the Bahraini people.

  • Iran Ready to Stage Joint Wargames with Regional Countries: Iran’s Armed Forces are prepared to stage joint military exercises with the regional countries in a bid to show that the regional states can restore peace and security.


Interesting, n’est-ce pas? But then again inconsistency is the case in the West as well. For example, the United States government and France want to spread democracy and freedom in the Middle East but insist that it be done through the use of Saudi money and arms.
They may hope to get the Saudi type of democracy all over our region.
Cheers
mhg

m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

Time on a Reign of Terror in Bahrain…………..

     
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“I need to leave Bahrain,” he says, voice shaking. “What channels can I use?” By all accounts, Bahrain’s protests have had the wind knocked out of their sails the past two weeks, as the government systematically shut down the opposition’s operations. Leading activists were arrested en masse, many in pre-dawn raids. The headquarters of opposition group Waad was torched. As Manama was put under martial law, 100 Saudi Arabian tanks arrived on March 13 to help police the streets. Salmaniya Medical Center, a main gathering point for protesters and the country’s most sophisticated hospital, was essentially locked down. At checkpoints around the city, masked thugs pulled drivers out of cars at the slightest suspicion of anti-government activity, often beating them senseless. A kingdom had imposed a reign of terror — with anecdotes and examples of how vengeance is exacted. “The injuries, the bullet holes, are always in the back — as people are leaving,” one official said. ……….”

It is a reign of terror, largely sectarian, but not only that. It is also tribal. There are prominent Sunni opposition figures under detention, like Ibrahim Sharif al-Sayed who heads a secular democratic group. He may be the target of more of the wrath of the ruling despots and their Salafi allies because they have tried to make the Bahrain uprising a purely Shi’a-Sunni sectarian issue, and people like him disrupt their propaganda.
Cheers
mhg




m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

A Confederation of Fifth Columns in the Gulf States………….

        
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An idea has been floated around the Gulf states in recent months, and it is being revived these days. Pro-Saudi Salafis and a handful of pro-Saudi media writers (some of them possibly encouraged or funded from Riyadh) are calling for a ‘confederation’ of the GCC Gulf states. One irresponsible columnist even called for a “quick confederation”, and he was covered extensively and gleefully by Saudi media. None of these worthies mentions anything about peoples’ opinions, referendums, or a vote on the issue: such is the state of watermelon opinion-makers on my Gulf. One or two have become obsessive compulsive about it, repeating this frequently. They raise and use fear of Iran as a factor, as well as stoking suspicion and fear of local Shi’as (minorities in all the GCC except Bahrain).
 
I wrote about this last year and noted that such a confederation would be based on the least common factors among the members, the worst common traits. I also opined that it will not get anywhere (i.e. forgetaboutit). The Gulf states range politically from an absolute monarchy system to a partial democracy (I am not including Bahrain among the latter). For the Saudis, they may think that this will solve the problem of pressures for democracy and accountability. A solidly despotic regional regime on the Saudi mold would represent a strong front against Western and Arab pressures for openness, they probably think. It would also probably bring all other GCC states down to the Saudi and Bahraini levels in the treatment of their minority Shi’a (Shi’ites). That last point is very important for the Wahhabi Kingdom without Magic. For the Salafis around the Gulf it would mean that all GCC states become socially Saudi-like: more power for the clergy, no social reforms, women mostly kept at home, preferably. And no politics: absofuckinglutely no politics! Salafis would also gain more ‘political’ power as their patron regime, the Saudis, would dominate the new confederation as a prelude to swollowing it.

One early serious problem with such a scheme is that the rulers of the smaller states are not stupid, at least not as stupid as the Salafis and Saudi fifth columnists in their countries think. They are all jealous of their own turf and would never accept such a plan, although one or two media outlets may pay lip service to it. The al-Nahayan of the UAE are almost as autocratic as the al-Saud and would never give up one iota of power to their own people or to foreigners. As for Oman, it has always had little real interest in any form of integration, always looking across the Persian-American Gulf and the Indian Ocean.
 
Then there are the peoples of our region who value their independence and way of life, in spite of all the media noise that hint at the sun actually shining out of the ass of some Saudi prince (remember: Saddam was the supposed source of our sun years ago). In other words, such a plan is not only silly, but dangerous for the peoples of the Gulf states. It is DOA. Only the al-Khalifa of Bahrain may agree to such a hegemony: any regime that invites occupation and torments its own people would do anything to cling to absolute power. Anything.

Therefore, my fatwa is that such a scheme is hair-brained scheme or, as we would say on the Gulf, “مشروع بطيخ” a watermelon scheme.
Cheers
mhg

m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

On my Gulf: of an Uprising, a Vanished Fear, a Threat of Invasion……

 

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“Thousands of protesters blocked King Faisal Highway, a four-lane road leading to the financial district of the capital, Manama. Security forces dispersed about 350 by using teargas, the government said. Police moved in on Pearl Square, occupied by members of the Shiite majority calling for an elected government and equality with Sunnis. Witnesses said security forces surrounded the tents, shooting teargas and rubber bullets at activists……..”


They never learn, these potentates. This is the same old Arab story, especially in Bahrain, but with a new twist this year. People rise demanding their rights to democracy and equality and justice; the rulers refuse and crack down; with time the protesters lose heart and go home. It happened several times in Bahrain over the past couple of decades.
This time there is one big difference, a decisive difference: there is no fear! The people are not afraid anymore, and this is why they have been threatening the people with foreign intervention: it worked before, but it will not work this time around. This may explain the “rumor” that they spread today about Saudi military intervention. A possible trial balloon? The oligarchs are reminding the people of Bahrain that they, the rulers, have fellow despots across the bridge with well-armed troops, and that these foreign troops may not be as “merciful”. But the problem the al-Khalifa face is what all Arab despots have been facing in this beautiful year of Arab revolutions: there is no fear! The fear that the despots relied on so much is gone from the Bahraini hearts, just it is gone from most Arab hearts.

Cheers
mhg

m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com