Category Archives: Iran

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

 

Next Middle East War: Passing the Buck to Trump and his New Madman……..

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“OPINION: Iran is expanding in #Syria and approaching the borders with #Israel which will not stand still and accept growing Iranian influence near it…. It seems there is no prospect of a US-Israeli war against Iranian sway over Syria and Lebanon before major upcoming political and military developments unfold, i.e. before the Syrian regime and its allies grab more districts from the factions fighting in the Damascus suburbs and before the parliamentary elections are held in Lebanon on May 6. Speculation over the outbreak of this war recently increased and some indicators hinted it was likely. The Israelis have been closely watching developments in the Damascus countryside and have said that Iran is getting closer to these areas. Meanwhile, the US has included more hawks in its administration – hawks who believe that the confrontation with Iran has become a necessity. The most recent addition to the US administration was John Bolton………”

Almost funny, this clear and obvious Saudi attempt to provoke Israel (and the USA) into waging another Muslim war. But the consequences can be tragic for our native region.

Saudi officials, their controlled media, and their regional Salafi sidekicks and allies, have been pushing for two decades for America to join a new sectarian war in the Persian Gulf and the wider Middle East. The same goes for Benyamin Netanyahu of Israel and his omnipotent American lobbyists. They all have been pushing America to wage one more war in faraway Muslim places on their behalf. George W. Bush and Barack Obama were too smart for that, they declined the honor. 

They still want an aggressive American war of choice. And they always want it now! Now, they think they have a chance with this new vain, insecure blusterer as president of the USA. Just praise him, appeal to his insecurity and vanity. Especially now with a fringe warhawk, a chickenhawk, as White House National Security advisor.

In this piece, one of many “pieces”, the official Saudi Alarabiya network is trying to egg on Israel to fight their war on Iran. Another of their Lebanese mercenary columnists…..

Meanwhile in Israel, Netanyahu is doing his part in trying to egg on America to fight his war against Iran. He knows there is a balance of terror now between Israel and the camp that calls itself “Axis of Resistance”. Enough missiles stockpiled and produced in Iran, Lebanon, and Israel to create mayhem across the Middle East. Enough missiles to possibly offset all these warplanes Mr. Trump is selling to Israel and others in the region.

Everybody seems to want someone else to fight their own sectarian Muslim war in the Middle East. The “buck” seems to aim straight at the Oval office, where it will stop. But the man in the oval office talks big but apparently carries a tiny stick (not a pun). His concessions to the man he calls “Little Rocket Man” indicates that he talks big but pulls his punches when the moment is right. Has been doing it since the days of the Vietnam War. The same goes for his new National Security chief, famous Vietnam Evader but otherwise warhawk John Bolton.

A politically desperate Netanyahu, domestically in as much trouble as Trump is, could be enticed into yet another stab at Lebanon, another folly. Or worse, he could try to launch his own blitz over Iran. That will very likely inspire the US Congress to demand action of the wrong kind.

Cheers

Mohammed haider Ghuloum

Trump’s Perpetual War: With Pompeo and Bolton, New Persian Gulf War Cabinet is in Place…..

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Perpetual American wars of choice around the world are apparently here to stay. To expand soon.

Donald Trump almost has his most intimidating Cabinet of War in place. Or so he thinks. Or maybe so he wants others, the North Koreans and the Iranians and the Arab absolute kings, princes, and klepotocratic potentates, to think.

Remember: his first National Security adviser Mike Flynn, whose first official statement was that he has “putting Iran on notice“. Mike Flynn himself was “put on notice” and fired within a month, replaced by H R McMaster, a more steady man. Now McMaster has been fired, replaced by a Fox News windbag. John Bolton is a dangerous windbag. So dangerous that a Republican Senate committee refused to vote him as ambassador to the UN under George W Bush. He was appointed during recess for one year.


Between the nomination of Mike Pompeo for Secretary of State and John Bolton, one Iranian pundit tweeted “WE Are All Going to Die!” Two partisan allies and son-in-law Kushner (a potential stooge of Persian Gulf repressive princes and potentates) steering a naive blustering president towards another American war of choice in the Middle East.

Perpetual war is here to stay. A new Muslim war of aggression against Iran: America breaking an international agreement and looking for an excuse to attack another Muslim country. A Saudi-American sectarian war in the Persian Gulf that America can’t win in the long term. America can’t afford it either, which might explain the visit of the Saudi Crown Prince and the welcome he got for spreading his oil money. Trump and son-in-law probably think this prince of darkness can make a new war affordable.

US Middle East policy to be determined by John Bolton, Mike Pompeo, and New York slumlord arriviste Jared Kushner (rumors are strong that the Saudis and some Emiratis may have made financial promises to Kushner and family).

Imagine this: Bolton is also widely seen as an anti-Muslim bigot who reportedly allegedly cooperated with Quasi-Nazi Robert Spencer and a famous New York female anti-Muslim blogger (someone called her activities ‘the downside of a generous divorce settlement’). Now he will be in charge of US foreign policy. On the fringe no more.

Of course Donald Trump may think he is smarter than Pompeo and Bolton, smarter that all the naysaying pundits, even smarter than me! He may think he is now credibly blackmailing both Iran and North Korea. Maybe even China! That these two added warmongers, Pompeo and Bolton, will make those countries quake with fear, cry uncle.

There are others, top American generals who have actually fought wars and are truly patriotic, who are opposed. General Votel of the Central Command, and almost certainly Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, and other leading generals. They want to keep the Iran Nuclear Deal, since the Iranians and the rest of the world are abiding by it. With the exception of the plotters: absolute Saudi princes and a couple of other kleptocratic oligarchies in the Persian Gulf region who are trying to buy themselves a new sectarian war to be waged by American boys and girls as mercenaries.

 Then there is the valid theory that a foreign adventure or war is often a useful refuge for scoundrel-leaders during periods of potential domestic political trouble. Human and other costs be damned……

Should be interesting weeks coming……

Cheers

Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cheers

Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

Arabian PR as History: Friedman Has Epiphany, Joins the Rewriting of History of Jihadism……..

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The history of our Middle East (and Gulf) region is being rewritten again these days. The genesis and sources of Jihadism and terrorism, even (Sunni) Salafist terrorism, are being rewritten by well-paid Western Public Relations firms, Arab lobbyists, and flattered American journalists with access to royal palaces.

I came across an example last week: a recent N Y Times piece by Thomas Friedman. He has become quite predictable, and also quite irrelevant, about the MENA region. He rarely writes or expresses anything original anymore about the Middle East. It has been years since we have read his dialogues with his various insightful Arab airport taxi drivers: Abdu (in Egypt), Abed (in Lebanon), Abul Abed (in Jordan/Palestine), etc. But he does have a large audience among certain liberal and non-liberal people of influence in the USA. 

He is now falling closely behind Donald Trump and echoes the anti-Iran rant he ratcheted across the Persian Gulf during the odd Riyadh Summit in May 2017. 
In his recent piece in the New York Times Friedman claims that all social and sectarian restrictions and proxy wars in the Middle East were a result of the Iranian Revolution of 1979 and the theocratic regime it created. He also directly ties the phenomenon of world wide (Sunni) Salafi Jihadi terrorism to that Revolution.

In fact the Iranian revolution and the emerging Shi’a theocracy did galvanize the rival Salafist Wahhabis, as did the early promises of the failed Baathist invasion of southwestern Iran. But he conveniently ignores the decades-long Wahhabi subversion of various Islamic communities with money and extremist ideology. A subversion that preceded the Iranian Revolution and its theocracy, and preceded the first Jihadist-Socialist war in Afghanistan by decades.

He claims that Saudi Arabia stopped having movie (cinema) theaters after 1979 (Prince Bin Salman must have told him that). I got news for Friedman: Saudi Arabia has never allowed movie theaters in its cities and towns in the Wahhabi era. That was a continued part of the power-sharing deal between the Al Saudi family and the Wahhabi clerics (Wahhabism opposed recreating images or films of people). In Iran movie theaters and the film industry continued to thrive even after 1979. In fact the films won several Oscars under the restrictive theocratic Islamic regime.

Saudi Arabia first tried to introduce TV in the early 1960’s. At that time riots broke out in the streets, blood was shed: long before the Iranian Revolution. Among the casualties was one dead senior prince of the royal family. That dead prince’s son took revenge in 1975, when he shot his uncle, King Faisal, dead. Also years before the Iranian Revolution.
Women were never allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia, not ever, even before 1979, even as Iranian women were allowed to continue driving and riding under the Islamic regime in Iran. Including driving taxis and large trucks in some cases. Women still do not drive in Saudi Arabia, but they have been promised.

Friedman mentions the Afghan War after 1979. In fact the first Afghan War, pitting Afghan and Arab Jihadis mainly of the Wahhabi faith against the secular Socialists, was most influential in creating the situation we now face. Al Qaeda and Taliban and even ISIS were all the results of that Afghan war. In Afghanistan, Saudi money, Saudi Wahhabi ideology, and American weapons (under Reagan) created the worldwide Jihadi movement we now suffer. When all the Salafi/Wahabi went back home from Afghanistan and aimed at new targets at home and in the West. We might some day say the same about the foreign-instigated wars in Syria (and Iraq). In fact we are already seeing the consequences. 

Friedman of course is buying and propagating the current Saudi narrative about the roots of Arab Salafi/Wahhabi terrorism. Oddly, only a few years ago he was still blaming the Saudi system for the same phenomenon of terrorism. That Saudi Crown Prince must have been very convincing, or it could be just the easy and flattering access.

Then Friedman went sycophant -ic (access can do that to one): he called the Saudi inner-family struggle “Real Arab Spring”…..

Cheers
M Haider Ghuloum

Iran Nuclear Deal: Is Europe Going Back to its Historic ‘Plan B’ of Appeasing a Bully?……..

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“It looks as though Britain, France, and Germany have decided to appease President Donald Trump to discourage him from withdrawing the United States from the July 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran (the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action or JCPOA). “After meeting with British Prime Minister Theresa May… and Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said they had agreed to set up a working group of experts on fixing flaws in the landmark 2015 agreement that President Trump has warned he will walk away from this spring unless adjustments are made to his liking.” (PBS)….. “France’s foreign minister said on Sunday he would visit Iran on March 5 to discuss its ballistic missile program and the nuclear deal agreed with world powers in 2015.” (Reuters)…. “Germany is lobbying among European allies to agree new sanctions against Iran …………”

So, there are some early signs of fissure. Weak signs so far, but ominous. Are the Europeans, sans Russia, going back on their own commitment to the nuclear deal (JCPOA)? Are they going to unwittingly nickle and dime it to death by chipping away at its credibility? Are they going to yield, gradually, to the new loud-mouth bully in the White House?
Are they falling back on their perennial Plan B  when facing pressure from bullies? Are they going back to their own old pattern of appeasement of bullies who threaten war?

Appeasement eventually leads to what it was hoped to prevent, just as it did in Europe decades ago. The war the Europeans have tried to avoid.

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

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

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

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

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

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

A Dichotomy of Protests: Streets of Iran, NFL Fields……..

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A Dichotomy of Protests:
Kaepernick, Kaepernick, Kaepernick……
NFL, NFL, NFL…..
Iran, Iran, Iran…….
Fire and Fury, Fire and Fury, Fire and Fury…..
Right of Protest and Freedom of Expression…..

(FYI: this political outrage in Washington, it is all about regional rivalry, stupid)

Cheers
M Haider Ghuloum

Donald Trump’s Obama Complex: Creating Fake News, Domestic and Global Chaos, New Muslim Wars……

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Media reports and official statements (General John Kelly) indicate that Kim Jong Un (Trump’s Rocket Man of North Korea) is close to developing a re-entry system for his long-range nuclear delivery missiles.

Donald Trump is studiously avoiding action on this serious potential threat to the West Coast of the United States. He will continue to fight Kim sporadically with words and tweets while he focuses on what he thinks is an easier target, the country that is not seeking nuclear weapons, more significantly the country that has signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, renounced nuclear weapons and does not have them. Iran.

Trump is making daily noises about destroying the international JCPOA deal that keeps Iran from going nuclear. If later today, as widely expected, he declares Iran non-compliant, nobody anywhere in the world will believe him. Not even his own cabinet members and top Pentagon generals. Not even his reprehensible foreign cheerleaders: mainly his co-serial-liar Netanyahu and the usual couple of absolute Arab kings who are urging him to go to war (in exchange for billions of dollars). No doubt he himself does not believe what he says about it. It could be even worse if he actually believed his own ‘facts’. The Iranians are already milking Trump’s noise and threats for all their worth, and it is working in Europe and Asia and in Turkey and several Arab countries.

For Trump this is not so much about Iran or nuclear weapons, not even about Fox News warmongering. It is part of a pattern now: it is all about Barack Obama, about undoing everything that ‘uppity’ black president did while in the White Office.
It is about the birther Trump’s obsession with his Obama Complex.
It might eventually lead to the second time since 2003 that the USA goes to a messy war of choice in the Middle East, based on a self-created lie.

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

Epithets at the UN: Rogue Nations vs. Rogue Politicians…..

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President Trump called Iran a “rogue nation” in his speech to the UN General assembly on Tuesday. This is an American political staple, an epithet US politicians often use for nations that they have disputes with, especially Iran. It implies a high degree of outlaw behavior. Of course most regimes/government commit some outlaw behavior abroad, if they can get away with it. It is all in the eye of the beholder.
Today, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani returned the favor: he called Mr. Trump a “rogue newcomer to world politics“. He also called him ignorant and hateful, unfit to be at the United Nations. He also returned the favor to Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by calling him the leader of a “rogue and racist regime”.


So, now we have a duel of rogue regimes, apparently. But if every government calls its opponents “rogue” regimes, then that means the whole world is composed of rogue regimes….. assuming all have the same degree of credibility….
Nicht war?

Cheers
M Haider Ghuloum