Category Archives: Iran

Humor in Politics: Donald Trump of the Middle East?………

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“Saudi Arabia’s moves against Lebanon seem amateurish. Even if the Lebanese parties wanted to, they could do little to diminish the role of Hizbullah, which acts as a state within the state and also dominates the government. “Saudi Arabia sometimes acts with bombast and violence that makes it look like the Donald Trump of the Arab world,” says Rami Khouri of the American University of Beirut. The result is likely to be that the Saudis lose influence in Lebanon, possibly to Iran………”

The Economist is often wrong about the Middle East, especially if it holds a view different from mine. This time it is quite wrong. Saudi Arabia is not quite a Trump of the Arab world: it is causing much more harm. Trump is not an extremist Wahhabi. Trump is not involved in bombing towns and cities in poor Yemen. Trump is not engaged in unleashing Jihadis terrorists in Iraq, Syria, and other places. Besides, Trump is a humorous person, highly entertaining, unlike Saudi Arabia and its potentates. No sir, it is a rather humorless place, and not only because of their current unsmiling foreign minister, the grim Mr. Al-Jubeir.

Besides, Saudi Arabia is not as much fun to watch as Trump is on the campaign trail. No Arab regime is. No Middle East regime is. In fact most Middle East comedians, not just princes and potentates and leaders, are not as much fun to watch and listen to. Even ex-president Hadi of Yemen issuing meaningless daily executive orders from a Riyadh hotel is not as funny.

Unfortunately, and in fairness, humor is fading away in most of the Middle East (and North Africa), from Iran through Turkey (especially Turkey) and into Egypt all the way to Morocco.
Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

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Rouhani in Europe: Economic Irony, Mullahs as Princes………..

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As I read (and watch) the news, I notice that Iran’s Hassan Rouhani is signing tens of billions of dollars worth of contracts in Europe. It is as if he is some Saudi or Qatari or UAE prince or potentate. I realize that there is an irony here, somewhere (if I can explain it).

The Gulf GCC states are allegedly reportedly presumably perhaps maybe cutting back their purchases in Europe. Mainly non-military and non-security purchases. A result of lower revenues. The Iranians are busy signing new trade deals and purchasing tens of billions of new goods (and services). A result of increased revenues.

Oil revenues of most oil producers, including Gulf GCC, have gone down significantly. Iranian oil revenues are increasing sharply now, because of the lifting of sanctions. So will other non-oil revenues increase now given that their economy is diverse. It is too soon and too absurd to say that the mullahs are the “new” oil princes. Of course t is only like a windfall being used, but is it?
Who would have thunk it only months ago. How long would this trend last? How long could it last? Ich weiss nicht………..

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum
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View from the UAE: Obama the Shi’a and the Jewish Nuclear Deal………

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Our Middle East region has truly gone crazy, sectarian crazy. That is especially true of the Persian Gulf region, which has gone apeshit (forgive mon français) sectarian. I mean people of all sects have gone sectarian, be they Sunni, Shi’a, Wahhabi, Sufi, or Haredim.

A comment on Twitter by Lieutenant General Dhahi Khalfan, the chief of the Dubai Police and a high United Arab Emirates -UAE- official with many followers attracted my attention. He is often clownish, in his deeply sectarian and primitive tribal way. As sectarian and divisive as any full-blooded Wahhabi across the Buraimi Oasis. As sectarian as someone from, say, ISIS or DAESH, can be. He is a serious man: all the nonsense he tweets he does quite seriously and he believes it all. That could be dangerous, but he has potentates above who make the real decisions. He claimed in his tweet, quite seriously, that:
“Obama, whose origins are Shi’a, was elected to move America and Iran closer, especially on the nuclear issue, and he has succeeded”.

He also tweeted that
Jan 18 Dubai, United Arab Emirates

في علم طبائع البشر يدرس الإنسان كيفية درء الخطر وهذا ما فعله بني صهيون في دراسة طبع الإيرانيين. أتوا لهم بشخص جذره شيعي كيني برافو .
“Bani Sahion (Children of Zion), meaning Jews, elevated a Kenyan Shi’a (Obama) to serve their purposes…”

Khalfan did not mention if Obama was born in Kenya or Hawaii to Shi’a parents, so he is not a birther. Just a quasi-Wahhabi nut job that only our Gulf region can produce. Nor did he mention if Mr. Amano, chief of IAEA is also an East Asian Shi’a.

The odd thing, or maybe not so odd, is that many people, including some quite educated people in the Gulf region (and Arabian Peninsula) believe such nonsense. They are beginning to see Shi’as under every bed, so to speak.

On the other hand, who knows: maybe he has a point, maybe it is all true………

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum
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A Dummy’s Haiku Guide to Free Speech in the Gulf Region………..

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Haiku:
About Free Speech…
Can it be free at a price?………..
Tell our leaders…….

So what is this “free speech” that many constitutions claim to allow but few actually do? We covered that partly in the previous post. Now, in the Gulf and GCC states:

  • In Saudi Arabia, evidence shows that free speech is whatever the princes and their media say. It is also anything that does not contradict what the Wahhabi clerical establishment that is allied with the rulers say.
  • The Saudi religious establishment has a short and clear definition of free speech: their interpretation of the Holy Quran and the Hadith, and whatever the ruling princes say. The same applies to the Salafist movements that ape the Saudi system. Also to Al-Qaeda and the temporary Caliphate of ISIS (but without the reference to the princes) .
  • In Qatar, free speech is whatever does not criticize the rulers and insult the Muslim Brotherhood. That includes whatever is said by the official Al-Jazeera network. and by Al-Quds Al-Arabi and other oligarchy-owned media.
  • Bahrain probably has the broadest definition of Free Speech in the whole region. In Bahrain, first of all, Free speech is mainly anything that is not critical of any Saudi prince or any Saudi policy or any Saudi weekend alcohol-guzzling tourist. In addition, free speech is anything that does not criticize the sheikh (sorry, now king), his crown prince, the prime minister of 45 years, minister of interior, foreign minister (and his girth), minister of defense, minister of justice, or any of their other relatives (note: they all carry the same last name). Free speech is also anything that does not mention the imported foreign armed killer mercenaries from Jordan, Pakistan, Syria and other places.
  • In the United Arab Emirates (UAE), free speech is anything that does not criticize the ruling brothers. Free speech is also anything that does not mention the Muslim Brotherhood and anything that does not mention the imported foreign mercenaries led by former Blackwater executives (from Colombia, Australia, South Africa, etc) now fighting in Yemen.
  • Back in Kuwait, there is relatively more free speech than in any other Gulf state. Relatively speaking. For some time, a large sectarian tribal section of the self-styled opposition has tried to define free speech and hence restrict it. The dominant Wahhabi-ized tribal-Salafi-Muslim-Brotherhood strain of the opposition has its own odd definition of free speech. In their case Free Speech is whatever they want to say. Many of these admire either Al-Qaeda or ISIS or Nusra or a combination of the Salafi cutthroats that ravage the Middle East. Some probably actively support these groups. Free Speech to that strain is also whatever the Saudi princes and their Wahhabi clerics and their controlled media opine. Apparently free speech to this group is also remaining silent while the neighboring princes throw thousands of people in prison, both Sunni and Shi’a. Apparently free speech also requires a Wahhabi Saudi-style  Salafi state which the whole opposition members voted to impose and passed in 2012. It would have turned the country into a Taliban theocracy, but it was fortunately vetoed by the executive branch.
  • In Iran, free speech is whatever does not touch the theocracy or the powerful Supreme Leader or the powerful Revolutionary Guard (IRGC) negatively . Or contradicts publicly what the ‘mainstream’ clerics opine. You can probably get away with public criticism of Hassan Rouhani or Zarif, but that is it. Now remember: if you stand in the Middle of Tehran and sing “God Bless America“, that would NOT be considered free speech. But the same applies if you do it in Riyadh.
  • Fact is (usually I hate starting a sentence with “fact is”): in the whole Persian-American Gulf region, the only true absolutely Free Speech can probably be found on board the U.S Navy ships. And on some foreign military bases.

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum
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Of Chopped Heads and a Stoned Embassy: the Iranians Help the Saudis………

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The Iranians, some of the clerics and their followers, have a knack for shooting themselves in the foot. They did it again last week, in the aftermath of a gruesome Saudi festival of executions of 47 people by beheading in one day. Just as the world was building up outrage at the judiciously suspect mass killings, the Iranians misjudged and helped the Saudis change the subject.
The Iranians have done it again. They reminded the world, and especially the American people and media, of that “other” embassy attack in 1979. “Some” groups attacked the Saudi embassy in Tehran last week, thus rightly creating outrage among the diplomatic classes across the world.
By allowing it to happen, the Iranians helped change the subject. World media, especially in the USA, have forgotten that 47 people were beheaded by the Saudis on New Year’s Day. They have focused, with a lot of help from Washington lobbyists and special interests, on the embassy in Tehran and on the execution of Sheikh Nimr Al Nimr.

A mass execution of 47 is now being headlined as the execution of one Shi’a cleric. As I said, some in Iran are quite good at helping their sectarian Wahhabi enemies change the subject.
Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

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The Strange Turkish Russian Iranian Syrian Oil and Pistachio Deals with DAESH…….

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When news seeped out about ISIS/DAESH selling and exporting oil over a year ago, I suspected a Turkish connection, even though Western and Saudi/Qatari media claimed there were deals between ISIS and the Assad regime. After all, the weapons, volunteers, and possibly much of the money for the Jihadis in Syria flowed through the long Turkish border. And ISIS/DAESH controls areas along the border.  And there have been credible reports of cooperation between Turkish military and intelligence and the Jihadists in Syria. These days, when a terrorist or accomplices escape from a European country, they head for Turkey: that is the trailhead to lands controlled by ISIS.
Now the Russians have come out and said it openly, with claims of documentation. Iranian media have also carried and seemed to support the Russia claim.
The Turks could not be original, so what did they do? A day or two later they made their own claim of Russian-ISIS oil deals. I didn’t know Russian needed Syrian or Iraqi oil.
Wait, there is more. To make matters more entertaining, there are now reports on the social media of Turkish claims that Iranians also made oil deals with ISIS/DAESH. Tit-for-tat, since the Iranians seemed to support the earlier Russian claims. I didn’t know that the Iranians also needed Syrian or Iraqi oil. I had thought they spent the past few years trying to sell more of their own oil, not buy foreign oil from their Wahhabi enemies.
What next? Turkish claims of Iranian deals to buy Aleppo pistachios from ISIS? Iranian claims of Saudi oil deals with ISIS? Qatari claims that the Bahrain regime imports some of its nasty interrogators from ISIS? Oh, wait……….
Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

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Crude Oil Prices and Legitimacy in a Tribal Oligarchy………

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Several years ago, after one of Iraq’s convoluted elections, more foreign Arab Jihadis were flowing into that country, killing and maiming civilians, especially those of the Shi’a denomination. So did Wahhabi and Salafi money and weapons flow into Iraq, which was seen by the Wahhabis and their royal tribal potentates to have been “usurped” by the wrong people.

Some Saudi spokesmen, one of them worked at the time for the ambassador/prince/kleptocrat in Washington (he later moved on to Harvard), issued dire warnings, nay threats, via the Washington Post. They warned that they can roll back the growing Iranian influence in Iraq by destroying the Iranian (and presumably the Iraqi) economy. The method suggested was by flooding the world market with crude oil. At that time oil prices were high and Persian Gulf producers’ treasuries were flush with surplus cash. I wrote at the time on this site pointing out that the Saudi economy could not afford a sustained increase in crude production and lower prices.

They did not listen to me. In the past couple of years the princes took up the wrong advice: they started a deliberate policy of lowering crude oil prices, aimed at crushing the besieged Iranian economy and weakening the Russian economy (both allies of the Syrian regime, both supporters of Iraq). Like everybody else, they used oil as a political weapon. They probably also had the additional aim of weakening the shale industry in North America. Saudi production of crude oil increased and prices plummeted to much lower levels than they had expected (much lower than most observers expected).

They all waited with baited breath for the low price and the long Western economic blockade to bring the Iranian economy to its knees, for the Iranian Ayatollah to call the Saudi king and cry “uncle”. For Brig. Qassem Suleimani to be sent packing home and maybe for Iraq to be handed back to the former Baathists. Neither happened, but there is now an economic backlash, and possibly a political backlash brewing in the kingdom of no legal breweries.
The Saudi foreign exchange reserves are being depleted and they have now been forced to cut domestic spending (the princes still keep their cut of the oil revenues). Most Saudi citizens work for the state, in effect they are employed by the princes. There are no elections that would legitimize anyone in Saudi Arabia: so, money and patronage are the price of continued absolute one-family tribal rule. With revenues plummeting and foreign reserves being depleted, the main tool of legitimizing the avaricious ruling family has weakened for the second time since the 1990s.
Of course the security services are as strong as ever, in fact they are stronger than ever. That is how the princes have stimulated the economy: by hiring  tens of thousands of tribal members for the security services. The tame Wahhabi clerical establishment also toes the line and tries to do its part.

Now the Saudis face their second inevitable defeat in their adventure in Yemen (sooner or later). As the new quagmire in Yemen continues, with Saudi warplanes daily bombing civilian and other targets, the Western powers turn a blind eye to human rights violations as they compete to sell more weapons. The cost of the war also goes up: using and servicing and replacing state-of-the-art Western weapons is very costly. But it is one way of recycling the dwindling oil revenues and jiggling the balance of trade with the large industrial countries.

Tightening the belt may be wise economic policy, but it reduces the “legitimacy” of the ruling princes in the eyes of the tribes and many other citizens.

Expect more domestic trouble in the Arabian landmass that stretches north of Yemen and extends to humorless Jordan and western Iraq.

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum                          Follow ArabiaDeserta on Twitter

The Iranian Genesis of Wahhabi ISIS, the Baathist Roots of Salafi DAESH………..

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This week is the 35th commemorative of a watershed event that is still shaping the Middle East. Baathist Iraq under Saddam Hussein, worried about the message of the new Khomeini revolution, saw an opportunity and invaded Iran, which was weakened by continued revolutionary turmoil and internal divisions. That war did not turn out as expected, and its consequences are still unfolding in our region:

  • Saddam Hussein started the Iran-Iraq war this week in 1980. That war lasted eight years (1980-1988) and split the Arab world into those who supported the Baathist invasion (mainly some in the Gulf region) and those who opposed it (mainly Syria, Libya, Algeria, and some Palestinian groups).
  • That war did not achieve any of the declared goals set by Saddam, but it led to the bankruptcy of Iraq. I opined at an event at KISR after the war that Iraq went from a healthy supply of foreign exchange reserves before the war to a total net foreign debt that well exceeded US $100 billion (for obvious reasons I don’t have my exact original estimates now).
  • Which led a desperate Saddam to invade Kuwait in 1990 in order to plunder its wealth. That invasion led to what Americans call the “Persian Gulf War” of 1990/91. The Baathists were defeated and blockaded and kept within Iraq.
  • After the September 11 Wahhabi terrorist attacks in the USA, the Bush-ies refocused on Iraq (although not a single Iraqi was involved in that mainly-Saudi attack). It was followed by the American-led invasion of Iraq in 2003. Later the results of the first Iraqi elections created a worsening of the sectarian tensions in the Arab world. Al Qaeda and the Wahhabi terrorists entered into Iraq in force, backed by outside Arab financing.
  • Eventually, as the Arab uprisings of the Spring of 2011 spread eastward toward the Gulf, a local Iraqi branch of Al Qaeda morphed into ISIS (ISIL, DAESH), an alliance dominated by foreign Arab Salafi Jihadis and former Baathist henchmen of Saddam.
  • The intervention of foreign Arabs, including some regimes, and the growth of local militias of both Muslim sects, have had a lot to do with the bloody sectarian turn of events across the region.
  • ISIS or DAESH now controls large parts of Iraq and Syria, mostly through sectarian exhortation and a medieval-style bloody reign of terror. It has been largely supported by the flow of foreign money and weapons facilitated through Turkey.
  • Some of those Arab potentates who helped create ISIS or DAESH are now feeling the heat and claiming to be fighting to destroy it. But apparently not seriously enough, NOT in Syria or Iraq.
  • The consequences of that fateful decision of September 1980 are still unfolding across the region. The beat goes on………..

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum Follow ArabiaDeserta on Twitter

Historical Hints of the Magi: Was Zarathustra Sagte……….

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“Zoroastrianism is one of the world’s oldest monotheistic religions. It was founded by the Prophet Zoroaster (or Zarathustra) in ancient Iran approximately 3500 years ago. For 1000 years Zoroastrianism was one of the most powerful religions in the world. It was the official religion of Persia (Iran) from 600 BCE to 650 CE. It is now one of the world’s smallest religions………… Zoroastrians believe there is one God called Ahura Mazda (Wise Lord) and He created the world. Zoroastrians are not fire-worshippers, as some Westerners wrongly believe. Zoroastrians believe that the elements are pure and that fire represents God’s light or wisdom. Ahura Mazda revealed the truth through the Prophet, Zoroaster. Zoroastrians traditionally pray several times a day. Zoroastrians worship communally in a Fire Temple or Agiary. The Zoroastrian book of Holy Scriptures is called The Avesta…………….”

Arabs traditionally called them Majous (as in the Westernized Magi), probably after their priests, especially in the early years of the Muslim conquest. The conversion to Islam started under the second Caliph Omar I whose dedicated free-spirited desert fighters defeated the Sassanid (or Sasanian) dynasty surprisingly easily.
Because of their traditional symbolic fire rituals, Arabs and others have simplistically held throughout history that Zoroastrians were “fire worshippers”. That is equivalent to claiming Catholics worship statues or gargoyles (as in Notre Dame de Paris and other places).

During periods of regional political tension some Arabs, usually Salafi extremists on the Gulf, still call all Iranians, even the Muslims among them, Majous. They are a recognized but historically discouraged religion in theocratic Iran, and like Jews they hold one seat in Parliament. Nowadays especially the term is used quite frequently politically in Salafi ethnic propaganda campaigns and in social media, sometimes referring also to Shi’as, including many Arab Shi’as who don’t even speak Persian. Overlooking the fact that pre-Islamic Peninsula Arabs were mostly free pagans who worshiped chosen idols, and that ancient Egyptians worshiped their incestuous kings (Pharaohs) who usually married their own sisters.

Some aspects of their ancient religion are intriguing:
It is monotheistic (one supreme God-creator; one symbolic evil) – they worship several times a day – they have a book of Holy Scriptures (Avesta) – their God conveyed the truth to an ethnic Prophet (Zoroaster or Zarathustra), who was Persian rather than the usual Semite (Jewish or Arab)……..
Hint, hint, hint…………

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum                          Follow ArabiaDeserta on Twitter
m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

Prince Turki as a Nuclear Flying Dutchman: Is he Aiming to Learn Persian?………..

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““Whatever the Iranians have, we will have, too,” Prince Turki al-Faisal, the former Saudi intelligence chief, warned at a conference in South Korea last month. Under the emerging deal, instead of ending Iran’s nuclear program outright, Tehran might be allowed to keep up to 5,000 centrifuges to produce nuclear fuel for energy and medical purposes. Saudi Arabia’s leaders are fixated on containing Iranian power throughout the Middle East, whether real or perceived. The Saudis worry that, once economic sanctions are lifted under a nuclear deal, Iran would gain access to tens of billions of dollars in frozen funds and new oil revenue…………”

The Prince stated something that does not need to be stated, almost inane: “Whatever the Iranians have, we will have, too,”
Iranians also speak Persian: does this mean the Al Saud plan to all learn the Persian language? Anyway, a sovereign country can do whatever it wants at home. Which is exactly what the ruling mullahs of Iran have been saying (or claiming, if you prefer).

As I and others have posted and wisely opined, there is more to it. The Saudi princes want to keep their financial near-monopoly in the Middle East, while starving their neighbors. They feel entitled to keep their potential rivals (mainly Iran and possibly also Iraq) economically weak, and they want the Western powers to help them do it. It is a legitimate power play for the very short term, but it doesn’t work beyond that. You can’t starve national interest and sovereignty and scientific knowledge out of a society.

Of course nobody is stopping the Saudis from developing their own peaceful nuclear program, so there is no need for this Flying Dutchman Prince Turki to perpetually circumnavigate the world screaming about it. The prince is now competing on this issue with his alleged ally Netanyahu, and he sounds as stale: an alliance of convenience between the ultimate anti-semites and the Israelis.
Just do it: you can print it on a new T-shirt. Pull down your universities and colleges, restructure than away from all the Salafi Shariah “stuff” and focus on science.

If not, they can always buy a program, they are good at buying wars and Western weapons and Jihadis for Syria and terrorists for Iraq. It is all apparently legitimate……..

Nuclear Inscrutable Iranians, PrinceTurki as a Nuclear Wandering Semite………     

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum                          Follow ArabiaDeserta on Twitter
m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com