Category Archives: Iran

Trump Middle East Policy Confusion: America First? New Muslim Wars First?…….

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The slogan America First implies focusing on internal US affairs: the economy, trade, infrastructure, even immigration.
Yet the Trump administration is already being pulled into a new morass in the Middle East (the Muslim World in case you didn’t know). It is falling for the trap of an Iranian missile test that is apparently unrelated to the Nuclear Deal (JCPOA). Perhaps it is a test by the mullahs of a new administration that is already shooting itself in the foot in domestic matters (healthcare, immigration). The new alleged ballistic missile test, which at least Russia and China certainly consider unrelated to the Nuclear Deal, came quickly after reports of a phone call between Trump and the Saudi King that mentioned containing Iran.
The Iranians most likely look on their ballistic missiles as defensive weapons, since hey don’t have the threatening Western-made sophisticated warplanes that their potential regional enemies have. Part of their deterrence that would prevent a repeat of an attack similar to the Iraqi Baathist invasion of their country.

Or maybe the mullahs in Tehran were giving Mr. Trump and Netanyahu something to discuss when they meet next month. The latter would be eager to sell Trump the snake-oil of another Muslim war/quagmire that neither Bush (W) nor Barack Obama would buy from him. The Trump administration probably won’t get far in the UN Security Council: even the European allies may oppose them. New President Trump has no reservoir of goodwill in Western Europe, or in most of the world, to draw on. He never had any beyond his own base and his own party.

In fairness, the Trump administration apparently have discarded the silly notion of “tearing up” the Nuclear Deal. It is not really a “piece of paper” as experienced right-wing hawks like John Bolton still think. They now seem to realize that it can’t be undone beyond campaign rhetoric.

In response to reports of the recent Iranian missile test, the White House NSC issued a tough statement mainly attacking Barack Obama for it (Obama, not the UN). A very retro reaction. Expect a Trump tweet to follow soon. Also expect more muscle-flexing in the Persian-American Gulf region by both sides, something even allied regional governments worry about.

Cheers
M. Haider Ghuloum

A Banana Republic? USA as Portrayed by Some Americans and One Israeli Hustler…….

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KuwaitCox2 Hiking

“President-elect Donald Trump will be a good friend to Israel and hopefully the two countries can work together to dismantle the international nuclear agreement with Iran, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in an interview Sunday. While the two countries are close allies, relations were sometimes tense between Netanyahu and President Barack Obama because of their vastly different world views on the Iran deal and other issues………”

There is something eerily Banana Republic-ish about the way the USA is being portrayed in the media these days. As portrayed by US media, some US politicians, and also by foreign hustlers like Benyamin Netanyahu of Israel.

American media and many among the political classes talk of Russians influencing the 2016 presidential election. Hacking the DNC and RNC and somehow influencing the election results (no explanation yet as to how hacking leads to influencing). A lengthy investigation is pending.

Enter Benyamin Netanyahu, the super-opportunistic right-wing prime minister of Israel. He is publicly and loudly offering to “help” the president-elect Donald trump handle the cancellation of the Iran Nuclear Deal (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action,or JCPOA). An agreement signed on by Iran and the Rest of the World, including the UN and European Union. Mr. Netanyahu knows a thing or two about breaking treaties and agreements (you can ask Barack Obama, John Kerry, Hillary Clinton, Nicolas Sarkozy, and many other world leaders and international bureaucrats about that).

Thus Netanyahu is setting the stage for what he has wanted for years now: to get America embroiled in another endless Muslim war. A war of choice that is not related to American homeland defense. Yet another of what some critics have been calling stupid wars in Muslim lands.

To complicate matters, reports have announced yesterday (Sunday) an agreement between Iran and Boeing to purchase jetliners for US$ 16.7 billion. Unless Sheldon Adelson and John Bolton can replace the Iranian order with their own. No matter, the US Congress of both houses and both parties is beholden, and often forgets national interests when it comes to campaign money……….
Cheers

M Haider Ghuloum

Muslim Wars: Mufti Condemns Iranians and Catholics as Descendants of the Magi…….

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KuwaitCox2 Hiking


The name-calling between the regimes in Riyadh and Tehran has escalated. It has also spread to large segments of the populations of the two countries.

The Saudi Mufti has recently declared or fatwad (again) that Iranians (and almost certainly Arab and other Shi’as) are not Muslims, that they are enemies of Islam. The Mufti, like most good Wahhabis and Salafis, has called Iranian Muslims “Majus“, meaning the Magi. (It will be a shock to many in the West that the term “Magi” can be considered derogatory by anybody. He is referring to the ancient Zoroastrian faith of ancient Persia, before the spread of Islam).
To many Wahhabis, and some other modern Arab, er, thinkers(?), these are considered “fire warshipers” because some of their rites involve using fire. This is equivalent to calling Catholics “candle worshipers” because they light and use candles in their churches. It reflects a shallow and often deliberate attempt to insult and distort the history of “others”.

Some Iranians and other Shi’as have pointed out that the Peninsula tribal Arabs who are now ruled by the Al Saud and their palace muftis were in pre-Islamic times worshipers of idols, many little statues that occupied the Kaaba at Mecca. That the ancient Egyptians used to worship their kings, the pharaohs who married their own sisters, until the Persian conquest about twenty-five centuries ago. That in the Levant they worshiped Baal and Astarte and others

No doubt the Mufti and most Wahhabi Salafis believe that all Shi’as are not Muslims, including a majority of Iranians, Iraqis, Lebanese, Bahrainis, Azerbaijanis, as well as tens of millions in other countries like Turkey and Pakistan.

The Wahhabis have always used the Iranians’ ancient empire and culture as an indication of the aspirations of the current theocratic regime in Tehran. That is also part of the Salafi war on everything that is ancient and predates Islam. In fact, even early Islamic monuments and historic sites have been destroyed in Saudi Arabia as idolatry (as they are under ISIS) .

The Iranian mullahs have retaliated by Ayatollah Khamenei calling for the Holy Places to be placed in other non-Saudi hands. An unrealistic proposal that is politically and emotionally motivated.  Some mullahs were reported to have now created a newer category of their favorite epithet “Satan”. Perhaps calling the Saudis a “smaller Satan”. We all know whom they name the two bigger Satans.

So, the war of words goes on. As do the wars of proxies in Syria, Yemen, Iraq, and Lebanon. And in other Muslim and non-Muslim lands.

Some Arab media now report that the Mufti Shaikh Al Shaikh is being eased out of his job as a result of his latest sectarian tirade. This would be an unusual development since he is a direct descendant of Mohammad Bin AbdulWahhab, after whom the Wahhabi sect was named. They have been co-rulers with the Al Saud family for along time.
Some radical Wahhabi elements among the exiled Saudi opposition have been claiming for some time now that the new regime of King Salman & Son are trying to ease Wahhabism out of mainstream Saudi life, pushing the Saudi state away from its traditional theocracy.
That would be an improvement, but only a small step.

Cheers

M.H.Ghuloum

 

Gulf of Confusion: from Religious Police to a Commission for Entertainment……

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KuwaitCox2 Me1 (2)

Saudi Commission for Propagation of Virtue and Prevention of Vice has been notorious for restricting all kinds of freedoms. Especially the freedom to have fun, be it innocent or not. I have taken to calling it Propagation of Vice.
Now there is a new Saudi “commission”: the Commission for Entertainment ( in the least entertaining city in the least entertaining country in the whole wide world). Allegedly the idea of the young influential son of King Salman. This could have been inspired by a step taken months ago by the UAE government to improve the state of ‘happiness’, so long as it does not involve the freedom of expression. The Saudi opposition (in exile of course) claim that the UAE potentates have a lot of influence over the new Saudi Deputy Crown Prince (MBS).

The UAE established a Ministry of Happiness. Sounds like a good idea to me. It sounds like something that defies irony, perhaps something from North Korea. But it is the thought, the intention that counts, and it seems to be good.

Could the Society for Islamic Heritage Revival back home, the intolerant Salafi group designated a terrorist supporter by UN, change its name to Society for Revival of Islamic Joy and Tolerance? Could the local Muslim Brotherhood become a Brotherhood of Joy?

Or maybe the Wahhabis are softening, becoming gentler. Maybe they want to keep up with the mullahs next door in Iran who permit street music, as this photo of urban entertainment in Iran shows:

IranStreetMusic

Don’t get me wrong. I believe these are all steps in the right direction. Long overdue, but better late than never.

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

Arab Royalty: King of Humorless Jordan hits Pay Dirt………

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KuwaitCox2     Me1 (2)

Saudi Crown Prince to the Crown Prince has been busy. (I would call him Deputy Crown Prince except that he is more powerful than the Crown Prince since his father is the king). It is nice getting a title for just being born, no?
Anyway, this Prince Mohammed Bin Salman visited the King of humorless Jordan last week. Within a couple of days the humorless King Abdullah announced that Jordan was recalling its ambassador from Tehran. There has been no incident between the Iranians and Jordan in recent years, not since King Hussein sided with Saddam Hussein in his war against Iran in 1980 and his invasion of Kuwait in 1990.

Which is odd, given that no explanation has been forthcoming. This Jordanian king is normally level-headed.
Which means only one thing: how much did King Abdullah of the humorless Jordanians get from the Saudi family for this unexpected diplomatic move? Did the money go to the country of Jordan or did much of it enter some private bank account of the King of Jordan?
Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

Islands Afloat: Lebensraum from the Persian Gulf to the Red Sea……..

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KuwaitCox2

Speaking of Al Sisi selling two strategic Egyptian islands in the Red Sea to the Saudi ruling family (my previous post).

I must add that Generalissimo Field Marshal President Al Sisi got a better deal, financially speaking, than the potentates of what is now the UAE did a few decades ago. Rather better than some rulers of the Gulf (emirates) Sheikhdoms in 1970. At that time, many of the smaller sheikhdoms of what was called Sahel Oman (Omani Coast) on the Persian Gulf had no oil fields, and they needed cash. They usually sold colorful stamps, passports, as well as their share of the rights to some of the islands in the Persian Gulf.

That was before the United Arab Emirates (UAE) was created to join all these small tribal neighborhoods. Through a deal brokered by the British overlords of the Arab side of the Gulf, the Shah of Iran paid a few million dollars for the deal to “get the islands back”, according to the Iranians. The islands are near the Strait of Hormuz. Actually the agreement was for “joint administration” of Abu Moussa. The Iranians claim the British took the islands in 1921 and put them under the jurisdiction of the sheikh of Sharjah, which was part of the British Empire. They also claim the Qasismi ruling sheikhs were at one time living on the Persian shores of the Gulf, and hence were Iranian subjects.Another convoluted complication.

Now the UAE leaders, who were not part to the deal since the UAE did not exist in 1970, would like to re-purchase the islands from Iran. Not sure why they want the islands since they have had to import 6 million foreigners to populate their own country on the mainland. It is not like they need Lebensraum.

In short: both sides in the Gulf are using any argument, whether it makes sense or not to support its case. Nobody seems in a mood to share the islands anymore: that would be too sensible for the Middle East mindset. History has been telling us this for at least 70 years.

Anyway, all this is history, but some sheikhs in the smaller Emirates of the UAE are now kicking themselves for not knowing at the time that they had so much oil under their privies and outhouses. Right under where their pet goats dropped their pellets. (FYI: I had pet goats as a kid, as well as pet birds. We also had chickens but I ate my pet eggs whenever I could).
Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

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

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KuwaitCox2

“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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