Category Archives: MENA

Mother of All Persian Gulf Miscalculations: Petulant Princes and the Ultimatum that Failed……..

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” Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries that have cut ties to Qatar issued a steep list of demands Thursday to end the crisis, insisting that their Persian Gulf neighbor shutter Al-Jazeera, cut back diplomatic ties to Iran and sever all ties with the Muslim Brotherhood.
In a 13-point list — presented to the Qataris by Kuwait, which is helping mediate the crisis — the countries also demand an end to Turkey’s military presence in Qatar. The Associated Press obtained a copy of the list in Arabic from one of the countries involved in the dispute…….— Immediately terminate the Turkish military presence currently in Qatar and end any joint military cooperation with Turkey inside of Qatar…… If Qatar agrees to comply, the list asserts that it will be audited once a month for the first year, and then once per quarter in the second year after it takes effect. For the following 10 years, Qatar would be monitored annually for compliance……” AP

The princes and potentates along the Persian Gulf region are rarely original. But it seems that on the occasions when they do show some originality, they can be breathtakingly so.

All these countries have foreign military bases on their territories, which is fine. The UAE has several bases on its land: American, British, French, and allegedly imported mercenary forces organized by Blackwater (later renamed Xe then Academi). Bahrain has American, British, and Saudi bases, plus thousands of Jordanian and former Arab Baathist and Asian mercenaries, so far. The Saudis have American ‘bases’ coordinating the war on Yemen, possibly British as well, as well as reportedly humorless Jordanians and other foreign military personnel. Yet they demand that Qatar end the small Turkish military presence of Caliph Erdogan. No mention of the huge US Central Command base at Al Eidid.

The brotherly, or is it sisterly, princes also want Qatar to reduce ties with Iran, yet the UAE is reportedly the main regional trading partner of Iran. Dubai’s ties with Iran precede the rule of the mullahs in Tehran and precedes the creation of the UAE. And Oman has historical and growing trade ties with Iran. Kuwait is normally neutral in disputes among Gulf GCC potentates, and it has normal ties with Iran. Yet the focus is on Qatar, or perhaps Qatar is the first target, with others to follow.

Yet Qatar is also almost umbilically tied to Iran: it shares a huge offshore natural gas field with Iran in the Persian Gulf, and that is something that cannot be broken. Besides, Iran has been on the Persian Gulf since the early Aryan invasions/migrations from the north many thousands of years ago. Long before Bush, Obama, and Trump showed up. Long before Percy Cox and Gertrude Bell and T.E Lawrence showed up. Ironically, the Emirates Airlines (UAE) flights from the United States cross the whole of Iran, over Tehran, to land in Dubai. Yet these petulant potentates have a blockade against the Qatar Airlines, banning it from their airspace.

The oddest demand is supposed to be an imitation of the IAEA nuclear task as part of the Iran Nuclear Deal with the world powers (JCPOA): they want Qatar periodically monitored for compliance with the demands of these silly princes and potentates. Can’t Arab leaders ever be original? Apparently only when they go beyond reason and into the realm of absurdity.


My conclusion? the Saudi-UAE siege of Qatar seems to have failed. Another failure to be added to their adventures in Syria, Yemen, and Lebanon. Only their huge investment in General Al Sisi seems to have paid off for now, but Egypt is now a monumentally unstable war-torn mess. In Egypt it is like this: they broke it, and now they own it.

They probably thought surprise tough measures combined with hints of military action and attempted internal coup would bring the troublesome Qatari rulers down. That combined with some vague supportive comments from the new Muslim Caliph Donald Trump, a hardly reliable advocate of complex policies. They did not. The ruling princes and potentates of the Gulf have miscalculated, again.

Let us hope these petulant princes don’t keep misreading Donald Trump or James Mattis and make the Mother of All Miscalculations, plunging the region into another war, this time the Mother of All Persian Gulf Wars.

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

Men Playing with Balls in Riyadh and Scandinavia: an Arab Ball? an American Ball? a Nordic Ball……

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During the Saudi-American Summit in Riyadh, President Trump, King Salman, and Generalissimo Sisi had some fun playing with their ball, or rather with one of their balls. Okay, playing with someone’s mysterious ball.

It was an eerie fluorescent white ball, made eerier by the three grown men fondling it for benefit of the cameras. I assume it was a Saudi ball, some Saudi’s ball, since it as hosted in Riyadh. Unless it was Trump’s, that he had donated one of his balls for that occasion of sorcery and witchcraft and magic.

Sorcery, witchcraft, and magic are activities that are punishable with death by beheading in Saudi Arabia. But anyone can play with their own ball as much as they want, apparently they can also play with someone else’s ball, provided it is done with consent.

          

That photo elicited reactions from all over the world. But some European reaction was the most succinct. The leaders of the five Nordic countries, decided to do their own show of sorcery, magic, and witchcraft. The leaders of Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland, and Iceland chose a better and more open setting, near some body of water, rather than in a dark room full of Wahhabi zealots. And they chose a colorful ball. Not sure whose ball it was, but could be any among the five leaders. Any four among the participating leaders.

And the Scandinavians looked more cheerful about it: the ball looks, shall we say, livelier. The Trump-Salman-Sisi ball-fondling looked like a grim affair, as expected. In spite of the dimmed lights.

In case you were interested…..

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

Trump as the Sixth Pillar of Wahhabi Islam? Sisters of the Faithful……..

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At the Riyadh Wahhabi-American Summit, it looked like the princes and potentates were ready to change the basic tenets of Islam to appease the man who has made Islamophobia more acceptable in America. Their new American Idol, Donald J Trump.


Islam has five pillars that define a Muslim (all Muslims be they Sunni, Shi’a, or Wahhabi):

  • Shahada, Assertion, that Allah is the One God and that Mohammed is his Prophet.
  • Donating the Zakat (Alms) for the poor and needy. (I can almost hear American Republicans groaning).
  • Fasting the Holy Month of Ramadan (no food, drink, lies, and sex: from dawn to dusk).
  • Five daily prayers facing Mecca (originally Muslims prayed while facing Jerusalem, until they conquered the Prophet’s hometown and disposed of the idols).
  • Making the Hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca/Madinah. But this last one is not completely mandatory: it is only for “those who are able and can afford it”.

Now there may have been a subtle change, given the Wahhabi festival last week celebrating Donald Trump and his clan at the Summit in the Saudi capital of Riyadh.

Trump was treated like more than a new Caliph, more like a combination Caliph and Angel. The Saudi princes’ generosity with their people’s money and their controlled media saw to that. Trump’s wife and daughter, the only women at the various meetings and parties, were almost elevated by the Wahhabis to the rank of “Sisters of the Faithful” (in Arabic: اخوات المؤمنين ).

Not necessarily bad in itself, if Donald himself wasn’t around to bask in the glory and to believe what they said about him. Melania and Ivanka: as Catholic and Jewish ‘Sisters of the Faithful’. It is not the first time in the history of Islam. But Donald Trump is the first of his kind in the history of the American Republic.

In Riyadh, his eyes were so focused on the money, hundreds of billions of petro-money, that he may have unwittingly handed America’s foreign policy, and her future wars in the Middle East and the Persian Gulf to a bunch of incompetent, corrupt, and greedy princes.

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

Riyadh Summit Mystery: Two Exotic American Women at Muslim Stag Party, but What Happened to All Saudi Women?……..

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Where are the Saudi women?

Here are First Lady Melania Trump and Ivanka Trump in the middle of hundreds, nay thousands, of Muslim Arab men, mostly Wahhabis. And not a single other Saudi woman. Not at the airport, not anywhere else within sight. You’d think it is a huge stag party and the two American women are the exotic performers.
One rare independent Arab media that is not Saudi-controlled headlined, no doubt jokingly from the safety of London: Ivanka praises Saudi progress in Women Rights. But nary a Saudi woman anywhere around.


Which reminds me of a shocking fact of the Riyadh Summit ignored by Western, especially American, media. Where are the Saudi women? There has been not a single Saudi woman during the whole process. None of the King’s or the princes’ wives showed up at the airport to greet Melania and Ivanka. None was present at the meetings, nor at the so-called Arab-Islamic-American summit.


What happened? Did the Saudis hide and lock up all their women in the cellars? Or did they have them all chained and handcuffed to their respective beds?

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

Trump’s Jizya (جزية ترامب ) : First American Emperor of Arabia, First Orange Caliph of Sunni Muslims……..

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Jizya is a term used from the early days of Islam, more than 1400 years ago. It was a form of added tax that non-Muslims paid the Muslim ruler in ancient times. It also meant money paid by weaker neighboring infidel sovereigns to the Islamic Caliphate as a substitute for a ghazwa, or an invasion. A form of tax, or even ransom.

Yesterday, U.S. President Donald Trump got paid a huge Jizya by the Saudi monarchy. Some claim it is to the tune of $460 billion over a period of ten years. More than half the total current value of the Saudi Sovereign Fund which is supposed to make up for future depletion of oil reserves. Much of this money is for the purchase of more weapons and their service contracts, almost certainly including American technical operations and maybe even aiming and launching. So much weaponry for a country with about 16 million citizens (plus about 10 million imported temporary foreign laborers and housemaids and/or quasi-slaves).

No doubt, Mr. Trump (and his family) seem to have made out like a bandit, or should I say he made out like a Saudi prince? The devil, however, is in the details. Just what adventure, if any, has he committed the United States to undertaking. What new war in the Muslim lands, especially in the Persian Gulf have they talked him into promising?

If the Saudi princes are foolish enough to want to repeat their failed Yemeni adventure on a much larger scale in the Persian Gulf. They will no doubt fail again, and more spectacularly so: that has been their record. Then will Trump and his inexperienced foreign policy minions get into another Gulf War to save the princes from their own folly? Another endless war? As they seem to be planning for Yemen now?

Donald, Melania, and Ivanka seem to have conquered the elites of Riyadh, as well as the extremely controlled Saudi media. No wonder, the odds were in their favor, with no Saudi women within sight. They will come home laden with gifts that rightfully belong to the poor of Saudi Arabia (yes, there are many poor people and poor places, shockingly many, that the media cameras did not cover).

So the Arab world now has its first American emperor.  The Sunni Muslim world now has its first orange non-Muslim Caliph. Congratulations to both.

FYI: Many religious Muslims, including many of the Wahhabi sect of Saudi Arabia (the same sect of Al Qaeda and ISIS) will treat this as a new Crusade by what they call infidels. Secular Arabs and Muslims will consider Trump’s new anointment as a return of the old European imperialism of past centuries.

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

A Farce in Riyadh: Can Trump’s Greed Buy the Princes a Gulf Sectarian War that Bush and Obama Rejected?……

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There will be another farce going on in Riyadh this weekend…..

Saudi Arabia has mostly given up on the Arab World. They have tried over the past few years to form various military (and political) alliances with different Arab states, to no avail. They almost always fail, even with the billions of dollars offered to those willing to take the bait.

Even the murderous dictator of Sudan, the  criminal Omar Al Bashir (wanted by ICC), had reportedly pulled out of his participation in the Yemen war, although he is now sending mercenaries again to South Yemen, for a nominal fee. The Pakistanis have refused the invitation to send troops to fight Saudi wars, as have the Egyptians. The Turks of Caliph Erdogan are the least reliable ally for anyone: they play all sides against each other, be they Saudis, Iranians, Russians, Americans, Europeans, etc. Erdogan fancies himself the heir of the Ottoman Caliphis, therefore the true leader of the Arabs. The oligarchs of Malaysia pocket the Saudi money but no troops are forthcoming. Ditto for Indonesia. The humorless King of humorless Jordan pockets the sparse Saudi money but awaits the American initiative (he knows his fellow Arab potentates are unreliable at best).

The princes have tried various iterations of an Arab alliance, an Islamic alliance, a combination of both. To no avail. Nobody wants to send their soldiers to fight in the quagmires of Yemen or Syria. Only stupid Westerners might do it, an only in the name of terrorism (and maybe the Americans in the name of reining in the Iranians). Greed also helps a lot.


So the Saudis think they may have found a way now: get America to lead a sectarian Sunni coalition to do their bidding in the Middle East and specifically in the Persian Gulf region. They realize American leaders, even Trump, may have more credibility than their princes. Mainly it would be Saudi/UAE money backing one or two more wars fought by America’s boys and girls in foreign lands. That approach was tries before and rejected under George W Bush and Barack Obama (both were much smarter than Mr. Trump).

This time the princes think they have found the American weak point: greed is the word. They think the new man in the White House is an uber capitalist, and like them he is defined mainly by GREED.
So since most Muslim and Arab leaders reject direct Saudi leadership, they can now do it through American leadership. Get the man who made Islamophobia and Arabphobia mainstream in America to lead an Islamic and Arab alliance, a sectarian alliance that serves the goals of the absolute tribal kings and princes.

But he fact is this: all Saudi deals and alliances aimed at reshaping the Middle East have failed in the past. This one will also fail. The handful of princes and dictators who will kiss Mr. Trump’s ring in Riyadh this weekend do not represent most Arabs and Muslims. They do not represent many Arabs and Muslims. They represent a very small minority.

So, my Fatwa on this latest farce in Riyadh? It will fail as well….

More on this later, as the farce in Riyadh unfolds……

Some earlier recent postings on this topic:
The Obama Doctrine….

Persian Gulf Game Theory at Camp David: Obama and State-Sponsored Terrorism….

The Arab Islamic American Summit Comes Up With a Trump Motto: Holy Art of the Deal….

Trump Visits His Wahhabi Empire: Saudis Summon Sunni Arab and Muslim Satraps and Viceroys to Riyadh….

Ignorant Abroad: is Trump Encouraging a Foolish Prince to Start a Sectarian War in the Persian Gulf?….

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

Big White Father Does the Umrah: Imam Trump Preps for Saudi Trip by Immersing in Studies of Quran and Hadith……

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The Big White Father is heading to the Middle East to bless the natives this week. And the potentates are excited that finally they can deal with a man who “looks real American”, like a Good White Father should look. A man more willing to accommodate their sectarian agenda than the more clever dark one that preceded him. For a stiff nominal fee, of course.
President Donald Trump is flying to Saudi Arabia this weekend, as I posted earlier. His first official visit abroad since taking office, and it will cost his royal hosts dearly. They are already throwing many billions his way in gratitude for the honor of a visit.

But there may be a catch for Donald: the hosts just might want him to fight a couple of new regional sectarian wars on their behalf (something they tried with Barack Obama and failed). While American courts dismantle his first Executive Order banning Muslims from Muslim countries that are not absolute monarchies and/or big weapons buyers from the West.

Mr. Trump has made Islamophobia acceptable and even cool among a large sector of the U.S. population, especially in certain states that cleaved to him in the elections. He has brought it into the White House. Yet he is chairing a summit of many Muslim and Arab countries whose rulers tend to obey or listen to the Saudi royal commands. A coalition of the willing, the bribed, and the coerced. Now, hold onto your seats when you start the next paragraph.

Mr. Trump is reportedly going to make a speech about Islam!
I assume that means he will delve deep into Islamic Sharia, its evolution, the Five Pillars, and how the Quran and the Prophet’s Hadith form the Islamic Faith and its Culture. How it is also to some extent an extension of the Old and New Testaments. He may try to explain its evolution over the fifteen centuries, from the days of Halima Al-Saadiya and the Prophet Mohammed to the current Ottoman Caliph Erdogan the First (why do I feel that I have left out one or two recent Caliphs?).
Which means he will have to cram for it, and Donald doesn’t seem like a cram-able type of student.

He will no doubt focus on the Orthodox Sunni version of Islam, perhaps more specifically on the Wahhabi sub-sect that dominates in Saudi Arabia and all the mosques and Madrassas it builds to spread its ideology of love and freedom around the world. The same sub-sect that spawned the Taliban, Al Qaeda, AQAP, ISIS, and all the terrorist attacks in the United States, Europe, and the Middle East.

As a gesture to his best client princes, those who spend hundreds of billions buying weapons, Mr. Trump might feel characteristically comfortable enough to issue his own Fatwa: that henceforth Wahhabism is the mainstream sect and that it is the closest Muslim faith to Christianity (be it the Las Vegas, New York, or Evangelical version of Christianity).

That in itself should get him more clients for his exports. No doubt his family, kids and in-laws, will make a bundle expanding into the Arabian Peninsula. We might even see a Trump Tower Hotel in the heart of Mecca, catering to faithful pilgrims during the Hajj and the Umrah. Being something of a practical joker, Mr. Trump may even don the Ihram white Toga of the pilgrims and circumambulate the holy Kaaba by special permission, to the serious approval of Their Highnesses the omnipotent Princes.

More on this later…..

Here are a few relevant recent posts of my blog:

The Obama Doctrine….

Persian Gulf Game Theory at Camp David: Obama and State-Sponsored Terrorism….

The Arab Islamic American Summit Comes Up With a Trump Motto: Holy Art of the Deal….

Trump Visits His Wahhabi Empire: Saudis Summon Sunni Arab and Muslim Satraps and Viceroys to Riyadh….

Ignorant Abroad: is Trump Encouraging a Foolish Prince to Start a Sectarian War in the Persian Gulf?….


Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

The Arab Islamic American Summit Comes Up With a Trump Motto: Holy Art of the Deal….

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The Saudi organizers of the so-called Sunni Arab Islamic American (Sectarian) Summit in Riyadh have come up with a website and a logo, sort of.

(My browser told me this website is not safe and would not open it. I’ll say.)

It says :

Historic Summit, Brighter Future
Together We Prevail

Which is rather cheeky, after what I have opined about this exclusively sectarian provocative summit. It will fail in most of the goals it has been set to achieve, whatever they be, except to milk the Persian Gulf Arabs, mainly the Saudis, for a few hundred billion more dollars for Mr. trump’s projects. Expensive weapons, toys that the potentates can’t even use properly: I repeat myself, but their failure against poor Yemen is one example. Maybe there will be more spectacular failures in the near future as they talk Donald Trump and the hawks around him into new wars in the Gulf and the wider Middle East.

I would have the thought the organizers, and their highly-paid American and British lobbyists that devised the logo would do a more accurate job. The logo could say, for example:

Wahhabism, Sectarianism, and Republican Corporate Values:
Together We can Exploit the Swamp and Make America Great Again!

It would also help if they distribute stacks of a new Holy Book of the Summit: free copies of “The Art Of The Deal

I commented on this Sunni-Republican-Royal Summit yesterday in this post here. I will have more comments later….

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

New Syria War Plan: From Humorless Jordan to the Iraqi Border………

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Independent Arab media are a rare breed these days. They are those that are not owned (bought or bribed) by the potentates of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, or the UAE. Nor those owned or controlled by other dictators. It is often hard to tell which media are independent, or who owns what. Western reports often refer to Asharq AlAwsat (London: owned by Saudi king Salman & sons) or AlHayat (London: owned by Prince Khalid Bin Sutan) as “independent Arab newspapers. Al-Quds Al-Arabi (London) is now fully owned by the Qatari royals. Al-Arab (London) is owned by the UAE potentates. Various radio and television networks blanketing the Arab world and Europe are owned by the princes now (AlJazeera, AlArabiya, MBC, LBC, etc etc).

Independent Arab media, outside Lebanon and maybe Iraq, are now mainly located in Europe. Mainly in London. Oddly side by side with much of the private media owned by Arab royal princes.

The few remaining independent Arab media now report ominous developments occurring along the border of Humorless Kingdom of Jordan and Syria. They report that thousands of fighters have been trained by Americans, British, and Jordanians to fight inside Syria. Presumably these fighters are ‘moderate’ Syrian Jihadi rebels. Presumably. There have also been pictures of heavy military equipment gathered along the Jordanian border.

The Syrians have warned Jordan not to interfere in their country, but the Arab oil money is apparently too good for the humorless king of Jordan to resist. The reported plan is to enter Syria from the south, near where the border with both Jordan and Iraq meet, not far from the Saudi border. The reported plan is to move quickly toward strategic points along the eastern border of Syria. Far away from Russian, Iranian, Hezbollah, and Turkish zones of influence. Effectively further partitioning Syria.

Either to help create a secessionist part in eastern Syria, or to block an Iranian connection from Iraq into Syria and then into Lebanon. Likely both are considered worthy targets.

Cheers

Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

Image Problem of Arab Regimes: from Incredibly Mediocre to Incredibly Criminal……..

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“DUBAI: An Arab News panel discussion held on Tuesday proposed solutions to the Middle East’s image problem in the West, as new research emerged illustrating the severity of the US “knowledge gap” about the region. The panel, held at the Arab Media Forum in Dubai, detailed the importance of cultural diplomacy, effective government communication and the importance of student exchange programs in boosting awareness…….” Arab News (Saudi)

Sometimes I suspect that the ruling Arab oligarchs can never learn. In fact I am convinced that they can never learn about some issues. So many of these media events are staged, all blaming outsiders (the West) for the lousy image Arabs have.
I’ve got news for them, but I suspect they already know: the blame lies squarely with the Arab ruling classes. They are almost uniformly oppressive. At best these ruling classes are incredibly mediocre, at worst they are incredibly criminal (including many regimes perceived as being allies of the West).

So this panel, and many other events before it and after it, all seek ways to to improve the “image” of Arabs in the world. Meaning to improve the image of Arab regimes: the potentates, princes, and dictators. Arab regimes, mostly corrupt and repressive, confuse the image of their countries with their own image.
Such staged media events are part of a “real” and not just perceived Arab problem. The “image” is bad because the “reality” as imposed by the ruling oligarchs is bad. Staged media events or highly-paid lobbyists in Washington and London cannot hide the reality.
Arab regimes and their controlled media want to change the image without changing the reality. Getting rid of the symptom will not cure the illness. Morphine makes the pain go away but only for a while. The disease outlasts the patient if a serious “cure” is not applied.


How about ending the wold-class repression and corruption: that should go a long way towards improving the “image” of Arab oligarchs.

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum